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Pre-Combat Preparation

Buffs Traps Winning Charlie Sheen

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#1
Nonek

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With Mr Sawyer abolishing pre battle buffing, as it had got a touch out of hand especially at high level, one is forced to wonder whether we'll still have the opportunity to actively prepare for combat. Traps, positioning, item enhancements, use of consumables etcetera. In short will we be able to try and win the battle before it occurs, as Tsun Tzu advises?

 

Personally i'm a great fan of this, and believe in taking advantage of everything one can do to diminish risk. Indeed in AD&D this was one of the strengths of the system, manipulating random dice rolls in ones favour through clever use of the tools at one disposal.

 

What are your opinions?


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#2
Thundercat710

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I think if it's made too easy it's like "why even bother doing it?", but if it's ridonk like it could at times be in the original games then it's a chore.  Stuff like this is where I rely on creative people to invent ways of making it better while I gratefully reap the rewards of improved gameplay.


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#3
Nonek

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I personally prefer to do the preparation myself, i've yet to find a game AI that can adequately simulate a real player let alone use more complex tactics. Though I do look forward to a time when this is possible, and facing opponents governed by it.


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#4
Pipyui

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I think I remember Sawyer mentioning about rogues sneaking into an enemy camp and laying traps before combat is initiated.

If the rogue is able to sneak independantly of the rest of the party, I would think I could slip him/her behind the enemy, then approach with the others.  An enemy party would make formation to meet your line, and your rogue could pop in to take out the wizards/rangers in back.

 

I would also like to be able to consume buff potions before combat or something to give non-rogues something to prepare.


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#5
Nonek

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Yes I also wonder whether the Cipher and Monk can take advantage of their individual specifications to give them an edge before combat, the Cipher attacks the Monk to fuel his abilities and the Monks abilities are powered by that attack, etcetera?

 

I aslo wonder whether we can draw off individual members of packs of opponents by interacting with their circles of perception, or whether they are all bound together as a group?



#6
Yonjuro

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With Mr Sawyer abolishing pre battle buffing, as it had got a touch out of hand especially at high level, one is forced to wonder whether we'll still have the opportunity to actively prepare for combat. Traps, positioning, item enhancements, use of consumables etcetera. In short will we be able to try and win the battle before it occurs, as Tsun Tzu advises?

 

Personally i'm a great fan of this, and believe in taking advantage of everything one can do to diminish risk. Indeed in AD&D this was one of the strengths of the system, manipulating random dice rolls in ones favour through clever use of the tools at one disposal.

 

What are your opinions?

 

 This is one of the things that didn't sound good to me. There are a lot of cases where scouting gives your party information before combat - if you were in that situation, why wouldn't you use that information to your advantage?

 

 I'm not a fan of combat mode vs. non-combat mode. I don't like turn-based combat for that reason and so I wouldn't be entirely happy with an arbitrary no buff spells before combat rule.

 

 

 Maybe there will be something less contrived than just not be being able to cast certain spells outside of combat. For example, if there were no pure buff spells, that is, each buff is also a debuff for an enemy, that would be one way to implement it.


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#7
Yonjuro

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...

I aslo wonder whether we can draw off individual members of packs of opponents by interacting with their circles of perception, or whether they are all bound together as a group?

 

 This is a case where the IE games could be improved upon.

 

 You had BG where enemies tended to stand there and do nothing when someone got shot right next to them vs. IWD where sometimes it worked that way and other times attacking nearby enemies would draw out all of the enemies on the map to mob you. I didn't spend a lot of time w/IWD 1 or 2 but 'enemy draw'  didn't seem very predictable.

 

 I don't think either approach got it exactly right. With the 'circles of perception' there is a chance to implement this better.


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#8
IndiraLightfoot

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Only problem I see is that this kind of preparation in party-based CRPGs so easily become a beast of its own, a meta-gamey system that takes the edge of the urgency and anticipation of moving your party around. Btw, this can be achieved even in turn-based party CRPGs, which I have been reminded of just recently with M&M X Legacy. :)


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#9
Nonek

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As I remember the early editions of IWD you could draw out your opponents but that was patched out later, I may be mis-remembering however.

 

There certainly seems to be no reason why spells cannot be cast outside combat, I assume we'll have various utility spells like Light and not just combat applications.


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#10
Mr. Magniloquent

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I don't think removing pre-combat buffing is a good idea. It has too many ramifications for the strength, utility, and variety of spells. It feels unwise to do this, as the general complaint with buffing is the length of time required to perform it, rather than the action or concept itself.

 

One of the fundamental problems, is that there is an accepted premise about duration. This generally is a hold-over from D&D turn/round-based gameplay. Another pre-concieved constraint rests in the "fire and forget" nature of spellcasting that most games utilize. If one approaches spells with a primary non-instantaneous effect as something that have to be perpetuated by the casters will, new methods of solving this problem appear.

 

Mana magic systems generally handle this by lowering the caster's maximum mana by a proportion so long as an effect is maintined. For a vancian-inpsired system that P:E will be delivering, it would be simple enough to allow casters to maintain only X spells at a time in accordance which their level + abilites permit. This could apply towards all spells with duration, whether they be defensive or offensive in nature. In this way, less experience wizards would have to find a trade-off, whereas high-level wizards would come into their own and be able to both maintain their defenses without limiting the full scope of their offensive spells--as one would expect.

 

Example:

 

A level 2 Wizard can only maintain two spell effects at any one given time. They could maintain Mage Armor and one Charm effect, or two Charm effects, etc. Attempting to exceed this limit would break a prior effect at random.

 

A level 5 Wizard can maintain five spell effects at one time. They could maintain Mage Armor, Bear's Endurance, Charm two enemies, whilst maintaining a Stinking Cloud.

 

This limit would have to be balanced in accordance with the spells that exist within P:E naturally, this is just an example. This system could further be brought into balance by forcing Wizard to succeed a concentration check when struck or risk losing a maintained spell effect. This way, mages could hold their protections in perpetuity at their discretion to their offensive output, while affording non-magical creatures/players the ability to pierce a wizard's defense.


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#11
IndiraLightfoot

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Nonek: As I'm playing M&M X right now, I'm thoroughly enjoying the simple, but effective assortment of utility spells, like dark vision, light orb and secret-revealing shadow spells. SP, a big thumbs up for that kind of utility spells. :)


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#12
Nonek

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@Indira: Indeed an oft overlooked aspect that robs magic of usefulness.

 

@Mr Magniloquent: That is an extremely fine idea.

 

Edit: Perhaps warding effects might be added to the Wizard's Arcane Veil automatically or to the players specifications to save time, and be stripped as you detail, and entirely dispelled if the Veil is pierced or dispelled?


Edited by Nonek, 31 January 2014 - 11:04 AM.


#13
teknoman2

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the problem with the IE games and buffing were the rounds. it takes just 1s to cast a buff on your fighter  but then you have to wait another 5s for the next round to cast something else, and within these 5 seconds the battle has moved on, meaning that in order to cast the buff, you missed the chance to cast a fireball where it would do the most damage. and if you cast the fireball first, it may be to late to cast the buff after it, because the enemy spell you wanted to protect yourself from has been cast. so the obvious way to do it was to cast the buffs before the fight.

since PE does not have rounds, it takes 1s for the buff and 3s for the fireball... in 4s you are done and can cast another spell or 2 in the time it would take to cast only the buff and fireball in an IE game


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#14
anameforobsidian

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I see that as more of a strength than a problem.  In the first round a mage has the choice to buff party members, ensuring the maximum utility of the buff, shoot off an AoE while the enemies are still in position, shoot off magic missile to interrupt an enemy mage is casting their most important version of a spell, etc.  Pre-fight buffing takes that decision away, you always buff and then fight unless a fight is trash.  If that's the case, fights are balanced with the buffs assumed.  This completely removes them as a tactical choice and turns them into busywork, other than spellbook slots for higher level ones (because stop and rest anywhere removed the need for spell management).

 

I think a roundless system (like PE has) would have improved tactical decision making, because casting time becomes an even greater factor, but I don't think the tradeoff was a bad thing.


Edited by anameforobsidian, 31 January 2014 - 11:49 AM.

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#15
Lephys

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Yeah, I don't think the problem is so much the ability to cast buffs technically before battle starts (as opposed to just before the fighting actually "begins," but after the start of battle), as much as it is with the whole premise of stackable buffs, in the first place. But, especially when you can just casually cast 10 things outside of combat on, say, your Fighter, you have to look at it from a capability standpoint. How much of an advantage does it give you to do that? If it's a huge one, then it's something there's pretty much never a reason not to do that's making all combat encounters that much easier. "I just negated all the effects of the enemy's combat group makeup BEFORE WE EVEN CLASHED! HAHAHA!" What's the point in having such varied enemies to have to cope with if you provide an easy way to simply never have to deal directly with those enemies' unique combat factors?

If it's not a huge advantage, then either those spells are kinda pointless (if you have to stack 10 just to get a "meh" advantage), OR, combat is balanced against your stacking those spells like that, meaning it's essentially "necessary" (not every single fight, but, in general, the game bets on you doing that, and if you don't practice pre-buffing, you're pretty much not going to make it through the game). In which case, aren't there more fun ways of designing that in the first place, than requiring the group to just pre-buff up before going into combat, just to gain a fighting chance?

So, I dunno... it's kinda hard to limit spells cast before combat without simply denying the ability to cast any of them at all. If you have spells that can be cast at any time, and they last X amount of time, then you can stack them all, THEN enter combat. You either have to make them all really short-duration (which hurts in-combat functionality and design), or only let them be cast within combat (so that your casting decisions are tactical and meaningful, rather than just freebies).

I very much think that Mr. Magniloquent's idea is a good one; quantity limiters. However, it still seems like the quantity of spells on a given character should be more limited outside of combat than it is inside combat. If you can manage to get 3 spell effects on someone WHILST being attacked by a whole group of enemies, that's one thing. But, if you can still just do it for free outside of combat, then, well, you've got the benefit of a quantity limit at least (so you can't just stack 18 spells, then charge into combat), but, it still seems like there's a better way to do it than just allow spell-stacking before combat.

I mean, same thing with traps, sort of. Sure, you can lay traps before combat, but, just putting a cluster of 17 bear traps, then luring the enemy group into that one blob and killing them all is a bit silly, really. It's kind of anti-tactics. The combat encounters are supposed to be easi-er if you do it right, not just-plain effortless. Also, you'd think a cluster of bear traps would be much easier to spot than just individual ones. Kind of like how a group of people is easier to spot sneaking around than just one sneaky person. So, maybe have traps lose like -1 from their Spot-ability DC if they're too close to each-other? Something like that...

Anywho, I think there's plenty of room for pre-combat preparation without specifically casting duration-based beneficial spells on characters before entering combat. There are a lot of ways to do it. You could even do things like allow each person to have 1 prepared spell/ability (supportive/augmentative) that auto-activates at the beginning of combat (basically when your party goes "All right, let's DO this!" if they've got the jump on stuff, or "Oh crap, BATTLESTATIONS!" if you didn't know about it beforehand), whether on that character's self or another friendly target, depending on the ability. Or, maybe you couldn't use these if YOU didn't initiate combat or something, *shrug*. Or, maybe it's as simple as "once you successfully cast the first 'round' of spells, the enemy gets to act," so you just control it manually just like pre-buffing, but you don't have to jump out waving your hands and yelling before you get to cast buffs and stuff.

*shrug*, I just really don't think casual effect-stacking is a good thing to need in the game, in any capacity, as there are much more engaging ways in which to allow for preparation and meaningful buffing. Spell-stacking just turns level-up/progression power partially into stacked spells. "You're more capable because you have more effects to stack on yourself before combat even starts." At the very least, if that's the intent, then you might as well just let them all auto-activate instantly at the beginning of combat, even if they were to still take up Vancian "ammo" each time until you rested.

That being said, I'm also very much in favor of a lot of utility spells being castable and useful outside of combat. Like Light (to visually lure enemies), etc., as Nonek and others had mentioned up near the top. But, for the most part, I think combat is best served by borrowing Vegas's slogan: "What happens in combat, STAYS in combat." :). For the most part...
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#16
Adhin

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I can understand the desire for it but I hate pre-buffing. It's kinda like Lephys said, once you allow it, it either has to be useless or useful, if its useful then it becomes mandatory and I do not want to 'have' to cast spells to even have a chance before a fight. I mean in past IE games you have the general buffs you toss out before a hard fight and then you have the more specialty stuff that requires a lot of pre-knowledge, that often times a rogue scouts not going to be able to give you (unless it happens to be a pack of wild fire elemental then, sure, fire immunity activate...).

 

Which usually means base buffs cause yay for wasting time on expected standard bull****, then finding out that one mage you think was probably a mage, maybe, starts flailing about with mass acidic based spells, its rare, but hey this guy loves acid, so you restart after being melted to death and buff for immunity. I dunno I just find most of that kinda stupid. Also, Tsun Tzu didn't have to worry about mages buffing armies and fireballs. It was more about positioning and feints, basically have a plan, and then do everything you can to trick the enemy to follow your plan. That's positioning, leading enemies into ambushes, blah blah... not spamming general buff A through D before that, cause, hey that's what everyone does to get up to snuff and the developers had to balance around that.

 

I mean think of it this way. You play chess, its fun, good times. Alright now imagine if there's a rule that waring blue gloves allows you to flip a coin anytime someone 'takes' one of your pieces to see if, in fact, you get to take there piece instead as a counter unless the other player is ALSO waring blue gloves? Who's not going to be waring blue gloves... no one, that's who because its a pointless mandatory preparation. That's what most pre-buffing is to me. Blue-gloved waring chess rules.


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#17
Mr. Magniloquent

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Yeah, I don't think the problem is so much the ability to cast buffs technically before battle starts (as opposed to just before the fighting actually "begins," but after the start of battle), as much as it is with the whole premise of stackable buffs, in the first place. But, especially when you can just casually cast 10 things outside of combat on, say, your Fighter, you have to look at it from a capability standpoint. How much of an advantage does it give you to do that?

 

You're forgetting about removal spells. This dynamic is what made BG2 spellcasting memorable to this day. So you've spent 10 spells making your fighter invulnerable? Breach......and they're gone. I could name off several other spells which achieved similar or even identical results. All of those spells per day wasted because some AI wizard was prepared for the eventuality of facing a magical opponent. If you've ever played BG with Sword Coast Strategems (I or II), then you know this scenario very very well.

 

Since many spells will be at will or per encounter, I think it is valuable to allow their duration to be "indefinate until rest" accord a level/ability cap on how many can be maintained and a concentration check to sustain effects on damage. It permitts the best of everything. Mages get their spells, players have less hassle, powerful spells are still balanced, counter-spell intrigue is possible, and non-magical characters have a method for breaking persisted effects by wailing on a wizard.


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#18
ZornWO

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You don't need pre-buffing to duplicate BG2-style mage combat. 

 

When I'd heard they were eliminating prebuffing, I had expected a system of buffs together with a wide assortment of spell triggers and contingencies.  It wouldn't be anymore meta-gamey than merely preparing your mage book, which we know the devs have adopted for PoE mages.  Sustained, strong buffs are essential for creating IE-style mage combat and those wonderful mage duels, and for avoiding Dragon Age-style mage garbage.

 

Mr. Magniloquent's suggestion of a cap on sustained spells is an interesting one (very imaginative!), and could complement a trigger/contingency based system, but I have mixed feelings about having it apply to any spell with duration rather than just defensive buffs.  If a charm spell costs you not only a spell slot, but a sustained-spell slot, it'd have to be very powerful to be better than unsustained offensive spells - whereas a sustained defensive buff wouldn't have much competition (looking at the IE spells, I'm not really seeing an instantaneous defense spell, unless BG's Dimension Door counts as defensive?).  Plus, there'd be the risk mages start to play like a mana-system mage.  Nonetheless, it's a very promising idea!

 

 

Yeah, I don't think the problem is so much the ability to cast buffs technically before battle starts (as opposed to just before the fighting actually "begins," but after the start of battle), as much as it is with the whole premise of stackable buffs, in the first place. But, especially when you can just casually cast 10 things outside of combat on, say, your Fighter, you have to look at it from a capability standpoint. How much of an advantage does it give you to do that? If it's a huge one, then it's something there's pretty much never a reason not to do that's making all combat encounters that much easier. "I just negated all the effects of the enemy's combat group makeup BEFORE WE EVEN CLASHED! HAHAHA!" What's the point in having such varied enemies to have to cope with if you provide an easy way to simply never have to deal directly with those enemies' unique combat factors?

If it's not a huge advantage, then either those spells are kinda pointless (if you have to stack 10 just to get a "meh" advantage), OR, combat is balanced against your stacking those spells like that, meaning it's essentially "necessary" (not every single fight, but, in general, the game bets on you doing that, and if you don't practice pre-buffing, you're pretty much not going to make it through the game). In which case, aren't there more fun ways of designing that in the first place, than requiring the group to just pre-buff up before going into combat, just to gain a fighting chance?
(...)

 

Lephys, I'm sorry to disagree here, but the passage I bolded in particular is very wrong.  People have soloed BG2 using monks.  It takes potions, sure, but the magic resistance is key.  People have also soloed BG2:SoA with fighters.  That takes equipment, potions, and a knowledge of what spell school goes with what casting color so you know which potion (like an active ability) to hit.  (So for instance, iirc a yellow casting animation is the Enchantment school, so if you see yellow casting, you should already have equipment that grants free action so you'll want a potion of clarity to counter chaos/charm etc.)  That's not to say PoE should go that way for fighters and monks, since obviously BG2's class balance is out of whack.  But that's because other classes often only could autoattack; it's not because of mage buffs.  A solo monk can easily handle a buffed lich, and many of the other classes can too despite not having tons of buffs or even debuffs (again, not to defend BG2 class balance, which Obsidian is obviously improving upon).

 

Above all, people who dislike a spell-counterspell system a la BG2 mages have nearly all the other games on the RPG market.  Is it really too much to ask for one class in one new game to play like in the IE games?  If you like a learning curve and a game that requires intricate strategies and tactics, you're nearly locked out of the RPG market nowadays, and increasingly out of the TBS market too. 


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#19
Frenetic Pony

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There's something wrong with pre-combat preparation.

 

It's boring. "Time to go into combat. Better cast every buff spell I have."... and ten minutes later you get to the "fun" part. And you do it again and again and again and again... Because hey spells regenerate and are infinite!

 

Get rid of the type of buffs that are both temporary, last long enough to get you through at least some of a fight, and are always castable. They just invite abuse, and a boring kind of it at that. Instead, limit buffs to consumables only, to buffs you flick on with a switch and have a constant resource cost, to buffs that last a few seconds at most. This will make the game more interesting, and take away motivation and opportunity to spend forever just outside of combat, preparing in the same exact routine you always do.


Edited by Frenetic Pony, 31 January 2014 - 11:40 PM.

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#20
Sabotin

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I think the elimination also stems from the fact the they're not going with rock-paper-scissors mechanics with spells and counters to those spells, but a more generalized approach. So very specific preparation should be unnecessary. The buffs are probably going to be balanced around the no-prebuffing policy, with diverse cast times and effect powers to be used tactically instead of strategically. Hmm, does that sound more action-y? xD .

 

I still hope some elements from this remain though. For example if switching modal abilities/spellbooks/weapons/etc takes an amount of time, it would pay off to know what will be useful beforehand.







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