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The sheer irony of the buff mechanics


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Given all of the improvements to buffs in patch 1.05, I decided to think about having Aloth use them in my next playthrough and this led me to an insight about the irony of buffs in PoE. If you've played the Infinity Engine games, the PoE buff mechanics were one of the biggest differences. In the IE games, the buffs lasted a long time so you would generally cast them after rest and even if you did not, definitely before any sort of serious battle. They were pretty powerful too (almost universally more powerful than their PoE counterparts) so the decision of whether to use them or not was a pretty easy one.

 

At first glance, the PoE buffs look completely different: they don't last very long and you can't even cast them outside of combat. However, it turns out that many of them can be cast almost instantaneously and without the usual "recovery" (i.e. you can rattle off a bunch of them in a couple of seconds even in plate armor). If you think about it, it pretty much has to be this way -- PoE combat is really fast so in any other case, they would be completely and utterly worthless (as I first thought they were).

 

Finally, consider the end-game where 1st and 2nd level spells become per-encounter rather than per-rest. In that scenario, there is absolutely no reason not to cast the better 1st and 2nd level buffs literally every non-trivial fight. I thought this was very ironic and more than a little funny: in an effort to get away from the system where casting the same buffs after every rest was a no-brainer, PoE has arrived at a system where casting the same buffs in every encounter is a no-brainer.

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Really? Like, you cast, say, Vital Essence with your wizard every fight? I don't actually think it's worth the time, since what you do with your opening few seconds can often be extremely significant. That's interesting, though. Maybe I'm missing something.

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Really? Like, you cast, say, Vital Essence with your wizard every fight? I don't actually think it's worth the time, since what you do with your opening few seconds can often be extremely significant. That's interesting, though. Maybe I'm missing something.

Perhaps not Vital Essense (although you could if you think that the Wizard is likely to get hurt), but certainly Eldritch Aim (+15 to Accuracy) and Merciless Gaze (+15 to Crit chance). During my Wizard playthrough, I didn't actually do this except in boss battles as I thought the buffs were worthless precisely because the first seconds are critical and the buffs are not worth the time. However, after somebody pointed out on the forums just how quicky the buffs were cast, I tested it and I was impressed. Give it a try -- if you pause quickly enough, it's literally something like half a second per buff.

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Interesting. I know that Arcane Veil does an odd thing where it doesn't take a full action to cast. If Eldritch Aim etc are the same where they hardly add any recovery at all, then it might indeed be worthwhile. I'll give it a try next time.

 

It's still miles away from the old IE routines (e.g. Armour, Stoneskin, Chaotic Commands, Fire Shield, Mirror Image, Haste, Protection from Evil, Minor Globe of Invulnerability....) of course. Good times. 

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Really? Like, you cast, say, Vital Essence with your wizard every fight? I don't actually think it's worth the time, since what you do with your opening few seconds can often be extremely significant. That's interesting, though. Maybe I'm missing something.

During every fight you would've pre-buffed, you're going to combat buff in PoE. So maybe not every battle, but then again, you wouldn't pre-buff before every battle if the option was there, either. Especially not with the low durations and the loss of per-rest uses.

 

But either way, most (all?) arguments against pre-buffing are based on erroneous assumptions concerning pre-buffing as it worked in the IE games, superimposed over PoE. The issues that made pre-buffing a problem in some of the IE games are simply not present in PoE, such as very-long-term buffs and the necessity of hard counters vs. very specific opponents.

Edited by Luckmann

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Perhaps I'm a bad player but when I play, I don't find it is as "clear-cut" as this. In the IE games, you can pre-buff and have everything up when you start the fight. And while I may throw buffs up at the start of combats in PoE, even with the short casting time, the recovery time in between makes at least me think it's not a "no-brainer" because a lot of stuff can happen in those first two seconds. Especially if I run into a tougher fight, my priorities may switch a lot depending on what happens during those opening seconds.

 

On PotD, there are buffs I want to get up for most fights. But for me it's a long stretch to compare that to the IE pre-buffing because I keep finding myself in scenarios where I have to throw out different spells (even though I can usually get that first buff off naturally) depending on what's happening. Again, I'm definitely not one of the best players when it comes to realtime w pause though, so if one is a better player than me then perhaps one *can* reduce the combat to that rote "first this buff, then this buff and..." but I typically can't. It's a risk/reward thing for me personally in PoE while pre-buffing in IE games is definitely not.

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Interesting. I know that Arcane Veil does an odd thing where it doesn't take a full action to cast. If Eldritch Aim etc are the same where they hardly add any recovery at all, then it might indeed be worthwhile. I'll give it a try next time.

 

It's still miles away from the old IE routines (e.g. Armour, Stoneskin, Chaotic Commands, Fire Shield, Mirror Image, Haste, Protection from Evil, Minor Globe of Invulnerability....) of course. Good times. 

 

 

IE games and infinite resting and thus infinite spells. Which is why the buffing was broken. If pre-buffing came at the cost of actual spell slots sacrificed for later fights it would be the best system ever. Just like in PnP. 

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Interesting. I know that Arcane Veil does an odd thing where it doesn't take a full action to cast. If Eldritch Aim etc are the same where they hardly add any recovery at all, then it might indeed be worthwhile. I'll give it a try next time.

 

It's still miles away from the old IE routines (e.g. Armour, Stoneskin, Chaotic Commands, Fire Shield, Mirror Image, Haste, Protection from Evil, Minor Globe of Invulnerability....) of course. Good times.

 

 

IE games and infinite resting and thus infinite spells. Which is why the buffing was broken. If pre-buffing came at the cost of actual spell slots sacrificed for later fights it would be the best system ever. Just like in PnP.

 

This, more or less. Buffing costs time, effort and limited resources. Add to that the fact that durations are much lower and more valuable than in any IE game, and none of the old assumptions as to why pre-buffing is bad holds any water.

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Perhaps I'm a bad player but when I play, I don't find it is as "clear-cut" as this. In the IE games, you can pre-buff and have everything up when you start the fight. And while I may throw buffs up at the start of combats in PoE, even with the short casting time, the recovery time in between makes at least me think it's not a "no-brainer" because a lot of stuff can happen in those first two seconds. Especially if I run into a tougher fight, my priorities may switch a lot depending on what happens during those opening seconds.

 

On PotD, there are buffs I want to get up for most fights. But for me it's a long stretch to compare that to the IE pre-buffing because I keep finding myself in scenarios where I have to throw out different spells (even though I can usually get that first buff off naturally) depending on what's happening. Again, I'm definitely not one of the best players when it comes to realtime w pause though, so if one is a better player than me then perhaps one *can* reduce the combat to that rote "first this buff, then this buff and..." but I typically can't. It's a risk/reward thing for me personally in PoE while pre-buffing in IE games is definitely not.

Bad players unite!

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Finally, consider the end-game where 1st and 2nd level spells become per-encounter rather than per-rest. In that scenario, there is absolutely no reason not to cast the better 1st and 2nd level buffs literally every non-trivial fight. I thought this was very ironic and more than a little funny: in an effort to get away from the system where casting the same buffs after every rest was a no-brainer, PoE has arrived at a system where casting the same buffs in every encounter is a no-brainer.

If you consider it, you'd realize that allowing prebuffing leads to even more degenerative gameplay with per-encounter spellcasting in place. Hence, no prebuffing.

 

I believe the key design mistake here was that Sawyer & Co fell in love with the idea of per-encounter spellcasting, and forced every other related aspect of game mechanics around it. Big mistake. Truth be told, the game would be better off if per-encounter spellcasting didn't exist, not only for the immediate benefits of the mechanic's removal, but for the hidden benefits of being able to revisit other mechanics which were warped to force per-encounter spellcasting into the game.

Edited by scrotiemcb
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How many spells are instant cast free actions? Most of the good ones (not the class abilities) take a full "turn". It is then not as simple as "I can cast 4 of these per encounter, so I should" but rather "do I cast a level 6 spell with far more power, or cast a level 1 spell and try to get by cheaply."

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After playing a melee-tank-wizard (up to level 7) so far, all I can say is: Idfc about prebuffing.

 

The PoE system works and tank-wizards work surprisingly well. And that wasn't even with the 1.05 beta patch!

It's fun and it works... and that's all I care about.

 

 

I actually think that some of the 1.05 changes about wizards go too far. Especially Arcane Veil now granting more or less complete immunity against attacks.

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A common idea floating around these forums is to make per-encounter spells appear more gradually. At level 9 ALL your level1 spells become per encounter. You can cast 4 in one encounter, 4 in the next, 4, 4, 4...

 

Instead, they could get 1 per encounter + 3 per rest. You'd be able to use one level1 spell per encounter with no extra cost. If you use two, you will eventually run out. For instance 2 spells in first, 2 in second, 2 in third, each subsequent encounter you are only able to cast 1 level1 spell.

 

My version would be like this:

 

9: 1x level1 per encounter, 3x level1 per rest
10: like above, plus 1x level2 per encounter, 3x level2 per rest
11: like above, plus 1x level3 per encounter, 3x level3 per rest

 

It's definitely not too late to modify this without breaking any builds. Level 9 is late game in PoE without expansions. Some people reach the final boss at level8.

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A common idea floating around these forums is to make per-encounter spells appear more gradually. At level 9 ALL your level1 spells become per encounter. You can cast 4 in one encounter, 4 in the next, 4, 4, 4...

 

Instead, they could get 1 per encounter + 3 per rest. You'd be able to use one level1 spell per encounter with no extra cost. If you use two, you will eventually run out. For instance 2 spells in first, 2 in second, 2 in third, each subsequent encounter you are only able to cast 1 level1 spell.

 

My version would be like this:

9: 1x level1 per encounter, 3x level1 per rest
10: like above, plus 1x level2 per encounter, 3x level2 per rest
11: like above, plus 1x level3 per encounter, 3x level3 per rest

It's definitely not too late to modify this without breaking any builds. Level 9 is late game in PoE without expansions. Some people reach the final boss at level8.

 

Would be too convoluted.

The spells are already balanced by their recovery times. There is no reason whatsoever for an additional limitation. Rank 1 spells becoming per encounter is no big deal by the time you actually get to level 9.

In fact, this more or less only brings wizards in line with all the other spellcasting classes. Wizards have the highest restrictions on their spells due to the grimoire mechanic and having to learn spells manually via grimoires. The per-encounter spells at level 9 is perfectly reasonable within all those extra restrictions. And it's the first thing that makes you go "now finally this class is starting to feel epic". The wizard class definitely lacks this compared to D&D mages.

 

...

Am I the only one that is missing a wizard familiar in PoE?

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Not a big deal? It's a huge deal. In a lot of games - which often gets rightfully criticised for it, too - level 1 or 2 spells are useless by the endgame. This is not remotely true in PoE. Low-level spells are useful right up until the end, and spellcasters getting blanket ranks of spellcasting as per-encounter at level 9 and 11 are unprecedented jumps in power incomparable to any other climb in relative staying power.

Not only should the spellcasting classes not scale identically in this fashion (why on Earth would they? Wizards, Druids and Priests should be mechanically different) but anything that turns per-Rest into per-Encounter should be gradual, as should anything they can possibly get in exchange (such as specific per-encounter slots, domain spells, or other stuff).

Also, you say "In fact (sic!), this more lr less only brings Wizards in line with..."; ignoring the fact that this applies to all spellcasting classes. Obviously, this is a bigger problem when we look at the Priests and Druids, because Wizards are still limited to a choice of 4 spells, whereas Druids and Priests unlock their entire 1st and 2nd rank spells.

So let's not pretend that it's a balancing factor. It's an enormous and sudden jump in power for all spellcasters compared to everyone else, and it turns the gap between Wizards and Druids into an insurmountable gulch.

Finally, provided that this schema continues past level 11, we're looking at the entire 3rd spell rank unlocked at level 13. And 4th-rank spells at level 15. That's 3 levels away from the current level cap, which is already laughably easy to reach, and which will no doubt be raised in expansions by at least 1-2 levels each.

Edited by Luckmann

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Not a big deal? It's a huge deal. In a lot of games - which often gets rightfully criticised for it, too - level 1 or 2 spells are useless by the endgame. This is not remotely true in PoE. Low-level spells are useful right up until the end, and spellcasters getting blanket ranks of spellcasting as per-encounter at level 9 and 11 are unprecedented jumps in power incomparable to any other climb in relative staying power.

 

Not only should the spellcasting classes not scale identically in this fashion (why on Earth would they? Wizards, Druids and Priests should be mechanically different) but anything that turns per-Rest into per-Encounter should be gradual, as should anything they can possibly get in exchange (such as specific per-encounter slots, domain spells, or other stuff).

 

Also, you say "In fact (sic!), this more lr less only brings Wizards in line with..."; ignoring the fact that this applies to all spellcasting classes. Obviously, this is a bigger problem when we look at the Priests and Druids, because Wizards are still limited to a choice of 4 spells, whereas Druids and Priests unlock their entire 1st and 2nd rank spells.

 

So let's not pretend that it's a balancing factor. It's an enormous and sudden jump in power for all spellcasters compared to everyone else, and it turns the gap between Wizards and Druids into an insurmountable gulch.

 

Finally, provided that this schema continues past level 11, we're looking at the entire 3rd spell rank unlocked at level 13. And 4th-rank spells at level 15. That's 3 levels away from the current level cap, which is already laughably easy to reach, and which will no doubt be raised in expansions by at least 1-2 levels each.

 

I don't see a problem with the sudden incremental increase of power on level 9 and 11. After all, most other classes unlock new class abilities at level 7 aswell. Perfectly gradual leveling is boring as hell.

 

And just because level 1 and level 2 spells are per-encounter doesn't really mean that the class is suddenly way more powerful. It's just pure convenience. If you'd rest-spam after every battle, you'd have the same effect. In fact, rest-spamming literally allows you to use all spells as per-encounter.

 

The point is: per-encounter abilities don't make hard battles easier. Because you will most likely safe your spell slots for those battles anyway or rest before such a battle. Per-encounter abilities just make trivial battles more fun. And anything that makes trivial battles funnier is fine in my book.

In fact, reaching level 9 made me actually enjoy trash encounters again. Finally I could spam missiles at ogres without regrets.

 

 

And about druids and priests getting the same treatment:

Well, we were talking about wizards, not druids or priests. But just to go sure: I absolutely agree with the sentiment that priests and druids should not get per-encounter spells. Personally, I didn't find the druid rank 1 and rank 2 spells all that powerful (in comparison to the priest spells), so I didn't really care about druids, but I agree that the per-encounter spells should be wizard-only just to compensate for the lack of spell choices due to the grimoire mechanic.

Or at least, priests and druids should get their level 1 per-encounters two levels later than wizards.

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Cipher and Druid need different stats because of how they work. Druid has limited spells per rest, so having high Might and Intelligence makes sense to get the most out of them. Cipher can get very high Dexterity, and will trade weaker spells for more frequent spells. But a druid doesn't need high Dex.

Edited by b0rsuk
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And about druids and priests getting the same treatment:

Well, we were talking about wizards, not druids or priests. But just to go sure: I absolutely agree with the sentiment that priests and druids should not get per-encounter spells. Personally, I didn't find the druid rank 1 and rank 2 spells all that powerful (in comparison to the priest spells), so I didn't really care about druids, but I agree that the per-encounter spells should be wizard-only just to compensate for the lack of spell choices due to the grimoire mechanic.

Or at least, priests and druids should get their level 1 per-encounters two levels later than wizards.

Wow. Talk about a pro-Wizard bias.

 

No class deserves per-encounter spells. None. I think Wizard might deserve better spells than they have now, even some access to metamagic, but everything should still be per-rest, even at high level.

 

On the bright side, with per-rest there would be nothing gamebreaking about Wizards prebuffing before combat.

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And about druids and priests getting the same treatment:

Well, we were talking about wizards, not druids or priests. But just to go sure: I absolutely agree with the sentiment that priests and druids should not get per-encounter spells. Personally, I didn't find the druid rank 1 and rank 2 spells all that powerful (in comparison to the priest spells), so I didn't really care about druids, but I agree that the per-encounter spells should be wizard-only just to compensate for the lack of spell choices due to the grimoire mechanic.

Or at least, priests and druids should get their level 1 per-encounters two levels later than wizards.

 

 

But grimoire is almost never a limit ! In practice, it limits you to 4 different spells of the same level per encounter. You can use "only" 4 different level1 spells per encounter. You can replace spells in a grimoire between encounters.

1) How many encounters are easier with 4 different level1 wizard spells ?

2) Your spell limit per level is 4, so it's technically impossible to cast 5 different level1 spells unless you take "Bonus level 1 spell" talent!!!

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But grimoire is almost never a limit ! In practice, it limits you to 4 different spells of the same level per encounter. You can use "only" 4 different level1 spells per encounter. You can replace spells in a grimoire between encounters.

The limit is not on a per-encounter basis, it's on a per-spell basis. Clerics and Druids get all of their spells on leveling up while Wizards only get a few per level for free and the rest must be transcribed from other grimoires. When you first play the game, choosing the right spells is hard because the documentation is lousy (e.g. nowhere does it say which spells are cast with zero recovery and this is far from the only critical omission).  If you chose spells which are not very useful, you need to wait until you find a grimoire that has the ones you want (or use the pure cheese that is creating a Wizard at the adventure hall purely for the sake of copying his spells) and pay the substantial costs to copy them.

 

Of course, once you know exactly what you are doing, you realize that, just as with the other classes, there are very few spells which are worth casting in most situations and you can just pick those, but Wizards are a much less newbie-friendly class.

 

EDIT: I forgot to mention: I rather like the mechanic of spells becoming per-encounter. It kicks in just as the gameplay is becoming rather stale and changes things up a bit. It's just that combining it with the already very strange buffing mechanics results in the latter more or less coming around full circle.

Edited by Althernai
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Wow. Talk about a pro-Wizard bias.

 

No class deserves per-encounter spells. None. I think Wizard might deserve better spells than they have now, even some access to metamagic, but everything should still be per-rest, even at high level.

 

On the bright side, with per-rest there would be nothing gamebreaking about Wizards prebuffing before combat.

 

 

Well, we obviously have different oppinions of this. I'm fine with the idea that a wizard has something to do in every encounter except auto-attacking.

And after the rebalancing of FoF and slicken, it's not like level 1 and 2 spells make such a dramatic difference... especially since you need to be very high level to actually unlock those per-encounters.

Mind you, arcane assault is also per-encounter. And it actually deals more damage than minolettas missiles and doesn't hit friendlies as FoF does.

 

Again, per-encounter spells don't make battles easier. They just remove some of the tedium.

 

And yes, the grimoire mechanic is a severe limitation. Yes, I can only cast 4 different spells of each rank anyway, but that isn't the point. The point is: I am much much less flexible than, say, a druid. Not only forces the grimoire mechanic meta game knowledge on you ("Hmm... which spells could I need for this battle?"), but it also drastically reduces the reactivity of the wizard class. I can't do mid-combat decisions about my spell choice; as I'm limited to the selection I made before combat. And the 4 spell limit is severe, since there are so many spells with different purposes, different defenses and styles. I often get into battle and then say "damn, I could really use a line-damage spell now", but only memorized a cone-type damage spell of the same rank. Or I get engaged in melee and really wished I had memorized a defensive spell.

The druid doesn't have that limitation. He can always react according to the situation and this already makes the class way more powerful.

 

Wizards could definitely need a mechanic that makes them interesting in long-term play. Unlocking spells as Per-encounter seems like a perfect fit here. But whats the point if druids (who are already stronger than wizards) get the same treatment without the limitation of the grimoire?

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