What is a good baseline for damage and ultility for an "At Will" class?

Homebrew and House Rules

I've seen a lot of threads discussing the Kineticist lately. It's abilities, its attack routines, how Burn works, its damage, etc. I will preface this by saying that I am by no means good at calculating appropriate damage levels, nor have I played a Kineticist. This is not a commentary on that class. For me, the Kineticist looks really fun and interesting, but the idea of slowly running myself ragged doesn't exactly appeal to me. I've always really enjoyed classes that generate at will abilities.

Now, I know that people tend to compare the Kineticist, class that can blast "all day" to archer builds, classes that can do basically the same thing. People argue that the utility talents can, for the most part, be replicated by spells. Here is my situation. I've been wanting to come up with a class that is based around the "at will" premise. Rough ideas were to give them a small pool of ability points that regenerate at a certain rate each round. As it seems like a universal option for these kinds of classes, I wanted to give it some sort of ranged option. I was thinking it would cost 1 point to use, and as you would always regenerate at least 1 point per round, the base ability would be essentially at will. You'd get options to upgrade the damage, or alter the shape, or stuff like that, as well as other combat and out of combat abilities.

Now, here's what I wonder. Originally, I debated the blast as scaling at 1d6/2 levels. As a standard action once per round, that's not that great. Being able to do it for each attack in a full round is stronger, but maybe its too strong. Would it be more appropriate to give it that scaling damage and leave it as once per round? Scale the damage more like arrow damage, but give it more bonuses to damage and more attacks per round? Assuming they had utilities that archer builds couldn't as easily replicate, how would that factor into the arrow damage. I wouldn't want to build a class that deals as much as an archer character AND out utilities them, but I'd want to keep it relevant in and out of combat. I'm curious what people here on the forums think a good baseline would be.

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It depends on what kind of damage and what kind of attack the blast ability is. It also depends on what else you want the class to do.

I would say

If Range Archer Bard. Even at 10 or less str this can do more damage than people expect.

If Melee then Skald.

Both would use Arcane Strike.

They both effectively have enough rounds of performance to last all day, so the limit matters little. They have strong class abilities augmenting skill checks. They have a large number of spell slots for effective utility spells.

They have the stamina to last all but the most arduous and crazy adventuring day while maintaining good damage and utility.

I would also suggest looking at Dreamscarred Press' Cryptic, the Battle Lord and Mystic from Amora games (especially once Liber Influxus Expanded gets released since I wrote a mystic archetype that's very similar to what you're asking for), and the Akashic Mystery classes Vizier and Guru.

Based on your opening post these classes are very worth looking into as both comparisons for your own work and potentially to fill the gap you're looking at.

I have definitely seen the Cryptic, its on my large list of things that would be interesting to play. Cannot say I've seen the other classes though. Comparing to the Skald and Bard should be a pretty decent benchmark.

And Cyrad, that is a fair statement. I dont have any real ideas as of yet, just rough ideas. Possibly taking a small page from Spheres of Power and have the default blast be bludgeoning (or maybe interchangeable between bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing), and then having options to turn it into various elements. Also debating it having either a list of options for a sort of build your own path, or paths similar to Combat Styles that give you lists of options you can take at certain levels.

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Classes are extremely difficult to design. If the blast is the only ability you can figure, then it might be better to make it an archetype or take an existing class and swap out powers.

For benchmarking, I recommend looking at the alchemist, honestly.

If the blast has a dice progression (like alchemist bombs, sneak attack, etc,), the class should be 3/4 BAB or less. If it's a touch attack, it should be a standard action.

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I don't think being "at-will" should affect the damage dealing capabilities of a class. The main damage dealers in the game do so without expending resources. It is the utility abilities that should be where you adjust the balance. High utility should come at a cost to damage.

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Evil Hat wrote:
I don't think being "at-will" should affect the damage dealing capabilities of a class.

That really should depend on how the damage is done. For example, letting a full BAB class full-attack with an at-will ranged touch attack blast that deals 1d6 per odd level would be kind of broken.

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Probably. Though I would file the touch attack part of the attack under utility. The 1d6 per two levels at-will, even at full BAB would not be broken.

Cyrad wrote:
Evil Hat wrote:
I don't think being "at-will" should affect the damage dealing capabilities of a class.
That really should depend on how the damage is done. For example, letting a full BAB class full-attack with an at-will ranged touch attack blast that deals 1d6 per odd level would be kind of broken.

would this be better than an Archer? You have no damage mods.

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Even without a damage mod, it would be really powerful because touch attacks are pretty much auto-hits the further the campaign goes. Also, don't underestimate the benefit of not relying on a weapon or ammo.

If I wanted to make a full BAB class with a strong at-will ranged special attack, I'd probably make the blast's damage scale like monk unarmed strikes and keep the range increment around 20 feet.

Spheres of Power does "all day" casters pretty well. The basic Destruction attack does +1d6 damage every odd level as a touch attack, with the option to double the damage dice by expending a point from a (decent-sized) daily pool. Various talents can change the type, shape, saving throw type, and damage of the attack. Of course, it's far less damage than a serious full-attacking warrior would be able to put out - the real value is in the utility and ability to cause different effects. Being able to make creatures Staggered at the start of a battle, for example, can really ruin their day.

I'd usually recommend comparing against a CRB only fighter to start, and then including other books later on to see how it'll compare in a real game. I have some rough computed DPR-per-levels here: Optimized CRB only fighter and Non-Optimized CRB only fighter. It's important to note though that the power creep of martials is very real, and, for example, just including gloves of dueling increases the fighter's DPR by like 20%.

I personally do not like comparing things to an archer fighter, because I find archery to be way too overpowered for the investment, and using that as a baseline will just further bring the levels that devolve into rocket tag to a lower level.

This generated a bit more feedback than I was expecting, and that makes me quite happy.

Evil Hat, I know there are some people who overvalue the ability to do things at will all day every day, and that is (whether stated or inferred) one of the reasons the Kineticist's Burn mechanic is what it is. That's one of the reasons I asked people what they felt the rough baseline should be for a class. Would people find it better to be a once per round ranged touch with 1d6/2 levels? Multiple little attacks with mods and against normal ac? Somewhere in the middle?

GM Rednal, from what I've read into of my SoP pdfs, yeah, the system looks lovely. I remember being slightly disappointed by the Destruction sphere, sadly, but I will have to really go back and look into it again. I remember it seeming to be a lot better if taken by an Elementalist or whatever the class was called. Now if this were about Shape shifting, then yes, SoP has answered my dreams for a form shifting class very well.

The thing I'm most tempted to compare it to is the Warlock variant class from Into the Breach: Oracle. The class gets a blast ability that is usable as each attack in a full round, following the 1d6/2 levels damage with no mods model. It has a range of....I believe 60 feet, and is touch ac within 30 feet. There are talents to make it deal different elements, and later on elemental combos, there are ones to change its shape and its AoE abilities, and to force various statuses on the enemies. There are even two talents to increase its range, with the later talent increasing its touch ac range to 60 feet or so. The issue is, to sort of replicate the other at will abilities the 3.5 class had, they gave it access to all of the Oracle revelations, from any mystery they want. Speaking from a little experience, it gets silly quickly.

I guess, basically, a simpler question would be, what would it take to make a class like the 3.5 warlock fit people's views of a solid at will class. I've heard views that the Eldritch blast was weak but the other invocations were good, I've heard that both were too good.... And I do mean just the base warlock. I dont have pdfs of all the other 3.5 things that gave the warlock other options so I cant comment on those.

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I honestly thought they had a good scheme with the kineticist. They just made it WAY too flippin' complicated with the burn mechanic and the number of different types of wild talents.

As do I, actually. There is a ton with the Kineticist that I love the idea of, there really is. However, even after looking the class over a few times, I still feel a little confused. Okay, so this reduces this and this does it for that but not this and do these two count as this or that or what?

I am currently playing a "converted" version of the Warlock in a game. I kinda mushed a couple of the conversions I found on this site together. I deal rather consistent damage, but it is a pittance compared to everyone else in the party. I do have a few invocations that annoys the DM. For example, one effectively gives me continuous comprehend languages (written word only), and that's tripped him up a few times. Most of the times that the Warlock has been worth his weight in platinum have been outside of combat. I do have my tricks, but no more so that everyone else. That will expand as we get into higher levels, but so will everyone else's bag of tricks. I don't imagine I will ever be as powerful a fighter as our Bloodrager nor as versatile as a pure Wizard. I might, one day, out perform the monk, but that's only because the conversion has options to do a "double shot" about two levels after I would normally get iterative attacks. And, the only reason I even think I might do more damage is because I'd probably end up hitting more due to my attack being a touch attack. I haven't run any numbers though.

Homebrew Warlock

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Evil Hat wrote:
I don't think being "at-will" should affect the damage dealing capabilities of a class. The main damage dealers in the game do so without expending resources. It is the utility abilities that should be where you adjust the balance. High utility should come at a cost to damage.

The only damage dealer that does that sort of "free damage" is the fighter, archers expend arrows, (note to all zen archers, I do inventory checks), casters expend spells, psis expend points.

Arrows are such a minor cost that they are functionally free, don't be pedantic thanks.

I did a dpr calculation on a touch attack d6 per odd level, at level 10:

against a touch ac of 12, your dpr is 34.91

This doesn't seem very op to me imo.

For at-will damage, the Archer Fighter is your way to go. Fighter is generally a bad class except when it comes to damage, which they're fairly good at. If you're aiming at touch AC, maybe a peek at the Gunslinger would be worthwhile.

For utility, all the full BAB melee classes *should* have 1/2 casting or Unchained Monk abilities, but sadly most don't.

Okay, let's assume then that a class can deal roughly archer damage in a full round attack by utilizing some sort of ranged blast attack. Or even base it more off a gunslinger and have the attack be at touch ac within a certain range, probably fairly close. We'll say the class can make any and all of its attacks in a full round with the blast ability, including hasted and Rapid Shot, but cannot use Manyshot. Let's also assume that the class is a d8 3/4ths BAB class, because I at least tend to follow the general design idea that 3/4th classes should have various options (Magus, Inquisitor, Warpriest, etc). Should the class be able to add damage mods to the blast? Maybe its dex, or its "casting" stat? Deadly Aim wouldn't work normally unless the class had an exception to the "no ranged touch" rule.

Assuming it had a little less DPR than an archer build, what should the level of utility be? Roughly the same as a 6th level caster? I'm genuinely curious what people would like to see from a class like that. I know that my expectations of a class are more subdued most of the time. Should it be able to fly? Go invisible? Destroy the terrain with its blasts to create rough terrain and break opponent charge lines? AoE the enemy field? Would it hurt the class or help balance it to change the action required to use the abilities dependent on form? Like the basic blast can be used in a full attack, but a large AoE blast that deals more damage and breaks the terrain would be a full round action?

If, by itself with no real effort of optimization, it is hitting the damage per round of a fighter archer, then its utility should be a very small amount. The benchmarks you've set will create an unbalanced class if you add a ton of utility.

Oh no, I didnt mean with no real effort of optimization. I meant that, if it spent the same level of optimization to get its blasts to deal comparative, but overall less, than an archer. Taking the same feats and everything, save for those that wouldn't apply, such as Manyshot. Which, right there, would lower the damage at least by a bit.

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