Virilneus’ GS4 Idea Book

December 10, 2007

Foraging, and Double Dip Penalties

Filed under: Game Balance — Virilneus @ 10:50 am

The foraging system is broke. Unlike any other major system in the game there exists an antiquated large professional bias system that is unneeded in today’s game. This system was created well over 15 years ago to suit a much different environment than what GS4 is today.


Originally way back when there was no primary mangler skill that affected foraging results. Instead things like level, perception, and first aid are what mattered. However level is not professionally biased at all. First Aid was the domain of empaths mostly, and perception was the realm of rogues. So there was no way for rangers to gain an appropriate foraging (or even skinning) advantage through the use of the mangler, when they were supposed to become the most apt profession at both.

Compounding the problem was that the game way back in the 1980’s or early 1990’s was a 20 level game, and 20 levels did not provide enough of a time for significant differentiation in a 1d100 system whereas people of different training paths could become significantly differently skilled. For those who do not grasp this concept, an example would be that with a 1 rank per level difference in skill the total ranks of difference after 20 levels would be only 20 and in a 1d100 system you need differences of 100 before skill diversity really becomes visible. This concept is of course why Gemstone has a system of ranks and skill points so that a greater difference in skill levels can be created at lower trainings.

The PTBs at the time, of which I really doubt any are still around save David Whatley, decided that the best way to accomplish diversity in foraging abilities would be to assign arbitrary professional bonuses and penalties based on how skilled they thought your profession should be. So rangers got a bonus, sorcerers & wizards a penalty, etc. This solution was perfectly fine for the time. The problem is that in the 15-20 years since no one has thought to change it.

Eventually, through a series of changes, we come to a point today where these biases are completely unnecessary and also significantly larger than other similar profession bonuses that exist in today’s game (and they’re rare).


Before anyone tells me these bonuses are fine, especially any GMs, please answer one question. What is the purpose of variable training costs in skills in the mangler?

Maybe I’m crazy, but to me the purpose of rangers having 1/1 in survival in the mangler, which is half as much as the next lowest profession, is to ensure they become the most proficient profession at things like foraging.

The fact is, sorcerers & wizards have to spend nearly 3x as many TPs for our survival ranks. Bards, Rogues, warriors, etc a solid 2x as many TPs. Rangers have a sizeable lead here. Survival is so cheap for them to train in almost all train in it heavily, making them great foragers.

As I stated above, when the foraging biases were created there was no such mangler skill as survival. However now that there is, how can anyone justify the biases when the mangler so handily already takes care of things?


After the foraging skill was created and the biases set, eventually along came the foraging spell (603). Without this spell it’d already be nearly impossible for many penalized professions to even complete Adventurer’s Guild foraging tasks. However, rangers have additional bonuses through their spell training that professions using it off scrolls or through items do not receive. As such, even without the professional bias, even if rangers had no better TP costs in survival than anyone else, this spell alone would be enough to ensure rangers would remain the preeminent foragers in Elanthia.

It does not stop there though. Rangers also have the ability to SENSE terrain which gives them an indicator of which plants grow there, whereas other professions need to rely on time consuming experimentation to figure such things out.

Finally, for that extra boost, an older ranger can use 650 and achieve the Yierka form and get even better at foraging. No other profession has access to such an ability.


One of the most discouraging things about these biases is the sheer weight of them. By weight I mean how many ranks of skills or TPs spent does it take to overcome a bias. How would squares feel if, for no good reason, they started 20 ranks in the hole for invoking scrolls with their AS skill or 20 ranks in the hole for using magic items with their MIU skill? How would anyone who isn’t a rogue feel if they needed 40 ranks to use a rolaren lockpick instead of the standard 20?

This is how it feels to be a wizard or sorcerer trying to forage. With each rank helping so little and with such a large bias it takes a substantial effort just to get as good as a level 0 ranger, and at that point you still have a long way to go.

If the bonuses were just a shift of the endroll required to a measly 5 points in either direction, hardly anyone would notice and no one would complain. But that 5 point shift wouldn’t have accomplished their goal 15+ years ago, with no skill backing them up they needed big biases, and no one has of yet changed them since.


Foraging should be a system like picking locks. Rogues do not get a professional bonus to picking locks. However they have the lowest TP costs for perception, picking locks, and disarming traps. They also can triple in these skills when other professions cannot. Their skill training allows them more benefit from the 403/404 spells than other professions, their guild gives them additional lockpicking abilities not available to other professions. As such, even without an arbitrary bonus, they’re easily the best lockpickers in Elanthia.

Rangers likewise have the lowest training costs in survival, they have 3 additional professional abilities that grant them bonuses. They do not need an arbitrary positive bias and other professions certainly do not need arbitrary negative biases.

If GMs really feel this system is so great then perhaps we need more such redundant biases to double up the effect of mangler biases. I would propose that it is only equitable for the changes in regards to AS, MIU, and lockpicking that I mentioned above as hypothetical examples be implemented post haste. After all, if the foraging system is so perfectly balanced as many would have you believe then certainly that same bonus/reward structure deserves, nay demands, to be ported to other skills.

Or maybe.. just maybe… Simutronics can collectively come to the realization that a system that was designed before many current players were even born is probably do to be examined with a critical eye.

Scrap or drastically shrink the foraging biases, they aren’t needed anymore.


  1. Well, that explains why my 1x surv/fa/perception Wizard is so incredibly terrible at Foraging while my 1x surv/fa/perception Ranger is so so much better (even without 603).

    Comment by SpiffyJr — February 2, 2008 @ 10:29 am

  2. I agree. I think I read somewhere that my character, a Giantman, is penalized with skinning/foraging. I 1x first aid and survival just like a ranger friend does but I still have to roll a 86+ to find cave moss in Darkstone; she can pick that stuff up every time and she has less ranks. There is way too much bias, most definitely.

    In fact, now that I think about it, my character is taller and has a greater line of sight. I should see things better. She be human-lady.

    Very Respectfully,
    Sam (Brynsteel)

    Comment by Sam — August 18, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

  3. That explains why my Giantman empath cant find any type of herb without an 80+ roll even herbs designed to be found by my lvl 6 rogue (who cant find them with a 100 roll) and my empath 1x survival 2x FA and 20 ranks perception, youd think itd make alot more difference then that… now im wonderin how shafted i am on skinning compared to rangers with only 1x survival compared to my aforementioned training

    Comment by Fewen — April 2, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

  4. Yeah, this is really insane. It’s personally my number one gripe with the entire game.

    I’ve been really annoyed about this for years upon years. Kaldonis is specifically interested in herbs, and I wanted an Adv. Guild profession title for foraging; you can guess how well that’s going. I’ve basically had to forgo even much roleplaying this aspect of my character because he sucks so epically at foraging. For RP I just have to blame it on his being old and partial blindness! In a roleplaying game, when a skill is so bad a player is forced to alter their character’s personality and interests, I think it’s a clear indication that there is a need for change.

    As an example, I was assigned to forage mistweed or somesuch last week, and including 603, I had only found one sample when the minor sanctuary from a scroll lifted, so I had get removal on that. 10 minutes of foraging should be reasonable statistics, so that task was going to take me almost two hours to complete.

    I had been training 1x in Survival (and I 1x perception anyways), and I was still utterly horrible at foraging, so I just decided not to waste 3/2 per level on a skill that didn’t actually make me skillful. I’d be happy to pay for that skill if I could actually manage to forage decently as a result.

    And not just the Adv. Guild, but what about alchemy? If Alchemy is part of the sorcery profession, and we need like often three to four herbs/plants/twigs for potion or trinket recipes, shouldn’t our profession know how to find this stuff? If the game designers insist to make professional penalties and bonuses to foraging, can sorcerers at least get lower thresholds to the ingredients we need for alchemy? What is a ranger going to do with a bloodwood stick, anyway? Obviously give it to a sorcerer who asked them to forage them up.

    Here is a nice summary. A friend of mine is new to the game, and a ranger. This character is now 1/4 the level of Kaldonis. And we are foraging together. Never mind that I got poisoned and only managed to find one of the twigs I needed (because I got some open roll of 270). Here is what she said: “Do I forage in a clumsy manner too?” Oh my god…what a perfect summary of the state of affairs in foraging!

    Comment by daid — May 4, 2012 @ 12:15 am

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