The value of single-target DEF/MDF buffs

Do you find single-target DEF/MDF buffs worth using?

  • "I hate DEF/MDF-buffing anyway!"

    Votes: 1 3.3%
  • "Single-target DEF/MDF buffs aren't worth the time."

    Votes: 5 16.7%
  • "There's some value if single-target gives bigger boost."

    Votes: 18 60.0%
  • "Only if every party member can have access to them."

    Votes: 1 3.3%
  • "I use single-target DEF/MDF buffs regularly!"

    Votes: 5 16.7%

  • Total voters
    30
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I've been pondering something about game design: the good ol' Defense/Magic Defense buff. An ability that, in effect, reduces how much damage a character takes from physical and/or magical damage. From Bravery to Buff, Shell to PSI Shield, almost all RPGs have some form of Defense/Magic Defense buff.

But personally, I've never found single-target forms of these buffs all that useful in turn-based RPGs, for several reasons:

  1. Rarely can you control which character an enemy will attack, so you may end up casting a DEF/MDF buff on someone that doesn't end up attacked at all.
  2. Assume you have the average party of four. If you have two people with such buffs, it takes them two turns each to buff the entire party, and they'll spend more time doing so if the buff is temporary, making for tedious gameplay.
  3. In most cases, the cost of the buff vs. the cost of a healing spell to cover what the buff would have protected against is negligible.
  4. A single-target DEF/MDF only really seems useful for a character who has particularly low DEF/MDF compared to the rest of the party. However, a.) see #1, b.) doing so each time you encounter an enemy that poses a particular threat would be tedious, and c.) it can be very annoying to have a character that is killed far more quickly by certain attacks than other party members.
One particular case that comes to my mind is Dragon Quest III, where you get the multi-target Defense buff very early in the game and where the first boss fight can pulverize anyone in your party quickly if you don't get their Defense up. There's really no time at all, even before Kabuff, when the single-target Buff is worth using. (Yes, DQ spells have dumb names.)

It makes me ponder whether others who would play my games would consider a single-target Defense/Magic Defense buff even worth using. So I figured I'd see what others think. Are single-target DEF/MDF buffs something you use in games, or do you not find value in taking the time to use non-multi-target buffs? Are there specific implementations and/or examples of games where you find single-target DEF/MDF buffs worthwhile?
 

Espon

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I find single-target buff defense buffs usually work better in action-RPGs, since a character can just fling them out without repeated input from the player.  In turn-based battles, I'll either make them target the entire party or attach it to another ability (like a healing spell).

It's either that or you make the buff really strong.  If Final Fantasy games, Protect and Shell usually cuts damage in half, which makes them necessary for some boss battles.  But then again, you usually only have 3 party members and everyone has access to the same abilities; harder to do if characters are class-based.
 

hiromu656

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Like you said, most of the time you can't control who an enemy will focus, so single target defense buffs don't usually get used as effectively as you'd like. Of course, coupled with a sort of Taunt or Protecting spell that makes these buffs way more important. If you don't have either of these options, I simply don't use the spell. I'd much rather take that turn to either heal that person or try to put out more damage. So I guess its value is determined by what you can do to make it as efficient as possible. If you have no way of making the most of the buff, I just won't use it. Sort of off topic, but interestingly enough I'd be fine with single target damage buffs, however. Maybe it has something to do with how many RPGs go about combat, having a big emphasis on dealing damage and less on reducing damage you take?
 

bgillisp

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For attack buffs, depends on if the benefit from the single target buff/debuff is more than the benefit of the damage I can do to the enemy with an attack (skill or otherwise). If a single target buff is only going to give me +5 damage for 5 turns, and I do 100 damage with attack, then I won't use the spell.

I think DQ8 did this well with the focus ability, as usually someone who focused did more damage in the next turn than they could have done with a normal attack for 2 turns.

Defensive buffs I tend to ignore until I get the entire party version though, as it feels like it isn't worth sacrificing the turn to do damage to the enemies in most games. Though I may make exceptions in boss battles to protect someone with low DEF or MDF.
 

lohenien

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I'm planning on using yanfly's instant cast to make single target buffs not take up an action. This will make the buff class more flexible by being able to do multiple actions per turn if they buff the team or less actions if they debuff the enemy.
 

Column

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I make single target buffs twice as effective as party buffs, that way you can either raise the groups stats as a whole some, or raise one individual characters stats some more.
 

Aluvien

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I love buffs to death. I shouldn't, I know, but I just love filling up status screens with them. I typically make my buffs castable out of combat, which usually affects your points in the following ways:

1) It doesn't really affect this point so much. I do consider this by itself to be an acceptable tactical dilemma to give a player, though. You can spend mana prebuffing, but then have those resources essentially wasted. If you instead use that mana on attacking, you can deal more damage, but might take too much damage and have to waste your turn healing.

2) This ends up not mattering at all.

3) The formula here changes to buff cost + extra combat action VS healing cost. With the damage values I balance my games around, the first choice is almost always better. Buffs cost no more than healing spells and on average prevent more damage across their lifetime than the healing spell would return.

4) A defensive buff in my games will usually prevent an amount of damage equal to 1.2-1.5 casts of a healing spell (so it's preferable to healing for damage control, but not overwhelmingly so). Buffing pre-combat saves you mana VS healing after-combat, and will probably save you an action or two during as well. Although this effect is most noticeable on fragile characters, it is equally present for strong ones, so even buffing them makes the party stronger as well. Consider this: a fragile character might take 8 damage from an attack, a durable one 6. The buff reduces incoming damage by 4. So the fragile character still takes 4 (50%) damage, but the strong one only takes 2 (33%). Thus it can benefit strong characters even more than weak ones. I don't point this out to the player - they have to figure it out themselves.

This is all with my own method of game balancing, though. YMMV with other methods - and I do agree with your essential analysis. In other games I've played, I almost never bother with single-target buffs unless I have a compelling reason. They just aren't worth it otherwise.
 

Nirwanda

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Some interesting examples were given here that I hadn't considered (I really liked the idea of pre battle buffing), but besides them, I only see myself using single target buffs in two sitations:

- When it's absolutely necessary to raise def no matter what: could be a extremely damaging boss,could be that the enemy is charging a powerful attack in X amount of turns, or maybe a gimmick fight, a super boss, a difficulty hack or the game being simply very hard.

- When the character who has the buff has nothing better to do: maybe because their job is all about buffing, maybe because they have fire elemental attacks and the boss absorbs fire, maybe they're the healer and no one needs healing that turn.
 
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Kes

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Or you could do a multi-buff.  I have a character with a skill which raises ATK by 25% and DEF by 50% for one person.  The ordinary DEF buff is all party, but this single character skill gives a useful addition, imo.
 

Matseb2611

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It should ideally be a reasonably strong buff or a buff that lasts a lot of turns (in a game where battles can last for more than 2-3 turns). In essence, applying a Def/Mdf buff has to outweigh the need to simply attack that turn (or use offensive abilities in general). There needs to be an advantage to spending a turn on buffing rather than dealing damage. Another thing you can do is to have buff skills also heal the user, so they have a double effect.
 

jonthefox

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Actually, I like it when single-target buffs are percentage-based...or maybe giving a flat minimum amount + a percentage bonus.  This gives the player the option of really focusing heavily on say DEF or MDEF, and so the buff becomes REALLY useful since he's getting a percentage-bonus based off of his uber high value.  It may not really be needed most of the time, but when you get to that one boss who is all about super strong magical attacks and you've got your character who you've pumped every point of MDF, equipped every +MDF item, and now use the +35% MDF buff on, you feel really awesome.

Speaking more generally, I feel these buffs only have a place if:

A) you make the enemies strong enough for them to be needed

B) you make the buffs themselves strong enough to make them worth using

I do appreciate their use, but they need to be balanced appropriately.   I also don't think a party-wide buff is very interesting...it becomes a much less dynamic choice to make, and tends to be very binary: either it's a cheesy way to win, or it isn't worth using.  
 

TheRiotInside

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Ever since the Instant Cast plugin was released, where you can use a skill without it using up your turn, I've been toying with the idea of making those relatively "weak" skills instant cast. Give them a cooldown, so you can't just spam it on the entire party, and still give it a cost, but not having them replace a more vital action (attacking/healing) will make them worth using. Of course, all of these solutions vary in effectiveness according to how well you balance your game, but using instant casts and cooldowns might be an interesting alternative to making the buffs powerful enough to warrant using a whole turn.
 
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Chrispy

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whenever I make a skill give a single target buff for defense, its normally a self buff, and only for specific characters (defenders/tanks). I also increase the chances that enemies will target them.

Otherwise, yeah, its kind of a waste of time, so I make every other defense buff apply to the whole party.
 

whitesphere

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If I offer single target DEF MDF buffs, I either allow them to be cast before battle, or have ways to control battle flow.  For example, maybe the Warrior has a Taunt mechanic that makes him the most likely target.  And, perhaps the Mages have Veil or Invisibility, a short term state that makes their target chance much lower.

As long as there are ways for the player to somewhat control the flow of battle, single target DEF and MDF buffs make sense.

If there are no ways to influence the battle, then I think only the full party DEF and MDF buffs would make sense.  
 

Adventurer_inc.

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It should ideally be a reasonably strong buff or a buff that lasts a lot of turns (in a game where battles can last for more than 2-3 turns). In essence, applying a Def/Mdf buff has to outweigh the need to simply attack that turn (or use offensive abilities in general). There needs to be an advantage to spending a turn on buffing rather than dealing damage. Another thing you can do is to have buff skills also heal the user, so they have a double effect.
I'm agreeing with Mastseb2611 with this one. Defensive buffs usually never out-weight a turn worth of attacks, so I always pick up healing skills and attacking buffs first. Healing and defensive buffing usually just falls into the same category, why use defensive buff when you can just heal? 
 

jonthefox

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@adventurer - I like when games make healing costly, so that the player must make interesting tactical choices of using say low-cost but situationally efficient defensive buffs.  It wouldn't be fun if it's rather transparent when the buff would be efficient or inefficient, but if you can create situations where it's hard to evaluate but it might be beneficial to use something other than your typical damage nuke or heal ability, then to me that creates interesting and fun choices for the player.   
 

Another Fen

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As many games use some variation of the "default" battle formula, the benefit of each additional point of DEF/MDF usually increases the more DEF/MDF the target already has. Against a normal attacking enemy with 100 ATK, adding 2 stacks of DEF to one of your characters would reduce the damage by about...

...61% (180 -> 70) when buffing the 110 DEF "tank" or

...21% (280 -> 220) when buffing the 60 DEF magician.

Since characters that would benefit most from a reasonable damage reduction won't really get one with this system, I'd prefer buffs that either increase the DEF/MDF by a fixed amount instead of a percentage or directly reduce the damage here.

As one big advantage of increasing a characters DEF over healing them would be that you can use the former before they are actually damaged, you can use the buff when your party is fully healed and in a good spot and you're worried that this could change in near future - or if you have an ally that has problems surviving specific actions without a preemptive "healing".

Another use for this buff would be if you are about to execute a combo in which you don't want to "waste" actions to heal a vulnerable party member.
 
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Fernyfer775

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I just avoid single-target defense buffs altogether unless they're a secondary effect.

In my game, there are both single-target and multi-target Defensive buffs, but they're handled a little bit differently.

1- There is the "basic" multi-target Protect spell which reduces damage by x% to all party members, and this buff is based off the Defense of the caster (the tank warrior).

2- The "single-target" Defense buffs are tied to a cooldown ability used by the healer called "Divine Aegis" which adds a secondary effect to all of the healer's healing spells. This ability is Instant, so that the healer never has to lose a turn to activate it, but it has a cooldown and costs TP, which is a bit harder to come by than MP. So, for example, "Heal" normally just heals a certain amount of HP, but whenever Divine Aegis is active, it will heal AND provide a Defensive boost for a few turns, and this stacks with the Protect spell that the warrior uses. This can become a multi-target Defense buff if the healer uses multi-target heals while the Divine Aegis buff is active as well.

The reason I did this was that I almost never used Defensive buffs in games, because like others have stated, I never found it worth the turn where I could instead be dealing damage or healing. By making the Defense buff an addition to heals, I'm certain players will use it.
 
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NichG

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I think the question to ask is, what do you want the player to figure out or learn from interacting with this option? Are there particular synergies or strategies that are enriched by the availability of a single-target defensive buff? Or alternately, if you've decided you want such an ability, what other things can you put into the game that give the player something to grab onto in order to understand its role?

For example, lets say your enemies always attack in some kind of patterned way. You could have a single target, short duration, extremely high-powered defensive buff which basically rewards the player for figuring out the pattern, but isn't useful otherwise. Another example would be, if your game has an aggro system, the player could devise a strategy of drawing enemy attacks to a single target and just buffing that one target. A more dubious example would be a game where boss attacks including multi-target attacks will often one-shot characters, but reviving fallen characters is something that any character can do; in that case, the single target defense buff would have the role of giving some stability, in the form of a character guaranteed to be able to take two hits and then revive the rest of the party.
 

Milennin

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Single-target defensive buffs are rarely worth it in RPGs. Though one way I've found to work quite effectively to making people use them, in my game at least, is to give access to them on a character that has defence as his theme. Sure, you can attack with the character instead, but auto-attacks are rather in my game, hardly enough to make a big difference if you're not buffing the character's attack already. The defence buff skill itself is free to use and returns some MP to the user, so even if you don't necessarily need the defence buff, at least regaining some MP could be worth it to use a stronger skill next turn.

Another good way to make a single-target defence buff skill is to add a (soft) taunt mechanic to it, so you can place it on a tank character and let him take the hits with more ease, or add a secondary effect, like getting a bit of HP every time you get hit whilst under the effects of the buff.
 
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