Author Topic: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later  (Read 3714 times)

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Endarire

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Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« on: October 18, 2011, 07:53:59 AM »
A common element of early D&D editions, the authors had an odd idea of balance.  Instead of balancing level-by-level, the authors seemed to assume phases in the game where classes and concepts were most viable.  For example, a Wizard is "officially" tier 1, but at level 1, physical characters (some Fighters and Monks, even!) can be very spiffy.  After casting your 1-4 level 1 spells, what do you do to keep entertained?

Still, why is this notion (Rock Now, Suck Later OR Suck Now, Rock Later) so prevalent in 3.x?  It seems to punish casters since so many campaigns end at level 6 or below.  (Sucky prereqs are a common means of the Now & Later philosophy.)  Those who rock later are repeatedly shut down by GMs who never run games at that level.  The power of level 5 spells only matters if the group reaches that level.

How do y'all feel about this?  Growing into and growing out of my usefulness by level seems... odd.  Mind control is wonderful at low levels, but when the immunities hit, I'm stuck as something else, be it a new character or new facet of this character.  It's like saying, "You must be in this level range to be viable with this concept," and since I like this so much, I'll officially coin it.

Now and Later Design: Abilities and concepts have a big, invisible (or nearly invisible) sign saying, "You must be in this level range to be viable."  Outside this level range, you may as well play a different character, since your current one needs an overhaul.  Enough optimization increases the viable level range.
Hood - My first answer to all your build questions; past, present, and future.

Speaking of which:
Don't even need TO for this.  Any decent Hood build, especially one with Celerity, one-rounds [Azathoth, the most powerful greater deity from d20 Cthulu].
Does it bug anyone else that we've reached the point where characters who can obliterate a greater deity in one round are considered "decent?"

Vaerenth

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2011, 08:29:43 AM »
I wholeheartedly agree with your thought process. I've never understood why some character concepts are allowed to fall so flat in a game that has almost limitless possibilities for character concepts. Now, I'll admit some may be "doomed" at start but that doesn't mean they should all round suck either. It also sucks when you make a character and basically the only way you stay useful is because your DM contrives situations where your usefulness would shine. It feels like the DM basically has to empower you as a character, and end the end your victories seem hollow and cheap.
4e tried to fix this problem by toning it all down by a lot and eliminating the wild card spells that were too powerful or dynamic. The issue is no one likes to go from Phenomenal Cosmic Power to itty bitty living space. Which is exactly what 4e tried to force on people.

veekie

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2011, 09:57:39 AM »
Actually, casters are less 'suck now, own later' and more 'limited now, unlimited later'. Spells as a limited resource actually WORK at early levels(and if you're not blasting, you can get significant bang out of a single slot). Its more that at later levels, their limitation falls away and they just don't acknowledge it.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2011, 12:07:45 PM by veekie »
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[spoiler]
"Just what do you think the moon up in the sky is? Everyone sees that big, round shiny thing and thinks there must be something round up there, right? That's just silly. The truth is much more awesome than that. You can almost never see the real Moon, and its appearance is death to humans. You can only see the Moon when it's reflected in things. And the things it reflects in, like water or glass, can all be broken, right? Since the moon you see in the sky is just being reflected in the heavens, if you tear open the heavens it's easy to break it~"
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[/spoiler]

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Empirate

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2011, 12:02:22 PM »
The main reason for casters' limits going away at the mid levels is that low-level spells don't lose utility for quite a while. Even a 10th level Wizard will get occasional use out of a Grease spell; Charm Person is nice to have when you go shopping; Identify never gets old; Invisibility is still good to have; Glitterdust can still get rid of a giant or three; See Invisibility is more important than ever; and so on.

This means that casters not only get new, level-appropriate tricks (which melee doesn't really, except ToB); they also get more useful tricks in total, since their old ones still work to a reasonable degree.

RobbyPants

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2011, 02:03:01 PM »
Still, why is this notion (Rock Now, Suck Later OR Suck Now, Rock Later) so prevalent in 3.x?  It seems to punish casters since so many campaigns end at level 6 or below.  (Sucky prereqs are a common means of the Now & Later philosophy.)  Those who rock later are repeatedly shut down by GMs who never run games at that level.  The power of level 5 spells only matters if the group reaches that level.
I think it's prevalent in 3E because it was prevalent in AD&D. 3.0 fixed and changed a lot of things from AD&D, but it had a lot of holdovers. You can see some of those if you're familiar with both 3.0 and 3.5. While 3.5 has less holdovers from AD&D, it still has quite a few. That, and I don't think they were really trying to reinvent the entire game; I think they were just looking to keep the same game with a more unified mechanic.


How do y'all feel about this?  Growing into and growing out of my usefulness by level seems... odd. 
It's terrible. The name I've always used for this is Lisa Simpson Fish Stick Averaging (From the episode where she cooked fish sticks that were burnt on the outside and frozen on the inside, but she claimed it averaged out.). It's obviously not as good as properly cooked fish sticks.

And as you mentioned. If your game is only going to go from level X to Y, certain classes will get a disproportionate boost in power.
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[/spoiler]

AtomicKitKat

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2011, 02:44:33 PM »
I used to think Psionics was unbalanced(just reading it directly). But then you realise that if they had used a points system from the start instead of the X spells of Y Levels(I prefer the term "Circles", less confusion) at Class Level Z, there would be a little less issue with balance, since the Wizard would still have a limit(burned all your points on a bunch of low level spells? Too bad, you should have saved up for that big 5th level spell that you need now.) even at higher levels, while having expanded options.

Unbeliever

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2011, 04:14:12 PM »
Still, why is this notion (Rock Now, Suck Later OR Suck Now, Rock Later) so prevalent in 3.x?  It seems to punish casters since so many campaigns end at level 6 or below.  (Sucky prereqs are a common means of the Now & Later philosophy.)  Those who rock later are repeatedly shut down by GMs who never run games at that level.  The power of level 5 spells only matters if the group reaches that level.
I think it's prevalent in 3E because it was prevalent in AD&D. 3.0 fixed and changed a lot of things from AD&D, but it had a lot of holdovers. You can see some of those if you're familiar with both 3.0 and 3.5. While 3.5 has less holdovers from AD&D, it still has quite a few. That, and I don't think they were really trying to reinvent the entire game; I think they were just looking to keep the same game with a more unified mechanic.


How do y'all feel about this?  Growing into and growing out of my usefulness by level seems... odd. 
It's terrible. The name I've always used for this is Lisa Simpson Fish Stick Averaging (From the episode where she cooked fish sticks that were burnt on the outside and frozen on the inside, but she claimed it averaged out.). It's obviously not as good as properly cooked fish sticks.

And as you mentioned. If your game is only going to go from level X to Y, certain classes will get a disproportionate boost in power.
^ This

This temporal imbalancing is easily one of the stupidest things in gaming.  It was explicitly part of AD&D, though I don't know how much 3E wholeheartedly embraced it -- though crappy pre-reqs for cool abilities do abound.  The only thing in its defense is that it was the 70s, and lots of stupid shit was going on.

Don't conflate 2 different things, though.  Limited resources (spells per day, rages per day, etc.) aren't necessarily the same as "suck now, rock later."  The two bleed together a bit in D&D, though.  One fundamental game philosophy question, if one were to be building from the ground up, would be to decide to what extent you'd want the game to be a resource management one, and at what level -- such as per encounter v. per day types of resources. 

Tequila Sunrise

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2011, 04:20:12 PM »
Ha, 'now and later' design. Cute!

I've never played or DMed a game that lasted more than five levels, so I don't buy into this particular relic of D&D design.

veekie

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2011, 04:43:17 PM »
Quote
This temporal imbalancing is easily one of the stupidest things in gaming.  It was explicitly part of AD&D, though I don't know how much 3E wholeheartedly embraced it -- though crappy pre-reqs for cool abilities do abound.  The only thing in its defense is that it was the 70s, and lots of stupid shit was going on.
It goes back further than that. Think wargaming roots. The mage is the same as the expensive artillery unit with limited ammunition compared to the cheap infantry, its perfectly fine because they play different tactical roles.

Remember the original wizard was a reskinned guy with a bazooka.
The mind transcends the body.
It's also a little cold because of that.
Please get it a blanket.

I wish I could read your mind,
I can barely read mine.

"Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. At 2:15, it begins rolling up characters."

[spoiler]
"Just what do you think the moon up in the sky is? Everyone sees that big, round shiny thing and thinks there must be something round up there, right? That's just silly. The truth is much more awesome than that. You can almost never see the real Moon, and its appearance is death to humans. You can only see the Moon when it's reflected in things. And the things it reflects in, like water or glass, can all be broken, right? Since the moon you see in the sky is just being reflected in the heavens, if you tear open the heavens it's easy to break it~"
-Ibuki Suika, on overkill

To sumbolaion diakoneto moi, basilisk ouranionon.
Epigenentheto, apoleia keraune hos timeis pteirei.
Hekatonkatis kai khiliakis astrapsato.
Khiliarkhou Astrape!
[/spoiler]

There is no higher price than 'free'.

"I won't die. I've been ordered not to die."

Mooncrow

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2011, 04:52:54 PM »
Ha, 'now and later' design. Cute!

I've never played or DMed a game that lasted more than five levels, so I don't buy into this particular relic of D&D design.

Even in games that go from 1-20+ it's still a shitty concept.  Actually, it may be worse, since if you're only going for five levels it's not that hard to make a concept work for that long.  Trying to find one that works for 20 levels is a lot harder.  But, that said, it's not exactly easy to find that sweet spot between "balanced" and "interesting".  Game theory is still trying to work that one out :p  But I think one thing is clear - "balance over time" is a non-starter.

RobbyPants

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2011, 06:50:48 PM »
The only thing in its defense is that it was the 70s, and lots of stupid shit was going on.
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My balancing 3.5 compendium
Elemental mage test game

Quotes
[spoiler]
Quote from: Cafiend
It is a shame stupidity isn't painful.
Quote from: StormKnight
Totally true.  Historians believe that most past civilizations would have endured for centuries longer if they had successfully determined Batman's alignment.
Quote from: Grand Theft Otto
Why are so many posts on the board the equivalent of " Dear Dr. Crotch, I keep punching myself in the crotch, and my groin hurts... what should I do? How can I make my groin stop hurting?"
Quote from: CryoSilver
I suggest carving "Don't be a dick" into him with a knife.  A dull, rusty knife.  A dull, rusty, bent, flaming knife.
Quote from: Seerow
Fluffy: It's over Steve! I've got the high ground!
Steve: You underestimate my power!
Fluffy: Don't try it, Steve!
Steve: *charges*
Fluffy: *three critical strikes*
Steve: ****
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I don't even stat out commoners. Commoner = corpse that just isn't a zombie. Yet.
Quote from: CryoSilver
When I think "Old Testament Boots of Peace" I think of a paladin curb-stomping an orc and screaming "Your death brings peace to this land!"
Quote from: Orville_Oaksong
Buy a small country. Or Pelor. Both are good investments.
[/spoiler]

SneeR

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2011, 12:03:48 AM »
In the designers' defense, it makes sense
You know what, no. I thought about it for one second, and now I am furious. Some feats are better than others. White Tower game design even admitted that feats like Toughness were ONLY useful for a first-level one-shot game where it was likely to double the elven mage's hit points.

Knowing that a feat like that has no use after first level, then requiring it as a prereq for a class feature you will get 4-10 levels later is disgusting and shows a skewed thought process. "Oh, it's okay for him to win everything, he sucked for four levels due to crappy but necessary feat choice"

This almost makes me want to drop D&D in the dust. :witsend Only the core mechanics are good, excluding spells. Nothing else designed for PCs is salvagable.
The answer to everything:
[spoiler][/spoiler]
SneeR
[spoiler]
I don't know if the designers meant you to take Skill Focus for every feat.
Sounds a little OP.

The monk is clearly the best class, no need to optimize here. What you are doing is overkill.

It's like people who have no idea what a turn signal is. They ruin it for everyone else.
When another driver brandishes a holy symbol and begins glowing with divine light, seek cover or get spattered with zombie brains. I do not see what is so complicated about this.
[/spoiler]

Endarire

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2011, 09:16:17 AM »
I misspake regarding casters sucking at early levels.  Consider, however, how powerful a Warblade or a Cruader is at levels 1-5.  They can seemingly down level-appropriate threats in one round and not be plagued by "must full attack to be relevant."

Casters get a small amount of resources.  I've seen grease down golems at level 9.  I've relied on level 1-3 crowd control spells to save my highest level material when I'm casting level 5+ Wizard spells.  As I noticed in a campaign I ran, Wizards (and other casters, by extension) just get more options- a lot more options- as levels rise.  A level 1, it may be grease and sleep.  At level 5, it may be grease, deep slumber (to replace sleep), and a host of other spells that can end the fight or gimp a foe or few if they connect.

I'm not knocking these powerful spells.  Sometimes, a proper silent image is what keeps the party alive.  (Been there, DMed that.)  Before about level 7, a caster's nova will shut down a fight with crowd control.  A physical character's nova can one-shot everything.  (Hood did it.)
Hood - My first answer to all your build questions; past, present, and future.

Speaking of which:
Don't even need TO for this.  Any decent Hood build, especially one with Celerity, one-rounds [Azathoth, the most powerful greater deity from d20 Cthulu].
Does it bug anyone else that we've reached the point where characters who can obliterate a greater deity in one round are considered "decent?"

Bloody Initiate

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2011, 09:38:01 AM »
Yet another thing I always hated about how D&D was designed.

I actually like a lot about these games, feels like I've been listing the things I've always hated about it recently, but really I do like D&D. I've just always hated nearly everything that has to do with wizards. I hate their spellcasting mechanic, I hate their curve, I hate their fluff, and I hate their hit die. Sadly they're a big favorite, and so I reiterate my list of problems with them often.

I know 4e isn't popular on here, and I'm not contesting why, but one thing that's really pretty nice about it is you can see how wizards will survive from 1st level up. It's really hard to see how they make it in earlier editions, you end up feeling like they're either insanely lucky, have a great team, or a GM who rolls dice made entirely out of fudge.
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SneeR

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2011, 10:20:09 AM »
I know 4e isn't popular on here, and I'm not contesting why, but one thing that's really pretty nice about it is you can see how wizards will survive from 1st level up. It's really hard to see how they make it in earlier editions, you end up feeling like they're either insanely lucky, have a great team, or a GM who rolls dice made entirely out of fudge.

My friend recalls fondly with a shudder how wizards started with exactly 4 hit points before death, in dungeons coated with poisons that instantly killed you, armed with a single casting of a single magic missile, and no proficiencies in any weapons that you can use to be useful before or after that casting. Things have changed... a bit.
The answer to everything:
[spoiler][/spoiler]
SneeR
[spoiler]
I don't know if the designers meant you to take Skill Focus for every feat.
Sounds a little OP.

The monk is clearly the best class, no need to optimize here. What you are doing is overkill.

It's like people who have no idea what a turn signal is. They ruin it for everyone else.
When another driver brandishes a holy symbol and begins glowing with divine light, seek cover or get spattered with zombie brains. I do not see what is so complicated about this.
[/spoiler]

veekie

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Re: Rock Now/Later, Suck Now/Later
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2011, 11:22:56 AM »
I misspake regarding casters sucking at early levels.  Consider, however, how powerful a Warblade or a Cruader is at levels 1-5.  They can seemingly down level-appropriate threats in one round and not be plagued by "must full attack to be relevant."

Casters get a small amount of resources.  I've seen grease down golems at level 9.  I've relied on level 1-3 crowd control spells to save my highest level material when I'm casting level 5+ Wizard spells.  As I noticed in a campaign I ran, Wizards (and other casters, by extension) just get more options- a lot more options- as levels rise.  A level 1, it may be grease and sleep.  At level 5, it may be grease, deep slumber (to replace sleep), and a host of other spells that can end the fight or gimp a foe or few if they connect.

I'm not knocking these powerful spells.  Sometimes, a proper silent image is what keeps the party alive.  (Been there, DMed that.)  Before about level 7, a caster's nova will shut down a fight with crowd control.  A physical character's nova can one-shot everything.  (Hood did it.)
Yes, thats the issue there.
Levels 1-3
Melee - Dies in 2 hits. Kills enemy in 1-3 attempts.
Magic - Dies in 1 hit. Sometimes disables/bypass multiple enemies in one hit or enables melee to kill enemies in one attempt.
Levels 4-6
Melee - Dies in 2 hits. Kills enemy in 1-2 attempt(ToB/Hood), kills enemy in 2-3 hits(for those relying on melee full attacks like TWF/S&B etc)
Magic - Dies in 2 hits. Likely to Disables/bypass multiple enemies in one hit or enables melee to kill enemies in one hit.

You can see the evolution.
The mind transcends the body.
It's also a little cold because of that.
Please get it a blanket.

I wish I could read your mind,
I can barely read mine.

"Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. At 2:15, it begins rolling up characters."

[spoiler]
"Just what do you think the moon up in the sky is? Everyone sees that big, round shiny thing and thinks there must be something round up there, right? That's just silly. The truth is much more awesome than that. You can almost never see the real Moon, and its appearance is death to humans. You can only see the Moon when it's reflected in things. And the things it reflects in, like water or glass, can all be broken, right? Since the moon you see in the sky is just being reflected in the heavens, if you tear open the heavens it's easy to break it~"
-Ibuki Suika, on overkill

To sumbolaion diakoneto moi, basilisk ouranionon.
Epigenentheto, apoleia keraune hos timeis pteirei.
Hekatonkatis kai khiliakis astrapsato.
Khiliarkhou Astrape!
[/spoiler]

There is no higher price than 'free'.

"I won't die. I've been ordered not to die."