Author Topic: Balancing 3.5  (Read 140199 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

RobbyPants

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 7139
Balancing 3.5
« on: August 08, 2008, 03:21:20 PM »
First and foremost: this is a monumental task, and I don't plan on posting a complete fix, nor do I forsee this thread fully solving the issue.  This thread is more for me to bounce ideas off of all of you, as well as to get your feedback.

3.5 has some obvious balance issues.  Whether or not you agree with JaronK's tier system for classes, I think it's fairly well understood that there is little balance between all of the classes.  What I'd like to do is find ways to pull some of the more powerful classes down while boosting some of the weaker to help close the gap. 

D&D is a big game, and no fix will truely balance everything in all situations.  All I'm looking for is to bring them on a similar level, so the differences aren't so glaring.  Given JaronK's tier system, I'd eventually like them all to be around tier 3 to 4.

That being said, I'll post some of the things that come to mind for me.  If I think of more later, I'll add them.  Please critique this and add more ideas as you think of them.


Core Classes

Barbarian
Change lion totem to swap Improved Uncanny Dodge for Pounce at 5th level instead of Fast Movement at 1st.  This makes the ability and the class less cheap. 

Bard
No changes here yet either.

Cleric
These guys need to be reigned in a bit.  The biggest fixes I can think of would come from their spell list more than anything else. 

Another point I forgot to mention earlier is the whole Divine Metamagic issue.  As suggested by JaronK, I'd keep DMM from allowing you to apply a metamagic feat to something that would normally be beyond your ability to cast.  So you could only apply Persist Spell with DMM on a spell that's level is six lower than the highest spell you could cast.

I'm also changing how Turn Undead works (see the Spells post below)

Druid
Use the PHB2 variant that replaces Wild Shape and Animal Companion.  This simultaneously gets rid of making most stats dump stats and removes Natural Spell as an option.  Again, I could possibly give them a number of spells known to limit them more if it feels necessary, but I think fixing problematic spells would be a better fix.

Fighter
I like the fix posted by Midnight_V, so I'll put it here for now:

Add manuevers on the off levels is another easy fix + full initiator level.

Lets explore that as a quick fix.
Chose 2 schools. Gain 2 manuevers (one from each school) every odd level starting at 3rd.
You do not gain stances but you can take the martial study feat. No recovery method.
 Alternatively, you learn, from 1 school and at every level you learn all manuevers available at that school your initiator level is your fighter level -3 I think that works.
That and expanding the skills. So you still get the dipability and you're doing everything you should be doing

So... the fighter would be
Quote
The Fighter
1 Feat
2 Feat
3 1st level manuevers
4 Feat
5 2nd Level Manuevers
6 Feat
7 3rd Level Manuevers
8 Feat
9 4th level Manuevers
10 Feat.
11. Level 5 Manuevers
12 Feat
13 Level 6 Manuevers
14 Feat
15 Level 7 Manuevers
16 Feat
17 Level 8 Manuevers
18 Feat.
19 Level 9 Manuevers
20. Feat
Which is the most simple and obvious fix suggested by many when the Tob cam out.

Monk
No fixes yet, but I might think of something later.  For now, the best fix I can think of is to simply play an unarmed Sword Sage, and to leave the monk as-is for dipping purposes.

Paladin
  • Casting is Cha-based instead of Wis-based.
  • I'm changing how Turn Undead works (see the Spells post below).  It functions based on Paladin level, not paladin -3
  • When making opposed caster level checks (such as for Dispel Magic of Spell Resistance), use the Paladin level instead of caster level.
  • Lay on Hands is an immediate action.  It can heal Paladin level * Cha mod HP in one use.  The paladin has a "pool" to use equal to Paladin level * Cha mod * 3.

Ranger
Add in full animal companion progression as a PHB druid.  This was suggested by several posters, and I don't think it would break the ranger.  Specific animals could be banned or changed as needed.  I understand fleshrakers are quite potent, and worse with things like Venomfire (although I don't think Rangers get that).

Rogue
Allow the rogue to sneak attack creatures that are immune to crits, but for less damage.  Use half (round down) the number of extra damage dice.  So, a 9th level rogue who would normally get +5d6 Sneak Attack damage would get +2d6 agaisnt creatures immune to crits.

Sorcerer
While behind the wizard in power, I still think he's ahead of the curve and needs to be pulled back a bit.  I think the best thing to do is fix some problematic spells.  That being said, I'd actually like to give him something to make him more interesting.  The fix I've used in the past is to give a bonus feat at 1st level and every 5 levels.  At 1st level, the sorcerer either chooses to have a heritage or not.  If he chooses a heritage, he gets the appropriate heritage feat at 1st level, and picks other feats of the same heritage every 5th level.  If not, he gets Eschew Materials at 1st, and an item creation or metamagic feat every 5th.

Wizard
Again, I think the best fix for the wizard is to fix some of his spells.  I don't see any problems with the class itself, and if anything, the amount of downtime and money required to build your spell book is a good built in limitation.  So the only fixes I can think of are in the spell department here.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2008, 02:19:24 PM by RobbyPants »
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: ****
Quote from: claypigeons
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]

RobbyPants

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 7139
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2008, 03:21:33 PM »
Other Classes

Archivist
As much as I love this class, I'm not sure that removing prolematic arcane and divine spells is enough to help.  The sheer size of their spell list (all divine spells) makes them so versitile.  I'm wondering if that should be toned down in some way.  I don't necessarily want to limit them to just cleric spells, but it might need some other limitation.

Favored Soul
I think these can be pulled back a bit by fixing some problematic divine spells.

Hexblade
Make each hex available per encounter instead of per day.  They are swift actions.  As the Hexblade gains levels, he gains access to new hexes.  A single target can be effected by multiple hexes, but any like penalties will overlap, not stack.
  • Basic Hex (level 1): -2 penalty on attacks, saves, ability checks, skill checks, and weapon damage rolls.
  • Vulnerability Hex (level 4): -4 penalty on saves.
  • Debilitating Hex (level 6): -6 Str penalty.  Cannot lower Str below 1.
  • Bewildering Hex (level 8 ): Target is confused for one round per level.
  • Penetrating Hex (level 10): Target's Spell resistance is lowered by four points.  Note this is not a penalty, so multiple uses stack.
  • Clumsiness Hex (level 11): The target falls prone or drops all items carried (your choice.  Reflex save to negate instead of Will).  Each round on the target's turn, he must make a Reflex save or fall prone or drop all items carried (your choice).  Three successful saves in a row ends this hex.
  • Unlucky Hex (level 14): Target suffers a 20% miss chance on each attack made.  This is not concealment, so it is not thwarted by True Seeing or similar effects.
  • Draining Hex (level 18): Target takes one negative level (Fort save to negate instead of Will).
Ninja (CA)
Honestly, I'd just say, use a Sword Sage.  I see little reason for this class to exist as printed.

Psion
I'm not sure how to handle balance with this class.  A lot of the features built into psionics help keep it from being too crazy when compared to magic, but I'm not so sure what the psions true strengths are.  I get the feeling most balance here would come in the form of fixing any problematic powers.

Psychic Warrior
From my understanding, this is a fairly balanced class and needs little or no work.

Samurai (CW)
Oh God, where to start?  Use a warblade?  Seriously, I think I'd just dump the class entirely.

Soulknife
Drop the class and use a Soul Knife psionic power I created (see spells post below)

Swashbuckler
Until Daring Outlaw came out, this was a three level class.  Still, there's one change I'd make to it: remove the Dodge ability gained at every 5th level, and replace it with Canny Defense.  I'd allow them to add their Int mod to their AC if wearing light or no armor, and a buckler or no shield.  The bonus granted is capped at the Swashbuckler class level, to prevent dipping abuse.

Wilder
Compared to the Psion, this is quite weak.  I'd think a few extra powers known could go a long way to help it.  The psychic enervation sucks when it affects you.  I suppose you could look at it as punishment for gambling, but it's a steep price to pay for a few extra manifester levels.  Maybe it could be converted into something like wild magic (+1d6-3 to your manifester level each use).  I'm not too sure what to do here...
« Last Edit: August 21, 2008, 09:06:34 PM by RobbyPants »
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: ****
Quote from: claypigeons
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]

RobbyPants

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 7139
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2008, 03:21:54 PM »
Spells

Wish
The following effects can be cast with no XP cost:
  • Duplicate any wizard or sorcerer spell of 8th level or lower, provided the spell is not of a school prohibited to you.
  • Duplicate any other spell of 6th level or lower, provided the spell is not of a school prohibited to you.
  • Duplicate any wizard or sorcerer spell of 7th level or lower even if it’s of a prohibited school.
  • Duplicate any other spell of 5th level or lower even if it’s of a prohibited school.
  • Undo the harmful effects of many other spells, such as geas/quest or insanity.
  • Revive the dead. A wish can bring a dead creature back to life by duplicating a resurrection spell. A wish can revive a dead creature whose body has been destroyed, but the task takes two wishes, one to recreate the body and another to infuse the body with life again. A wish cannot prevent a character who was brought back to life from losing an experience level.
  • Transport travelers. A wish can lift one creature per caster level from anywhere on any plane and place those creatures anywhere else on any plane regardless of local conditions. An unwilling target gets a Will save to negate the effect, and spell resistance (if any) applies.
  • Undo misfortune. A wish can undo a single recent event. The wish forces a reroll of any roll made within the last round (including your last turn). Reality reshapes itself to accommodate the new result. For example, a wish could undo an opponent’s successful save, a foe’s successful critical hit (either the attack roll or the critical roll), a friend’s failed save, and so on. The reroll, however, may be as bad as or worse than the original roll. An unwilling target gets a Will save to negate the effect, and spell resistance (if any) applies.

When creating items, the XP cost is 1 per 5 gp value of the item created, with a minimum of 5,000 XP.  You can create an item of any value, so long as the XP cost would not cause you to lose a level.
  • Create a nonmagical item.
  • Create a magic item, or add to the powers of an existing magic item.

This costs 5000 XP to the target, not the caster:
  • Grant a creature a +1 inherent bonus to an ability score. Inherent bonuses stack, but note that an inherent bonus may not exceed +5 for a single ability score. If the target is unable to pay the 5000 xp (because he would lose a level, for example), the spell fails.

The abilities that remove afflictions, heal, and raise from the dead have been removed.


The three Planar Binding spells
It seems the biggest abuse of these spells is to summon something, and make it cast spells or use SLAs of a higher level than you could normally cast.  The "easy fix" I'm thinking of would be that you can only force a bound creature to use a spell or spell-like ability of a lower level than the level of the Planar Binding spell cast.  So if you use Planar Binding (6th level) to bind an efreeti, you could not force it to cast anything above 5th level in exchange for it's freedom (thus, no Wishes).  The creature could decide to use these types of spells to fullfil its service, but at its descresion.

The only thing is you could use Heighten Spell to boost it higher, so I may want to put in an exception for that.

Gate
The only use of this spell is now for the transport feature.  Use Planar Binding and Summon Monster for other summons.  Also, specific creatures can be called with gate, but they do not have to travel through.

Summon Monster/Nature's Ally
What are some of the worst abuses here?  I've never seen it pushed too far from personal experiene, so I don't know what needs to be controlled.

Polymorph
This one's a mess!  I'm not sure where to start with it.  One thing (suggested by Rich Burlew at GiantITP) is to not give the caster the new form's type.  Keep the type the same, and add a Polymoprhed subtype for the duration of the spell. 

When a new form gives the caster new physical ability scores, look at how much each score increases.  Cap the increase based on caster level.  I don't have an exact number in mind.  Perhaps no more than caster level or maybe one half caster level increase.  So a 7th level wizard casting Polymorph would be either limited to +7 or +3 per stat increase.  I still have to think this one through.

Natural armor should also be capped by caster level.  Perhaps +1 max for either every two or three caster levels.

Alter Self
Similar changes as to Polymorph, but perhaps with lower caps.

Shapechange
This one is so hard to control based on the sheer number of monsters out there with abilities not meant for PCs.  A few obvious fixes include fixing the balor's monster entry so the Vorpal sword isn't a supernatural ability (seriously, WTF?).  Still what about forms like the choker?  Is 3.0 Haste too powerful for a 9th level spell slot?

Wraithstrike
I love this spell, but there are way too many ways that it can be *too* good.  One nerf might be to limit it to the first attack you make that round.  That way, it's still a swift action to cast, you can still charge, or even full attack, but only the first attack benifits.  It also eliminates pouncing Wraithstrike charges.

Glitterdust
A failed Will save blinds the creatures for one round.  They are dazzled for the rest of the spell.

Color Spray
This works similar, but the effects are weakened a bit:
  • 2 HD or less Creature is stunned one round and blinded for 1d4+1 rounds.
  • 3 or 4 HD The creature is stunned for one round and blinded for two rounds.
  • 5 or more HD The creature is blinded for 1 round.
Grease
Get rid of the whole balance section.  When the spell is cast, anyone on it makes a Reflex save or falls prone.  If a creature moves through the grease or stands on it, it must make a Reflex save or it falls prone.  Otherwise, creatures can move across the grease at half speed.

Explosive Runes
If a target is affected by multiple runes at one time, he is only affected by one.  Perhaps, have the damage overlap (so he takes damage from the one that rolled the highest damage).

Divine Power
Get rid of modifying BAB.  Instead, grant a +2 Luck bonus to attack rolls.  Drop the Enhancement bonus from +6 to +4.  Gain temporary HP equal to caster level for the duration.  Add the spell to the Paladin list at level 4.  Getting rid of the BAB change sucks out about 90% of what made this spell so cool.


I also wanted to beef up some direct damage spells.  Here are a few that came to mind:

Melf's Acid Arrow
Increase the damage from 2d4 to 2d6.  Each time the target takes damage from the spell, it must make a Fortitude save of be sickened for one round.

Fireball
Targets that fail their Reflex save are started on fire (not much, but it's all I could think of).

Cone of Cold
All targets that fail the Reflex save take 1d6 Strength damage.  A Fortitude save halves this damage.

Burning Hands
Increase damage to 1d6 per level (this seems lame, and I might come up with something else).

Shocking Grasp
Increase damage to 1d8 per level (this seems lame, and I might come up with something else).



This list is far from complete.  If you have any additions or suggestions about what I posted, please let me know.


Psionic Powers

Mind Blade
Level: Psychic warrior 1
Display: Visual
Manifesting Time: 1 swift action
Range: Personal
Target: You
Duration: 1 hour/level
Power Points: 1 (A)

You create a semisolid blade composed of psychic energy.  The blade is identical in all ways (except visually) to a short sword of a size appropriate for its wielder. For instance, a Medium manifester materializes a Medium mind blade that he can wield as a light weapon, and the blade deals 1d6 points of damage (crit 19-20/×2). Manifesters who are smaller or larger than Medium create mind blades identical to short swords appropriate for their size.

A fifth level manifester can create a Mind Blade that functions like a longsword or bastard sword instead of a short sword.  He can shift the form as a full round action.

Augment:
  • The Mind Blade gains a +1 enhancement bonus on attack and damage rolls for an additional three power points and is treated as a magical weapon.  For every two additional power points spent thereafter, the Mind Blade gains either an additional +1 enhancement bonus or a magical ability worth a +1 bonus.  More powerful abilities can be purchased with enough power points (so a +2 ability can be purchased once four additional power points have been spent).  The Mind Blade cannot have an enhancement bonus greater than +1 for every four power points spent.  For example, if a Mind Blade is created with eight power points, the manifester can choose to create a +1 Mind Blade with two +1 abilities, a +1 Mind Blade with one +2 ability, or a +2 Mind Blade with a +1 ability
  • If two additional power points are spent, the manifester may throw his Mind Blade with a range increment of 10 feet.  The Mind Blade reappears in his hand at the end of his turn.
  • If six additional power points are spent, the manifester may throw his Mind Blade with a range increment of 10 feet.  A new Mind Blade reappears in his hand immediately.


Turn Undead
I wanted to make a slightly less clunky mechanic.  This is a slightly modified version Bier posted (possibly from Piazo?)

Turn Undead
You create a burst of positive energy centered on yourself with a thirty foot radius.  All undead creatures in the area take 1d6 points of damage per Cleric level.  All living creatures in the area are healed for half that amount.  You are not affected by your own turn attempts.

Undead creatures with Turn Resistance take less damage.  For each point of turn resistance, reduce the number of damage dice by one.  So if a ninth level Cleric (9d6 turn damage normally) would turn a vampire (turn resistance 4), he would roll 4d6 damage less, so he would only deal 5d6 damage to the vampire.

Bolster Undead (replace rebuke undead)
You create a burst of negative energy centered on yourself with a thirty foot radius.  All undead creatures in the area are healed 1d6 points of damage per Cleric level.  All living creatures in the area take damage equal to half that amount.  Living creatures may make a Will save for half damage (DC 10 + 1/2 Cleric level + Cha mod).  You are not affected by your own bolster attempts.

Improved Turn Undead
Prerequisite: Ability to turn undead
Benifit: When you turn undead, all undead creatures in the area must make a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 Cleric level + Cha mod) or be paralized for a number of rounds equal to half your Cleric level plus your Cha mod.  This ability bypasses an undead creature's normal immunity to paralysis.

Rebuke Undead
Prerequisite: Ability to bolster undead
Benifit: When you bolster undead, all undead creatures in the area must make a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 Cleric level + Cha mod) or risk falling under your control.  If your Cleric level is at least double the undead creature's hit dice and it fails its Will save, it is under your mental control.  You may control any number of undead creature's whose total hit dice does not exceed your Cleric level.

« Last Edit: August 22, 2008, 02:20:12 PM by RobbyPants »
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: ****
Quote from: claypigeons
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]

RobbyPants

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 7139
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2008, 03:22:10 PM »
Races

I think these two are the worst offenders in terms of core races.  Basically, no one every plays a half elf or half orc unless it matches their character concept, or it's a core-only game and they really want +2 Str.

Half Elf
The easiest fix I can think of is to keep them as-is, and to add in the human's skill bonus.  Give them +4 skill points at 1st level, and +1 each level thereafter.

Half Orc
Personally, I hate how much WotC throws around the -2 Cha penalty for "non-pretty" races.  I don't think it makes sense, and I don't think +2 Str needs to be balanced by a penalty to two mental stats.  I'd remove the -2 Cha (leaving it at +2 Str, -2 Int), and throw in a +2 racial bonus on Intimidate.  If you feel this still isn't enough, you could throw in weapon familiarity for the orcish double axe and orcish shotput *.

* Note, I reduce the orchish shotput's crit to 20/x3 in my games too.


Hobgoblin
I don't think the hobgoblin should be LA +1, so here's a LA +0 version I use:

  • +2 Dex, -2 Wis
  • Medium size
  • Base speed 30 feet
  • 60 foot darkvision
  • Toughness as a bonus feat
  • +2 racial bonus on Knowldge(History) checks
  • +2 racial bonus on Profession(Siege Engineer) checks
  • +1 racial bonus to attack roles against elves
  • Automatic Languages: Common, Goblin. Bonus Languages: Draconic, Dwarven, Infernal, Giant, Orc
  • Favored Class: Fighter (or warblade if using ToB)


I think Toughness is a good way to replicate the old +2 Con bonus without giving them another stat boost.  I added -2 Wis to both balance and refelct their arrogance.  The +2 on skills was meant more for flavor than anything else.  The knowledge is to reflect knowledge of warfare.


Kobold
I like these guys, but the -2 Con is a real downer.  I'd simply remove it, and use them as-is otherwise.  Do note that I don't use any of the dragon books in my games, so I've never had any of the wonderful tricks aviliable.  If you're using those books in your games, then it becomes a different issue.

« Last Edit: August 08, 2008, 03:40:23 PM by RobbyPants »
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: ****
Quote from: claypigeons
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]

Stratovarius

  • Hong Kong
  • ****
  • Posts: 1215
  • Player Resource Consortium
    • Player Resource Consortium
    • Email
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2008, 03:31:14 PM »
In general, any class with 9th level spellcasting (barring something like a Healer or a Warmage) is going to be well ahead of most others. This is especially apparent for those that have been hit by the splatbooks swarming (the PHB casters). I'm not sure what needs to be done with regards to that, but for the cleric, I've been mucking around with this idea as a way of limiting his spell choices.
Arhosa Campaign World - Always Recruiting
Past, Present, and Future
Osteomancy - Rune Magic - Astral Magic
Class and Rule Collection
Player Resource Consortium
That is not dead which can eternal lie
And with strange aeons even death may die

DaveoftheRave

  • Barbary Macaque at the Rock of Gibraltar
  • ***
  • Posts: 167
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2008, 03:55:15 PM »
I think what you need to do is define where the game is unbalanced.

As far as my own games go, it tends to get that way as you go into the very high levels, 16+.  After 11+ you start to see it but its fair play since the wizards need to shine at some point.  For us thats fine since the majority of our games exist in the 5-11 range.

Really, 5th level is maximum human potential...after that even the martial classes start becoming magical.  After 10th level I think the martial classes should start getting magical abilities that show that they're becoming demi-gods.

I say it is important to pick where and for what games you want to rebalance b/c it is most people's opinions that martial classes should be given every boost imaginable to catch up to casters.  They simply don't need it all the time and they should still be balanced against each other and with the system.

So while I think the sorcerer needs to be rebalanced with the wizard from the start, I don't think a level 1 fighter needs to get boosted against a level 1 wizard.

Personally for instance I don't allow lion totem in my games, it is too good for what it does.  Flavourwise it doesn't make sense either, b/c those barbarians would all be high and above all the rest.

Runestar

  • King Kong
  • ****
  • Posts: 820
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2008, 04:06:53 PM »
I think a lot of the crummy LA+1 races like planetouched and genasi can be balanced by having them forgo their 1st lv feat, which should be enough to lower their LA to +0. This might work for other weak LA+1 races as well, such as hobgoblins. LA buyoff can work, but you risk allowing players to subsidize powerful races such as goliaths as well.

You could use the cloistered cleric variant in UA, for a more "priestly" feel.

Non-core classes? Good lord, I don't even know where to start...can the samurai even be salvaged? :P
A clear conscience is the surest sign of a failing memory.

RobbyPants

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 7139
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2008, 04:11:40 PM »
I think what you need to do is define where the game is unbalanced.
You do make a good point here.  I loosely defined it earlier, by wanting to make them all about tier 3 or 4.

As far as my own games go, it tends to get that way as you go into the very high levels, 16+.  After 11+ you start to see it but its fair play since the wizards need to shine at some point.  For us thats fine since the majority of our games exist in the 5-11 range.
As I mentioned earlier, I think a lot of this can be fixed by nerfing, or possibly removing problematic spells.  I prefer the former option when possible.

Really, 5th level is maximum human potential...after that even the martial classes start becoming magical.  After 10th level I think the martial classes should start getting magical abilities that show that they're becoming demi-gods.
Well, I think ToB handles this a bit.  As the martial adepts gain levels, they get access to better maneuvers.

I say it is important to pick where and for what games you want to rebalance b/c it is most people's opinions that martial classes should be given every boost imaginable to catch up to casters.  They simply don't need it all the time and they should still be balanced against each other and with the system.
Well, I'd like to see it as balanced as I can do levels 1 to 20.  I understand that it's impossible to fully balance everything, as the game is so vast.  Plus given any particular situation, one class will shine over another.

So while I think the sorcerer needs to be rebalanced with the wizard from the start, I don't think a level 1 fighter needs to get boosted against a level 1 wizard.
I agree that a 1st level fighter isn't bad.  I just don't think he's as good after a couple levels.  This is why I suggest just leaving them for dipping, and use the warblade instead.

Personally for instance I don't allow lion totem in my games, it is too good for what it does.  Flavourwise it doesn't make sense either, b/c those barbarians would all be high and above all the rest.
Yeah, pounce is big.  Perhaps a better balancing factor would be to move it back to around 4th or 6th level, so you have to invest in the class to actually get it.  There are other ways to get pounce, so I'm not against PCs having it, but that one-level-dip is a no brainer for any melee character.  Everyone does it, it's that good.
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: ****
Quote from: claypigeons
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]

RobbyPants

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 7139
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2008, 04:15:24 PM »
I think a lot of the crummy LA+1 races like planetouched and genasi can be balanced by having them forgo their 1st lv feat, which should be enough to lower their LA to +0. This might work for other weak LA+1 races as well, such as hobgoblins. LA buyoff can work, but you risk allowing players to subsidize powerful races such as goliaths as well.
Yeah, I haven't attempted to redo the planetouched races.  I've seen the lesser versions that remove the outsider type, and that's certainly an option.  I fully feel these ones are good for the buyback option, but like you mentioned, other LA +1 races would benifit more.  For now I'd probably use the lesser versions for the fix.

You could use the cloistered cleric variant in UA, for a more "priestly" feel.
I like that class, but I don't know if I want it to be the standard cleric.

Non-core classes? Good lord, I don't even know where to start...can the samurai even be salvaged? :P
Warblade. :P

In all seriousness, I don't know how many of them I want to attempt.  I'll add some as I get around to it.  I prefer fairly small fixes, as they're the easiest to implement.  I try to avoid entire class re-writes.
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: ****
Quote from: claypigeons
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]

Ubernoob

  • Man in Gorilla Suit
  • *****
  • Posts: 2217
  • Happy Panda
    • Email
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2008, 08:45:30 PM »
If you want an easy solution than you could just use The Tome.  Look at how big that is.  Frank and K viewed that as a patch rather than a true balancing.  If you want true balance you'll either have to write your own game from scratch or do more than the 300 pages of reading there (which is like writing your own edition, but more work).
Ubernoob is a happy panda.

JaronK

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 4039
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2008, 08:51:52 PM »
My thoughts on the core classes:

Barbarian:  I think giving them pounce is a good thing (it gives them something that's otherwise hard to get) but it shouldn't be at level 1.  Remove Lion Totem from existance, but give them pounce at level 6 or so (maybe higher, not sure).  Otherwise, these guys are pretty straight forward and pretty good.

Bard:  A decent class.  Doesn't work well for some, works great for others... so it's fine.  Totally agree.

Cleric:  One Nightstick isn't enough, as there are plenty of other ways to get more turn attempts (charisma, reliquary holy symbols, etc).  I pulled off 4 persisted spells easily with just one Nightstick.  In the end, DMM needs to be restricted so that it can only allow you to cast spells of a level you could have cast anyway... so no Persistant Divine Favor until you could cast 9th level spells anyhow.  And of course their spell list needs to be gone after with a hacksaw... that's really the main issue.

Druid:  Again, hacksaw to the spell list.  Also, Shapeshift really is a big improvement over Wild Shape.  So yeah, I agree with you here.

Fighter:  While I agree that Warblade covers a lot of Fighter ground quite well, there are still things you can do with Fighters that don't work with Warblades (archers being a big one... it's doable with Warblade, but it just isn't the same).  One option is of course to ditch Fighters and replace them in core with Warblades and Crusaders, but that still leaves the archer thing.  There's lot of Fighter fixes on the boards though that you could look at.  One option I like for a Fighter fix is to give them the following:

4+Int Skills
Add Knowledge (History), Spot, Listen, and Sense Motive to their class list.
Gain the Warblade's Aptitude ability at level 1.
At level 5, 10, 15, and 20, gain a floating feat like the Chameleon feat, but it can only come from the Fighter feat list, and cannot be used as a prerequisite for anything else except other floating Fighter feats (meaning a 20th level Fighter could suddenly become a charger by simply choosing Power Attack, Improved Bull Rush, Shock Trooper, and Leap Attack, and then later decide he needs to be more flexible and take Martial Study 3 times and Martial Stance once to pull off some nice Martial Adept tricks).
All good saves

That right there would make them what they're supposed to be: tough and flexible warriors who are capable on the battlefield.

Monk:  I have to agree here.  The Monk class as it is could be nearly replaced wholesale with the Unarmed Varient Swordsage, but you're right... some builds are really nice with a few levels of Monk.

Paladin:  You're absolutely right that the Crusader just does this better.

Ranger:  I agree, he's okay, though one thing worth doing is to give him a Druid's animal companion.  He can use it.  Also, the Wild Shape varient ranger makes a decent shapechanger character without all the casting of Druids, making it fill a niche that otherwise isn't there... and it's not overpowered as long as the Master of Many Forms stuff stays home.

Rogue:  Needs sneak attack to land more reliably or something.  Not sure really how to make it work.  As it stands, he's just got too many problems in high level play, though he's fine at lower levels.  Still, they're not that bad off... it's the sneak attack thing that's the biggest issue.  Some of the varients out there help.

Sorcerer:  I honestly feel this should just be replaced with the Beguiler, Dread Necromancer, and Warmage.  If you use the power spells (which tend to be really flexible) then he's overpowered.  Remove them, and suddenly he's really inflexible and boring.  Those three spontaneous classes do his concept better for the most part, though sadly that means you can't have someone that spontaneously casts really different spells.  I dunno, hard to fix.

Wizard:  Hit that spell list with a nuke, it's the only way!

One class you didn't mention:  CW Samurai.  It's got potencial, really, especially with those fear abilities that you can combine with Imperious Command, but as it stands the lack of synergy really kills it.  A simple fix: remove the TWF abilities entirely, and replace Ancestral Daisho with the UA Samurai ability, but allow the player to chose any two weapons (or any one double weapon).  Then, give them the following:

Level 1:  Gain Weapon Focus with your Daisho weapon(s)
Level 4:  Gain Weapon Specialization with your Daisho weapon(s)
Level 8:  Gain Greater Weapon Focus with your Daisho weapon(s)
Level 12:  Gain Greater Weapon Specialization with your Daisho weapon(s)
Level 16:  Gain Melee Weapon Mastery, but it only applies to your Daisho weapon(s)
Level 20:  Gain Weapon Supremacy with your Diasho weapon(s)

And add Iajuitsu Focus to their skill list.  Suddenly, they make a great weapon master class.

JaronK

Bier

  • Barbary Macaque at the Rock of Gibraltar
  • ***
  • Posts: 135
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2008, 10:15:26 PM »
Rebalancing has to look at several things.

First, you have to make the classes equal in power.  Raw, sheer power.

Second, you have to make them equal in either versatility, or area of specialization.

Third, you have to insure that one class cannot intrude on the core competency of another class.

Fourth, you have to take a look at classes that are designed to be weaker then a PC class, and build UP from there.  Example: Commoners should not have a better skill list then warriors, who should not have a better one then Fighters.

Fifth, PrC's should never, ever overshadow the Core Classes.  At the most, they should provide options that the Core Classes do not get.

Sixth, if there is a broken mechanic/combo/method, it must be identified and immediately brought back into balance, regardless of the cost/whining/pain involved.

Seventh, assumptions on all of the above have to be considered at all levels of play, not just at level 20.  Strongest cases of balance should be centered around lower levels, not higher ones.

Eighth, Epic is utterly and totally optional.

Ninth, you have to stick with Core on most base assumptions, but there will be NO additional errata/rule fixin's/Sage commentary forthcoming now and ever.  So you need to establish a baseline and stick hard to it.  I.e. you have to set your own new 'core' for this to work.  DM's are already able to House Rule stuff...well, you're now making House Rules 'official'.  Stick to your guns and do it.

Tenth, be aware of the gross flaws in the system, and be prepared to address them.  Fixed DC's in the skill system, unlimited phsyical buffs that overshadow BAB/Fighting skill, spells that are too versatile/powerful, and so forth.

Eleventh, Gear is an essential part of the game.  Discounting it is irrelevant, and it must be figured into the balance equation.

Twelve, 4E does give some guidelines on some of the big problems that 3.5E has/faces, and while a VERY different game play wise, fixes some severely glaring options.  Don't discount it because it's not the Edition we know and love...use the fact they point out problems and cannibalize off the experiences of the designers there to do what they should have done for 4E.

Thirteen, don't be limited by past perceptions.  For instance, the idea that feats should be less powerful then class features.  This has been slowly getting less and less true, to the point now that they are giving out fairly powerful 'class features' to Fighters in exchange for their bonus feats. 

Fourteen, keep a very, very wary eye on caster levels and spell lists.  Control of both is essential for balance.  This especially applies to PrC balance, and Rule 5.  If, for instance, an arcane spellcasting PrC grants more then 2 abilities over 10 levels, it is now exceeding the Wizard's allotment, and most certainly the Sorceror.  It should accordingly start reducing the caster level of those who take the class.  BAB should follow this same rule for any melee oriented PrC.

Fifteen, benefits from Dip levels should improve dramatically in the Core class, and be fairly small/marginally useful if you just Dip. there should be no classes that are just 'dip' classes.

Sixteen, splatbooks balance is always off kilter, because no one has the werewithal to design something that someone else two years later comes up with something newer that stacks/combines and Really Ruins The Day.  Therefore, emphasize splatbook good and bads if you are going to cover them, and don't let them be 'canon' unless they truly are balanced.

Seventeen, there should be an unspoken BENEFIT for not relying on magic, or a penalty for likewise.  In the current game, Core, wizards and sorcs have a d4 HD because of complete reliance on spells.  Clerics, who likewise have access to a mighty spell list and full casting, get a d8, AND better BAB and armor.  This is clearly not balanced.

Eighteen, Level ONe is IMPORTANT.  There should be value placed on what exactly is learned on taking your first level, and in what class you do it in.  This places weight on core starting benefits.  For instance, the Rogue has it built in via his skill points...no 8x skill points at first level.  However, there's also weapon and armor proficiencies that should be weighed.  Wizards and Sorcs get a free familiar and lots of spells. Make it important to pick your starting class, forcing someone to replace with precious feats or otherwise if they start with a 'dip', or try to pick up essential feats/proficiencies via dipping.  This rapidly raises the importance of core things like armor and weapon skills.

Nineteen, Races should be balanced, and cultural skills/abilities clearly seperated out from class skills/abilities to facilitate this.  Some abilities are better then others, and should be factored into the equation.  Example: Darkvision is better then low light vision in most circumstances.   Being able to treat X weapons as martial weapons instead of Exotics should only be permissible at level 1.  Weapons gained proficiency with at start for a race should not be 'upgraded' to better status by taking levels in a class (ie Elves knowing the bow should not mean they have martial weapon proficiency).  Etc.

Das Bier!
« Last Edit: August 08, 2008, 10:39:09 PM by Bier »

RobbyPants

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 7139
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2008, 10:29:19 PM »
If you want an easy solution than you could just use The Tome.  Look at how big that is.  Frank and K viewed that as a patch rather than a true balancing.  If you want true balance you'll either have to write your own game from scratch or do more than the 300 pages of reading there (which is like writing your own edition, but more work).
Well, I'm not looking for perfect 100% balance.  I don't know that anyone could ever hope to do that.  I just want to bridge the gap enough to make the game a bit more sane.  I always feel a bit dirty when a player and I need to come to some agreement not to use ability X because it's too powerful.

Barbarian:  I think giving them pounce is a good thing (it gives them something that's otherwise hard to get) but it shouldn't be at level 1.  Remove Lion Totem from existance, but give them pounce at level 6 or so (maybe higher, not sure).  Otherwise, these guys are pretty straight forward and pretty good.
Yeah, I was thinking something similar.  I think somewhere around level four to six.  I'm not sure what ability I want the ACF to replace.  Improved Uncanny Dodge at 5th?  Damage Reduction at 7th?  Still, it keeps it from being a simple dip then.

One class you didn't mention:  CW Samurai.  It's got potencial, really, especially with those fear abilities that you can combine with Imperious Command, but as it stands the lack of synergy really kills it.  A simple fix: remove the TWF abilities entirely, and replace Ancestral Daisho with the UA Samurai ability, but allow the player to chose any two weapons (or any one double weapon).  Then, give them the following:

Level 1:  Gain Weapon Focus with your Daisho weapon(s)
Level 4:  Gain Weapon Specialization with your Daisho weapon(s)
Level 8:  Gain Greater Weapon Focus with your Daisho weapon(s)
Level 12:  Gain Greater Weapon Specialization with your Daisho weapon(s)
Level 16:  Gain Melee Weapon Mastery, but it only applies to your Daisho weapon(s)
Level 20:  Gain Weapon Supremacy with your Diasho weapon(s)

And add Iajuitsu Focus to their skill list.  Suddenly, they make a great weapon master class.
Actually, I did include the CW samurai, but it was in the next post.  I have the first four posts of this thread resreved for various parts I want to work on.  Still, as much as I like the samurai archtype, I'm not sure it needs to be a class, but rather a title.  I think other classes could do the job just fine, depending on the specific character you have in mind.

Also, you mentioned spell lists.  That was the biggest fix I had for the casters.  Still, I've only highlighted a few of the worst offenders, and I haven't really come up with good solutions.  I guess I want to avoid simply removing spells, but maybe that's what has to be done on some of them.  Do you have any fixes for problem spells you've used in the past?
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: ****
Quote from: claypigeons
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]

Ubernoob

  • Man in Gorilla Suit
  • *****
  • Posts: 2217
  • Happy Panda
    • Email
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2008, 11:30:12 PM »
If you want an easy solution than you could just use The Tome.  Look at how big that is.  Frank and K viewed that as a patch rather than a true balancing.  If you want true balance you'll either have to write your own game from scratch or do more than the 300 pages of reading there (which is like writing your own edition, but more work).
Well, I'm not looking for perfect 100% balance.  I don't know that anyone could ever hope to do that.  I just want to bridge the gap enough to make the game a bit more sane.  I always feel a bit dirty when a player and I need to come to some agreement not to use ability X because it's too powerful.
That's what The Tomes did.  It's a lot of work.  I suggest reading them anyway to see why some parts of the game don't work.
Ubernoob is a happy panda.

Bier

  • Barbary Macaque at the Rock of Gibraltar
  • ***
  • Posts: 135
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2008, 11:32:42 PM »
Melee and Melee classes

First step, look forwards and backwards.

Forwards:  Many call the Warblade a Fighter Fix, so we'll use it as a reference point.  4E upgraded the status of melees many ways by making their combat ability exclusive.

The Warblade presents a footman idealized core chassis of HD, skill points, skills and proficiencies, leaving off only missile weapons, heavy armor, and Ride.  Over its 20 levels, it gets roughly 40 class abilities.  The Manuver system is widely touted as superior to the bonus feats and feats in general the Fighter gets.

4E:  The Melee classes have fairly exclusive access to armor, which has been upgraded; Exclusive access to Martial Weapons, the best ones to use; Exclusive access to shield profs; better hit points again; upgraded save mechanics.

Backwards:  1E and 2E definitely catered to Fighters/Melee.  No max dex on armor, better hit points, the best BAB, the best overall saves, the only class with multiple attacks, the only class with the ability to get TH/Dmg boosts by level.  The Fighter was the Base Class; Rangers, Paladins and Barbarians were basically variants of the Fighter.

Problems with Melee builds in 3.5
:   Stats replace attack skill, due to being uncapped and accessible to Casters.
"Glass Jaw": Lousy Reflex and Will saves.  A complete downgrade from 1/2E.
Lack of hit point supremacy: WIth uncapped Con, casters just up con score to rival Melee for HP.
Loss of Attack Supremacy: With other classes getting multiple attacks, and Str buffs more important then skill buffs, Melee lost its edge in its core skill.
Unskilled: For classes that didn't rely on magic, Fighters especially had horrible skills and skill lists.
Flexible Tissue Paper: Feats were undervalued, underpowered, and did not scale.  Who cares if you get 11 bonus feats, if they aren't worth taking?
Core Profs valueless:  The ease of picking up armor, shield and weapon profs made these assets valueless.
'Dip' class:  Giving away a key benefit at initial levels with little payoff at later ones made the Fighter a joke.
PrC's: PrC's rapidly began giving away more things per level then Fighters, with all a Fighter's benefits on top, and were never balanced against what Fighters give.

Melee Solutions

1) Remove physical buffs from the system that exceed those accessible by Melee via items.  Thus, no cast spell should ever exceed a +6 buff that you can get from an Item, or, if you truly must, the +8 bonus accessible from Barbarian Rage at level 20 (9th level spell)  Note the fact that you can't get mental buffs in the current system that exceed those generated by items...this brings class parity.

This includes all forms of those buffs, from shapechanging to size changing to templates (which have a bad habit of raising Str to conveniently cover loss of BAB).

2) Place value on Full BAB.  Remove all buffs that emulate BAB.  Make buffs that grant bonuses th/dmg party wide instead of personal so that Melee keep their combat edge over all classes.

3)  All Melee should be Fighter and subclasses, and balanced around that paradigm.  By using the Warblade as a baseline, that means most Melee should have 4 skill points a level, a decent skill list, a class ability every level, and something scaling/improved at every level in addition.  The Warblade gets around 40 feats in class abilities, so all melee should get the same.

4) Saves should be improved.  Not relying on magic should have rewards, and better saves should be among them.  Go back to all good or at least two good saves for the Fighters and Melees, especially the non-casters.

5)  Combat feats should have onerous requirements that Melees either naturally fall into, or can just ignore.  feats should scale or be improvable by level, much like the manuver system (for both arguments).

6) Any form of spellcasting should come with a requisite penalty in BAB and HD.  Armor should be rebalanced so that it is actually GOOD to wear heavy armor over light armor (Armor+Max Dex should be higher with higher armor forms).  The Mithral armor debate should be resolved in favor of having the higher armor prof to get the benefits.  There should be real penalties for not having armor/shield profs.

7) Pounce should either be available to all Melee classes, or none of them.  It's such an essential ability and key to Melee skill it should not ever be ignored.

8) Feats should not be available by spell or magic item, and neither of the latter should replace them for reqs for feats and PrC's.

9) The First level in Fighter should include a Core Feat which sums up the build, and give benefits which scale over Fighter levels, much like a Barbarian's Rage.  If not taken at level 1, this feat is just another bonus feat, or is lost entirely.

10) Most Melee abilities should be statted out as feats and feat trees.  The barbarian is a good example of this.  The Barbarian, if statted as a Core Class Fighter, should get the d12 HD for sticking to the 'feat build' as a bonus.  Other Melee builds should start with d10.  You should be able to draw very clear lines of reference from the Fighter to other Melee classes for purposes of balance.

11) the Ranger and Paladin, with minor spell/magic access, start with d8's, but keep full BAB.  The Paladin save bonus, instead of being Cha based and thus dippable, should scale over Paladin levels.  Melee-esque classes like the Psy Warrior and Duskblade not only get d8's, but 3/4 BAB to reflect their reliance on magic instead of pure melee combat training.

12) The Manuver system is fine, but no-magic Melees should have much easier access to it, with full IL, and few restrictions on what they can take.

13)  Since magic items should not replace profs and feats, and armor and shield profs should have real weight, Shield AC should be rare and hard to come by.  No animated shields or Improved Buckler Defense.  Wielding a Shield should have a very tangible, hard to replace benefit.

14)  Criticals should be restricted to base weapon damage only.  Using a weapon two handed, additional damage should be reflected in the base dmg of the weapon, not an increase in the Strength bonus for the weapon (or Power Attack).  All other forms of damage should be added on afterwards, not before, to thwart massive multiplying of damage and infinitely repeatable one shot kills (this, btw, is how the manuver system works for damage, and should simply be applied to all damage.)

15) The importance of Reach needs to be de-emphasized so that other melee combat forms are viable then Reach weapons.  The 4e Solution of only threatening your 5' square, regardless of weapon, is an excellent option here, as much of the power of Reach weaponry is how it triggers AoO's.

Das Bier!

JaronK

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 4039
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #15 on: August 09, 2008, 12:17:49 AM »
First, you have to make the classes equal in power.  Raw, sheer power.

Not exactly.  Power can be expressed in different ways, and cannot be made equal.  It can, however, be made similar.  No one class should be clearly more powerful than another.

Quote
Second, you have to make them equal in either versatility, or area of specialization.

Sure.

Quote
Third, you have to insure that one class cannot intrude on the core competency of another class.

No.  Having multiple classes that can do the same sort of thing is a good thing, not a bad thing.  If I want to play a tanky defender, I shouldn't be stuck with Crusader... maybe I don't like the randomness, or maybe it just doesn't fit how I want to play.  The fact that I could chose to be a Warhulk or Warblade and still have that nice tanky feel is a good thing.

The only problem arises when one class can do everything another class can do and more... but that's back to the power thing.

Quote
Fourth, you have to take a look at classes that are designed to be weaker then a PC class, and build UP from there.  Example: Commoners should not have a better skill list then warriors, who should not have a better one then Fighters.

Why shouldn't Commoners have a better list than Warriors?  If Warriors are purely martial, but Commoners are peasants, then why shouldn't Commoners be better at digging ditches and training animals and farming?

Quote
Fifth, PrC's should never, ever overshadow the Core Classes.  At the most, they should provide options that the Core Classes do not get.

Well, PrCs are about specificity, so they should overshadow base classes in their specific areas.  A Shadowcraft Mage should be better with illusions than a basic illusionist.  They just shouldn't be completely dominant or overpowering.

Quote
Sixth, if there is a broken mechanic/combo/method, it must be identified and immediately brought back into balance, regardless of the cost/whining/pain involved.

Heh, of course.

Quote
Seventh, assumptions on all of the above have to be considered at all levels of play, not just at level 20.  Strongest cases of balance should be centered around lower levels, not higher ones.

Midlevels, I'd say.  Most games seem to be in the 5-15 range, with the second most being in 1-5 and the least being 16-20.

Quote
Eighth, Epic is utterly and totally optional.

Yeah, it comes up so rarely that it's less of an issue.

Quote
Ninth, you have to stick with Core on most base assumptions, but there will be NO additional errata/rule fixin's/Sage commentary forthcoming now and ever.  So you need to establish a baseline and stick hard to it.  I.e. you have to set your own new 'core' for this to work.  DM's are already able to House Rule stuff...well, you're now making House Rules 'official'.  Stick to your guns and do it.

Why core?  Core is the least balanced area of the rules... why stick with that when better options (ToB, Binders, Beguilers, etc) are out there to use?

Quote
Tenth, be aware of the gross flaws in the system, and be prepared to address them.  Fixed DC's in the skill system, unlimited phsyical buffs that overshadow BAB/Fighting skill, spells that are too versatile/powerful, and so forth.

It's hard to know them all, but yeah, that's important.

Quote
Eleventh, Gear is an essential part of the game.  Discounting it is irrelevant, and it must be figured into the balance equation.

Gear is tough, as so many people use it in so many different ways.

Quote
Sixteen, splatbooks balance is always off kilter, because no one has the werewithal to design something that someone else two years later comes up with something newer that stacks/combines and Really Ruins The Day.  Therefore, emphasize splatbook good and bads if you are going to cover them, and don't let them be 'canon' unless they truly are balanced.

Splatbooks are more balanced, not less.  Splatbooks are written with knowledge gained from the mistakes of core... the Warblade vs Fighter comparison is perfect for seeing this.  Core released a small number of classes, and three of those were totally broken in power.  In all splats since then, only two classes are at that level.  Now, splatbooks do sometimes have odd interactions due to the writer not knowing about another splat (the Crusader endless damage thing is one good example), but that's rare and usually very easy to spot in play.

Quote
Seventeen, there should be an unspoken BENEFIT for not relying on magic, or a penalty for likewise.  In the current game, Core, wizards and sorcs have a d4 HD because of complete reliance on spells.  Clerics, who likewise have access to a mighty spell list and full casting, get a d8, AND better BAB and armor.  This is clearly not balanced.

I'm not seeing why that's unbalanced.  I've never cared about the HD, BAB, or Armour of a Cleric.  That just doesn't come into the equation.  Clerics do have weaker spells than Wizards (most of the time... that can be tweaked if you know what you're doing) but seriously, that's like comparing two nations full of nuclear weapons and, without counting their delivery systems or megatonnage or gross weapon numbers, noting that country B has twenty guys with swords and a tank over country A and is thus stronger.

JaronK

Bier

  • Barbary Macaque at the Rock of Gibraltar
  • ***
  • Posts: 135
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #16 on: August 09, 2008, 02:06:56 AM »
First, you have to make the classes equal in power.  Raw, sheer power.

Not exactly.  Power can be expressed in different ways, and cannot be made equal.  It can, however, be made similar.  No one class should be clearly more powerful than another.

Relativity is everything.

Quote
Second, you have to make them equal in either versatility, or area of specialization.

Sure.

Quote
Third, you have to insure that one class cannot intrude on the core competency of another class.

No.  Having multiple classes that can do the same sort of thing is a good thing, not a bad thing.  If I want to play a tanky defender, I shouldn't be stuck with Crusader... maybe I don't like the randomness, or maybe it just doesn't fit how I want to play.  The fact that I could chose to be a Warhulk or Warblade and still have that nice tanky feel is a good thing.

Core competency is expressed many different ways.  Having 4 melee classes is competency in core melee.  The skill monkey, the support man and the powercaster should not be able to intrude on that competency.  Likewise, Support Man (druid/cleric) should not be able to hang as a skill guy or powercaster compared to those other classes.  If he can sub for them seamlessly, we have a power problem in addition to a versatility and (lack of?) specialization problem.

The only problem arises when one class can do everything another class can do and more... but that's back to the power thing.

Quote
Fourth, you have to take a look at classes that are designed to be weaker then a PC class, and build UP from there.  Example: Commoners should not have a better skill list then warriors, who should not have a better one then Fighters.

Why shouldn't Commoners have a better list than Warriors?  If Warriors are purely martial, but Commoners are peasants, then why shouldn't Commoners be better at digging ditches and training animals and farming?

Mostly because Commoners' skill list has Spot and Listen, which aren't essential for digging ditches, farming, and training animals.  Those are vital skills for fighting people.

Quote
Fifth, PrC's should never, ever overshadow the Core Classes.  At the most, they should provide options that the Core Classes do not get.

Well, PrCs are about specificity, so they should overshadow base classes in their specific areas.  A Shadowcraft Mage should be better with illusions than a basic illusionist.  They just shouldn't be completely dominant or overpowering.

So a PrC spec illusionist should be better at illusions then a specialized illusionist? That makes no sense whatsoever.  He should be comparable in power, but unless he gives up something, he should hardly be stronger in their shared specialty...just different.  It should boil down in this case to flavor, as opposed to Crunch.

Quote
Sixth, if there is a broken mechanic/combo/method, it must be identified and immediately brought back into balance, regardless of the cost/whining/pain involved.

Heh, of course.

Quote
Seventh, assumptions on all of the above have to be considered at all levels of play, not just at level 20.  Strongest cases of balance should be centered around lower levels, not higher ones.

Midlevels, I'd say.  Most games seem to be in the 5-15 range, with the second most being in 1-5 and the least being 16-20.

I'm thinking 1-10, but whatever works.

Quote
Eighth, Epic is utterly and totally optional.

Yeah, it comes up so rarely that it's less of an issue.

I only see it as an issue for Skill mechanics, and deciding what is NOT includable in the 1-20 game, really.

Quote
Ninth, you have to stick with Core on most base assumptions, but there will be NO additional errata/rule fixin's/Sage commentary forthcoming now and ever.  So you need to establish a baseline and stick hard to it.  I.e. you have to set your own new 'core' for this to work.  DM's are already able to House Rule stuff...well, you're now making House Rules 'official'.  Stick to your guns and do it.

Why core?  Core is the least balanced area of the rules... why stick with that when better options (ToB, Binders, Beguilers, etc) are out there to use?

Most base assumptions.  All the base assumptions come out of the core rules.  PrC's and additional classes are not base assumptions.  I'm talking the normal rules of play, not additional material that works off such rules.

Quote
Tenth, be aware of the gross flaws in the system, and be prepared to address them.  Fixed DC's in the skill system, unlimited phsyical buffs that overshadow BAB/Fighting skill, spells that are too versatile/powerful, and so forth.

It's hard to know them all, but yeah, that's important.

First things first...get rid of the most broken stuff, and the balancing gets a lot easier.  And the most abused stuff is fairly well known, thankfully.

Quote
Eleventh, Gear is an essential part of the game.  Discounting it is irrelevant, and it must be figured into the balance equation.

Gear is tough, as so many people use it in so many different ways.

Seen too many arguments discounting it.  It's part of the game...deal with it, is my motto.

Quote
Sixteen, splatbooks balance is always off kilter, because no one has the werewithal to design something that someone else two years later comes up with something newer that stacks/combines and Really Ruins The Day.  Therefore, emphasize splatbook good and bads if you are going to cover them, and don't let them be 'canon' unless they truly are balanced.

Splatbooks are more balanced, not less.  Splatbooks are written with knowledge gained from the mistakes of core... the Warblade vs Fighter comparison is perfect for seeing this.  Core released a small number of classes, and three of those were totally broken in power.  In all splats since then, only two classes are at that level.  Now, splatbooks do sometimes have odd interactions due to the writer not knowing about another splat (the Crusader endless damage thing is one good example), but that's rare and usually very easy to spot in play.

Splatbooks suffer immensely from Power Creep, especially in the area of spells and PrC's.  Sure, they provide needed updates and revisement.  Sadly, they often ignore updating core and just tack on the new, and we have to swallow it down and eat it.
Yes, they can still be balanced, but you have to be VERY careful about this, and you have to decide where to set your bar.  If you go outside Core and set your bar at Warblade level, many melee classes are in immediate need of revision (which is probably needed).  At the same time, using Non-Core spells often leads to some hilariously overpowered combos, and Spellcasting PrC's regularly violate the don't overshadow core classes clause right and left without thought.


Quote
Seventeen, there should be an unspoken BENEFIT for not relying on magic, or a penalty for likewise.  In the current game, Core, wizards and sorcs have a d4 HD because of complete reliance on spells.  Clerics, who likewise have access to a mighty spell list and full casting, get a d8, AND better BAB and armor.  This is clearly not balanced.

I'm not seeing why that's unbalanced.  I've never cared about the HD, BAB, or Armour of a Cleric.  That just doesn't come into the equation.  Clerics do have weaker spells than Wizards (most of the time... that can be tweaked if you know what you're doing) but seriously, that's like comparing two nations full of nuclear weapons and, without counting their delivery systems or megatonnage or gross weapon numbers, noting that country B has twenty guys with swords and a tank over country A and is thus stronger.

Well, if the BAB, Armor, and HD of a cleric are unimportant and you ignore them, that tells ME pretty much all I need to know about where his strength lies...in his casting.  Ergo, he doesn't NEED those things to be as high as they are.  Indeed, 4E took him down to Chain at best.  Give him d6 HD won't hurt him a bit, and cutting back his armor profs won't, either.  Restricted to medium armor, no mithral plate ever without blowng a feat...looking more like a cloistered cleric.  Indeed, the PHB cleric, as a 'knight of the church', should arguably have bard-like spell progression, as his focus is supposed to be as much martial as spellcaster.  Full casting should have been left to cloistered clerics, who actually give up something for the benefit.

Full divine spellcasting is NOT weak.  It's just got a different focus then arcane casting.


JaronK

Hmm, quotes where you quote inside quotes quoted?  I bolded to interspace things...might be hard to reply to.

Das Bier!

Bier

  • Barbary Macaque at the Rock of Gibraltar
  • ***
  • Posts: 135
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #17 on: August 09, 2008, 02:47:07 AM »
Spellcasting

The Core Spellcasters are fairly balanced as far as their chassis go.  The power of spontaneous casting, being able to cast multiples of one spell, are balanced out against the versatility and 'right key for the lock' that a prepared caster can bring to a fight.

In normal play, this is also done by forcing prepared casters to spend gold on spells, acquiring spells, and scribing spells, and forcing them to lug around a vulnerable spellbook, things that many people overlook when playing Wiz vs. Sorc.

However, Wizards also get more feats, giving them an edge.  On the other end, Sorcerors lose nothign by PrC'ing, and can apply metamagic on the fly, which wizards simply cannot do.

Looking Forwards:  4E:  Made it plain that a spellcaster has more fun when he can use magic all the time.  However, many of the spells dear to our hearts were hugely nerfed, including most basic movement.

Utility spells became Rituals, completely removing them from any form of tactical use in combat, and obviating much of the speed factore.

Spells that intruded on the core competency of other classes were simply abolished and eliminated...not a bad idea at all.

"instant save or suck" effects were also eliminated.  Even a round or two of removal is important in combat, and is good enough for the job...most of the time.

Hey, magic orbs/wands/staves now have bonuses as weapons! Pretty cool idea.

Looking backwards: In 1E, mages were the AoE damage dealers.  This is considered very weak focus in 3.5, in no small part because things have so many more hit points, and spells are capped.

Horrible AC, hit points and BAB kept arcane casters out of melee.  This is a good thing.

Flavor niche of knowledge skills was eliminated in 3.5, as high base skill points of other classes, particulalry the bard, make them better at this role.

Wizards used to be restricted in the amount of spells/level they could learn, restricted by Int.  This was actually a GOOD rule, as Wizards had to consider carefully the spells they would pick and learn.  On the other hand, the flavor aspect of being able to learn dozens of different spells is undeniable, even if many of the spells are, well, junk.

==================

Problems

Generally, boils down to 2 things...the spells and PrC's.

Many, many spells on the Arcane Lists cause problems.  Save or Sucks, all forms of summoning/calling spells, pretty much the entire Polymorph branch, the superversatility of the Wish type spells, the lack of oomph of damage dealing spells, spells added later that clearly outshine earlier spells of the same level/power.

Add in interactions with metamagic that are entirely unexpected, and there are problems.

PrC's for arcane casters routinely grant tons of abilities with little to no sacrifice in caster power.  These are often highly favored...Initiate fo the Seven Veils, Incantatrix, Shadowcraft Mage, etc.  Over ten levels, a core wizard gets TWO bonus feats.  PrC's that grant full arcane casting frequently grant an ability every level...the return for taking them far outweighs any possible benefit of remaining in the core class.

PrC's for arcane casters should be balanced around the core dynamics, and if not, need to start giving up caster levels very quickly.  A PrC granting an ability at every level is granting 5x the benefits of a core Wizard, and 10x the benefits of a core Sorceror.  It should probably cost -5 levels of spellcasting in return for those benefits, or scale back the abilities tremendously.

I'm personally of the opinion that unless a PrC forces sacrifices on a casting class, lost caster levels should be automatic and painful.  A wizard and a sorc are stripped down, full power spellcasters, pretty much idealized on getting their spells as fast as possible.  A PrC for arcane casters is deviation from that focus, going off into arcane estorica, and should be treated accordingly.  Almost no PrC should grant anywhere near the speed of progressing casting power that the core classes do.

To balance the benefits gained over levels, the common suggestion is that Sorcerors should gain metamagic feats and/or heritage feats at the same rate a Wizard gains bonus feats.  This is not unbalancing, and serves as a great meter by which to measure class progress.

Metamagic interaction with spells is another hardpoint, particularly when arcane casters are allowed to break the metacap limit.  Metacaps should be strictly enforced, not allowing people to break the limits of spellcasting ability.  Likewise, wording on many of these spells should be cleared up and emphasized (things like Earth spell, Sanctum spell, etc) to make obvious the intended effects.  Poor feat language causes no end of abuse.

Save or Sucks should be delineated to save, save, save or sucks, as they do with 4E.  You and your enemies get multiple chances to recover, which allows you to be taken out of a fight, or hurt, for a round or three, and then come back.  People can take advantage of the opening, and maybe it just might win, but straight out I win! becomes unlikely.

Phantasmal Killer is an excellent example of a fairly balanced save or suck spell.  It requires two saves and a hit roll to actually take effect, meaning multiple chances to save or the spell is denied.  It's not going to get thru often, except on lower level creatures, so it makes a good 'removal' spell for a low level slot, but is otherwise not something a mage should focus on.  Compared to, say, Charm Monster or Hold Monster, which turn enemies into assets, or BBEG's into Coup De Grace targets, it's clearly underpowered...or rather, those spells are overpowered.

Removing Conjuration/Summoning beasties from the mix, and/or turning them into Rituals, is flavorwise appropriate, and speeds the game up since you won't be making choices for multiple minions.  Sure, it sucks for the guy who wants to walk around with the personal army.  Oh, well.

Polymorph and spells that buff physical abilities in general should probably be abolished, or simply restricted to individual forms with the effects clearly laid out.  No using alternate forms to sub for other spells (morphing into a flier to gain better flight then a Fly spell, etc), and no buffing physical stats above what can be gained by magic items of the appropriate level.  You can't buff int/wis/cha via spells to +16 enhancement, why should you be able to do it with Bite of the Werebear to Str?  Intrudes too much on the melee domain.  Likewise spells that give high skill bonuses should be abolished, and restricted to magic items.

Unintended combination of spells should simply be abolished or altered so they don't function that way, not 'well, they could work this way, but I would never DO that.'  Just get rid of the problem, and it's not a problem.

If a spell is too powerful for its level vs other spells, either upgrade the others or downgrade the one, or make it higher level.  Flurry of Wings is the best damage spell of its level...it should be comparable to other spells, not better.

Because of magic being what it is, the number of bonuses in game should probably be levered down, or bonuses cancel one another out, or don't stack.

I propose that Sacred Cancel out Profane; Luck cancel out Insight; Morale cancel out Competency.  I further suggest that Circumstance bonuses not be grantable by magic, and all bonuses granted by Feats be relegated to one of the above, probably Competency or Insight, so that spells which grant similar bonuses are not unduly stacking.

Adding magical attack bonuses to wands/orbs/staves is a great way to get arcane casters carrying these things.  However, 4E also introduced the idea of using other stats for Saves, which I think is a great idea and should be broadly implemented.  In particular, I believe that adding Reflex saves to Touch AC is a Good Idea. Touch Attacks are far too powerful in the game as is, and need to be somewhat downtoned.

Das Bier!

Omen of Peace

  • Hong Kong
  • ****
  • Posts: 1053
  • Wise Madman
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #18 on: August 09, 2008, 06:36:38 AM »
Sources to consult for ideas : the Tomes, 4E and Pathfinder. They were already mentioned but it's worth repeating since with inspiration from them and... a lot of time (!) everything could be improved.

A few random comments:
- I also like the full animal companion for the Ranger. Probably eliminate Fleshrakers though.
- The Rogue deals 1/2 SA damage against previously immune opponents - a variant made core.
- I'd ban Persistent spell. Even with the limits on DMM (you still have to change all the metamagic tricks, i.e. Incantatrix, UM...), it completely breaks the action economy.
- Archivist: at the very least, they learn a Cleric spell at its level on the Cleric list, even if they get the scroll from another class. Perhaps they should only be able to learn Ranger/Paladin/... spells at the levels at which those classes get them.
Silanah heard their songs and prayers. And she watched. Sometimes mortals did indeed forget. Sometimes, mortals needed… reminding…
The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Steven Erikson

RobbyPants

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 7139
Re: Balancing 3.5
« Reply #19 on: August 09, 2008, 04:24:05 PM »
Wizards used to be restricted in the amount of spells/level they could learn, restricted by Int.  This was actually a GOOD rule, as Wizards had to consider carefully the spells they would pick and learn.  On the other hand, the flavor aspect of being able to learn dozens of different spells is undeniable, even if many of the spells are, well, junk.
I almost forgot about that rule.  I don't know a good way to do it, but this could help with versatility.  Even so, the amount of gold it takes to maintain a huge spellbook is a bit of a balancing factor as well.

PrC's for arcane casters routinely grant tons of abilities with little to no sacrifice in caster power.  These are often highly favored...Initiate fo the Seven Veils, Incantatrix, Shadowcraft Mage, etc.  Over ten levels, a core wizard gets TWO bonus feats.  PrC's that grant full arcane casting frequently grant an ability every level...the return for taking them far outweighs any possible benefit of remaining in the core class.

PrC's for arcane casters should be balanced around the core dynamics, and if not, need to start giving up caster levels very quickly.  A PrC granting an ability at every level is granting 5x the benefits of a core Wizard, and 10x the benefits of a core Sorceror.  It should probably cost -5 levels of spellcasting in return for those benefits, or scale back the abilities tremendously.
Well, I do agree that some PrCs are no-brainers.  An easy fix is the loss of a caster level at the beginning, offset by some nice ability to start the class with.  Still, some of the full-casting PrCs aren't that bad.  In addition to the wizard losing two bonus feats, there's also the cost of the feats to enter the class.  The only time this doesn't help balance the class is if the feat was one you would have already taken anyway.  But in general I do agree that fewer PrCs should be full casting.

Save or Sucks should be delineated to save, save, save or sucks, as they do with 4E.  You and your enemies get multiple chances to recover, which allows you to be taken out of a fight, or hurt, for a round or three, and then come back.  People can take advantage of the opening, and maybe it just might win, but straight out I win! becomes unlikely.

Phantasmal Killer is an excellent example of a fairly balanced save or suck spell.  It requires two saves and a hit roll to actually take effect, meaning multiple chances to save or the spell is denied.  It's not going to get thru often, except on lower level creatures, so it makes a good 'removal' spell for a low level slot, but is otherwise not something a mage should focus on.  Compared to, say, Charm Monster or Hold Monster, which turn enemies into assets, or BBEG's into Coup De Grace targets, it's clearly underpowered...or rather, those spells are overpowered.
Some spells are similar to this, in that you can save each round to break the effect.  I think this is a way to keep some of the crowd controls from being too powerful.  I'd rather not start giving two saves for each spell though, as then they'd become pretty much useless.

Removing Conjuration/Summoning beasties from the mix, and/or turning them into Rituals, is flavorwise appropriate, and speeds the game up since you won't be making choices for multiple minions.  Sure, it sucks for the guy who wants to walk around with the personal army.  Oh, well.
I'd like to avoid removing them, but summons are pretty powerful.

Polymorph and spells that buff physical abilities in general should probably be abolished, or simply restricted to individual forms with the effects clearly laid out.  No using alternate forms to sub for other spells (morphing into a flier to gain better flight then a Fly spell, etc), and no buffing physical stats above what can be gained by magic items of the appropriate level.  You can't buff int/wis/cha via spells to +16 enhancement, why should you be able to do it with Bite of the Werebear to Str?  Intrudes too much on the melee domain.  Likewise spells that give high skill bonuses should be abolished, and restricted to magic items.
I like these spells thematically, but I think I just need to put some strong limits on them.  I'll have to put more thought into it.

Unintended combination of spells should simply be abolished or altered so they don't function that way, not 'well, they could work this way, but I would never DO that.'  Just get rid of the problem, and it's not a problem.
That's a fix, but it's one I always feel dirty doing.  I hate having to ask favors of players as a DM so they won't break the game.  Although, this is the easiest way to fix a problem that you don't forsee and it comes up in the middle of the game.

If a spell is too powerful for its level vs other spells, either upgrade the others or downgrade the one, or make it higher level.  Flurry of Wings is the best damage spell of its level...it should be comparable to other spells, not better.
This is a good idea.  It will take a lot of work to weed them out.  Also, some spells are really only "half" a level better, so it would be easier to either nerf them a bit, or beef them up and raise the spell level.



- I also like the full animal companion for the Ranger. Probably eliminate Fleshrakers though.
That could be nice.  It keeps it from being just a scout.  I do agree that fleshrakers are quite potent at the level you can take them.

- The Rogue deals 1/2 SA damage against previously immune opponents - a variant made core.
I like this.  I might post it in the OP as a suggested fix.  It makes the rogue less "all or nothing"
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: ****
Quote from: claypigeons
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]