Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fixing Celestial Damage

I apologize for writing another post specific for NERO, but it's worth being said.

So, for those of you unaware, Celestial magic is one of the two schools of magic. It's known for having a high level of damage and weapon enhancement, as opposed to the earth tree that has curses and healing/necromancy.

The problem, of course, is that with the increase in average player level, melee damage is creeping up with basic swings doing more damage than the first 4 levels of damage. Since damage is supposed to be the big sell, this damage creep is making celestial casters underrepresented.

There have been a couple of things suggested for fixes to celestial damage. All of them are focused around making it more powerful, but none of them are a clear cut improvement (or else they would have been adopted).

I wanted to talk about the various fixes to celestial damage that have been proposed.

Double Damage (or Base 10)

One of the suggestions was to simply increase the damage celestial damage does. Straight forward and easy. The big concern most people have is that it will destabilize PvP, but the fact is that all PvP involves level 9 magic takedowns, so it doesn't make celestial better than everything else.

I originally liked this solution, but it turns out that staff still has a difficult time dealing with the increased damage, and this leads to an increase in returns/resists. Which is bad.

Pros: Definitely more powerful.
Con: Causes increased NPC body, increased resists/returns, possible PvP concerns.

Monsters take Double from Celestial
One of the other solutions is just to have all NPCs take double damage from celestial magic. The benefit of this change is that it doesn't actually change the rules. The downside is that it breaks immersion and causes significantly more math.

I really don't like the added complexity. Math is often too difficult to keep up with as is. The last thing we need is more of this.

Pros: More powerful, no rules change
Con: Increase math (complexity), possible increased NPC body

Monsters cannot Resist Celestial Damage
NERO Cincinnati came up with a solution that involved the NPCs simply not using resists on celestial damage. The benefit is once again that it doesn't change the rules.

Of all the proposed fixes, I think this one is the best. It doesn't break immersion and helps a celestial caster keep its most valuable resource: packets.

Pros: More powerful, more valuable in situations where Celestial shines.
Cons: Cannot handle high body scaling (should plot teams still do it).

What do you all think? Have you got a fix for celestial magic?


  1. Despite being a "played only one game" NERO player, I find this an interesting post.

    I think that this issue is shared pretty universally across hit-point combat fantasy LARPs with NERO in their pedigree (which, IMHO, seems to include more than a few, and all of the ones I've played in for extended periods).

    Balancing the power curve for damage-dealing spell casters against other classes (especially damage-per-swing oriented combat classes) has been a big problem/debate in the games I've been involved with.

    In the past, I've even expanded the debate to take another look at the philosophy of having "one use per purchase", magical effects which I argue is predicated on the notion the "all/more eggs in a basket" concept. That is to say, a spellcaster's points are committed to abilities that allow them to do comparatively large amounts of damage in a single attack, which is balanced against the "unlimited use" powers like a DPSwing character's Weapon Proficiency (and other similar permanent damage bonus powers by other names).

    As you say, unless the limited use powers do a much greater amount of damage, they really don't balance favorably.

    That said, the inability to physically block a magical attack without a game ability does balance things a bit, but I'm in the camp that feels this Massive-like damage is simply not enough.

    Anyway... the NERO chapter I've played at, NERO Indy, is using Base 10. Here's the link: Base 10.

  2. Repost from the previous comment thread, to keep everything in the appropriate thread:

    Why I hate Base 10 Celestial: The celestial casters' status effects have the same effect as mine, but all their numeric effects are double BEFORE any vulnerabilities are applied. I don't think the less-powerfulness is a feeling, that's a mathematical fact. Also consider the following:

    They already effect a higher portion of NPCs than earth spells - roughly two thirds of all Nero NPCs are immune to all earth effects, while there are exactly zero that are immune to all celestial effects. Similarly, I think a total of four standard creatures take double damage from necromancy, while half-or-so of all NPCs have at least one celestial vulnerability. Also, their production item is throwable and doesn't require a minimum three seconds to use, which is a significant advantage. Furthermore, it's easier for a celestial caster to use potions than it is for an earth caster to use scrolls. If your potions are labeled by color, you don't need any game skill to use them, whereas you need at least Read Magic to use scrolls and 4th level celestial spells to use the highest level of them. Finally, there are simply more celestial damage spells than there are earth damage spells.

    To add double base damage on top of all those other advantages is unfair, in my opinion. The fact the necromancy bypasses armor is nowhere near the equivalent of double damage.

  3. @austenenbrous: I fully agree that the fundamental concept of the "spell slot" system, as well as the "casters = limited use Vs. weapons = passive, unlimited use" dynamic are vestiges of previous gaming theory that are pretty much obsolete in any modern RPGs. Almost every contemporary game has gone with a concept that all classes should be equally effective and progress along the same general units of measurement.

  4. Whoa. I didn't realize we still had that thread posted.
    For the record, NERO Indy runs Un-resistable Celestial damage, not Base 10.

    We have also been thinking of making the Harm Undead and Destroy Undead un-resistable as well. We may also make Shatter/Destroy/Dispel un-resistable for golems, though there's less support behind that idea.

    WRT Austen's points - I fully support NERO having encounter abilities in addition to per-reset abilities. Or even hourly abilities. :-P

  5. I think that an unlimited use "packet arrow" type of attack (that is, blockable by weapons and shields) that does relatively low damage compared to their daily spells would be a good possible fix as well. Many chapters have proposed or independently tested different versions of "wands" and such like this, and I think it does a lot to at least allow them to participate in town randoms.

  6. I just remembered another fix idea I had a while ago. I think that celestial damage should bypass armor. Armor only works agains weapons/ physical attacks in most games nowadays, and it seems like a fair balancing factor. I hate to devalue armor since the "look cool" factor is so important, but I'm sure there are other ways to make armor cool. What do you guys think?

  7. @Noah

    Your argument against base 10 is the standard WOW argument. You feel like you got nerfed because someone else got buffed.

    Earth magic isn't broken. It's extremely powerful for what it has. It's the only one who heals. It has curses, with paralyze and curse being two of the most powerful non-9th spells in the game. You are't hurting for value.

    Everyone knows celestial is lacking, but your complaint is that you didn't get a buff.

    Your original suggestion (which is the everything takes double from something) is a more complicated, less accessible form of base 10. NPCs have to do more math, and a new player has to be told what takes double from what.

    When WAR runs base 10, very few NPCs take double damage from celestial. That only happens in specific circumstances where it would absolutely make sense (fire elemental takes double from ice).

    We are also not comparing scrolls and potions, as those are two separate skills from the trees.

    As to the comment on ignoring armor, I think that's a non-issue. Most NPCs rock little to no armor, because it's difficult to rep or it doesn't make sense. In that form, it only affects PvP, where damage is generally a non-issue (all 9ths, takedowns, and gasses).

    Finally, I'd like to see some sort of passive attack for mages, but I don't think turning it into an arrow is the solution. I'd much rather go with an attack that takes a little time to recharge.

    Mickey had mentioned the idea from another game where you could throw a spell for base damage (in this case, 5 magic), but it takes 10 seconds of concentration to throw that packet. But I wouldn't make it blockable.


    I am definitely a big proponent of encounter abilities. In fact, we may have a podcast about that in a few weeks. We recorded it tonight, but we're a little behind on editing :)

  8. Another thing that used to exist in the NH chapters was Forking. For every celestial I call forth damage spell cast from memory that was 6th level or above you got an immediate free Magic to chuck right after. Ex. "I call forth a Dragon's Breath ::throw:: Magic Dragon's Breath ::throw::" It worked amazingly well. It requires skill to hit twice, but could potentially be its own breaker or even go for two targets, and was a way to double the damage without causing staffers to feel like they needed to upstat in response.

    Joe has, unfortunately, prevented it from being playtested and took it out of 9th Edition (a version post the public comments draft had Forking as not just a scroll thing).

  9. The problem with being a Celestial caster in NERO today isn't the fact that they are overpowered (I do like the base 10 idea though), but they have been rendered less effective by PC's. An earth caster in effect by the laws of NERO is breaking the law any time they use a "I call upon chaos..." encant. The game has become so earth caster friendly that everyone looks the other way so in effect an earth caster can be a healer and a fighter on any battlefield where a Celestial caster is left with just bindomancy and rather limited numbers of damage spells. If you want to make the game more attractive for people to play Celestial, Plot teams need to start punishing Earth casters for breaking laws. With that being said, I do play a Celestial Templar and do love celestial magic although I would not play straight mage because of what I already put.

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  11. When I staffed NERO, my guiding principle was usually that everything had a spell type that was considered it's weakness (which it may or may not have taken double damage from), that it couldn't resist or return. So for elementals, their opposite element, for undead, harm/destroy undead, etc. For me it was a backstage thing, for the sake of not having people get upset on the special occasions I made exceptions to the rule, but that was generally true.

    Any argument about the OP/UP nature of Celestial is frankly apples and oranges, because it's so dependent on monster statting. Like Noah, I've mostly PCed Nero as a race without access to Celestial magic, and so the advantages of it are really stark to me: throwable production, the ability to affect most NPCs, and the fact that the fastest way to take out any big creature, regardless of type, is to throw imprisons til it goes down. On the other hand, it's easy to body/immunity scale celestial casters out of effectiveness, where earth casters can at least fall back on healing. Not to mention the massive disparity between chapters in terms of how acceptable necromancy is, and how many creatures are affected by it.

    But regardless, moderate body (with damage caps, if necessary), and an instruction not to use spell defenses on damage goes a long way, and is, I think, more palatable than base 10 celestial. In terms of scaling got high body creatures, I tend to just give them defenses against normal weapon blows, rather than gobs of body.

  12. Mark Henry ~MariusAugust 5, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    My concern with cel dmg is top end. Even at base 10 an eldritch blast is 90. A slay is 100 and every 4 is 200. I think they need a purchasable skill that is a "spell slay" so to speak.

    Thinking outside the box here, another option could be giving them an extra spell for each one purchased or every other (damage spell only).

    Dbl dmg vs necromancy with concerns of armor: Armor is highly available in multiple forms (physical, dex, arcane). Armor bypass isn't as scary as it sounds with those factors.

    Keeping a careful eye on statting I think solves a lot of probs.

    Off topic - convince your friends to go golem or get elemental transforms so your cel mages can play healer if they want some more utility :)