Shields for Magic Users.

Grunwave

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See, this is where I'm kind of ... Annoyed? Where is it written that a caster should have low defense?
No gloves, I might see, but, ... A chain shirt, and a buckler, how's that unwieldy? A well fitted breastplate and leg guards shouldn't inhibit any amount of handwaving necessary. Now, I'm not saying full plate should be standard Mage attire, but seriously? And they say Wizards are supposed to be intelligent. I can already see a mage charging his spell behind the big steel shield shield only to quickly fling it aside as he unleashes.

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I also don't believe in balancing by 'Power source'. A mage shouldn't have low armor just because he's 'Magic'. Where's my 'Basic attack spam mage' and my 'Big attack that costs resources fighter with a very weak basic attack'. Maybe the mages are the big tanks with shields and enormous HP reserves granted by dark pacts, and the Melee guys are the fragile low HP Damage spikers.

Seems like that first argument is a thematic one. The standard you are addressing arouse from Tolkien lore and the later Gygax's adaptations.

In a tapletop, imposing Somatic components(5e) lends itself to roleplaying. It is not just about mechanics, it is about everyone telling a story together.

My crafting system is purely Lore based, though it does have mathematical effects.

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Mechanics are an art form that is hopefully math relevant.

I have 11 classes in my project. Your party of 4 can create thousands of group combinations. For me, not giving my Mage "high defense" was important, as it created a niche for my tanking classes to fill. It was more about yin-yang.

That said: there is a caster with high defense(and even shields). This is my Necro(cleric/mage hybrid). He can deal as much single-target DPS as the Mage, but the Mage has access to AOE DPS.

Essentially: once you get passed the Lore/Themes of your own world, it is really just a matter of not breaking your own combat system with Bad Math.
 

Tai_MT

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That requires a lot of things to happen.

Why are your enemies so weak they die to a basic attack?
Balancing things by 'cast animation' is a weird concept too. Why should stronger attacks take longer than weaker ones?
And the whole 'Navigating' can be shortcut by as simple an option as 'remember last input'.

It's all patches on the core problem. A player that wants to shortcut your combat is already lost.

Oh, and the basic attack for a mage shouldn't be "Whack enemy with stick" It should be "Magic missile" or "Fire" or whatever. It's the old D&D problem. My mage shouldn't have to pull out a crossbow. He should have a basic magical attack.
So, like you, I also have a 0 MP magic attack ( Actually, all the basic elemental spells cost 0 mp). I also use a Weakness system that heavily favors using an enemy weakness, so spamming attack will get you nowhere.

The problem lies in the old dev saying: "Players will optimize the fun out of your game."

That is, if something is the easiest way to do it in a game... players will do that, even if it's not fun.

Enemies also don't have to be so weak they die to a basic attack. Most games allow you to overlevel so hard that combat ends up being that way (because most devs are quite lazy and use stats as balance rather than gimmicks). I've played many a "hard RPG" that I've rofl-stomped by just grinding some levels for a few hours and finding easy workarounds for the basic concepts. The only games I've ever played that remained difficult were ones in which your stats really didn't matter all that much.

Part of the fun in playing games for me is figuring out how to exploit your design to break your game. I get no joy from actually breaking your game... I get the joy in figuring out how. I tend to break almost any game I interact with as a result.

The core problem is also not "the player that wants to shortcut is already lost". The problem is, "If your system is allowed to be shortcut due to poor design, your players are lost."

After all, who cares about fighting all your encounters if they don't have to? Who cares about killing every enemy in the room when you can just run right passed them? Does it matter if your combat is fun if the combat itself can be bypassed? Does it matter if your skills are interesting if it's more efficient to never use them? Does it matter if you have a stealth mechanic in your game when it's faster to just insta-kill everyone rather than sneak around them?

Players will optimize the fun out of your game. They generally take the quickest, smoothest, easiest path through your game, no matter what. If you have a skill that takes 2 seconds of animation to execute and one that takes 1.8 seconds of animation to execute... but they both kill in one hit... guess which one the player is going to use more? If you have skills with elements and those elements could hit an enemy immune to them... or has resistance to them... but few enemies have those immunities and resistances to just mashing "attack", do you think players are going to gravitate more towards whacking with sticks or selecting the appropriate skill from a list to get the job done?

As for why do stronger attacks have longer animations? They just generally do. Their power is typically conveyed through the quality of the animation. Which, generally, means it ends up longer. Ever play an RPG Maker game where there are no animations for attacks? Try it. I have... it uh... loses quite a bit.

To quote "Teh Snakerer": "I would have guessed a shooter without the sound of gunshots wouldn't be fun, but it's nice to now know for sure." If I remember right, it's during his review of White Gold.

As for creating combat that is engaging... There really isn't a tried and true method. All I've done is seek to create less "lulls" where the player can take their eyes off the screen. This means loads of gimmicks. This means enemies are designed in such a way that they teach you mechanics and bosses require you have learned those mechanics to beat them. Enemies are weak to several different things to accommodate any party composition. Armor has weaknesses so that players need to be swapping them out on a regular basis to shore up specific stats in order to protect against specific types of attacks. Etcetera. I have spent time to design combat less around stats (because they really don't matter as much as in other RPG's) and more around keeping the player selecting options (even if those options are the attack command) rather than watching Netflix. It is less, "hit enemy with fire to do 2x damage" and more, "this enemy is a heavily armored magic user, you can whack it with blunt weapons for extra damage, hit it with Strength based attacks to do more damage, and probably also Agility based attacks too. It might also be weak to States that limit movement. But, it's a magic user, so having metal armor on will ensure I take extra damage too... and it's heavily armored which means it's probably going to hit me pretty hard and I'll need characters with Naturally High defense to withstand those hits." Each consideration is a "level" of player interaction with the combat and the game.

That's not even getting into builds for each archetype, that skills level up, that States are highly powerful, and that there's a ton of different equipment to tinker with.

Is the combat fun? At this point, I can't really say. But, the players aren't likely to be watching Netflix while playing.
 

freakytapir

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I agree with a lot of things said in reply to my post, but I am especially glad it generated this amount of discussion. It does one well to look at ones own designs and the reasons for them.

And while I do 'get' most of the balance reasons for mages having a low defense, isn't that already compensated for by giving them lower HP? And for all those saying : But a mage can defend himself with magic... Why not have that be presented in the defense stat, then? Have the defense stat represent those "Shields" and "Barriers" he throws up in a hurry, and have the actual shield spell be the stronger version of that. Heck, 4e D&D even let the Wizard add his Intelligence to his Armour class. (Actually, any class could choose between Dex, Int, or heavy Armour but the wizard was the only INT based class in the first PHB). Maybe have a little shield animation play every time he gets hit.

Now I know most of the reason to have a lightly armored mage stems from the tropes and tradition, but I think that mage has been done to death. I'm not saying every mage needs to be heavily armored, but as a player it would be nice to know that 'Hardened Battlemage with military experience who knows his way around a shield and breastplate' is an option.
"Sure, I could generate a magical shield, but that's a waste of magical focus, I'd rather throw that energy into the next attack spell."
And well, in a Magical world, every enemy would always aim for the cloth user first. It's just good practice.

Maybe a generational conflict between mages ...
"A robe was good enough for me, and it'll be good enough for you."
Apprentice ignores his master as he continues to strap on his leather breastplate.
 

TheGentlemanLoser

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That is not a real DND5E class @ThreeSixNine. You probably wanted to link Wizard or Sorcerer, actual D&D classes, the former of which is the logical continuation of the 1st Edition "Magic User" class, the original Squishy Wizard.

Still, your point is well taken: the assumptions (including both unwritten and misunderstood assumptions!) of Dungeons & Dragons do massively inform the default conventions of both CRPGs and JRPGs.
 

Tai_MT

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Now I know most of the reason to have a lightly armored mage stems from the tropes and tradition, but I think that mage has been done to death. I'm not saying every mage needs to be heavily armored, but as a player it would be nice to know that 'Hardened Battlemage with military experience who knows his way around a shield and breastplate' is an option.

I don't really discourage this option (the player can do it! They can have Mages who use Short Swords!). My players can also give their Mages high Defense with the Defense Giving Items they are awarded after every quest (this is the only way to get more stats, other than equipment. Levels don't grant stats).

The trade-off for this behavior, however, is that the magic just isn't as effective. The gear is built around specific roles the Mage should be taking. Which... if we're honest, that's what any Class in a game should be built for. Not necessarily archetypes they're known for, but to fill specific roles and niches in a party.

Personally, I enjoy bucking tradition and tropes and "the way everyone else does it", so I have done so in any area I thought it was feasible to do so. All of my Classes work this way.

Want some added fun?

My "Witch" (primary elemental spellcaster, akin to Final Fantasy Black Mages) wears Heavy Armor. Even more fun? The Armor is an Illusion (called an Illio "Ih-yo" in pronunciation, not that a player would know how to pronounce it...) meant to deter people from knowing she's a spellcaster. The fact that the armor doesn't even come off while she sleeps is a testament to the power of her concentration (prolonged spells require conscious effort... she's so good, she maintains it UNCONSCIOUSLY).

There's some fun to be had in bucking tropes and trends. Especially when it can add to the Lore of your world.

Maybe a generational conflict between mages ...
"A robe was good enough for me, and it'll be good enough for you."
Apprentice ignores his master as he continues to strap on his leather breastplate.

In my game, there are practical benefits to wearing the robes instead of the Leather. Though, I am pretty sure I disabled wearing the Leather anyway. I'd have to look to be sure. The practical benefits of the robes means it's more difficult for "assassins" to land knife blows as they're more likely to "cut cloth" instead of flesh.

From a Gameplay mechanic point of view, they basically have defense against attacks that use "Agility" as the attacking stat. So, things like Wolves have a much harder time hitting them. Likewise, "Robes" tend to jack up the Magical Attack and Magical Defense stats of the Mage, making them far more effective. Wearing Leather Armor would simply make my Mages more resistant to being whacked by Broadswords in my setting (basically, the guys using Strength as their attack stat).

But, that's sort of why the Tomes exist. Want Immunity from Broadswords? There's a tome for that! Magical protection against being whacked with a hammer! Magical Protection against being hit in the face with arrows! Hold your tome and read the incantation constantly and you get immunity with these spells!
 

freakytapir

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Seems like a fun system, and nicely integrated into the lore, I do have one ... small issue with it. Item bloat.
If there's a tome for every damage type, that gets ... well one, it's a lot of redundant items you have to update evry time your baseline 'Tome' stats change.
Two, am I as a player even going to remember I have the right tome?
Do I care to switch?
 

Tai_MT

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Seems like a fun system, and nicely integrated into the lore, I do have one ... small issue with it. Item bloat.
If there's a tome for every damage type, that gets ... well one, it's a lot of redundant items you have to update evry time your baseline 'Tome' stats change.

The tomes have no stats. Their only "stat" is simply the immunity you get. The "Stronger" tomes merely cover more than one immunity.

Two, am I as a player even going to remember I have the right tome?

I hope you do. But, the tomes are (hopefully) decently named to convey their purpose immediately. There's always flavor text though...

Do I care to switch?

Yes. One of the main mechanics of my game is that you change your equipment to fit the situation. You don't just hit "optimize" and forget. That's a quick way to end up dead. If the villagers tell you that a place has a specific kind of enemy, you put on equipment to try to capitalize on that. The only "equip and forget" might be the weapons the characters are using.

I've actually spent a great deal of time in the "beginning area" signposting that the player should be swapping out armor decently frequently. Players are initially given "Leather Armor" and can later buy/find heavy armor, some robes, some chainmail, and scale mail. Each type of armor serves a specific purpose and is better in some situations than in others. Initial dungeons require the player swap out to various types of armor in order to keep from being killed in 1 or 2 hits. NPC's even tell you to do that and warn you against not doing it.
 

Tech

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It's the old D&D problem. My mage shouldn't have to pull out a crossbow. He should have a basic magical attack.
So Cantrips, then?
Level 0 spells that don't have to be prepped/cost 0 MP. Make one of those be the wizard's basic attack.
Dragon Age made an energy bolt fired from a staff be the magician's basic attack, and I think Warhammer made a few 0 cost spells for when the Mage/Sorcerer/Psyker has a Warp Charge of 0.
Diablo 3 gives everyone a skill that costs 1 MP and has a cooldown of 0 (basically, costs less to cast than your natural passive regeneration.
But this is for context for my idea. Fear not, there's a reason for my ramblings.
Give mages something like a spellbook that adds to their MP regen, defenses, and increases the ammount of spells/what their spammable spell is. Book of Water makes it an ice crystal, Book of Fire makes it an ember, Book of Darkness makes it lifesteal, etc.
 

AphoticAmaranth

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See, this is where I'm kind of ... Annoyed? Where is it written that a caster should have low defense?
No gloves, I might see, but, ... A chain shirt, and a buckler, how's that unwieldy? A well fitted breastplate and leg guards shouldn't inhibit any amount of handwaving necessary. Now, I'm not saying full plate should be standard Mage attire, but seriously? And they say Wizards are supposed to be intelligent. I can already see a mage charging his spell behind the big steel shield shield only to quickly fling it aside as he unleashes.

I think it's more of an issue with the weight. I doubt that, say, a caster who has forsaken physical training in favour of studying magic would have the stamina to wear chainmail or carry heavy shields for long before getting exhausted.
 

Frostorm

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Reminds me of the manga/anime Magi where Alladin increased his magoi/mana pool by essentially doing P.E. at the mage academy.
 

Basileus

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That reminds me of an old anime called "Rune Soldier" about a magician that wants to be an adventurer. He's still a student at the magic academy, but he's way bigger and more buff than anyone else there since he likes to put off his homework to do push-ups. When he does get a shot at being a real adventurer, he goes with a sword and half plate armor with a little wooden wand tucked away in case he needs to actually try using magic (his first instinct is to punch things).

There's definitely a lot of room to play with spellcaster archetypes, so I wouldn't worry much about deviating from the typical mage tropes. Just go with whatever makes sense for your game's lore, or the personal traits of your magic characters.

For what it's worth, Dragon Quest does give mage-type characters some shield options. It makes a distinction between shield types, so mages can only use the smaller ones. This makes it easier to give warrior types some really tanky shields that mages can't use, while giving mages some decent options to protect themselves with some magic-oriented substats.
 

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