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Shaper/Lifecrafter D&D class?[G5]


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I can't find the thread, but there was one on these boards.

 

The problem with trying to play a shaper is that D&D isn't made for it. Classes must balance against each other, and thus a shaper must be no more powerful than, say, a fighter. A shaper who makes a creation is effectively a player playing two entities that must have a total power equal to one fighter, and it only gets worse as the number of creations increases. A shaper with one creation (let's say a drayk) can balance by making the shaper fighter-like in power (or, more accurately, wizard-like) and the drayk negligible, or the drayk can be comparable to the fighter and the shaper itself really no more than a means of shepherding the creation along.

 

See the problem here? The shaper is either useless or his creation is, or they're both mediocre. With more than one creation, they all become weak. It might be possible to balance this by making them all defensively operate at class level and offensively operate a few levels or CR behind, but the balance becomes tough and you still have the problem of a character who has become a gimmick, because the shaper explicitly exists only as an excuse for other critters to exist.

 

Why doesn't this happen to conjurers who summon all the time? Summoning has a limited duration and costs a spell. The spell is balanced so that its effects are slightly better than a spell of the same level under some circumstances and slightly worse in others. Shapers don't spend slots right unless you start warping the concept. The closest you can come is giving up spell slots to have permanent creations, and even then a creation from a sixth level slot had better be worse than a Summon Monster VI critter because of the permanent duration.

 

—Alorael, who could keep going. Basically, he'll just point out that druids and rangers get animal companions and their companions aren't exactly powerful for exactly this reason. Make the companion better and you have to nerf the rest of the class. You can try balancing it yourself, which is bound to be difficult, or you can just try altering the flavor on a summoning-based class or prestige class.

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I figure you could probably make it work balanced like by cleverly pasting together the artificer and psion. use the mechanics of constructs for creations for the most part, and use psion power points for essence, keeping costs under control, but change the actual spells you can cast (psions don't have nearly the proper number of acid spells). I think making both spell energy and essence would overcomplicate things.

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In D&D 3.5, it could also be a prestige class for spellcasters that gives up levels of spellcasting progression for the ability to make creations. Even being able to make multiple creations that are just a few levels below your ECL doesn't fully compensate for a tradeoff like that. (Giving up caster levels is so bad that the Mystic Theurge, a class that ends up with maximum-level wizard and cleric spells by level 20 if built properly, is generally considered inferior to a straight level-20 wizard.)

 

That's mostly a problem with full spellcasters being vastly overpowered in the first place, though.

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Alorael and Thuryl make good points. Another way to balance Thuryl's suggestion would be to give the Shaper a limited spell list. That way a level 10 Shaper could cast summoning spells the same way a level 10 Wizard could (likely with some bonuses), but wouldn't be able cast other spells as well.

 

Animal companions and familiars aren't good benchmarks for the Shaper's power - maybe what you should look into is the Evil Cleric's ability to control undead. I'm not too sure of the exact mechanics of this - the last D&D session I played was the first time we had our resident Evil Cleric come across undead.

 

Unfortunately, 'Hack' and 'Slash', our pet undead pirate zombies, set off one trap too many. A shame.

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A Shaper would be a pretty good NPC adversary.

 

It's been ages since I ran D&D; I was using first edition AD&D books, to the extent that I was using anything. By my last few years, the only thing I really used the books for was spell effects, because I had only invented a handful of homebrew spells. But pretty much every monster and item I made was just made up, and I had tinkered a lot with combat.

 

(For the record, my made-up monsters were generally not dorky snaketoads or anything like that. I had a few true homemades, notably a creature very much like a chitrach, but what I generally did was stuff like turning ogres into high-level foes by giving them armor, or giving a high-level NPC fighter a belt of cloud giant strength plus a dwarven steel bow that let him add strength bonuses to his arrows.)

 

So I think I could probably have handled a Shaper PC okay, actually. You need to balance total party power against monsters, but an experienced DM can tweak this on the fly without much trouble. Among players, what needs to be balanced is not actually power, but coolness and fun to play. A thief-type who is pretty wimpy in combat is still balanced, for the right type of player, if they get a lot of gametime limelight in scouting. Having several disposable mid-power monsters will open up a lot of cool play possibilities, doing things that no other PC in the party can do. And there would be any number of ways to tweak things if the class didn't work right first time. I wouldn't worry about mediocrity.

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The Shaper's shtick is leading creations into battle, mostly. He needs to excel at fighting. He needs to excel not much more than fighters, though, while effectively being a small party by himself. If he's too good, other players feel superfluous and underpowered. If he's too weak, he's less fun to play. Yes, there are players who like having an overpowered party members and players who like being underpowered, but they're the exceptions.

 

Animal companions aren't the right benchmark for power, but they're the right benchmark for effect: a permanent or nearly permanent other creature working for you. Summoning is too temporary and controlling undead is not quite right either.

 

—Alorael, who is still stuck on the fact that even a shaper with no casting ability at all and just creations would be hard to balance. Possible, of course, but hard. Creations need to be balanced against each other and against their costs, and the total amount that can be invested in creations at each level needs to put shaper power in the right part of the power curve. This sort of thing requires serious playtesting.

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It might well be very hard to make one set of rules for a Shaper class that would work well as written in every possible party and campaign. But I really don't see a big problem tweaking it to work in any one given case. I'd probably rig it so that a Shaper who expended almost all their essence could field one creation of almost equal offensive ability to another PC of the Shaper's level, not including magic items owned. Or they could manage three or four things of about half the level, as far as attack power went; and so on. My instinct would be to make creations considerably more vulnerable than PC fighters of their nominal level, though, probably just by giving them much more modest armor classes than a player with good gear tends to have. The result would be that the Shaper's creations would generally always be comparable to a party fighter in attack, and possibly even quite a bit harder hitting, but only for a limited time, because they would die much more easily.

 

Many of the creations would have useful special abilities. And the Shaper would have the flexibility to absorb creations and make different ones quickly. This all puts a Shaper somewhere between a fighter and a spellcaster in role, and I think that's a viable niche.

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In 4e speak, i'd say the Shaper would be a leader type, but with some controller leanings due to the creations. you'd probably have to give him a fairly limited selection of spells, and with the limited essence pool you'll probably be attacking with a thorn baton a lot.

 

I agree w/ trinity. If you want the world's most pimped out kyshaak, that'll cost you most of your essence, but you could have three or four weak throwaway fyoras/thahds. I think that you'd have to make sure that the creations are good at their one specialty. Like you'd probably have to take most of the killing power out of the Vlish. I agree with the low armor for creations.

 

And everyone forgets healing craft!

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I really don't see how this could work in 4E. The major point of the class isn't what it does in battle (spells, but not especially well) but what it drags around (terrifying shaped creatures). Unless you somehow don't let creations act without the shaper using actions, this breaks 4E's action economy and fails to mesh correctly with the powers system.

 

Control isn't really what shapers provide. Yes, they control creations, but that isn't what the control role is for. They lead creations, and you can even build them around leadership bonuses, but that's not what shapers really do either. Look at the games. Shapers pile huge amounts of damage on enemies and make meat shields. The latter is a defender's job and the former is striker work. Most accurately, a shaper is a leader leading strikers and defenders and even a few controllers (vlish, glaahk).

 

—Alorael, who concludes that shapers don't balance because in Geneforge they are supposed to be an entire self-contained, one man party. They're fun to play alone. They'd start hogging other people's fun if there were other people.

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Originally Posted By: Ex culminatio
The problem with trying to play a shaper is that D&D isn't made for it. Classes must balance against each other, and thus a shaper must be no more powerful than, say, a fighter.

If you're talking 3.5, which it seems you are, then that's bollocks. Fighters are weak. Horribly weak. As in the Wizard could melee better if she wanted to, whereas the Fighter cannot melee effectively against level-appropriate foes due to the way monsters scale versus the way characters scale- meaning Fighters only get bigger numbers going for them, while monsters have bigger numbers growing so much faster that the Fighter is irrelevant and only the casters can keep up.

Core melee is hideously gimped and saying that anything must be balanced against Fighter and Monk is utterly silly when Cleric, Druid, and Wizard are absolute gods that utterly overpower the entire game and even manage to do the Fighter's job better than the Fighter- in the case of Druid, they can do it without batting an eyelash courtesy of the animal companion. The real target falls somewhere between Rogue and Sorcerer as the functional range for 3.5. Nigh featureless mooks are fairly meaningless, and a class whose feature is the ability to make nigh featureless mooks is easier to balance than you make it sound.

This may be rather harsh, but if the class is to be made, one must understand the standard for game balance and that core 3.5 is not remotely balanced. If you want 3.5 to be balanced, you have to bring in all the sourcebooks, axe all the standard melee classes, replace those with Tome of Battle, then kick Archivist, Artificer, Cleric, Druid, Erudite, and Wizard out the highest window in a world where Feather Fall doesn't exist. Stop comparing to Fighter and start comparing to Bard or Psion, and in the case of melee, Warblade.
Originally Posted By: Ex culminatio
Basically, he'll just point out that druids and rangers get animal companions and their companions aren't exactly powerful for exactly this reason.

Actually, the animal companion can consistently be stronger than the standard Fighter from level one to twenty if you upgrade companions at every opportunity, without sacrificing any real Druid power.

Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
It might well be very hard to make one set of rules for a Shaper class that would work well as written in every possible party and campaign.

Technically, there already is a Shaper class. That's the name for a Metacreativity-specialist Psion, and that particular species of Psion is an excellent basis for a Geneforge-style Shaper without making a new class at all. Just make new feats and powers

So, we'll just use a Psion and make some new Metacreativity powers and pimp out Astral Construct like the whore it is. The fact that the Shaper really is just a Psion means you can get all other types of side-powers too in order to keep all the side-magicks that Shapers have going for them.

The first power to make this beast work is one I shall dub Shape Being for lack of a more creative name. It looks something like this:

Shape Being
Metacreativity (Creation)
Level: Shaper 1
Display: None
Manifesting Time: 1 round
Range: 0 ft.
Target: One Astral Construct
Duration: Permanent
Saving Throw: None
Power Resistance: No
Power Points: Special (See text)

The duration of a single instance of Astral Construct becomes permanent. The construct's type becomes Magical Beast and it loses all construct immunities. Recalculate saves and AB accordingly (meaning full BAB and strong Fortitude/Reflex saves, as per other magical beasts). Do not recalculate HP. All shaped constructs have a constitution score of 10 and an intelligence score of 4.

This power may only be used on an astral construct manifested entirely from the caster's own power point supply, not another manifester's astral constructs or those manifested via psionic item.

As a move action, you may absorb any one of your own shaped constructs to regain a number of power points equal to the amount originally used to summon the construct.

The cost to manifest this power is equal to the number of power points originally used to summon the construct. (So if a construct cost one point to summon in the first place, this power costs another one point, for a total of two points.)

For as long as the shaped construct remains, you cannot regain the power points originally used to summon the shaped construct or the power points used to manifest this power. (Meaning if you use this power on a lowly one-point construct, you're down two power points for as long as the construct is still alive.)


This should form a strong backbone. The fact that a five-point construct costs ten points to make permanent is a pretty big deal in both directions. Sure, permanent is a lot longer than a minute or two you'd get with normal Astral Construct, but on the flip side, 3.5 fights tend to be measured in seconds, and ten-round combat is pretty rare in a group with a firm grasp of how to kill things with rules. On the flip side, all psionic classes have trouble maintaining their PP reserves, so investing double cost in an astral construct to keep it around is a hefty cost, only arguably worth the effort. I have a level 4 Psion right now with some really hefty Int, and she only has 25 power points. With the help of Overchannel, she could spend 20 power points to get two permanent 5-point shaped beings and only have 5 to play with for as long as those two big 3-HD brutes are still around.

From here, it's a matter of getting more menu options and investiture powers to help represent the fact that Geneforge creatures are a lot more varied than astral constructs.


In 4e, I hear Arcane Power has some summoning mechanics that could be cannibalized, but I don't know enough about 4e to do it myself. However, if anything, I'd classify them as defenders simply because that's what all the minions ultimately do- defend the squishy Shaper until everyone else is dead. Unless, of course, the Shaper is sending wave after wave of Pyroamer to die in a glorious Earth-shattering kaboom. >:D
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I guess we have a difference of opinion. I don't find the cleric, wizard, or druid balanced. They can be played so they don't do everything better than everyone else, but they don't have to be. Balancing something against them is a bad idea. But point taken about the fighter. I don't think it's as bad as you say if you build the character carefully, but fine. The point remains that the shaper's creations cannot do anything as well as another class or they are overpowered.

 

I actually suggested adapting the psion to make a shaper before. Someone else came up with a new and odd essence mechanism, and power points seemed like a better fit. I don't know psionics well enough to have any real sense of whether this balances right or not, but it looks like it's on the right track.

 

The power point cap looks like it keeps creations from getting out of hand, but what you can create seems about right for the level. Testing to see whether the 2x cost for permanence is right would be good too, and for flavor the astral construct should be given more critter-like stats or the chart should be replaced with a list of creations with set stats and power point costs. But all that is ambitious.

 

As a bonus, the pseudoscience flavor of psionics fits the shapers fairly well.

 

—Alorael, who wonders now if you could balance a wizard-based shaper similarly. Would giving up two level X spell slots permanently cast Summon Monster X work? Then it's just a matter of making creation stats and balancing them against the existing summoning options.

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Originally Posted By: Ex culminatio
I guess we have a difference of opinion. I don't find the cleric, wizard, or druid balanced. They can be played so they don't do everything better than everyone else, but they don't have to be. Balancing something against them is a bad idea.

Actually, they're totally, explosively overpowered to the point that they should be banned, too. Like I said, I'm for balancing against Psion, Bard, or Warblade instead. Going off ye olde tier list, anywhere from tier 2 to tier 4 is fine.

For differentiating critters, I'm thinking some form of double-cost buffs permanent on the critters would help differentiate them, but... the differentiation's going to be the hard part.

For casting slots, I'd suggest just reading up on psionics. They're a lot easier than Vancian. However, translating to and from spell points may suffice for figuring out what's worth what.

I'd vote against a new essence mechanism, just using power points as combined spell points and essence points, giving a real hit to your casting power for having critters.
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I like the idea of extending the astral construct and the metacreativity specialist in general. that would at least give you a balanced starting point. the extra attack from construct menu B = plated clawbug. So the shaper would mechanically be a psion with the ability to permanantly shape a creation, and a slightly different spell selection and skills. Just change power points to essence, screw spell energy, change psionic, metaphysical, and ectoplasmic to living, shaped, and essence. but having a separate lifecrafter class would also be cool. so like he said, if you have these two big beefy creations, you've only got 5 essence points left over to use, so for the most part you sit in the back, cast the occasional spell, control your critters if they go rogue and use your baton.

on going rogue... say, if the creature drops below 1/2 health, shaper makes a will save to keep under control, and if he fails he can retry each turn or something.

and we definately need a "shape living tool" ritual

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Originally Posted By: Sir Spiff
For differentiating critters, I'm thinking some form of double-cost buffs permanent on the critters would help differentiate them, but... the differentiation's going to be the hard part.

Ideally a final version of the class wouldn't have generic creations/constructs. You'd make a fyora, or a rotghroth, or whatever and start with different bases.

Quote:
For casting slots, I'd suggest just reading up on psionics. They're a lot easier than Vancian. However, translating to and from spell points may suffice for figuring out what's worth what.

No, I don't have any trouble with power points. (I'm familiar with psionics in theory, I just haven't ever played a game using them.) Since core Vancian magic is more popular than psionics and the algorithm for permanence is simple, though, I was just wondering if you could make a very simple shaper out of the wizard by letting Summon Monster be permanent.

Quote:
I'd vote against a new essence mechanism, just using power points as combined spell points and essence points, giving a real hit to your casting power for having critters.

As would I. As I did when I first suggested psionics. There are only two spells that only cost energy in Geneforge, and they could be quite easily replicated with SLAs if someone were so inclined.

—Alorael, who isn't so inclined. Or rather he thinks it's a good idea only if all casters get some reusable attack ability. Warlocks, reserve powers, and the Book of Experimental Might come to mind.
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There's no balance reason not to give shapers firebolt and ice spray as at-will abilities. It just feels funny to give it to one class that should otherwise be like a wizard or psion. I'd be reluctant to do it for flavor reasons unless other casters classes got similar (or even identical) low-power utilitarian attack abilities.

 

—Alorael, who on the other hand could see justifying it. Other casters use their power points or spell slots to cast. The shaper invests his casting ability in his critters. Unless you really do want to potentially have a completely useless character leading his entourage a few other abilities would be helpful.

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Originally Posted By: Chaper VI: In which Alorael has done.
I'd be reluctant to do it for flavor reasons unless other casters classes got similar (or even identical) low-power utilitarian attack abilities.


And if you're going to do that, you may as well start thinking about how to convert the Shaper to 4E instead of 3.5. tongue
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Why the heck -are- the classes so unbalanced in the first place? It sounds like it's gotten worse in modern editions, but even in 2nd edition (what I'm familiar with) wizards in particular had clear-cut power grossage. At 1st level they sucked; around 5th level they were either incredibly powerful or still somewhat sucky depending on how much adventuring happened between opportunities to rest and memorize spells; and by 10th level or so with a reasonably creative player they pretty much blew everyone else out of the water. Never mind the fact that they could advance to 20th level, memorize a kazillion spells and wish for anything they wanted.

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Originally Posted By: Greps of Wrath
Why the heck -are- the classes so unbalanced in the first place? It sounds like it's gotten worse in modern editions, but even in 2nd edition (what I'm familiar with) wizards in particular had clear-cut power grossage. At 1st level they sucked; around 5th level they were either incredibly powerful or still somewhat sucky depending on how much adventuring happened between opportunities to rest and memorize spells; and by 10th level or so with a reasonably creative player they pretty much blew everyone else out of the water. Never mind the fact that they could advance to 20th level, memorize a kazillion spells and wish for anything they wanted.


Even at first level, Wizards had access to Sleep, which was basically a win button for one fight. The justification people normally use is "it's a fantasy setting, wizards are supposed to do all sorts of cool things that nobody else can and as a consequence run roughshod over everyone else in the world". This doesn't particularly resemble most fantasy novels I've read, but oh well.

4th Edition makes a pretty good effort to balance the classes against each other in terms of usefulness to a party at each level, and a lot of people who used to like playing wizards because they could make the rest of the party redundant are furious about it.
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4E also seems to have made the mistake of not having a clear idea of what wizards are for and making them underpowered unless you take advantage of broken combos. Mind you, this is the internet speaking. The wizard seems fairly okay to me.

 

—Alorael, who has seen many ways to give the magical classes magic to do all the time. It can be as simple as a feat that gives a puny magical attack that scales with level. The point isn't balance, really, because once you're out of your powerful spells you rest and recharge. The point is flavor. People seem to object to wizards relying on crossbows, probably because most fiction doesn't have Vancian magic. If the caster is still conscious the caster is still casting.

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Rant on Wizards being viewed as overpowered:

 

A big thing to keep in mind is the style of play your GM and group has. Most people agree that well built Wizards beat Sorcerers, due to quicker access to high level spells and metamagic feats, not to mention unlimited spells known. But this only holds if your style of play matches the traditional module-based play. Of course the Wizard is going to come out ahead if the player knows that the action will be limited to one dungeon crawl, and that there is a safe town nearby that will be relatively free from surprise attack.

 

In our previous campaign, there was an overarcing plot that would take us away from civilization for several levels at a time. It was essentially a number of Dark Waters chained together. In such a setting, Wizards couldn't buy scrolls to learn new spells whenever they wanted to. Conserving spells for possible ambushes later on in the day would also be a concern, especially at lower levels. Throw in a 'you lose all your equipment' situations, and Wizards are pulling their hair out.

 

Basically, it comes down to resource management. Warlocks are powerful in their own way because they don't have to care about it - they can effectively dish out a ranged Sneak Attack every round if need be. Certainly not as powerful as casting a real spell would be, but then, arcane characters can't keep casting spells forever. If the GM focuses solely on episodic combat, classes like the Wizard or the Barbarian have an unfair advantage over classes like the Sorcerer or the Fighter, who trade in immediate strength for staying power. Certainly, not every campaign should be a slog, but it should happen enough so that players think twice before wasting a Turn Undead or Fireball.

 

RE: Sleep: Yes, broken. Almost as broken as 3.0 Haste. Even if you made the targets dazed for one round per level, it would still be a very good spell.

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And strangely, despite all the other balance that went into 4E Sleep is still there. It's toned down, but it's still a spell you can have at first level and a spell that can keep wrecking encounters up to level 30. In fact, it's a common component of a popular broken combo wizard.

 

—Alorael, who agrees that that's why wizards are better than many other casters. They're broken because their potentially boundless spell list kept getting larger with each book, and eventually wizards could do everything. In fact, they could do most things better than everyone else. Even the core rules give too many abilities to wizards.

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Originally Posted By: Chaper VI: In which Alorael has done.
4E also seems to have made the mistake of not having a clear idea of what wizards are for and making them underpowered unless you take advantage of broken combos. Mind you, this is the internet speaking. The wizard seems fairly okay to me.


Well, the controller role is supposed to be for giving the party a tactical advantage by killing minions and/or disabling/hindering stronger enemies. The problem is that the first part relies on the GM using fairly large groups of minions on a regular basis (and some people dislike minions for various reasons), and the wizard only really shines at the second part if you use one of the aforementioned broken combos.

The other problem some 3E players have with 4E wizards is the ritual system which is now used to deal with magic outside of combat: everybody now has access to rituals (although some are better at them than others), and they can't do all the cool stuff that a 3E wizard could do. Wizards can definitely do a lot less outside of combat than they used to, but most of the stuff they could previously do outside of combat was even more campaign-breaking than the stuff they did in combat.
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Hackmaster 4.0 which was based on AD&D 1st edition mentions in the volume for mages that most gamemasters like to run mages when they get to play. This explains why the class is so overpowered. The people that design the game want to have the most fun.

 

Mages are usually wimps at the start depending upon their initial spells. But once they get to 5th level and their first fireball, they start to pull ahead. Massive damage and area effects just blow away most opponents.

 

D&D has always been unbalanced.

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Originally Posted By: Dintiradan
In our previous campaign, there was an overarcing plot that would take us away from civilization for several levels at a time. It was essentially a number of Dark Waters chained together. In such a setting, Wizards couldn't buy scrolls to learn new spells whenever they wanted to. Conserving spells for possible ambushes later on in the day would also be a concern, especially at lower levels. Throw in a 'you lose all your equipment' situations, and Wizards are pulling their hair out.


At a certain level, though, 3E Wizards really can pick their battles whenever they like. Once they can cast a Rope Trick that lasts 8 hours, you have to constantly impose strict time limits and stuff to prevent them from just resting after every battle.
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Originally Posted By: Thuryl
At a certain level, though, 3E Wizards really can pick their battles whenever they like. Once they can cast a Rope Trick that lasts 8 hours, you have to constantly impose strict time limits and stuff to prevent them from just resting after every battle.


But 3E allowed for an easier time buying low level magic equipment to get scrolls and wands that can cast spells like Rope Trick. In earlier editions you had to get the spell and be high enough for that safe 8 hour nap. Or find an item that duplicated the effect.
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I just never let that happen. Players could sell magic items without much trouble in any large city, for the listed prices or thereabouts, but I just assumed that nobody else would ever want to sell. Actually, I did once let a PC buy a few items, and to order, even. It was a thief who by really remarkable luck and daring had acquired a staggering fortune in gems (digging through a dense pile of jewels for a deadly artifact, under the very eye of a sleeping battleship-sized dragon). So they deserved a big score, but had no actual use for that much money; it seemed fair as a one-off event. Nobody else ever got nearly that much cash, so the precedent was irrelevant.

 

I never had a big problem with the old magic-user class being so much more powerful than anything else, and that was at up to 14th level (reached after quite a few years). I did give the old cleric some new attack spells, and add a range of 'master thief' abilities. But fighters always seemed to hold their own okay, maybe in part because I had changed the damage rules in a way that tended to prevent fighters from getting gradually worn down.

 

What was true was that evil wizards were always a lot more effective as bad guys than evil fighters. I did once or twice manage to make a truly dangerous fighter enemy, but even then they weren't actually that interesting.

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Originally Posted By: Greps of Wrath
The whole concept of walking into a store selling a selection of magical items still baffles me, but I guess D&D had to catch up with computer-based gaming sooner or later. Ugh.


Well, either you have to let the PCs sell magic items, or never give them items they're not likely to find very useful, or throw the wealth-by-level guidelines out the window because the PCs are constantly toting around a lot of wealth they won't use and can't sell. 3E recommends solution 1; 4E recommends solution 2; previous editions didn't have wealth-by-level guidelines because you were supposed to get XP at the same time as you got treasure anyway, except nobody used those rules so in practice people just got whatever gear the DM felt like giving them at any level.

I don't see a big problem with commoditizing magical items, though. The D&D rules are geared toward a fairly high-magic setting and it takes some pretty radical rewriting to change that, going far beyond where you can and can't sell items.
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3E, at least, has the problem of trying to achieve balance by the infamous Christmas Tree Effect. Casters benefit from magical items, but non-magical classes are pretty much required to be decked out with fancy magical gear if they don't want to be awful in comparison to a naked wizard. The balance of the game assumes all that gear, and it gets thrown off badly if you don't hand out the loot on schedule.

 

The solutions are to run a setting where it makes sense, to give out the bonuses of magic items without the actual items, to combine all those powers on a single legendary item that improves over time (you get Excalibur and you're awesome), or to ignore the wealth rules and balance on the fly.

 

—Alorael, who is fond of settings that don't try to create a low-magic fantays world using the D&D 3E core rules. It's nice when the designers take the rules into account when making a world. Yes, there are magic items stores, and the mercantile class can afford the occasional magical doodad. Dead and retired adventurers' gear ends up auctioned off. You can order a custom +3 flaming dancing longsword, but it will cost you and probably take a while to get made.

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I'm guessing the problem is that a lot of us don't have the more esoteric sourcebooks lying around. Hell, I don't have any of the sourcebooks, having only played Neverwinter Nights. (Though that game itself might give some hints for how not to balance a Shaper, considering how overpowered the Shifter is even on its own. Don't make the creations too cool, unless they're cryoas!)

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You don't need sourcebooks when you have the internet! They help a bit, though.

 

—Alorael, who supposes builds could be made based on the more proprietary classes and rules. Nothing like that has been proposed yet, though.

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