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  1. #1
    Site Moderator geeman's Avatar
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    Portraying Bloodline

    I'd like to continue the discussion of how to portray bloodline in a 3e update of BR that begain in the "Scion Class Question" thread. So far, the methods presented have been: the scion character class in the BRCS update, a series of feats, an XP penalty or a level adjustment, template or mechanic that amounts to something very similar.

    They all have their merits and demerits, and I'm going to try to break the issue up into four major broad areas.

    1. Front-loading. The argument here is that without some sort of way of balancing bloodline scions will be front-loaded, their abilities will be disproportionate to their character levels, particularly at low-levels.

    2. Back-loading. This concern has been expressed for both the character class and the XP penalty methods. Characters who employ either of those methods wind up foregoing a level or two of a particular character class (or a level or two entirely) in order to pay for their blood abilities.

    3. Balance. The method used to balance blood abilities should be commensurate with some existing 3e mechanic. This criticism of the feat method is (IIRC) based on the perception that blood abilities are (or quickly can be) more powerful than any feat, so using feats is not appropriate.

    4. Parity. This is a very broad issue, but it needs to be mentioned that it is important to a lot of people that there be some sort of existing 3e game mechanic that the system references.

    When determining what should be employed, I would suggest the following criteria for reviewing a set of game mechanics derived from discussion recently in the "Pikemen w/ Shield Training" thread. Rules should be judged on reality, flavour, simplicity, elegance and balance. No one of those criteria is any more significant in general than the others, though in certain cases one might be more important in a particular situation. For instance, in this topic the issue of "balance" is probably of more importance than "reality" since there are few if any scions running around in the real world Earth, and the mundane leadership and aristocracy we deal with often don't work very well as BR examples.

    Now, when it comes to these methods, I'm currently most in favor of the XP penalty idea for several reasons. It strikes me as being superior to the other suggestions in all five categories described above. First, when it comes to balance issues, I think the criticisms that have been levelled against the idea are numerically valid, but invalid in practice. That is, the issue of a 5-20% penalty meaning a character will lag behind other PCs in a mixed party of scions and commoners is correct when one examines only the simple math, but as has been pointed out the simple math does not really relate to how XP awards are given. CR scales with character level and while a scion will definitely have a lower XP total than other characters in a mixed party, his lag will not be as drastic as has been suggested.

    Furthermore, I think the suggestion that he will lag parallels the same criticism levelled at the scion as character class issue. It doesn't really have a very dramatic game mechanical effect until characters get into upper levels. The same criticism could (and has been) levelled against multi-classing, multi-classing penalties, and several other aspects of the 3e system. It also fails to take into account what I like to call "the reality of the game" that many people ignore. That is, the 20th level wizard is disproportionately powerful... but getting to 20th level might not happen if the character doesn't take a level or spend feats on things not directly related to his class in order to survive actual adventures. Viewing characters "in situ" (as it were) at 15-20th level in order to gauge balance fails to account for the fact that characters are supposed (especially in BR) to begin as low-level PCs and then be developed into higher level ones. Such characters often wind up very different from those created by DMs as "monsters" for PCs to deal with.

    Lastly, when it comes to the issue of losing ability at high level that argument is made in a slightly different shade against the scion as character class system. The argument against scion as character class is that characters must forego their high level abilities, which from a "power gamer" is not the way to go. Now, I really think this argument is innappropriate to BR for several reasons that have been already mentioned, so I'll not reiterate them, but I mention it in order to point out that it strikes me as odd to prefer scions as character class rather than an XP penalty for this reason. The argument against an XP penalty applies to scion as a character class in a very similar way.

    The most serious argument against XP penalty is IMO that it front-loads the character. To that I can only suggest that characters might get the equivalent of a LA for the purpose of designing adventures if the DM really things that's necessary, but the penalty is, in effect, an incremental LA. Instead of a full level it represents about 20-60% of a character level, which I think is about appropriate to the actual power gained. The math works both ways in this case.

    As I noted in the previous thread, the idea is much simpler than any other suggestion. It would make for a few sentences in a BR update text rather than a character class write up. It relates to the original BR "low-level" theme better than any of the other suggestions. Its really is balanced if considered as a whole (at least as much as scion as character class is) and it has a nice elegance. So one the whole it is the superior method.

    Gary

  2. #2
    Site Moderator Sorontar's Avatar
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    sliding XP penalty & Seeming penalty

    I do not support any particular methodology, but I was wondering if for the %XP penalty version, why don't you decrease the penalty directly relative to the XP level.

    non-blooded = full XP
    blooded = XP - (20 - CharLevel)% XP

    e.g. Fighter non-blooded gets 1000 XP from an encounter
    Fighter 1 blooded gets 1000 - (19% of 1000) = 810 XP
    Fighter 6 blooded gets 1000 - (14% of 1000) = 860 XP
    Fighter 15 blooded gets 1000 - (5% of 1000) = 950 XP
    Fighter 20 blooded gets 1000 XP

    That way, by the time you get up to high levels where you are mega-powerful by your class, it is a small percentage. Once you reach level 20, the penalty is no longer applied when awarding new XP (but still applies for old XP).

    Ideally, use your Bloodline score/strength/whatever as the threshold instead of 20. I don't know if that would be feasible. If your Bloodscore increased during the game, so would your penalty from that point onwards (ie, it would take even longer to reach the threshold because you have just become even more powerful that others).

    Sorontar

    ps. Should a similar penalty/system apply for individuals with seeming powers for the ShadowWorld, or has that not really been well developed enough to bother start discussing it? I ask this because our AD&D BR adventures had 2 unblooded PCs. One who was a half-elf that was "tainted" physically and mentally by his interaction with the SW, and the othjer was a halfling who has been practising manipulating the SW. Both were given the 10% bonus XP for not being blooded. The rest of the party were blooded but no regents.
    Sorontar
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  3. #3
    Senior Member ploesch's Avatar
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    I was all over in the original thread, and I came full circle through the process. As I stated initially, and throughout, Scion levels are the Best method for balancing in all ways.

    First, the Scion level takes care of Balancing Blooded versus un-blooded characters. Minor Scions can't take a level, but Major and great must, which is a balancing factor to their expanded power.

    Scion levels also balance Scions versus the Environment. The additional CR effectively represents the Scions additional power allowing less work for the GM to balance encounters.

    The main argument against Scion Levels is that a caster (wizards and Sorcerers in particular) lose power in that they delay their acquisition of spells by a level or more. This is deemed a greater loss than other classes. With EVERY system, including 2E BR, this is the case except for the Feat tree. It's front-loaded with the Scion Levels, Spread out with the XP modifier (2E and 3E), and front loaded with the additional negative of losing HP, Skills and BAB with the LA templates. Front loading the penalty is appropriate, the most benefit of scion levels is at lower levels, so it is appropriate to penalize the lower levels.

    I like the feat tree, but in practice it does little to balance a blooded versus unblooded or even Minor versus great blood lines. I definetely think this should be included as a variant, but a warning should be placed about balance.

    No matter how much I think about it, I always come back to the Scion classes being the best overall way to handle the blooded characters. It isn't perfect, but it is workable, and overall the best way to do things. I say this as someone that doesn't like how Scion Levels make being blooded feel more like a commodity than a spark of divine essence.

    I have to point out again, XP mod. and LA templates have the same overall effect as scion levels. They all will make the Blooded scion less powerful in their chosen field as their unblooded counterparts. The only difference is when the limiting factor comes into play. As I said, front loading it makes the most sense. LA templates make the least sense, as they have the same negative effect as Scion levels, and none of the benefits.

    That's my rant, I can expand on anything if anyone needs me to.
    When you play the game of thrones you win or you die.
    George R. R. Martin - A song of Ice and Fire

  4. #4
    As I pointed out in the other thread, the overall effect of the XP penalty seems to be to impose no penalty at all at low levels (where the scion powers are most unbalancing) and a significant penalty at high levels (where the scion powers are largely inconsequential) - front loading, to use your terminology.

    There is an existing mechanic in Unearthed Arcana for level adjustments that achieves, IMHO, a much preferable result. Let's say we call a minor bloodline +1 LA. For a minor bloodline, the PC gets to 3rd level (ECL 4), spends 3000XP, and removes his level adjustment from that point onwards. Because of the way CR XP awards work, he'll catch up to some extent from this point onwards. If you think those XP costs are too high, then lower them - that's a much easier change than applying an across the board XP penalty which ends up just frontloading the abilities, IMHO.

    Having said that it might appear I'm in favour of the template approach. While I do think the template approach was the most elegant, the scion class approach is not such a terrible method either and works reasonably well for non-spellcasters (who are no worse off than with a LA). Using the RAW, spellcasting powergamers are just not going to bother with the scion levels - but that's absolutely fine; I'm not going to bother with prestige classes that don't give full spellcasting progression either. Not all options are equally attractive to all players.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Sigmund's Avatar
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    My opinion is that scion levels, while fine for all but the spellcasting classes, impose such a disproportionate penalty on especially low level spellcasters that it makes the acquisition is any blood powers higher than minor completely undesirable. This would mean that the only characters required to be blooded would be the least likely to have anything higher than minor powers. It makes no sense to me. I don't even care about the highest level spells...it just seems off to me that a 3rd level wizard of the Avan line, for example, would actually only be casting as a 1st level wizard. Even with great blood powers, the "balance" seems to go so far the other way that the character probably wouldn't survive an adventure with other 3rd levels, and most certainly wouldn't be very useful, at least not as a wizard. The player would be better off playing an unblooded magician at that point. This penalty would actually be much less detrimental at higher levels I would think.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Sigmund
    This penalty would actually be much less detrimental at higher levels I would think.
    I disagree completely. At low levels the great bloodline powers probably offset the loss of 2nd or maybe even 3rd level spells.

    At high levels, though, they're nothing more than cute little talents - certainly not worth a 9th level spell, and probably not worth a 5th or 6th.

  7. #7
    Senior Member RaspK_FOG's Avatar
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    Well, that's arguable; Divine Wrath certainly is worth more than most 6th-level spells, especially for the cleric or wizard king who gains more useful benefits due to the diversity of his talents, and the same can be told of other great abilities as well.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Sigmund's Avatar
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    Great blood abilities, in certain situations and conditions, can have a more powerful effect than individual spells. Other great blood abilities would have very little direct effect on the game at the adventuring level (like Long Life, or Home Hearkening). Any of them would have limited numbers of uses or conditions on their use (like Divine Wrath at the great level). Using the scion class doesn't prevent a 3rd level character from having great blood abilities.... the character would have actually gained them at 2nd level. A 3rd level fighter scion of Anduiras actually gives up no BAB progression, and still gets great blood abilities along with bonus HPs and other goodies. Meanwhile, even the 3rd level wizard scion of Vorynn get's not even half-progression in spells for the (most likely) one great blood ability. Also, any of the derivation's scion classes would have much less of an impact on the non-casting classes with regards to the main feature/function of the class. It's just this uneven effect that doesn't sit well with me.

    While the feat tree I'm working into my campaign isn't perfect, it at least avoids delaying class progression for any class, has the same cost to acquire for each class (the cost being feat slots), and has the added benefit of delaying actual access to the most unbalancing blood powers until at least 3rd level (instead of 2nd like the scion class), and possibly even 6th level for some. The inclusion of one more minor power feat would delay the great power acquisition even further if they are found to be unbalancing a person's campaign

    It has been argued that this still favors the fighter, but I don't agree. Yes, fighters get more bonus feats but that's because bonus feats are the fighter's class feature. They don't get spells, wild shapes, Uncanny Dodge, or Bardic Knowledge, they get feats instead. These feats are specific feats relating to mundane (as opposed to magical) combat. I would not include bloodline feats in any class list of bonus feats simply because bloodline feats don't have anything to do with any specific class directly. this means even the fighter and wizard would have to use their non-class feat progression to gain bloodline feats. While not strictly accurate in modelling the original system as it relates to blood ability acquisition, it is the best compromise IMO.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Sigmund's Avatar
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    In typing my last post I have discovered another issue with the scion class. It's really nothing more than another base class that has only 2 levels. This means a 2nd level character can have access to what amounts to class features that allow the character to Mass Charm Monster and Confuse (Charm Aura), 1d6-1 CON damage at a touch (major level of Death Touch), Hypnotic Pattern and Fear (Divine Aura), etc. On top of these they get bonus HPs and weapon and armor use. How does this prevent these powers from unbalancing a low level campaign? The effect I see it having is that all great blooded characters would still get unbalancing powers pretty much front-loaded.
    Last edited by Sigmund; 09-13-2006 at 04:36 PM.

  10. #10
    Birthright Developer irdeggman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigmund
    Great blood abilities, in certain situations and conditions, can have a more powerful effect than individual spells. Other great blood abilities would have very little direct effect on the game at the adventuring level (like Long Life, or Home Hearkening). Any of them would have limited numbers of uses or conditions on their use (like Divine Wrath at the great level). Using the scion class doesn't prevent a 3rd level character from having great blood abilities.... the character would have actually gained them at 2nd level. A 3rd level fighter scion of Anduiras actually gives up no BAB progression, and still gets great blood abilities along with bonus HPs and other goodies. Meanwhile, even the 3rd level wizard scion of Vorynn get's not even half-progression in spells for the (most likely) one great blood ability. Also, any of the derivation's scion classes would have much less of an impact on the non-casting classes with regards to the main feature/function of the class. It's just this uneven effect that doesn't sit well with me.
    And the 3rd level wizardf with 2 scion class levels gets roughly 6-9 levels worth of wizard hit dice in bonus hit points. He also trades up in HD size for those 2 levels. The wizard gives up - around 2 spell per day by giving up those levels. In exchange he can gain some pretty significant blood abilites. For example the the ones that are equivalent of much hihger level spells than 2nd level ones are:

    Charm Aura (equal to charm monster, mass) 3x/day

    Divine Aura (hypnotic pattern) 1/day

    Divine Wrath (as mentioned)

    Elemental Control (summoon monster V) 1/day and an extra spell (dependant on derivation)

    Enhanced Sense (derivation dependant - detect evil at will, shadow sense, vision can penetrate normal and magical darkness up to 60 ft, scrying, greater 1/day)

    Healing (cure serious wounds or neutralize poison 1/day)

    Light of Reason (sunlight once per day)

    Major Resistance (derivation specific - but can get SR 16 ampoung choices)

    Protection from Evil (continuous Magic Circle against Evil)

    Resistance (derivation specific but can get permanent freedom of movement when in water and water breathing)

    Shadow Form (can turn into a shadow 1/day for 1 min/level)

    Touch of Decay (can rust metal and other substances 1/day)

    Travel (derivation specific) - but no chance of getting messed up unlike transportation spells)

    Whither Touch (1d12 damage plus save each day to avoid 1d4 damage - 1/week)

    There are some serious spell like abilities there.

    The fighter trades down in hit die size. The bonus hit points he recieves is roughly only half as many levels worth in relative class hit dice.
    Duane Eggert

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