Power budgets and balance


Secrets of Magic Playtest General Discussion


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So I wasn't a part of any other paizo playtest that I can remember. So maybe this term arose from past playtest scenarios.

But I see the term power budget thrown around a lot. Often to explain away a debate about anything remotely resembling a improvement upon a class or aspect of it.

You can't do x without giving something up because power budget.

That would throw off the power budget.

*That's not how power budgets work*. If it was, it would mean that every playtest class is 100 percent balanced and performing at peak potential from the beginning. Wich means there is no reason to playtest.

Example of how people are using this term. Say you have a power budget of 5 for 2 classes. One class is objectively weaker than the other. But both are at 5/5 of their power budget.

This is the issue we are having on these forums. The power budget is assumed the balance point. And the power budget does not take into account of the weight of the individual parts.

A +1 to hit with melee isn't the same as a +1 to your spells save DC's.

That is a very basic example. You can extend this beyond static number effects to actions and such.

Here is the thing. If the class is underperforming, the power budget ceases to matter. So if this term is anything more then playtest players finding their new favorite pet word. Paizo you have your priorities out of whack. Power budgets don't exist. They are arbitrary imaginary lines in the sand with no respect to actual game balance.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

They don't generally playtest to fine tune the power budget, they playtest to get people's thoughts on how the class feels to play.

When people here refer to power budget, they mean it in the vaguest, most nebulous sense. We can only guess at how Paizo determines a class's power budget. When someone proposes a change that feels like it might be too strong, or the sum of their features is flat-out better than another class, that's when someone might say "hey, that's out of line"

No one has hard numbers on these things. We only know for sure that if a class gets too many goodies it can overshadow another class quite quickly.


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Quote:
Power budgets don't exist. They are arbitrary imaginary lines in the sand with no respect to actual game balance.

But that's what a Power Budget is, the balance with respect to the rest of the game.

For instance we can likely assume the following things about the balance of the game.

1. No one can have a higher accuracy than a Fighter with a weapon

2. No one can deal more damage than a Barbarian in a single attack

3. No one can be better at Defense and Defending others than a Champion

4. No one can have more Skill Increases than a Rogue

...

And so on and so forth.

Now if you were to assign degrees of value to things:

An Investigator gets slightly weaker Skills than a Rogue, therefore they have slightly more in their budget for Utility based things and out of combat.

A Swashbuckler has a little bit less than an Investigator, but more than the base line Skill Feats.

And then you have the baseline, Skill Increases at 3/5/7 with Skill Feats on the evens.

Now from there, we can try (emphasis on try) to make assumptions about where a Class should stand based on how we perceive them to be allocated in terms of the respective things they are meant to be good at.

________________________________________

I'm sorry but I think Power Budget discussions are important for playtesting, so instead of saying they don't exist it's probably just better to accentuate why you don't think a particular element a person says goes outside a "power budget" as much as they may think it does.

But it is worth talking about, IMO.


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If power budgets don't exist, then why don't we just give a hypothetical new class expert level 1 weapons, expert in all armours, 3 level 1 spell slots, and 2 class feats? Clearly, they're just imaginary lines in the sand with no respect to game balance, and we have no need to budget how many features we give to one class.

If one class is objectively weaker than another, they are not both at 5/5 of their power budget (unless that other class is supposed to be objectively weaker for some weird reason).


Cyouni wrote:

If power budgets don't exist, then why don't we just give a hypothetical new class expert level 1 weapons, expert in all armours, 3 level 1 spell slots, and 2 class feats? Clearly, they're just imaginary lines in the sand with no respect to game balance, and we have no need to budget how many features we give to one class.

If one class is objectively weaker than another, they are not both at 5/5 of their power budget (unless that other class is supposed to be objectively weaker for some weird reason).

so, every class since the core classes have some weird reason then? ok


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Martialmasters wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

If power budgets don't exist, then why don't we just give a hypothetical new class expert level 1 weapons, expert in all armours, 3 level 1 spell slots, and 2 class feats? Clearly, they're just imaginary lines in the sand with no respect to game balance, and we have no need to budget how many features we give to one class.

If one class is objectively weaker than another, they are not both at 5/5 of their power budget (unless that other class is supposed to be objectively weaker for some weird reason).

so, every class since the core classes have some weird reason then? ok

Ok, how is swashbuckler objectively weaker than rogue? I'm dying to hear this.

While I'm at it, how is oracle objectively weaker than a divine sorcerer, witch objectively weaker than wizard, and I guess investigator objectively weaker than rogue?


Martialmasters wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

If power budgets don't exist, then why don't we just give a hypothetical new class expert level 1 weapons, expert in all armours, 3 level 1 spell slots, and 2 class feats? Clearly, they're just imaginary lines in the sand with no respect to game balance, and we have no need to budget how many features we give to one class.

If one class is objectively weaker than another, they are not both at 5/5 of their power budget (unless that other class is supposed to be objectively weaker for some weird reason).

so, every class since the core classes have some weird reason then? ok

I mean I guess? Like it's pretty safe to assume you want the Rogue to be the best at Skills right?

They started with a base assumption on everyone, then built up to the respective "Skill Maximum" they wanted for the Rogue. That becomes the ceiling.

Then they did the same thing for Fighter and striking with a weapon.

Presumably.

It's no different than any other game honestly. In Overwatch for instance, Tracer is the "control" of the Heroes you can choose (meaning she was the first one they designed and they generally balance all other Heroes around that baseline).


Cyouni wrote:
Martialmasters wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

If power budgets don't exist, then why don't we just give a hypothetical new class expert level 1 weapons, expert in all armours, 3 level 1 spell slots, and 2 class feats? Clearly, they're just imaginary lines in the sand with no respect to game balance, and we have no need to budget how many features we give to one class.

If one class is objectively weaker than another, they are not both at 5/5 of their power budget (unless that other class is supposed to be objectively weaker for some weird reason).

so, every class since the core classes have some weird reason then? ok
Ok, how is swashbuckler objectively weaker than rogue? I'm dying to hear this.

rogue has a much easier time to achieve flat footed and get sneak attack every attack on its turn on top of providing more ooc utility

swashbuckler gets to jump through hoops to generate panache as they cant simply rely on flat footed like rogue wich has 42 methods of happening, so while rogue, especially at early levels, can sometimes have a round or 2 where they struggle to get sneak attack every attack, swashbuckler routinely, even when optimally built, has multiple consecutive rounds trying to get its shtick rolling.

end result is swingy damage that averages lower over time.

did i mention they also have better ooc utility? the rogue?


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That's subjective, and focused on literally one aspect. What about martial weapons, better saves, the ability to get better AC, the automatic riposte access, etc.

You have looked at one aspect and used it to judge the class as a whole to be better, which is completely a value judgement - but in no ways is it an objective one.

To be able to show objectively that one class is weaker than another, you have to be able to show that there are literally 0 points in time where you'd want a swashbuckler over a rogue.


Cyouni wrote:

That's subjective, and focused on literally one aspect. What about martial weapons, better saves, the ability to get better AC, the automatic riposte access, etc.

You have looked at one aspect and used it to judge the class as a whole to be better, which is completely a value judgement - but in no ways is it an objective one.

martial weapons are barely better and you can solve that via multiclass or ancestry

better saves is subjective, they have different saves

better ac? ruffian can get medium armor too, both can get to heavy via feats

riposte is weak compared to attack of opportunity and opportune backstab.

next


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No, you're defining AoO (which rogue doesn't even get) and the level 8 feat Opportune Backstab as subjectively better than the numerous ways of getting permanent +2 AC and Opportune Riposte. This is a subjective assessment.

Similarly, you've subjectively judged rogue's ability to get more consistent SA damage as better than swashbuckler's higher damage and speed.

And you've subjectively judged that it's of no value to be able to pick up advanced weapons through ancestry.

These aren't objective. These are you making subjective value judgements and presenting them as objective.


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I think power budget is to help articulate that nothing is gained for free in the eyes of balance. If a class excels at option X, it must be weak in regards to Y.

Though it is a rough outline, as giving objective values to Xs and Ys is impossible as you say.

But a power budget doesn't necessarily mandate that, so it might be better to think of it in general terms. EG: This class feels weak in X, but feels strong in Y so it is ok, rather than this class gains these numbers for Y, but lacks these numbers for X.

And if a class is under performing, the power budget thinking can still matter, as the class is operating under their power budget. So in the process of bringing the class up to par, there is a finite amount of power they can acquire, and applying that power creates an opportunity cost with other areas. So if people want the Magus to have/become better at X, it will be assumed (due to the idea of a power budget's finite resources) that the Magus cannot also be given/become better at Y.

Ryu/Ken/Guile from Street Fighter are good examples of power budgets at work. They each excel at different ranges despite lots of similarities in their moves. If one of the trio was weak, they have left over budget which could be spent on strengthening a weakness, or pushing a strength further, and if both options were selected it would be a smaller bonus to each.

But this isn't a perfect world, so even if decisions are made with power budgets in mind they can still be incorrect. This does not mean power budget thinking is flawed.

Edit: It could be thought of as a balance principle, a somewhat vague statement that can argue for a position but does not necessarily demand it. And can be balanced against other balance principles.


Cyouni wrote:

No, you're defining AoO (which rogue doesn't even get) and the level 8 feat Opportune Backstab as subjectively better than the numerous ways of getting permanent +2 AC and Opportune Riposte. This is a subjective assessment.

Similarly, you've subjectively judged rogue's ability to get more consistent SA damage as better than swashbuckler's higher damage and speed.

And you've subjectively judged that it's of no value to be able to pick up advanced weapons through ancestry.

These aren't objective. These are you making subjective value judgements and presenting them as objective.

advanced weapons are not better than martial and martial are barely better than simple and easily rememdied by feats

give me something i cannot overcome via feats?


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Martialmasters wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

No, you're defining AoO (which rogue doesn't even get) and the level 8 feat Opportune Backstab as subjectively better than the numerous ways of getting permanent +2 AC and Opportune Riposte. This is a subjective assessment.

Similarly, you've subjectively judged rogue's ability to get more consistent SA damage as better than swashbuckler's higher damage and speed.

And you've subjectively judged that it's of no value to be able to pick up advanced weapons through ancestry.

These aren't objective. These are you making subjective value judgements and presenting them as objective.

advanced weapons are not better than martial and martial are barely better than simple and easily rememdied by feats

give me something i cannot overcome via feats?

Fun factor?

If something is mechanically hard to justify but is fun, it could be argued it is balanced.

Especially if your balance goal is to facilitate fun.

Not saying rogue is more/less fun than swashbuckler, but they are different kinds of fun.


Clinton Love wrote:
Martialmasters wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

No, you're defining AoO (which rogue doesn't even get) and the level 8 feat Opportune Backstab as subjectively better than the numerous ways of getting permanent +2 AC and Opportune Riposte. This is a subjective assessment.

Similarly, you've subjectively judged rogue's ability to get more consistent SA damage as better than swashbuckler's higher damage and speed.

And you've subjectively judged that it's of no value to be able to pick up advanced weapons through ancestry.

These aren't objective. These are you making subjective value judgements and presenting them as objective.

advanced weapons are not better than martial and martial are barely better than simple and easily rememdied by feats

give me something i cannot overcome via feats?

Fun factor?

If something is mechanically hard to justify but is fun, it could be argued it is balanced.

Especially if your balance goal is to facilitate fun.

Not saying rogue is more/less fun than swashbuckler, but they are different kinds of fun.

swash is more fu n for me, but its not as good, so i dont bother.


But this edition has been going with the theme not of balance for "fun" but balance for "balance".

Then the whole thing is like "this was too strong in PF1 we need to make it super limited to prevent problems". So we get things like Magus needing a all their actions to be able to use their basic combat ability. Then needing multiple actions for shifting how they hold their weapon. Then needing multiple action and hand requirements to be able to use things, when you have other requirements to do your main thing.

In trying to stop some perceive "over powered thing" they add needless restrictions to things that shouldn't be restricted, or add weird action economy that makes using something incredibly difficult if at all. Or add weird rules that really have no reason being there.

For example: Why does the Eidolon need to share your HP 1:1?

So many people say that its because its easier, but everyone already had to track the HP of Familiars, Animal Companions, Individual Summoned Creatures, Shields, Etc. Tracking the HP of the Eidolon is not hard.

Others say its because of balance. But then a Barbarian with an animal companion has 12 HP + 10 HP per level. Compared to the Summoner with their Eidolon being: 10 HP per level. Is the Eidolon really that strong that the Summoner needs to share HP when you already are giving up on feats, spells, and the Eidolon is already weaker than most martial?

Other say its because Theme. But then the Theme of the Eidolon is that its a different creature that you summoned and that is bonded to you. The Theme isn't that you get a second body that makes you bleed when it gets hurt, even if that might be an option. And people say its complicated. But is a free action to transfer HP really more complicated than all the weirdness from the current rules?

That is why there is talk about power budgets. Because Paizo has made it clear that things will be limited, no question about it. The question is how limited should things be and where those the line stop for each part of the class. Ex: A full caster will never get full martial stats and feats.


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I would argue than fun is another design principle (or balance principle or whatever you want to call it) that can be balanced against others, such as power budget, theme, ease of play, self expression or even tradition.

If this edition has placed greater emphasis on balance for balance's sake then that does not mean other principles are no longer important in balance decisions. If balance for the sake of balance was the design goal, then we would have one class. Then everything would be balanced (see Street Fighter 1, the most balanced fighting game). So balance is likely a tool to be used to achieve other design goals, for example, martials and GMs having fun past level 10.

As an example compare MAP to Dex attacks doing lower damage:
MAP as a balance tool could be seen as being designed to facilitate self expression. Decreasing the power of your 3rd strike means characters are incentivised to find useful 3rd actions that differentiate them from others, raise shield vs demoralise for example. Even though it might be more balanced for all martials to just do 3 attacks every turn.

Where as, the relatively low damage of dex attacks compared to str based ones could be a balance decision largely guided by the power budget of the two stats. As dex has more skills and is a better defense stat than strength.

Both of these balance decisions use different principles to meet their ends.

The Int/Wis/Cha balance disparity could be explained by tradition for example. (Though I do not find this very compelling).

But any principles used, including fun or power budget can still lead to mistakes.

But I do agree with your main point Temparans on the role usefulness of thinking in power budgets, I just think that power budget is not the only balance principle that is or should be used.

PS. A balance decision can be guided by more than one principle, so in your Summoner example, it could be theme, ease of play, and power budgets.

PPS. I am not arguing one thing is balanced or another isn't, I am just trying to describe certain ways you can look at balance.


I am not saying that the power budget is the only thing that should be used.

I am saying that it seems like that is the only thing Paizo is using in PF2. Everything seems to be chained up for no real reason. With rules that dont seem to have any reason except to chain things up. Even though the game is a lot more fun when the abilities are not chained up.

For Example: Double class feats and free archetype variant rules. Both of those deal with the bottleneck that is class feat and make the game so much more enjoyable compared to the base. But it doesn't really make anyone stronger, they all just have more options.


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Ah I get you, it is certainly a possibility.

Magus spellstrike's current design is difficult to justify using any of the principles I listed. And strict adherence to a power budget could be the culprit for it.


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Martialmasters wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

No, you're defining AoO (which rogue doesn't even get) and the level 8 feat Opportune Backstab as subjectively better than the numerous ways of getting permanent +2 AC and Opportune Riposte. This is a subjective assessment.

Similarly, you've subjectively judged rogue's ability to get more consistent SA damage as better than swashbuckler's higher damage and speed.

And you've subjectively judged that it's of no value to be able to pick up advanced weapons through ancestry.

These aren't objective. These are you making subjective value judgements and presenting them as objective.

advanced weapons are not better than martial and martial are barely better than simple and easily rememdied by feats

give me something i cannot overcome via feats?

The ability to do 3d6 on a miss at level 6? The ability to move faster than a monk? The ability to roll twice with a +1 and take the better on combat maneuvers? The ability to roll twice with a +2 and take the better on a save? The ability to deal 3d6 bleed damage at level 8, compared to the rogue's ability to deal 2 bleed damage for an additional action?

These may not be things you value, but they're all very strong.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Every new class also needs to add something new to the game that is more than a collection of 3 or 4 feats stacked up on an existing class or Archetype dedication. The calls for a magus are not to introduce a gish into PF2. There are loads of ways to make a gish already. The magus is going to be a character who casts powerful combat spells through their weapon. Not just cast spells and attack with a weapon.

So how is this different than the archetype of the Eldritch Archer? How come we can't just make an eldritch knight that gets one special ability to combine a spell into a sword strike and call that done?

Well maybe we could have. But the eldritch archer pretty clearly only works because ranged attacks require little movement and the archetype only kicks in at 6th level, meaning that a character is going to be significantly behind on either weapon proficiencies or spells to cast and having a class that cast a spell into their weapon from level one with a full set of feats to support that is adding something new to the game.

So the next step becomes how to balance it. What does the class need to be a magus? It needs a feature to simulate casting a spell and having the effect of that spell strike through a weapon. It needs spells worth casting through a weapon. It needs to be proficient in weapons enough to make striking with a weapon a worthy 1st action activity. It needs to be powerful enough with a spell to still feel like a caster when it can't strike with a weapon.

As we have seen from archetypes. Master proficiency in spells is possible to stick on to a martial frame, because cantrips are inherently a little weaker than weapon attacks, and spell slots are always going to be more limited on a martial frame than on a true caster.

Master weapon proficiency is limited to full martial classes, but all martial classes have a little extra room for additional features that could be given over to spell casting.

Martial classes generally have 2 good saves and good AC and good hit points. The magus can get a little more offensive budget and utility in spells by having more middle of the road AC and HP, but taking away saves as well is going to make them just too fragile to put on the front lines without breaking.

Within this framework there is still clearly some wiggle room, as the developers try to dial the nobs in, but they are really good at running the math and knowing what is accomplishable through system mastery and what is good enough for a player to be able to play around with and not make an unplayable character. That is why they are more interested in seeing how we stretch and bend the system in the playtest, rather than have us run all the analyses that they have already run. If something seems like it must be weak to you, throw yourself into firguring out what can make it not weak. What can make it nearly overpowered, and then step back and ask yourself, was this fun.

For me, the barbarian and bard are both very powerful classes that are not very fun to play. The bard's action routine is just too limited and, as cool as making everyone else better is, the lack of die rolls just makes it too flat for my tastes, unless I am playing with a group that is really stretching for big hits and maximum offense, in which case, I can have fun playing the bard and setting others up. But playing a bard in a party with a redeemer champion, and cleric and a sword and board fighter? It was abysmally boring for me.

Strangely, the barbarian is the opposite for me. It is so much dependent upon being the center of the party's attention, that I just don't feel comfortable playing it. Without party support, the Barbarians whole turn pretty much rests on the first attack and then having to move away so that I didn't get knocked out by the second round. Sudden charge felt like a death trap option for saying "murder me first."

With all of this, you'd think I'd hate the magus for being too much like the barbarian and the bard combined, but the mechanics as they stand skate these lines in interesting ways. The magus "action routine" is not static. They have a bunch of interesting self buff options, and their main shtick changes based on whether you connect with the weapon attack on one round or still have a spell stored at the start of your next round. Delivering the spell through a generic strike instead of specific activity opens up a whole world of archetypes that span both caster focuses and martial focuses. They are fragile, much like the barbarian, but they have more interesting built in options for movement and defense in the synthesis, as well as defensive feat options and spells that can more easily adapt to whether the party has defense and healing covered or not. Something the barbarian has a lot more trouble adjusting to on the fly. I am hoping to deep dive into the summoner next week possibly, but I am really impressed by the general ideas of the magus and look forward to seeing how they dial it in to feel good at multiple levels of expertise in play.


Temperans wrote:

I am not saying that the power budget is the only thing that should be used.

I am saying that it seems like that is the only thing Paizo is using in PF2. Everything seems to be chained up for no real reason. With rules that dont seem to have any reason except to chain things up. Even though the game is a lot more fun when the abilities are not chained up.

For Example: Double class feats and free archetype variant rules. Both of those deal with the bottleneck that is class feat and make the game so much more enjoyable compared to the base. But it doesn't really make anyone stronger, they all just have more options.

More options is being stronger. Just look at 1e wizards. The more things you have in your toolkit, the more options you have to deal with threats, and you can pick the best one out of them.

For example, using my swashbuckler above: I have to pick between Bleeding Finisher and Dual Finisher at level 8. Because of that, I don't have both the ability to optimize vs tougher enemies (Bleeding) and to deal with multiple enemies (Dual). I could take whichever one I missed later, but that also comes at a cost.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Cyouni wrote:
Temperans wrote:

I am not saying that the power budget is the only thing that should be used.

I am saying that it seems like that is the only thing Paizo is using in PF2. Everything seems to be chained up for no real reason. With rules that dont seem to have any reason except to chain things up. Even though the game is a lot more fun when the abilities are not chained up.

For Example: Double class feats and free archetype variant rules. Both of those deal with the bottleneck that is class feat and make the game so much more enjoyable compared to the base. But it doesn't really make anyone stronger, they all just have more options.

More options is being stronger. Just look at 1e wizards. The more things you have in your toolkit, the more options you have to deal with threats, and you can pick the best one out of them.

For example, using my swashbuckler above: I have to pick between Bleeding Finisher and Dual Finisher at level 8. Because of that, I don't have both the ability to optimize vs tougher enemies (Bleeding) and to deal with multiple enemies (Dual). I could take whichever one I missed later, but that also comes at a cost.

Uh no. You are comparing apples and oranges.

On one hand, you have the wizard who, at any moment, has fluid variability for any situation. We all agree this indicates power. But on the other hand you have static variability meaning that there are a lot of options to choose from, but once those options are picked, you're locked in. The latter is what he is talking about. Talking about the former as if it is the same is disingenuous.


Verzen wrote:
Cyouni wrote:
Temperans wrote:

I am not saying that the power budget is the only thing that should be used.

I am saying that it seems like that is the only thing Paizo is using in PF2. Everything seems to be chained up for no real reason. With rules that dont seem to have any reason except to chain things up. Even though the game is a lot more fun when the abilities are not chained up.

For Example: Double class feats and free archetype variant rules. Both of those deal with the bottleneck that is class feat and make the game so much more enjoyable compared to the base. But it doesn't really make anyone stronger, they all just have more options.

More options is being stronger. Just look at 1e wizards. The more things you have in your toolkit, the more options you have to deal with threats, and you can pick the best one out of them.

For example, using my swashbuckler above: I have to pick between Bleeding Finisher and Dual Finisher at level 8. Because of that, I don't have both the ability to optimize vs tougher enemies (Bleeding) and to deal with multiple enemies (Dual). I could take whichever one I missed later, but that also comes at a cost.

Uh no. You are comparing apples and oranges.

On one hand, you have the wizard who, at any moment, has fluid variability for any situation. We all agree this indicates power. But on the other hand you have static variability meaning that there are a lot of options to choose from, but once those options are picked, you're locked in. The latter is what he is talking about. Talking about the former as if it is the same is disingenuous.

I agree with you, but the example was double class feats not increasing power. So what you said doesn't apply to this situation.


Verzen wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

More options is being stronger. Just look at 1e wizards. The more things you have in your toolkit, the more options you have to deal with threats, and you can pick the best one out of them.

For example, using my swashbuckler above: I have to pick between Bleeding Finisher and Dual Finisher at level 8. Because of that, I don't have both the ability to optimize vs tougher enemies (Bleeding) and to deal with multiple enemies (Dual). I could take whichever one I missed later, but that also comes at a cost.

Uh no. You are comparing apples and oranges.

On one hand, you have the wizard who, at any moment, has fluid variability for any situation. We all agree this indicates power. But on the other hand you have static variability meaning that there are a lot of options to choose from, but once those options are picked, you're locked in. The latter is what he is talking about. Talking about the former as if it is the same is disingenuous.

Oh, certainly, they're different types of versatility (except for some specific feats where they're identical, such as Student of the Dueling Arts). The wizard is just the best generic example of how versatility, in and of itself, is powerful.

Do you disagree that more class feats leads to more versatility, and thus more power?


Clinton Love wrote:

Ah I get you, it is certainly a possibility.

Magus spellstrike's current design is difficult to justify using any of the principles I listed. And strict adherence to a power budget could be the culprit for it.

The only principle which explains current Striking Spell is testing a class via the most extreme/contentious options on the more underpowered side of the spectrum first. At least, that's the general assumption so far, given its primary writer's previous creation of playtest Investigator.

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