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Why is magic so strong in most RPGs?

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Wizard balance is the opposite of Fighters in good RPGs. Wizards begin feeble and become strong. Warriors start strong and gradually fall off toward late game*. The challenge is surviving on 4hp and the one slotted Sleep spell. If you can make it past the "Wet Kleenex" stage the world will be your oyster.
 

Absinthe

Arcane
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That's a good point, I think it does relate to melee classes and the fact that they are relatively simple compared to spellcasters.
Yes, but that is just unnecessarily bad design, a lot of which is compounded by the fact that there is bad environment design in RPG combat. You're not about to find a warrior with the ability to set up and shift barricades, lay traps, and then push enemies into them. You can do really interesting stuff with that, but most games aren't about to go there and really play around with environmental barriers, hazards, traps that can be forcibly activated by both sides, etc. Combat encounter design is too often treated like an afterthought, unless they're trying to have an "epic" fight and even then they tend not to do too much.

As an example in Baldur's Gate games, you can be extremely overpowered as a mage but there are still enemies immune to Time Stop cheese etc. Moreover, you have low hp and some enemies can still oneshot you. So as a mage you still have to be strategic and plan your spells, spell order etc.
Yes but Baldur's Gate was still a 2E AD&D adaptation. In later D&D editions and Pathfinder in particular, mages exploded in hitpoints and got a lot more spells per day. Most computer game adaptations actually nerf spellcasters pretty hard (huge spell list reductions, immune enemies, saving throw inflation, reduced spell functionality, harder hitting enemies, and way more fights per day than tabletop does, which makes running out of spells a bigger concern) and they still tend to top.

In most games melee classes have few abilities, making them simple. If they became super strong they would become faceroll.
That's what mages often do. If you're selling the power fantasy angle though, there's no good reason why your non-mages fall behind so much. At that stage your warriors should be able to perform awe-inspiring leaps into the air, let out a devastating warcry, throw allies and perhaps enemies into different positions, give your allies some kind of aura just for being in the presence of your greatness, shrug off blows that would fell lesser men, perform a devastating charge that knock lesser foes out of the way, etc.

One step in the right direction would be to add some interesting skills to melee classes perhaps? Or give them special items they can use while in combat. This way it would increase the complexity at least.
Yes, on both counts. Adding intimidation abilities, leadership abilities, reposition abilities, debuff abilities, enemy disruption, DoTs that play to hit and run tactics, maybe some first aid, guard-enhancing abilities, etc. can do a lot to make non-mages feel less like shit. Poisons, bombs (and not just the damaging variety, but also effect-inducing ones), traps, nets, thrown weapons with special effects, caltrops, etc. can spice it up a fair bit. Although you also have to make combat difficult and challenging. There's no point in giving a melee class dozens of interesting ways to mess with enemies through careful strategy as well as an arsenal of debuffing moves and ways to interact with opponents' guard and disrupt their actions if the enemies are a joke and the combat ends faster by throwing him at the enemy and hitting them with your high damage moves until they're dead. If you make intelligent mechanics, you have to give people strong reason to use them. That's part of the trouble with aggro mechanics: they disincentivize clever play by making your enemies stupid. But hey, they make it much easier to get away with bad enemy AI. Never underestimate the power of incompetence in having knock-on effects in game design, and never doubt the appeal of laziness to many designers who pretend to be better than they really are. Clever combat demands cleverness in a lot of fields, from combat mechanics to enemy design to enemy AI to encounter design (which will impact level design) to resource management to gear and consumable item management where any one aspect can impact the rest adversely if you're not careful. There's a lot less work involved in half-assing it.

But if you're just playing a stupid power fantasy where the player character is supposed to be overpowered there are still a number of more interesting abilities you can give non-mages than just variations on hitting something. Just copying stunts from mythology, chinese wuxia, etc. can go a long ways if you're just looking for ways to make your character feel more awesome. I think part of the problem also plays into western fantasy RPGs trying to make non-mages super-mundane while wizards have all the mystical powers. If you want your warrior or whatever to feel like a mythic figure you should be willing to give them more superhuman abilities.

On the subject of rogue classes though, half the problem there is that rogues aren't that much of a combat class. Rogues are meant to be the sneaky guys who can mess with traps, bypass enemies, steal from enemies, catch them off-guard, disguise themselves, sneak into places others can't, talk their way past people, and generally be skillful sorts who show most of their strength outside of direct combat, but most RPGs kind of limit all the gameplay to combat segments and make all the combat mandatory and direct combat so it's hard to make a rogue that really feels useful in the capacity of a rogue. That's why you often end up with rogues being the class that dualwields and often just hits enemies from behind.

Say, anyone got good ideas for abilities, etc. to make non-mage classes more interesting and awesome?
 
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KotOR - Guardian shits on Consular

Six in one, half-dozen the other. Consular will clear a room faster than a Guardian in most circumstances, but they run into a bit of trouble on certain Force Resistant enemies. Strictly not a fair fight anyway. Guardians are basically fighter/mages, strip them of speed and jump and they'd lose out big.
 

Cryomancer

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At that stage your warriors should be able to perform awe-inspiring leaps into the air, let out a devastating warcry, throw allies and perhaps enemies into different positions, give your allies some kind of aura just for being in the presence of your greatness, shrug off blows that would fell lesser men, perform a devastating charge that knock lesser foes out of the way, etc.

Yep. IMO high level martials should be that way.

Lets be real, high level = power fantasy.
 

Absinthe

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KotOR - Guardian shits on Consular

Six in one, half-dozen the other. Consular will clear a room faster than a Guardian in most circumstances, but they run into a bit of trouble on certain Force Resistant enemies. Strictly not a fair fight anyway. Guardians are basically fighter/mages, strip them of speed and jump and they'd lose out big.
Pretty much all jedis in KotOR are warrior mages. Nothing is stopping you from plowing through enemies on a Consular that's just using Force Speed and Force Valor with feats to bust up enemies with regular attacks. Consulars just have better mana pools (double that of Guardians) and an extra jedi power or two. The extra two or three points of attack and extra feat isn't really going to make or break the jedi build. Force Jump is also pretty useless when you're probably off spamming some feat attack. As long as you start with Soldier or Scout you're pretty much fine. Scouts have a worse attack though, but they also have much stronger saving throws and a lot more skills than a Soldier, and the feats more or less balance out against the Soldier since you'll probably want implants, unless you take Scout for more than 8 levels (9th level is still equal with Soldier in terms of feats, but you do lose an extra point of attack).

Yep. IMO high level martials should be that way.

Lets be real, high level = power fantasy.
It is, but power fantasy is often used as an excuse for bad balance and encounter design by saying you're supposed to casually crush enemies as an overpowered monster anyway, and that part really isn't necessary. There's a lot of power fantasy to overcoming incredibly dangerous foes and odds that lesser men could not touch as well, and there's a gameplay problem if you can defeat enemies without any effort. It reduces combat to filler and busywork, rather than a source of challenge and enjoyment at prevailing.
 
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Delterius

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I dunno, anyone got good ideas to make non-mage classes more interesting and awesome?

I'm all for giving martial classes something akin to superpowers. Or just giving them access to magic outright. BG2 did it with itemization, Wrathfinder did it with mythic progression, Pillars did it as the basis of it's class design. But you know what I wish to see more of? Combos between superpowered martials and magicians.

When I play Dragon's Dogma I sometimes give my mage pawn a spell called Frigor. It's not particularly good at the hands of the player, much less the AI (though it does have some niche uses). What it does in particular is that it creates a pillar of ice to stake foes from below. Like so:

Skill-Sorc-Frigor.webp


And since you can scale the ice I sometimes get to use it as a stepping stone to quickly scale a marauding cyclops. In fact fooling around with that is the reason I gave them the spell in the first place.

This sort of cooperation is something that I'd like to see in-games. The wizard shouldn't just cast bull's strength on the fighter. You should be able to do cross-class shit. This wouldn't just give fighters new meaning, it would give magic-users something else to do other than godmode.
 
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Zed Duke of Banville

Dungeon Master
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I have noticed a tendency where in most single player RPGs spellcasters start out weak, but end up extremely overpowered. Obviously there are exceptions. However even in MMO's like WoW, where balance between players is important, mages have in general been consistently strong.

Do you also see it this way, or am I wrong in this assessment? If yes, any idea why? Perhaps it's a general viewpoint that magic should be strong? Or the setting itself (like D&D) where magic is OP, so a game based on D&D will also magic OP?
Dungeons & Dragons implemented a Vancian magic system, where magic-users must painstakingly memorize spells that are forgotten after use, with a strictly limited number of spells per level that can be memorized at one time. Even a first-level magic-user could have a profound impact by casting a single sleep or charm person spell, but this class only gradually became more powerful as they leveled up and would always need to take great care in judicious spell selection and usage. Of course, the magic-user was only one member of a party, and therefore would have the protection of other party members.

Many single-character CRPGs, by contrast, give magic-users a pool of mana from the beginning, which only expands with level increases, that allows for far more spellcasting than a 1st level D&D/AD&D magic-user. Moreover, if the PC can easily replenish their mana, whether by resting or some other source, they have an effectively limitless ability to cast spells, making them far more powerful than characters relying on their physical melee fighting power. This is also true in a number of party-based CRPGs. The error resides in the easing of restrictions on the number of spells that can be cast without a corresponding decrease in the effectiveness of spells.

At high levels, however, spellcasters should become stronger with fighters; this is consistent with D&D/AD&D.


A bunch of nerds who spent their time reading books all day instead of working out are really happy that characters who spent all their time studying books are the strongest. Now, the people making those rpgs are these nerds who did nothing but read book all the time.
cppvt7.png
 

KeighnMcDeath

RPG Codex Boomer
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Some games require reagents. Be glad the gold box didn't have those reqs. Who wants to pack bags of bat shit?

Fireball.
MATERIALS
a tiny ball of bat guano and sulphur
SOURCE
Players Hand Book page 191
 

Morpheus Kitami

Liturgist
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I find in my experience that magic being OP is somewhat rare. Sometimes its stronger by a bit, sometimes its weaker. Others magic is practically useless outside of utility roles outside of combat or healing. Rarely is magic viable on its own. (this excludes the numerous games that add skills to non-magic classes that function essentially like warrior magic or thief magic)

That said, shouldn't magic be more powerful? In the hands of a skilled player even if one has to wait a while to restore one's mana, a well-placed magic attack should take down enemies that a fighter will trade blows with for a while. The tradeoff is that if the player is unwise and ends up fighting more enemies than he has mana to deal with, he will surely die. A high-risk, high-reward playstyle.
 

mondblut

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Wizards come from Merlin, Circe and fucking Gandalf. Fighters come from random dudes with sticks who can be swapped at a moment's notice.

RPGs are nerd games.
 

Johannes

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Magic is best when it's blatantly overpowered compared to a non-magic user imo. For a party-based game, where magician and non-magician are meant to be equal options, that doesn't quite work... But a game where the main PC is a magician, who can hire less powerful non-magicians as help, for a party, would be cool, so you could keep the non-magic parts of the game realistic instead of getting lategame warriors who could kill 10s of lesser opponents just by somehow being so good at fighting.
 

mondblut

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A word can also be said for low-key magic, but it's hard to pull right. For instance, magic in RoA basically comes down to spamming stuns or scares at everyone (which in fact ARE mighty overpowered) because every other spell is basically worthless. And Darklands alchemy is just making grenades, but at least you aren't restricted to being a frail, unarmed creep in pajamas while dabbling in it.
 

Lizard

Educated
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Wizards come from Merlin, Circe and fucking Gandalf. Fighters come from random dudes with sticks who can be swapped at a moment's notice.

RPGs are nerd games.

Hercules, Achilles, Perseus, Thor, Beowulf all swapped at a moments notice?

Make being a magic user the easy/normal mode and fighters hard mode. I don't mind magic being more powerful if I can overcome the challenge with clever play/interesting mechanics. Developers don't need to nerf mages to make martial classes good, just add more tools.
 

mondblut

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Wizards come from Merlin, Circe and fucking Gandalf. Fighters come from random dudes with sticks who can be swapped at a moment's notice.

RPGs are nerd games.

Hercules, Achilles, Perseus, Thor, Beowulf all swapped at a moments notice?

Thor is a deity, the rest are just glorified brutes who used to be good at smashing things.

Developers don't need to nerf mages to make martial classes good, just add more tools.

"More tools" for fighters just makes them muscle wizards by any other name. "I cast fist", yeah.
 

Lizard

Educated
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Thor is a deity, the rest are just glorified brutes who used to be good at smashing things.

Developers can use exceptional origins to make it seem less ridiculous for martials to grow strong enough to even think of taking out a competent caster. All depends on the setting.

Glorified brutes? We're talking about the peak of humanity, martial excellence.

Also if you want to be reductive... your expamples: two old mentor side characters(not even the protagonists who are martial classes), and Odysseus' cocksleeve.

"More tools" for fighters just makes them muscle wizards by any other name. "I cast fist", yeah.

Throwing axes/spears, nets, grappling, higher reach weapons, mirror shields, mythical items like the aforementioned Perseus had: medusa head/hermes sandals, Sigurd's Gram that could cut through anything. Gear doesn't just have to be a +1 over the other stuff.
 

Reality

Learned
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I best most rpgs underleveled so for me fighters are consistently better.
A lot of crpgs difficulty takes a nosedive after midgame, so I'm not inclined to give MVP to the character who does best during the victory lap portion of the game.(even if the devs try to claim 50% of content Is high level)
 

Zlaja

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I look down on people who use Harm in Arcanum.
 

Pulse

Literate
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On the subject of rogue classes though, half the problem there is that rogues aren't that much of a combat class. Rogues are meant to be the sneaky guys who can mess with traps, bypass enemies, steal from enemies, catch them off-guard, disguise themselves, sneak into places others can't, talk their way past people, and generally be skillful sorts who show most of their strength outside of direct combat, but most RPGs kind of limit all the gameplay to combat segments and make all the combat mandatory and direct combat so it's hard to make a rogue that really feels useful in the capacity of a rogue. That's why you often end up with rogues being the class that dualwields and often just hits enemies from behind.

Say, anyone got good ideas for abilities, etc. to make non-mage classes more interesting and awesome?


I think there have been some good ideas in different games.

- Diablo 1 had the great idea that warriors and rogues could actually use magic, but at a much smaller degree than the mage.

- I haven't played Diablo 2 since many years, but I remember that barbarians had some amazing looking skills, like the whirlwind, or the leap attack, where they would jump in the air and then do big damage if they landed the hit. They looked firece.

- In WoW there was amazing skill for warriors: spell reflect. For a few seconds you could reflect the next spells targeted to you. So the mage had to be careful, and it became more strategic.

- Usable items like in Baldur's Gate. You could drink a potion that would increase your magic resistance by say, 15%, and then you could have a wand that would summon some monsters to fight for you. Or you could have an item that would outright kill a mage's summon.
 

Cryomancer

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Hercules, Achilles, Perseus, Thor, Beowulf all swapped at a moments notice?

Those are godlike characters and in Thor's case, a litearl God. Obviously Thor is far above any mortal man. However, compare him to Odin or Freyja.

"More tools" for fighters just makes them muscle wizards by any other name. "I cast fist", yeah.

NO, could be like :

Barbarian at low level : "I attack with my axe"
Barbarian at mid level : "I try to decapitate his head, then grab his head and throw at the enemy as an improvised weapon"

And at high level, giving all types of crazy martial shit to martial classes, allowing them to literally throw trees and run at inhuman speeds.
 

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