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SpaceViking21

School Techs; The fundamental issue of timing balance

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Reading today's email on the changes to the Akodo Commander school and the Shiba Guardian school, I felt something was off and had to say something about it. Fundamentally, having different timing restrictions on these abilities imbalances these abilities more than you can feasibly correct through simple buffs and nerfs. As an example, I'm going to talk about three schools; the Doji Diplomat, the Bayushi Manipulator and the Hida Guardian.
 
The Doji Diplomat is a 1/scene school that lets you add kept dice equal to their school rank in Opportunity dice. This is a powerful ability, it adds a lot of strength to a single dice roll and lets you make use of opportunities more reliably at low ranks and more separate opportunities at high ranks. However, you can still only do this once per scene. As a result, this school gets weaker and weaker the longer a scene goes on. A particularly long intrigue, and the Doji spends one turn being a Doji and the remaining turns lacking a school entirely.
 
Conversely, the Bayushi Manipulator's ability has the opposite problem. It does require some setup, and is weaker, but able to be used on every roll provided you meet its other criteria. So here, the time issue goes the other way. On a check where you have to convince a single person, you'd rather have a Doji who can use multiple opportunities on that singular roll to get the best possible outcome.
 
Fundamentally, these schools are imbalanced. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I would expect these schools to do different things. The problem is that how they're imbalanced depends on a really odd part of games, namely how long scenes tend to be. If you make the mistake of picking a Doji in a game where scenes have several rolls in them per player, you're going to have a hard time. Similarly, in a game where a social conflict might be to talk down one or two people, the Manipulator is going to be weaker. While normal imbalance can be planned around by determining the campaign (not taking a Doji in a Thousand Years of Darkness campaign, for instance), guessing average scene length is less of an obvious prospect.
 
So, what's the solution? Well, the solution already exists. The third school, Hida Guardian. The Hida Guardian has a powerful ability that is once per scene use, but it also has a passive ability that is always on, helping them as they use heavy armor (which, for a Hida, is probably always). The once per scene ability shows its worth in short fights, while the passive ability gives benefit to having chosen that school all the time.
 
To summarize, I believe it is unnecessarily difficult to balance schools between having a single always-on ability or a single once per scene ability. A more effective way to manage this balance is to have each school have one passive ability and one once per scene ability, to maintain school uniqueness when the ability is not being used, but allow for clever use of the powerful ability to turn the tide of battle.

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To be acutely honest here, I want the 5 Techniques/School back with consistent bonuses on each level: First Rank gives minor dice bonus plus minor utility bonus, Second Rank gives minor active ability, Third Rank gives strong utility bonus, Fourth Rank gives strong active ability, Fifth Rank gives ultimate ability/bonus. 

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3 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

To be acutely honest here, I want the 5 Techniques/School back with consistent bonuses on each level: First Rank gives minor dice bonus plus minor utility bonus, Second Rank gives minor active ability, Third Rank gives strong utility bonus, Fourth Rank gives strong active ability, Fifth Rank gives ultimate ability/bonus. 

I like the two techniques per rank of the new system, and being able to buy one, the other, or both.

Also, at least in 2E and more so in 3E, many schools didn't follow that progression, but were often two abilities per rank except 5.

for example, Hida Bushi in 3E (my notes of just the mechanics):

  1. WAY OF THE CRAB
    • Ignore TN penalties for heavy armor except on stealth.
  2. THE MOUNTAIN DOES NOT MOVE
    • Earth increased by school rank to resist knockback
    • Spend Void to roll Earth vs TN=Wounds Taken to take no wound from one strike.
  3. TWO PINCERS, ONE MIND
    • +1 Attack per round
    • +2 void points only for triggering Rank 2 and 5 abilities
  4. FURY OF HIDA
    • TNTBH from armor is doubled.
    • If attacked, +1k1 on attacks and damage vs that opponent.
  5. THE MOUNTAIN DOES NOT FALL
    • Wounds per rank doubled
    • Spend Void to ignore all wound penalties (including Out) until your next turn.

Except at first, Hida has 2 abilities per rank.

Daidoji Yojimbō:

  1. THE FORCE OF HONOR
    • Add HR to wounds per level.
    • Attacks +0k0+Air
  2. WIELDING THE INNER FIRE
    • Full defense, next round initiative +(5×IR)
    • TNTBH +Fire
  3. SHADOWED GUARDIAN
    • Pick ally within movement range; TNTBH raised to yours
    • Attacks +0k0+(2×Air) (Replaces R1 bonus)
  4. STRIKE BENEATH THE VEIL
    • +1 Attack per Round
    • TNTBH +(2×Fire) (Replaces R2 bonus)
  5. TO TREAD ON THE SWORD
    • When attack declared upon ally within movement, VP to attack the attacker first, sacrificing own turn. Your Attack +(HR)k0.
    • Attacks +0k0+(3×Air) (Replaces R3 bonus)

Two per rank.

 

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I don't think just doing the first and last techs, with the "core" tech scaling is bad. I think it opens up a lot of space for homebrewing new schools, since instead of having to balance five techs, you just have to balance two. The problem is that if your base tech is weak, like I think Shiba Bushi still is, then you're stuck with that for five ranks before you get a new one. FFG has to really nail the balance on the basic techs in this system.

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1 hour ago, SpaceViking21 said:

A more effective way to manage this balance is to have each school have one passive ability and one once per scene ability, to maintain school uniqueness when the ability is not being used, but allow for clever use of the powerful ability to turn the tide of battle.

This will be a good solution in my humble opinion. And if tailored correctly (meaning no nerfing guys, poor Commander :() will bring balance at Rank 1.

I would have preferred that they had rearranged the ranks in other way, why wait until Rank 6 to get a juicy reward?

Rank 1 : 1 scene & 1 passive abilities 

Rank 2: Misc.

Rank 3: 1 Scene ability

Rank 4: 1 Passive ability

Rank 5: Misc.

Rank 6: Uber technique 

Give the player something juicy in between so they don’t get tired of waiting... 

Edited by Nheko

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47 minutes ago, Nheko said:

And if tailored correctly (meaning no nerfing guys, poor Commander :()

Akodo Commander was overpowered and the nerf was needed. The Commander had no fear of Strife in Skirmishes and Mass Battles. Now it can turn Strife into a benefit but not for free.

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On 08/11/2017 at 10:02 PM, Ultimatecalibur said:

Akodo Commander was overpowered and the nerf was needed. The Commander had no fear of Strife in Skirmishes and Mass Battles. Now it can turn Strife into a benefit but not for free.

Its still overpowered. 1 Fatigue wont change anything.

Still would like to see a change were they dont become weaklings in duels. or at least make way more overpowered but only working on mass battles. That would make sense.

"oh look, The lion killed 10 guys and now he has 10 fatigue1" Yeah, Big deal, and the other 10 bushis are dead.

On 08/11/2017 at 8:43 PM, AtoMaki said:

I mostly base my experiences on the 4th Edition Schools where the setup was (largely) working all across the board.  

I also like this, makes the school more distinct. Could be done with exclusive techniques, but i dont know if they are going this way. Only problem with 4E was some schools getting 2 attacks on rank 4 instead of 3. But to me was never a issue (since it was not a D&D game with CR anyway)

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I would enjoy Akodo much more if it was straight "Once per scene, you may add X Bonus Successes and remove X Strife from yourself", similar to how Shiba Guardian works now.

Honestly, I would prefer all of the School Abilities to follow this formula: Once Per Scene Scaling Activated Ability, Small Perk/Strife Management tool. 

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On 11/10/2017 at 11:46 PM, Mobiusllls said:

Its still overpowered. 1 Fatigue wont change anything.

Still would like to see a change were they dont become weaklings in duels. or at least make way more overpowered but only working on mass battles. That would make sense.

"oh look, The lion killed 10 guys and now he has 10 fatigue1" Yeah, Big deal, and the other 10 bushis are dead.

If it was me, I'd restrict it to tactics and command checks rather than skimish and mass battle.

  • Still useful in a general skirmish (because you can use it on the assessment check to monster your initiative roll) plus useful for any shuji putting the Akodo Commander in a leadership role (such as, rather appropriately, Lord Akodo's Roar, which it currently cannot be used on as that's not a support or attack action.)
  • Almost all checks in mass battles are command or tactics.
  • If you are in an intrigue situation where you can credibly use command or tactics (i.e. 'convince you that I have a genuinely good battle plan'), shouldn't the war college graduate be able to use it?
  • By comparison, there is no specific reason they should be acting like suicidal frenzied bezerkers with Fire Stance/Way Of The Lion/Enraged/Otsuchi. 
Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Current akodo tech does certainly feel like matsu bushi more than akodo, but it's not like akodo weren't murder machines in their own right. The school title makes it feel like an advanced school from past editions.

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hi.

I personally don't see the problem in having different timing for the different school techniques. To me the most important thing is that a school tech gives the character a distinctive ability that represents his school, and that no other character could match. For example I think on of the best school is the kitsuki investigator's one : the ability marvelousely represents their wide knoledge of any subject when it comes to investigate, exactly as a ''rokugani shelorck holmes''.

however I think we'll need WAAAY more katas (and shûjis) in the final edition, espacially katas reserved to schools, the ''special school techniques'' that no other know. I guesse that's what they're trying to do ultimately : representing the school techniques by katas and shûjis.

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