Saturday, June 26, 2010

Broken Bits: Hospitaler

Broken Paragon Paths, Part Three
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Hospitalers are paladins who specialize in the arts of healing, and they do so thoroughly. They can heal with action points and with Divine Challenge, gain a bonus with Lay on Hands, can activate a utility so that all their hits heal allies for an encounter, and have a daily that heals. Also, just for the sake of variety, there’s an encounter power that hands out saving throws to anyone nearby. All of this makes for a very efficient, focused package, which would be perfect except for a tiny, horribly unbalanced detail.

The problem

A year ago, I talked about the Swordmage’s Aegis of Shielding, and how it was far too good a mark punishment, negating a huge percentage of an enemy’s damage - making an attack against an ally hardly better than not attacking at all. I concluded that the appropiate values for a mitigating mark mechanic shouldn’t be above 50% of the enemy’s damage (rather than the 80+% that Aegis of Shielding routinely pulled off). I’m bringing this up because the Hospitaler paragon path features a mark punishment mechanic that not only compares well with Aegis of Shielding, but actually puts it to shame.

Consider the following:

Hospitaler's Blessing (11th level): When an enemy that you currently challenge makes an attack against one of your allies that does not include you, whether the attack hits or misses, that ally regains hit points equal to one-half your level + your Wisdom modifier.

Although I love what this feature does, the numbers are way off. If an enemy hits, a lot of damage gets mitigated: barely a few points below what Aegis of Shielding prevents, though it actually catches up at level 30. That alone would be enough to get worried, but there’s more. The figure below illustrates the math of an attack where Hospitaler’s Blessing triggers:

The blue and red curves above show a monster’s average damage on a hit, as calculated here (though the formulas haven’t been updated to post-MM3 standards yet) and the amount healed by a Hospitaler with a starting Wisdom score of 16, respectively. As you can see, they are pretty close - the orange curve shows the difference, which is the net damage dealt on a hit, and it approaches zero. That is bad enough, but only tells half of the story. Look at the green curve at the bottom. It plots the net damage contribution of the monster’s attack, assuming a hit chance of 50% (which is reasonable, if not generous, after accounting for the mark penalty). Since Hospitaler’s Blessing works on missed attacks as well as hits, the formula to use is:

Final average damage= Hit chance * Net Hit Damage - Miss Chance * Hosp. Blessing Heal

As the net hit damage was almost null, and the amount healed is close to the damage that would be dealt on a hit, we find that, the attack will, on average, heal more damage than it deals, with the net healed amount being slightly below the monster's damage per round. Not only is the current monster’s turn negated, but it will need almost a whole turn’s worth of attacks to compensate for the damage healed.

This figure shows the same scenario, but with the values presented as a percentage of monster damage. The blue and red lines represent the healed amount, and the net damage on a hit as a percentage of monster hit damage. The orange line is the average contribution of the attack, after accounting for the misses, as a percentage of the monsters’ original damage per round.

Keep in mind that this will need to be adjusted, for the better, once you apply the Monster Manual 3 damage increase for monsters. Nevertheless, from my current estimations of the change, this should alleviate the problem, but fail to remove it.

As additional considerations, I should mention that Hospitaler’s Blessing outperforms traditional mark punishment in other ways, such as requiring no action to work, theoretically working on an unlimited number of attacks from the challenged enemy, and still allowing you to deal Divine Challenge damage as normal. Yes, if you thought the mark violation scenario was bad enough for the offender, you should still add a bunch of radiant damage to the mix!

A solution

The amount healed by Hospitaler’s Blessing needs to go down, there’s no way around it. New heal values should, under no circumstance, reduce a (non-minion) monster’s expected damage to negatives. In fact, an ideal solution would cut the average damage of the offending monster about in half, after considering the damage healed on a miss attack. Assuming 50% hit rates after mark penalties, this means that the heal should be worth 1/4 of the monster’s hit damage, more or less.

The simplest approach is to remove the half-level bonus to heal, and just keep the Wisdom modifier:

Hospitaler's Blessing, mk.2 (11th level): When an enemy that you currently challenge makes an attack against one of your allies that does not include you, whether the attack hits or misses, that ally regains hit points equal to your Wisdom modifier.

This yields numbers closer to our expectations. The new damage figures would be as follows:

Note that because the heal applies to both hits and misses, its total contribution is much greater than what the numbers initially suggests. In this case, a monster attacking through the mark will see its damage reduced to about 40% of the original amount - a very strong decrease. In fact, this is a bit more potent than we had intended, but within acceptable margins. Also, once we apply the MM3 increase, it should be just about on target.

This fix leaves Hospitaler’s Blessing strong enough to be an effective deterrent (monster attacks became much less effective than without it), without preventing enemies from being able to inflict damage to allies altogether. This, in conjunction with the remaining path features, makes Hospitaler a very competitive, but no longer unfair path.


  1. What's more, look at the feat Weakening Challenge.

  2. Hmm, good catch, I had missed that one. A feat that halves the damage from your Challenged enemy makes Hospitaler's Blessing even more absurd. Even with my revision to the Blessing, this combination would bring the expected damage of an offending monster to red numbers, again.

    I'll see if I can find a way to conciliate the path feature and the feat. They both have an equivalent (and very strong) effect, so that's probably an indication that the feat needs to be toned down.

  3. Well, a paladin's major downside is that Divine Sanction is, near as I'm aware, technically a separate effect from Divine Challenge. You buying that argument of why Hospitaler isn't OP? Yeah, me neither. Still, if I was just creating a generically OP party, I wouldn't use a Paladin for the defender unless I was expecting to be fighting a whole bunch of solos.