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An Echo and a Stranger's Hand

The first wave of Kickstarter Fulfillment users has crested, and it's time to take some stock of the process so far. I'm happy to report that many of you took the time to increase your pledge and a few changed reward tiers as well! We will have a more updated report about the money added to the campaign next week, along with a summary of stretch goals and new information about how we're going to re-engage with Crowdforging during this period.

Other than a few corner cases for people who wanted to get multiple rewards with one pledge or who had questions about upgrading between high-priced tiers, we haven't seen many problems—a testament to the work the Paizo tech team did in building the tool and getting it ready for our use. There is a small bug on the import of the Kickstarter data that mis-classified the Tavern rewards, but we know about it and will get it fixed; it's cosmetic at this point and there's no need to worry that your reward is wrong.' We're on it. As we've said before, if you are having a problem with the fulfillment system, please contact customer.service@paizo.com for help.

Although it seems very early in the year, we're doing a lot of planning for PaizoCon and Gen Con. Paizo has just finished a marathon race to finish work on a large number of projects that will be released later this year (some for Gen Con!), and Goblinworks has been thinking about how we can support Paizo during the summer convention season. If you're going to either (or both) shows we are planning on having a lot of cool stuff to show off, so make sure you find the Goblinworks and/or Pathfinder Online presentations at the shows!

Speaking of rewards and conventions, we have one more fun announcement to make: Today we're sending out the Emerald Elixir Pathfinder Society item certificate PDF. This is the reward we offered for all pledges of $5 and up during the Kickstarter. Find yourself a Pathfinder Society table this summer and put your Kickstarter support to good use in the tabletop game!

On to this week's development blog: Designer Stephen Cheney dissects the workings of the non-damage effects of your Pathfinder Online character's attacks.

Secondary Effects of Attacks

The core features of an attack in Pathfinder Online are damage factor, animation time, and Stamina cost. Essentially, slower, more-expensive attacks deal more damage and faster, less-expensive attacks deal less: When you whack someone with your longsword, you might use a Slash, a Hamstring, or a False Edge, each a little different in terms of speed and damage. But even with this variation, there's only so much usefulness in learning different attacks: In Pathfinder Online actions don't really have cooldowns, so you can generally use an attack as often as you can pay the Stamina cost for it. If damage is all you're taking into consideration, you'd just want a slow, high-damage attack for most of the fight and then a faster, cheaper one that uses up whatever Stamina is left or that isn't wasted on a nearly-defeated target. Thus, nearly all attacks have secondary effects. These secondary effects are where a lot of the variety between your attack options actually lives.

Broadly speaking, an "effect" is anything an attack does that isn't direct damage. It can be a buff (or ongoing beneficial effect) placed on the attacker, a debuff (or ongoing detrimental effect) placed on the target, a modifier to how the attack interacts with certain systems, something that only activates in certain conditions, or even negative effects that impose restrictions on the attacker after using the attack. Some of the particulars of these categories are described below—but first, let's take a look at some basic systems for how effects work.

Timed or Stacking Effects

There are two broad classes of effect: timed and stacking. A timed effect lasts for a certain amount of time before expiring. Attacks granted by refresh-based (i.e., limited-use) feats or abilities may apply long-term buffs or debuffs of this kind, but most attacks will apply timed effects lasting no more than six seconds (one round). For most timed effects, the duration of the effect is reduced by the same factor as damage for failing to hit a target's defense total. For example, if your attack does 25% less damage, any timed effects it applies have 25% less duration.

Timed effects with the same name have the exact same modifiers; Dazzled always applies -10 Base Attack, Reflex, and Perception, no matter the source. Timed effects with the same name on the same subject don't stack: You keep only the one with the longest remaining duration. For example, if you put Sundered on someone for five seconds, and he already had a Sundered effect with three seconds remaining, the original Sundered effect is overwritten by the new one. One of the major reasons to cycle through different attacks in combat is that any timed effects a single attack applies will not stack, only refresh their duration.

Conversely, stacking effects are designed to stack (if you couldn't guess from the name). These effects are very granular: You might have hundreds of stacks of certain effects during a high level fight, and individual attacks regularly add 10-20 new stacks of whatever effect they apply. The number of stacks applied is variable based on the quality of your hit; for example, if you deal 20% less damage due to missing the target's defense, a Bleeding 10 effect that is delivered with the attack is reduced to Bleeding 8.

Stacking effects are removed at a fixed rate. Negative stacking effects lose stacks per six seconds equal to the victim's Recovery stat (which normally ranges from 10-30), and are removed even faster if you're out of combat. A player with Recovery 15, Bleeding 40, and Burning 30 will have Bleeding 25 and Burning 15 after a round, assuming no more new stacks are added. Positive stacking effects generally lose five stacks per six seconds, and players can buy passive feats that slow this atrophy for certain effects.

Effect Channels

In addition to timed effects with the same name overwriting each other, most ongoing effects belong to a "channel." This is one of a limited set of categories from which only the strongest modifier is used. For example, Dazzled applies -10 Base Attack, Reflex, and Perception, while Hexed applies -5 Base Attack and Base Defense. Both of these effects are on the Magical channel. A player with both effects running at the same time would suffer a net -10 Base Attack, -10 Reflex, -10 Perception, and -5 Base Defense; the additional -5 Base Attack from Hexed is ignored while the stronger -10 from Dazzled is in play.

The main purpose of grouping similar effects into channels is to prevent a target from having one or more stats overwhelmed by lots of small, differently named debuffs, or from gaining a huge bonus from a bunch of small, differently named buffs. Additionally, effect channels serve as a shorthand for what kind of effects certain attack modifiers can remove. A Break Enchantment won't remove debuffs caused by non-magical sources (which are usually on the Mundane channel), while a Dispelling attack will only remove magical buffs.

Debuffs: States, DoTs, Penalties, and Crowd Control

Some of the most common effects applied by attacks are debuffs. The simplest kind of debuff is a named state. These are effects like Opportunity, Flat-Footed, or Unbalanced. They don't really do anything on their own, but they can trigger the conditional effects of other attacks (see below). These are always timed effects.

A limited number of debuffs deal damage over time (DoT). The most common of these are Afflicted (damage from poison or diseases), Bleeding (damage from continuing blood loss), and Burning (damage from being on fire). These are always stacking effects.

Many debuffs apply a penalty to one or more of the victim's stats, such as the above examples Dazzled and Hexed. Most such effects are timed, but there are a handful of stacking effects that turn some factor of their stacks into penalties. For example, many necromantic attacks apply stacks of Drained, and the victim has a penalty to Base Attack and Base Defense equal to half the stacks of this debuff.

Finally, crowd control effects limit the victim's ability to move or act. The classic example is a Stun, which prevents the target from taking any actions or moving. Meanwhile, Immobilize prevents the target from moving but does allow using actions, while Nausea prevents actions but allows the victim to move. These are always timed effects, and usually have an extremely short duration (which may be further reduced by the Freedom and Mind Blank buffs mentioned in the Murder by Numbers blog).

Buffs

While buffs are more commonly delivered by Utility and Refresh feats, some are applied as a beneficial secondary effect by making attacks. The most common of these are Dodging and Parrying. Both of these are timed buffs that increase the attacker's Reflex. The bonus from Dodging doubles when the character also has Opportunity (because it's easier to dodge when you're moving around quickly). Parrying is replaced with Riposting if the character takes damage while the effect is active; Riposting gives a bonus to the next melee attack and then immediately ends.

Attack Modifiers

There are a number of effects that modify the attack itself, but don't hang around after the attack. One common type is an area of effect (AoE) template, which causes all the effects of the attack to hit targets within different shaped areas. Other examples include:

  • Evade: As part of the attack, the attacker leaps away from the target. This makes it easier to escape melee without risking Opportunity, and to get out of range of AoEs.
  • Improved Critical: The attack has a greater chance to get a critical hit.
  • Knockback: The attack knocks the target back (scaling based on the quality of the hit).
  • Leap/Charge: As part of the attack, the attacker leaps or runs to get closer to the target, extending the range of the attack. Doing this doesn't cause Opportunity and is very fast—an attack with this modifier is perfect for getting into melee range swiftly or intercepting a faster target.
  • Penetrating: This attack does a small amount of extra base damage that scales with the target's Resistance and is applied after Resistance. Effectively, the attack is better the stronger the target's armor, and allows a small amount of damage to get through even if the target's armor totally outclasses the attacker's damage.
  • Precise: This attack has a higher attack bonus.

Conditional Effects

Most attacks have some kind of conditional effect—a bonus that only triggers if the attacker or (more often) the target meets a certain condition. The most common conditional effects are Opportunity and Sneak Attack.

Opportunity effects trigger whenever the target has the Opportunity state (caused by moving at full speed in combat or using another action that applies it). A number of otherwise generic attacks have this conditional effect, so you have to be careful about triggering Opportunity. However, Fighters are the real masters of punishing targets that provide them with Opportunity, and gain additional features that make them more effective against targets providing Opportunity.

Sneak Attack effects trigger whenever the attacker can use his Sneak Attack feature. Sneak Attack is available whenever the target has the Flat-Footed state or is not targeting the attacker. While a number of generic attacks have a Sneak Attack effect, only a character with the Sneak Attack feature—for example, a Rogue—gains the conditional effect when he or she uses one.

While Opportunity and Sneak Attack are the most common triggers for conditional effects, any effect can be used as a trigger. Effective combos can be created by using one attack that applies a state such as Unbalanced or Distressed, then following up with another attack that uses the state just applied as a conditional effect trigger.

Restrictions

Some attacks include restrictions. These represent a risk or additional cost for using the attack. An attack with a restriction typically does a little more damage than it would do without it, but its primary use is to accompany effects that are maybe too good if spammed. Example restrictions are:

  • Easily Interruptible: This attack is interrupted if the attacker takes damage while using it (most attacks are only interrupted if an incoming attack has the Interrupt trait).
  • Provokes Opportunity: This attack gives the user the Opportunity state while animating and for a few seconds afterwards. It's common on ranged and magic attacks.
  • Stationary: This attack immobilizes the attacker while it is animating (most attacks let you continue to move during the attack animation).
  • Tiring: This attack applies Fatigue to the attacker, reducing the attacker's maximum Stamina. Fatigue heals over time, so using a lot of these attacks in sequence can be very debilitating.
  • Reduced Range/Touch: This attack should be ranged, but has a shorter range than normal for the weapon. If the attack is Touch, it has to be delivered in melee range of the target.
  • Vicious: This attack inflicts a percentage of its damage and effects to the attacker.

Example Attacks

The following are some example attacks for the greatsword to provide a better sense of how the effects work together to create a specific fighting style for a weapon.

  • Wrath Guard: The target of this attack takes stacks of Frightened (penalties to attack and defense) if he has Opportunity. The attacker gains the Parrying buff for six seconds (one round).
  • Wrathful Strike: The target of this attack is knocked down for one second if he has Opportunity. The attack applies 15 stacks of Bleeding if the attacker has Riposting. The attacker gains the Unguarded debuff (reducing Reflex) for six seconds.
  • Swing: The target of this attack gains Unguarded (reducing Reflex) for six seconds. If the target has Opportunity, the attacker immediately loses Unguarded if he had it.
  • Cross Blow: This attack is Precise for +10 attack. The attack applies 15 stacks of Bleeding if the target has Opportunity. If the attacker has Riposting, the attack is Penetrating.

Essentially, even with just those four attacks, a fighting style emerges: This is a greatsword-wielder who uses Wrath Guard as his bread-and-butter attack. When an enemy counterattacks, the Parrying benefit provided by Wrath Guard turns into Riposting, which provides the greatsword-wielder with two options coming out of Wrath Guard: Wind up a Wrathful Strike and hope to then use Swing against a target with Opportunity, or just make a Cross Blow, which does less damage in general but is less risky and good against armored targets.

All weapons have potential combinations like the setup described here: The attacks that are possible with a weapon suggest certain options and combos that make sense for the style of weapon, and make a master of one weapon type feel very different than the master of a different weapon, even if both weapons have similar basic speeds and damage outputs.

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