Balance Issues

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Balance Issues

Postby empyrien » Sun Sep 30, 2012 11:43 pm

I just spent the weekend running my group (8 players, level 6) through a custom Deep Roads scenario. A couple of game balance issues popped up.

  • The Telekinetic/Fire/Frost Weapon spells take the basic imbalance between melee and range weapons and blow it out of all proportions, making ranged characters do pitiful damage in comparison to their melee counterparts.
  • Master Armour Training plus Full Plate is very powerful (overpowered?). It also doesn't make a whole lot of sense in many cases. For example, why does someone in metal armour get protection from lightning/electricity attacks/spells?
  • There are a number of spells that seem like they should do penetrating damage but don't (e.g. Arcane Bolt). Given that they don't, shouldn't mages have access to the Pierce Armour stunt?


I thought I'd see if anyone else was having the same issues.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Zapp » Mon Oct 01, 2012 2:50 am

empyrien wrote:The Telekinetic/Fire/Frost Weapon spells take the basic imbalance between melee and range weapons and blow it out of all proportions, making ranged characters do pitiful damage in comparison to their melee counterparts.

Well, first off: have you looked at it from the Mage's point of view? ;)

That is, if YOU spend a considerable amount of your time (and mana) in the beginning of fights to add YOUR power to that of your melee companions, wouldn't you be disappointed if you didn't make a difference - a difference significant enough to actually make your ranged buddies stow their bows and draw their blades?

That said, I'm sure those weapon buff spells were restricted to melee only for a reason; to avoid risking making the Dragon Age system into one where everyone skulks around in the shadow trying to shoot their enemies from afar.

(As a unapologetic classic fantasy game, you want rules that encourage heroes to wade into melee)

That said, I'm sure no harm will be done (to your campaign) if you lift that restriction. That is, make a house rule that says "ranged weapons (daggers, axes, arrows, etc) are also buffed" by those spells. :)


empyrien wrote:Master Armour Training plus Full Plate is very powerful (overpowered?). It also doesn't make a whole lot of sense in many cases. For example, why does someone in metal armour get protection from lightning/electricity attacks/spells?
There are a number of spells that seem like they should do penetrating damage but don't (e.g. Arcane Bolt). Given that they don't, shouldn't mages have access to the Pierce Armour stunt?

Well, I can only say that Dragon Age is a game with generous amounts of armor.

A game where people (friends and foes) routinely sport Armor Ratings up toward 10 simply becomes a game of two-handed weapons, and a certain sub-selection of spells (those bypassing armor as well as those not targeting Health at all).

My best advice to you is to try halving all armor ratings in the game. (If the monster (or hero) has AR 8, treat it as AR 4.) That might be a draconic measure, but it should help you calibrate what works best for you.

Less simplistic, but also more involved, is to do something akin to what I've done. I've created a campaign world where most foes sport armor in the 2-4 range, and where anything better than chain is simply not available.

What I would not want to do, however, is to try to fit in rogues and certain spells into a game where AR 10 is the norm, rathern than the (mythical) exception. I simply do not believe it's worth the effort; you'd end up changing much more than merely Armor Training and what stunts mages get...

Good luck with your game! :)
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Elfie » Mon Oct 01, 2012 2:53 am

1) If ranged weapons did the same as melee weapons, everyone would be ranged. The damage difference is on purpose, because it is FAR safer to be a ranged attacker than a melee attacker.

2) Perhaps the person with Master Armor Training has learned to brace themselves properly for an electrical attack. They've learned to turn in such a way that the leathers under their plate absorbs a bit of the attack. Also, "damage" is abstract. It's not always physical pain. Perhaps the Warrior's confidence in their armor is so great that they are not as demoralized by dangerous electrical attacks as their untrained allies. Just throwing out some ideas :)

3) The set 3 playtest introduced a "penetrating spell" stunt for mages at 5sp that allows them to make their spell do penetrating (not piercing) damage. What makes you say that Arcane Bolt should always be penetrating though? Sure it's magical, but it's still a physical attack. You can't arcane bolt through a wall so why through armor?

I wouldn't focus too much on balance though. This has been discussed at length in other threads, but Dragon Age isn't about making every class an equal combatant to the others. There are many other areas where different characters can shine beyond combat.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby empyrien » Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:26 am

Zapp wrote:That is, if YOU spend a considerable amount of your time (and mana) in the beginning of fights to add YOUR power to that of your melee companions, wouldn't you be disappointed if you didn't make a difference - a difference significant enough to actually make your ranged buddies stow their bows and draw their blades?


This was essentially the effect -- at level 6 one of the mages took TK weapons and the two ranged characters in the group (who had spent two talent points in Archery Style) put away their bows and waded into melee. The mage was very happy with the benefits the group received -- of course in such a large group the effects of group buffs become magnified.

My main concern is that people don't feel like they are wasting their talents by putting them into Archery Style or selecting the Marksman specialisation. With such a large number of players, it is good to have some variety between the PCs, rather than having the three rogues and the three warriors be cookie-cutter copies of each other.


Zapp wrote:That said, I'm sure no harm will be done (to your campaign) if you lift that restriction. That is, make a house rule that says "ranged weapons (daggers, axes, arrows, etc) are also buffed" by those spells. :)


I don't really want to do this, as it would have the opposite effect -- ranged weapons would become overpowered. Finding the right balance is difficult. Melee should do more damage than ranged, as they are more likely to get hurt, but the difference should not be so great that no-one bothers to use ranged weapons. I was thinking of either boosting ranged damage in some other way, or maybe giving a limited bonus to ranged weapons from the spells such as:

Flaming weapons: Ranged weapons do +2 damage.
Frost weapons: Ranged weapons do +1 penetrating damage.
TK weapons: Ranged weapons do +2 damage, and get the Pierce Armour stunt for 1 SP less than usual.

Zapp wrote:What I would not want to do, however, is to try to fit in rogues and certain spells into a game where AR 10 is the norm, rathern than the (mythical) exception. I simply do not believe it's worth the effort; you'd end up changing much more than merely Armor Training and what stunts mages get...


Well ... I think that the higher Armour Ratings are okay, as long as there is a means to bypass them. Penetrating damage is supposed to be the counter to high AR, but the Master Armour talent negates that, which seems silly (and unbalanced) to me. There are a number of talents (Master Duelist, Master Thrown Weapon, Master Marksman) ability which are countered by the Master Armour talent, and the effectiveness of mage spells is highly diminished. There are even some combinations which are broken (for example look at the Guardian specialisation ability where you take 2 penetrating damage each time your ward gets hit -- Master Armour plus Heavy Leather or better would reduce this to 0 damage, which seems ridiculous and broken to me). So I am considering nerfing this talent , or replacing with a different ability (such as a reduction in the Speed penalty of any armour the wearer uses).
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby empyrien » Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:46 am

Elfie wrote:1) If ranged weapons did the same as melee weapons, everyone would be ranged. The damage difference is on purpose, because it is FAR safer to be a ranged attacker than a melee attacker.


Agreed, but the imbalance in damage shouldn't be so great so as to demoralise any player who chooses to specialise in ranged damage.

Elfie wrote:2) Perhaps the person with Master Armor Training has learned to brace themselves properly for an electrical attack. They've learned to turn in such a way that the leathers under their plate absorbs a bit of the attack. Also, "damage" is abstract. It's not always physical pain. Perhaps the Warrior's confidence in their armor is so great that they are not as demoralized by dangerous electrical attacks as their untrained allies. Just throwing out some ideas :)


I can imagine certain circumstances where it can make sense, but there are others where the Master Armour ability is just completely ridiculous, such as reducing the damage from life draining attacks or poison damage.

Elfie wrote:3) The set 3 playtest introduced a "penetrating spell" stunt for mages at 5sp that allows them to make their spell do penetrating (not piercing) damage.


I did indeed see that -- it's pretty expensive though (justifiably, I guess). I still think there is a place for a 2 SP spell stunt that makes one target of the spell take piercing damage.

Elfie wrote:What makes you say that Arcane Bolt should always be penetrating though? Sure it's magical, but it's still a physical attack. You can't arcane bolt through a wall so why through armor?


It's a personal interpretation I guess, but it's described as a "bolt of arcane energy" and comes from the Spirit school. Spirit spells tend to deal penetrating damage. If it did deal penetrating damage I guess the overall damage might need to be reduced a bit to bring it in line with the other spells though.

Elfie wrote:I wouldn't focus too much on balance though. This has been discussed at length in other threads, but Dragon Age isn't about making every class an equal combatant to the others. There are many other areas where different characters can shine beyond combat.


I mainly only worry about balance when I feel it is affecting my players' enjoyment of the game. The issues I mentioned are severe enough that it is affecting the my game's "fun factor."
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Kalias » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:40 am

empyrien wrote:Flaming weapons: Ranged weapons do +2 damage.
Frost weapons: Ranged weapons do +1 penetrating damage.
TK weapons: Ranged weapons do +2 damage, and get the Pierce Armour stunt for 1 SP less than usual.


I like this idea, but perhaps TK weapons should be changed to "Ranged weapons do +2 damage, and the Pierce Armour stunt causes penetrating damage." As from level 2 onwards, rogues (who, to me, seem most likely to use ranged attacks) can perform Pierce Armour for 1 SP anyway.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Elfie » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:00 am

empyrien wrote:I mainly only worry about balance when I feel it is affecting my players' enjoyment of the game. The issues I mentioned are severe enough that it is affecting the my game's "fun factor."


That's definitely the key there. If at any point anyone isn't having fun, stop, figure out why, and fix it. So I'd say definitely give your ranged changes a try if you think it'll help solve this problem.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Vaelorn » Mon Oct 01, 2012 4:29 pm

empyrien wrote:Well ... I think that the higher Armour Ratings are okay, as long as there is a means to bypass them. Penetrating damage is supposed to be the counter to high AR, but the Master Armour talent negates that, which seems silly (and unbalanced) to me. There are a number of talents (Master Duelist, Master Thrown Weapon, Master Marksman) ability which are countered by the Master Armour talent, and the effectiveness of mage spells is highly diminished. There are even some combinations which are broken (for example look at the Guardian specialisation ability where you take 2 penetrating damage each time your ward gets hit -- Master Armour plus Heavy Leather or better would reduce this to 0 damage, which seems ridiculous and broken to me). So I am considering nerfing this talent , or replacing with a different ability (such as a reduction in the Speed penalty of any armour the wearer uses).


I'm sure I remember a post somewhere on this forum (or maybe in the Esoterica of Thedas) suggesting that Novice Armour Training could give training in leather (only), Journeyman chain and Master would be plate. This avoids the penetrating damage issues, and also means that a warrior couldn't start wearing plate until level 5 (assuming he can get hold of some!).
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby si1vergecko » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:31 pm

Personally if I were to allow the Frost/Fire/Tk Weapon spells onto range weapons what I would do is only have it affect the ammunition that is currently loaded, such as the arrow in the bow, the poised knife ready to toss, that sort of thing since that would give them one shot to benefit from it and would not take away any advantage melee weapons have.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Bardwulf » Mon Oct 01, 2012 10:11 pm

I've just done a dungeon run that turned armour class people on their head. The theme was naturally formed surroundings with penetrating damage. Check that video out on here perhaps.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby shonuff » Tue Oct 02, 2012 3:13 am

Vaelorn wrote:
empyrien wrote:Well ... I think that the higher Armour Ratings are okay, as long as there is a means to bypass them. Penetrating damage is supposed to be the counter to high AR, but the Master Armour talent negates that, which seems silly (and unbalanced) to me. There are a number of talents (Master Duelist, Master Thrown Weapon, Master Marksman) ability which are countered by the Master Armour talent, and the effectiveness of mage spells is highly diminished. There are even some combinations which are broken (for example look at the Guardian specialisation ability where you take 2 penetrating damage each time your ward gets hit -- Master Armour plus Heavy Leather or better would reduce this to 0 damage, which seems ridiculous and broken to me). So I am considering nerfing this talent , or replacing with a different ability (such as a reduction in the Speed penalty of any armour the wearer uses).


I'm sure I remember a post somewhere on this forum (or maybe in the Esoterica of Thedas) suggesting that Novice Armour Training could give training in leather (only), Journeyman chain and Master would be plate. This avoids the penetrating damage issues, and also means that a warrior couldn't start wearing plate until level 5 (assuming he can get hold of some!).


RAW, there's almost not a reason to have a DEX penalty to armor -- rogues don't have it in leather, and warriors don't have one in leather/mail right from level 1. I like the idea of switching mail to journeyman and plate to master. However, I wouldn't restrict the character from wearing the mail, they would just have the DEX penalty.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Vaelorn » Tue Oct 02, 2012 11:55 am

shonuff wrote:
Vaelorn wrote:
empyrien wrote:Well ... I think that the higher Armour Ratings are okay, as long as there is a means to bypass them. Penetrating damage is supposed to be the counter to high AR, but the Master Armour talent negates that, which seems silly (and unbalanced) to me. There are a number of talents (Master Duelist, Master Thrown Weapon, Master Marksman) ability which are countered by the Master Armour talent, and the effectiveness of mage spells is highly diminished. There are even some combinations which are broken (for example look at the Guardian specialisation ability where you take 2 penetrating damage each time your ward gets hit -- Master Armour plus Heavy Leather or better would reduce this to 0 damage, which seems ridiculous and broken to me). So I am considering nerfing this talent , or replacing with a different ability (such as a reduction in the Speed penalty of any armour the wearer uses).


I'm sure I remember a post somewhere on this forum (or maybe in the Esoterica of Thedas) suggesting that Novice Armour Training could give training in leather (only), Journeyman chain and Master would be plate. This avoids the penetrating damage issues, and also means that a warrior couldn't start wearing plate until level 5 (assuming he can get hold of some!).


RAW, there's almost not a reason to have a DEX penalty to armor -- rogues don't have it in leather, and warriors don't have one in leather/mail right from level 1. I like the idea of switching mail to journeyman and plate to master. However, I wouldn't restrict the character from wearing the mail, they would just have the DEX penalty.


I realised I misspoke - of course any character can wear any armour they like. But until you get the appropriate level of armour training you take the Dex penalty. So a warrior could start with plate at level 1, but until he gets to level 5 he'll be at -5 to his Defense, which could go a ways to offset the +3/4/5 to hit and damage that he may have. Mind you, once he hits level 5 his Defense increases massively, so maybe it only puts off the 'balance' issues for a little while!
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Loswaith » Tue Oct 02, 2012 6:02 pm

empyrien wrote:...
Well ... I think that the higher Armour Ratings are okay, as long as there is a means to bypass them. Penetrating damage is supposed to be the counter to high AR, but the Master Armour talent negates that, which seems silly (and unbalanced) to me. There are a number of talents (Master Duelist, Master Thrown Weapon, Master Marksman) ability which are countered by the Master Armour talent, and the effectiveness of mage spells is highly diminished. There are even some combinations which are broken (for example look at the Guardian specialisation ability where you take 2 penetrating damage each time your ward gets hit -- Master Armour plus Heavy Leather or better would reduce this to 0 damage, which seems ridiculous and broken to me). So I am considering nerfing this talent , or replacing with a different ability (such as a reduction in the Speed penalty of any armour the wearer uses).


Keep in mind that the Master rank of Armour Training doesnt actually negate the penetrating damage it only means you can use half your armour rating against it (instead of none), effectiving making penetrating damage piercing damage, while piercing damage in completly uneffected.

The Guardian damage due to protecting others, you could simply rule is something they always take (working with the intent of the rules rather than the letter of them), personaly I find it silly that they take damage at all (given their defence boost to another is completly avoided), but thats a personal thing.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Zapp » Thu Oct 04, 2012 1:33 am

shonuff wrote:RAW, there's almost not a reason to have a DEX penalty to armor -- rogues don't have it in leather, and warriors don't have one in leather/mail right from level 1.

The reason is that you don't want Rogues to wear heavy armor, and you don't want anyone to walk around in plate already at first level.

Just because a penalty almost never comes into effect in practical play, doesn't mean you can remove it. Unless, of course, you replace it with something like a gentleman's agreement that rogues never wear heavy armor "just because".

But that's exactly the kind of arbitrary limitation the dex penalty was introduced to avoid. The Dex penalty isn't designed to actually penalize PCs - it's purpose is to provide a rationale, an in-game explanation, why characters of different classes stick to their stereotypical suits of armor! :)


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Re: Balance Issues

Postby shonuff » Thu Oct 04, 2012 5:25 am

Maybe. However, I think if you are going to have a non-enforced penalty, it's just as easy to say rogues can't wear heavy armor, and mages can't wear any armor (outside of arcane warriors). Personally, I like more and more the idea of getting rid of the master armor training ability, and spacing out leather, mail, and plate. IMO, it allows for more differentiation and customizability, and with definite bonuses/penalties to support those choices.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Zapp » Thu Oct 04, 2012 11:59 am

shonuff wrote:Maybe. However, I think if you are going to have a non-enforced penalty, it's just as easy to say rogues can't wear heavy armor, and mages can't wear any armor (outside of arcane warriors).

The penalty isn't "non-enforced". It is enforced alright, only carefully constructed not to apply to characters that play by the book (=follow genre conventions)...

As I said before, just because a penalty isn't generally applied, doesn't mean it isn't there. The threat of the penalty is the force at work here.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Zapp » Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:06 pm

shonuff wrote:Personally, I like more and more the idea of getting rid of the master armor training ability, and spacing out leather, mail, and plate.

Perhaps you're referring up-thread, but I can at least write down what I've done IMC:

Leather Armor Training
Novice: You are trained in wearing light leather armor.
Journeyman: You are trained in wearing light and heavy leather armor.
Master: You can get the most out of leather armor. While in any leather armor, increase its Armor
Rating by +1. While in any leather armor, decrease its Armor Penalty by –1.

Mail Armor Training
Novice: You are trained in wearing light leather and mail armors.
Journeyman: You are trained in wearing all leather and mail armors.
Master: You can get the most out of mail armor. While in any mail armor, increase its Armor Rating by
+1. While in any mail armor, you may reduce the AP to Speed by 1.

Plate Armor Training
Novice: You are trained in wearing all light armors.
Journeyman: You are trained in wearing all armors.
Master: Even against penetrating damage, you gain half your armor's Armor Rating.

Rogues start with the Novice level of Leather; Warriors with the Novice level of Mail. This means each character gets the choice to continue on his given path or to change it at the cost of "beginning anew" (reaching the desirable Master level later).

There's a bit more to it (you might note the conspicuous absence of the Rogue's special armor bonuses), but hopefully the idea comes across fine. :)
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby shonuff » Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:11 pm

This might be semantic, but I mean it's non-enforced because a warrior will never have any type of penalty in leather or mail. Especially the heavy, cumbersome mail (which realistically should have a heavier penalty than plate). IMO, having to spend the extra talent, and not starting with mail, forces the PC to make choices and differentiate their characters. As of right now, there is really no option for a warrior to choose between mail and leather. However, if only leather were covered in the starting talent, then a warrior must choose between the dex penalty, the leather armor, or spending a talent.

IMO, it makes for more interesting progression. That, and I think the master level talent is a little too good.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby shonuff » Thu Oct 04, 2012 1:11 pm

Zapp wrote: Rogues start with the Novice level of Leather; Warriors with the Novice level of Mail. This means each character gets the choice to continue on his given path or to change it at the cost of "beginning anew" (reaching the desirable Master level later).

There's a bit more to it (you might note the conspicuous absence of the Rogue's special armor bonuses), but hopefully the idea comes across fine. :)


Interesting. I like the breakdown of armors into separate talents, although I'm not sure where you're going with the novice and journeyman talents exactly, unless you're reducing the penalties there. I would still separate leather and mail, or barring that, making the leather talent with a little bit extra.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Zapp » Thu Oct 04, 2012 10:46 pm

shonuff wrote:although I'm not sure where you're going with the novice and journeyman talents exactly, unless you're reducing the penalties there.

At least IMC the penalties for wearing armor untrained (don't remember the RAW right now):

my houserules wrote:The Armor Penalty is generally your Armor Rating – 1.

Wearing armor untrained you suffer the Armor Penalty to:
• The abilities DEXTERITY and MAGIC
• Speed
• STRENGTH (Climbing), STRENGTH (Jumping), DEXTERITY (Stealth), and CONSTITUTION (Swimming).
Also, the Mana cost of any spellcasting is increased by 2.

With training you no longer suffer the AP to DEXTERITY, and spells no longer cost extra to cast. You still suffer it to MAGIC, Speed and the listed skills, unless specifically mentioned otherwise.

The most common place where it is "otherwise" mentioned is
my houserules wrote:Rogues Armor Training
Replaces Leather Armor Training.
Novice: You are trained in wearing light leather armor. In addition to DEXTERITY you do not get a penalty
to DEXTERITY (Stealth) or Speed from wearing light leather armor.
Journeyman: You are trained in wearing light and heavy leather armor. In addition to DEXTERITY you do
not get a penalty to DEXTERITY (Stealth) or Speed from wearing heavy leather armor. You gain a +1 bonus
to Defense when in leather armor or no armor at all.
Master: You can get the most out of leather armor. While in any leather armor, increase its Armor
Rating by +1. While in any leather armor, decrease its Armor Penalty by –1. The bonus to Defense when
in leather armor or no armor at all is increased to +2.
Last edited by Zapp on Thu Oct 04, 2012 11:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Zapp » Thu Oct 04, 2012 10:59 pm

shonuff wrote:I would still separate leather and mail

There's a nuance regarding Leather and Mail Armor that might be worthwhile to highlight specifically: while on first blush Mail Armor seems strictly better than Leather Armor, it really isn't. It's the same with Plate Armor visavi Mail Armor.

Look at the master levels of the Leather and Mail talents: they are specific to that kind of armor. Meaning that just going with the Mail Armor talent won't give you the best of what Leather Armor can offer you. And going only Plate Armor won't give you the best of what Mail Armor can offer you.

Sure, you still get pretty good basic coverage. But that's intentional - you're a Warrior after all, and should pretty easily get the hang of using all kinds of armor (much like the RAW).

But to maximise your use of Leather and Mail, you can't simply take the Plate Armor Talent. You need to master Leather and Mail Armor talents respectively.

shonuff wrote:or barring that, making the leather talent with a little bit extra.

Right. I didn't paint the whole picture until last post. As I'm sure you realize, in practice most people wearing leather will take Rogue's Armor rather than the rather basic Leather Armor talent.

In another word, Rogues. :)

The Leather Armor Talent is meant "only" for Warriors who like to make the most* of situations when they're out of heavier armors.
*) without becoming actual rogues, I mean. Making the most a warrior can do with leather.
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby Zapp » Thu Oct 04, 2012 11:04 pm

shonuff wrote:although I'm not sure where you're going with the novice and journeyman talents exactly

Rogues start the game with the Novice level of Rogue's Armor.
Warriors start the game with the Novice level of Mail Armor.

The novice level of any of these talents only provide training for light armor.

You need to upgrade to Journeyman to be able to wear heavy armor (heavy leather, heavy mail, heavy plate) properly. (And of course, you can't get to the Master level without taking the Journeyman level first. Doh.)

Does that answer the question why anybody would want to take those Journeyman levels?
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Re: Balance Issues

Postby MacGrein » Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:53 am

What about:

----------------------------
Rogue's Armor Talent
Required: Rogue Class

Novice: you ignore Armor Penalty (AP) while using Light Leather Armor. (Rogue's starter)
Expert: you ignore (AP) on Heavy Leather Armor.
Master: you apply (AP) of Light Mail / Heavy Mail Armor only on Speed.

----------------------------
Armor Trainning Talent
Required: Warrior Class

Novice: you apply (AP) of Light Leather / Light Mail Armor only on Speed. (Warrior's starter)
Expert: you apply (AP) of Heavy Leather / Heavy Mail Armor only on Speed.
Master: you apply (AP) of every kind of Armor only on Speed.
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