The Growing Pains seminar presented by GM Banthis and myself at SimuCon 2000 focused on potential changes to game mechanics to achieve game integrity across the entire range of player levels.

In addition, changes aimed at improving the gameplay were discussed. The goals of these changes are to 1) reduce the number of instant kills, for both creatures and players, and 2) Ensure that the 'typical' training paths for various professions remain viable. We'd like to move away from the current high level mentality that the player must get the first attack off or the player dies. We also want to ensure that the average player can have fun in the game, while we still present a game that will challenge the hardcore hunter characters.

To meet these goals, we are currently working on (or have planned) multiple short and long term projects. These include (in no particular order):

1. A reduction in creature hit points and crit resistance. The game is currently focused heavily on death by critical hit, especially at high levels, and we'd like to see it shift more to the side of hitpoint attrition (fewer instant kills). Some creatures may experience an uptweak in DS. Many non-AS based spells will see reductions in their critical potential, to compensate for the reduction in creature critical resistance. Some spells will become more damage oriented rather than critical oriented. This project is currently underway.

2. An overhaul of the current stealth mechanics, including hiding, stalking, sneaking, unhiding, and searching, for players and creatures alike. The new system will allow for greater differentiation between various training paths, and will bring consistency to the various related actions. The target is to have single trainers be effective vs approximately 50% of the creature types, double trainers vs another 30-40%, and triplers be effective against the top echelon. Modifiers for race, terrain, climate, armor, and a variety of other factors will be applied. The current rogue professional bonus will be greatly decreased, putting more of an emphasis on training choices.

3. Stance adjustments or negation of parry for ambushers. As a result of the above, many players who are not well trained for hiding may find themselves unable to hide in their current hunting grounds. I expect that such players would instead move to an empty room and hide, laying in wait for a true ambush when an unsuspecting creature ambles in. Because many intelligent creatures walk around parried, ambushers will need some aid to allow them to hit such creatures.

4. Consideration of magic item use requirements for invoking a wider range of magic items. This is not slated to include swinging an enchanted weapon or wearing magical armor, but is primarily looking at the use of imbedded items created by players or sold by merchants.

5. A partial self-cast environment, particularly for powerful spells. This will include restrictions or penalties when charging items outside of the caster's sphere of knowledge (ruby amulets, blue crystals). This change will require a review of the overall offensive and defensive picture for each profession, with modifications or introductions of new abilities/spells where needed, along with creature adjustments. The objective is to allow game designers to better determine the capabilities of characters at various levels, as there will be fewer unknown external modifiers. This is in line with the objective to ensure that a suitable challenge is presented to all characters.

6. The implementation of armor hindrances appropriate for armor benefits. Heavy armor is intended to be the province of the purely physical classes, and mid-range armors are intended to be used by younger physical characters and older semis. However, with uncapped level progression eventually everyone can be fully trained for plate. In order to offset the great benefits afforded by heavier armor, hindrances will be incorporated as appropriate. This project is largely complete, though adjustments may be made as we have more time to observe the current state.

7. Partial DF Redux for bards, rangers, and magical rogues. As high level creature AS increases, semi-physical bladeswingers are unable to take a hit, as any hit is either death in itself, or directly leads to death. The intent is to allow these professions the ability to withstand a hit or two, so they can still effectively hunt with their weapons. The expected level of Redux for these professions will not approach the level achieved by purely physical characters, and when combined with their inherent spells and armor, should still result in them being less hardy than purely physical characters. However, they will not be as delicate as the pure spellcasters.

8. Revise the benefits of overtraining in spells with respect to casting strength. With the current system, a Rift-age tripler can have a CS approximately 100 greater than a like-level doubler. As players get even older, the variance gets even more out of hand. With such huge disparities between like-level casters, it is extremely difficult to design challenges for both. Either the doubler is challenged and the tripler has a cake-walk, or the tripler is challenged and the doubler has an exercise in futility. The intent is to reduce the CS bonus given for overtraining in spells, but still have a bonus. We want tripling to be a viable path, not a supreme path. This will be accompanied by a reduction in older creature TDs, along with the modifications described below.

9. Obtain consistency between warding spell results. The current disparity between the results of various warding failure thresholds between spells within the same circle presents significant problems. We currently have many "all or nothing" spells. These spells have virtually no effect until a specified threshold is achieved (whether it's a 101 warding failure or a 150 warding failure), at which point they have devastating effect. Spells like these drive the spell tanking mentality (or high TD for creatures), which results in a virtual negation of those same-circle spells that are not similarly powered. The objective is to achieve more consistency in what various success levels mean, therefore allowing game designers to better estimate what creature and player targets will face. This will allow us to adjust TDs to give spellcasters the ability to effectively use a wider range of their spells.

10. Assess the rate of increase of wizard bolt AS. Once a wizard has maximized the benefit from 425, his AS will only increase at 2 points per level. Because of this, there is only a small difference between high level casters ten, or even fifteen to twenty, levels apart. The creature hit point, critical resistance, and DS modifications will enable us to better assess what may need modified here. This may include modifications to bolt damage factors, implementing more spells, and/or modifying existing spells.

11. Institute maneuvers for squares. This entails special combat maneuvers that physical characters will be able to use in combat, further defining these professions. Possible maneuvers might include a shield bash, a mighty blow, a quick strike, jabs, etc.

12. Improve brawling, including modifications to Voln Fu to allow it to be a viable and effective combat style at higher levels, and potentially the implementation of other, non-society-related combat styles.

As a caveat, these areas of discussion may not be implemented exactly as discussed here. As we make modifications to the game, we will assess the impact of those modifications and determine if the following modifications are still necessary, and to what degree. In addition, other areas not mentioned here may arise that will have higher priority. This synopsis should give you a good general idea of the overall goals of the development team in the areas of combat, creatures, magic, and professional changes.