Warlocks and Others

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Warlocks and Others

Postby Rotku » Tue Nov 22, 2011 7:37 pm

With unanimous agreement from the Admin, we have decided to release a temporary ruling regarding the use of Warlocks.

Due to problems with balance, canon and a large range of possible exploits, the Warlock base class is no longer playable. This will be reconsidered as soon as there are implementable fixes to the problems raised.

Grandfather Clause
As I don't believe we have the right to force current PCs into changing their concepts, the following grandfather clause will apply.

All PCs with current Warlock levels may continue to take levels in the class until a time that they die or are retired.

Further Notes
Please note that the following PC Classes have been given a 'yellow' rating - meaning that balancing changes, to bring them more in line with canon, are likely to occur soon (this is just a reprint of pre-Live notes):
Favored soul
Eldritch knight

12/5/2011: edited by Zelknolf
With the consensus of the other admin, the restriction originally placed upon the Spirit Shaman class is removed, and this post is edited to reflect the lifted restriction. The restriction on Warlocks remains as originally stated as of this posting.
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Re: Warlocks, Spirit Shaman and Others

Postby Zelknolf » Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:32 am

In response to the requests for explanation brought forward by our members, I have gathered the opinions and consent of contributing admin. I apologise on behalf of the administrative body for the delay in releasing this information to our membership, and do not wish it to be understood as an attempt to "bury" any rationale to our rulings.

Without further ado:
The decision of administrators to remove warlocks as a selectable playable class was one that has been happening over the course of ALFA's entire tenure as a live play community, with their initial inclusion being an issue of great-- even vitriolic-- contention. The current admin viewed their removal from play along with all of the classes which were, in the months leading up to ALFA's live date, all set aside to be disallowed pending further investigation.

It was the opinion that anything less than a united position on the removal of a class from live play would be insufficient grounds to move forward, and thus only those two classes which were unanimously declared unfit for play in their current shape were actually removed from play. On all others, a single objection was decided enough to stay any action.

The specific objections to warlocks came in several categories. While it can reasonably be asserted which admin are the source of given concerns, there was at least no contention on any of the presented points, and they can all be seen as contributing to the decision:
Game Coherence:
Warlocks are, by their canonical description, unproductive members of society. Simply acquiring levels in the class and demonstrating use of their powers is evidence of the character being chaotic and/or evil and doing deals with often-evil supernatural beings. This information is treated as in character by players and DMs alike widely, and canonically there is very little tolerance for such deeds. However, we wish to support our players and characters for the sake of allowing play, which leads to a stretched or outright-compromised narrative and demands the support and attention of DMs disproportionately relative to the rest of the population.

Conflict Frequency:
Warlocks have, largely, been portrayed as characters who are bad for their (player-character) neighbors. While it is true that many warlocks in ALFA have been full, interesting, well-adjusted and fleshed-out characters, but it is also true that they have been used disproportionately in character-versus-character fights. It is debatable to the reason for these conflicts, as one could easily argue that being a warlock simply makes a character a target, through no fault of the player; however, the prevalence of such conflict leaves the class appearing fundamentally flawed in its place as a player character class.

Exploit Vulnerability:
The core mechanic of use in warlocks is a "tangent" one available in the Aurora game engine, having been designed and vetted for use with once-daily beneficial spells as we saw in Neverwinter Nights, such as the substitutes to the Blackguard and Assassin spellbooks offered. When made into a primary mode of attack, inherent flaws in the combination of the mechanic with other abilities or basic assumptions about the use of spell-like abilities become significantly more problematic, and allow the class to operate without planned restrictions, such as the combination of abilities with combat modes or the presence of verbal and somatic components.

Rushed Implementation:
Warlocks obviously rushed to meet the release of Neverwinter Nights 2, and it shows in the lack of basic checks that we see elsewhere in a live environment and the upset of bonuses that are, in all other aspects of play, temporary. One might reference Eldritch Chain, which does not include the same canonical targeting checks as Chain Lightning and could have been copied directly from the spell, or Leaps and Bounds, which provides an ability score bonus as a near-constant effect though that type of bonus is typically restricted to a few minutes of function. The class, in addition, does not handle core mechanics such as touch attacks, spell resistance, or spell absorption well, which would require a significant investment of effort to repair.

Questionable Design:
Warlocks were not written initially with a very close eye on the Dungeons and Dragons ruleset, which leaves aspects of their class lacking in needed information. Invocations do not typically have spell schools or subschools, excepting those invocations which are duplicates of existing spells, and most of the needful information on invocations is excluded from their entries, which makes the finding, synthesizing, and implementing of a canonical warlock ability difficult and inexact.

In addition, warlocks violate and disregard central assumptions about Dungeons and Dragons. Namely, their primary powers are classified as spell-like abilities, but are implemented as exceptions to the use of spell-like abilities: as they are expected to have verbal and somatic components, count as spells for the purposes of spell advancement in prestige classes, and qualify for bonuses provided by some spellcasting feats. They replace the typical Vancian spellcasting of Dungeons and Dragons with the spellcasting "as powers" most common in comic books. This shift challenges the notion of magical damage as a depletable resource in play, which is central to the definition of Challenge Ratings and the assignment of experience points.

Finally, Warlocks violate the typical pattern of Dungeons and Dragons core rules that powers available to player characters have a way to prevent or reverse their application at roughly the same level and depleting roughly as quickly. While it is true that a warlock's damage can be undone by a cleric of the same level at about the same rate, the healing will be depleted while the damage will not. They are, in addition, able to be defeated by a "silver bullet" spell: Spell Immunity. The combination of these two curiosities is more typical for monsters or generic NPC threats; a dread wraith, for example, is not especially threatening to a person with Death Ward active and is capable of theoretically-infinite energy draining.

Originally, Warlocks were intended to be disallowed until such time that their fundamental technical flaws could be resolved. However, this position shifted under Wynna to one of allowing and simply anticipating the future fixes. Two years later, the fixes are not present, and the efforts of ALFA's best and brightest were producing mixed results. One would be hard-pressed to argue that the class was not given a fair chance in its current state and that ample time was not given to the class' repair, but the result was not seen as sufficient to quell the original objections or satisfy the initial implementation.

Spirit Shaman
The decision to stop Spirit Shaman as a class was centered primarily on an unresearched condition: the existing implementation of the Recall Spirit ability is to have a no-components casting of Raise Dead once per day. This ability threatens the concepts of persistency and permadeath inside of an environment like ALFA's. While it is true that it is easy to conceive of a fix for the ability: namely, the published source for Spirit Shaman specifies that Recall Spirit must be used within one round of the target's death, the actual nature of attempting to use an ability like Raise Dead in this time frame has not been tested. The only thing we know with certainty at this point is that a fix would be a likely place for race conditions (that is, bugs that originate from the timing of two events being off; our death system was written with the assumption that any attempt to raise the dead would happen well after the death of the target, as such is the typical use case when a cleric is performing the raise), and that we have no indication of what will happen if one appears.

Spirit Shaman was thus removed as a selectable option because we currently are not sure if this ability can be fixed and, if it can't, what we will replace it with. It was, however, agreed that the default of failure to come to an agreement-- that is, Recall Spirit remains as currently implemented-- was not appropriate for live play, and that the probability of such a circumstance in ALFA was relatively high.

Eldritch Knights
The Eldritch Knight class is currently flagged as "yellow" to review the prestige class' requirements. The most likely change is to be to change the requirement from "Martial weapon proficiency" to "One level in a character class which provides martial weapon proficiency."

The cleric class is too powerful in the implementation of Domains, Domain Powers, and Domain Spells. Currently, no domain spell list conforms to canon, only one (war) domain power conforms to canon, and some domains (such as fury) have no basis in canon. In addition, many cleric spells (such as Protection from Evil, Death Ward, and Remove Disease) err on the side of greater power than by original design, and players of clerics should be aware of their potential future changes, as these may hamper current common strategies.

Favored Souls
Favored Souls suffer from many of the problems that Clerics do, due to the lazy implementation of some spells toward the more powerful, though they are magnified in that the available spells per day is significantly higher, and those spells which lean toward the too-powerful are also the "core" spells that clerics are likely to prepare, and Favored Souls are likely to know. In addition, there is the curious and non-canonical addition of a haste spell-like ability, which replaces wings and flight listed in Complete Divine. This ability does not present a ready solution, as flight is not a very-plausible mechanic for ALFA to include, and it may simply be removed. Finally, a quirk of weapon proficiencies in Neverwinter Nights 2 can result in curiously-equipped Favored Souls. Though the two we have in play do not suffer from this, due to the particular nature of their builds and deities, it would theoretically be possible for a Mystran Favored Soul to wield a bastard sword, which would be seen as undesirable behavior and a bug in need of fixing.

Stormlords, Warpriests
Stormlords and Warpriests are under review because it is uncertain how complete cleric fixes will be or can be; it is, thus, uncertain what we wish to do with cleric-targeted prestige classes.

The Grandfather Clause
The decision to create and press a Grandfather Clause was seen as the most ethical way to eventually remove warlocks from play. If no new warlocks can be made, we can rely on the usual means of character attrition to eventually clear play of the class, and in so doing we do not rob any given player of a character of significant personal investment. In addition, these bans are not seen as permanent or unconquerable; if enough problems with a given class are resolved to re-open a class, it would seem exceptionally cruel to those players who had been forced to give up their characters now.

While it is noted that this does not have the immediate results that might be desired in light of the above, the grandfather clause was agreed as the least of evils.

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