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 Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance

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Chris24601
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PostSubject: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Mon Mar 03, 2014 10:18 am

We've been toying around the with the idea of switching over to flat-math for attacks and defenses in one of our campaigns (i.e. no half-level, feat or enhancement bonuses to attacks or defenses), but before we dive in we're a little concerned about the effects this will have on building balanced encounters.

The idea behind flatter math is that lower-level monsters are still a viable threat (a big concern as we're closing in on epic tier where the number of 'at-level' monsters starts to dwindle rapidly), but because their hit ratio won't be diminishing, what do you think is the best way to account for that in building balanced encounters?

For example, a level 11 monster is normally worth 600 XP, while a level 19 monster is worth 2400 XP... but if you wipe out the difference in accuracy using flatter math four level 11 monsters (i.e 2400 XP worth) will do around 38 damage per round (presuming average damage with a 50% hit rate) while the level 19 will only deal about 14 damage per round (presuming average damage and 50% hit rate).

Likewise, the level 19 monster will only have about 176 hp while the four level 11 monsters will have around 448 combined hit points(about 112 each) so it will take considerably more damage to put them down despite them being worth the same XP.

I don't want to be trading one problem (lack of good monster selection at upper paragon and epic tiers) for another (destroying the ability to easily build encounters) so if anyone has any ideas... preferably something easy to apply (ex. For every X levels a monster is below the party's level then multiply its XP value by Y)... it would be most appreciated.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:13 am

I always picture hoards acting as a team often because a leader type enabled them to becoming dangerous. Operating in groups which are out of scope for the maths normal context always seems to call for changing there mechanics rolling bunches of dice just seems crazy. Swarm mechanics and mechanics like Shared HP pools always seem to be interesting in this regards.


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Born To Be Kings and Heros -- From the Ashes Phoenix
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:48 am

Garthanos wrote:
I always picture hoards acting as a team often because a leader type enabled them to becoming dangerous. Operating in groups which are out of scope for the maths normal context always seems to call for changing there mechanics rolling bunches of dice just seems crazy. Swarm mechanics and mechanics like Shared HP pools always seem to be interesting in this regards.

I'm afraid I'm not quite following your train of thought. Are you saying we shouldn't drop the 1/2 level bonuses and just make our own 'swarm' monsters for higher tiers? or that we need to adjust the hp/damage math of lower level monsters to be appropriate to the XP?

Allow me to clarify a bit here too. My question has nothing to do with the XP values in terms of level advancement (we level up when it feels right for the game) but purely as an encounter balancing mechanic and how to account for the capabilities of lower level monsters when the +1 attack and defenses per level math is removed.

In other words... "How many level 11 monsters does it take to equal the challenge of a level 18 monster if you're using flatter math and is there a simple formula you can use to calculate this when you're putting an encounter together?"
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:06 pm

Let me see yes I do recommend against dropping the bonuses and in favor of making "swarms"
Does this reason make sense to you?
One of the impacts of flattened math is that big creatures including higher level pcs or monsters are more easily disabled by stun-locks and similar effects in fact with most of the conditions and such bound by "to hit" its really kind of not something I would find fun. It exacerbates the many on one issue and the benefits of multi-attacking become more extreme really.

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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:27 pm

Garthanos wrote:
One of the impacts of flattened math is that big creatures including higher level pcs or monsters are more easily disabled by stun-locks and similar effects in fact with most of the conditions and such bound by "to hit" its really kind of not something I would find fun. It exacerbates the many on one issue and the benefits of multi-attacking become more extreme really.
If we want a bigger creature we usually prefer elites and solos to higher level standards (from MV and MV:TttNV if we can at all help it) so the harder to hit them really isn't a thing for us. Likewise most of the newer critters we prefer have ways of dealing with stuns and such (we default to 'end one or more effects on you at the start of your turn by taking 5/tier damage per effect' for solos that don't have the ability to burn off such effects already built in). As for PC's this is at a small table with 3 players so everyone's got two PC's (one regular and one a simpler E-class) so having one of them get stunlocked isn't completely removing your actions for the round.

I also think I've found the solution to my problem. If the attack and defense scaling is gone (or, more accurately minimized, we're giving the monsters +2 at paragon and epic to keep up with the ability score increases the PC's still get) then the remaining scaling elements, hit points and damage scale fairly linearly (versus the geometric increase caused by the interaction of attack bonus with damage and defenses with hit points) with level, so that the monster's level itself could be used as the balancing metric for encounters.

So instead of taking the XP value of one creature of the PC's level and multiplying it by the number of PC's in the party to get an XP budget, you just need to add up the total levels of all your PC's and use that as your 'monster level budget' (with elites counting a two, solos as four and minions as one-fourth). For example, four 15th level PC's would give the DM an encounter budget for a normal encounter of 60 and an appropriate challenge could be six 10th level monsters.

As an example of how well this works mathematically, four 'Human Mind Adepts' (15th level controllers) have 580 hp total while while six 'Human Templars of Tyr' (10th level controllers) have 636 hp. Four basic attacks from the Mind Adepts would deal about 94 damage while six basic attacks from the Templars would deal about 105 damage. Between the Mind Adepts having +2 to their defenses over the Templars (due to being Paragon tier while the Templars aren't) and the Templars losing damage output more quickly (its faster to kill one of the six than to kill one of the four) those should be pretty much in the ballpark with each other in terms of challenge.

The only place this wouldn't work well is at the lowest levels (ten 1st level monsters is not a reasonable challenge for five 2nd level characters), but for our 18th level game (and probably even our 8th level game if we chose to use it there) it'd be fine and I won't have to worry about that until it looks like we're going to be starting a new low level game where flat math might be used anyway.

So now all I have to do is make sure there's no math problems in my CBLoader part file and get it out to the rest of my group for their review (and perhaps eventual use).
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:42 pm

Chris24601 wrote:
Garthanos wrote:
One of the impacts of flattened math is that big creatures including higher level pcs or monsters are more easily disabled by stun-locks and similar effects in fact with most of the conditions and such bound by "to hit" its really kind of not something I would find fun. It exacerbates the many on one issue and the benefits of multi-attacking become more extreme really.
If we want a bigger creature we usually prefer elites and solos to higher level standards (from MV and MV:TttNV if we can at all help it) so the harder to hit them really isn't a thing for us. Likewise most of the newer critters we prefer have ways of dealing with stuns and such (we default to 'end one or more effects on you at the start of your turn by taking 5/tier damage per effect' for solos that don't have the ability to burn off such effects already built in).
Missing isnt a fun way to prevent the problem of effects disabling an enemy too easily anyway... one of the reasons C4 is doing a scaled conditions method where there are more grades instead of ON and OFF.

Chris24601 wrote:

As for PC's this is at a small table with 3 players so everyone's got two PC's (one regular and one a simpler E-class) so having one of them get stunlocked isn't completely removing your actions for the round.
Low number of PCs makes getting locked out is already nastier and can still happen even with the 1/2 per level buffer having 2 pcs per player for me might makes that other issue of tracking effects more of an issue... However it sounds great if your players are up to it though. Much like having a PC who is his own form of ELITE (didnt they have rules in 3e for a mashup like that).

Chris24601 wrote:

I also think I've found the solution to my problem.
Great let us know how the whole thing works in practice.

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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:45 pm

You are using a part file to remove the +1/2 per level?

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Born To Be Kings and Heros -- From the Ashes Phoenix
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:58 pm

One of the things that has been discussed recently on the NEXT boards is the issue non-existent in 4e of how Martial types interact with spell effects. Can they throw a spear and intercept the path of a lightning bolt or hastily toss a dagger to interrupt a fireball in route or use perhaps use a magic weapon to block a magic missile or redirect a lightning bolt.

Not sure why but the functionality of removing conditions.. reminds me of it somehow.

I am creating wild distant connections I think

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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Tue Mar 04, 2014 12:00 am

Garthanos wrote:
You are using a part file to remove the +1/2 per level?
Yup. I've also found a way in the way the character builder does its math to eliminate all feat and enhancement bonuses to attack and defenses without stripping out the bonus to damage or other properties granted by feats and/or items. I'll post the code for it once I'm sure all the bugs are out of it (there's a persnickety one with cloth armor and its "0" armor class value overriding other granted armor bonuses to AC that I think I finally have licked, but I had to go and change the coding for cloth armor from "0" to literally removing the modifier to AC from Cloth Armor (Basic Clothing) entirely... now I need to test how that's going to interact with the automatic masterwork bonus to cloth armor with +4-6 enhancement bonuses on it to make sure that change didn't break something else in the process).

As a side-bar; I don't get the whole fear of stuns and how theoretically horrible they are. In the three and a half years I've been involved in with ongoing 4E campaigns (I did mostly LFR during the first six-months) I've NEVER seen the type of nightmare scenarios you seem to be painting of everyone locked out of their turns on a repeated basis. If anything, the conditions and recovery times in 4E are so much less severe than just about any RPG system I've played in previously its practically easy mode. Losing A turn occasionally is nothing compared to systems where a single failed save can put you out of action for minutes or even hours during a session.

Further, in both of the current campaigns I'm playing in, we've got 6 PC's at the table (two per player, usually one simple and one of regular complexity) and in those three and a half years I've NEVER seen more than two PC's and never more than one from a given player actually be stunned/dominated at any one time. Thus, every player's always gotten at least one turn per round during every turn of combat and this is against monsters who are nine times out of ten at or above our level so they're hitting as or even more often than they would under a flat math system.

Few standard monsters, at least up through paragon tier anyway, have the type of at-will/multi-target lockouts needed to actually create the situation where everyone's had their turns wiped out for more than a single round (powers that grant extra saves and bonuses to save help out a LOT in that regard too). Likewise, there just aren't enough powers with hard lockdown conditions like stun or dominate available to any of the parties I've been a part of to pull off a continuous stunlock of even a single monster... the best ongoing effects we can do on a multi-target basis is probably slowed and granting combat advantage.

Throw in the fact that just about every solo from MM3 and later books have means of eliminating stunned and dominated conditions more quickly than the end of its turn and that we also give such a means to any MM1 or MM2 solos we use (i.e. purge any condition by taking 5/tier damage) and there's just no way to reliably lock down a solo for more than a partial turn without blowing through way too many daily resources.

While such things might be theoretically possible... in actual practice with regular players they just do NOT happen in my experience.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:16 am

Chris24601 wrote:
Garthanos wrote:
You are using a part file to remove the +1/2 per level?
Yup. I've also found a way in the way the character builder does its math to eliminate all feat and enhancement bonuses to attack and defenses without stripping out the bonus to damage or other properties granted by feats and/or items. I'll post the code for it once I'm sure all the bugs are out of it (there's a persnickety one with cloth armor and its "0" armor class value overriding other granted armor bonuses to AC that I think I finally have licked, but I had to go and change the coding for cloth armor from "0" to literally removing the modifier to AC from Cloth Armor (Basic Clothing) entirely... now I need to test how that's going to interact with the automatic masterwork bonus to cloth armor with +4-6 enhancement bonuses on it to make sure that change didn't break something else in the process).
Sounds like you really put CB through serious customization work.
Quote :

While such things might be theoretically possible... in actual practice with regular players they just do NOT happen in my experience.
Nod, the examples of players creating a lock down I have heard of have been from people who heavily optimized not my own group. My players pick options that generally sound good together but largely just for roleplay. I normally play with 2 players and lack the MM3... shrug.

_________________
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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Tue Mar 04, 2014 10:45 am

Garthanos wrote:
Sounds like you really put CB through serious customization work.
You might say that... So far my general fixes have included;
-Rewritten the feats section to put ALL the Essentials feats (not just the new ones) into the Essentials tab (for those classes that have them).
-Moved all the Heroes of Shadow feats OUT of the Essentials tab and into general and racial tabs (as appropriate) -Consolidated all the martial combat style feats (the ones that modify an at-will attack) littered throughout the general heroic tab into the Lesser Fighting Styles tab.
-Fixed the superior Ki-Focuses so their effects applied to Executioner attacks properly.
-Added the two flurry of blows from Elemental Chaos to the choices for the monk multiclass feat.
-Added the Archer Warlord option to the Hybrid Warlord.

My house-rule tweaks include;
-Allowed Fighters and Rogues to select Essentials Stances/Tricks in place of their at-will attacks.
-Improved the Bladesinger by tweaking the bladespell damage up by 2 points (so a huge Dex investment isn't required) and replaced the "encounters as dailies" with regular wizard encounter spells (as encounter powers).
-Added the Rapier to the Bard/Skald weapon proficiencies.
-Added a "Ranged Slayer" option at level 7 (can use Power Strike with a RBA using a bow) and to the Mythic Slayer Paragon Path (encounter power knocks target prone on a miss) for a super-simple bowman for a new player in one campaign.
-Added a couple of campaign specific races.
-Though I no longer have it in my builder, I once created a variant Sentinel Druid that got normal Druid encounter attacks instead of the animal companion feature.
-Added feat, item and masterwork armor bonuses to attacks, damage and defenses to the Inherent Bonuses check box.
-Changed the Dark Sun tab to remove all half-level, enhancement and feat bonuses from your attack rolls and defenses (I had to use the Dark Sun check box because some of our games still use the Inherent Bonuses as well and I don't feel like having to reload the builder just to switch between PC's in two separate games).

Garthanos wrote:
Nod, the examples of players creating a lock down I have heard of have been from people who heavily optimized not my own group. My players pick options that generally sound good together but largely just for roleplay. I normally play with 2 players and lack the MM3... shrug.
My experience has generally been that most players pick things that fit thematically with their character concept than what's the most powerful.

By the same token, I think there really needs to be a category for "Wrong Optimized" (akin to the "Wrong Genre Savvy" tv trope) because half the players I've met who are only interested in making the most powerful character possible are also VERY bad at picking which things will actually accomplish that and more often than not end up with glaring holes somewhere that render them useless or easily dispatched with a far lesser force that can exploit it (ex. a player with ONLY mind control powers and didn't bother to take any martial arts or some type of combat training so is completely useless against robots or other mindless foes).

One of the ONLY things I agree with the D&DNext devs on is the idea that not every option has to be designed with how power gamers could break it in mind. Such options just need big red flags saying "This rule is entirely optional and ONLY available with the GM's permission because it can potentially causes problems with game balance if combined with other game elements."
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Tue Mar 04, 2014 11:26 am

Chris24601 wrote:
Garthanos wrote:
Sounds like you really put CB through serious customization work.
You might say that... So far my general fixes have included;
-Rewritten the feats section to put ALL the Essentials feats (not just the new ones) into the Essentials tab (for those classes that have them).
-Moved all the Heroes of Shadow feats OUT of the Essentials tab and into general and racial tabs (as appropriate) -Consolidated all the martial combat style feats (the ones that modify an at-will attack) littered throughout the general heroic tab into the Lesser Fighting Styles tab.
-Fixed the superior Ki-Focuses so their effects applied to Executioner attacks properly.
-Added the two flurry of blows from Elemental Chaos to the choices for the monk multiclass feat.
-Added the Archer Warlord option to the Hybrid Warlord.

My house-rule tweaks include;
-Allowed Fighters and Rogues to select Essentials Stances/Tricks in place of their at-will attacks.
-Improved the Bladesinger by tweaking the bladespell damage up by 2 points (so a huge Dex investment isn't required) and replaced the "encounters as dailies" with regular wizard encounter spells (as encounter powers).
-Added the Rapier to the Bard/Skald weapon proficiencies.
-Added a "Ranged Slayer" option at level 7 (can use Power Strike with a RBA using a bow) and to the Mythic Slayer Paragon Path (encounter power knocks target prone on a miss) for a super-simple bowman for a new player in one campaign.
-Added a couple of campaign specific races.
-Though I no longer have it in my builder, I once created a variant Sentinel Druid that got normal Druid encounter attacks instead of the animal companion feature.
-Added feat, item and masterwork armor bonuses to attacks, damage and defenses to the Inherent Bonuses check box.
-Changed the Dark Sun tab to remove all half-level, enhancement and feat bonuses from your attack rolls and defenses (I had to use the Dark Sun check box because some of our games still use the Inherent Bonuses as well and I don't feel like having to reload the builder just to switch between PC's in two separate games).
Awesome fun!!!  wouldnt mind subscribing to some of that myself. PM - me

Garthanos wrote:
Nod, the examples of players creating a lock down I have heard of have been from people who heavily optimized not my own group. My players pick options that generally sound good together but largely just for roleplay. I normally play with 2 players and lack the MM3... shrug.
My experience has generally been that most players pick things that fit thematically with their character concept than what's the most powerful. [/quote]
heck I pick things which I feel can be reflavored broadly.  

I do things for many different reasons including design work so I might take in to consideration what optimizers will/might do... but its just one factor involved.

I will say back in 1e before I really grokked how hit point abstraction can represent a lot of things - D&Ds lack of advancing armor class for the fighting man always irked me. So seeing it in 4e was refreshing.

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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.


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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Tue Mar 04, 2014 11:36 am

I do still very much think quantity of low levels should "need" to fight you differently in order to be a threat when you get to be awesome and that may be better represented by having swarm mechanics. (although i am not certain what ones exactly perhaps a thread about swarms and monster design might be cool)

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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:31 pm

Garthanos wrote:
I do still very much think quantity of low levels should "need" to fight you differently in order to be a threat when you get to be awesome  and that may be better represented by having swarm mechanics. (although i am not certain what ones exactly perhaps a thread about swarms and monster design might be cool)
I can see the argument for that, but my counter-argument is that the primary DM for this is the mother of two pre-school aged children and could better use her limited free time on developing plots than having to design new monsters (especially paragon and epic tier monsters).
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Tue Mar 04, 2014 4:58 pm

Optimally one attempts to outsource and leverage other fans.. but not always easy to find others interested in a similar path as yourself.

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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Mon Mar 17, 2014 6:45 pm

Making lower-level creatures 'relevant' at higher level is really something of a red herring. You can use monsters +/- four or five levels, and, really they're monsters that are easier or harder to hit, when you come down to it. But, for much more- or less-powerful creatures, you have secondary roles. So a 'much lower level creature' would be done as a minion. And, with the monster builder, it's very easy to change a monster into a minion, just change the level, change the secondary role, and delete most of the powers. Some might require a re-write if they reference a damage roll in the hit text or something, but aside from that, it's quick work.

Similarly, dropping a solo to an elite or a standard to make it work at a higher level is pretty easy, the monster builder changes the numbers, you just delete some of it's action-preservation and multi-attacking features.

Taking a really vastly lower-level creature, one that even minionizing doesn't seem to do enough injustice to, and making it relevant at even higher level can be done with theoretically vast numbers by making it into a swarm. That's a more pronounced undertaking, since swarms have different resistances, traits, and powers than the constituent monsters (most notably the way single-target vs area attacks work on them, but they might have Engulf type powers, too).

Sorry if that's not helpful or you'd already considered and discarded it.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Mon Mar 17, 2014 9:35 pm

Already considered and discarded actually. The issue is the DM wants a larger selection of monsters without her having to go through converting them because she has very little free time to do so.

This becomes doubly important as much of the story is centered around the politics of a particular region where new types of monsters to fight just isn't going to happen much. We're much more likely to be dealing with the latest machinations of the neighboring kingdoms of Andore or Trivet or of the local goblin warlord who's trying to put up a front of legitimacy in or to be recognized by the other kingdoms.

ETA: Our DM also does not have access to the Monster Builder so has to do any monster design work by hand, so saying 'its easy to do in the monster builder' isn't really a help.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Tue Mar 18, 2014 1:41 pm

Heya.

I've personally flattened the math of 4e at my gaming table, this was pretty much the first thing I did after I had played my first few sessions of 4e as I could see that the standard advancement of attack and defense scores would completely disable the kind of sandbox campaigns that I prefer to run.

As for easy implementation however... well, the flattening of 4e's math is the first and most important thing that led my down this path. Suffice to say changing the math is not as easy as it seems, the basic problems I ran into:

1) I had to completely reassign the way experience and encounter budgets worked, this was a non-issue for me since I build all monsters from the ground up anyhow.
2) You have to recalculate the basic scaling for monsters, monster math and PC math is not the same in 4e, so if you change one you have to change both, just removing both will make the PCs scale better than monsters.
3) If you change attack/defense scaling you have to change skill scaling too and while I don't think 4e's attack & defense scaling makes sense and is a big breaker in my suspension of disbelief I find it works the opposite way for skills, so one must find a happy medium, remember that it's possible now and then to test skill vs. defense or attack vs. skill.

I personally was very happy with the result once I was done with rescaling everything as the half-level bonus is (in my opinion) the single worst thing about 4e, but I wouldn't advise you doing it for the purpose of easier campaign building, you're gonna end up spending alot more time doing the rescaling than you would rescaling existing monsters to different levels, even if you don't have the monster builder.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Tue Mar 18, 2014 4:53 pm

I must have something wrong - I personally like the logic of my swordsman being better at dodging and parrying at high levels with his advancing attack and defense ratings... I found the static armor class of 1e era more than a bit odd. I know damn well its harder to harm the highly skilled fencer from personal experience... sure maybe hit points cover some of that but the conveyance of effects should be reduced relative to the lower level attacker as well.... ie there is a game reason.

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Tue Mar 18, 2014 6:37 pm

To an extent I agree with you Garthanos, but the difference between high and low level characters with the half-level progression is waaay too steep for my liking, the ability score bumps along with afew other bonuses does the trick for me.

Furthermore the minion/normal/elite/solo system completely defeats the purpose of this progression, the orc you fought at level 1 is gonna hit you just as easily at level 8, only difference is that at level 8 he's a minion, so he dies from a kick in the shins.

I also prefer the power of the PCs coming primarily from their powers rather than built-in bonuses, with a couple of defensive utility powers a PCs can quickly emulate their expert swordsmanship's defense in a combat situation.

Aaand my adventures doesn't follow the standard D&D power curve, PCs don't aspire to become demi-gods and stuff like that and so with flatter math I cut off the extreme levels of power that standard 4e characters can achieve just from static bonuses alone.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:14 am

SgtFreakshow wrote:
To an extent I agree with you Garthanos, but the difference between high and low level characters with the half-level progression is waaay too steep for my liking, the ability score bumps along with afew other bonuses does the trick for me.
Those seem really inadequate ...  except the fighter in most every build is bumping his strength but not his dex and generally speaking aside from an odd dex build or a Warlord doing Int. None of that even impacts his most common AC defense - I had teachers telling me yes their reflexes are worse than mine and proceeding to show me how little that could really mean.  I feel damn silly arguing realism especially since I like the flavor of high end.. but when awesome and realism coincide I cant help myself.

With only 2 attributes advancement and 4 defenses that is also an issue in some sense.

SgtFreakshow wrote:

Furthermore the minion/normal/elite/solo system completely defeats the purpose of this progression, the orc you fought at level 1 is gonna hit you just as easily at level 8, only difference is that at level 8 he's a minion, so he dies from a kick in the shins.
Within 4 levels up or down that isnt necessary to have happening... sure outside that range +/- 10)% right? that doesnt make anyone immune just enough progress to actually make it felt.
Maybe if one made it 1 per 5 levels  (or see below about just levelling slower)

SgtFreakshow wrote:

I also prefer the power of the PCs coming primarily from their powers rather than built-in bonuses, with a couple of defensive utility powers a PCs can quickly emulate their expert swordsmanship's defense in a combat situation.
I like that in theory also but not really seeing those as hugely prevalent nor available and sometimes not really competitive - is iron bulwark in the same slot as Come and Get it (The first time I pictured that maneuver Bilbo Baggins did it)  
SgtFreakshow wrote:

Aaand my adventures doesn't follow the standard D&D power curve, PCs don't aspire to become demi-gods and stuff like that and so with flatter math I cut off the extreme levels of power that standard 4e characters can achieve just from static bonuses alone.
I like starting sometimes in Paragon but yes I can certainly see huge amounts of stories available without ever going outside of levels 1 to 12. So I do get it. Towards that end I would just advance the PCs slower actually... we quit tracking experience points a while ago levelling up needs to serve the story the way I see it.


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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:29 am

Tony223 wrote:

Taking a really vastly lower-level creature, one that even minionizing doesn't seem to do enough injustice to, and making it relevant at even higher level can be done with theoretically vast numbers by making it into a swarm.  That's a more pronounced undertaking, since swarms have different resistances, traits, and powers than the constituent monsters (most notably the way single-target vs area attacks work on them, but they might have Engulf type powers, too).

Sorry if that's not helpful or you'd already considered and discarded it.
I mentioned the idea of creating swarms too...

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Born To Be Kings and Heros -- From the Ashes Phoenix
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Wed Mar 19, 2014 9:09 am

Remenber all those things you posted about hit points representing different things? A good chunk of those at higher levels are your ability to avoid lethal hits (which is still tiring so enough mooks will eventually tire out even the mightiest mortal heroes). The improvement in hit points and damage as you level up (plus the slight improvement to hit and defenses from attribute improvements as you level) reflect your ability to avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune while dealing ever more telling blows against lesser foes. Its just a much more gradual slope than the one where your attacks and defenses also improve with practically every level.

The benefit for us is that there's never a point where you can just ignore things like the city guard or casually wade through an entire village of attacking goblins (yes, the GM could make some super special elite guards, but such guards in a minor town that's seen little strife just throws all sense of immersion out the window for us (twenty 5th level guards against six 18th level PC's is less immersion breaking than six 18th level guards just happening to be where we're at).

I can also offer a preliminary report that after three sessions, the flat math seems to working fine... as are the encounter-building guidelines we came up with. I'm on my phone now, but I'll post the whole thing here once I get to a real computer.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Wed Mar 19, 2014 9:21 am

Chris24601 wrote:
Remenber all those things you posted about hit points representing different things? A good chunk of those at higher levels are your ability to avoid lethal hits (which is still tiring so enough mooks will eventually tire out even the  mightiest mortal heroes).

If the game were entirely hit points that would be fine - And in 1e land that is possibly all that is needed (aside from the disparity of casters getting interesting tactical options and martial types not really). But in modern D&D combat now includes explicit take downs and pressing enemies back or bursting through there lines ie all those interesting effects that are based on a hit.

When you do your martial takedown on a town guardsman it should be significantly easier than tripping up the Kensai.

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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Effects of Flatter Math on Encounter Balance   Wed Mar 19, 2014 9:36 am

I have a flip book game ... invented by somebody who didnt like that the moment one entered combat in D&D (0e / 1e era) you stopped making the choices which determined how things resolved. Up until that point one made choices which decided whether your character found the item or was careful enough to get through a situation and similar things. (dice were almost backups)

The chances of success never really change in the game but your damage results go up and your hit points did too however it doesnt stop at that.

The game has tactic cards many of the tactic cards allows one to overcome in effect ignore disabling effects ... ie ... yes you proned me (your paper beat my rock) but I play the card for Everens Nimble roll and tada I am unaffected by the disablement.

I can only do a tactic once per fight but I might also know a tactic called tendens flipping retreat which also allows me to go from being prone to ranged and nolonger be prone.(before the prone is really an issue). Incidentally as you become more experienced you gain more tactic cards and more experience points and your attacks do more damage. They also had luck cards and spell cards. Some of the tactic cards were offensive as well - perhaps like one which turned a successful defense like a jump up into damaging attack.

I dont feel 4e implemented explicit defenses enough to drop defense improving because of incidental effects.

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Born To Be Kings and Heros -- From the Ashes Phoenix
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.


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