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[merged] Vancian Magic System and cooldowns

cooldown magic system vancian cooldowns memorization spells abilities

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Poll: [merged] Vancian Magic System and cooldowns (463 member(s) have cast votes)

Magic System

  1. Vancian (Memorization) (190 votes [41.04%])

    Percentage of vote: 41.04%

  2. Mana Pool (143 votes [30.89%])

    Percentage of vote: 30.89%

  3. Other (130 votes [28.08%])

    Percentage of vote: 28.08%

Spell Progression

  1. Individual Spells (MM->Acid Arrow->Fire Ball ->Skull Trap) (292 votes [63.07%])

    Percentage of vote: 63.07%

  2. Spells get upgraded (MM LVL 1-> MM LVL 2) (94 votes [20.30%])

    Percentage of vote: 20.30%

  3. Other (77 votes [16.63%])

    Percentage of vote: 16.63%

Should there be separate Arcane & Divine sides to magic?

  1. Yes (D&D) (268 votes [57.88%])

    Percentage of vote: 57.88%

  2. No (DA:O) (102 votes [22.03%])

    Percentage of vote: 22.03%

  3. Other (93 votes [20.09%])

    Percentage of vote: 20.09%

Vote

#321
J.E. Sawyer

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Knock and its old friends spider climb and invisibility are part of a classic family of spells that made rogue and thief players say, "Hey, why do I exist?" I don't believe their inclusion in pre-4E editions of D&D and AD&D was a great thing. That sort of spell design is good if you're making a game specifically about how awesomely powerful wizards are (e.g. Ars Magica), but I don't think it's good in a class-based system where the classes are supposed to have different strengths and weaknesses. Also, I think the high-level design of rituals in 4E is a good thing because allows casters to retain the ability to use classic spells like speak with dead with a time and material cost. It just doesn't force players to choose, daily, between the spells they use constantly and the spells they use once every three to five sessions (in tabletop terms). It's pretty rare that someone "expects" to cast speak with dead, so any occasion where the player would have a good reason to use it is likely to catch the player unprepared under normal pre-4E conditions.
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#322
ogrezilla

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The Vancian system did a VERY good job of limiting the Wizard's incredible variety of spells without gimping said spells or creating an overpowered class. AND it also led to some damn fine strategic planning. I have yet to hear an alternative that sounds as good.

with the way resting worked you could have your best spells available for pretty much every major fight in the game.

#323
Zeful

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For this I think a more stringent and universally applicable system would be best.

Something like Shadowrun's spell system where spells invoke a physical cost on the caster would be what I want to see. You select a spell, cast it and you have to make a check to endure the rigors of spellcasting. If you fail, you damage your soul, which reflects back onto the body, and you take damage[1].

I would also couple this with a small mana pool that recharges at a moderate rate[2], most spells "on your level" would nearly drain the full pool, while the weaker, "lower level" spells would leave more; allowing for high level casters to cast several weaker spells in sequence while larger spells require waiting a short while. Every time you cast a spell though, part of it's cost is "reserved", with failure doubling or even tripling this reserve cost[3]. The reserve takes a much longer time to clear, hours, but time spent moving between adventure zones on the map counts toward it.

This system limits spell casting somewhat, preventing spamming through two mechanism a skill dependant casting system, making each spell cast a gamble, and an inherent cost restriction. High level casters will be able to spam low level spells, but in doing so, they might restrict their casting high level spells for a time. This system also works for non-casters though magically powered fighting styles, or other inherent magical abilities, and can be part of every class' architecture without impacting their design much.

1: Damage taken should depend on quite a number of factors, spell power, the caster's power, the caster's magical resistance, but not the caster's skill in magic.
2: In that casting spells of "your level" should require maybe two or three attacks with a quick weapon before you cast again. This should be based on the tempo of combat, you shouldn't have to manage every character in the party at once, it should be a cycle between your characters thus the game.
3: This would be a "degrees of success" mechanic, the better your character rolls are when casting a spell, the less each spell reserves of your mana pool, to a point; this also applies to failure, the closer you are to succeeding, the less mana is reserved. This prevents players from just spamming their best spell, as it would be harder to succeed on, resulting in, on average, less actual spells used over the course of the encounter. It also prevents casters from "just being better" than non-casters at mundane activities, and allow non-magical exploration skills to still be valid.
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#324
sea

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I generally dislike cooldowns. I think they are a band-aid for poor design in many cases (too big a topic to go into why here at the moment), and effectively the lazy man's way towards achieving a degree of balance. That said, it's worth examining the unique traits of spell memorization and cooldowns to understand what makes them tick.

Spell Memorization
  • Requires players plan ahead to be effective.
  • Prevents players from spamming spells constantly.
  • Used in conjunction with spell levels, stops players from loading up on 10 copies of the same powerful spell.
  • Rest mechanic ties in with party healing, making a rest feature more mechanically interesting overall.
  • Time spent returning to town to rest is the real resource, not the spell uses themselves.
Cooldowns
  • Require less planning.
  • Makes attrition with respect to spells basically non-existent.
  • Allows players to focus on a few effective spells more easily, rather than being forced to load up with lots of throw-aways.
  • Makes resting less mechanically interesting.
  • Depending on how cooldowns are implemented, cooldowns serve as a limiter on the total maximum output in combat a mage can have, but only on a per-encounter basis.
I think both have strengths and weaknesses depending on the game. Cooldowns work great for action RPGs because hiking back to town isn't the same concern in a faster paced title, while spell memorization is much more interesting in a slower-paced turn-based situation, where the entire game design is centered around the player make careful considerations. It really depends on what Obsidian want to do with Project Eternity - slightly more hack and slash combat that's accessible and fast-paced, or slower-paced, deeper and more strategic gameplay.

That said, I would actually much rather avoid both of these systems. I think that spells should be some sort of finite resource, but spell memorization only really works well in a tabletop setting where you can't rest at will, and cooldowns are certainly not to my taste most of the time. There are two potential systems that would offer the same limitation on spell use without as many drawbacks.

The first is to have a mana pool that recharges very slowly, and can be refilled by resting in a safe zone, visiting a priest, etc. There can be ways of restoring mana in the field, but they should have drawbacks - even if it's just that mana potions are very rare. This system is self-balancing to a degree because players would have to choose between a larger number of weaker spells or a fewer number of stronger ones, but without the same meta-gaming element or situation where you get screwed because you took the wrong spells with you. A fatigue mechanic could work really well to limit mana as well - i.e. the longer you are away from town, the lower your total mana capacity gets until you can get a good rest, which will eventually reduce your combat effectiveness, meaning attrition is still important but you won't screw yourself over by running out of all spells entirely. See Frayed Knights for a really good implementation of this idea.

The second is to tie spells entirely to items. Scrolls, staves and wands would be exclusive to mages and would have a limited number of uses. These could be rechargeable through a variety of means, but you'd end up something resembling spell memorization with the added benefit of being able to find more magic in the field. This could also give players a recurring gold sink by making them pay for the consumables. This setup is, in my opinion, more mechanically interesting than either cooldowns or memorization, and with careful tweaking you could even have a rest mechanic remain useful (i.e. a skill that partially restores spell charges upon resting, up to a maximum percentage). The downside is that players can still be stuck without spells just like spell memorization, but this is a bit more flexible

Personally I like the mana pool and fatigue setup the best of them, but so long as it's not just straight-up cooldowns ala Dragon Age, I'll be happy. Obviously, the names of the suggestions above would need to change in the game itself, "mana" and "potions" are just stand-ins.

Edited by sea, 30 September 2012 - 07:23 PM.

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#325
Caerdon

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A good DM, like a good Developer, is fully capable of giving you hints along the way without outright slapping you around with the information. Whether a player pays attention to such things or not, whether their character is able to detect them through the net of their skills or not, is not a meta gaming choice. Does the reload factor come in? Sure. However, no good Developer makes their game with the assumption a player will just reload. Obviously they'll reload. The hints and clues, and things people can find on or off the beaten path, the ways they can figure out what might be needed, what might be useless, are a part of crafting a game. I know this from putting together PnP games, if I need my players to have certain information, I'll have it available, either as a whole, or in small bits, clues by they hidden or spoken in a way that may not be immediately obvious.

These the things the creation side does to make sure that a tactical approach is actually viable. In PnP obviously I'm not going to let them reload, but if I were developing a game, while I'd surely note that a person can reload, I'd still make the game as if they couldn't. So that the needed information would be there.


That's a nice thought, but I've never heard of such 'good developers'. I don't know of a game where you can get consistent, useful and specific information about the opponents you're going to face. It'd be great if P:E would be one, but I highly doubt it.

A good DM or Developer will lay down the ground work you need to make intelligent decisions as to what you're going to bring to the battlefield, but they won't scream it in your face either. It's part of the adventure of an RPG, uncovering the hidden clue needed to defeat the "insert whatever here" instead of just rushing into its lair and getting deep fried. Listening to the tavern gossip and realizing that you might be jumped by Goblins out on the road, as that's been happening lately. Seeing the wanted posters for a local gang of Bandits in the area. There, part of the scenery, or in the case of the "instert whatever here" hidden, a known problem with an unknown solution that you have to track down. Oversimplified examples, sure, but the logic stands when running a game.


Who cares about goblins? Tavern gossips are never goint to tell you that there will be a barbarian wielding an Axe of Entanglement, an archer with poisoned +1 arrows and 50% magic resistance and a mage that will cast simulacrums and summon basilisks. You know, things that you'll actually want to know. But the only way to know is to meet them in battle.

You can run into this encounter with your spellbook tailored for things you might encounter on the road. Or you can actually be prepared for this very battle. The difference is staggering, and only Vancian spellcasters have this kind of imbalance built into them.

The issue that breaks such things apart, is not, in fact, reloading, because outside of a hardcore mode you can't stop people from doing that, but instead something much more simple: "The Resting System." The resting system tends to be what's exploited in games that don't have the common sense to prevent you from resting constantly, and putting in deterrents that, well, deter people from just resting every few minutes to always be full on spells. Again this is something plenty of older games actually addressed even when they didn't use the D&D-like spell system they added in rests being limited by location, by potential encounters, by the heroes not feeling tired and thus refusing to rest and so on and so forth in so many ways that I doubt I've even experienced them all, and I've experienced quite a few.


Any restrictions on resting with a Vancian spellcasting system just makes metagaming even more useful, because not wasting a single spell slots becomes all the more important.

Resting is not the problem. Reloading is only a part of the problem. The real problem is Vancian spellcasting.

#326
Caerdon

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There's nothing wrong with meta-gaming in a video game.


You know, that's actually the first really good reason to have Vancian spellcasting that I've heard. If you love metagaming, that's the system you should use. :thumbsup:

My opinion, obviously, is different. Metagaming is diametrically opposed to what role-playing is all about. I find you choice of words curious: "in a video game". Do you think metagaming is not okay in PnP then?

#327
Jasede

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No, unless you're expressively playing a hack & slash campaign and every player and the DM agreed on the campaign being exclusively about mechanical challenges, or unless you're playing a war game.

#328
Stun

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That's a nice thought, but I've never heard of such 'good developers'. I don't know of a game where you can get consistent, useful and specific information about the opponents you're going to face. It'd be great if P:E would be one, but I highly doubt it.

I think the point is to not make it specific. A good DM makes it just vague enough so that it doesn't feel like you're being spoon-fed instructions on how to win. (although there's nothing wrong with flat out spoon-feeding instructions every once in a while, especially early on) But generally, a good DM will want to keep it Just vague enough so that a keen, alert player can connect the dots, while a dumb player is S.O.L. for not paying attention.

And I've seen Developers do a fine job in that avenue. More to the point: I've seen the very developers who are working on Project Eternity do it well. Icewind Dale 2. The Holy Avenger party battle. Each one of the Enemies for that fight had their own specific set of immunities, vunerabilities, and attack modes. A player who didn't bother to read the storied item description/Journal they found in Dragon's Eye, ended up in big, big trouble in that fight. On the other hand, someone who took their time, read the lore, read the journals, ended up getting enough information to formulate a winning game plan --- and relevantly, they got that information well ahead of time, so that they could prepare the right spells, weapons and items for the battle.

Edited by Stun, 30 September 2012 - 09:10 PM.


#329
Shevek

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Knock and its old friends spider climb and invisibility are part of a classic family of spells that made rogue and thief players say, "Hey, why do I exist?" I don't believe their inclusion in pre-4E editions of D&D and AD&D was a great thing. That sort of spell design is good if you're making a game specifically about how awesomely powerful wizards are (e.g. Ars Magica), but I don't think it's good in a class-based system where the classes are supposed to have different strengths and weaknesses.


Very good points. I have to agree with you there.
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#330
metiman

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I find it hard to believe that a pure Vancian system could even be used considering the only real thing we know about the setting is that magic runs on soul power.


Do you have a link for that? I don't recall reading that at all.

#331
Caerdon

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That's a nice thought, but I've never heard of such 'good developers'. I don't know of a game where you can get consistent, useful and specific information about the opponents you're going to face. It'd be great if P:E would be one, but I highly doubt it.

I think the point is to not make it specific. A good DM makes it just vague enough so that it doesn't feel like you're being spoon-fed instructions on how to win. (although there's nothing wrong with flat out spoon-feeding instructions every once in a while) But generally, a good DM will want to keep it Just vague enough so that a keen, alert player can connect the dots, while a dumb player is S.O.L. for not using his head.


Yeah, I get that. I love that kind of gameplay, and it works wonderfully in PnP. But it doesn't work so well in CRPGs, especially when using Vancian casters who benefit enormously from metagame knowledge.

Now, if the game did provide such specific information, it would lessen the impact of metagaming, because you'd have same kind of information without it, and the game could actually be balanced for that. Of course, that would be spoon-feeding instructions, so would it really be a victory? I guess not.

All in all, Vancian spellcasting leads to bad gameplay in CRPGs.

And I've seen Developers do a fine job in that avenue. More to the point: I've seen the very developers who are working on Project Eternity do it well. Icewind Dale 2. The Holy Avenger party battle. Each one of the Enemies for that fight had their own specific set of immunities, and their own specific set of vunerabilities. A player who didn't bother to read the storied item description/Journal they found in Dragon's Eye, ended up in big big trouble in that fight. On the other hand, someone who took their time, read the lore, read the journals, ended up getting enough information to formulate a winning game plan --- and relevantly, they got that information well ahead of time, so that they could prepare the right spells, weapons and items for the battle.


You know, that sounds great. But was that approach used for most or all of the tough encounters?

#332
dlux

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Knock and its old friends spider climb and invisibility are part of a classic family of spells that made rogue and thief players say, "Hey, why do I exist?" I don't believe their inclusion in pre-4E editions of D&D and AD&D was a great thing. That sort of spell design is good if you're making a game specifically about how awesomely powerful wizards are (e.g. Ars Magica), but I don't think it's good in a class-based system where the classes are supposed to have different strengths and weaknesses. Also, I think the high-level design of rituals in 4E is a good thing because allows casters to retain the ability to use classic spells like speak with dead with a time and material cost. It just doesn't force players to choose, daily, between the spells they use constantly and the spells they use once every three to five sessions (in tabletop terms). It's pretty rare that someone "expects" to cast speak with dead, so any occasion where the player would have a good reason to use it is likely to catch the player unprepared under normal pre-4E conditions.

True. The D&D system could be exploited so that you did not need a thief at all. Not just for picking locks, but also for detecting and disabling traps.

E.g. a cleric can cast "detect traps", then you buff your tank or summon creatures to trigger the trap. Then you rest (if required). Wash, rinse, repeat.

Edited by dlux, 30 September 2012 - 09:56 PM.


#333
metiman

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It would be nice if more people would give actual examples of a good implementation of the spell system they are advocating. What's missing from many arguments is "This is the sort of thing I am talking about". Or if their favored system has never been implemented well then at least admit that it has never been done before. At least in a way that they approve of. It would also be nice to see people giving examples of games that demonstrate their point about how bad the system they dislike is.

My examples would be:
Vancian = BG2;
Mana = Arx Fatalis;
Cooldowns = Dragon Age;

#334
metiman

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http://www.formsprin...733585262007490

Josh on cooldowns:

I think they're fine, but it's just one mechanic. As with any timing-based mechanic, I think it needs to be used in conjunction with other tactical considerations to force the player to think more about what to do.


So...Dragon Age combat then. Well that's it. I was trying to decide between the $140 and $250 tiers. Now I won't be contributing at all. An old school game with cooldowns. Nice. Unless MCA or Tim Cain can convince Sawyer of the wrongness of them. I'll wait to see if cooldowns are officially ruled out until the end of the kickstarter, but this game is dead to me now. Enjoy your Biowarian twitch-based popamole kiddies. I'll go back to replaying BG2 and anticipating Wasteland 2.

#335
TrashMan

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@Trashman: DnD system isn't even explained, its a ruleset applied to the worlds. None of the worlds explain why they can only memorize a certain number of things. It doesn't make sense in DnD, at all. I've been i RP situations where folks have tried to explain it, and they can't. All they can do is explain how it works, not why its that way. To me, that's a very, very big difference in making something believeable. The second your explaination as to try something is the way it is, comes down to anime shoulder shrugging of '... and thats the way it is' and everyone just kinda nods like 'makes sense, I geuss its just that way because yeah'. Even though they kinda don't explain it and... yeah.


The explanation there is is enough. Of cource, oyu can disagree ,but ultimatively it doens't matter.
At some point you reach the point of answering with "because it just works that way"...in ANY system.

Why do mages have the amount of mana they do in Dragon Age? Because they do.
How exactly does drawing that mana work? ETc, etc.. I can keep asking questions till you run out of answers. Heck, I can easiyl do it for the real world.

Why does mass afffect gravity? Because it does. Period. There is no explanation beyond that.

Why is it to hard to accept that in D&D having spells in the pre-cast states is a drain on the mages mind and he can only keep so many ready at a time? Why does that "not make sense"?

#336
dlux

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http://www.formsprin...733585262007490

Josh on cooldowns:

I think they're fine, but it's just one mechanic. As with any timing-based mechanic, I think it needs to be used in conjunction with other tactical considerations to force the player to think more about what to do.


So...Dragon Age combat then. Well that's it. I was trying to decide between the $140 and $250 tiers. Now I won't be contributing at all. An old school game with cooldowns. Nice. Unless MCA or Tim Cain can convince Sawyer of the wrongness of them. I'll wait to see if cooldowns are officially ruled out until the end of the kickstarter, but this game is dead to me now. Enjoy your Biowarian twitch-based popamole kiddies. I'll go back to replaying BG2 and anticipating Wasteland 2.

lol

#337
TrashMan

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I still think fatigue would probably be the best - but again, it's tied to resting.
I like Vanacian, and the "flaws" aare nto really flaws. Especially in later editions, where mages can cast cantrips for free...however, I really don't see how it that really different from using your sling.
There is a notion that a mage should do nothing but cast spells...why? Wouln't the concpet of what a mage is and how he fights depend on the setting? What is wrong with a mage fighting in melee occasionaly? What is wrong with him using a sling or crossbow? Who sez he has to suck with it?

Seriously..


No, the problem here is that the cost that the resting system has - in-game time - is meaningless to a CRPG player. Time in the gmae doesn't affect anything, so if there are no consequnces for resting every 5 minutes, then the system becomes abusable.

You can make resting very dangerous, with a high chance to be attacked by monster - but again, players can get around that by reloading and resting untill the dice roll their way and no monsters come.
So the only way to "fix" this is to make monsters a 100% resting event. No way to avoid them if you're in hostile territory. That means the player is either forced to spend 10 minutes of his REAL time backtracking to a safe resting area, or pushing forward. Of course, now some will complain that this is bad design because it doesn't allow them to abuse the rules..but whatever.


I honestly think mages should have to rest, as casting mighy spells should be damn tireing.

#338
metiman

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Memory is limited. If you imagine a single spell to consist of many complex incantations and hand movements and the more powerful the spell the more complex and lengthy the incantations are, you might have some idea as to why memorizing 100 different complex spells and being able to recall all of them instantly could be...difficult. It is generally easier to remember something you memorized recently. That's sufficient for me. You could also imagine that something about magic makes it especially difficult to memorize. For instance perhaps the incantations and hand movements have to absolutely perfect. Perhaps even the slightest variation will make the spell fizzle. Anything but a fresh memorization may not be sufficient to recall things so perfectly. Not that any of this really matters.

For me the bottom line is how enjoyable a magic system is in practice. My favorite combat systems are BG2 and ToEE. One was 2nd Ed. D&D and the other was 3rd, but both used Vancian magic. I couldn't play Dragon Age for more than one hour before uninstalling the game. The combat was even worse than WoW. That system was not Vancian. It was mostly cooldown based. Hence my preference. The fact that Vancian may be a bit more difficult to explain with a narrative is less important to me than the fact that it is a hugely enjoyable system to actually play.

#339
Stun

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Yeah, I get that. I love that kind of gameplay, and it works wonderfully in PnP. But it doesn't work so well in CRPGs, especially when using Vancian casters who benefit enormously from metagame knowledge.

ALL classes in all games benefit enormously from metagame knowledge. But I can't think of a single vancian system-using crpg I've ever played where metagaming is actually needed for effectiveness. (and isn't that what we're discussing?) After 10 minutes of brainstorming, I can only come up with one single example in one single game: The Kangaxx fight in Bg2 - which is not only optional, but chances are you'll miss it on your first playthrough

All in all, Vancian spellcasting leads to bad gameplay in CRPGs.


It really doesn't. There's no difference in actual gameplay. In low-level campaigns, you won't ever encounter enemies who are so tough and specialized that you find yourself in a situation where your mage "mis-prepared" his spellbook (or whatever you guys are paranoid about), and in high level campaigns, your mage's list of memorized spells is so massive that it's virtually impossible to NOT be prepared for just about everything the game could ever throw at you. Unless you really *really* suck at choosing spells (ie. you decided to memorize infravision 8 times, instead of, you know, instinctively diversifying with some offensive spells)


And I've seen Developers do a fine job in that avenue. More to the point: I've seen the very developers who are working on Project Eternity do it well. Icewind Dale 2. The Holy Avenger party battle. Each one of the Enemies for that fight had their own specific set of immunities, and their own specific set of vunerabilities. A player who didn't bother to read the storied item description/Journal they found in Dragon's Eye, ended up in big big trouble in that fight. On the other hand, someone who took their time, read the lore, read the journals, ended up getting enough information to formulate a winning game plan --- and relevantly, they got that information well ahead of time, so that they could prepare the right spells, weapons and items for the battle.


You know, that sounds great. But was that approach used for most or all of the tough encounters?

No. Just about every other fight in IWD2 was straight forward. That is to say, the enemies/encounters could be dealt with using the player's standard encounter approach. (spamming fireballs is just as effective against the Orc chief and his minions in chapter 1, as it is against a group of Yuanti cultists and their leader in chapter 5.)

Edited by Stun, 30 September 2012 - 11:14 PM.


#340
metiman

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Scouting seems to mitigate if not outright eliminate the "guessing not strategy" criticism of Vancian. If a designer is very concerned about it he can simply offer improved scouting opportunities. Rangers with stealth. Mage familiars with stealth or invisibility. Scouting spells that only other mages can detect. And of course thieves with excellent hide in shadows abilites.





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