Balance? We need it

I’ve DM’d. A bunch.

3.0e, 3.5e, Diamond Throne (Monty Cooke), 5e. Lil’ bit of White Wolf d6 franchises.

I abso-frickin’-lutely understand that PC game release is not the same as a realtime Dungeon Master filtering what happens during a given table/story session. That said, if I consistently had to pull punches or hide rolls to prevent a TPK, my assessment was that I had failed in my MM research, my storytelling, my understanding of my players. Obviously, once you’ve coded a scenario, you lose the ability to tune encounters on the fly; if you have metrics/reports of your worldbuilding being silly, you should engage in a quick bit of soul-searching.

If your core mechanic is based entirely Pathfinder (I interpret this as 3.5e+ and Arcana Unearthed inputs, essentially) and you can’t appropriately build scenarios/ecounters that don’t require players to dial down damage dealt to party, crit limitation, AI tweaks, damage received by enemies or sweeping changes to death mechanics, you’ve failed utterly.

Discounting bugs and improperly-implemented Pathfinder rules - your baseline is Core. If you require/expect players to not only play the game in a reduced fashion, but award accordingly, you’ve failed in creating a narrative within an established system.

If this were a TT game, I’d have a private conversation with the DM to determine personal drivers and end goals for the table (not everyone is OK; some folks need to understand their own motivations). If I were the DM of a campaign running Owlcat’s “Core” ruleset, I’d fully expect players to approach me with concerns as to how they’re spending/wasting their time after the first 10-20 TPK fights (chuckling here as I’m applying PC rules to TT scenarios - I’d fully expect a player revolt after a minimum of 1-2 fully-wasted game sessions).

Pathfinder: WotR is not a TTRPG. I would never expect it to be. I do expect a minimum of balance for folks engaging the game coming from a TT background - the current iteration falls short.

Fanbois: feel free to tell me to git gud in a kneejerk fasion. TTRPG adherents: feel free to tell me I’m not going far enough.

This feedback is given in good faith and with a desire for a better/amazing game (the roots are here). As-is, the amazing class/feat/skill/character complexity is utterly wasted on anything but story mode - the scenario, as written, is utterly unbalanced and requires nothing less than perfection in build, metagaming foresight and appropriately metagamed counter-builds. That’s not a game I want to endorse.

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I have to say one thing that I’m not a fan of is that Core has “Number of Enemies: Increased”. The game is already build to have far more combats between rests than the TTRPG is designed for, so I don’t know why it tacks on more for what should be the Core experience.

Balance is a hard one once you start adding Mythic stuff, and there is a reason that Pathfinder Society caps out at level 12. Pathfinder by design, I’d say 4-12 is the most fun, and then outside of that gets into the realm of extremely specific monsters that are fun to deal with as a group of people, but mostly a chore in a single player CRPG.

I think that they did the best that they could with the CRPG, but nothing will ever beat a TTRPG, or something like the old actively DMed NWN servers.

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my 2 cents:

  • Core is 2 difficulties above the default difficulty setting.
    I played the game on normal and it was normal until I got angel powers, then normal felt like story mode except some optional bosses maybe.
  • Core in this game means: “The game uses the rules as intended by the devs.” The stat values and maybe some interpretations of rules are not core compared to PnP. I do not play PnP so I cannot say how much different it is.
  • Its a computer game where you can save and load any time. This ability is included in the difficulty, so the devs expect most players to fail a few times and then you have to reload and try something else or skip the encounter. I absolutely do not recommand a no reload run on core as your first try to play the game, even if you know the rules well.

When I finished the game on normal I think the game was done quite well, even regarding the difficulty (though an angel oracle feels extremely powerful). Just consider this a stand alone computer game. The stats and monster names have no meaning in itself and the game has no connection to anything else, such as things like PnP stats or rules. Maybe my NOT experiance with PnP helped me sometimes to enjoy the game more, because all those stats and rules mean nothing to me. Its just a game with a good story and a game needs rules. I consider the rules as something completely arbitrary created by the devs.

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Totally agree. People get so bent out of shape around d the semantics of “core”. Call it anything you want and use the very customizable difficulty settings to adjust it to how you like. No one will make fun of you if you tone some stuff down.

The only “balance” that may make the game more enjoyable is shuffling some of the non-merging mythic progression around to make the paths a bit more spicy from the jump, which I hear is already in the works for patch 1.2.

I appreciate your first bullet - this is an important point in my initial post: balance (currently, anyway) is so bad that the baseline Pathfinder rules have to be modified to form some semblance of an enjoyable experience. The inverse should be true: the baseline experience for a typical player should be balanced; folks looking for an increased challenge can (and probably should) crank up the difficulty settings.

As Grifta alluded to in a previous post, “Core” probably shouldn’t have the number of enemies increased. In my opinion, adherence to Pathfinder rules (permadeath, full/typical damage from all sources, yadda yadda) is the baseline; upping enemy counts is an increase in difficulty, adding a 20% downward modifier to damage received (as in “Normal” mode) and removing TTRPG death mechanics absolutely makes the baseline rules easier.

The rest of your post (inherent/expected reliance on savescumming, Mythic traits/abilities making the game a cakewalk) illustrates the kind of balance issues I’m trying to highlight.

Pen & Paper has different styles (casual, power, and others). Owlcat’s WotR has a power-gaming style that’s taken a step or two further: 25 point buy, mythic path, extremely powerful magic items, ease at which spell save DCs can be boosted (just to name a few).

In order to take advantage of these features, it helps to be familiar with the tabletop game. Builds that work well in tabletop are a good starting point for builds in this game, and makes it easier to incorporate new features offered by this game.

The default difficulty is Normal, and although it’s not well named, the Core difficulty is two steps higher and comes with a warning indicating that tabletop experience is highly recommended. I’m playing Core, and am having no problems. Right now, I’m in Act 4 and common encounters provide no challenge requiring no resources. Difficult encounters (e.g. creatures with AC in the 60s) tend to need a daily resource or two to overcome. Almost all skill checks are easy or automatic, and when they’re not, daily resources can make them so. As a completely blind Last Azlanti run, I made it to the end of Act 2 before getting killed by Staunton (and was surprised when that happened - I thought he was frightened, but he full attacked anyway).

Personally, I think the balance is fine. It’s entirely possible that a non-power game style would make a better game for more people though.

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Super familiar with TTRPGs as a whole, as referenced in my post.

The Core difficulty is the closest to TTRPG rules. “Normal” has pretty huge house rules to make the poor balance more palatable.

I suspect that your current game experience is very narrowly tailored (feel free to correct me) where you’ll be using an extremely small subset of viable classes/characters with essentially non-optional crossclass dips. Builds will be absolutely tight with zero tolerance for non-metagamed attribute/skill/feat choices or non-meta path choices. Equipment choices will be similarly constrained, with less than 1 in 20 unique pieces of armor/weaponry being anything approaching viable.

That’s not a game worth endorsing.

That’s bad balance.

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main - Zen Archer 16 (Aeon)
Seelah - Paladin 16
Lann - Zen Archer 16 (temporarily replaced by Arueshalae)
Sosiel - Cleric 16
Ember - Witch 16
Nenio - Wizard 10 / Loremaster 6
Arueshalae - Ranger 16

Woljif - Rogue 16
Daeran - Oracle 16
Regill - Fighter 13 / Hellknight 3
Greybor - Slayer 16

Zero rebuilds

In general, power games are like that, however there is no “best style”. Builds need to complement each other, but the game accommodates different approaches. Ranged works well for me, so I chose a zen archer main. From tabletop experience, I know how to build effective ranged characters.

Additional “balance” as you call it is certainly not required. Would it make the game better for more people? Perhaps.

Why not both? :laughing:

@Maxxrox : Same as ForkOfSpite. I’m playing Core and have every companion as their original single class, and my main is a Rogue (Master of All) 20/Fighter 20 (Legend) with a couple wasted feats. Nowhere near optimal, but I’m doing just fine.

My Master of All has skill focuses in every knowledge, so I have strengths and weaknesses of every monster at the start of each fight… just like the TTRPG bookworm.
Then it’s just relying on the piles of long-term buffs, some standard short terms, and having a variety of skill/feats/spells to deal with varied situations as they come up… exactly like the TTRPG.

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While I appreciate the spirit behind the posts thus far, they are “git gud” posts.

I’m in no way saying the game can’t be completed in Core mode (that’s exactly the setting I’m playing under). I am saying there is a very clear lack of proper balance when the game is played under the closest to Pathfinder rules (Core).

It’s in the title of the game, for goodness’ sake. It’s not called Toned-Down Rules: Pique of the Relatively Nice.

You’re welcome to be an apologist for any game you like; don’t let me stand in the way. Shouting down valid, legitimate criticism of a game simply ensures that nobody bothers in the future and the game suffers as a result.

Leper’s Smile is not balanced (the set of encounters that prompted this posting) and nothing you say is likely to change my mind. If you ran that on a table, you’d no longer be a DM for the group. Dance around them, but the facts remain.

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The game has tons of difficulty settings.
Unless you are obsessed with achievements you can set things however you like.
For example you could keep crits and death but you lower enemy stats and numbers.

There is an endless thread “please rename core difficulty”
result: zero
My advice to everybody: Ignore the names of the difficulty settings and play the game however you enjoy it most.

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The problem is there are people like myself who are familiar with table top and bought the game wanting to play it because due to real life commitments/where we live/etc we don’t have that option. However there is no actual core in this game as normal introduces a bunch of house rules to offset the balance but still has stat inflation and core makes that worse. Even more so its not consistent what is what frustrates me. To give some examples . . .

Random encounter in the wild.
2 votaray’s, a barbarian minotaur and a barbarian minotaur ranger with stat boosting spells on a ledge that requires you loop round to get to it. Its far higher challange than my party’s really meant to be facing even with the extra people/mythic ranks. However I can beat it and I get a sensation of “Yes I did it” when I pull it off especially since its optional and if it was just too high a fight I could leave the area.

Encounter in the market place.
Oh I can actually use tactics, sneak my party members who’ve put points in stealth past the melee ones and do a two pronged attack hitting them from the front while my rogue hit the wizard and evoker from behind. Fail, fail, fail, fail, actually pay attention to the roll +16! to perception for a lvl 2 cambion fighter while every other one in a non-tactical area is around half that.

The former as I said can be frustrating but its within the rules and can be satisfying to win while the later is ONLY frustrating because one of the few chances to actually use tactics and smart gameplay is actively prevented in the name of “challenge” by inflating an enemies stats and this keeps happening with random unamed enemies suddenly having bonuses to AC, Saves, to hit and all their other abilities. That is what needs to be balanced if all succubus had 31 AC instead of 21 you can adjust and plan for it modifying the difficulty to get a level your happy with and play there. However they don’t 99% have an AC of 21 but you’ll run into the occasional non-special one with their saves and AC inflated when you don’t expect it.

Now maybe you enjoy pausing before every fighting and inspecting every single “generic monster” to see if one of them has inexplicably higher stats but I find that slows down and sucks the fun out of the game. However this means you’ll go through fight after fight with a reasonably enjoyable experience then suddenly start missing and failing as they tear you apart because this one enemy got the stat boosting. So you turn the difficulty down for this one fight only now your tearing everything apart because your back to normal stats so you turn the difficulty back up till the next random enemy where you have to turn it down again. That’s tolerable if you hit a particular difficult boss but its annoying when your constantly juggling the difficulty because you get randomly more powerful enemies thrown at you with the only way to identify them being to inspect every single one of the hundreds of enemies you face.

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Just thinking: What if Owlcat did name all the “secret” midibosses? Have it check against… whatever knowledge it’s about.
If you fail the roll, it`s a succubus with powerarmor against the uneducated fighter who thought everyone is the same.
If you succeed, it’s “Milla the almost great”, against the clever fighter with know-how. And if you subsequently highlight the boosted stats you found, that’s for sure a better way to get into these fights.

Greets
MagicChris

Yepperoonie.

Presuming you’re not running around in peasant clothing and having your wizard wield a halberd or something, if you’re having to manually adjust difficulty, the game’s not balanced, full stop. That’s not something you can fix with tactics unless you allow yourself to be boxed into “must-have” feats and builds. Not fun.

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That’d be useful - certainly more interesting than “generic demon with an inexplicable +20 to all stats and a random SR20”.

Doesn’t change the fact that even the “normal” encounters aren’t balanced and still have the +10-20 to stats, though. That’s a bigger issue and concern, I think.

@Senko I will say, even when tactics are completely solid and you’ve scouted properly (and/or reloaded 10 times because of silly balance issues), may need to drop to turn-based mode for some encounters. The RTwP mechanics aren’t implemented terribly well in some critical cases (any swarm, for instance); stack that with insane random stat/save boosts, SR and weird Auras of We-Can’t-Balance-This-Thing and you’re kinda backed into a corner with respect to available tactical avenues.

It is unfortunate that you can’t see these posts as anything other than “git gud” or “fanboi” apologists if they disagree with you on any point. This give me the impression that you came here just to bait and troll people.

In my mind, this lives up to Rule Zero. It’s not perfect, but neither is any TTRPG. The DM, in this case the Owlcats team, has created a game with all of the typical tweaks that every DM makes at their table. I agree that Core should mean Core, and my understanding is that that was there intention, so that “Increased” enemies thing still baffles me.

But you mention yourself that when you DM, you tweak rolls to keep the players from a TPK in the short term and would then adjust the difficulty of your world to allow your players to enjoy the game. The game obviously can’t give you that live reactiveness but they give you granular control over the difficulty settings. eg. my tables basically ignore low levels of encumbrance, there’s a button for that here.

Like any good group, you should adjust that slider to the point where everyone at the table is having fun.

True and I would 100% prefer an actual core difficulty somewhere in the options as it would allow you to experiment with builds have an AC of 31 actually do something against generic demons and the like. However as I said if all demons are +x you can turn the difficulty down to something you can work with. Changing from RTwP and turnbased is at least simple click the option and see how it goes. The difficulty is “too hard for fun” “too easy for fun” change 15 sliders “just right for this ONE buffed enemy” then turn them all back. Its time consuming and annoying when it comes from the need to handle one enemy that they decided to randomly buff.

If they were named at least it could be a “Lieutenant mechanic” so you have bosses, Lieutenants and general enemies. So if you see "random name " you at least know your going into a fight against something who wont have normal stats. Which while it still may require difficulty juggling will at least give you a chance to use the 1 round/level and similar buffs against it going in in addition to your normal ones.

Still I would have much prefered “Core” as "Core then you can go up Challenging, Hard, Unfair, So you want to die and down Normal, Easy, Story for tastes. That way those who just want a core experience to try out builds or because they have difficulty finding a game have that option, those who want to just breeze through and see the story have that option and those who find enemys have +500% health, +200% damage, +20 to all saves, +70 to all AC’s, SR 100, +60 to attack and so on fun can play on the higher levels

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Core is misnamed. Just replace the word “Core” with “Extra Daring” in your mind.

If you want a tabletop experience, don’t play “Extra Daring”, play Normal. Or else customise the difficulty settings to your preference.

There’s no point complaining about balance when you’re not on the correct difficulty setting. It’s Owlcats fault for using the word “Core” which seems to trap all the tabletop players.

https://forum.owlcat.games/t/please-rename-core-difficulty/

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I saw that thread and noted the usual gatekeeping. You’re welcome to keep the “change the name and be done with it” opinions to that thread; this thread is about the fact that there is clearly no attempt at balance in Core. I don’t care if it’s called Fuzzy Bunny Mode; the rules in the difficulty setting named “Core” are closest to TT Pathfinder. WotR, unfortunately, plays like the DM is a foolish kid who got picked on in high school and wants to punish the group for a bad childhood.

I want a challenge, that’s why I’m not playing on “Normal”. I want a TT-esque experience, that’s why I’m playing Pathfinder. I expect an attempt at game balance and design, that’s why I’m posting here.

The unassailable fact is that the WotR game mode using the ruleset most resembling tabletop rules utterly disregards GM/Bestiary guidelines for CR, SR and encounter frequency. Yes, I’ve heard the tired “but we have mythic point buy and companions are powerful” defenses for why the status quo is perfect - there are rules and guidance in place to tweak APL so CR/SR/frequency match appropriately, and I don’t observe that those guidelines are in place. The presumption is that the group of lv4 adventurers are capable of multiple non-optional CR18 encounters a day.

I’m not interested in changing the rules when I hit a poorly-balanced encounter.

Pathfinder should be balanced around Core (Fuzzy Bunny, whatever the heck you want to call it); everything else scales up or down from there.

Perhaps an analogy would be helpful: an auto manufacturer creates a million cars that are 3ft too wide; rather than fixing the supply line, they simply lobby legislative bodies to decree the roads should all be 3ft wider (ignoring garages, parking spaces, etc.) and call it a job well done. There are too many enemies that are far, far too powerful for the core (little ‘c’) Pathfinder ruleset when they’re encountered; rather than tuning the encounters, Owlcat simply got rid of some key Pathfinder rules (death, crits, etc.) and implemented broad modifiers (-20% damage received, extra damage dealt, etc.) and called it “Normal”.

It’s lazy. Accepting and defending it is also lazy.

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Well. Owlcat got a lot of feedback from KM players that they want a core rules difficulty, you were only able to create it yourself (it’s somewhere between Normal and Challenging).
As usual, feedback was misunderstood or ignored (sorry Owlcat, I just can’t count it anymore, I know you don’t mean it badly), so they did implement a difficulty named core, but it’s not the core rules. We have again no difficulty you could call core rules, and the difficulty sliders seem to be even more obfuscated than in KM, so it’s very hard for me to find out how to create a custom difficulty which emulates the feel of tt (don’t have to have exactly the same stats as in tt, but the playstyle must feel similiar enough).
Right now I just gave up. If I play on a low custom difficulty, I have somewhat a tt feeling on the bosses, but the rest of the fights is reaaaaally boring. If I play on a high custom difficulty, I have fun with normal enemies, but get absolutely wrecked by any serious enemy (yes, even when I buff up with round/lvl spells. I do neither have a Brown Fur, nor Monk dips, nor community domain).
I would have to meander between two custom difficulties… and that means having to change a ton of sliders, for each harder fight.

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