Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Balancing Power With Frustration

So WAR and NCN recently changed nature rules to adjust the way that nature's revival works. Originally, it simply brought you back when you would have resurrected. Now, it brings you back as an animal with no skills and only a few options in which to remove it.

I must say, I absolutely hate this change.

Don't get me wrong, I always thought that revival was way overpowered. It definitely needed scaled back. However, the way they chose to balance it wasn't specifically to bring the power level back. Instead, they decided to counter the power of the skill by making it less fun to use.

Nobody want's to be stuck as a wolf until the end of the game day. There is a potential for that to happen in the current design. I know, you say you can always resurrect to end this ability. Correct. But let's take a step back and look at it this way.

A player now has to make a decision on whether he plays a gimped monster for the rest of the game day or he can take a death on his sheet. They have to balance discomfort (OOG concept) against staying alive (IG concept).

I know, there's a potential for roleplay. But that would get old pretty fast. Imagine having to play a character that's different than your own for as much as 8 hours. How horrifying.

I always cringe whenever I see people try and balance power by making a skill un-fun to use. If you're going to do that, just take the skill out of the game altogether. There are always ways to make people pay for hard decisions. But you should never make them pay in frustration. This is a game, after all. It's supposed to be a way to relax. It's supposed to be fun.

They could have simply said that a person could only be affected by the cantrip or formal magic 1/day, and it would have put more of a limitation on the revival skill than there is now. And it wouldn't have made players suffer in any way.

The skill is still overpowered. It's just more likely to be abused by the players who value IG strength over OOG fun, which isn't really the point.

Anyways, that's my 2 cents.


  1. Maybe I misread the rule for Nature's Revival, but can't anyone with Nature formal (including the player) concentrate in a Nature circle to end the effect? This is not to say that the options aren't limited, but that doesn't seem like an overly onerous stricture, especially if it saves you a resurrection. Somebody lay this out for me.

  2. Mark Henry ~MariusAugust 16, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    "In order to return to form the target must either wait for the effect to wear off at the end of the Game Day, or
    must be the target of the Reverse Nature’s Revival cantrip. The effect will wear off if the character is forced to

  3. Mark Henry ~MariusAugust 16, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    I would submit a request for change come decemberish if you have some good ideas to improve/balance it.

  4. So, the issue is that there are two forms of revival. One comes from the revival formal magic, and one comes from the nature cantrip.

    The cantrip can only be fixed by the reverse cantrip, end of the game day, or resurrection.

    The formal magic can be removed any of those ways, but also can be removed by 5 minutes of meditation IF you have at least 1 level of nature formal.

  5. It is designed to give Nature formalists the the specialty. So if you are a caster you get the benefit of never having to risk being stuck that way, if you are not you should not have it as easy.
    But even if you are not, any nature caster can immediately recognize someone so Revived and the cantrip costs no components.
    So the only people with a risk of being stuck in animal form are those that have the formal cast on them but have no ability in nature formal.
    The cantrip is Personal so the nature formalist can always get rid of it on them self.
    I do not see that as a weakness.

  6. @Mike

    So is the intention that the cantrip form of it can also be removed by 5 minutes of concentration in an earth circle? Because that text is only in the formal version.

    As is, if you are the only formalist and you use the cantrip, you are stuck. You can't cantrip yourself (no skills) and you can't concentrate out. Your only methods are to resurrect or wait.

    And as an aside, I would be put in an awkward place as a nature caster if someone came up and said "I need a remove nature's revival" cast upon me. I now have to balance whether I want to use my cantrip for my own fun, or whether I make it so that someone else can continue to play. Components aren't the only resource that comes to play.

  7. What I find kind of amusing about this is that not only do I agree that lack of fun should not balance power issues, I also object to turning people into animals in the first place. People do not look like animals without some pretty extreme makeup and costuming and LARPs should really stop trying to pretend otherwise.

    From my point of view you have a cantrip/formal that avoids resurrection (which in the NERO universe probably deserves its own blog post about) that then balances the high power of its use with 1) making players have less fun and 2) making the game look more ridiculous.

  8. Couldn't agree less Mickey. The game look ridiculous when guys in blue jeans or shorts and a tabard attack me and tell me they are a plant, or goblin, or skeleton not when a PC in costume adds to that costume with some costume pieces.
    As to the power of it, it is no more so than contingency life.
    No one forces a non Nature Formalist to take a Revive and no one forces a Nature formalist to cast it on someone. If they have it a formalist has already decided to use some of their fun on the other player.
    I can't see players interacting and having to choose between one cantrip and another as taking away fun, you get to choose. I just don't see it. I thought we WERE role Playing.

    @Bill, yes, the Cantrip you can also meditate out of. I will look into getting that wording fixed.
    As to making the choice whether or not you should change someone else back, yep. Just like you might not want to blow a cure light or Life spell on someone else when you could instead have more fun with it.

  9. It's kind of sad to me that apparently your only alternative to people failing to look like animals is having people in blue jeans or shorts. Is the costuming really that bad where you play or run?

  10. @Mike

    First, Revival is not the same as contingency life. The difference is that one of those only goes off when you need it, and the other doesn't. In addition, each casting of contingency life requires the casting of the life spell, so you're essentially trading a level 9 spell for a gift shield. To say the two are on the same level of power is a ridiculous statement.

    As to the same being true about a cure light or a life spell, it's not the same thing. First off, healing comes in any number of ways, so if you don't have a cure light, someone else could have a mend, cure wounds, magic item, healing pool cantrip, the first aid skill, elixirs... let's just say it's not on the same level as a formal level.

    As for the life spell, those can be stored in magic items. And the cost of not casting a life spell is that a person dies, goes to resurrect, and comes back and plays the game in 10 minutes.

    And casting a revive on someone else isn't trading your fun. Your hands aren't tied like they are with someone who's already undergone a transformation and cannot play their character.

    In summary, if you don't cast a life spell, you're an IG dick. If you don't cast a reverse nature's revival, you're an OOG dick.

  11. No Mickey, my costuming is the best in NERO bar none. But it is sad that is the case and tabards and jeans is what I have seen in many other NERO chapters.

    @Bill, while I don't agree that non casters having a price to pay to use the benefits of nature magic is taking away their fun or that a nature cater having to choose where to spend their cantrip is any worse than a healer having to choose where to spend their healing, I am still open to hear suggestions. I was not necessarily pleased with all of the Nature package, but WAR and I worked together to come up with things we could both live with and in compromise you often have to settle with what you can live with and not what you want.

    In the future the package may change, so lets hear some alternatives to the current version. It is always easier to simply dislike something and point out all that you see wrong with it than it is to offer up a viable alternative.

    I would also be curious if you have experienced it in play and/or heard any reports back on it as a playtest. I have some data from my players indicating they find it to be a fun part of the package and think it fits into the image of a Nature scholar to change into animal form.

    As far as it not looking good, NERO is full of things that are not always repped to look completely as they should. Glowing eyes NEVER glow (unless you are at NcN), If I get created as undead my "costume" is I walk in a jerky kind of way, kind of looks silly but not undead, I have never seen a golem properly repped when a player creates one. In other words there is a lot in NERO that fails to get repped. We do a damn fine job at NcN but it still requires a suspension of disbelief and always will.

  12. But Bill, no one is forcing anyone to have a revive put on their spirit, ad they can always take the death so it is the same as not getting a life.
    So if you don't want to risk the chance of not being able to be turned back its easy, don't take the Revive. No problem. I don't to crumble when I hit zero, so I will never be made a golem.

  13. @Mike

    My suggestion was made above, assuming the goal was to limit the use of re-revival in combat. Truth is, I don't know what the goal of the change was. If I knew that, I could suggest changes.

    If the goal was to scale back the use of revival, I would remove it as a formal effect and leave it as something a nature mage can use (but still find a way to prevent them from recasting it constantly).

    If the goal was to add roleplaying to the game, I would not have touched revival, since the opportunities already exist for nature mages to become animals.

    If the goal was to balance the system, I would have removed Revival altogether and would have given nature mages something else that makes them feel cool that is less game breaking than Revival.

    As to the statement about no one is forcing anyone to do anything - I don't have a problem with someone making a decision between two IG things and two OOG things. But when I'm presented with the situation of wanting to resurrect (something I want OOG) instead of not playing for 8 hours (something my character would choose), the game has failed.

  14. Mike, you keep making these silly overblown strawman arguments. You present some sort of weird scenario where the alternative to animals is jeans. You also talk about how other things are badly repped so thus it's ok to badly rep more things (this spell). Neither of those things is necessarily true. People not turning into animals doesn't equate to people wearing jeans. Maybe they'll wear other cool humanoid costuming instead. And people with bad repping elsewhere doesn't mean that you should strive any less to make the game more immersive, not use other faults as an excuse to hide behind.

    People don't look like animals, they look like people. The fact that other places, games, people, whatever also fail to rep something else has no bearing on the fact that people don't look like animals. You say glowing eyes don't glow elsewhere? Not only do other places have glowing eyes, but it's also completely irrelevant unless you're arguing for the right to spiral to the bottom. Except that you're so vocal about how awesome you are, your chapter is, and your costuming is so, again, I have no idea why it matters if someone else or somewhere else doesn't have glowing eyes.

    Revival makes the game look more ridiculous and less immersive. Is it the end of the world? Probably not, but it *is* the current topic of discussion. It's a net negative to atmosphere. And the more negatives to atmosphere go away... the better the atmosphere.

  15. Mike,

    We had a nature formalist running with us last event (I'm a rules marshal and on the rule comm. and I didn't even realize that the changes had been made). There were a couple of PC's talking about it and one said, "Are you able to cast Revival?" The other was like, "I could, but you don't want it. I'm the only Nature Formalist here and if you get it cast you'll loose all your abilities and become some weird animal with gimped stat's and you'll have to make-up up." We were oog at the shack.

    Mike, you mentioned the nature caster can meditate it off, but I think we only have one formalist nature caster, what if they aren't at an event? I am one of the most totally laid-back, take the event and go with it to the fullest of your ability. However, I very much believe that this is not what was intentioned by the owners or hoped for by the players. So it pops at nine in the morning and I'm basically done for the entire event? That really blows. The fact remains (I couldn't think of any) that there are no other effects that affect a character in this way, by removing them from game for the remainder of game day. We don't even like to remove "captured" player from game for more than an hour. You can argue that they still have stat's, but really, I'd rather have my original 30 build.

    Further, there's a point no one has brought up (at least I don't think so). Has anyone considered the actual costuming requirements? So do I have to leave the battle to get it put on? Do I call a hold? What if the nature caster is in the battle and it will only take me 10 minutes? 20? to get to him? Do I still have to put the make-up on?

    If you are doing this to try to limit how many times a player can/would want to have this, I firmly believe this is not the way to do it. If you are worried about how powerful it is, then why not do one of the two following:

    1. You can only use it so many times per year (say 3). It is tracked on your sheet.
    2. My preference, make it a transferable contingency life, which is only able to be cast so many times per day by the caster (say, twice per day, or three times). Everyone knows the rules for contingency life, and that would be an awesome, cool skill for a nature formalist to have. It is limited to per day usage, but doesn't punish anyone for using it. You get what you were looking for: limited use, cool affect for nature casters.


  16. @Mickey, the point is, that is an opinion you are stating as fact. You think it makes the game look worse and breaks immersion, I see it as adding to the game. Others see it one way or the other.
    Your opinion of what it looks like is certainly valid, but not a fact to base a rule on. I point out other things to demonstrate this. You are willing to accept it in other aspects of the game but not in this one, I suspect because you don't like Nature magic to begin with or simply don't like anything beyond the core rules. Which again is a valid point of view, but it puts what you are saying in this instance into a certain light. It makes it less about the appearance and more about poking holes in something you didn't like to begin with.
    Revival doesn't make the game look more ridiculous an less immersive, in your opinion Revival makes the game look more ridiculous and less immersive. Opinions aren't facts no matter
    your opinion of yourself.
    People don't look like most things we rep in NERO, but we do the best we can using as many costume pieces we can to create enough visual information to bridge the gap between imagination and reality. We see a guy in a mask, but because we added some costume pieces and props and role play and all that, our minds, the minds of the gamer/LARPER fill in the lines. Like an artist that draws a circle but doesn't close it and the viewers eyes fill in the missing lines because that is what we expect to see. It is the same in costuming for a LARP in my opinion. We do not try and create the creature (close the circle) we try to give the viewer enough visual information to close the circle them self. When I remember back to some of my favorite mods I do not remember any bad costuming, in my memory I picture it as I was fighting the Lich or whatever because the NPC gave me enough information for my imagination to fill in what was missing. Conversly I do remember bad costuming where I did not enough visual clues to make the leap that the guy in a tabard and jeans with some green cheek make up was a goblin.
    I may be alone in this, it is again only my opinion, but I am trained artist and this is how I think and how I do things and from the reports I hear I do it well. I don't try to make a live Dragon but I do try to give as many visual clues to the PC as I can so they "see" a dragon. A guy in a tabard and make up or even in a mask to me is not enough, a large rig with wings, a mask, and a tail might be. On close examination from out of game, it is still a bunch of plastic, foam, and tape, but in the context of the game it becomes a dragon to the players (I believe). The same goes for being an animal. A few costume pieces and it is easy to let your mind create what the costume is trying to tell you. Not a conscious decision to see it, but an unconscious response to the visual stimulation.
    Again, I am not seeking to impugn your perspective, I am simply providing mine.

    @Bill, I am testing my rather old and feeble memory here, but I believe it was multiple reasons. Revive was over powered, I wanted something more in line with a Druid type Reincarnate. My original basically had a chance that you come back ad a different race, but it was demonstrated to have a number of flaws. I know some of us wanted to insure that the Nature caster had more benefit from Nature magic than the non caster that simply wanted to use the best parts of it. I once had it so Nature magic had to be your primary school.
    So in all that we batted around ideas and came up with changing to an animal. It limited the power of Revive and did so with an eye on a typical Druid, it made it so the Nature Scholar had an advantage over the Nature magic user.
    I have not had any bad reports from any of my actual Nature Scholars on it, because I do not think it hurts them any. I don't know if anyone that is not a scholar has reported on it, maybe they have chosen not to use it because of the limitation?

  17. @Mike

    Mickey has never been a fan of anything that cannot be repped accurately. This shows in 9th edition rules, where things like cutting off hands and running to town are no longer permitted.

    And aside from the fact that a 5 minute costume is not going to look as good as a scavenger's costume, let me be clear in no uncertain way. If I am trying to roleplay/fight/do anything and someone who is supposed to be dead on the ground is applying makeup and costuming instead, Immersion is broken. Much more so than someone who just stands back up, alive.

    "I know some of us wanted to insure that the Nature caster had more benefit from Nature magic than the non caster that simply wanted to use the best parts of it."

    The need to give something to nature mages that makes them better than others is your first flaw in the goal. This unbalance that you're looking for doesn't exist anywhere else in formal magics.

    Celestial mages can cast golems on anyone. They get no additional benefits for being a golem over the fighter they put in the golem. Same with magic weapons. I don't get to swing for more damage just because I'm a celestial mage.

    Earth casters can cast spirit forges and race changes on anyone. They don't use less components or don't get a death on their sheet just because they're an earth caster. Their vengeance isn't better because they're an earth caster.

    Nature should not get any additional benefits from their formal magic spells than if it's cast on someone else. That is unbalance.

    If you wanted to limit the power of the revival formal, make it so that a player can only be affected by it once a year. Remove it from the nature cantrips altogether, because they already have contingency. Aside from Roleplaying cantrips, the cantrips do not have a wide variance. All schools can do damage (or heal), can storm, can contingent, can give self buffs, can do carrier immunity, can imbue, and a few other school specific things. The balance with contingency life is contingency.

  18. Good points. We'll look into them if NM is able to continue

  19. Well, how about we just change revive back into how it was (at the end of your death count,you revive and don't change into an animal.) and just make it only usable by Nature formalists on themselves? It gives them something nifty and only benefits someone if they spend over 100 build at minimum to get it.

    Note also that I dislike revive because I think there should be more death and character turnover, but that's another argument altogether.