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This post is to address two things: 1) SGT issues. 2) Balance point issues in general.

I'm going to talk about the second point first. It's clear to me that we cannot go on like this with balance points. It's become way too polarized and too many feelings are being hurt. When we're talking about people who are doing stuff for fun, that's bad. That's really bad. At this point, I really think it would be better if the author just set the balance point and that was it. Their opinion could be changed through a reasonable argument, but they'd be the ones who have to change the point itself. That's not great, but I think it's better than authors getting pissed off. Which is, quite honestly, the last thing I want. The wiki survives at all through a flow of new contributions, and if authors get pissed off then that flow of new contributions dries up. So whatever we do, authors not getting pissed off needs to be the #1 point.

I think we're small enough and have reasonable enough people that this can work. If in the future it becomes clear that it doesn't, policy can be changed.

Now let me talk about #1. It's become clear over the past year (this is approaching our one year anniversary) that the SGT is a bit too generic when it comes to items. For this matter I propose the following item rule additions to the SGT:

  • You get the Big Six, plus two sets of three spell potions each (as in, if you choose a spell you get three such potions).
  • You can give up some element of the Big Six for an equivalent-cost item (lesser than or equal to).

This should deal with a lot of nagging item issues in the SGT.

So, there is my proposal. I'd like comments on this. Surgo 19:32, August 6, 2010 (UTC)

Leziad pointed out to me that a lot of different endless money loops exist, and not all of them require being a wizard. With this fact in mind, I think any such loop should be avoided in discussing the balance of anything. Surgo 19:35, August 6, 2010 (UTC)
I for one, think we should take a more flexible approach of balance points. One thing to remember is that all classes are made with a different game design philosophy, and we have no stated balanced game template or anything the author can relate to when balancing his class but the SGT. As Surgo pointed the SGT got a few issues, I will address this later in my post. I strongly believe each authors should still have to answer to a "higher authority" because reason is not a gift given to all, but instead of forcing a balance level upon a class we could simply add another parameter in the author template like "Balance level Questioned: yes/no" but that would be a little invasive imo.
The thing I want to avoid is drowning new authors in page of advanced debate, I don't think I would be here if I had such welcome at the beginning of my homebrewer career (and god know my old stuff suck). When it come to game design, we have seen many times taht some people cannot agreed together and the discussion quickly stretch on for pages. Maybe we could add game philosophy or similar on the author template,such as "Tome Games", "Grimoire Games". Right now that idea is terrible and I should feel terrible (I do not), however maybe the community can make something of it?
As for the SGT, I agree with Surgo rules change. I can explain why later if I need. --Leziad 20:07, August 6, 2010 (UTC)
Regarding SGT changes, they look basically fine though I'd like clarification on what the "big six" are. I'd like to suggest that classes with UMD on their class list be able to simply treat one challenge in an SGT10+ as a sure win and otherwise ignore it (it's not big enough at level 5 to work reliably, but we could maybe allow them to treat one challenge as a toss-up and otherwise ignore it). UMD adds lots of flexibility to lots of challenges and will boost results in play, but since it's a horribly gear dependent thing it's really hard to model. This just ignores those issues and raises the classes average by a set amount. Ghostwheel's made the point that anyone can have UMD with some items and cross class ranks, but I think that's so unlikely in an actual game that we can reasonably ignore it and this works as a fair approximation. Simply ignoring or hiding it under the gear restrictions proposed won't do us any favors in gauging class power though, it needs to be in here somewhere.
On balance levels, I'm not in agreement with you on the "author sets the balance point and that's it" thing. I really don't like making people change them, but if balance levels are going to mean anything they need to be somewhat consistent. That's somewhat hard to do with the broad balance levels that we want, but if the community calls something balanced wrong in sufficient numbers (which is one of the reasons I wanted to stack the vote against the guy calling for it) then we need to go with it. The rule as it stands is done in such a way that it's the community requesting the change, even though one guy has to get annoyed with discussion enough to push it that far. I know it can lead to hurt feelings, but I think I'd rather have some hurt feelings and balanced material than happy fun time and not in line stuff. Besides, we already have one of the strictest image policies of any wiki I've seen and an incomplete template that frustrates people, arguments over balance and getting it forcibly changed seem down the line in things that annoy new contributors.
If we get the SGT thing better sorted out I'd be happy to move balance levels into a more solidly SGT related way and use that as a force for change. But I think removing any force for change dilutes the balance levels sufficiently that we might as well just be rid of them. - TarkisFlux 20:39, August 6, 2010 (UTC)
I support Leziads Philosophy-compatibility idea, but I think it solves a completely different problem than the one we're dealing with here. There are more than a few new mechanics in any complete fix, so things built on them will reference the new mechanics. For instance, my Elemental Brute (3.5e Class) has a major ability that doesn't do anything unless you're playing with the advanced combat rules in Races of War (3.5e Sourcebook). Having something as "This is built for Tome games" "This is built for Grimiore games" or even "This is built for Pathfinder games" if people write anything for that and so on will clarify what set of new mechanics it's supposed to plug into, and, for the former two, what balance point it's supposed to try to hit. The only issue with that is that we'd need to keep a manually-updated Design Types page, but since it only needs to be updated with philosophy statements for new major projects (and kept up-to-date when the philosophy changes), that's not much work at all. Going through and updating everything with their design philosophy might be, but for the Tomes at least we've been using categories for that.
I like the fixed-items idea. The Big Six are Weapon, Armor, Offhand (Weapon/Shield), Cloak of Resistance, Stat Increaser, and Other AC Booster (Protection, Natty armor, whatever), correct? All of them are pure bonus items unless you're trading out plusses? What bonus do your items have at the various SGT levels?
What TarkisFlux said also makes sense. Use Magic Device can easily be a wildcard win (pick one challenge and auto-win it). Cross-classing UMD can be ignored safely, since any real build will acquire enough minor tricks as they play to perform better than an artificial SGT build; cross-class ranks in UMD can be stuck in that list of minor tricks. Also, like he said, if we have a way to empirically determine balance points, we should empirically determine balance points rather than rely on guesswork and persuasion. Possibly even put in a guideline that if you're new and don't have much of an eye for balance points, leave it blank, slap an assistance request on it, and someone will eventually come by to give you a balance point, rather than even asking people to guess.
Also, are we ever going to do anything regarding completing the balance point system for 4e? As it is, it's a stub with the name of one tier and no way to do any empirical balance? At that point, you might as well get rid of it. Is the name of the tier even up-to-date? Is Righteous Brand still any good, or did it get nerfed? --IGTN 01:40, August 7, 2010 (UTC)
Correct--basically the things apart from some of the standardized ability boosts on this table. Magic weapon, armor, resistance, natural armor, deflection, and ability boost. That said, I think the whole SGT needs to be redone with each challenge being able to be beaten around 50% of the time with one's own power for some of the rogue-level classes.
Let's actually discuss one of the rogue-level classes--namely the rogue. In "real" games, the rogue rarely pops for either Perfect TWF at level 10 or the ring of blink (I've actually never seen either of them taken by a rogue for the purposes discussed on the board). In... well, almost a decade now, I've never seen it happen. That's not saying it doesn't, but I don't think it should be the standard for "what rogues can do". In fact, I've also rarely seen rogues actually use UMD apart from out-of-battle healing with the party's wand of lesser vigor. However, what the rogue *does* do often is have flanking buddies and ways to move around quickly, kinda like the mobile blender does. Now, let's looks at a rogue that's actually built for the SGT, one who's meant to win on his own in 1v1 fights and do so decently.
In fact, it won't even be a straight rogue. (NOTE: If mechanical tech-talk bores, skip to the next break-paragraph.) Rogue 8 / Swordsage 2 works, picking up Shadow Blade, Cloak of Deception, Burning Blade, and Flashing Sun along with Shadow Jaunt to GTFO of grapples. Assuming the table above (I know it's not canon, but just for example), we have two +1 Shocking short swords, 28 Dexterity after ability bosts and racial (we're a halfling), and our armor will be something like 10 (base) + 1 (small) + 6 (dex) + 7 (mithral chain shirt) + 2 (deflection) + 2 (natural armor) + 6 (wisdom) = 37 AC, which isn't bad for a squishy level 10 character. Attack is going to look like 9 (Dex) + 7 (BAB) + 1 (Magic) - 2 (TWF) + 1 (Size) = +16/+16/+11/+11, which is enough to hit fairly reliably most of the monsters. Base damage is 1d4+1 (sword) + 9 (Shadow Blade) + 6d6 (SA + Assassin's Stance) for 1d4+6d6+9 per attack.
But what about our actual attacks? Let's assume for a moment that we win init, get a surprise round to get close to our enemy, and screw them over in melee while they're still denied dex to AC. Flashing Sun + Burning Blade gives us +14/+14/+14/+9/+9 each dealing 1d4+6d6+9+1d6+6 or 42 damage on average with every attack. When weighted against the bebilith's AC, this does exactly 105 damage on average--not bad for a solo rogue, eh? Next round finish them off with a distracting ember or cloak of deception and a full attack. (EDIT: Forgot weapon focus and shocking enhancement in there, damage will be slightly higher.) However, we might hit a lot more and finish it in one round. Or he might spot us and then we have a slightly harder fight on our hands. Or he might grapple us and we could try to Shadow Jaunt out of reach (and we have a decent chance of being missed with our high AC). In short, the fight comes out almost perfect to a 50/50 chance of winning depending on specific circumstances and rolls.
My point with all this tech-talk is that the straight rogue isn't really worthy of the SGT. Even with a with an autowin, without the ring of blink/eversmoking bottle+blindfold of true darkness/other third-party additions it's not going to pass the SGT. But that's because it's not meant to. It's meant to be a team player who full attacks in melee while flanking. However, it can be turned into a solo-er with a little help, and we're still keeping the build 80% rogue. But we don't need to resort to things like UMD to do so when the basic tools are there for us without having to delve into abilities that are completely up to DM fiat rather than what comes part and parcel with the class. Along with that, we should revise the challenges. Take a look at the dragon, for instance; most rogue-level classes don't have an innate ability at level 10 to fly. By being cheesy as hell, the dragon could make strafing attacks out of range until the character dies without being hit. Rather than making the ability to fly be a gimmick that one must have to pass the dragon (you must be this high to beat this encounter...), we should remove that encounter. The fact that most rogue-level classes don't have the innate ability to fly *gives us an indication that the dragon might not be a good challenge for the SGT*. On the other hand, the troll encounter is for the most part laughable. Any rogue-level character worth his salt will either deal enough damage to knock a few trolls out every round, or not be hit at all. It's there just to be another "you must be this high" where monk- and fighter-level characters fail. Rather than having both these encounters and one being an autowin and one being an autolose for most rogue-level characters without non-class-abilities help ("balancing" each other out in a bad way when it comes to the final tally), we should replace both with encounters that a number of rogue-level characters fail ~50% of the time.
By taking away stupid auto-win/lose encounters and designing a rogue that's actually created to be able to challenge the SGT instead of resorting to third-party, DM-fiat, seldom-seen-in-games tricks, I think we could have a much more balanced SGT that will fulfill its role in a far more cogent fashion.
Oh, and I don't think rogue-level classes can in general go into infinite money loops without wizard-level help in the form of scrolls or items. I don't see a rogue, warblade, crusader, swordsage, psychic warrior, or duskblade getting infinite money just on their own class abilities even at level 20 without third-party/extraneous help. Rather than contributions from items, I think the SGT should focus on class levels--and rogue-level classes usually have more than enough tricks to fare well against equal-level challenges. (I could show you the same above with most of the classes mentioned above, I think, without the need for any items beyond the Big Six.) --Ghostwheel 10:53, August 7, 2010 (UTC)
Addendum: Cid mentioned on the channel that if the dragon's wings were simply clipped it would solve a lot of the issues, and I think I agree. The fight would still be a hard one for the above rogue, but I think it might come fairly close to 50/50 with the right tactics. Could "fix" that encounter simply by assuming that the encounter takes place in a low cave or that the dragon is unable to fly. --Ghostwheel 14:18, August 7, 2010 (UTC)
On that same note, perhaps the SGT has to account for situational factors to even the odds of a combat (for example, whether the encounter takes place outside or in a dungeon. This can work both ways, since a dragon is a good example of where it aids the PC's and a fire giant would be where it aids the monster. Even if the giant has rocks, a pretty good AC and a ranged blast is all you need to lay it low. Having the encouter inside, where the movements of the PC's are more restricted as well, could balance the SGT as well. I'm not sure if that's an issue or not since I doubt amny people would want to intentionally limit the abilities of the PC's, but it's still a potential influence that I think needs to be recognized. - TG Cid 14:27, August 7, 2010 (UTC)
The issue as it stands is simple. The system itself is theoretically sound. It's just that the people are the problem. They keep pushing until things don't make sense anymore. (1) Something should never be cast into 7 pages of debate just for a fucking nitpick. (2) If someone can provide sane reasoning for anything, they should be listened to. (3) A persons intelligence should never be insulted due to a disagreement. Yet all three of these basic premises of decency and civility, have been violated dozens of times on this wiki. It's the people. But, the idea of 'just ignore them' is not the answer. The answer is that a policy of conduct needs to be put into place. If a person provides sound, logical reasoning for their creation being of balance point X instead of Y or Z, they should be listened to, and unless a massive flaw can be found in their arguments, this should be the base point for judging the class. On the other end of the spectrum, people ignoring these reasonings, not addressing them, and instead just saying things like 'know it's difficult, but you should try to think', should at least earn themselves a warning. Perhaps after 3 warnings, a ban would be in order, but that would be up to people of a more prestigious vantage point to decide. → Rith (talk) 16:58, August 7, 2010 (UTC)
(PS. The Same Game Test, as was originally set forward by Frank Trollman, is solid, and revisions merely dilute the concept. Change the test itself, and you change the game. Make enough revisions to the system, after a while, and you have an entirely different object. Things need to be defined, yes, otherwise, you wind up with the system falling apart, but don't rewrite the baseline. Change things in the same way that Ghostwheel suggested above, and it stops being the SGT, and starts being 'the Ghostwheel test'. Course, it's true, the Rogue is actually pretty fragile.)
Putting the challenges in specific terrains is fine, and part of what I'm already doing. It stops people from running the challenge in a boring and trivial way and the arguments that ensue from "doing it wrong". And the SGT10 probably needs more challenges added to it, either that or we need to cut more from the SGT5 and SGT15. The tests should line up better, and be easier to run, and any changes made towards those goals are probably going to be fine. Whether that's a dilution or not depends on how what the changes and challenges are.
The Dragon flying I think is read in exactly the wrong way by Ghost. Plenty of classes don't have the ability to fly at level 10. Plenty of monsters do. Are we working the monsters to the classes here, and thus the monsters who can fly should be higher CR or removed? Or are we working the classes to the monsters, and thus character who can't fly should be given a way to do so (like through WBL and gear, even if WBL is rather brokened)? Either answer is fine, but they do different things. You can pick a set of monsters for each CR or CR group (they can be representational of the game as a whole or just of the monster progression you want) and test classes against them to see what keeps up. Or you can pick a set of classes (again, they can be representational of the game as a whole or just of the class progression you want) and test monsters against them to see which monsters keep up. Either of these is fine in principle, and using your results to limit the allowed classes / monsters will lead you to a game with fewer balance surprises.
Doing both, as Ghost seems to want to do to when he says that the SGT should have monsters picked for it that some special subset of classes can beat, is worth more examination though. Taking that pool of monsters and testing other classes against it is just an extra layer of obfuscation making it difficult to determine if the class is out of line or if the monster was really out of line and you just didn't see it because of the classes you picked to set the monster up. It's not anything that I'd support this late in the game's lifecycle, though it's probably exactly what you'd want to do if you were writing classes and monsters and a game from scratch and wanted to tune them up.
Since we're tagging classes with balance levels and not monsters though, we need to use a pool of monsters to test the classes and options. The SGT as written tries to get a set of challenges that are representational of those that could be faced and then see how the different classes do against them on average, looking for those classes that perform better or worse than average. If you wanted to remove or re-level challenges that you didn't think fit for whatever reason you can do that, but you're not testing classes against the game anymore (though yes, we make a special exception for the [Awesome] subtype). Removing challenges or substantially altering CRs also changes the pace that the game changes tactically. That's not anything I'm in favor of since I like the pace of change and don't want to be playing the same game for 20 levels, I want it to grow and change tactically like the monsters currently do. If I didn't want those things, I'd be playing 4e (with spot fixes for sumo) because it does an admirable job of being the same game with bigger numbers as you level up.
Regarding the rogue failing the SGT, that depends on whether wands are allowed or not as one of your replacement items and if you can purchase them with reduced charges as if you were a new character starting at a level above 1 (then take greater invis and UMD it, unless someone is going). I get that Ghost hates UMD with the passion of a thousand burning suns or whatever, but the fact remains that it is a skill on their list that they get to use to access any level of effects that are allowed in the game. It is somewhat subject to DM fiat by being a gear dependent ability, but I've never played in a game where it wasn't used to boost the rogue's effectiveness and I've never played a game where the rogue was primarily a "team player" flanking machine. Failing that, you can do a lot of damage with some potions of invis and just getting people before they can get you, starting the fight with an advantage. It's not as bad as Ghost claims at soloing unless the rogue is trying to make it a fair fight, which is silly. - TarkisFlux 18:51, August 7, 2010 (UTC)
As far as flight is concerned, I think there are a number of parts to address; first, it might be fair to include a potion of flight in each character's napsack (since we discussed above about allowing a limited number of potions, and I think that those might be low-costing and universal enough that any character might carry them at that level). Second, you mentioned that in "actual games" characters often meet flying creatures--which might be true, but I think that what we're going after is the base power of classes rather than what items add on, what the DM gives out, etc. It's shown that a single item can bypass one of the encounters as-is, and with enough UMD'd items you can beat all the encounters. This indicates that items are just an add-on that skew what an actual character can do, since a commoner with level 10 CWBL can UMD almost as well as a rogue by investing in skill-boosting items--and I don't think anyone thinks the commoner's wizard-level. (As a side note, I think flight can be abused on the player side as well--anyone remember this class? I still think it's fighter-level.)
You talked about removing creatures that have the [awesome] subtype--I don't think we're disagreeing on this point. The necromancer, the dragon, the mind flayers, and the horde of shadows all potentially have the [awesome] subtype. (Want specific reasons, or accepting last statement as-is? I think that's the crux of my argument, that the monsters that do have the [awesome] subtype should be removed from the SGT. That said, as long as it's not using incredibly cheap tactics, I think most of those could be in the SGT--barring the shadows. I have no clue why they put those in there...) Aside: That said, a thought came to mind. If the character readied a move action whenever the dragon flew by to dodge the breath line, would the dragon be forced to come down and fight it in melee? If that was the case, and used by most characters, I would have far less of a problem with the dragon. It's mostly the use of a cheap auto-win tactic that poses no danger (like what the Griffon Rider does) that bothers me.
Specifically as far as the rogue goes, UMD is just so fiddly and DM-dependent that I don't see using it as a good measure of the *rogue's* base power (see above about commoner comment)--especially if you're buying wands at reduced charges. It's testing something that is far from universally accepted. I just don't see it absolutely part of the rogue's power with the amount of variability in there to accept that most rogues are taking it and thus it should be calculated as part of the "core power" of the build which is tested. (Compare to, say, TWF, which virtually all rogues get universally.) --Ghostwheel 23:17, August 7, 2010 (UTC)
No, he mentioned re-leveling creatures with the [Awesome] subtype, as is already the case with the dragon (which is 4 CR lower than the place on the test that it appears). To ignore these creatures is to pretend that the game is something it isn't. The SGT is a measure of how a character actually does in the game of D&D 3.5e, and those four encounters were put on it for a reason, due to the fact that those are real challenges in their respective fields, within the boundaries of the game of D&D 3.5e. → Rith (talk) 23:38, August 7, 2010 (UTC)
There's no way shadows or necromancers would ever get removed. Those are classic challenges for Dungeons & Dragons. Surgo 02:00, August 8, 2010 (UTC)
Also I mentioned multiple times that "you must be this tall" challenges like the blue dragon absolutely have a place. Sometimes you really do just need to be that tall. Surgo 02:03, August 8, 2010 (UTC)
Contemplation- Would it not be best to assume a "common suit" of items if it is such a problem? Admittedly this varies by class (a monk has a greater need for a potion of Fly than a wizard) so it may be difficult, but as far as general use items, that can be figured out. After all, Test X or Test Y my be bypassed by the casting of Secret Page or something, but how many people keep such a spell or wand on hand? Meanwhile the far more likely challenges would require things like flight, buffs, etc.
I am always of the opinion thought that general cost of things should be mentioned as a measure of balance, both actual gold cost and the concept of cost in general. Is there any way to integrate this? Obviously taken to the illogical extreme you'd get imbalanced things (you can destroy the world by sacrificing X Y and Z, all huge things... but you just blew up the world), but speaking in general if you have attack X which is free and attack Y which is the same with some sort of cost, I'd think Y would be considered less powerful for whatever restrictions that were placed upon it.
Can't mention on the rest sadly, not enough knowledge to make an intelligent arguement on the matter yet. -- Eiji Hyrule 02:58, August 8, 2010 (UTC)
We also lack a coherent framework for determining balance points for non-class components - i.e., feats. See the Fiendish Brute discussion for one of the problems, but another problem is that we just don't have a formal, coherent way to determine just what balance point a feat should be at. I tend to go with the "if it turns a build using items from the previous balance level into the next balance point's range" on my own time. --Quantumboost 03:06, August 8, 2010 (UTC)
I wasn't suggesting removal of those challenges. The dragon in it is CR 6 even though it's supposed to be a CR 10 SGT, that's what I meant by adjusting for the [Awesome] subtype (I think that's somewhat low actually and would rather have a juvenile at CR 8, but whatever). I'm willing to drop the necromancer to level 9 and leave him his army buildup, because his chassis somewhat exceeds the SGT when tested on it's own and we're giving him an army. And I actually want to state that the shadows don't attack you from inside walls because I want them somewhat susceptible to AoEs. The Mind Flayers are just fine IMO, but I'm actually interested in replacing them with SRD creatures anyway so that we can link to everything in the test. But I don't think there's anything wrong with these challenges in general, certainly nothing so bad as to want to remove them.
I think that 6 bonus boosting items, with substitutions if you really want them, plus 2 sets of 3-of-the-same potions is pretty close to gear sets Eiji. The potions give you a few options for specifics (which reminds me, Blink fits in potions, so the rogue can drop a weapon for flasks and get blink potions and still access his level appropriate damage, I don't even need the wand actually). Past that though, I'm not sure that integrating cost works or is even a good idea.
And I think QB is right on the feats call. It probably works for spells/powers/whatever as well. But it's a lot more fuzzy. - TarkisFlux 06:31, August 8, 2010 (UTC)
I have little to add at this moment in time, except for my belief that the Fiendish Brute SGT is flawed due to fact that it's not a test of the Fiendish Brute itself. The SGT for a base class should measure the power of the single class. This is especially relevant, as the Fiendish Brute would not have been able to qualify for Wings of Evil if it was a single class. For when Some Classes Are Short, it's a measure of the SGTs it can complete. --TK 11:05, August 8, 2010 (UTC)
Well, I agree with Rith that if feelings are being hurt, it is the fault of the people making the arguments. I've not used the Same-game test before, actually, but from how I understand it, we should be using the challenges to gauge the classes, not vice-verca, as this is how the CR system is designed. Now, I'm aware that many people here disagree with how the CR system works, but, well... I've nothing I can really say about that, unfortunately. I still think that the SGT, if the challenges are of the appropriate CR, should be kept as is. I like the idea of the Big 6 to keep gear for it standardized. 'S All I have to say.Quilliard 21:12, August 8, 2010 (UTC)
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