Friday, July 29, 2011

Broken Bits: Infernal Strategist

Broken Paragon Paths, Part Eight
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We have talked before about how the standard for an awesome damage-boosting paragon path consists in having a feature to add an ability modifier to a character’s damage rolls. I tend to consider these paths overpowered, particularly when no particular condition is required to benefit from the extra damage, yet (barely!) not broken.That said, it doesn’t take much to push them into the realm of unfairness - and doubling this damage bonus certainly qualifies.

At first glance, Infernal Pincer (the 11th level feature of warlord paragon path Infernal Strategist) seems almost innocent: it’s a damage boost that only comes up when you are flanking an enemy. However, its true power soon becomes apparent, since this significant bonus can apply to both the warlord and his flanking buddy. It’s not unusual for this feature to contribute for 10 or more extra damage per turn, even at lower paragon levels - and that is before accounting for the impact of action points, multiattacks, and similar effects, as well as the rare occasion where the warlord manages to flank multiple enemies.

Granted, flanking is not a trivial requirement to meet. However, even in scenarios where the target enemy starts off isolated, it’s fairly easy for a warlord to set up a flank in an ally’s turn, so the feature is all but guaranteed to operate, at worst, at 50% efficiency (which is amazing enough). Add to this the fact that the rest of the paragon path is actually pretty cool to begin with (with a 16th level feature that opens up tons of possibilities, and a level 12 utility offering four great choices), and we get to the conclusion that Infernal Pincer needs a thorough revision.

A fix

I knew I wanted to cut the damage of Infernal Pincer in half, if not more. An obvious approach was to have it affect a single character only - which would be the flanking ally, as it is the option that makes more sense in a leader paragon path. However, this change would have left the path just as effective in niche builds focused on Commander’s Strike and similar powers, and I wanted to lower the path’s effectiveness - not just its scope.

While looking for alternative solutions, an idea that called to me was using both Int and Cha for the feature. After all, resourceful warlords are one of the few class builds in the game that supports two secondary abilities at once, and this had the side effect of reducing the power level. Just adding Int to your damage and Cha to your ally’s damage was tempting, but ultimately a bit too good for my taste, so I settled with the following:

Infernal Pincer (11th level): You gain a bonus to melee damage rolls equal to 1 + one half your Intelligence modifier against enemies you flank. Your allies gain a bonus to melee damage rolls equal to 1 + one half your Charisma modifier against enemies they flank with you.

This may look like a very modest bonus, but if you add up your extra damage with your ally’s, you end up with quite respectable values (i.e. 2+ Int/2 + Cha/2).

A different, unrelated fix

This path also has a level 12 utility called Flexible Authority, which doesn’t work properly at the moment. It is used as an immediate reaction, but is supposed to apply modifiers to an ally’s attack as it’s being made. As such, it should become an Immediate Interrupt instead.

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