Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Magic Item Reset (XVIII): Adjusting Damage

One conscious decision that I made while designing my magic item collection was to avoid items that granted flat bonuses, like the extra damage from the infamous Iron Armbands of Power. I believe that the result is a more varied and satisfying treasure system, but it does mean that characters end up dealing less damage than if they used the original rules. For this reason, and unless your group is interested in slightly longer combat encounters, I recommend to use the following house rule.

Optional rule: Damage adjustment

All player characters gain a bonus to damage rolls of melee and ranged attacks depending on their level, according to the following table:

PC Level - Damage bonus
1-5     - +1
6-10   - +2
11-15 - +3
16-20 - +4
21-25 - +5
26-30 - +6


Here is some explanation of the reasoning behind this rule.

- Why keep this bonus?

I think the game plays better with it. It’s not a huge deal at lower levels, but at paragon and epic, encounters can drag a little, and this extra damage can help a bit on that. That said, it is not vital to a party’s success, so you can feel free to ignore it.

- Why not give it through items?

I just couldn’t find a proper way of implementing this bonus using items without seriously warping one or more item slots. Using specific items was out of the question (Iron Armbands and Staves of Ruin being great examples of what I don’t want to do with my system), but even using item categories introduced its share of problems.

I first thought of having every Arms items grant the bonus (+2 damage /tier), but it was hard to balance so that common items of level 11 and 21 wouldn’t trump any uncommon or rare of the previous tier as soon as they became available. The other option was resorting to the weapon slot (granting +1 extra damage / enhancement bonus), but this had a similar problem: I think some high level uncommon and rare weapons can be competitive with plain magic weapons with higher enhancement bonus... but with that extra damage, that was impossible to achieve.

- Why are area and close attacks excluded?

I wanted to make single target attacks more competitive against areas. Right now, when a character has a choice between a melee or ranged attack and a burst or blast, unless the single target option does something ridiculous like stunning or dominating, the area wins handily. You just don’t lose all that much damage against the primary target, and affecting one or more additional monsters is obviously a huge advantage. By preventing the extra damage from working with areas, we provide a slight incentive to try out those single target powers.

Not that I am suggesting that area powers are broken, but given the chance to make this small adjustment, I think it’s best for the game. By contrast, some types of powers which are indeed broken are multiattacks and immediate action attacks - but fixing those requires deeper changes to the game (which I intend to implement, some day).


  1. It's naive to think that limiting it to melee and ranged attacks solves the problem-all this does is make Invokers (and Arc Lightning wizards) even more powerful comparatively to standard blasters.

    I suppose you could make all controllers also get a +2 per tier damage bonus to burst and blast powers though; this would mean striker and leader powers that are area attacks would be less effective, as would wizard powers in the hands of a multiclassed character.

  2. Aside from Hand of Radiance (which indeed deserves a nerf), I don't see Arc Lightning and similar controller at-wills as problematic. Compared to at-will bursts, they offer better targeting and (with this houserule) slightly higher damage, but bursts usually have additional effects on top of damage, have the potential to hit more enemies, and can ignore concealment and often cover.

    This is more aimed at classes with lots of single-target powers but a few areas that dominate their slot - think of monk and swordmage at-wills, or fighter encounters, for example. And it's too little damage to completely solve the problem, but I think it helps.

  3. Good idea! I understand the concern about bursts/blasts, but I'd play with this rule as written above first. When using bursts/blasts, you rarely care about damage beyond minion-clearing--I mean, Beguiling Strands does piddly damage, but it's still a phenomenally useful power.

    And what's this I hear about tackling the multiattack problem? I'll look forward to that, it's been on my mind for a while!

  4. Nice one Perico.
    In this days of back to 3.5 im thinking a lot on the Magic Items problem. And I came to the idea that items with flat bonuses stink.
    Of course the problem in 3.5 is worst. Now i start reading Pathfinder looking for those "fresh rules" that everybody says that brings. I dont know much about it, but I pray that paizo tried to solve that problem.