Oct 062015
 

If one peruses the various locations where DDO discussion takes place (forums, chat room, Vault, etc.), one hears that casters, especially control casters who rely on the ability to overcome enemy saving throws, are currently at a disadvantage when compared to their melee counterparts.

First Edition Players Handbook

Β A never-ending font of wisdom and ideas

This divide – melee vs caster – has historically been a dichotomy that is difficult for Turbine to manage. One side or the other has been in ascendancy throughout most of the time that I’ve been playing the game. The pendulum swings one way and suddenly everything is being melted with Cloudkill or insta-killed with Finger of Death while the sword-swingers feel like appendixes being brought along on raids to increase loot drops. It swings the other way and suddenly no one can dance anything, everyone melees, and you are lucky to even get your caster into a raid group at all.

Frankly, I can see the difficulty. Trying to maintain any semblance of balance will probably always be difficult. How do you make wizards viable in the end game without them simply taking it over? It is a conundrum.

Nonetheless, your fearless public servant forges ahead, unfazed by the likelihood of contempt and scorn, not even all that concerned about whether or not the solution actually works: DDOGamer presents a partial solution to the caster crisis:

The First Edition Players Handbook.

Wait what? That thing is more than 40 years old! Nonetheless. Old, but fill of wisdom. And more to the point, it is chock full of spells. Hundreds of them. Many of which could be used to help bring back the utility of the various caster classes.

First, a quick analysis of why there is perceived to be a problem:

Casters are not supposed to be just instant killers or DPS projectors. There was a time when casters were useful in other ways too:

  • Remedy spells, like removing curses or raising from the dead
  • Buff spells, like Haste
  • Debuff spells, like Waves of Fatigue
  • Utility spells, like Dimension Door
  • Crowd control spells, like Otto’s Irresistible Dance

Each of these has become outdated or useless because of changes in the game. Remedies are not needed when you have multiple immunities and destiny/enhancement SLAs that provide the same capability. Buffs are now ignored or, for those few that are still wanted, self-applied via destiny or SLA or clicky. Utilities are all duplicated by destiny or enhancement or clicky. Debuffs are nearly impossible – so many bad guys are red-named now, and those few that aren’t red-named have crazy high saving throws and/or spell resistance, and even when you do land a debuff the bad guys shrug it off in a few seconds. Ditto for crowd control; it takes months to build a caster that is capable of dancing anything in the new content, and for all that effort you might get six seconds of crowd control. Six seconds. Maybe. Probably less.

I am not including instant-kill spells like Destruction in this because they are a special case. If such spells work at all, they are super-powerful, far more than anything a melee character can do. Yet, if they can’t be made to work reliably, then they are useless. This is a nearly impossible set of facts to balance; I think you’d need to completely change the way instant-kill spells work to have any hope of making them fit into the game at all. And that is a topic for another article. For now, it is enough to acknowledge that instant-kill spells are currently in the same boat as crowd control: not part of playing when you are in newer content.

Add it all up and the only spells left that work are damage spells. DPS. Except melee and ranged characters can project damage endlessly without a spell pool. Warlocks too. What is any other type of caster to do?

Some people are going to argue that none of the above are really a problem at all.

  • If you work on your caster, really work on him or her, you can land your spells, at least some of the time
  • If you are not in Epic Elite content, the bad guys are not quite so bullet-proof and do not have as many spell immunities
  • Maybe you are quite content with projecting damage, and casters remain pretty good at that, some classes more than others of course, but still
  • If you are in a static group or are playing permadeath in the heroic levels, you may even still be getting good use out of your remedies and buffs and debuffs

But if you are not described in one of these bullet points then you are probably not playing your caster right now, not very often, and not very satisfactorily on those occasions where you do bring him or her out for an adventure.

First Edition Wizard didn't worry about obsolescence
First Edition Wizard didn’t have to worry about obsolescence

With the problem restated (and assuming everyone agrees that the problem is restated accurately), we can start to look for solutions. And I found them. Dozens of them, all in the First Edition Players Handbook, in the form of new DDO spells.

New spells! Buffs, debuffs, remedies, they are all here. If you only look. I am going to limit myself to a small number for time-constraint reasons but there are literally dozens of spells in here that could be made to work in DDO and would make casters relevant again!

Cleric

Silence 15′ Radius: this second-level spell could be cast on an enemy (in which case it got a saving throw), or it could be cast on a thing – the floor, a coin, whatever, in which case it always worked. Always. Any casters in the area of effect have to move in order to cast spells. Any caster, no matter how powerful or red-named! That would be awesome in DDO!

Sticks to Snakes: a handful of snakes (which have a chance to be poisonous) appear and attack your enemy. That would work in DDO too, drawing agro, etc. It would be even better if the snakes scaled with caster level, they could be fearsome at level 30, but even if not, even if the bad guys can smash one per attack for free, even so that would get cast. Tactical delay, agro management, fun.

Druid

Warp Wood: This second-level spell ruins wooden weapons or shields with no saving throw. In tabletop, the volume of wood scaled with level, not sure if that is necessary in DDO, it would be enough to cause targets that are using weapons to have to switch to a secondary weapon.

Animal Growth: Causes target animals to double in size, hit dice and melee damage. Tell me how that wouldn’t make some of the Summons spells useful, and especially, the Druid dog companion. Doubled! It could be for a limited duration, maybe with a long cool-down. It would need to stack with all the other summons buffs.

Magic User

Mirror Image: Creates an illusionary duplicate of the caster that lasts until it is attacked. That would work perfectly in DDO! A duplicate that can draw agro as if it were real, until it gets attacked once at which point it disappears. Tell me you wouldn’t cast that?

Pyrotechnics: There are two versions of this spell in tabletop, one that creates fireworks and another that creates smoke, but in DDO all we need is the fireworks. Because fireworks! They do no damage, but would have a chance to draw monster attention (like Intimidate, but using casters stats and skills for the DC). Would make for interesting tactics I think, could be very useful in certain specific situations. Plus, fireworks!

Tensors Floating Disc: A visible, physical manifestation that floats along behind the caster and carries things. In DDO that would translate to the ability to increase your equipment encumbrance capability. No more having to leave armor in the chest because you aren’t strong enough to carry any more.

Illusionist

Continual Darkness: Like the clerical Silence 15′ Radius spell, this one can be cast on an area and if so, there is no saving throw. Everything in the area of effect is blinded without save until it moves out of the darkness. Everything, even red names. Or at least everything that needs to be able to see.

Improved Invisibility: all of the benefits of Invisibility except you can attack and throw levers and so forth. I don’t need to say any more, do I? This might be another spell that requires a short duration and a longish cool-down, but I’d still want it. Especially if I could use it as buff and cast it on others.

So there you have it. Buffs. Debuffs. Utilities. Tactical movement, which is like crowd control but without making the monsters helpless – and also, without the saving throws.

These are spells that would get cast. Spells that would make casters more desirable without increasing their spell power and DPS. Spells that would make casters a lot more fun to play.

What do you think? Is there actually a “caster problem” at all?

And if there is, would this go some ways towards fixing it?

πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ πŸ™‚

  8 Responses to “Fixing Casters Using the First Edition Player’s Handbook”

Comments (8)
  1. Warlocks get a single-target silence spell, it allows a saving throw – quite nice in low levels, but not as necessary since you can just kill stuff pretty quickly. An AoE version would be nice, especially if placeable like, say, the symbol spells – i wonder if the enemies have their spells & SLAs etc. typed as having somantic, verbal etc. components, if so it’d basically be a zone of “spells with this don’t work, unless you have silent spell metamagic feat” which could be a blanket effect to work on the party too.

    Animal growth is in the druid spellbook, but it’s just an (iirc) +6 size bonus to strength – a couple of extra effects on it would be nice though, and there’s definitely a function to change the displayed size of a character or creature, as devs will often play around with it on lammania for the lulz – physical area of the character or whatever seems to be fixed though, as adjusting that could probably have odd effects, and having it as visual only could end up with unpleasant visual clipping issues i suspect.

    mirror image, probably an engine limitation creating an illusory duplicate, but a version of spell absorb that works to completely negate a set number of physical attacks (rather than mitigating a limited amount, like stoneskin, ablative armour etc) would be really nice & give it the right overall effect functionally

    Darkness could be nice, though making the area actually dark would cause annoyance i suspect, as well as some graphics lag – could be doable though, combine some of the graphic effects from the new tentacles spell warlocks get with an AoE blindness effect & cloud-level concealment within the area.. but then thats a fair bit of work to get what can be accomplished with a cloud spell & glitterdust that are already in the game.

    Improved invisibility actually exists in-game – tier 4 shadowdancer ability πŸ™‚ The invisibility proc effect on certain items will cause you to stay invisible while attacking too, though you don’t get the displacement afterwards.

  2. Good to see a bit of a different angle of thinking applied. Or just take away some of the crazy saves, endless immunities etc?

    Whatever, we need bit of creative thinking to make it work, but also make if fun, and this seems that it might work.

  3. Honestly, I’ve always thought the whole point of Epic Elite was to BE completely retarded with unfair difficulty.

    Having said that… I’m a primary melee and make lousy casters, so I’m not even going to touch on the rest. Lol. πŸ˜›

  4. I am a fan of the old school and mirror image is a classic illusion spell, in the same vein silent image, minor image all the create holograms spells of increasing detail and realism would also be nice as (pretty) hate machines

  5. I do believe “Animal Growth” *is* in DDO. Maybe not exactly the same as the 1st Ed. AD&D spell, but it is there (for both druids and rangers). DDO description reads: “Grants an Animal, Magical Beast, or Vermin a +4 size Bonus to Strength, a +4 Size Bonus to Constitution, and a -2 penalty to Dexterity.”
    πŸ˜‰

    • A bit better than i thought then, though adding a +1W (or even +2W with, say, 15+ caster levels) would certainly help it be more impactful.. and it’d be a nice way to boost druid animal forms at the same time.

  6. This is why Geoff’s blog beats the forums hands down – knowledge + nostalgia + creative thinking + positive suggestions.
    Imho, situationally useful spells should be one of the most powerful tools in the game, to reward thinking play.
    How about wall of iron?

    • Heh – yeah, my buddies like to cast “wall of stone” (or iron) several feet above mobs so that it would fall on top of them and (hopefully) crush them. Although, I think if I were DM, I would not allow that and just say it was magically anchored in place. Hehehe.

      But in DDO, I think “Wall of Force” might be a little better than wall of iron. At least you could see through it.
      πŸ˜‰

What do you think?

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