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Summary of the Problem

Currently there is little to no reason to specialize in a particular school of magic.

By getting 1 point in each discipline, you get access to 15 spells (3 from each school) from which you can pick and choose the most powerful spells since those are gated only by level and intelligence.

By spending twice as many points in a single type of magic, you get it to rank 4, have access to fewer total spells, and don't get access to any spells above someone who only put in 1 point. All this comes at the cost of being far less versatile.

Unsatisfactory Solutions

- Talents that are only accessible at rank 4/5 of a particular school of magic.

While I like this concept in theory, I feel that it fails in practice since the talent will fall into one of two categories. (1) The talent is not powerful enough to solve the problem, and the all-round wizard build is still more powerful. (2) The talent is powerful enough to make specializing worth it, but now every specialist is forced to get a particular talent.

Granted, the second outcome is not terrible but it could be done better:


- The later ranks of a particular school give large bonuses to reward those who specialize into them.

This is very similar to the above but still has several problems. (1) Players tend to feel that they must either invest all 15 points to get the ability to rank 5 and earn the bonus or not put any points into it at all. (2) This takes a step back towards the old system of Way of the [Blank] abilities that Larian felt too class-based (see above).


- Certain spells require a particular level in the type of magic along with the level + intelligence requirement.

Once again, this limits build diversity, puts us into a more class-like system, and makes players feel like they have to specialize much more than they actually need to. To get a school to rank 5 and access to those abilities, you need 15 points, which severely limits how many you have left afterwards.

- In general: any sort of boost in damage / other bonuses (AP cost reduction, etc.) for investing towards a particular school.

On top of suffering from most of the problems mentioned above, these sort of fixes create a balance nightmare. A skill must be worth using when someone only has 1 point in the school of magic, but must also not be overpowered for someone who has specialized in the school. This must somehow be accomplished while making the bonuses large enough to reward specialization.

Proposed Solution

Quick Definition: currently, you gain access to spells at particular levels: level 1, 4, 7... I will henceforth refer to these as Rank 1 spells (those you need level 1 for), Rank 2 spells (those you need level 4 for), Rank 3 spells, etc.

We leave the current system as-is with only one modification.

For each Rank a spell is above your mastery of a particular school of magic, that spell costs 2 AP more to cast.

Let's look at some examples:

- I have 1 point in Air Magic and want to use a Rank 1 spell. No AP penalty.

- I have 1 point in Air Magic and want to use a Rank 3 spell. It costs 4 more AP to cast.
- I have 5 points in Air Magic and want to use a Rank 3 spell. No AP penalty.

- I have 1 point in Air Magic and want to use a Rank 5 spell. It costs 8 more AP to cast.
- I have 3 points in Air Magic and want to use a Rank 5 spell. It costs 4 more AP now.

So what does this do?

Jack-of-all-trades Wizards (1 point in each school of magic) are essentially the same as they are now. However, if they choose to swap out their lower level spells for the most powerful ones in each school, they suffer an AP penalty when using them based on how powerful the spell is and how many points they invested into the school.

Why I feel this is a good solution

- Spell diversity is not limited any more than it is now.

If you only give people access to the weak spells from a school of magic until they've invested many points in it, then you severely limit build diversity. If you choose not to specialize in a type of magic, you won't have any very powerful spells at your disposal.

- Spells are equally impactful once they are cast irregardless of how many points you have invested in that type of magic.

I know people disagree with this, but I think it is necessary from a gameplay and balance standpoint. Trying to balance Blizzard to be worth using for 1 point in Water Magic and powerful enough to make level 5 Water Magic worth it is near impossible.

- It gives people meaningful reasons to specialize or diversify the type of magic they can use.

If you choose to invest points into all types of magic, you may only be able to cast 1 extremely powerful spell per turn, but you have access to the right spell in any situation and can still use powerful magic.

If you choose to specialize in a particular type of magic, you can rain down a barrage of Fire on your enemies in a single turn rather than the non-specialist who was only able to cast one of those spells.


- Specialization in a type of magic becomes much less binary. There is a good reason to stop at level 2, 3, 4, and 5.

For some people, it will matter that a spell costs 14 AP instead of 10 because they can't combo it with another one or it's more than their maximum. For others, it won't. Maybe it's important that the small spell costs 6 AP instead of 8, and likely its not for others. You are given a continuum of options. Do you want to cast Tornado for 20 AP, or 8, or are you happy with one of the steps in between?

Addressing possible concerns

1. There are 7 "Ranks" of spells but you can only get a type of magic up to level 5, which means those spells will have a 4 AP penalty.

I don't have a good solution to this, other than considering rank 5, 6, and 7 spells all as rank 5.

2. There will rarely be a reason to put in that 5th point into a skill. 5 skill points is too great a cost to reduce the most powerful spells by 2 AP.

Possibly, but not necessarily. Trying to cast 2 rank 5 spells in a single turn would result in a total penalty of 4 AP if you were level 4 in the school. Putting in that last point could easily make the difference between being able to do so and not.

3. What if a spell costs 13+ AP to begin with? Then it won't be available with only 1 point in that type of magic because the AP penalty will make it impossible to cast.

True. I did ignore this point in most of my arguments above. This would mean that having only 1 point in a type of magic might make some spells cost over 20 AP to cast. While this somewhat undermines my argument of "spell diversity is not limited," I feel it only affects a small fraction of spells and generally limits it less than other proposed fixes. 3 ranks in a type of magic would mean you can hypothetically cast all spells that cost less than 17 AP.

4. How is this different from AP cost reduction for specializing in a school of magic?

The AP penalty affects higher rank spells more than lower rank spells. Someone who does not specialize into a type of magic will feel no impact on low level spells, a small impact on medium level spells, and a large impact on high level spells.

This also means that specializing more and more stops impacting lower-level spells as those will already not suffer any AP penalty. This prevents low-level spells costing virtually no AP due to "AP reduction" mechanics since the proposed solution adds an "AP penalty" then removes it.

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Great thread and good points. I especially like you going into depth about unsatisfactory solutions and why they are so.

Larian is aware of this issue. I'm not sure what they'll do about it though. There was talk about making Rank 5 more attractive, but that doesn't solve the whole problem, all the ranks have to have some incentive. Larian is moving away from AP cost reductions because as you pointed out, it is a balancing nightmare.


Your idea sounds pretty good, and it fits in with the AP penalty for weapons, but given the AP cost of spells in general, I think that a 1 AP penalty per rank above your specialization is sufficient. 1 AP is quite a lot, and even only a +4 AP penalty on Rank 5 spells will probably be quite a lot once you factor in the spell's base AP cost.

EDIT: Maybe, if that's not quite enough, Rank 5 skills could have an +2 penalty instead of +1.

As for the 7 tiers of skills versus 5 ranks, maybe rank 4 and 5 have two ranks worth of skills each, instead of giving rank 5 all three ranks.


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Not a bad idea at all.

I think it would generally fit with the Larian point of view on design and the type of the game itself, as being a bit more loose, instead of very "restricting".
Plus it doesnt require any big changes to the current system and it would be fairly balanced already, from the start.

It wouldnt be my personal choice or preference, but i do think it is a good idea.



hmm... a few aditions, thoughts:

- I would still have primary attributes serve as requirements and affect damage and precision or chance of success - as they are doing now. I find that mechanic plays nicely. Feels good in gameplay.

- I dont think there is any problem that some very high level spells would not be immediately available because of high AP cost (if the base is so high) or because of other requirements.

- I think that specialists should have those very high spells or skills of rank 5 more easily available, sooner. Which would balance the diversity of hybrids - which is an advantage in on itself.
Its not just that you have more different spells but, it allows you to deal with different threats more easily. To adapt to different situation, enemy, elements or environments more easily.

Diversity is advantage - so specialists should have a small advantage of their own to balance that atleast a little bit. Getting rank 5 spells and skills a bit more easily (for less AP) would be a nice one.


- I would prevent usage of scrolls if the character doesnt have a single point in that category as a small additional measure. And limit them according to level in the relevant skill too.




/

I had some other, different ideas about the issue but those would not fit with your specific suggestion so im not going to mention those.






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I like the proposed idea as well.

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What if specialization increased the strength of spells instead?

The jack of all trades could still do whatever, but with less potency. (same as fewer spells per turn)
The specialist would lack certain abilities, but have more power due to increased focus. (same as more spells per turn)

Same result but different approach.

edit: /rereading/ I guess you mentioned this approach already above, but I think people are just as inclined to specialize in order to feel they aren't gimped by missing a bonus as they would be if they feel they are missing extra action points.

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@op
That doesn't reward specialization. Instead, this punishes non-specialized characters

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Happy to see positive feedback on this.

Originally Posted by "Stabbey"
Your idea sounds pretty good, and it fits in with the AP penalty for weapons, but given the AP cost of spells in general, I think that a 1 AP penalty per rank above your specialization is sufficient. 1 AP is quite a lot, and even only a +4 AP penalty on Rank 5 spells will probably be quite a lot once you factor in the spell's base AP cost.

EDIT: Maybe, if that's not quite enough, Rank 5 skills could have an +2 penalty instead of +1.

The reason I thought 2 AP would be a good number is because of what I expect will happen later in the game. In all my playthroughs, I have easily attained 14+ AP per turn on each of my characters. A +4 AP penalty would not have been very significant.

With that said, I am not attached to any numbers in particular. I think Larian would have a much better perspective to work out any of those types of details.

Originally Posted by "Stabbey"
As for the 7 tiers of skills versus 5 ranks, maybe rank 4 and 5 have two ranks worth of skills each, instead of giving rank 5 all three ranks.

Not sure how I didn't think of that. Seems obvious in retrospect once you point that option out.

Originally Posted by "Hiver"
I would still have primary attributes serve as requirements and affect damage and precision or chance of success - as they are doing now. I find that mechanic plays nicely. Feels good in gameplay.

I should have been more clear in my original post. Everything else about the current system would stay the same, including the primary attribute effects you mention.

Originally Posted by "Halcyon"
What if specialization increased the strength of spells instead?

The jack of all trades could still do whatever, but with less potency. (same as fewer spells per turn)
The specialist would lack certain abilities, but have more power due to increased focus. (same as more spells per turn)

Same result but different approach.

edit: /rereading/ I guess you mentioned this approach already above, but I think people are just as inclined to specialize in order to feel they aren't gimped by missing a bonus as they would be if they feel they are missing extra action points.

A lower AP cost vs. higher damage are fundamentally different in several ways. I did a poor job elaborating on this point in the post.

1. Bonus damage is always beneficial whereas bonus AP is not.

For example, having 1 or 2 extra AP is useless if you can't spend it on anything and you are already regaining all your AP each turn. On the other hand, that 1 or 2 AP might be critical to getting another high cost spell off in that turn. This is a critical element of the non-binary specialization argument I made, and it would be lost if the benefit were damage rather than AP.

2. From a psychological perspective, not having the benefit is completely different.

When you cast a spell that doesn't do much damage, it feels very unimpactful (even if it cost little AP). As a result, investing that 1 point into the type of magic doesn't feel like it was worth it. However, a spell that packs a punch still feels very impactful, even if it cost all of your AP to use.

3. AP has a much more universal balance impact.

Most spells in the game have additional effects on top of them or even deal no damage in the first place. Often, these effects are the primary reason to use the spell, not the damage.

Originally Posted by "Killy86"
That doesn't reward specialization. Instead, this punishes non-specialized characters

Yes, you are correct. I feel like the general consensus right now is that non-specialized magic characters are way too strong, not that specialized characters are too weak. Creating an incentive to specialize does not necessarily mean we have to reward it, just make the other option less appealing.

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Originally Posted by Arjiki

The reason I thought 2 AP would be a good number is because of what I expect will happen later in the game. In all my playthroughs, I have easily attained 14+ AP per turn on each of my characters. A +4 AP penalty would not have been very significant.


How did you do that? Not just with +Speed, I'm sure. Are you talking about Raistlin (and with Lone Wolf as well)?

If that's the case, not everyone will want to take Raistlin + Lone Wolf.

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Quote
Proposed Solution

Quick Definition: currently, you gain access to spells at particular levels: level 1, 4, 7... I will henceforth refer to these as Rank 1 spells (those you need level 1 for), Rank 2 spells (those you need level 4 for), Rank 3 spells, etc.

We leave the current system as-is with only one modification.

For each Rank a spell is above your mastery of a particular school of magic, that spell costs 2 AP more to cast.

Let's look at some examples:

- I have 1 point in Air Magic and want to use a Rank 1 spell. No AP penalty.

- I have 1 point in Air Magic and want to use a Rank 3 spell. It costs 4 more AP to cast.
- I have 5 points in Air Magic and want to use a Rank 3 spell. No AP penalty.

- I have 1 point in Air Magic and want to use a Rank 5 spell. It costs 8 more AP to cast.
- I have 3 points in Air Magic and want to use a Rank 5 spell. It costs 4 more AP now.

So what does this do?

Jack-of-all-trades Wizards (1 point in each school of magic) are essentially the same as they are now. However, if they choose to swap out their lower level spells for the most powerful ones in each school, they suffer an AP penalty when using them based on how powerful the spell is and how many points they invested into the school.


^ this is amazing, I love how you kept it open to still being a jack of all trades kinda caster! this would also make t he Raistilin ( spell check ) trait a bit more appealing to casters. (the one that gives you more AP each turn, but lowers your health by I think 50%)

@Killy86 - It may seem like it punishes them, but honestly it makes them pretty amazing.

**Example**
Earth Specialist drops down the oil spell (forgot the name sorry) that leaves a ground effect that can then be lit on fire. Say they have 1 point in fire they can still next turn if they saved some AP use fireball or some other powerful fire spell. Next round do the rolling rock ball thing through the flaming ground making the rock thing light on fire for even more damage!

Oh I love the combinations that could be done! this would help balance it out while still maintains the build your own class idea.

*hugs* I think most of the players who play casters would also find it fun having to actually save AP for a round or so to use non specialized spells. Rather then just going nuke happy killing everything.

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Originally Posted by Halcyon
What if specialization increased the strength of spells instead?

The jack of all trades could still do whatever, but with less potency. (same as fewer spells per turn)
The specialist would lack certain abilities, but have more power due to increased focus. (same as more spells per turn)

Same result but different approach.

edit: /rereading/ I guess you mentioned this approach already above, but I think people are just as inclined to specialize in order to feel they aren't gimped by missing a bonus as they would be if they feel they are missing extra action points.


hehe yeah! I am behind the increase in potency as well, mainly because I would love a very strong healing spell =p

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I think this is a great proposal - I haven't gotten very far in the beta myself, so I can't comment on on if +4AP would be too harsh a penalty, but if this were to be the case I would suggest having a talent that would remove 1 AP spell cost (applied to penalties only), with the prerequisite of having 2 points in 3 different spell schools. For those of you who have played Master of Magic, it would be similar to the requirements for Node Mastery, which was an amazing trait to have but really only applicable to specific builds.

I do agree that whether or not you can learn a spell should be dependent on intelligence, but spell effectiveness should be a combination of intelligence and skill level. There should be stiffer penalties in place to prevent the jack of all trades mage, but still make it somewhat viable for a unique playstyle - you won't be the most powerful mage for each school, but you will be versatile.

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Personally, i find it very disappointing and mildly interesting how a fair number of people think about these kinds of measures as "punishments" or "penalties". Which they are not.

These are balances.

But, to some number of people, that is like saying "the glass is half empty". They just see it in negative light, as a measure that is taking away something from them.
Not that i can change anyone's mind about it but, the main point of such measures is making the whole game better - not just giving you more and more and more powers, spells, abilities, loot or whatever.

You cant just keep upgrading specialists and then hybrids and then specialists in turns indefinitely.

Ah, dont mind me folks, thats just a part of the bigger theory and philosophy of design of RPGs.
Lets get back to immediate matters.


There are few things in the op that are not correctly presented, so i just wanted to mention those.

Quote

- Talents that are only accessible at rank 4/5 of a particular school of magic.

While I like this concept in theory, I feel that it fails in practice since the talent will fall into one of two categories. (1) The talent is not powerful enough to solve the problem, and the all-round wizard build is still more powerful. (2) The talent is powerful enough to make specializing worth it, but now every specialist is forced to get a particular talent.


This is not really true because Talents are not meant to "solve" anything.
Talents are additional improvements, not solutions, that are given as rewards to reaching specific levels with specific builds.

There is nothing wrong with them. There only should be more of these small additional boosts to various skills.

Magic schools dont have any talents right now, or almost none.
And a Talent would be a great way to introduce either specific AP reductions for specific spells or level of spells. Or Cooldown reductions for a specific type of magic or whatever.

All these can be minimal - but would still feel great for the players and the sense of character progression.


Quote

- In general: any sort of boost in damage / other bonuses (AP cost reduction, etc.) for investing towards a particular school.

On top of suffering from most of the problems mentioned above, these sort of fixes create a balance nightmare. A skill must be worth using when someone only has 1 point in the school of magic, but must also not be overpowered for someone who has specialized in the school. This must somehow be accomplished while making the bonuses large enough to reward specialization.


Only if you see it and present it in such an overblown manner, to boost your position that way. It is not a "balance Nightmare" - it is just ordinary balancing.

A "skill" - meaning all skills, does not need to be "worth using" to "someone with 1 point" - because there is no need for that to be applied to all skills, equally, to all builds - because of level, Intelligence or other attribute requirements, which dont allow all skills to be usable.
Or allow it but with lesser efficiency. As they do now.

Different builds will find different skills more or less worthy. And thats fine. A single skill does not need to be equally worthy to every build.



Quote
- Certain spells require a particular level in the type of magic along with the level + intelligence requirement.

Once again, this limits build diversity, puts us into a more class-like system, and makes players feel like they have to specialize much more than they actually need to. To get a school to rank 5 and access to those abilities, you need 15 points, which severely limits how many you have left afterwards.



It does not "limit build diversity" - it just makes players actually invest something to achieve it instead of allowing it for everyone for nothing. Which would be unbalanced and would practically force all players to do that, make such builds.

But, i do agree that your idea of allowing all or most of the spells to be used, with AP costs depending on level of the specific magic skill is a good idea.

Yours is basically a soft limit, instead of a hard one.

Or, for those that see glass as half empty,... - its a soft border, that you will be able to cross and get whatever is behind it.



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The first version of beta I played (which I think was two versions back) had casting of spells limited by Ability rank but not character level. This allowed and encouraged specialization. I enjoyed this.

The limit on casting of spells by character level in the current system actively prevents specialization. This forces the player to be a generalist simply to survive. I felt that this took away something from the game.

The same goes for skills in general. With the number, not power, of skill effected by Ability Rank the incentive to specialize is taken away.

The same goes for weapons / with the fighter classes. Now that weapons have negative modifiers based on character level it reduces the flexibility of approach.

I think this is a case of More equals less. More complexity equals less freedom of choice.

My suggestion to solve this - remove the level limits on casting spells. Remove level limits on skills. Remove level limits on individual weapons.

Give a bonus to spell, skill, and weapon effectiveness based on Ability Rank. This reflects level but is not tied directly to it.

Keep the bonus to spell, skill, and weapon effectiveness based on Attribute. This reflects level but is not tied directly to it.

Give weapons and items both an Ability Rank requirement and an Attribute requirement. To use a weapon or item the character need only meet one requirement (either Ability Rank or Attribute). This rewards specialization in both Ability and Attributes.

These are simple changes that are essentially fine tuning what is already in the game.

More radically:

Increase the maximum Ability Rank that a character can attain. Increase the speed of progression through the Ranks of Ability.

This can be done by either reducing point requirements for each level of Ability rank or by increasing the rate at which points are gained.

Increasing the number of Ability Ranks will allow greater fine tuning of the game by the designers. This would make it much easier to tune out any unintended consequences or game imbalances produced by the suggested changes above.

It will also lead to smoother character progression.

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Here are the reasons why the old system was changed, tom8a:

Massive Change to the Skill System

Your simple change basically will create three tiers of power:
Low Attribute Score + Low Ability Score = low-powered skill.
High Attribute Score + Low Ability Score (or vice-versa) = medium-powered skill
High Attribute Score + High Ability Score = high-powered skill

That's for each skill. Larian would have to balance the power of a skill three times over. There are 134 skills in the game.

If it's too low, it's not worth using at all. Maybe that's not a big deal, but the bigger issue to me seems to be balancing medium-power with high-power. Plus, I'm generalizing, because you expect that each point into an attribute and an ability should mean something, right?


Your more radical change of increasing ability points is unlikely to happen. It was changed away from that because it was leading to more unbalanced situations - some people would pump a ton of points into one ability only, others would spread them out.

More points leading to smoother character progression was already tried in the alpha, and it was considered to be false.

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Good post and well thought out, and overall I wouldn't object if it were done that way. That said, I personally think a reduction in cooldown would be better. As specialists have fewer spells to choose from, it seems reasonable that they should get to use them more often. Otherwise, once you've cast all the spells that make sense, it can be a long wait before you can actually do anything useful.

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Not to mention that you are limited by APs amounts in the sense of being able to cast two or three spells at the most during one turn, let alone any "barrage" - which would be totally unbalancing.


And dont forget that enemies use the same systems. Or atleast they should.


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"Here are the reasons why the old system was changed, tom8a:

Massive Change to the Skill System

Your simple change basically will create three tiers of power:
Low Attribute Score + Low Ability Score = low-powered skill.
High Attribute Score + Low Ability Score (or vice-versa) = medium-powered skill
High Attribute Score + High Ability Score = high-powered skill

That's for each skill. Larian would have to balance the power of a skill three times over. There are 134 skills in the game."

Low + low combination will not adversely affect balance as this will not significantly affect the power of a skill and starting skill powers are already balanced.

High + low combination would indeed produce a medium powered skill. This would not be difficult to balance. A modifier for Attribute score is already included as a balanced part of the game. It should not be difficult to apply a little maths to produce an Ability / Attribute equivalency. This would allow players to achieve the same power at the same level but through different paths of development.

High Attribute Score + High Ability Score = high-powered skill. This is a problem. It would produce overly powerful characters. It would also produce very one dimensional characters. So although powerful in some respects they would be particularly weak in others. I have not played far enough into the game to discover if this would be a sufficient deterrent to over-specialization. From the many and varied ways to die that I have experienced so far, I am, however, inclined to believe that it would be.

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If however this should prove too complicated.

A simpler way to re establish flexibility would be to remove the limit on skills / spells by level and reinstate the limit on skills / spells by ability rank.

This would not alter the power of spells or abilities.

It would allow characters with a smaller selection of more powerful spells / skills. But they would suffer from being less flexible than those with a wider selection.

This is after all what diversity is about. Otherwise as others have pointed out, the effect of the change to level limits is to force characters to fit into narrow, average, (and by implication fairly dull) classes.

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Originally Posted by Hiver
Personally, i find it very disappointing and mildly interesting how a fair number of people think about these kinds of measures as "punishments" or "penalties". Which they are not.


I think it is a by-product of Early Access, other games have the same issue. You let people play the game and when you start making changes that increase difficulty, things like "Nerf" start to appear, what was once easier is now harder. It's unpopular in a general sense. I would say an early take away from EA is to come out tight with rules and if needed loosen. In DOS's case there are plenty of things to loosen (DOT) and a few things to tighten (Specialization) so it should be fairly smooth.

I'm cool with whatever makes sense, I assume we are just being Imaginary Jr. Designer in posts like this, sure some food for thought for Larian. But it would be a little scary to think they aren't on top of it and have a successful plan. It already is a little off for them not having this nailed down quite a while back, bit it is what it is, looks like it will come out ok.

This proposal here has merit, I feel there are a few ways to pull this off.

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