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Author Topic: Loot Economy  (Read 3886 times)

DYBIL

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Loot Economy
« on: January 09, 2019, 05:10:35 pm »
These are my personal opinions and do not represent the DM team as a whole.

What do I mean by "Loot Economy?"
I think we, as a community, need to come to as close to as possible to a mutual understanding regarding our expectations for the strength of loot on the server.

My observations have been that players feel they are underpowered against some of the creatures they encounter. Personally, I feel that the issue is not the lack of loot power players possess but rather the creatures that need to be adjusted. It can be very difficult to balance content for high level players. I consider 1-5 low level, 5-8 mid level, and 8+ high level based on my perspective of game balance in NWN. After about level 11 things start to get out of control with regards to how strong buffs will make a player and the potency of offensive magic. As a DM, I will do my best to provide you all with as much of an enjoyable and engaging experience as I am capable of. Depending on our - as a community - desired level of loot power, we can create a dangerous snowball effect that I feel will, in the long run, result in a poor experience on the server.

Damage Resistance/Soak/Immunity
I am of the opinion that players should not be able to easily acquire damage mitigation on items. These are item properties such as 5/-  Fire Resist and +1/5 Damage Soak. Currently, such items are available to the players through crafting and I think either some quest loot or area related drops. I have no issue with the current items existing in their current forms and ease (or difficulty) of acquisition.

What I do not think we should have is linear loot progression in which you replace your +1 Attribute, 5/- Fire Resist ring with a +2 Attribute, 10/- Fire Resist ring. In this regard it is the responsibility of content creators / contributors (players are more than welcome, encouraged even to contribute content for the server whether they be ideas or things made in the toolset) to provide a good selection with a variety of loot. Ideally this loot is thematic and flavorful as opposed to simply being a step up in power from the previous tier of loot. There are some instances where it's entirely okay for a linear upgrade, such as going from a +1 will save amulet to a +2. But I feel it is very important we do not establish a trend in which we are comfortable with or have the expectation to walk on a loot treadmill. I consider a healthy loot economy one in which there are some manner of trade-offs involved with choosing your equipment. That does not mean I think that for every +1 on an item there needs to be a -1 to accompany it. Rather, for example, choosing between equipping a bunch of items to stack your fortitude save vs equipping a bunch of items to bolster your will save.

I do not think having a standard where, for example, everyone is blanket increasing their saves with +uni items is a healthy loot economy. It is perfectly reasonable for your character to have some manner of weakness. That is how game balance works. It is unreasonable to expect to be able to tackle any and every encounter on your own. I want to encourage group play and I want players to be conscious of threatening aspects of an encounter. I do not think anyone enjoys having nothing but encounters where they just faceroll everything. I find it super boring and as a DM I would feel like I am failing to provide a cool encounter if such were to happen. As a player, I have always found that having to stay on my toes and watch out for the things I know threaten me keeps me engaged during quests and DM events.  When you start facerolling content, you start getting complacent. Complacency in NWN often leads to sudden death because you weren't able to respond well to a sudden bad situation. I say that from a lot of experience on my own PCs where I'm so bored of an encounter that I stop paying attention to what's going on in game. Then I suddenly get greataxe critted by a minotaur because my brain shut off during a really boring quest / event and at that point I'm having a really bad time.

Loot Progression
My opinion is that +1 items being the general standard is okay. +2 items should be high quality / rare. +3 items should be the absolute pinnacle of what you can acquire from scripted loot and extremely rare. +4 items may be acquired from an extraordinary piece of DM loot. +5 items should not exist at all.

Let's take Enchantment Bonus on weapons to be our example as to why these levels of power are unhealthy for a multiplayer experience in NWN.

+1 allows you to penetrate Ghostly Visage and your average creature with a thick hide
+2 deals with creatures with a +2/x soak
+3 allows you to penetrate Ethereal Visage and Shadow Shield + creatures with +3/x
+4 penetrates creatures with a +4/x soak
+5 allows you to penetrate (Greater) Stoneskin + creatures with +5/x

AoM is not a PvP heavy server, at least at the moment. But PvP can happen. Everyone would be completely naked to any player walking around with a +5 weapon unless you possessed an item with +6/x or greater damage soak. I don't think this makes for an interesting fight. I want players to be able to utilize every resource at their disposal, and as DM, I feel I am better capable of providing players with a more engaging experience by also having these resources available to use in encounters. I don't want a server environment where at some point players are disappointed in finding a stoneskin potion because it's useless as a result of the loot economy.

Immunities
I am of the opinion that most (not necessarily all) immunities should not exist on items at all, ever, under any circumstance. Things such as 10% Fire Immunity are okay to me, but having the Freedom property on an item is absurd. I feel having immunities available will lead to mindless faceroll gameplay, and I do not think that would be enjoyable for anyone. I am of the opinion that players should feel threatened, not hopeless, but threatened by encounters. Immunities begin to remove threats - often in sweeping motions - and start to greatly trivialize content. And again, I do not think players should be bummed out by finding a freedom of movement potion because they're able to get their hands on an item with the Freedom property.

I want players to have to be active while they're playing the game. For them to make choices on how and when they use their resources. In this regard I would rather see an item have charges of Freedom of Movement / Death Ward / etc. rather than ever see an item with passive immunity.

"Overpowered" loot will have a snowball effect of trivializing other loot / consumables. Players will get bummed out. Everyone wants character progression, whether that be RP, levels, or loot. Having an unhealthy loot economy will make it extremely difficult to increasingly provide better loot for players. Eventually the server will simply run out of properties to throw on items that people will care about. I don't want to see a situation like this.

The Most Important Thing About A Healthy Loot Economy
Player participation. If I, as a DM, need to engineer encounters based on a high level of loot power that means low/mid level players will effectively be unable to participate in events that are structured towards high level players. They will have few options aside from cowering in a safe place away from the action. One loose creature or triggering an Attack of Opportunity can spell immediate death for someone. That is not a good player experience.

I want everyone to be able to participate in an event in at least some capacity. I don't want any player to be bored sitting in a corner because there is absolutely nothing they can do to contribute as a result of the gap in power being insurmountably large due to high loot power. I don't want a player getting immediately crushed by a stray mob intended for the high level players.

To me, a healthy loot economy is one that creates as little of a power gap as possible. This is very difficult with a high level cap server, and I understand players want to feel powerful appropriate to their level. But I feel, as a DM, I can help you with that in the way I design creatures and encounters rather than by providing you a stat sheet with bigger numbers. I am very nervous about how the encounters will turn out with the creatures I have planned for events. I will feel bad for the players participating if they are too easy and bore them to death, and I will feel even worse if they are too difficult and only succeed in frustrating players.

I would like the community's feedback regarding loot power for the server. I sincerely wish for you all to take a look at as big of a picture as possible regarding how it affects the overall gameplay experience on the server. Setting a goal we would like to achieve regarding loot power is a long-term effort and even if we reach some manner of consensus on what our expectations are, the rate of content consumption vastly exceeds the rate of production.

Setting any standard for things related to the server may require a lot of changes to creatures and existing items. This is not easy to accomplish and will require a great deal of time. But I hope the community will be supportive in a pursuit for creating a healthy server environment.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 05:21:01 pm by DYBIL »

Aetrion

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2019, 06:53:53 pm »
I largely agree with what you're saying here, but I feel like one of the fundamental issues on Netheril is that having some kind of weakness on your character is actually a huge liability. Not having immunity to mind affecting spells or death effects means straight up that you're one failed save away from getting killed, and that's exactly why items that grant you immunity from those things or trying to have a substantial save to everything are highly desirable if you can't simply create those effects at will. This is another giant advantage to Wizards, Paladins and Clerics who can just give themselves immunity to a lot of the most destructive effects in the game without needing expensive potions.

Another big thing is that any mundane character without magic items can't keep pace with spellcasters at high levels. They may have a significant advantage at low levels being able to just dish it out with nothing but a weapon, but when you're hitting the point where people are casting 8th and 9th level spells you better have the right items to counter those with. There is just a really insane advantage for spellcasters in games where magic items are essentially absent, and also, let's face it, the mere fact that fights tend to be very predictable stand up affairs against AI opponents where you can buff up and cast a dozen defensive spells ahead of time eliminates the biggest weakness of mages, which is getting sneak attacked when they aren't expecting it.

The way I see it +1 items should come relatively quickly to new characters, it's that first little upgrade you get to your character that makes you feel like you're getting somewhere. +2 Items should be expected as standard equipment for characters hitting level 15, so you should be able to earn them somewhere between 10 and 15. Level 3 items being DM loot or exceptions that happen in the gravy stages of character development is fine with me as well.


DYBIL

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2019, 09:22:18 pm »
Not having immunity to mind affecting spells or death effects means straight up that you're one failed save away from getting killed, and that's exactly why items that grant you immunity from those things or trying to have a substantial save to everything are highly desirable if you can't simply create those effects at will.

I believe a reasonable approach to this is having a good availability (both existence of such items as well as their attainability) of items with charges of the "essential" buffs that are usable by all classes. Having strong saves is a reasonable desire, but I am not of the opinion that it should be arbitrarily obtainable.

Surfing_Turnip

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2019, 09:29:34 pm »
I have a couple of questions for Dybil as he's a member of staff in this thread and has made his thoughts known.

The first is the state of consumables and potions in Netheril. Given your opinion that immunities and resistances should be controlled, I'm a little confused. You've advocated total buffing as essential in the past. It's very possible for every character to have haste, concealment, total status/mind/death immunity, +5 damage reduction and full elemental resistance in every fight because they drink potions. Given that you admit that this is untenable for a fun environment, can we finally start to cut down on the potion bloat?

I would also push that the narrative that higher levels of loot driving a part lower level players and higher level players is untrue. The greater the proportion of a characters power comes from their item spread, the less influential their level is. This is just how the maths of the game work. There are a few alleged 'disallowed' properties on the server that actually can be used very well from a design perspective to bring fighting classes and spellcasting classes together in power, balancing them out. Without using these properties intelligently, you'll never balance a cleric with stoneskin, freedom of movement, NEP, haste, divine power etc etc... With a fighter or even a wizard.

However, using properties wisely means that this actually becomes a manageable prospect. Unfortunately, for as long as you stick by examples you've used - that +5 weapons should never be allowed because they bypass spells? The server will be inherently unbalanced, will lack options and will never be as fun as it can be. It feels to me like a case where personal taste and personal preference is clouding potential design, and causing people to deny things that can be used to add more content and provide people with more progression and more balanced content.

Would you ever consider a position where item levels are brought up to the level where classes do become balanced and are able to engage in the same level of content?

DYBIL

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2019, 10:35:08 pm »
Quote
The first is the state of consumables and potions in Netheril. Given your opinion that immunities and resistances should be controlled, I'm a little confused. You've advocated total buffing as essential in the past. It's very possible for every character to have haste, concealment, total status/mind/death immunity, +5 damage reduction and full elemental resistance in every fight because they drink potions. Given that you admit that this is untenable for a fun environment, can we finally start to cut down on the potion bloat?

I think addressing the gold economy and increasing the scarcity of the "strong" buff consumables would address this. Personally, I think it's nonsensical for someone to be able to have a resource pool so large that they can afford to full buff for all the trash fights and all the boss fights. Making those potions more scarce (can't be purchased from vendors, rare drops) would, ideally, limit going all out with your buff consumables for the fights that warrant you making that investment. I would compare this to paladins saving their holy avengers exclusively for the big bads. That's how I feel going turbo with your buffs should happen in a good resource environment.

Quote
There are a few alleged 'disallowed' properties on the server that actually can be used very well from a design perspective to bring fighting classes and spellcasting classes together in power, balancing them out.

Can you provide example scenarios with how this might play out?

Quote
Without using these properties intelligently, you'll never balance a cleric with stoneskin, freedom of movement, NEP, haste, divine power etc etc... With a fighter or even a wizard.

I don't think balancing NWN classes is a realistic thing to aim for. There's just no logic in trying to make classes stand on equal footing with each other. Classes and builds should, ideally, have roles they fulfill in cooperative play. You've got some classes/builds that act as frontliners, and others that act as flankers. Your casters are typically your support (buffs, healing) with utility (crowd control, crowd clear, dispel, etc.). I think caster clerics are super underrated, but most people play the Crusher cleric that just takes it easy until you get to a boss and then goes turbo with divine power and demolishes the big bad, much like a paladin that saves his holy avenger exclusively for the big bad. Divine classes are your boss killers.

With group play, the larger the party - the larger a spellcaster's offensive power might be diminished as a result of having to cast more buff spells for the party members. So your cleric may have to save hulking out for a really tough fight instead of casually joining the frontline. These are things I feel I can make attempts to account for when constructing content, but I do not expect players to conform to some idea of a standardized party composition. I highly encourage players to play flavorful, thematic builds with a strong RP foundation over playing a "powerbuild". I think it is entirely possible for a player to succeed with a suboptimal build. Some of my most enjoyable and successful PCs were thematic RP builds (Spellsword Weaponmaster) that were mechanical gimps.

I feel it is necessary for me to make clear that I feel my role as a DM is to facilitate quality PvE and RP content to the players. This means quests, events, and plots. It is impossible to balance PvP interactions. That is more of an issue of core game mechanics. And anything PvP related rapidly becomes a never-ending cyclical conversation of "What-If's" and "But if he does X I can counter it with Y".

A should always be able to go toe to toe against B with equal odds of victory for both sides is not a realistic expectation to have. Sometimes the best action you can take is to flee. That is definitely my answer, as a player, to a cleric that starts casting all his buffs. He needs to cast like 3+ buffs before he's at a decent level of hulking out before he starts attacking me. I drink an expeditious retreat pot and GTFO. There may be circumstances in a DM event in which you are unable to defeat something and have no choice but to flee or otherwise risk death. Edit: I do not want to give the impression that you should expect such circumstances out of any of my DM events. But I have personally encountered such scenarios as a player. I have even seen scripted quests that require you to defeat a "boss" using an alternate, scripted method rather than by left clicking it.

I would prefer not to diverge topic into a discussion about PvP gameplay though and remain focused on loot economy.

But in general, I do not think a "winning" mentality is a good one to have on a RP server. My interpretation of "winning" is having an extraordinary journey worth retelling after my PC has retired/died. Not necessarily being victorious in everything I do.

I encourage players to draw their attention away from solely "defeating" encounters and instead draw out a compelling story for their PC. As a DM, I feel my greatest responsibility is giving you guys the opportunities to do so. I will try my best.

Quote
Would you ever consider a position where item levels are brought up to the level where classes do become balanced and are able to engage in the same level of content?

I think I address a lot of this above. I'll reiterate some points and state some new ones.

I think players should be able to engage in content, period. But I do not think it is reasonable for a player to expect to be able to solo all content.

Quote
However, using properties wisely means that this actually becomes a manageable prospect. Unfortunately, for as long as you stick by examples you've used - that +5 weapons should never be allowed because they bypass spells? The server will be inherently unbalanced, will lack options and will never be as fun as it can be.

Can you elaborate with further examples? Such as how having a +5 weapon would increase the variety of options available to all players rather than remove them from players? Or what makes a +5 weapon more fun than a +4 weapon?

If I failed to address any of your points, please readdress me with them.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 10:51:37 pm by DYBIL »

Surfing_Turnip

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2019, 11:03:58 pm »
Thanks. I agree about restricting potions to a much greater degree than they currently are. That would help with immersion and it would allow the design team to do more with the tools that are available to them.

Sure. I'll give a few examples. Please bear in mind that this is a challenge in game design and creativity, and there's as many answers as there are interpretations... It's all down to how you choose to introduce content.

Touching on disallowed or restricted properties that can bring different class types together... These are properties like, picking at random, vorpal weapons. The mechanics of a vorpal weapon allow a martial character to instant kill targets on two conditions - the first that they score a critical hit and the second that the target fails a reflex saving throw.

This, amongst other properties, allows martial classes to check higher level spellcasting classes who can infrequently also win fights with a single spell. There are swings and roundabouts to this though. The martial class is subject to rng in succeeding, which build and items can help mitigate. It's also subject to encounter design -  builders or DMs can create a difference between mob fights where the property comes into play frequently, mob fights where it is more difficult to come into play (high reflex saves) and mob fights where it cannot come into play (crit immunity). Because this is different to your typical spell-caster saves, with reflex instead of fortitude saves, and crit immunity instead of death immunity, there starts to be a parallel line of item progression vs spell progression that can be used to check each character type against the other and allow balancing to be done relative to the other.

That was just an example. By breaking down how the mechanics of item properties actually work, there is no end to the interplay you can have, and it's definitely possible to have multiple defining paths for every single class that allows them to either shine in certain situations or to match each other.

A similar thing can be achieved with immunities or resistances. Bearing in mind that immunities can be vs specific spells, status effects or combat manoeuvres, and resistances can include heightened saving throws for that hard resistance vs soft resistance exchange, you can start to 'level check' dungeons or encounters. By specifically choosing what items or abilities players have access to, you can begin to direct players to certain dungeons or content based upon what they are able to do with what their character has or can cast, rather than just by their level range. It's another way of focusing content and controlling what players access. (This should be signposted in the environment before players enter dangerous areas - not with literal signposts but with lore and area design cues.)

The current availability and culture around potions stop you from being able to take this design route, but if they didn't you could very well design your item and their availability in such a way that either gives some classes advantages in some dungeons, or forces your class performances to equal out in the same environment.

On your question about +5 swords and it meeting spell-casters reductions, well, it builds upon what's above. If you want a balance, you have to make sure there's symmetry in classes ability to check eachother. A cleric can make themselves immune to damage, immune to knockdown and immune to anything a fighter can do to them. If pvp balance is something that interests the design team, they need to understand that they need to provide opportunities for equivalent exchange. A high level cleric can give themselves a +5 sword and bypass a fighter's potion with a spell. The team needs to look at options a fighter (or any other class) might have to meet that check and respond with equivalence, whether that is allowing fighters access to +5 weapons, or more creative ways of denying clerics spell casting or removing their buffs.

The important thing is this. On mechanics, there are mechanical solutions. You can overlook a lot of things for immersion but this and other topics on the forums recently play into one and other. When you start to have imbalance between classes and builds ability to handle situations, then problems with resource availability or with death penalties are magnified and brought to light more frequently. You can and should always say that there are RP and social solutions to class imbalances. But there should always also be mechanical mirrors in place, otherwise the same logic that has everyone guzzling every potion before a fight has everyone rolling clerics.

DYBIL

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2019, 11:55:52 pm »
snip

What I want to emphasize is that I personally prefer active and engaged gameplay over passive gameplay. This means picking up on some kind of cue such as "A dense aura of DEATH radiates from down the hallway..." means you should probably drink that death ward potion before proceeding.

But I also don't think players need to given hints for every little thing. Let's say there's a new quest with a cultist theme. Some cultist cleric slams you with a Slay Living and you die. I understand getting frustrated over the death, and really there was no way for you to ever know that was going to happen if it's your first time running the quest. You are free to go "Wow this quest is fucking garbage. I can't believe this mob just ran up and slammed me with death magic. Fuck this." But the reality is, is that at some point that quest is going to become trivial. Everyone will learn all the little tricks and traps. You'll know exactly what all the spell DCs are and what parts of the quest you should prepare what buffs for. You'll have it on farm status after the second run.

These are the risks of adventuring. It is often simply, just a part of the game. It then becomes a question of player mentality. Do you jump into a game for the first time blind or do you read the Prima Strategy Guide before you press play? If someone is the type of player that is easily frustrated and discouraged by such an encounter, then I think it would be better if they made sure someone in the party is standing in front of them at all times when tackling a new quest.


Back to discussing Loot Economy

With regards to Greater Magic Weapon, bear in mind that on AoM you would need to be level 25 in order to have +5.
A level 15 will only have +3 GMW. (Documentation: https://netheril.net/forums/index.php?topic=253.0)

I believe this sets a strong precedent as to why +3 should be the absolute pinnacle of enchantment bonuses and it is even arguable that players should be limited to +2 so as to not render GMW a pointless spell at "endgame".

But even if it were vanilla GMW, it is possible to have items with CL 15 GMW charges.

I am of the opinion that non-casters must have these types of resources available to them in order to provide them with a "fair" and enjoyable play experience.

To further emphasize, I do not think it is unfair for players to have to make properly preparations and considerations with how/when they use their resources. What is important is that the resources they need are available to them. Availability must also include accessibility as something existing does not necessarily mean it is accessible.

I do not like the idea of gear checks as it is a MMO-ish mechanic, and I personally think content accessibility is important. I do not want to see a player left out on a quest because the quest requires them to be attuned to Molten Core and have a full set of fire resist gear to which the only requirement they meet is the minimum level for the quest.

I do not think creating any sort of standard or expectation when structuring content with regards to the power of a player is a healthy environment.

1) It encourages building your PC for mechanics over RP
2) It can create scenarios in which players are unable to engage in content because they don't meet the minimum standard
3) I don't see the point in gating players from content in any capacity. Content is there for players to (hopefully) enjoy. Disallowing them access to it based on some arbitrary standard or expectation just doesn't make sense.

If there is anything I missed, again please point it back to me.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 11:57:58 pm by DYBIL »

Surfing_Turnip

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2019, 12:03:18 am »
Well alright, but I really feel I have to emphasise that the tools to balance levels and classes are there. Not using them because of personal taste is... Unfortunate.

DYBIL

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2019, 12:13:58 am »
Well alright, but I really feel I have to emphasise that the tools to balance levels and classes are there. Not using them because of personal taste is... Unfortunate.

Can you directly elaborate on your counter thoughts with regards to the points addressed in my post(s)?

I understand if this ultimately boils down to a difference in opinions on what makes for enjoyable gameplay, but that does not mean it would not be impossible for someone to design a quest tailored to the type of gameplay that you, or any other player, would find enjoyable.

An example of this is incorporating more opportunities for players to make use of social skill checks (Persuade, Bluff, etc.). Not everyone cares for them. Some people have accepted them as purely for RP. But there are still players that would appreciate having them incorporated in some fashion. And I think it is my job as a DM to do my best to make an attempt to facilitate opportunities for player enjoyment in at least some capacity.

Surfing_Turnip

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2019, 12:16:29 am »
Unfortunately it is just a matter of personal taste. I was just explaining that the tools are there for you to use mechanically, and you've told me you don't want to use them. It's a shame... But it is what it is?

DYBIL

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2019, 12:27:34 am »
Unfortunately it is just a matter of personal taste. I was just explaining that the tools are there for you to use mechanically, and you've told me you don't want to use them. It's a shame... But it is what it is?

I appreciate that you made some thorough elaborations, and I'm sorry that I was unable to understand how things like passive immunity to death magic or ciritcal hits being on an item property available to players is an sensible tool for them to possess.

I believe thematic integrity is more important than direct mechanical power with regards to item design for a RP server. If there is a convincing reason and strong thematic element as to why an item should grant immunity to X as well as appropriate costs to the power gained, I am not opposed to the idea.

Surfing_Turnip

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2019, 12:49:16 am »
Alright. But I will point out that you're allowing these properties to be universally available on potions, where they inflict significant challenges in balancing both classes and dungeon content, with no benefit in these areas, in such a way that it isn't allowing matched interactions between spellcasting classes (who can dispel) and martial classes (who cannot). It's an inherently unbalanced approach.

Suggesting that you don't want to do this because it gates content is... Surprising to me. Lower level characters or solo characters are already gated from engaging in content by the design of the quest system. This alternative design would let you avoid absolutely gating characters based on level or group size, and instead gate them based on balance class design by using items to facilitate what they can and cannot do.

Edited to add: I had actually forgot that custom changes to things like GMW are in place. In this case, it's a weird situation where reducing the power of a spell actually contributes to a greater imbalance in the martial/casting class dynamic. Unfortunately it's not always so clear cut as reducing the effectiveness of spells reducing the power of spellcasters. In this situation, a caster can debuff a potion fighter instead of buffing their weapon to +5, but a fighter cannot get their weapon buffed in advance of the fight.

Double edited to add: I think there might be some misunderstanding in the nature of 'passive' items. When it comes to passive abilities or immunities on items, it becomes something the design team can more readily control. They can control what class can use an item with the property. They can control what slot the item sits in to stop individuals stacking multiple immunities. They can control how the item is gained and how common it is. It is this measure of control which is advantageous over putting these immunities or buffs in the hands of potions, of which can be readily swapped between players, used by any class, can be bought or sold, and which are very difficult for a DM or designer to take into account.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2019, 01:02:50 am by Surfing_Turnip »

Leyoz

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2019, 07:59:33 am »
I appreciate the thought and effort being put into this discussion, I think it is valuable. As a new server it is still finding it's feet in a number of ways and loot identity is one.

I will say that the loot progression you outlines is probably stronger than the current loot, at least that I have seen. I have had two characters here, one I would consider very successful as a faction leader, and one that I was happy with and did do some cool stuff. Neither of them had a +3 weapon.

Also, after never having played a caster, I am currently playing a cleric. It is absolutely incredible what they can do compared to non-casters with our current loot.

Solomon

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2019, 05:37:17 am »
My brief overview and response of the original post:

Loot Economy

The interesting part about this opening bit is that it has absolutely nothing to do with loot itself. It's about balancing encounters against strong buffs and the "potency of offensive magic." While most loot involved offers a few buffs to key aspects (abilities, skills, pure combat), there are going to be few Wizards who run around with greatswords, full plate, and rings of immunity. Often, the loot taken (assuming it's spread out and created in a class oriented way) will be more akin to further enhancing a role or a class itself. I'll come back to this in 'Loot Progression'.

Damage Resistance/Soak/Immunity

"I am of the opinion that players should not be able to easily acquire damage mitigation on items." That's a fine opinion to have, but I'd like to know why. Much of what is being offered here as a solution basically dives into needing more loot of more specific tasks that you'll just hoard in a magic bag and pull out when it needs to be put on. Which, really, just adds an extra step or two to having an extra AC or two against one particular enemy. While this might affect casters and other low-strength characters, the people who will be taking the brunt of the damage will often have a high enough strength to make it negligible. That said? I am all for including a variety of options, but that doesn't mean the basic versions should be removed either. +1 Full Plate is easily accessible, and +2 Full Plate should be fairly easy to grab as well to keep up with NWN's basic design. But! There are levels between their functionality and availability where quest and DM loot that's slightly better with a minor tradeoff would be a perfect stepping stone. A +1 Full Plate with an extra +1 against a particular element, enemy, or with a slight buff to go with it but a minor penalty to tag along. It offers variety without breaking the functional elements of the base game.

"It is perfectly reasonable for your character to have some manner of weakness." That's easily handled in the system already. There are bonus caps in place. Items that offer similar bonuses do not often stack. And there's a limit to how many items you can have equipped at any one time. Gloves of Ogre Strength can't be coupled with Gloves of Spellcasting, so you're already having to prune and find your weaknesses. What gear is meant to do is further enhance the benefits granted by your class and build. Staying on your toes and watching out for something you didn't plan for is inevitable. That's why there are potions and wands, to spackle up on the things while offering the solutions as a very temporary option.

Loot Progression

This should be tied to Spell Circles, if nothing else. While keeping things low magic is a fine option, what a wizard or sorcerer can do at level 10 is a massive amount of utility and supernatural problem solving. What a fighter, a barbarian, or a rogue can do at level 10 is combat. Sneak, maybe, and occasionally a skill check. But they cannot attack fifteen enemies that cluster together. They can't cast knock and avoid the trap without trying to unlock it first. They can't summon an animal to tank for them, nor can they heal themselves. So, combat is what they're there for. Removing the level appropriate gear is making them weaker while letting casters continue to have their overwhelming bonuses unchecked. If spells are not also reworked in consideration of loot, removing mid and high level enhancement bonuses just mean everyone should roll up a cleric if they want to do melee damage, wizard or sorc for ranged damage, and bard for party buffing. Fighter might have feats and a barbarian might be able to rage his way into a fight, but without the utility or the capability to end a fight early, they become functionally worthless in comparison.

Much of what is available in 3e, gearwise, doesn't require a specific class or any particular ability to use it beyond UMD for scrolls and wands and so-on. It's an offering to allow a player to build a certain way, to make up for something they are missing, or to really fortify something that they are already good at. Sorcerers will not be using the same magic item choices as a Cleric, who will differ from a Fighter, who will differ from a Monk. Offering more, variation, interesting bits of fluff will always be encouraged, but flat out removing them (especially while playing on NWN) breaks how the game is meant to be played as well as reducing interesting mid- and high-level encounters with their often-times more involved interactions.

I'll gloss over the PvP bit as, again, a wizard will have spell slots and armors and all sorts of tools on his end. A fighter will have to get close to put his +5 weapon to work while the mage pops off a few touch-based spells and they'll be pretty evenly balanced by the time they meet head to head.

Immunties

"I am of the opinion that most (not necessarily all) immunities should not exist on items at all, ever, under any circumstance." Once again, a fine opinion to have. But why? If it was a matter of gear giving an immunity to all damages, to all spells, etc. I could understand your fear of people being just immune to everything and laughing to the bank as they stroll casually through a dungeon and just loot the chests. There are no such items though. Damage resistance items are based upon the creatures that you will face, many of them having damage resistance of their own and the capabilities to bypass it. An immunity can and should remove threats, but it will never be able to remove all threats unless, for some reason, it's possible to have a ring of cold immunity, a ring of fire immunity, a necklace of slashing immunity, gloves of bludgeoning immunity, shield of piercing immunity, armor of crit immunity, helmet of spell immunity, and a sword of magic immunity. But those do not exist nor should they. Generally, immunity items are tied to accessories which mean you can have possibly two or three at a time if you are extremely lucky.

I do see an idea on combating this issue, this non-existent problem, this fear: level-based gold-worth limits. I've seen it on a few servers and didn't understand just what it was about until I've seen your post here. Limiting a gold ceiling amount based on the player's level forces a low level player to be incapable of using +5 Full Plate of Fire Removal or some such silliness. At high levels, that +5 Full Plate of Fire Removal will be fantastic, except there are a lot more elemental threats than Fire and they'll usually be happening multiple times in an encounter with level appropriate enemies with an AB offering a very similar chance of hitting the player as a level 1 fighting his level-appropriate enemy would. That's why CR exists, but that's a whole different discussion.

The Most Important Thing About a Healthy Loot Economy

"To me, a healthy loot economy is one that creates as little of a power gap as possible." When comparing this as a level-range gap, there will always be an issue based purely upon ability score increases, feats, spell slots, attack bonuses, class benefits, etc. Trying to build an event or a quest that accommodates all levels involved will always turn out poorly. The low levels will either be bored, killed, or catered to. The high levels will either be bored or catered to. Events need to have level-limits to encourage appropriate design for them. Inclusivity is nice, but when it leads to snooze-fests or party wipes, it's bad times for everyone.

The bottom line is that level appropriate loot brings classes to a more even playing field at the same levels. A caster will always have more utility and their inherent weakness is melee combat, getting interrupted during spell casting, etc. A non-caster's inherent weakness is not having self-buffs, not having the utility. Their strengths should be encouraged. Reducing the quality/level of loot serves to further cause non-casters to rely on casters and suffer a gold-drain like you wouldn't believe just chugging potions. Speaking of, unless potions are removed, there will always be a way to replicate just what you're concerned of for a few thousand gp.

Personally, as I'd like to see more variety in enemies, in quests, in strong, complex foes. As such, the gear should reflect complexity. I've yet to feel underpowered, but I have left feeling underwhelmed before.

Aetrion

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Re: Loot Economy
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2019, 04:26:33 pm »
I think a big thing that we could do to make Netheril a bit more balanced without having to just allow any form of loot would be to include some uses a day items like potions for mundane characters. I'm thinking like in 2.5 where there were potions that simply couldn't be consumed by any but the hardiest people, and as a result they were class locked to fighters.

These kinds of items could be used to essentially introduce a range of special abilities to characters that right now lack a lot of utility. Let rogues set dangerous traps once a day without having to pay for it. Let fighters down a concentrated healing potion that other characters just can't handle once a day. Have some weapon coatings like Alchemist's fire that are significantly more powerful. The biggest reason why magic is overpowered isn't that people have 9th level spells, but simply the fact that the game treats mundane items like low level trash, when it shouldn't. Give fighters, rogues etc. things like grenades, weapon oils, caltrops, traps and potions that aren't cantrip level garbage and can be use daily and we're good. Just assume instead of spending 8 hours memorizing spells these characters can spend 8 hours sourcing or building those things.