Pillars of Eternity Social Round-up

14 Jan 2014

Given we're now well into January and it's been roughly a month, if not more, since we last heard news on Pillars of Eternity, it seemed like a good moment to do another social round-up on the title, mostly (but not entirely) based on info coming from lead designer and project director J.E. Sawyer.

On the game's attribute system (I apologize for the somewhat stilted formatting, but I had to cut down an ongoing discussion to a readable Q&A):

And that is Josh Sawyer's design goal there - to protect people from themselves (I don't think it's the character system's fault), to remove dump stats, and to allow you to play with any build you would like

It's less about protecting people and more about allowing a wider range of viable builds. Muscle wizards, genius fighters, high willpower rogues, etc.

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Final PE Attribute name is Perception.

Strength
Dexterity
Constitution
Intellect
Resolve
Perception

What is Resolve? It suppose to be closest we have to Charisma, but to me it seems more along the lines of wisdom


It's strength of personality, intensity, and determination.

Resolve modifies the duration of any effect generated by the character. Rogues gain Sneak Attack bonuses against enemies with a wide variety of conditions on them. Rogues are capable of inflicting many of those conditions on their own. If a rogue has a low Resolve, those conditions have commensurately shorter durations.

Strength affects your Health and number of inventory slots. Constitution affects Stamina. Dexterity affects Accuracy. Perception affects Critical Damage. Intellect affects Damage and Healing. Resolve affects Durations and AoE size. We may slightly shift these, but this is what we will be working with in the foreseeable future.

Each defense (other than Deflection) is equally influenced by two stats. Aside from level, the attributes that contribute to each defense are the primary determining factors of that defense. Class (now) rarely has a large influence on a character's defenses.

Fortitude - Strength and Constitution
Reflexes - Dexterity and Perception
Willpower - Intellect and Resolve

Deflection is the exception to this. While Fort/Ref/Will share roughly equal time in defending characters, Deflection is the most commonly-attacked defense. It is not influenced by any attribute and is mostly determined by level and class. Characters like fighters and paladins have great base Deflection. Characters like priests and wizards do not.

Attributes are set at character creation and their base values do not increase a lot as you level up.

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Have you considered making any of these attributes affect the derived stats based on class, Josh?

No, because it becomes incredibly difficult to balance. One of the great struggles with D&D-style attributes is the wild variability of what stats affect what abilities for individual classes. The influences of PoE's attributes are broad and general so they are always of some clear value to every class.

Heh, now I see why these attributes might be considered controversial. Reading Sensuki's guesses I was thinking "Hmm, all of this seems perfectly reasonable and inoffensive..." but the final result could definitely make simulationists pitch a fit.

The attribute system looks like it could be very interesting and fun to play around with. Just looking at it on paper, without having played the game obviously, it looks like it could get an "A" for build variety and tough decision-making but an "F" for intuitiveness. The way the attributes contribute to defenses is intuitive and easy to remember, but you could probably randomly jumble the other attribute effects and they would make about as much sense.

I'm excited to test out various attribute builds when the game is finally released, but please make it a top priority to figure out a way to make the attribute logic easy to justify and remember. I dunno, it might just be a matter of presenting the player with lore-based explanations of each attribute written in a persuasive enough way that they forget to think, "Wait, but couldn't Strength just as easily affect Damage?"


I think an "F" for intuitiveness is a little much, maybe a "C". Strength affects inventory, Constitution affects Stamina, Dexterity affects Accuracy. I don't think those elements are particularly unintuitive, whether you've played D&D or not. Perception and Resolve are brand new, so I think players will look more closely at them. Strength and Intellect are the most different (as far as D&Dish carryover stats, not counting Resolve as a Charisma/Wisdom stand-in), but I think those are also two of the stats in D&D that have some of the worst class-related imbalances. Charisma is, IMO, the most problematic/frequently dumped, which is why it was replaced entirely by Resolve.

Fair enough. I am more excited about what the system means for build variety than I am put off by what it means for verisimilitude.

Yeah, Strength and Intellect were the two that were tripping me up the most. I do wonder, with this system, what does someone or something that inflicts damage through pure brawn look like? For example, that ogre from the teaser video. What do its stats look like?


Well, ogres are actually pretty intelligent, but creatures like trolls (for example) rely more on the very high base damage of their weapons than on being smarty about where they land blows. A troll doesn't gain most of its damage from its Intellect, but from its insane claws. Ogres do a lot of damage based on their huge weapons, but have a larger bonus due to their much higher Intellect (compared to a troll, anyway).

I wonder what the thinking is behind making Intellect affect damage. Just a balance thing? Doesn't really bother me, but I always assume STR will benefit raw damage output.

It is completely for balance.

While we obviously know only a limited amount about the classes and have no real experience, the information revealed so far makes "high intellect, high resolve" (high intellect to reinforce their role as damage dealers, high resolve to improve the duration of their status effect-y stuff) seem like the basic, archetypical, ur-rogue build. Intellect and resolve also feed into willpower (the new name for psyche, I guess), which I believe is naturally the weakest defence on the rogue. Is this intentional design that we can expect to see with other classes, or did it arise organically as something you won't specifically attempt to recreate? Or is my assessment of rogues and stats misinformed in the first place?

That would be a great rogue build, but so would Dexterity (Accuracy) and Perception (Critical Damage). Hitting more often means more damage on average and more Critical Damage is great for a class that naturally converts some of its ordinary Hits to Crits (through Dirty Fighting). That sort of a build emphasizes attributes that influence Reflexes, which is very rogue-like (but not... Roguelike). If you want to build a burly thug, Strength and Constitution will help a rogue gain ground where they typically stink: taking hits. This would give them a great Fortitude. Of course, you can also mix them up in different ways, like a high Con / Int rogue that has great Stamina and does a lot of damage, but isn't necessarily super accurate or durable in the long run. Or you could build a high Res / Str rogue that is very durable from fight to fight and relies on his or her long-duration status effects to keep an offensive edge.

The goal is not necessarily perfect balance, but attributes producing broad and general effects that make players go, "I wonder if a high <ATTRIBUTE_NAME> <CLASS_NAME> would be cool..." and the answer is "you bet". I'm positive that some builds will play more to the strengths of individual classes, but I think if we continue to tune these well, people will be able to make a really diverse number of fun characters -- from traditional to wacky.

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I see your point on strength. But if I recall correctly, you can hit critically on something with a duration effect, right? So perhaps Perception would still be worth it for status effect types. Then it might be a kind of tradeoff between having high Resolve (when all hits have expanded duration) and high Perception (critical hits have enormously expanded duration). Though I don't know if that's how the system works, obviously.

Yes. When you score a Crit with a duration-based effect, the duration increases significantly.

I like this, the only problem I would have with it is strength not affecting damage, as that seems to be basic physics.

It's only basic physics if you think about weapons like swords and maces. Crossbows, guns, wands, and spells don't seem like they would intuitively gain damage bonuses from increased Strength. That's where you get A/D&D's quasi-simulationist damage bonus breakdown and dramatically variable weight to the Strength stat based on class and weapon type.

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I've got a bad record with predictions recently, but I'd be surprised if this were the case [note: items having hard stat requirements] because it generates serious frustration if you fall 1 point short of a cool item. What I'd be less surprised about is items that are always usable, but suffer some penalty if you fall short on a certain stat. Take STR in Fallout: New Vegas, for example: you can use any weapon while having any amount of strength, but if you have less than the minimum STR specified, you'll suffer accuracy penalties.

The other problem it creates is tiered weapon types, which narrows certain classes/builds into using the higher tier weapons exclusively. A/D&D has never had particularly great weapon balance, but the contrast became stark in 3.X and even more clearly delineated in 4E. No fighter would regularly use a Simple Weapon in 3E because its Martial equivalents are almost universally superior. And of course, in 4E, no fighter would regularly use a Simple over a Military or a Military over Superior assuming they can take the requisite feat. More than even 3.X, 4E funnels characters into lifelong equipment types based around what's ideal for their stats. If you're wearing some form of hide armor and using a bastard sword at 5th level, you're probably going to be using more magical versions of the same stuff at 10th, 15th, and 20th level.

The reason I think this is not particularly great is because it effectively removes (or at least drastically simplifies) decision-making for the character. Entire classifications of weapons and armor wind up essentially being junk choices. E.g. medium armor in 3.X is a plague upon almost any character. If you have no Dex bonus, you're going to wear heavy armor. Once you get full plate, you're going to wear full plate forever if at all possible. If you have a high Dex bonus, you're going to wear light armor. Once you get a chain shirt, you're going to wear a chain shirt forever if at all possible.

I put STR reqs on weapons in F:NV to give more importance to STR, but I think it messed with the balance of weapons. High STR weapons didn't just have to be balanced relative to weapons in their tier. They had to be balanced relative to other weapons in their tier as superior weapons because they required an investment from the player to properly use them.

Strength is one of the most difficult attributes to find immediate and universal applications for that don't wreak havoc with other game systems. Damage superficially makes sense but makes less sense when you think about attacks that aren't powered by the physical strength of the wielder.

As I wrote earlier, these are what we're working with now. As we keep testing and listening to feedback, we may move them around.

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I'd prefer magic and mundane physical attacks with weapons to be treated differently.

Strength: weapon damage // offsets a % of the action speed penalty when wearing armor for spellcasting

Constitution: stamina // health

Dexterity: melee & ranged accuracy // accuracy for AoE spells like fireball

Perception: affects critical hit damage with weapons // accuracy for non-AoE spells

Intellect: affects spell damage and healing // increased DT penetration with weapons

Resolve: duration and AoE size

The differentiation is achieved and each stat is useful for every class. It would be slightly harder to balance, but that's something that goes together with complexity.

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In an ideal world I do think this would be a nice way to make a sensible system that straddles the line between the two extremes, I believe that Mr Sawyer is trying to simplify the systems for convenience however. In which case I suppose intelligence is as good a damage mitigater as any other attribute, though I suppose one could argue for almost any of the others as well.

Pity that I won't be able to make a big dumb brute character however as I quite liked the Half Ogre playthroughs in Arcanum, but every system has its downsides.


It's not for convenience but for build variety and viability. Valorian's suggestions are pretty good ones, though there are still gaps where as certain characters I might (correctly) think, "I can dump this and avoid the penalty." That's important, though less important than "I can max this and gain something," as any class, which Valorian's suggestions cover.

My concern was not about counter-intuitive formulae but systems that promote stat dumping and, by association, non-viable class/stat builds. The formulae and derived stats affected by any given attribute could be relatively complex as long as they accomplish the two goals I stated, above.

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With those attributes, if someone wants to build a puppeteer kind of spellcaster (mind affecting spells) he can totally dump dexterity, true. Then again, I don't think that each single attribute should benefit every build.

I believe every attribute, if dumped, should harm every build because there are two logical consequences if they do not:

1) If I can dump without significant consequence, it is likely (though not necessarily true) that bumping it is similarly without consequence. This means character concepts that bump that attribute are inherently worse off for having done so.

2) If one class can dump stats without significant consequence and others cannot, in practice that class has more attribute points to play with. E.g. fighters vs. monks and paladins in 3.5. When one class has abilities that derive benefits from a narrow range of attributes, it becomes difficult to balance their powers against classes that derive benefits from a broader range of attributes.

Valorian's suggestion isn't perfect but it does suggest a way towards a system that can represent more build ideas.

It's missing an attribute that increases inventory size, and I think I liked it better when Health and Stamina were governed by different attributes. Keeping them separate makes for more interesting choices since depending on the class or general playstyle it might be advantageous to emphasize one or the other, or to emphasize both and ignore the other attributes. Then again, I've seen people claiming either Strength or Constitution might be a dump stat under Sawyer's system, although I'm not sure about that. Seems to me that FIghters would want to emphasize either Strength or both Strength and Constitution, Barbarians would typically prefer Constitution over Strength, and for the other classes it would depend situationally.


I get the Strength argument, not so much the Con argument. I don't know a lot of D&D character builds that would dump Con.

About my example... The spellcaster won't be screwed if he dumps or bumps dexterity. If he dumps dexterity.. oh well, he can focus on non-aoe spells. If he bumps it he can focus on aoe* spells. Should the attribute system rescue people that insist on casting aoe spells with exceptionally low dexterity for example, when they have the option to cast other types of spells?

That has never been a goal and I've stated so on the forums previously. Players still have to play to their strengths. If they can safely ignore their weaknesses, then they aren't really weaknesses. It's one of the things that commonly makes GURPS games so lopsided for min-maxers. Who cares if your sniper is colorblind, shy, and triskadekaphobic when she can lobotomize a fly with a rifle at 200 yards? The A/D&D analogue would be something like the classic kensai. They're amazing with one weapon, but they stink with all other weapons which they never use unless the DM contrives a circumstance for them. With fighters, Int qualifies. You can make Int-based fighter builds with core rules, but if you tank it, who cares? You can ramp Str, Dex, and Con through the roof and go nuts.

I don't disagree that the current drawback of dumping Strength in PoE is more of a strategic/convenience concern, but it is something that every character would have to deal with. Ideally all of the attributes will influence obvious and immediate tactical elements.

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In D&D, a lot of classes already have a single stat that governs damage. For fighters, it's Strength. You can easily play a Strength-damage fighter from level 1 on. The issue, IMO, is not that there's a single stat that governs damage for any given class (or all classes), but that there are many stats that do not provide an appealing incentive to take instead of that damage stat.

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Strength affecting number of inventory slots is a really stupid idea, holy shit. Every other attribute is purely combat-related except for this one thing that you're going to have to pump if you want to carry any important items (especially if weapon swapping is as important as it's been implied to be).

That's a very strong reaction considering that you have a stash for the majority of the party's items that aren't in current use. Also equipped items (including all weapons in sets, whether active or not) are not part of a character's inventory limits.

Okay yeah, maybe that was an overreaction, but it still seems unnecessary and inconsistent with every other attribute purely being combat-related.

Sure. Not every decision we make on the project is driven purely by rational logic. On many levels, games are about reasoning and problem-solving. On another level, arguably much more importantly, they are about experiences and the feelings you get from them. On a game like Pillars of Eternity, which is very nostalgia-driven, I think it's important to keep the "old feelings" in mind. Many players like the idea of their individual characters carrying individual items, and that the amount of things that they carry is connected to their stats. The general annoyance of this manifests in frequent inventory shuffling. PoE addresses this in two ways: 1) all characters' inventories are visible on one screen 2) the stash can hold additional items that the player decides they don't need to access while they're out in the field. I think our system will not be annoying (it hasn't been so far) and will reflect character stats in a way that a lot of people will like.

It's definitely going to be weird not having strength relate to damage in any way, but I think y'all are overestimating the inventory management issues. PoE likely won't have much in the way of "inventory full, find the item with the worst weight:cost ratio to drop" because you can send stuff you don't plan on using directly to an inaccessible-on-the-field stash. Carrying capacity, in this case, will effectively be combat-related, as it'll be what determines how many alternate weapons, consumables, etc. you can have.

Right?


Yeah, it's the stuff you want to switch out while you're in the field. For long-term carrying, that's what the stash is for.

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What I'm saying is, for a game that has made the fun and exciting design choice to be "gamist" rather than "simulationist" (for the record I am firmly in the 'gamist' camp) having physical and mental attributes - which will ABSOLUTELY define a character's role in combat before you explicitly pick what role they are going to play just doesn't make sense. Stats are "simulationist." Classes are gamist.

Consider the entire pool of initial Kickstarter backers and people who have become interested in this game since it was announced. Do you honestly believe that this audience would prefer not having ability scores over having some non-traditional ability scores?

I've said this before, but we're not making "a game". We're making a game in the spirit of the Infinity Engine games. And while we want remove the most obnoxious edges of that experience, the IE games were games with ability scores and classes.

I never particularly felt the IE games were defined at all by DnD stuff but rather how they were put together (very carefully, especially Icewind Dale), how they looked (isometric with lovely gorgeous backgrounds), and how they played (pseudo-turnbased!). But that's not what you guys think, so whatever, really. I'm just one guy.

What I'm saying isn't based on some sort of objective personal observation of these games in a vacuum, but on interactions I've had with BG, BG2, IWD, IWD2, PST, NWN, and NWN2 players almost continuously since 1999. If we were making "a" party-based fantasy game, it would be questionable that we'd even have classes, or if we did have classes, that we'd have abilities. Or limited personal inventories. Or a lot of things. Not doing those things certainly makes a lot of rational sense, but IMO it's a mistake to think of game experiences as being fundamentally about rational thought processes. The reasons people love IE games and want to see IE-gamish-things is because of good feelings and memories they associate with them. There is a certain amount we can deviate in all things and still have people say, "Yes, this has the things I love from those games." -- even if by some more objective measure it is a mechanically superior game.

People got mad about the possibility that there wouldn't be six ability scores. Like, just the number. Before they knew what they were, what they could affect, etc. Is it really important that this game have six ability scores? Taken overall, no. Is it really important, overall, that this feels like an IE game? Yes, very much so. The presence of ability scores (despite the infuriating complications they add to classes), the number of ability scores, the naming of ability scores -- those things contribute to that. There are certain things we feel like we can safely gut and not many people will care. There are no halflings, orcs, or gnomes in PoE. Not many people care. There are elves and dwarves in PoE. Some people do not like this, but a ton of people really like this. Charisma is not an attribute. Most players think it's a stinky stat anyway, so no one really cares if it falls off a cliff.

I know this disappoints some people, but PoE is going to have both classes and attributes (ability scores). Exactly what they're named and exactly what they affect is still flexible. My goals for them are what I said before: every attribute can be bumped for some meaningful benefit for every class and every attribute will inflict a meaningful loss for every class if it is dumped (i.e., there are no "opt out" penalties). Meaningful = more than just the bonuses/penalties to the defenses.

I guess I have one last point: If you're goal is to make a game where you can build a character with any stat layout, you're going to have a real problem with balancing difficulty between the people who build totally shit characters that suck at what their supposed to do and the spreadsheet guys. Therefore, you're going to have to EXTREMELY limit what effect stats have on a character's combat effectiveness. So why bother with stats at all?

It's way, way less of a problem when there aren't dump stats. Even if you consider stats like Strength in PoE to be arguably more dump-worthy than some of the other stats, it's miles away from Int and Cha and 2nd Ed. and 3.X. Honestly, I read this and think: But you're OBSIDIAN. People gave you money out of trust that you can make a damn fine RPG. Do they really not trust you to innovate mechanically while capturing that same emotional impact and fun factor of the old DnD stuff?

Clearly, obviously, no. There is actually a lot of stuff that is subtly to majorly different about PoE's systems vs. D&Ds. Attributes/ability scores are very obvious because you see them right away and so many people consider them to be so fundamental that changes to them stick out.

Some of the most fun in RPG's I've had lately have been from Spiderweb Software. They scratch that old-school itch for me, and they do it while constrained by an outdated, ugly graphic engine, because they are extremely tightly designed. They feel a lot like IE games, even though they're completely turn-based. And their mechanics don't look a damn thing like DnD and are better for it.

That's genuinely cool, but we didn't Kickstart a game called Fuck You: Suck My Dick: Josh Sawyer's Personal Dream RPG Experience where I do whatever I personally think is sound and neat and good. For better or worse, this was pitched as an IE-like game. It's great that you view the experiences as more abstract than the nuts and bolts, but no, people clearly do not trust me/us to make a good game that is significantly mechanically different. And I know from experience that sort of attitude can poison a player's entire reception of the game.

I have had the pleasure to work on a project where I just got to do whatever I wanted and that was pretty cool. I don't know how many people would have played that weird-ass game, but the publisher wasn't really concerned, so I went wild. Very few projects are like that. This project is not like that and I feel like we have never pitched it as though it were.

That's fine, i've nothing against specialization in general, but i said that if you look at mages for examples Str has CLEARLY no benefit as a stat for them, it's completely a dump stat for them from the get go,

Low Str wizards are extremely fragile. Even if they have a lopsided pair of Con/Str scores where Con is through the roof and Str is low, their derived Health (from Str) is still very low. They can take more damage before they need to heal Stamina, but the total amount of damage they can take before being maimed/killed (depending on difficulty) is really low.

The NPC wizard character that's in our default testing party has a low Str and it is not uncommon for him to dive perilously close to death in a single combat. I can keep healing his Stamina throughout the fight, but if his Health goes down, it's not coming back up.

I do think that it's an accurate criticism to say that Strength is currently more of a strategic concern than a tactical concern, but I definitely would not dump it on a wizard as-is. There is, but i doubt you'll want to keep your mage in the center of the fray. Beyond getting him one-shotted by the odd fighter-type that gets to him i doubt hp will have more use for a caster.

Of course, you don't want your wizard in the center of the fray, but that doesn't always work out. And even in IWD we had ranged characters relentlessly target casters. Rope kid, how does a high STR/low CON warrior class play like? My initial assumption when I read what the stats do and the health/stamina dynamic is that a character that wants to be in the thick of the fighting would be better off investing in CON over STR, but now I'm not so sure.

A high Str/low Con character (in general) needs to be healed more to stay standing in combat but can take more damage in the long run because their terminal limit (Health) is higher. Fighters have passive Stamina regeneration, so their effective long-term Stamina in a fight can be really impressive, especially with a high Con. But if that character also has a low Strength, the regeneration isn't going to do anything for the fact that their Health is going down at a disproportionate rate. Spamming healing on a character who is getting relentlessly pounded only lasts as long as their Health does, because healing only helps Stamina, not Health.

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Again though i don't understand what an attribute HAS to govern a single combat stat and why an attribute (or multiple attributes) can't affect multiple combat stats at the same time. It would be so much easier to simply let class kits affect how heavily an attribute affects a stat for THEIR class and modify their effectiveness with feats, etc.

There's really nothing easy or simple about it. It becomes increasingly complex the more things you add to each stat and the more you intentionally branch off subtypes of weapons, damage, etc.

True but outside of each class getting their damage from their own governing attribute (i.e. monks resolve, fighter type str, cyphers and casters int), which would still create a lot of balance problems and complications, i see no way around it.

What is to "get around", that one stat affects damage and healing? The way to get around that is to balance the per-point increase to damage and healing from That Stat against the per-point increase to other valuable things from other stats. Decentralizing where those bonuses come from makes that more complicated, not less.


And I figure it's also worth highlighting this question from J.E. Sawyer, in case you don't hang out on the Obsidian forum but still want to give your feedback:

A question for anyone reading the thread: if you saw a list of stats presented like this:

Might
Constitution
Dexterity
Perception
Intellect
Resolve

or

Power
Constitution
Dexterity
Perception
Intellect
Resolve

What would you assume the stat that affects damage would be? Based on that answer, if you discovered that stat affected all damage and healing, including damage and healing from sources like guns and wands and bows and fireball spells, how would you feel about it?


On stamina and health:

Maybe a constant depletion of Stamina is a bad thing after all, but I still want to discuss the idea itself of the regeneration of Stamina. What I kind of "fear" is that we'll see a somewhat DA:O execution with Stamina. All your guys fall down to the ground when the battle is over, but then their Health Stamina explodes and is 100% again in a matter of moments. It is one of the "bad" mechanics of DAO and to my understanding (and personal preference) it is not anything I liked and that many seemed to dislike as well.

Any character (other than a barbarian) who loses 100% of their max Stamina will also have lost 25% of their current Health. Characters who keep getting their faces pounded wind up in precarious positions because they hover dangerously close to being maimed or (optionally) dying. If a character walks around with a maimed status, it doesn't matter if they have 100% Stamina; pretty much any hit will immediately drop them again.

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I've always envisioned the health/stamina mechanic to be a difference between strategy/tactics. From my understanding, health is the determining factor in how long you can go without resting, whereas stamina is a combat-based resource that needs managing. So, health is the thing that determines how far you want to stray from home, sort of like "injuries" in DA:O or, maybe, the way health and stamina were done in Betrayal at Krondor (both decent systems, in my view).

I think calling it "health" is giving some people the vapors. It seems some people are equating health with hit points.

Question for Josh: Do you guys refer to anything as "hit points"? Or is that term just not used?


Yeah, that's pretty much the idea. If a character were to lose 400% of his or her total Stamina over any number of battles (without resting), his or her Health should be at 0% (unless the character is a barbarian). I've seen unlucky characters get to about 30% Health in one fight due to being healed (Stamina healing) and having Reviving Exhortation used on them after dropping without adequate protection. Going into subsequent fights, those characters typically get put way in the back or with someone protecting them. Otherwise it's really easy for them to get maimed/killed.

e: And no, we don't use hit points, just Stamina and Health.


A few snippets on class design and player conversation options:

Rope Kid tell me why fighters won't suck I need this to sleep well![note: Rope Kid is J.E. Sawyer's nickname on the Something Awful forums]

Fighters can knock dudes on their asses, both individually and, at higher levels, in groups. Also they can act like big sheets of burly flypaper and catch scrubs who try to rush by them. Their disengagement attacks are gnarly, they constantly regenerate Stamina, they convert a percentage of Grazes to Hits (this was modified from their earlier Confident Aim ability), they can shield nearby allies, and they get weapon specialization. The specialization damage bonus isn't as flashy as using a paladin's Flames of Devotion, but they gain the damage benefit with every hit forever. They're designed to be reliable, efficient, and nigh-indestructible. They're not the guys you pick to have a single shining moment in the sun before they explode and collapse, but I think they are great characters. Then again, I loved playing a warden in 4E, so I'm biased toward "slow burn" defender types.

Well, I've seen more than a few people expressing dissatisfaction over fighters being slow-and-steady defender types. If you want to be a melee character who hops around and breaks engagement and ganks someone for a boatload of damage before getting smacked hard and falling down, play a rogue. Rogues in PE aren't "Oi Govna" street urchins who pick pockets as their main profession. They're skirmishers and opportunistic killers (whether soldiers or actual thugs/assassins) in the vein of Bronn.[note: A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones character]

I think the important thing is having some ability to manage groups of enemies, since in my experience with ISO RPGs the fighter's real weakness is more how they don't contribute to fights with large numbers of enemies sometimes.

Fighters' basic Defender mode increases their number of Melee Engagement targets by two (to a total of three). It makes a big difference. One fighter in Defender can stop forward enemy motion as well as three other melee characters. For really chopping into groups of enemies, that's what barbarians (and their Carnage ability) are for.

I'm perfectly fine with it, bit maybe you should just "manage expectations" and change the names of the classes from fighter/rogue to something where people have less inbuilt D&D preconceptions?

The expectation to manage is that fighters will absorb and deal high damage in equal parts and that rogues are a combat benchwarmer skill class. I don't think it's in anyone's interest to preserve that expectation because I believe it has traditionally been one of the worst aspects of pre-4E class design.

My main character was always a Dwarven Defender in NWN so thank you and screw them. However I think some people have a point when they associate certain class names to certain D&D archetypes, especially since PoE is a spiritual children to all those D&D games but not realy.

Certainly, and when those expectations can be accommodated without negatively impacting something else in the game, we should do so. E.g., people wanted paladins to have an equivalent to Smite. They're not damage-dealing characters in our design, but that doesn't mean they can't have a limited-use "pow" ability, so we added Flames of Devotion, which has limited uses per rest.

When talking about fighters and rogues, specifically, some people have the expectation that fighters should get both the defensive abilities and the high damage output and that rogues should -- at best -- get some form of sneak attack but ultimately be skill characters. That's not something I think we should support at all.

Right, and it might be easier to do that by not using the same class names that are tied to years and years of D&D preconceptions.

It would be easier, but on this specific issue, I think it's more important for people to lose those preconceptions.

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So I've seen a lot of 4E talk coming from Rope Kid, is this game basically going to be a love letter to 4E combat? I never really got into it, the classes felt very samey with the hyperstandardized mechanics, they felt like each class or set of classes was an overly-focused part of the skillset of a more complete character. "I use my power" "Oh, miniboss, I use my bigger power" "Oh, boss, time to blow all our dailies"

Our class and ability designs are a blend of 3.5 and 4E-style elements with new stuff of our own. Combat uses unified defenses (like 4E) but differs in a lot of other ways.

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Barbarians have great group-fighting abilities (both melee offense and personal defense).

Rangers and rogues both lack crowd control capabilities, but rangers have the edge defensively due to range and the interference their animal companions can run. Animal companions share Stamina and Health with the ranger, but they are very durable, DT-wise.

Rogues have the highest single-hit damage potential and they have a lot of ways to qualify for Sneak Attacks. There are no creature type restrictions on Sneak Attack and it's automatically triggered by a lot of different conditions on the target. Additionally, rogues gain more and more ways to cause those conditions!

Paladins have modal auras, powerful single-target support abilities, high defenses, and a Smite analogue in Flames of Devotion.

Priests have better support abilities, worse defenses, and some crowd control abilities that paladins completely lack. Also a few single-target strike spells.

Druids are crowd control kings and their beast modes give them nice single-target strikes + various special powers.

As it is with all games like this, I spend a lot of time thinking about which class I'm going to play. Is there any chance I could play a Cipher like a psychic detective, or is it simply going change how my character contributes to combat encounters?

Ciphers can occasionally in conversation sense things about a person's soul, but there will not be frequent (or detailed) mind-reading escapades.

Do all classes have special conversations like that or is it just for a few classes?

All classes will, though class-gated dialogue will be uncommon overall.

Is it only available to the PC, or if a party member would qualify for the gated dialogue can they butt in?

Those checks are only made on the PC. Individual companions are specifically scripted to butt in when it makes sense for their character.

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I've always preferred fast melee classes in these games, like 3e Swashbucklers or 4e Rangers or WoW Fury Warriors

Rogues tend to turn me away due to reliance on stealth. Are Rogues in PoE the fast kind or the slow kind?


If you want a fast moving class, barbarians get Wild Sprint (limited use, but very fast) and monks inherently move faster (a li'l) in combat. If you want a fast-attacking character, use weapons classified as Fast, like daggers, stilettos, rapiers, etc.

Rogues do get Escape, which allows them to break Melee Engagement 1/encounter, which is pretty darn useful.

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From what I understand guns have an initial shot that can fuck anyone up pretty well (high damage, relatively low accuracy), but after that first shot it takes awhile to reload, so you probably only want to use it once a battle and switch to something else. Its distinction with fucking up wizards is that very few other methods get around their short-duration nigh-invulnerable Arcane Veil spell, so it's especially handy to keep a blunderbuss shot (or whatever) in your back pocket in case wizards try to stall.

Arcane Veil is an instant-use 1/encounter wizard ability that bumps up the wizard's Deflection by a huge amount for about 10 seconds. It's typically used in two circumstances: 1) the fight is starting and arrows/quarrels/spell missiles are flying 2) melee marauders are on you and you need to hold your ground or desperately try to disengage.

Guns do ignore the Deflection bonus provided by AV, but their primary usefulness comes from their good armor penetration and their potential for big damage. Follow-up shots take a long time, so in some battles, that weapon set is only useful for the initial volley and then characters have to rely on their other set(s) for whatever they need. The other problem with all guns is that they have small but significant Accuracy penalties.

In Eternity, based on what little we know about [paladins], their anime-esque burning spirits are so committed to the cause that they literally generate energy to burn people with. It doesn't come from the gods.

Yes. All paladins are extremely devoted to one cause or organization. Some of these organizations are religious, like the Fellows of St. Waidwen Martyr (Eothasian). Others are political, like the Brotherhood of the Five Suns (Vailian Republics). Some are just extremely devoted to a rigid way of living/working/existing, like the Goldpact Knights (essentially mercenary paladins). Paladins gain their powers from their extraordinary devotion, regardless of what their particular cause may be. Priests tend to be more philosophical, introspective, and nuanced in how they think about/approach things. Paladins don't generally heavily emphasize self-sacrifice for its own sake, but much more than priests, paladins believe that "the cause" is more important than they are -- though they often disagree with how to best help their causes.


On the game's UI:

One thing that really bugged me as I started playing Shadowrun Returns is the lack of a game-specific cursor icon. In SRR, the mouse icon is your default arrow (at least in the OS X version) and, I may be alone in this, this tiny detail breaks some of the immersion for me. Therefore, my humble request for Kaz, or whoever is responsible for the final UI design, is to design a set of cursor icons for P:E along the lines of the old IE-style floating hand/gauntlet/other icons. If a gauntlet takes too much space or seems too unwieldy, something equally appropriate and stylized, e.g. something as simple as Starcraft's icons, would be nice.

Already got you covered!
I agree the gauntlet mouse cursors were a definite part of the IE feels™. Might be a while before we release anything with functioning UI however.

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For the record, back when you started making your changes, did you go with a gap in the middle design ?

That is what we started with, but it's not where we ended up. It's still a bottom-only UI, but it doesn't have the left/right split with a gap in the middle.

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Will there be visual UI elements that depict this engagement radius?

Probably not, but it's a constant. It's pretty rare (never?) that I wind up thinking, "Oh that should/shouldn't have triggered Engagement."

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We've done UI work on the formations menu, but it's not finished yet.

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Yes, you will be able to name your games and the saves will be grouped by PC. Additionally, Trial of Iron save games use a metal texture instead of wood.

So is that an ingame travel map at 7:12? [note: the video referenced is the "Gather your Party" GDC presentation]

It's a mock-up for the world map, nowhere near final.

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I just recalled one of my favourite silly parts of Baldur's Gate was constantly selecting a character to see what silly things they would say. For example Xzar screeching "Stop touching me!" It'd be a nifty thing if Eternity also had that.

It does.


On the possible additional stretch goals for more wilderness areas and companions:

So are you confident that animations, effects, etc. will have enough time and money as is? Are companions and wilderness the only two stretch goal possibilities because you are satisfied with how everything else is shaping up?

Additionally, the number of current companions vs proposed additions is pretty obvious, but what about wilderness areas? Is the current scope close to the in-between-BG1-and-BG2 goal that was originally considered? If so, how much additional wilderness would the stretch goal add?

We have scaled our scope to our budget, which includes animation and everything else.

The current wilderness area scope (specifically) is a little under BG2. The exact number by which it would increase would likely depend on funding. The goal isn't to turn it into BG1, but to hit that mid-point between the two BGs, so there's good exploration with solid content density.

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I wonder how the vote results would go if BAdler or Josh or whoever would have come on here and pointed out, in the OP, that the Wilderness areas would be outsourced (thus costing extra money, and not extra time), for example.

They would require design time for the content, though again, we're not talking about massive increases of development time.


On backer items and NPCs, and general lore:

Hi, Sykid. It's a balancing act, because we don't want to do lore and mechanics dumps on the world this far ahead of the game being finished, but here are some things to help with both items and characters:

Items:
* Please, if it's at all possible, consider making something that is not a sword. I think we say this in the survey, but I'd like to repeat it here. There are no junk weapon types in Pillars of Eternity. Even daggers and clubs are good weapons. The same applies to armor and shields. Every type has trade-offs, so if you want to make a suit of awesome padded armor, someone will wear it.

* Many D&Dish effects can go on weapons, armor, and shields. That said, there are also many abilities that are unique to PoE and we will suggest them if the idea of your item seems to fit. At a basic level, all weapons and armor can have a quality modifier of Fine, Exceptional, and Superior that roughly correlate to +1, +2, and +3 (not quite, but close enough). This game is equivalent to a low- to mid-level D&D campaign, so Sun Blades and +5s are too macho.

* Materials like drake/dragon bone can be used in items, but whatever material you specify, try to make it fit with the idea of the weapon. A dragon bone club, spear, or stiletto is more fitting than a dragon bone battle axe or mace. Mithril and adamantine are not materials in PoE. Steel is overwhelmingly used for most metal weapons and armor, with five grades of interest: Wyflan (good steel), March (great steel, more damage, protects better), Ymyran (great steel that is "blackened", faster/lighter), Durgan (super steel from the lost forges of Durgan's Battery) and Skein (like Durgan steel, but very new technology, made with really horrible soul magic).

* Copper and living adra (an abalone shell-like material) are often used to bind souls and magical energy into items.

* The timeline of the civilized world is not "Realmsian". The Dyrwood and the Vailian Republics have only been colonized for a few centuries. The Glanfathans have lived in Eir Glanfath for two millennia. Before them, it was occupied by a relatively unknown civilization known as the Engwithans (who built most of the monuments and holy sites that the Glanfathans now guard). The Aedyr Empire is about 600 years old (well, Aedyr as a nation is that old). Old Valia as an empire was about 1500 years old but has collapsed by the current day. The main point is that more than 4,000 years ago, civilization was extremely modest, not advanced.

Characters:
* Any NPCs you make could be from the following local/directly involved places... - The Dyrwood - Focus of the game, colonial area full of once-Aedyran humans and elves. Hardworking, surly pioneers in the country, animancers in the city. More-or-less blew up a god in the Saint's War which (in the new timeline) happened about 10-15 years ago. Dyrwoodan virtues: independence, perseverance, sacrifice, communal hospitality, and vigilantism/feuding. Dyrwoodan vices: servility, shirking (responsibilities), selfishness, lingering (near Engwithan ruins), "facepainting" (pejorative term for sympathizing with/acting like a Glanfathan).

- Eir Glanfath - Deeper forest to the east of the Dyrwood. Once in conflict with the Dyrwood, now (mostly) at peace. Less tech advanced, more communal. Protect the Engwithan ruins. Orlans, elves, some dwarves. Glanfathan virtues: cleverness, subterfuge, frugality, communality, mathematic aptitude. Glanfathan vices: selfishness, cowardice, vanity, social intoxication, token gestures (as opposed to meaningful action).

- Vailian Republics - The most successful offshoot of Old Valia, these colonies sit to the southeast of the Dyrwood and south of Eir Glanfath, past a mountain range. They are a group of allied city states who mostly wield economic power. Mostly humans and dwarves. Vailian virtues: success, shrewdness, restraint, wit, polymathism. Vailian vices: failure, bad style (i.e. doing something not in the "Vailian way"), bluntness, dullness, mercilessness.

- Aedyr Empire - The source of the colonists who settled the Dyrwood and Readceras. Lost both to revolutions, though the Dyrwoodan revolution was far bloodier than the Readceran one that followed. Much younger than Old Valia, but still in existence, which is worth something. Overwhelmingly human and elven. Aedyran virtues: duty, efficiency, loyalty, modesty (not of dress, but of character), purity. Aedyran vices: inconstancy, sloth, sloppiness, impunctuality, mixing work/leisure.

- Penitential Regency of Readceras - Quasi-theocratic state ruled by priests for their patron, St. Waidwen, and their god, Eothas, both of whom seem to have disappeared at the end of the Saint's War (which they started and the Dyrwood ended). The prevailing attitude is that they failed Eothas and Waidwen and must do penance to regain their favor. Readceran virtues: optimism, faith, propriety (proper behavior for your age, sex, and social class), vigilance, discipline. Readceran vices: pessimism, doubt, deviance, rebelliousness, aimlessness.

... or these remote regions, which are relatively far away:

- Deadfire Archipelago - Quite a ways south of the Dyrwood, a wide archipelago of small volcanic island nations. Naasitaq, home of many boreal dwarves and aumaua, is the biggest and most stable nation around. Various nations and empires fight over the islands, to the east of which are sea monsters that invariably annihilate any ships that attempt to go exploring (many of them dwarven).

- Ixamitl Plains - Northeast of Eir Glanfath, the Ixamitl Plains are large expanses of fertile savannas. Mostly occupied by humans and orlans, though the orlans have a bad history with the humans. The Ixamitl culture is one of the oldest continuous cultures in the world, going back a little earlier than Old Vailia. However, they are the least imperalistic large nation around, having only expanded their borders slightly in centuries. Among other things, they are known for their contributions to philosophy.

- The Living Lands - A frontier island area in the far north, a land of wild weather, strange beasts, and hundreds of difficult to reach valleys containing oddities never before seen (according to the people who find them) by mortals. It's a lawless land where communities band together, fall apart, and fight petty wars with each other constantly. Has a reputation for breeding oddballs and madmen. The racial mix in the area is extremely diverse but not necessarily harmonious. Dwarves, propelled by their desire to explore, are very common here, even among the mix.

- Old Vailia - Once the crown jewel of the southern seas, the crumbling island nations of Old Vailia sit thousands of miles to the southwest of their offshoot, the Vailian Republics. Humans and dwarves are common. They are renowned for their great culture and history of accomplishments, though the rest of the world considers them to be far past their prime. The nations that once made up the empire are engaged in a continuous war for dominance that has been going on (and off, and on again) for over two hundred years.

- Rauatai Gulf - Dominated by the aumaua of Rauatai, the gulf to the north of Ixamitl Plains is the trade center for several nations of aumaua, orlans, and dwarves. The land is rich with resources, but hotly contested. And in all matters, Rauatai and its powerful navy almost always gain the upper hand. The whole region is also relentlessly pummeled by storms for half the year.

- The White that Wends - A huge southern expanse of polar ice occupied only by pale elves, some boreal dwarves, and a few really brave individuals from other lands. It is considered mythic -- or at least inhospitable -- by most people from "civilized" areas. Virtually no plant life grows in the White, but somehow its residents manage to survive from year to year.

Class combat foci:

Barbarians have great group-fighting abilities (both melee offense and personal defense).

Chanters have cycling lists of low power, high AoE passive buffs and debuffs and they can periodically use invocations, which are pretty powerful spells.

Ciphers are offensively-oriented psionicists/soulknives (more or less) who build Focus (their resource) through conventional weapon attacks.

Druids are crowd control kings and their beast modes give them nice single-target strikes + various special powers.

Fighters can withstand a freight train, hold a line against charging enemies (are "sticky"), knock down enemies, passively regenerate Stamina in combat, and have reliable attacks + weapon specialization.

Monks convert temporary damage-over-time stacks (Wounds, their resource) into magical abilities. They are melee-focused but have a pretty wide variety of single-target and group attacks. They can use their bare hands (which get more powerful as they level) but can use most of their powers with standard melee weapons.

Paladins have modal auras, powerful single-target support abilities, high defenses, and a Smite analogue in Flames of Devotion.

Priests have better support abilities, worse defenses, and some crowd control abilities that paladins completely lack. Also a few single-target strike spells.

Rangers and rogues both lack crowd control capabilities, but rangers have the edge defensively due to range and the interference their animal companions can run. Animal companions share Stamina and Health with the ranger, but they are very durable, DT-wise.

Rogues have the highest single-hit damage potential and they have a lot of ways to qualify for Sneak Attacks. There are no creature type restrictions on Sneak Attack and it's automatically triggered by a lot of different conditions on the target. Additionally, rogues gain more and more ways to cause those conditions!

Wizards can learn a huge array of spells with a variety of effects, mostly focused on group offense, single-target strikes, and personal defense. They cast directly from grimoires that hold a limited number of their total spells.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

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Those special steel types, March Ymyran, Durgan, Skein, are they on par with eachother or is any of those types strictly better?
It sounds like they each have their proo's and cons, but I'd like to be sure.

The living lands - Am I thinking of jungle?


March and Ymyran are roughly equal in quality but emphasize different things (March: damage and DT, Ymyran: speed). Durgan combines elements of both but not to the same extent, though it is generally considered better overall. Skein is equal to Durgan in quality, but it's made by literally burning a person's memories as they unravel out of their soul to power the forge's flames. It's generally "not cool" to have/use skein steel.

The Living Lands are kind of like Iceland but with a lot more mountains and valleys.

What about items like rings, amulets, cloaks and others? What item types are there?

I believe those are all listed in a drop-down on the backer survey. Let me know if they are not. Rings, amulets, and cloaks are all valid item types (though amulets and cloaks both take the same slot, the neck).

By the way, is there a tradeoff for suggesting a very powerful item over a reasonable one? Will people be much less likely to see it?

A very powerful item is going to be much more likely to be edited by us because we need a lot more low- and mid-power items. Additionally, low- and mid-power items are much more likely to be found by players since they will often be placed in earlier game areas. Even a weapon like Applebane can be fondly-remembered by players.

Hey Josh, thanks for all the help in this thread so far. I was wondering, are there were any guidelines you could provide as to how to name NPCs appropriately, given their race and background? I know you've done a fair amount of work on the languages in the world, but I've had a tough time tracking down all of the relevant things you've said in public. I was also hoping the text length limit on the "Backstory" box could be expanded. While I understand needing to control the time required to vet all of the submissions, 500 characters seems very restrictive.

With names, generally try to avoid anything that sounds contemporary -- but I think most people avoid that anyway. Also, please don't use recognizable names from other settings (e.g. Westeros, Middle-Earth, Faerûn, the Young Kingdoms, Lankhmar, etc.). No Eddards, Tinúviels, Jarlaxles, Elrics, or Fafhrds -- or close derivatives -- please.

Aedyrans, Readcerans, and Dyrwoodans used to speak a language called Eld Aedyran that is an analogue for Old English/Anglo-Saxon, Old Frisian, bits of Icelandic, and Scots (for Hylspeak, a more contemporary version). j, q, v, and z do not appear in their words and names, though the /v/ sound is found in medial and terminal f. E.g. "Wyflan" is pronounced "WEE-vlan". Male names: Aldwyn, Beacwof, Ethelmoer, Furly, Hafmacg, Unfric. Female names: Battixa, Bricanta, Esmy, Grimda, Iselmyr, Yngfrith.

Vailian Republicans speak Vailian, which borrows from a mix of Italian, Occitan, Catalan, and French roots, but is Italian in overall flavor. "Romance-y", you could say. j, y, and x are extremely rare in their words and names. Male name: Cendo, Giandele, Liano, Randatu, Verzano. Female names: Ancelle, Laudira, Malita, Pallegina, Salgiatte.

Glanfathans speak Glanfathan, which borrows elements of Cornish, Welsh, and a bit of Irish. q, u, x, y, and z are all unused in Glanfathan. w is both a consonant and a vowel ("uh" or "oo" if it has a circumflex). It has the Irish-style "si" ("shih" or "shee" when there's a circumflex over the i), the Welsh "ll" (hard to explain, like an aspirated l sound), and distinguishes between an unvoiced th (like "thought") and a voiced dh (like "the"). Male names: Arthwn, Brân, Enfws, Simoc, Thristwn. Female names: Bledha, Iswld, Onŵen, Sîdha, Tamra

Those are the major definitions. Broadly speaking, the natives of Deadfire Archipelago use a language with some Inuit/Greenlandic roots. People in Rauatai (especially the nation of Rauatai itself) use a language with Maori roots. People from Ixamitl speak a language with Nahuatl roots. I have not done significant work on those, though.

Regarding where everyone is in the world: are the islands visible in the upper left corner of the PoE map the Aedyr Empire or is that further away? And is every location that you described still in the southern hemisphere?

No, the Aedyr Empire is thousands of miles away across an ocean. The climate there is equatorial hot/humid. Aedyr itself sits on the equator. Rauatai is in the northern hemisphere, as are the Living Lands. Everything else on that list is in the southern hemisphere.

Thanks for the huge update!

Would it be possible to say a bit about ethnicities?
Some have been mentioned by name only, a few with general home regions, but there's not much to be found about their actual differences.

Was also wondering, any significant events other than the Saint's War in recent memory? Like, how long ago did soul magic become a (renewed) area of research?


The differences between Meadow Folk, Ocean Folk, and Savannah Folk (from Aedyr/Dyrwood, Old Valia/Vailian Republics, and Ixamitl) could be simplified as Euro/African/Central American, but those are just broad and superficial physical similarities. The real differences come down to culture. E.g. while the Vailian Republics are overwhelmingly populated by "Calbandrans" (Ocean Folk), there are Meadow Folk, Savannah Folk, and other races/ethnicities in the republics.

Animancy has flourished in the last hundred years or so. It's been legal to research and practice in the Dyrwood (through omission from the law) since the revolution a few centuries ago, but it's only lately that it has received more official legal recognition and benefits from extensive interactions with the Vailian Republics. The Dyrwood and Vailian Republics are the two leading nations in animancy research. Notably, the Aedyr Empire and Readceras view it poorly and have legal prohibitions against it.

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Some of the items people make will become quest rewards, some will be on enemies, and some will be placed as treasure.

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Not to disagree on the importance of quality low-power items, but wasn't the premise of the backer pledge that it would be an epic, high level item that would be one of the best in the game?

By all means, design whatever you want, but if every backer at this tier insists on proposing the equivalent of +5 holy avenger long swords, the likelihood that a given player will see any one of them will spiral downward. Applebane was an example of an item that a huge number of players saw (and evidently, remember), not what I actually think backers should propose.

This is the backers' chance to design an item for the game. Maybe you want to propose the equivalent of a +1 icy morning star or a suit of +2 hide armor. Or, maybe you really do want a +3 long sword. If a backer uses this opportunity to design something that's like hundreds of other items, it may not stand out. My comments are not meant as a prohibition, just something to keep in mind.

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Hello there everyone! Another item backer here.

A few questions for Josh regarding the backstory of my planned item.

Even though I'm creating a backstory for an item, some part of it regards the character who wielded it and therefor have questions relating to that.

1. Naming an orlan. I looked at your post a few pages back regarding names and they seemed to be categorized culturally (or regionally) and not racially. Does that mean an orlan could very well have the same name as a human (or did I totally missunderstand?)? And is it possible to PM the (two) names that occur in the back story of my item to see if they fit the setting at all (I think my names might be way offside)?

2. Military.

a)What can you say about the military structures in (or around) Dyrwood? Are there any armies (or perhaps slightly smaller units; regiment or brigades)?

b)If yes, are they structured like our armies are/were?

c)Are there any military forts (or equivalent) in Dyrwood?

d)Are the military units (regardless of size, I assume there are atleast minor units such as companies) tied to individuals (a warlord, a baron, a king, etc) or to a certain region or country?

3. Does lions exist in this setting?

That's all for now. Thanks!


1. Yes, people in the same culture often share names, regardless of race. Orlans dominantly come from a few areas: Eir Glanfath (where they tend to have Glanfathan names), the Dyrwood (Glanfathan or Aedyran names), and Ixamitl (loosely, Nahautl names). PM me your ideas.

2.

a) There are quite a few military structures/fortified areas in the Dyrwood ranging from fortified cities to castles. The Dyrwood does not have a standing army, but many erls keep professional soldiers organized in groups the size of a platoon or (for high-conflict areas) a company even during peacetime. The Saint's War was fought in part by these private armies but dominantly with peasant soldiers. The Dozen, the twelve men and women who held Dana Eobhainn Bridge to ensure the destruction of St. Waidwen, were all peasants.

b) More-or-less yes, though there may be a few differences. The "lieutenant" rank in the Dyrwood uses the title "steadman" but is functionally the same. There are no subdivisions of steadman, sergeant, or corporal ranks.

c) Yes. Fortified communities are not uncommon, especially near the Dyrwood/Eir Glanfath border.

d) Professional armies serve their employers, who often are nobles (though sometimes simply wealthy individuals). Of course, all of those nobles pledge (and re-pledge) to serve the will of their elected duc. This does not always work in practice. When nobles levy armies in the Dyrwood, they only lawfully do so under a ducal order of conscription. The service that peasants pledge is to the duc and their country, not individual nobles. In practice, they always serve under regional nobles (typically erls and thayns). Erls and thayns hold hereditary positions. Ducs are elected by the seven erls.

3. Lions exist in this world, but are exotic in the Dyrwood. Staelgar are the dominant big cat in Eir Glanfath and the Dyrwood. They have a tiger-like build, lion-like mane and tail, "sabre" teeth, and a dark spotted coat.

Do staelgar live communally like lions, or are they solitary like most cats?

They form prides, but may be found hunting alone or in groups.

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So will adding additional content make the game take longer to get released?

Probably a bit, mostly for companions rather than wilderness environments. Additional content does take additional time to make, but not dramatically, not at the scale we're thinking about.

E: Personally, I think more wilderness areas would feel really cool and I believe players would enjoy them. I also would like for players to have every character class represented by a companion. Right now we're 3 short. We don't want to go buckwild on this stuff, but we do think it would feel better with those additions. If we thought it would fundamentally make the game worse, we wouldn't even be asking.

Would adding companions at this 'late stage' not limit the degree to which they'd be able to be tied into the story? There's no point doing it if they were going to be obviously subpar versus the initial envisaged ones.

No, actually. While we do design our companions relatively early in development, we don't write them until we get closer to the end (e.g. I just started writing the first companion literally this morning). We ignore them completely as far as the crit path design of the game is concerned because they are all optional. Developing them later allows us to be much more reactive to the final designs of quests and areas.

I just have bad memories of NWN2 where they did the 'one-of-each-class' thing and it ended up really suffering as a result.

That's why they would have to be backed to be done at all. MotB and PS:T were not games that emphasized tactical combat. PE is, which is why I think there's a more compelling motivation to actually have all classes represented. While the difference between 8 and 11 companions is not trivial, it's nothing like the 26 in BG or 17 in BG2.

Adding characters also add exponentially to the workload if you want things like banter between the different NPCs. Which you probably do want.

That only creates exponential growth to party banter, which is a small set of a character's dialogue nodes.

If only there was the possibility of some additional pot of resources that could be used to pay for the additional workload.

I don't want to give a false impression: certainly we debate (and continue to debate) the idea of adding more companions. They really can't be done at all without additional funding, which is the bottom line. The question isn't "Would you like more companions at the cost of the quality of current companions?" The question is, "Would you like more companions at the cost of $$$$$$ which would be necessary to make them good companions?"

What we do when a publisher isn't breathing down our neck is make a game where a release date is not the primary motivating factor for saying we're done.

I get what you're saying, but I know too well that falling short can be as damaging as being spread too thin. The first expansion I worked on was Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter. It was a modest expansion with a small number of areas and a small number of quests. It was pretty stable when it was released, but it felt short, and cramped, and not fitting with the precedent established by Baldur's Gate, Tales of the Sword Coast, and Icewind Dale.

We've never talked internally about just "adding stuff". It's always been about two things: wilderness areas and companions (and no more than 3). If we were just making "a game", I wouldn't suggest adding these things, but we're not making "a game", we're making something we proposed as an heir to established traditions. I think adding a modest number of wilderness areas and companions would make the game feel more Baldur's Gate-y (in a good way), and that's worth discussing.


On the teaser trailer music:

Is the music in the trailer original? If so, I'm curious if the chorus is actually singing in a PoE conlang.

It was composed by Justin Bell (who wrote the Kickstarter pitch music). The intro choir lyrics were written by me (in Glanfathan) and performed by a small choir of Obsidian employees.


On the writing of CNPCs:

one of MCA's companion-writing pillars is that they have to stroke the player's ego.

It is not one of my requirements and I discourage it unless it really makes sense for the character and situation.

PoE's companions are going to have similar styles of transformation as F:NV's companions. When I designed the roster of F:NV's companions, each character had a central conflict that was defined for them. These transformations were not dramatic, but represented shifts in the characters' attitudes and goals. For Boone, it was dealing with his wife's death and Bitter Springs. There's no point at which Eric had Boone say, "You know what? I actually think the Legion is super cool now." For Raul, it was dealing with his past as a gunslinger, his failure to protect Rafaela and Claudia, and his concerns about being too old to be playing cowboy. Raul is fairly apolitical, and Travis' writing reflects that.

Like F:NV's companions, PoE's companions are all adults who have enough life experience under their belts that they aren't going to radically change their interests and concerns within their span of time with the PC. That said, the PC can significantly shape how the companions work through their conflicts, just as they did with all of the companions in F:NV.

I do recall enjoying the companion quests in FO:NV however my only gripe would be that once you had helped them to resolve their issue that was their interaction pretty much over, Presumably the PoE NPCs not being voice acted will have a bit more to say about everything? Including interjections and ideally disagreements with either your course of action or other NPC interjections?

F:NV didn't support interjections because of the first-person dialogue system that F3 used. PoE already supports interjection and banter.

E: Also, F:NV's companions averaged 591 nodes of dialogue, which is on-par with KotOR2, MotB, BG2, etc.


On difficulty, balance, and changes from the original IE titles:

Your party members can be rendered useless after one "unlucky" fight, forcing you to go back to a rest spot. Awesome! Cant wait to see what happens to the squishy classes. Whats the point of that? Ill guess the response will be "tactics". Etc, etc...

This can happen in a 2nd Ed. fight just as (or much more) easily.

...

It's pretty unlikely that a single character will be rendered useless fresh out of the day's first fight, but the reason why things like health (vs. stamina), maiming, and per-rest abilities exist aren't for tactical reasons (well, a little bit) but for strategic reasons. Adversity causes a player to consider alternate tactics and strategies. Without adversity, there is no reason to do anything differently from one fight to the next. If the composition of enemies changes or if the battlefield changes, those can promote tactical shifts. If the capabilities of the party members change, that can promote both strategic and tactical shifts.

If one party member uses all of his or her per-rest abilities in a big fight, the player may have to rely on per-encounter abilities, standard attacks, and items for that character. If one party member suffers a lot of health damage, the player may shift that character's position in the party and change how he or she uses that character. In the example Gfted1 quoted, that character was not useless, but was vulnerable. I did position him differently, I stuck to using ranged spells, and I moved him or ran defensive interception when enemies were swarming. Even a maimed character is not useless, but they are much less effective.

In contrast to the IE games, PoE is much more forgiving when it comes to raw luck and the long-term effects of individual combats. But yes, the expenditures and losses of one combat do roll over into subsequent combats if you don't rest. Even so, personal resource management is also much more forgiving in PoE than it was in the IE games due to the high number of per-encounter abilities and the function of our stamina mechanics.

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Does this type of game (overall) fit into a niche, or is it a game for a [slightly/moderately/largely] broader market?

There are markets within markets. We are making an RPG that has no claims to being "mainstream", but it's also not designed to be intentionally confusing or just plain obtuse. I know Gfted1 has concerns that he's going to get annoyed with the mechanics after a few hours and quit the game, but I'm confident that this will not be the case. We have taken (and continue to take) great pains to maintain a challenge for players without being oppressive or frustrating in the ways that the original IE games could often be. And of course, we are also providing a lot of options for people who want to adjust their level of challenge, as this is a very personal thing.

If something does turn out, in practice, to be thoroughly unenjoyable for players, we'll change it. But challenge isn't something you inch toward, IMO. It's something you put out for people to deal with and pull back from based on feedback. If you like the idea of exploration, a reactive story with cool characters, and party-based tactical combat, I want to find a way for you to enjoy this game, whatever your specific preferences (and personal time constraints) may be. We won't be able to accommodate everyone, but we should be able to accommodate a lot.

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In what ways, specifically, were the IE games frustrating or oppressive? I know you might cause some controversy if you answer this question

There are a bunch of ways:

* The success or failure of fights often hinged on a single die roll for powerful abilities. Besides metagaming hard and soft counters after a reload (which I'll get to, below), these were elements where the player's choices did not have a ton of impact; their success or failure mostly depended on the outcome of a die roll. In some cases, there's really a tiny set of hard counters (e.g. Protection from Petrification for use against basilisks). Most other tactics just shifted odds and asked the player to hope for the best and reload if/when the worst came true. Reloading is a part of these games, but I don't think anyone wants it to be a core mechanic for success.

* There are many bad ways to build characters in virtually all of the IE games. Leveling was a little easier pre-3E, but you could make an absolute garbage character in 2nd Ed. very easily. Players should learn to play to the strengths of their characters, but with many builds, there was no strength to that character -- just a lot of suck. 6 characters * bad stat arrays = a slow but steady descent into a non-viable party near the late game. This was mitigated somewhat in the BG games since they were balanced around the companions, but it was a huge problem in the IWD games.

* Pre-buffing alters the difficulty of fights enormously. About halfway through IWD's development, a QA tester (who went on to become a pretty well-respected developer) came up to Black Isle and was furious at the difficulty of a fight in Lower Dorn's Deep. He had been trying to legitimately get through it for 2 hours and hadn't succeeded. Kihan Pak and I loaded it up and beat it on the first try. He asked to see what we were doing. Naturally, we were pre-buffing for 5-6 rounds before we even went into the fight. Because there was no opportunity cost to using buffs, this was "the way" to get through fights, but it was tedious -- and for people who were not D&D veterans, it was not something they ever thought to do, which resulted in a full roadblock (see also: Burial Isle misery, which was also pretty easy for me and Kihan).

* Hit points make the world go 'round. There are specific party and resource builds you need to maintain your hit points over several fights. If you don't use those party builds, you suffer enormously or have to backtrack and rest very frequently. This is one of the major reasons why we have a split Stamina/Health system for short term/long term damage (and why 4E uses healing surges). In PoE, getting knocked out takes you out of the fight, but when the fight ends, you're still in the war. In IWD, if you got super-slammed and weren't ready to devote your precious healing resources on getting that dude back into shape, you had to pack up and head back to a safe zone -- or rest on the spot and reload if you got an encounter, which isn't much better. Along the same lines, almost all character resources that were limited were per-rest, so if you used any of them it was a big deal. Per-rest resources are a big deal in PoE, but every class also has per-encounter resources as well.

* Many fights could end in Pyrrhic victories due to level draining, petrification, or character gibbing. There's a fine line here between an interesting tactical/strategic element (i.e. how will I deal with this affliction in upcoming fights) and something that 99% of will simply reload after experiencing. Some of these things can be toggled by player difficulty settings, but other elements can be redesigned to still be interesting without being obnoxious. And again, many of these things that happen (especially with long/permanent durations) rely on raw luck or the use of hard counters that the player needs to reload and metagame to prepare for. A Dire Charm with a long duration is (if you lack a hard counter) essentially an immediate KO for that party member and bolstering of the enemy ranks by a character of equal strength -- for the rest of the combat.

* Stand-alone random rolls are pointless outside of an Ironman-style mode. Random resting encounters, rolls to learn a spell, rolls to pick a lock, etc. The player is better served by having those things be thresholds (or non-existent) and giving them tools to increase their ability to meet those thresholds. Failure to make a stand-alone random roll is not a failure on the part of the player; they just got a bad roll. You can get bad rolls in combat, too, but those are part of a big shifting soup of randomized results hat happen over time.

Now, these are all things that clearly a ton of people adapted to and worked around. But it should be asked: was adapting to them interesting and enjoyable or just something that you did so you could enjoy the other parts of the game? If the latter, we should really try to find ways to not repeat those things in PoE.


On merchants and loot:

Merchants: Will PoI feature "thematic" BG and IWD-like merchants? Like one, who will buy and sell only weapons, other will deal in magic, and another potions only etc.? Or they will be univrsal - every merchant can buy all types of items? Also, will they have a limited or unlimited gold?

Merchants will likely buy anything but what they sell will be based on who/where they are. Currently I believe they have limited gold but I don’t think anyone’s strongly attached to that.

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Rethorically: In Eternity, are there any curious blacksmiths? Inventors or similar that try experimental crafting or similar by using magical elements? Souls? Could a curious blacksmith like this, regarding lore & theory, build a Wand Gun (Wand = Barrel) in Eternity? Or a Wand Sword (Wand = Sword Grip)? Necromantic Blacksmiths?

Most blacksmiths make mundane things (not even weapons or armor), but there are smiths who try to use different metals and soul magic. The most prominent example is “skein steel”, which is also called “copper steel” (though this is a misnomer). Skein steel was created by a weapon smith who wanted to recreate the qualities of what is called “Durgan” or “battery” steel. The smiths of Durgan’s Battery were able to control the application of heat to their metal with great precision — but through presumably mechanical, not magical, means.

Skein steel is made by also controlling heat precisely, but it uses animancy to draw a soul’s memories out of a vessel (typically a living body) toward a copper surface, igniting the memories to produce the flame. The contraptions used to control this process allow the smith to adjust the speed of the unraveling and the heat of the flame. Copper melts at a lower temperature than steel and does not alloy well with it, but flecks of copper often become embedded in skein steel, giving it its other nickname. Though almost all magic uses some form of soul energy, it’s extremely uncommon for anything to destroy a housed soul’s memories. Because skein steel requires a steady, continuous flame, it specifically needs a living (preferably old) subject.

Magical implements are quite fast and accurate, but not very powerful. Wizards all learn how to selectively expand the area of a wand’s (or rod’s, or sceptre’s) effect, but a single shot from an implement lacks the punch of even a hunting bow. It’s conceivable that someone might make a weapon that also has the properties of an implement for purposes of allowing wizards to take advantage of their Blast ability.

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A question about encounter design in Pillars of Eternity; individual approach vs randomization. I'd like to know if enemies will be equipped by hand (weapons, armor, amulets etc.) to sort of fit into specific combat encounters, or do you plan to randomize their gear?

Most enemies will be equipped with specific weapons. Some may be lightly randomized, e.g. enemies that have a variety of two-handed melee weapons equipped.


On the comparisons between Pillars of Eternity's setting and the Forgotten Realms:

There's no denying that many people just plain hate Forgotten Realms, the biggest grievances often being absurdly overpowered or just plain ridiculous NPCs like Elminster and Drizzt. As someone who has worked so intensely with FR what are some of your least favorite aspects of the setting? Are there any elements of it you'd like to directly subvert or even outright criticize in PE?

For me, it’s mostly a lack of consistency (especially in earlier editions), though a lot of that is understandable due to how the setting developed over time. I never really had a big problem with characters I didn’t like; I just didn’t use them in my campaigns. In a lot of A/D&D settings (FR included), magic reaches Sorcerer’s Apprentice/Fantasia levels where it’s commonly used for all sorts of mundane stuff. I usually like magic in settings to be, if not rare, at least constrained in some ways so it fees like there are still unexplored/unknown elements to the world and a genuine need for labor that “easy” magic might logically negate.

Personally, I get bored with subversion. I’m more interested in exploring the things that I like that I also feel many players will also enjoy.

In any setting, I like thinking about how it would develop from the perspectives of the people (and creatures, and other forces) in it. I feel like it makes the world more believable. The world is an omnipresent character in all of the stories that take place in it. If a player or reader can believe in a world as much as he or she believes in any other character, the world can grow and change in ways that can move the audience. I don’t want to create worlds that feel like static characters. I want them to feel like they develop based on the actions of the people within them — not just extraordinarily powerful individuals, but everyday people as well.

In fantasy, we have characters who can accomplish amazing things. I don’t think that means we need to create settings where they bestride their narrow worlds like colossi, ordinary folks living and dying in their shadows. I don’t read a lot of comics, but I always remember this cover from Heroes Against Hunger:

http://www.batman4sale.biz/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Superman-and-Batman-1986-Heroes-Against-Hunger-x1-1.5-DC-Comic.jpg

Lex Luthor says, “They’re dying, Superman — and not all your power can save them!”

That’s really saying something, because it’s Superman. He can do almost anything, but he can’t just make famine go away. Believable worlds — even magical ones — have believable problems and even extraordinary ass-kickers and fireball-hurlers can’t solve all of them.

This is going off tangent a bit, but when I was working with John Gonzalez, who was the creative lead and main story architect for Fallout: New Vegas (and the author of the Survivalist’s journals in Honest Hearts, since I get a lot of questions about that), there were a few things I kept insisting he had to include. One of the major elements was that during the final act of the game, the player had to be directed to interact with actual people (human or otherwise) during the approach to the end of the game.

Whatever chip-inserting, lever-pulling stuff the Courier was involved with took a backseat to interacting with with people in the different factions. I felt that needed to happen so the player would come face-to-face with the actual problems that these folks had. More than the threat of physical destruction, they were worried about other things: their identity, their independence, their sense of purpose. The Courier’s participation in the Second Battle of Hoover Dam was not the end of the game as much as it was the validation stage for all of the choices the player made to reach that point.

And when the slides started showing up, not everything worked out the way the player wanted. A lot of it did — sometimes most of it did — but there were always things that went awry, plans that developed in unexpected ways, characters that went off in their own directions. Not everyone likes that, but I definitely do and I believe that enough players also like it that it was a valid course to take.

With PE, I will continue to push for that sort of world development, places and problems that seem believable in their own fantastic way, with the player able to step in and make some difference — maybe even a big difference — but not all the difference. It should be a place where the world moves on with you but also in spite of you.

Some of this is in the setup of the world itself. It’s a Renaissance-esque setting. Obviously it’s not literally the Renaissance, but it has some of the same elements. One of the most prominent to a lot of players is the fact that there are early firearms in the world. It has made some players think about the setting differently. More importantly, though this will come across more in the story, the time in which the story of PoE takes place is during an age of discovery. Animancy is a young and rapidly-developing field. With the development of animancy comes technology that can significantly change the lives (and deaths) of people in the world — not just kings and knights, but all sorts of people.

Hopefully these approaches will help us create a setting that feels like it is developing in ways that the player wants to help mold, that we can change from game to game and story to story.

...

FR Adventures and the Volo's Guide to ______ books do a lot to flesh out the geopolitical landscape of the Realms, though a lot of it seems odd or unsustainable.


Finally, on the game's fictional languages:

Might have been answered elsewhere, but do you plan on putting up a dictionary/translation for Eld Aedyran?

(God's day? Rider's day?)


Yeah, it will probably be included somewhere. I try to keep a running glossary for all of the terms and stems that we use.

Godansdag and Rytlingsdag are "Gods' Day" and "Children's Day".

So Eld Aedyran is faux-Middle Frisian?

Yeah, most of the vocabulary is based on early middle ages West Germanic languages like Old Frisian and Old English.

That palatinate comes from rome's palatine.

The specific place "Palatium" became a Latin common noun with derived adjectives that were used to refer to palaces and imperial power. A palatinate is not necessarily the Holy Roman Palatinate or Roman Palatine Hill even on our world. Counties palatine existed in England going back to William the Conquerer. It's the Norman-English use of the term that I was trying to evoke: a territory where the vassal ruler was given close-to-sovereign powers. There isn't an Anglo-Saxon-rooted equivalent to that term because the concept was introduced to England via Normans.

In all places where Aedyrans use Romance-based words, I've tried to specify in the design docs that they took the idea from Vailians.
 
 

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