Balance and difficulty, basically (some spoilers in the topic)

First of all, i want to make clear that i know how difficult it is to balace a game that is so big and with so many variables, both in mechanics and enemies/character builds. But well, we must express our opinions about it to help the developers make the game the most balanced that they possibly can.

So, i’m not a meta gamer, so i don’t make characters based on maximum efficiency, because i try to balance both combat efficiency, role play and, well, fun. But i can say that i do a decent job in optimizing my party.

On that note, i confess that in the first 2 chapters (Kenabres and taking Drezen) i was having a pretty tough time, even on “daring” difficulty, with some ocasions of minor rage and rant (THIS IS BS!, and the like) and some frequent spikes in difficulty, but it was pretty manageble.

But as i progressed and further optimized my party (with pretty much everyone being buffed all the time, because of enduring spells), i felt that the combat became kinda easier, to the point of being boring some times.
In Act 4 this is much more visible, because i got there on level 15, and was pretty much kicking a** of almost everyone on core difficulty (that became absurdly clear when i manage to kill the Devastator on the Echo’s lair rather quickly and without much difficulty).

Which brings me to difficulty options, that are apparently bugged for anything above normal, because when i set enemy difficulty to “strengthened” (which should raise stats by 4 and AC and attack by 2) nothing changes, BUT if i change enemy stat adjustments to higher values, then enemies get abusurd amounts of bonus stats, like 8 for each stat and +4 on attack and AC.

SO, firstly, sorry for the long text, and secondly, what do you guys thing about this?

Difficulty Scaling issues are sadly inherent to the core ruleset for Dungeons and Dragons 3 and its derivatives (3.5, Pathfinder 1E) where everything tends to eventually devolve into “rocket tag” at high levels due to insane variations in how power develops for player characters.

Because two different PCs of the same level can have extreme variances in defenses and accuracy (10-20 points in some cases - enough to negate the rolled die!) Encounters that are challenging for optomized characters will be impossible for non-optomized ones.

I play on Core, because its GENERALLY where I like things, but I have to self regulate on character optimization. Since I can’t not optimize a character, I limit myself to only taking optimizations that are thematically appropriate, or setting limits like this character MUST be able to cast Vampiric Touch, take Deceptive, Persuasive and Skill Focus Persuasion before level 15 and I have to work around that.

Things will get easier, but at least I know that’s because I built an effective character…

I agree with the OPs points, and to expound I would say that D&D is a game with a great deal of risk for the players. I have heard that back in the 90’s that was one of the arguments against adding critical hits to the game.

When I was a teen, a college guy was teaching me to DM and I remember one of his first tips, ‘never give an enemy mage the sleep spell’… for obvious reasons.

I feel that 3.5/Pathfinder are munchkin systems so high level cake walk is pretty much built in.

The main Problem with scaling difficulties in dnd/Pathfinder is, that their level system isnt linear progression but exponentiell with some varies in power altitude.
If u compare classes you recognize,that some of them tend to be weaker then others in a specific level rangement, cause they lack their defined class feature or spells.
Same goes for enemies, cause they are based on the same stats and similar abilities.
So when u play the game u will see, that between a lv 1 char and a lv 10 char your not able to say lv 10 is 10x stronger, cause u have to consider a lot of circumstances: party management, class synergy, lv 10 class, feats …so the range between parties can be quite enormous and against monsters depending on their management these fights can be really ez or hard.
Changing difficulties for the most part provide higher stats and because they are generic and not specific to monster types or classes some enemies get stronger while others dont. For example if u increase AC for all enemies by x, enemies, who already have high AC get really difficult to hit, thus make them dangerous if they even have high combat abilites as well, while u dotn care for some minor demons- your fighter will hit them regardless of AC.
I think its not worth to put high effort into balancing the difficulties. If players get rekt, then they shoud try decreasing difficulty and players who get bored shoud rise it. There are some options including dmg, death dorr etc.

Just some background here… I am a long time player of all sorts of RPGs like this and very familiar with the rules, mechanics, spells, feats, etc. I know how to build strong characters and how everything works. I completed Kingmaker several times and played WotR in Alpha, and Beta. In Alpha, I had no problems with difficulty but in this most recent Beta 2, I’m seeing some nearly impossible monsters that nearly wipe my party (after Drezen). I did increase the difficulty slightly but only because the standard difficulty makes the enemies weaker. I have everything set to what I would consider “normal” where enemies do not get buffs but are not weakened either.

As an example, I just rage quit after facing a Baburu Infiltrator with my level 9 party. This thing had 39 AC, 26 Spell Resistance, 10 Resistance to Fire, Cold, Acid, 10 DR, all stats insanely high (like 35 strength and 32 constitution), and really high saving throws. Not to mention insane skills like 39 perception.

Now I understand different monsters require different tactics and you have to look at the defenses to see how to best attack them but this guy has no weakness. Fully buffed with nearly every spell and attack roll boosting feat I can think of at my current level, my full BAB Slayer had at best +16 to hit which is never going to hit 39 AC. My spellcasters have spell penetration, greater spell penetration and mythic spell penetration but still fail to overcome spell resistance at least half the time. On the rare occasion that they do get past the SR, he usually passes any saving throw that reduces damage and his 10 resistance to every energy type reduces that even further (one of my characters has the mythic feat that bypasses all resistance for one energy type but I didn’t have her with me).

Ok, so maybe I can reduce his defenses somehow. Ember has Evil Eye but again he always makes the saving throw which limits the duration to 1 round and you can’t recast the same hex twice on the same target. The rogue has debilitating injury and weakening wound but you have to actually land a hit first for that to work. Maybe I need someone with Sunder Armor? It’s really the only thing I can think of since his touch ac was only 18 but his CMD is high enough that Sunder may not work.

Oh and did I mention that he has a teleport ability that lets him jump around to whatever target he wants without provoking any attack of opportunity? He jumped to my spellcaster and one shot killed her with a critical hit for 115 damage. Then jumped to my cleric and killed him. Then jumped to Lann and took him out. Then worked his way through my melee characters who he did have a harder time hitting due to blur and mirror image but it didn’t take long for them to go down.

In the end I defeated him with one person left standing in the most ridiculous way. A couple of my melee characters have the mythic feat destructive shockwave which causes 7 slashing damage on a miss. In the beginning this did nothing because it does not bypass his 10 DR. However, before dying my rogue got in one lucky critical hit on a natural 20 and I think the weakening wound reduced his DR enough that shockwave could actually do some damage. So, along with a few bonecrusher and magic missile spells (for minimal damage), and one lucky critical hit, I basically killed him by missing over and over.

Maybe there is something I’m missing here. Maybe some spells that target touch ac? Maybe a different companion would have something that worked better but you can’t bring every companion with you or have just the right spell memorized every time and you don’t know what you will be facing when you get there. Maybe I just shouldn’t be in this area at level 9? I don’t have problems with most encounters, it’s just once in awhile you run into these super buffed monsters. I think the minotaur right outside the final room in Drezen was another one. Impossible to hit and he one shot killed a character each turn.

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I’m not overly experienced in pathfinder but i find it hard to get mad, other than 30 seconds of “bullsh.t!” because of the random nature of the dice rolls. I mean, on core I fought the lizard in the maze and had my tank buffed to where he would have to roll a 18-20 to hit, 2nd tank a 17-20. Round one, he hits on a roll of 19, round 2 miss, round three hits on 18 (main character dead now), round 4 hits on 18, game over. Funny enough, tried again and I was the one with the high rolls and killed it with no damage, then rolled 2 on trickery and lock broken. lol.

If there is a balance thing I REALLY hate, it is that in almost every case no armor is better than armor. I want to wear all the different cool armors but feel punished by it. This seems even worse now that there is a mystic mage armor feat…unless I don’t know about a mystic Medium/light/heavy feat.

I’d make a couple of points. First, you beat the enemy on an elevated difficulty. It was challenging for your party, but after working at it, you survived (barely). That sounds like good game design insofar as it was challenging, but not unbeatable. But if you prefer less challenge, you could have reduced the difficulty level. Again, you had the option to customize the challenge level to your liking or even trivialize the encounter—also good game design. Honestly, I’m not sure what the problem was—you want to play on normal or story mode but want the game to tell you it’s core difficulty?

Second, based on your description of your slayer, I suspect you could have improved your build substantially. At lvl 9, you’ll have +9 BAB from level, + 7 from a strength/dex of 24 (20 base plus enhancement bonus from spells), likely +2/3 from weapon, likely + 1 from weapon focus, + 1/2 from morale (bless or heroism), +2 flanking, +2 from outflank, and possibly a +2 competence buff from a bard…for a total of +27 BAB…not including mythic feats. Hitting 39 AC has a 40% chance, and I’m sure I’ve missed some other buffs, like study target, evil eye, debilitating injury etc.

And while you didn’t discuss your caster, your focus on SR suggests that you have a blaster of some sort. Summons and buffs avoid that issue…and since your party was able to kill the target, that suggests your were capable of hitting and damage him. If some summons had taken the first few hits for you, rather than losing potential damage from a character, it might have been a cakewalk.

And then the party configuration might be off. I can’t really comment without more details.

In short, I don’t think this is a design issue.

Thanks for your feedback. To be clear my party does just fine with most encounters and yes I expect the boss fights to be challenging and it’s fine to barely survive the big battles, that’s epic, challenging and yes good game design. In this case however, I am speaking of just a random group of demons wandering an area. Most of the demons in the group were fine challenge for what I would consider basically a “trash mob” encounter but the one unnamed, non-boss, infiltrator just stood out to me as being way, way more powerful then everything else and specifically that all of his defenses were very, very high leaving no good way to attack him. As for the difficulty level, yes I could have lowered it but as I mentioned, I did not have the difficulty up high. It was set at normal so no extra buffs or stats for the enemies. In my opinion there are just a few monsters that seem out of place compared to the other monsters you encounter at that level. On the other hand I think some of the main NPCs and boss fights might be too easy. For example, my party took down Staunton, Nurrah and Minago at the top of Drezen easy. A fight with the top bad guys (at that point of the story) should put up more of a fight. Meanwhile, the one minotaur just outside their door was one shot killing everyone in my group.

As for your suggestions, if you read my post again I mentioned some of those things already. For example I discussed why evil eye and debilitating injury were not really effective. I also shoul have mentioned that I am playing only with companions and the slayer I was refering to is Greybor. Obviously I could build a main character or custom mercs that are way stronger than the companions but as this is beta, I want to test the companions. So no bard buffs available, no base 20 strength, flanking is tough when he is teleporting all around and Greybor has dwarf level speed, plus I think Outflank is bugged. I selected it on several of my characters but it no longer shows up on the character sheet under active effects or in the icons next to the portraits and not showing up in the combat log either. My main is a Magus so doesn’t have full BAB.

Summons as a meat shield is nice if you can guarantee he targets them but as I said, he was using his teleport ability to jump around and one shot kill my backline companions without even getting an AoO. You say that if I killed him that suggests I was able to hit him but I specifically described how I killed him by NOT hitting him. If I wasn’t able to chip away with destructive shockwave, I never would have killed him. In the first couple rounds I got off a few spells that do half damage on a save but then he started teleporting around and took out the spellcasters.

Besides if you need a min/maxed custom merc party with every known buff to barely take out one single no-name, non boss demon on normal difficulty (and a player who understands the game well) that doesn’t seem right. I’m all for the big battles being like that but if almost your entire party is on death’s door after the first encounter in a new area you aren’t going to get too far.

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Hmm. The guts of your argument is that GamerSerg’s main melee damage dealer was only hitting at +16 whereas at level 9 they should have been hitting at +27 if built “correctly”. In that case there would be 40% chances to hit instead of 0% barring a crit.

What you are really saying is the game’s difficulty is determined by mathematical “stat walls” governed by exactly how well the player can optimise their builds. I would agree that GamerSerg has a point her on two counts:

Firsty what that means is that tactics become almost irrelevant in fighting the most difficult encounters. It’s just a stat war pure and simple, either you can hit them or you can’t.

Secondly you are right that if you don’t know how to optimse you builds “correctly” then that’s what lowering the difficulty is for, you can lower it until your party does have >0% to hit chance against the tougher monsters. However there is a potential flaw with that argument:

A player like GamerSerg (or myself for that matter) may be pretty experienced in playing cRPGs over many years and have good or better tactical skills but may not have the detailed knowledge of Pathfinder to optimse each build. Therefore where they are not faced with a “stat wall” situation such as he described they can easily defeat encounters because of their tactical skill, but where they are that tactical skill becomes next to useless and they must perforce rely on replaying the encounter to wait for a series of lucky rolls to land on critical moves, often times several in a row.

The effect of that is that if they lower the difficult such that the “stat wall” is lowered beneath their party’s average build capabilities for the tougher (individual) monsters, then their tactical skill makes the average encounters so trivial they are hardly worth the effort to play.

And that can be a problem because it means that expertise in the Pathfinder ruleset specifically is required to fully enjoy the game, experience and skill with cRPGs in general does not suffice.

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One thing to clarify, I’m not suggesting lowering difficulty across the board. Most of the game is fine, my only point was that there seem to be a few individual monsters that stand out as having defenses significantly above everything else you face at that level even though they are used as standard monsters (not boss fight or named NPC), and maybe just the stats of those specific monsters or encounters need a tweak.

Trust me, I know the ruleset inside and out and I have no doubt that I could build a team of custom mercs that would be way more effective and probably would have +27 attack but for the sake of beta testing and giving feedback I’m trying to play how most people would with companions and my main character Magus is not a full BAB class. Yes, I increased the default difficulty slightly but only to where there are no bonus or advantages for either side which I would consider “normal.” I’m not playing on unfair difficulty here.

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By the way, +27 is unrealistic at level 9. If you look at the Benchpressing statistics from tt Pathfinder, a To-Hit of +12 is passable (you need to Roll an 11 to hit), normal of +16 (you need to Roll an 7 to hit) and optimal of +21 (you need to roll a 2 to hit) against an average monster you’ll encounter on this level. In tt you should never invest ressources to get a higher bonus than the optimal number.

Yep, I wasn’t suggesting you were. It’s just I’ve noticed the same thing you were talking about in both WotR and Kingmaker. I don’t think it matters for folks coming to serious cRPG for the first time, they can lower the difficulty appropriately and get a good game. It’s about folks who’ve played everything from BG1 through BG3 at high level who can get stumped by the unfamiliarity coupled with the complexities of the Pathfinder rules (with respect to building characters effectively) when faced with monsters they can’t hit/don’t know how to deal with. In this case lowering the difficulty doesn’t really answer IMHO.

I will say this though, one effect of this issue is to encourge you to seriously bone up on Pathfinder character building, especially how to build and use the story companions effectively, and I guess there’s a strong argument that that’s no bad thing.

Mutation Warrior
6(22STR)+3(6 STR, bull with transmuter)+2(4 STR,mutagen)=11AB
+2AB other Weapon Training
+2AB morale heroism
+3AB Weapon Enchantment
+2AB competence Song
+2AB other Weapon Focus
(+4AB outflank,flanking)
Not always on buffs:
+1AB luck Divine Favor scroll¨
+1AB haste
33AB at max, 32 without transmuter, and 37 max with flanking
With Mythic levels and Weapon focus (Mythic) 35 at max, 39 with flanking, I am usually sitting at 32 (without scroll and haste and transmuter), 36 when flanking.

Well even considering fighter only abilities like weapon training your able to get really high attack bonus for every class, if u know different type of boni.
I dont think we are able to apply basic statistic values for a mythic campaign and pathfinder 1e in general, where u get access to these buffs quite ez (if u know how)

Thank you for showing another build that hits 27 to-hit by level 9. Likely the naysayers will still say it’s “unrealistic”.

I think we are interpreting the word “unrealistic” differently. I never said it was impossible. I’m saying in order to make it happen you need nearly every conceivable feat, and spell buff possible and likely not using companions. If you are fully rested with all your spell slots available and have time to pre-cast all these buffs, and are flanking, not to mention playing a Full BAB fighter (Mutation Warrior) who also gets Mutagen and bard songs and transmuter and flanking. Then yeah sure. I specifically said playing with companions (so no bard and no transmuter) and playing a main class that does NOT have full BAB. I know that eventually you can get 24 hour spell duration but even so you won’t always have a lot of these bonuses and if you are not playing a fighter, forget it.

The most important thing to understand is that a build on paper is so very different than what actually happens in a battle. The specific infiltrator demon I was speaking about has an at will ability to teleport all around the battlefield. You don’t say what armor you are wearing but MW does not get armor training or access to any of the personal only spells that increase movement so have fun walking around trying to catch the infiltrator who is teleporting all over the place making the MW almost useless until half your party is dead and forget about getting flanking / outflank bonus because again he is teleporting around while your slow moving melee character desperately try to catch him.

Honestly this build actually proves my point but I’m sure the naysayers will say that as long as some classes with custom companions, and every possible advantage can do it then everything is fine.

At some level, all computer games are about numbers. They are mathematical equations, after all. But I take your point that combat is more interesting when there is more to it than having a larger number. And I generally agree with that. In fact, I’ve made the point since early WOTR that Owlcat will have to invest more resources into improving the combat system’s complexity, but (for reasons I understand and that might be correct) they have focused in WOTR on expanding their implementation of the Pathfinder classes and character development (more classes and archetypes, animal companion equipment and leveling, and mythic paths) and improving their quality control/bug testing tools and processes as a studio. In particular, tinkering with the combat system (beyond adding turn-based) introduces the risk of additional programming errors and therefore makes their goal of improving QC more difficult/risky. But long term, I think the combat systems will have to be improved because the tactical depth in combat is really an issue of whether you have prepared for combat correctly by building a strong party, cast buffs beforehand, have the right level for the area, have the right equipment, and use pause a lot. It’s very much less about tactics during combat and instead about proper preparation. Specifically, the game lacks a number of tactical features that could improve combat’s depth, like verticality in spells and map design, destructible or manipulator terrain terrain, knock back effects, concealment, illusions, etc. So I agree that tactical depth is important, but I disagree that it’s especially prevalent in this game. And there’s another issue: the current system about stats/preparation is more or less faithful to PNP, where combat for a martial character really is just a straight stat equation in PNP. While spellcasters have a lot more flexibility, even that still depends upon attributes. Some people would no doubt gripe if the current combat system became more complex and environmentally based. I’m sure it would take less than 24 hours before Owlcat would hear complaints like “This isn’t DS2”.

He’s at 33 though. If you delete 6 of those to remove mutagen, the transmuted bonus, and bard song, and 1 for reduce starting strength, you’re at 27. That’s completely doable by level 9 for a well built character with a well-selected companion party.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some volatility or difficulty spikes in non-boss encounters. In KM at launch, I remember having a random encounter in Act I at level 3-4 with a primal manticore with blur…that was solved quickly, but balancing monster stats usually occurs very late in the development cycle after experience gains are set. I think it’s too early to evaluate whether this is an issue in the game yet, but I haven’t personally seen this issue in my most recent play through with a well built companion party.

So back to my original point, the low to-hit bonus of the OP makes me think that it’s a build/party problem, and not a game design issue. And when someone spends quite a bit of time explaining that they know how to build characters, that really makes me wonder whether that’s true. Without a screenshot of the encounter and more information about the party and what he/she did, I can’t rule out what seems to be the more likely explanation.

And I forgot to add items to calculations, so another +1 from Minor Gloves of Dueling.
I am using companions and exceeded your “unrealistic” 27 AB by 9 points (usually by 7). Seelah makes good bard (I also thinking about making Regil bard). It is why I added without transmuter note, because I do not use merc.

Of course normal 3/4 class without class buffs (like Cleric) will be on 27 AB. 29AB with full BAB class without class ability (you have things like smite, studied target, Favored enemy, Freebooter etc.) And this why you mentioned 27 AB.

I mean, by showing off how much cheese and focused builds you need to use, you’re showing exactly why it’s unrealistic that players who just use tt strategies, or new players, will ever have such a high attack bonus. The rule system is simply not made for enemies with such excessive stat bloating.