For those gamers who haven't noticed the crown jewel of the ESports scene, DotA
is an immensely popular team-based PvP game with heavy RPG influences from Warcraft 3. I play a version of DotA that allows any character to have any 6 abilities rather than being stuck with the 4 pre-designed ones.
I was thinking about its balance, in general. On-attack passives by mundane fighters are wildly powerful. This is in stark contrast to 3rd edition. Now, I know many of you don't play DotA, so I've done all the work of translating the abilities below. Keep in mind that I'm importing them in as honestly as I can. Imagine you had a player who wanted to play the following abilities. What would your impressions be?
In a 6 second round, a character has a 3second standard attack and a 2 second move and a 1 second swift action, there-aboutsSome starting mechanics concerning iterations
In DotA the attack iteration cap is +400% which is when combined with the maximum base attack time of 1 second gives 5 times per second, or 25 attacks in a full round of 6 seconds. Only one spell gives this, so we can throw it out as an outlier.
Most heroes have base attacks of 1.7 (15 attacks max), 1.8 (14 attacks), 1.9 (13 attacks). One each are 1.5 or 1.45 (17 attacks), as well as 1.3 BAT (19 attacks). Straight out of the gate a 15 agility 1.7 BAT hero will hit 3 times in 5 seconds.
Why does D&D have so few attacks within a round? Probably as a matter of dice rolling convenience and smaller numbers. In this case it seems to me that DotA has it right and D&D is too scaled down. After all, "a guy at the gym" can swing a sword or punch at someone about 3 times in six seconds (with a 1 second breather).
Even the slowest attack possible in DotA (with negative 3 attacks worth of debuffs) would land after a standard attack (3 seconds) plus a swift action (1 second), giving time to walk up to the target first. Thus if the slowest attack (just one) is off by about 3 hits, then D&D's normal move+1 attack combo is also off by 3 hits.
D&D doesn't normally suppress attack iterations because they just aren't that powerful of a source of damage, but if it did, it would be a straight forward effect. Instead it choses to give penalties to hit which attempt to lower the % of damage given, on average (analogous to +armor in DotA).
In dota most spells are immediate action by default. Very few are standard actions (3 seconds) and any that are full round actions are extremely powerful almost unbeatable, complete disables. Mundanes have direct access to any spell on a list they chose. Leveling is 1-25 rather than 1-20, so to put it in D&D terms we compress by a factor of 1.25
Spells level at 1,3,5 and 6,11,16 which translates in D&D terms with varying rounding to 1,2,4,5 (rather than 6), 8, (10th level is missing here) & 12. This looks suspiciously similar to the Balanced Spellcasting progression except that 3rd level spells come in a tad early and 5th level spells are missing. Both groupings of spells are just upgrades of the same line like the summon monster line or various psionic powers. Mundane abilities are gained through ECL just as spells are.
Certainly levels give stat gains when no abilities are available at +20 to all stats over 25 levels. The translation is straight forward after adjusting for the weight of how high base stats should be for a maxed character in both systems. Dota has about an 85 average. With good rolls or a high point buy (for lower tier characters; see metacompendium) an average stat in D&D naked would be 14 + 3 (oa human aging) w/ age immunity + 1 (stats & magical locations) + 1 evil effects (warp touch, elder evil signs, etc) + 5 inherent (see wish conglomeration) = 24.
That's about 3.5x lower than in dota. Since MAD characters tend to be mundane anyway, dota again wins the balance contest. It suggests that in D&D the stat points every 1 stat per 4 levels from HD can stay if it boosts all stats rather than just one. Characters can also front-load their stats at a x2HD ratio if they want rather than x4, just like with new spell levels.
DotA's ability balance varies wildly from D&D's. I'll be building an LoD Dota a mundane and caster carry before translating it into D&D terms so we can see how powerful they really can get. Basically one is all passive abilties and the other is mostly active abilities (aka spells).Agi (passive carry)
(standard skills chose one to boost every level up. Any are selectable but follow the minimum levels above as if they were spells):Essence Shift
Every single attack (atleast 6, usually 12 or 18) gives a penalty to
the second and third highest stats of the target as well as a -2 penalty to the highest stat. It then gives you a stacking +2 bonus to dex.
This dex boost does not boost your reflex saves, which don't exist in DotA, only position and SR. The bonus lasts 10 rounds but it does not reset so on the 11th round the bonus from the 1st round disappears leaving any boni from the 2nd to 11th rounds in place.
Old buff: The duration used to be 10 rounds. Let's not talk about that time it gave permanent dexterity if you were the killer.
Current nerf: It instead only gives a +1 bonus and -1 to the highest 2 scores.
Suggested nerf: If the target's second highest ability scores is already 1, no bonus is gained. Currently its dexterity also provides damage if the main stat for attack damage isn't dexterity, but was more fun when it was agi-only.
More mechanics that need to be discussed:
The reason DotA has so many attacks is that dexterity factors into your BAB. Since the iteration cap includes offhand attacks, the cap of 4 iterations is more like 8 (or twelve with an unusually low BAT, often granted through form-changing). Basically think of dex as giving a separate pool of psuedo BAB that has its own cap of 4 iteratives on the main hand. Certain form changing abilities, which are more useful to mundanes than casters, can give a 3rd pool to add to your iterations based on the average of the other pools.
Hitting the iteration cap in DotA through dexterity alone rather than buffs would require 400 agility. This would be a waste even of a build that ignores attack speed (iteration) buffs and instead maxes dexterity. A 350 agility target is more likely desired after items. This would translate to a whopping 100 dexterity in D&D (see average stat calculations below). So for every 25 dexterity you gain an extra iteration. It's not quite the powerhouse you may have expected, but it can be optimized.
Every single attack deals a separate instance of damage equal to
1-4 damage multiplied by the number of times it has hit the target in a row if it last hit at most 2 rounds ago.
Thus at maxed skill level an 8 hit attacker will deal an additional 4+8+12+16+20+24+28+32=144 upon first engaging. A target with DR4 would recieve 32 less damage from fury swipes and 32 less damage from the regular weapon damage, assuming each dealt four or more.
Current nerf: for ranged attackers the damage is only
1-3 attacks and requires having hit in the previous round.
More mechanics that need to be discussed:
An average first level DotA hero deals about 50 damagea hit. An average first level D&D character deals about 8. Thus the damage above has already been reduced by a factor of 6. In DotA a maxed level pure caster that simply doesn't care about damage will have about 100. A mega tank will have about 200, and a damage-heavy carry will have 300 before permanent buffs or critical hits.
By the above factor alone, this is 16,32 or 48 damage a hit for an ECL20 D&D character. In a "normal" campaign, this seems right. Checking this with maximum for D&D is not realistic, even excluding single "trick" builds like the multipouncers or TO ones like the hulking hurler. Check my ubercharger if you want to see how silly it gets even before hitting TO.
On the next hit after each hit this round, you gain 1-2 bonus attack iterations to a maximum of 3-6 iterations. After the 4th total attack from you this round, you gain 5-20% bonus attack damage against that target for this round.
The bonus attacks from the ability do not trigger the ability itself so a character with the highest level fervor with only 3 attacks would deal one attack then 2 extra attacks then the second base attack then two attacks then finally a third base attack at +20% damage.
For each 7% health missing hp rounded up, you take 3-6% less magic damage and gain a 8-14 dexterity only for the purpose of iteratives from your separate dexterity BAB pool. The first set of boni starts at 100% hp.
For example a character at 1% hp takes 90% less spell damage and gains 210 iterative dexterity, maybe enough to give her an extra 9 attacks.
More mechanics that need to be discussed:
If it comes from a spell, and it doesn't say it is unreducible (for instance spells that set HP), then it counts as magic damage. It doesn't matter if its fire, sonic, whatever.
Agi Carry ultimate skills can be taken any time starting when a 4th level spell would. For instance 2nd level of marksmanship would count as a 5th level spell, selectable starting at ECL 10)Marksmanship
Provides +8-20 dexterity as long as there has been no enemy of your ECL -5 or higher within 40' you for one round or longer.
Heals gives bonus speed while out of enemy sight, provided you don't attack or target an enemy with a spell. The amount is 18-30% maximum hp per round if starting and maintaining blocked line of sight, or 12-20% hp if moving from a position in sight to one outside. While outside enemy sight your speed is 30-40% or 10-20% if you started within sight.
Additionally shadow dance has an at will ability castable as a free action every 8 rounds. You may attack for one round without being targetable by spells or attacks. You are still susceptable to area effects. During this time you count as unseen, even under true seeing. Enemies are still aware of your position, however. The 100-250mp (2-5pp in D&D terms) is negligable considering stupidest heroes gain 1 pp per level for free (or 1 slot every time its available).
Current nerfs: Only makes you untargetable for one standard (or longer effect), but not for swift or immediate ones if your opponent can wait.
More mechanics that need to be discussed:
MP cost is calculated by comparing the first level characters. The highest is a 377mp dark seer. This is similar to a sorcerer with 5*.5 + 3*1 spell levels and 20 charisma giving another 2*1 spell levels. That's 7.5 spell levels. So every 50mp is a spell slot.
Sometimes these number work out nice enough it makes me wonder if Warcraft 3 was purposely built starting from D&D's arbitrary values. I'm going to gloss over translating spell points and the recharge system (its about 1 pp every 3 rounds). Basically no one in DotA who is building themselves correctly ever runs out of mana unless they eat it for breakfast (ball lightning) or are being mana burned.
Mundane Dex-based tl;dr summary: much like D&D, DotA assumes that players will buy certain items to give them abilities that they simply need to function: a big HP boost item, a big movement item, true sight, 15% Lifesteal upon attack, a bashing item (it takes away actions from those you hit 25% of the time, 1 round magic immunity usable every 14 rounds and even a plus iteratives item. Trying to play an hardcore agi carry without them is an exercise in frustration. Once you get them, the only thing that can stop you is continuous mass stuns.Int (active carry)
: Now we can compare that to a similarly optimized caster build (the best of the best):Purification
Heals a target ally 15-60 damage. Deals equal pure damage (allow no reductions) to all enemies within touching tiles. 2 round cooldown. 2-4pp cost
65 damage 200' line or circle with a scepter, 4 round cooldown, target loses swift and standard action.
Suggested nerfs: where to start! first of all, its is bugged so 1st level does the damage of the 4th level. It should be 10-65. Secondly, its short cooldown conquers BKB which is its only counter. The scepter upgrade is just too much. Every number in this spell could be made twice as bad and it would still be good. Atleast it doesn't deal pure damage.
100-130' 3-2 round cd, 3pp, 15-60dmg
30-65 pure damage within a circle of 4 touching squares. 4 round cd, 2-4pp. No LoE or LoS required. Range is longer than a "long range" spell at CL40, or about atleast 10x that of the longest spell limited by range in DotA. Suggested range is a half a mile. Gives LoS while casting (equivalent to a move action's worth of time).
Gives a chance to make a cast spell trigger again for free directly after it starts to take effect. Further levels allow more than one additional cast: 18% x2 -> 30% x2, 13% x3 -> 40% x2, 14% x3, 5% x4.
Scepter upgradable: 45 magic damage that removes a swift or move action from the enemy when cast. 60%mp cost, 1 round cooldown.
75-140 damage to 1 target up to 60' away, 8-5 round cd. Scepter makes the damage pure. Once casting starts, effect cannot be dodged if completed.
Summary of the caster build: You rush a scepter or have a support with greed to give you one. Think of it as an item that applies free augmentation to your spells/psionic powers, augmentations that are only available if you have the item. Then octarine core is your second best item. The 25% cooldown reduction let's you kill a nontank or carry while waiting the now 4 rounds to fire your laser again. The point is to basically get iteratives on spells. Spells that can't have their damage lowered. The order is: fireblast, hook, purify, deafening, laguna. If you get good odds, you could deal enough damage to kill two heavy tanks, on top of locking down any other enemies around.