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Chrest Offline OP
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TL;DR
Here's a ruleset that doesn't require modding, feel free to discuss
- savepoints shall be made only at any questlog update (bloodstones and diaries can help you set up custom savepoints).
- no extra attribute point shall be had (no demon trade nor books).
- max 2 (harder), 3 (default) or 4 (easier) base point shall be had in skill branchs, and each skill branch is exclusive to one character only.
- only starter talent shall be taken; or alternatively (easier) glass cannon shall not be taken.
- only common and unique gear (under level 20) shall be used, and maybe magical (easier), and maybe rare (easier again).
- no elemental shield shall be used, and no summon or terrain modifying spell (rain, oil, ...) shall be cast outside of combat, unless from a scroll.
- golden crockery and paintings shall not be used for profit.

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Hello everyone, I just completed the game in hard mode with two lone-wolf / glass cannon characters (because I read it was powerful, before creating my characters), a man at arms with shield and a mage, and I was thinking about how to make the game more challenging without modding (yet): just with self-restrictions.

Since it's only my first playthrough, I'm not sure about the effectiveness of the rules I will be proposing in a moment, so I really welcome analysis.


#1 - Save-scumming

In order to have the perfect "game", I used save scumming a lot (to have legendaries in chests, and to win rock/paper/scissors games). And in order to play the most carelessly possible, I quick-saved before any fight. So I thought about various "game saving" rules, and the best one I found was saving only when the quest log updates (limited amount of saving point possible, correctly spaced between each others).


#2 - Attribute points

I think the attribute points progression is good, but one could choose not to use any book that gives free attribute points, nor use the demon bargain (5 skill points for one attribute point). There's also a book that gives one INT for the price of one PER, which seems fine to me if only one is used. Furthermore, supplemental attribute (and skill) points can be obtained through gear, but that will be adressed in the gear section.


#3 - Skill points

In order to limit the skill point amount, in order to penalize a bit the late skills (especially the elementalist/witchcraft ones), and finally in order to force characters to choose between skills/spells, the most potent rule I found is to limit the max amount of points one can invest in a skill branch. 2, 3 or 4. I'd personally start with 3 because I would not really see a difference with 4. Also, in order to avoid overspreading with the unused skill points, and in order to avoid potential focusing on unbalanced skills (same unbalanced skill spam from all the characters), each skill branch should be exclusive to one character.


#4 - Talent points

If one follows the skill points limit rule, there's not much to be done about talents but to exclude glass-canon. It's easy to limit oneself to the only 2 talents you can have at character creation (you cannot then pick glass-canon). I have no opinion on lone-wolf taken without glass canon, so I think it could be taken for now (in a 2 or 3 characters game). I was thinking of excluding talents alltogether, but I think it might gimp rogues, so starter talents are good.


#5 - Gear

Gear control is very important because it gives a lot of attribute points and skill points. Easy rule is to limit oneself to anything under legendary, or under rare, or under uncommon. I think unique items are fine with the exception of the crafted ones (buffalo sword and sword of the planets) since those can be crafted above level 20. I'd personally go with a common/unique-only rule.


#6 - Elemental shields and summons

Two very game-changing but weird spells were, for me, the elemental shields and the summons. The damage the shields absorb is insane (it's another whole health bar?). I used them everytime: one extra health bar (which is way more than the heal spells from hydro), 50 elemental resist, immunity to status effect and 20% chance to inflict this status to attacker is alot just for 5 AP.

I think summons are fine, but summons seem to have high amount of perception (I've read it here and tested it) and can be used to detect everything in the game. So I think summons should not be used outside of combat, unless summoned from a scroll.

It has been suggested to treat terrain modifying spells (rain, oil, tornado, etc...) like summons: never out of combat, unless from a scroll.


#7 - Stealing

Especially in Cyseal, it's ridiculous how easy and potent it is to steal. Very quickly anyway, money is no trouble in the game, so ultimately a rule about stealing is not really relevant, but maybe it would be good to have one to make the whole Cyseal experience different.

Last edited by Chrest; 05/11/14 03:08 PM. Reason: Included Phalzyr suggestion, reworded.
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1. I'd suggest for convenience to allow saving AFTER a hard battle as well. So you don't have to redo it...

7. Some quests require you to steal. And redefining stealing itself, even though hovering over an items says it isn't stealing if it isn't in a dungeon treat it as theft. Only steal when quest requires it otherwise. A heck of a lot of gold is gotten from portraits and gold cups that aren't marked as owned but are in someones home.

As I mentioned in the other thread like this... refuse to use exploits like oil spell to block off fighters from reaching you. Other crowd control spells should be limited if you are limiting other spells.

An interesting limitation I think would be worth trying is to never ever use the rain spell, or water barrels. I.E. no putting out fires except the quest related ones. Some ares I've been through seemed geared toward having fire in play but it is so simple to counter act. Undead fire based healing on fire element... rain now they are weaklings... This could go with other elements as well.


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Chrest Offline OP
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Hello Phalzyr ^^

I agree that saving should be possible after hard battles, but is there any where there's no Quest Log update right after?
I only finished the game once, so I'm not sure, but I think most difficult battles are followed by a direct Quest Log update, or the update happens quickly after when you find a quest item the tough opponent had?
Note that the rule does take into account Quest Log management trick, and it's fine as is: after one difficult combat, if there's no Quest Log, you could go elsewhere to unlock a Quest Log update, or simply consume a Blood Stone?

As for 7, I stole everything so I can't remember if there were any quest that really required to do stealing. Have you an example in mind?
Anyway, the stealing rule is really really low in priorities, since stealing gives money (and quest item), which cannot be used to buy magical gear (if one follows this more important rule). So maybe a rule isn't needed at all. In my run, I had one million gold coins, gold was mostly useless, and I think people who will try challenges already know this so they won't lose time stealing anyway.


I also agree that the AI is too much afraid of oil and others (fire ground, smoke...), but I think not using them is too much. I think this game has been designed with terrain control in mind, and that the fault lies mostly in the AI. But I fully understand what you mean, and I feel a nice compromize would be to never use terrain control spell (rain, barrels, oil, etc...) out of combat (alike the summon limitation), (with the exception of tornado?), unless you use a scroll. I think you find a rain scroll before the burning ship quest in cyseal, and I can't remember other quests involving rain.

Maybe not perfect, but hopefully, the default AI will be improved.

Last edited by Chrest; 04/11/14 05:21 PM.
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I would wait for the hardcore mode before you try playing such a limited run. I agree many things are pretty unbalanced, but limiting your options will just make the game more tedious and boring. Larian should be aware of the imbalances like elemental shields and some of the talents, so hopefully those will be rebalanced. I guess I mostly think you choice to play without legendary or even magical items at all would really reduce the satisfaction of many encounters, since loot is one of the biggest draws to playing RPGs (at least for me). But I suppose that would make the game a lot harder, since you'd be losing out on a whole lot of stats and resists.

You're limitations on skills and talents would also limit your options. Limiting skills trees to 4 might be okay, and maybe limiting a character to two skill trees would make choosing skills more significant, but not letting characters overlap skills might be a bit extreme. There are plenty of garbage or non-game breaking talents you can give your characters.

I think the codexes are okay, but should just be muuuch more rare. I found 10 of them or so, most of them in barrels and boxes. A pure mage has basically no use for perception (especially since leadership basically guarantees your initiative), and 4 more points of int is quite a boost. You should find maybe 2 codexes, max. Or if they're for sale, they should be absurdly expensive (although the whole economy needs to be reworked for that to have any effect.)

You can eliminate savescumming without adopting a tedious and arbitrary system. Just don't save in combat or before RPS rolls or before chests or anything like that. You should accept non-ideal outcomes, but I don't see the point in making yourself replay whole battles or areas just because there wasn't a questlog update.

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Chrest Offline OP
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Hello Baardvark,

personally, I don't care much about legendary items, but I fully understand their appeal (it's the basis of skinner box). I don't think, as you say, that an RPG would fare well financially without such system, so I just roll with it. In my first playthrough, and as I mentionned, I played the skinner box game.

I didn't say I would limit the characters to two or three skill tree, but that I would limit the amount of point spent in them to two or three points maximum (instead of the current maximum of 5). As this would cap skill tree very quickly, characters could spend their many points elsewhere (spread), which I prevent in some sense by, as you said, forbidding overlapping skill tree. This also allows the prevention of spamming unbalanced skills in one round (you could not cast multiple fire shield in one round, if one decides to keep using elemental shield, for instance).

And after reading your last two paragraphs, it dawns on me you might be talking in a thread that doesn't concern you at all? In your whole post, nothing tells me you are talking about challenge?

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I'm all for increasing the challenge of the game, because it is far too easy. But I want a challenge without having to eliminate whole mechanics like gear and talents. We have different visions of challenge, but we're both interested in making the game harder. I just think your ideas would mostly kill diversity and make the game harder mostly by limiting your options and making the game more tedious.

The question of what makes an RPG actually challenging and not just tedious or basically impossible if you design your party poorly is a hard one. A lot of it has to do with designing fights and AI so that you have to come up with unique strategies for each combat. In a way, limiting yourself (and not using cheesy tactics ofc) will make fights more challenging because you might have to come up with certain strategies that you didn't have to before when you were so strong you could just hack and slash without a thought, but self-limitation can only go so far before fights just start taking forever and fights start to blend together because you don't have the variety to spice things up.

My point in my last paragraph in my previous post: is the game actually going to be more challenging if you don't save after a fight that doesn't have a questlog update after it (which many, many fights do not), or is it just going to be more tedious and annoying when you die and have to do a fight all over again? I mean, if you consider that a challenge, go right ahead, but I'm just saying you might find that obnoxious in practice.

I actually agree with a lot of your self limitations. Shields, savescumming, economy inflation from stealing, attribute inflation, many of the talents, etc. are all serious issues which in the current game state one simply has to avoid or seriously limit to get any sort of challenge. But I just think you go a little far in some regards, and of course it would be much preferred if they would just be appropriately balanced.

Last edited by Baardvark; 05/11/14 05:14 AM.
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I have the inkling you do not know what you are talking about.
It would ease me if you were a little more specific, with grounded examples.

As general idea, I understand one can go too far: one will be so weak he will be restricted to his best move only. But you do not give me anything grounded that could tell me common gear is going too far, or that there are a lot of hard fights that have no QuestLog update near them.
It could be the case, or it couldn't: numbers must be crunched. You are not crunching number, you are just telling you are afraid thoses rules might be "killing" diversity without backing it up.

It was made very clear to me that going too far (on the strong side) was very limiting. I did not need to crowd control as much, and sky high Intelligence allowed me to spam my strongest spell every turn (cooldown reduction has a very poor progression formula).

How far can one go to the other side without making the game obnoxious? I do not know, and do you?

Gear, talents and extra attribute points are not really mechanics (some talent such as elemental affinity might be an exception, but my rule doesn't exclude it), they are permanent buffs pure and simple.
You can google "the illusion of choice in gaming" if the subject interests you.

If you feel too afraid, you are free to adjust the rule from "common (white)" up to "magical (blue)" or "rare (green)". The same way the rule with skill tree can be adjusted from "max 3/5" down to "max 2/5" or up to "max 4/5".

Same can be said about saving. Yes it is more challenging when you have to chain multiple fights without saving, and yes it can be more obnoxious aswell. You are presenting them as opposites when they aren't. It is a matter of equilibrium, pick your flavor. One could even decide to never save and finish the game in one go (talk about obnoxious!).

I understand your concern about redoing fights though, but it would help me if you had some examples in mind. I thought about the QuestLog because there are some puzzles in this game that do not require fighting (so a rule about saving after each fight is not good enough, as it will not prevent obnoxious redoing of puzzles). And, again, you can adapt yourself to this rule by keeping easy QuestLog updates under your sleeve (like Blood Stones, or reading diaries).

The economy inflation is not a big problem in the game (even though you end up with a lot of money), and even less so if you decide to restrict quality of gear you wear. From memory, the only things I was buying were skill books (but I could have done without, and use crafting more), the very rare good legendaries that were sold, and some peculiar items in the early game (rabbit paws for the lucky find gear, crafting + blacksmith combo belt and bracers for mere convenience), and of course the treasure maps.

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Originally Posted by Chrest

As for 7, I stole everything so I can't remember if there were any quest that really required to do stealing. Have you an example in mind?

off the top of my head... When you are solving the mysterious murder evelyn will leave her backpack behind with house key, that is considered stealing to game. You could rightly spend a few minute pummeling her door down. I noticed others but can't recall them at moment.

Originally Posted by Chrest

... out of combat (alike the summon limitation), (with the exception of tornado?), unless you use a scroll.
Exactly what I suggested in other thread, but was thinking it'd make it far more difficult if not used period, maybe too hard though... Don't know haven't gotten one play through done yet. Just finishing up Cyseal after yet another restart...


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OK I incorporated the terrain control suggestion.

The theft rule is really not important I think, maybe it could be changed to something like "do not steal golden crockery and paintings" (those are the two main culprits I think?), or dropped (it doesn't really impact the game). One problem I see keeping this rule is that we have to check paintings because some hide secret switch and stuff. Plus some like to roleplay thiefs. Since the main problem is the selling, theft is okay but reselling isn't?
A rule like "golden crockery and paintings shall not be used for business"?


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