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    Post A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Warning: The below was written at a time of morning when I really have no business operating a keyboard. While I personally find it to be interesting even with a clear mind, it's also a bit... un-me.

    A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal

    For as long as there has been a tier system in 3e, it seems as though many of us have intuitively viewed the sweet spot of power as being tier 3. We have sought to nerf casters down to tier 3, pump everything else up to tier 3 with every fix (and most homebrew) we create, and at times seem to regard not reaching tier 3 as somewhat subpar design. With that said, I have never really seen any criticism or analysis of this tier 3 ideal and, perhaps more importantly, the consequences of expecting everything to be tier 3. While I lack the cleverness and mental energy to fully explore this problem, I do plan on dipping my toes into the water here and getting people to think critically about the matter.

    First of all, allow me to say that the “idea” of tier 3 in play is certainly noble and there’s a decent line of logic as to why we’ve pursued it. While lower tiers theoretically lead to long stretches of uselessness at the table (the healer only being useful in the aftermath of a tough combat, for example), higher tiers have infinite loops, insane power tricks, and can generally do whatever they want with a campaign at any time (assuming high enough of a level). Tier 3, at least in theory, has enough versatility and power to constantly feel like you’re always participating without turning you into a one-man show. This, from a game perspective, is indeed a very nice place to be. The degree to which we should stick to this tier, however, is completely open for question.

    The Meaning of Tier 3: Power, Versatility, and a New Approach

    One thing that I’ve always felt has prevented too much in the way of discussion on the topic of tiers is that everyone seems to have a slightly different idea of what tiers are. On the one hand, we all know intuitively that giving +1,000,000 to attack and damage rolls at level 1 doesn’t pump you past tier 3 all by itself (or possibly even past tier 4, depending on who you ask) because tiers are, at least to some extent, a measurement of versatility. The class would be insanely broken, most certainly, but it wouldn’t reach high tiers. On the other hand, the truenamer wasn’t demoted to the worst of tiers because it is so narrowly focused (indeed, the class seems relatively broad when you take time to read through) but because the class simply doesn’t work mechanically. Similarly, if versatility was all that it took to reach high-tiers, the presence of UMD on a skill list would automatically punch anything up to tier 2 because that’s all it really takes to use a scroll of wish and start a candle of invocation chain. No, it would seem that tiers represent an odd combination of versatility and power in most cases. To this list, I would like to add a new line of thought.

    In my mind, what sets class in their tiers is (1) the ease with which a spotlight can be shined on the class AND (2) the ease with which a DM can remove some of the power away from the class without totally hosing it. To reach the sweet spot of tier 3 (where a DM can easily cast a spotlight on certain players while others still have the ability to contribute), both of these capabilities are needed.

    Taking things one at a time, the ease with which a DM can make a player relevant is pretty intuitive. If it requires very little or no effort on the DM’s part, you have a high tier class like Erudites (tier 1 if it possesses the tools to force itself into relevance regardless of circumstances). If an incredibly high amount of effort is needed to make a character relevant, you have a low-tier class like truenamers. Combining mechanical soundness and versatility in most cases, this is pretty much what we’re already using for most purposes.

    The second measurement, however, is a bit less intuitive but that deserves no less attention. Put simply, to reach the sweet gooey core of tier 3, it must be possible to temporarily marginalize your character while still allowing that class to meaningfully contribute. If a class is exceptionally difficult to power down without turning it off entirely, that class is either above tier 3 if such conditions are viewed as vindictive (robbing a wizard of his/her spellbook, for example) or below tier 3 if such conditions are viewed as more natural (hosing fighters by running a diplomatic campaign, for example).

    The Wizard, The Beguiler, and The Healer: A Look at What I Mean

    With the wizard (or a well-built one, in any case), it is almost impossible to tone things down without shutting them down entirely. You can steal spellbooks, put them in a gauntlet until they lose all of their spell slots, subject them to other spells that simply turn all of their useful magic off, or put them against foes that are simply immune to magic (the closest to a successful tactic with the presence of buff spells, though such opponents are rare outside of golems) but almost everything about wizards is perfectly binary. Either you go out of your way to turn off the wizard or it is ready for just about anything. While Spell Resistance would seem to be a good countermeasure, giving all spells a chance of failure, Spell Penetration boosting spells give such large bonuses that spell resistance might as well be binary (auto-success or auto-failure, in this case) in most cases.

    Beguilers, at first glance, would seem to be a lot like wizards. Magic as a mechanic in 3.5 is a pretty binary thing and this class gets 9th-level spells. The spell list, however, is what keeps things balanced in this case. Beguilers are definitely made as tricky illusionists and enchanters as that’s what most of their spells do. If a DM throws a beguiler against mindless opponents or those immune to mind-affecting effects, however, the beguiler instantly slows to a crawl. Incapable of using phantasms, patterns, and offensive enchantments, most of the beguiler’s skill set is turned off. Even so, the beguiler still has a good amount of skills along with certain gems like grease, invisibility and glitterdust that can still be used in such a situation, allowing the beguiler to continue contributing in a more limited way. To me, when people talk about tier 3 classes being able to contribute in areas outside of their specialty, this type of thing is exactly what I think of.

    Healers, like the two classes above, deal with the binaries of magic and has access to 9th-level spells. Unlike the classes above, however, the healer is a very weak class. Putting aside the reactive nature of the class, the healer’s main task is to clean up after (or in the middle of) combat. Without that, the healer does absolutely nothing. Beguilers and Wizards can both assume quite sizeable roles outside of combat and outside of their supposed roles (yes, a wizard can act against its “role”: pumping itself with buffs and letting loose with tensor’s transformation or body of war before invisibly pummeling foes on the front lines goes against most wizard tropes). If you aren’t in combat at the moment with a healer, however, playing a healer simply isn’t fun for most (outside of fluff or character reasons). While it’s technically possible for a DM to make things “harder” for a healer (putting enemies or difficult terrain between the healer and a player in need of healing, for example), actively marginalizing the class ends up turning it off entirely most of the time.

    A Note on “Fixes”, Homebrew, and Skill Points:

    If anything in this post gets me a bit of flak, it would be this section. In advance, allow me to say that I’m not pointing any fingers anywhere and that I’m speaking in general terms, often referring just as much to my own past work as anyone else’s. With that said, here I go.

    Using the guidelines above, I don’t consider something like 75% of attempted tier 3 classes on the boards (either fixes or originals, mine or yours) to truly be tier 3. This is not an insult (and I don’t mean that in the “it’s not an insult, it’s a fact” sense but in the “I actually support tier 4” sense, as you’ll see below).

    Looking through several things that I’ve done and thinking back on what I’ve seen, it seems that most people making combat-oriented base classes use something of a shopping list method. In order to make something tier 3, it must be able to (1) deal with flying opponents, (2) have defense against mind-affecting effects, (3) be capable of abusing action economy, etc. I have a nagging suspicion that most of this probably comes from the ToB (and I don’t personally consider the duskblade or ToB classes to be tier 3, which may disqualify this view entirely) and, at least from what I’ve seen, 90% of the shopping list is about getting to combat, dealing with different types of combat, overcoming a laundry list of defenses in combat, doing more in combat and having more combat options, or being immune to things you’ll most likely see in combat (or maaaaaybe in traps).

    Yes, D&D is a traditionally combat-focused game, coming from a long line of war games. Yes, most of the time in most campaigns is spent in the middle of combat and having nothing to do but swing your sword in repetitive full attacks is boring as hell. Yes, combat options are good and ensure that you’ll always have something to do on the battlefield. I support homebrew that offers rich options on the battlefield, something I think 3.5 mostly messed up on. At the end of the day, however, I don’t feel that combat options can bump someone up past tier 4 any more than a +1,000,000 bonus to attack and damage rolls. More powerful, certainly, but these options only make you marginally more flexible at the end of the day and when the time comes to turn the attention to someone else or when the combat naturally comes to an end and the space between combats starts, around 75% of attempted tier 3 classes cease being mechanically fun. Every time a new fighter fix pops up and someone, like clockwork, chimes in that “it needs more to do out of combat”, this is what occurs to me every single time.

    But wait, you may say, there are skill points. Yes, there are most certainly skill points. Going into the topic of fighter fixes in particular (since we’ve had so many and they all kind of blur together in my head), one of the biggest things that people give fighters (or other remixed classes, actually) to help them with “downtime” are more class skills and skill points. In my mind, these skills do mountains more to aid the tier of the class than the much-vaunted combat options. Perhaps, then, a class with a solid combat plan and skills for downtime would make for a solid tier 3. Seeing as high skill points haven’t saved the (non-wildshape) ranger, however, I’m still not entirely sold. My complaints against using skills as a stop-gap measure in this way are the following:
    • As even commoners can purchase any skill cross-class, the effects of most skills (save some like UMD/IF/Diplomacy) are relatively tame and many abilities famously negate their need (knock, anyone?).
    • The incredibly static nature of skill points doesn’t even begin to compare to the fluid nature of spell slots unless you get a lot of them. Probably 6/8 + Int (or maybe 4 + Int for Int-based classes). Quite a few classes I’ve seen in the past have pulled this off for a good tier 3 class but it seems a bit overwhelming to expect it of every single non-magical class in existence.
    • Skills aren’t personal. A bard with 5 ranks in diplomacy is indistinguishable from a fighter with 5 ranks in diplomacy when making the check. Giving more skill points doesn’t make a character special or unique but lets them competently do things that any old Joe could try (at least in most cases).
    • Because skills aren’t personal, they can easily lead to a sense of redundancy. If your party bard, beguiler, or factotum already has ranks in bluff, diplomacy, intimidate, and gather information and has higher Charisma than the party fighter, the party fighter lacks any means (beyond maybe an aid another check or counting on a luckier dice roll) to aid social encounters that isn’t already taken and thus might as well not have those skills at all (making the fighter completely useless in social situations, which is the problem those skills would be added to solve in the first place).


    Supporting Tier 4 and a Word On Fighter Fixes


    Well, that’s my basic analysis, for the most part. I think that what it means to be tier 3 means having something meaningful to do outside of your assigned role (not outside of your “combat role” but outside of your role, which may well be “combat”), allowing others to take the spotlight but making you feel as though you’re still contributing. I might be perfectly off-base with this (as I’ve noted, tiers seem to mean something slightly different to everybody) and I’ve probably made at least one huge assumption somewhere along the way, not to mention my tendency to ramble. Even so, I don’t feel as though I quite lived up to the goals I set up at the start of this post so I might as well go a bit further.

    Up until now, both in this post and in general, tier 3 has been assumed to be the sweet spot. While it may seem optimal in some settings, I personally question whether the “sweet spot” should really be that narrow. To start with, there is the matter of redundancy. For this, there was a quote I had seen in someone’s signature (either here or on the old wizards boards) that I can’t find for the life of me. As it should provide the perfect illustration of what I’m trying to say, however, I will do my best to recreate it word by word below.

    Monk: Hmmm, a locked door. Good thing I finally picked up EAGLE CLAW!”
    Rogue: I have ranks in open lock.
    Wizard: I could just cast knock.
    Fighter: I have an adamantine axe.
    Bard: I just talked to the goblins on the other side of the door and they agreed to open it for us.
    Monk: Do they have a corner I can cry in?
    Bard: Sure, I'll ask. Did I mention they've made me their king.
    Fighter: Stupid overpowered bards.
    Aside from personally amusing me, this kind of example helps to show that giving all classes a way to do most tasks, though allowing them to take part in most campaigns, also leads to a good deal of redundancy. Even the tier 3 dream of having everyone able to contribute but having one person best set to deal with any situation doesn’t really make any difference unless more than one person is needed to participate, as with combat. The person best able to handle each challenge simply handles it and the party moves on, often involving 1 roll or less and/or a period of role-play or puzzle-solving that anyone could do for each roadblock put in the way until you reach the next combat section. I’m simplifying things to bare-bones, sure, but that’s pretty much how I’ve observed things to work outside of combat and the skill challenges of 4e.

    I’m not saying that a bit of redundancy is bad (having your one healer or trap-disarmer killed would suck in a dungeon) but rather that having lots of things to do outside of combat, a common critique with all manners of fixes, is quite a bit overrated (especially the way people talk about it). At the end of the day, you only need one person to be really good at any given task out of combat and being good at any such task doesn’t really mean too much most of the time unless you become the best at it (and even then, it just amounts to you being able to take a turn saying “I handle the problem” instead of someone else every now and then). The only multi-round event involving strategy and multiple party members in the base mechanics of D&D is combat and, as mentioned above, this game is all about combat. I guess what I’m saying is that If a class provides a solid and fulfilling combat experience with little to nothing else about it (a tier 4 class in my books, regardless of power), that class is perfectly fine and nothing is wrong with it. I’m not trying to say that a DM can rule 0 the imbalance away (a fallacy as we all know) but that most campaigns naturally allow tier 4 classes to work unless a DM is purposefully sets the story up so your powers never come into question. While I can certainly see the appeal of being able to make a character and knowing that it will have some use regardless of what campaign you’re in, I can’t see tier 4 as being a bad thing. In fact, I’d qualify a few of what we currently consider “tier 3” classes to be really powerful tier 4 classes (Except for the inclusion of diplomacy, for example, a Warblade doesn’t have too many tricks for a politics game beyond a fighter). Put another way, fighters shouldn’t be treated as a terrible class because political games exist any more than wizards would deserve to be called a terrible class if no-magic games were more of a popular thing in the system (though there are much better reasons to hate and want to remake the fighter).

    So… tier 4 is acceptable but a bit of what we consider tier 3 is (according to me) truly tier 4 and I’m not telling people they should settle for less power. With all of that in mind, does anything really change? Was there any point in writing this huge thing?

    Well, there is one point. Most of the time, when people produce their own homebrew labeled at tier 3, it doesn’t matter in the slightest if it’s actually tier 4. It will still perform just as well and fit in with all of the same parties. The single exception to this rule, however, are fixes. For as long as tier 3 has been the ideal, people have been providing fixes for every class of lower tier aiming for the mythical tier 3. For those classes dealing with magic sources, this has proven pretty easy and it’s pretty easy to get some degree of consensus (maybe one of the reasons why there aren’t more soulborn and truenamer fixes around, along with the amount of work needed for such a fix). For other classes, however, tier 3 is a wall that gets bashed into repeatedly. We’ll submit our “tier 3” monk or fighter fix (both of which I am guilty of) only for others to point out that they don’t really have anything to do out of combat beyond skills and maybe a couple of tricks in the class features. Not quite satisfied that we or the people we’ve seen have reached tier 3, another “tier 3” fix is made… and another… and another… you get the idea. To summarize, the crux of the problem, as I’ve heard it in fighter threads over and over again, is this:

    I want a tier 3 fighter.
    A tier 3 class does more than fight.
    A Fighter is all about fighting.


    To be fair, I have seen tier 3 fighters... kind of. I have seen fighters with tons of skill points and fighters with entire lists of abilities useful for more than combat. Hell, I nearly created a fighter with something bordering on a magic system. In all of those cases, however, simply giving the class the capabilities that it needed to be tier 3 seemed to detract from its fighter-dom. If you combine good and flexible combat, the ability to accomplish most mundane tasks outside of combat (whether through skills or abilities), and the general generic nature that we’ve attributed to the fighter, it just isn’t a fighter (at least to me) any more. In my mind, it becomes a super-mundane, the paragon of non-magical might in general. Fun and awesome, maybe, but often without more than a name to denote it as a “fighter”. Again, though, this is a very much YMMV matter.

    Right now, trying to keep everything in the realm of tier 3, we seem bound to keep ramming into the wall of this paradox until one or more people finally do discover a perfect fighter fix after who knows how many attempts. If, on the other hand, we finally accept that tier 4 is okay, the same fighter/monk/soulknife/marshal/etc. fixes that have been and are being churned out, many of which are more than capable of doing the job they are determined to do, can finally be accepted for what they are (perfectly functional classes capable of working in most campaigns) instead of being forcefully compared to a somewhat unrealistic ideal for those classes to follow. Obviously, I don’t have control over what people produce, claim, or think, but I personally believe that it would make more sense to receive a stream of good tier 4 fixes until someone stumbles across a tier 3 fix by accident rather than wading through a river of ho-hum attempts at tier 3 fixes, even if it is only a difference of perception.

    Wrapping Up (And Apologizing)

    Well, it would seem that I’ve made a fine mess of things here and this entire paper has pretty much taught me never to attempt introspection early in the morning ever again. I realize now that I’ve probably made false assumptions here and there, that the entire last part of this harangue kind of dissolves into a weird perceptual agenda, and that the entire thing kind of comes across as defeatist. I realize that tier 4 probably isn’t all that maligned (though the amount of attention tier 3 gets by contrast is still incredibly stark) and that my generalizations regarding the boards are only through what I remember observing in the past (subjected to my own selective memory). For those of you who have long made it a mission to produce a high-tier fighter or similar class, know that it wasn’t my intention at all to tear you down or mock your goal. Likewise, I doubt that anything ever will stop the stream of fighter fixes as there are multiple reasons to keep making them. I really had half of a mind not to post this at all but I don’t think that I could have rested until I did as I don't think I've seen anything remotely like it elsewhere (and because it took me several hours ).

    As very little theory discussion actually seems to go on around here, I honestly don’t know if people will or won’t react to my questioning of one of the few creation yardsticks everyone seems to use. If anyone has read all of this, I hope that you might have gained some small insight from it but I really hope you don’t take it too seriously.

    Last edited by Realms of Chaos; 2013-01-14 at 08:26 PM.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    I think you make a very good point. The ideal should not be "tier 3", but rather "tier 3 or strong tier 4" (those two actually can work together fairly well), and a fighter should be aimed at the "strong tier 4" position. If you want a game where everyone has a role to play in every encounter and obstacle, D&D is probably the wrong game to play. (No idea what the right one would be, as pretty much any game with a faint resemblance to D&D which isn't 100% combat is going to involve obstacles where only one person can meaningfully contribute.) I figure that as long as each character has a chance to contribute in each adventure, that's good (and that probably will happen; even a diplomatic campaign will involve some fighting, and even a dungeon crawl will involve some opportunities for subtler skills.)

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    Flumph

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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    I have waited a long time for someone finally to say it outright. One of the reasons why I don't reply much is because I often feel like people need to bloat their concept into fitting this "ideal state" and I would say too much while labeled the naysayer. The fact is the reason why we play or make stuff for 3.X or lower is because we don't like 4e. Not only is it not modular but it fully represents this tier 3 dream seeking making interchangeable roles with each character ending up not being able to be that unique from another.
    Last edited by Amnoriath; 2013-01-14 at 11:24 PM.

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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    I....This...*sigh*

    I will need to read this when I have had some rest. Quite the essay, but I am intrigued. I shall report back once I am not about to rest my head on the keyboard.
    "To play a fighter is to play the game.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jiriku View Post
    ...magical trumps mundane so often that mundane really needs to be able to give magic a good kick in the junk now and then.

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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    i do not take much stock in Tiers, i believe it closes our eyes to the possibilities of a well designed and well built class.
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Then good news for you as I design the Elemental Paladin... I have no real idea of Tiers and I'm new to the whole online community as a whole so my kitbashing and home brewing is more based on just my personal game experiences instead of the DnD version of "Net Decking".

    Meaning I design something that will seem fun, interesting, and useable based on my experiences around the table instead of abstract metrics that I know nothing about.
    Currently sick as a dog and unable to focus properly. Will heal soon.

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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Agreed almost completely.

    I think the Tier system is badly in need of a revision, and I'd suggest one along the lines of a graph, with an axis for each of Power and Versatility.

    The model I'm working on requires a base point for the intersection though, and I'm not sure what a good example of a relative "neutral" class is. Once that it set, however, I think it's a very good way to represent the differences between the power of the Wizard (high power, high versatility) and the min-maxed +1,000 to everything Fighter (high power, low versatility).

    Ideally you'd had yet ANOTHER axis representing in-combat vs. out-of-combat (which would explain why the Warblade is well designed, although possibly to combat-focused), but that gets harder to visually represent.

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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by LordErebus12 View Post
    i do not take much stock in Tiers, i believe it closes our eyes to the possibilities of a well designed and well built class.
    Part of the problem with Tiers is not that they create biases, but so much that we allow the system to have Inconsistencies where you have classes like Warblade, Crusader, and Duskblade (All of which are very powerful in combat classes) who do not fit the definitions the system defines itself by. the number of rules, sanctions, handicaps, and double standards on the tier system are almost as significant as a comprehensive and standardized rulebook for 3.5 would be. Its a good idea to have a knowledge of what the filing system for Tiers is, but to take it as presented is probably the largest fallacy the playground commits.

    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn_in_Tonic View Post
    Agreed almost completely.

    I think the Tier system is badly in need of a revision, and I'd suggest one along the lines of a graph, with an axis for each of Power and Versatility.
    3 things:

    1: You are missing Options. A Stick with which to measure the potential of the class. Paladin for instance would have a high Option score, while a monk would have a low one. Versatility is simply to say how good a class is in general application, while Power is exclusively a measure of the class in combat.

    2: Rogue. Rogue is supposed to be the most versatile class in the PHB, and they fit the written definition of T3, if maybe not the power level.

    3: I find the largest issue ive been having beginning a revision of the Tier System into the VOP system is that by all standards, a single digit will always be more easily remembered and compared then 2 or 3.
    Last edited by toapat; 2013-01-15 at 01:28 AM.
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn_in_Tonic View Post
    the min-maxed +1,000 to everything Fighter (high power, low versatility).
    And when did high power not add considerable versatility? "Ive survived through brute combat with the biggest enemies, that would shred any lesser combatant."

    Id call that Versatile.

    instead of revising the tier system, simply ignore it and build to a final theme.
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by LordErebus12 View Post
    And when did high power not add considerable versatility? "Ive survived through brute combat with the biggest enemies, that would shred any lesser combatant."

    Id call that Versatile.
    Because a +1,000 to hit bonus is still ineffective in social situations, skill challenges, against opponents you can't effectively land attacks on (flying enemies, incorporeal, magically protected...there are numbers of ways around this) or in a thousand varieties of other encounters that could be envisioned. It only helps if the solution is "smack it until it stops moving."

    Versatility means that you have numerous options, and that you're capable of handling a wide variety of encounters effectively. Versatility is NOT equal to raw power.

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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn_in_Tonic View Post
    Because a +1,000 to hit bonus is still ineffective in social situations, skill challenges, against opponents you can't effectively land attacks on (flying enemies, incorporeal, magically protected...there are numbers of ways around this) or in a thousand varieties of other encounters that could be envisioned. It only helps if the solution is "smack it until it stops moving."

    Versatility means that you have numerous options, and that you're capable of handling a wide variety of encounters effectively. Versatility is NOT equal to raw power.
    agreed, but it does make things get a lot better when the conversation turns sour. A strong uppercut can do wonders for the conversation, assuming they do not wish to be gutted by that half-orc with armor spikes who already was glaring in intimidation. but this is moot.

    I feel we should lean towards party balance and leave tiers by the wayside.
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by LordErebus12 View Post
    I feel we should lean towards party balance and leave tiers by the wayside.
    Tiers are a metric for party balance.

    Otherwise, one could say that a party is balanced because a party of a Wizard/Cleric/Rogue/Fighter is balanced against that of a Sorcerer/Druid/Bard/Knight. Is that true? Roughly, yes.

    Do the party members have anything close to equal ability to take the spotlight, contribute in all situations, and generally have something to do? Not a chance.

    Tiers are a very good rough estimate of a class's ability to contribute in the average campaign, and, given that it's a classification and not a hard-and-fast ruling, we don't actually suffer from having them.

    I'm curious to see how you'd attempt to "balance" a party internally without creating a metric to judge such balance on.

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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    While others claim this is a pretty big "essay", you'll have to forgive me if I say this is a "light read".

    That, or I read stuff really fast. But, it was easy to understand, since the crux of the post was as follows (and actually, one I seek to aim at): people equate the versatility of tier 3 as combat versatility, rather than overall versatility, and grant boosts to combat power and combat versatility while leaving skills and skill points, more often than not, as the sole ways to handle out-of-combat versatility.

    For starters, before mentioning anything else: what if you collapse the tiers into a similar system? One of the things I noticed when delving somewhere else (the Good and Proper D&D Wiki, just in case you're curious), is that their classification goes into four classifications, and they have a standardized system to define them as such. They define a class' effectiveness into Low, Moderate, High and Very High, using the Same Game Test as the standard upon which they define each balance point (the term they use). The actual consideration of using "balance point" (a more "neutral" term) than "tier" (which normally evokes the idea of competition) helps a lot. The old comparisons (Low equates to the potential of a Monk, Moderate equates to the potential of a Fighter, High equates to the potential of a Rogue, Very High equates to the potential of a Wizard) also give a good idea on where you can estimate a class or PrC to stand in comparison to others. I'd like to place this as a comparison to the better-known, but more controversial concept of tiers.

    The second thing to consider is that most people aim for Tier 3-4, and everything in between, or so I can perceive most of the times. Most people, IMO, also err on the side of Tier 3 for security: it's better to aim at Tier 3 and end up in Tier 4 (but usable, nonetheless) than aim for Tier 4 and land on Tier 5, which is considered non-good. The other bit is that, aside from power, Tier 3 and Tier 4 are almost indistinguishable from each other: a Ranger's skills and spellcasting abilities manage to handle a good variety of situations, but they're not higher in terms of Tier because their power is not as high. Basically, you can collapse the tiers into three or four, and you'd do fine: the main difference between Tier 1 and Tier 2 is versatility (both have the same amount of power, but the Tier 1s can prepare for a larger amount of situations than Tier 2s), the main difference between Tier 3 and Tier 4 is largely the power of their options (the ways that Tier 3 classes handle problems has a usually higher chance of success than Tier 4 ones), and the difference between Tier 5 and Tier 6 is usually power (the trick that Tier 5 can do is better than the trick that Tier 6 does).

    Even then, there's a multitude of interpretations that can stem from attempting to grok the differences between Tiers. Tier 1 characters are versatile but Tier 2 characters master the concept of utility (Wizards have one spell for each of their problems; Sorcerers have one spell to solve many of their problems), and understanding this concept is what allows a character to contribute properly, at least for the higher tiers. I can say this, and give some proof of why this is a reasonable way to see the differences between Tier 1 and Tier 2, but that doesn't mean anyone will agree with me because that might imply the rest of the tiers have to follow the same notion. It's one of the reasons why I placed the alternative of "balance points"; it's better defined and less ambiguous as it stands. That doesn't mean it *should* be the system to use, but it's appropriate for the discussion as any re-envisioning of the Tiers should aim towards this goal (better defined, less ambiguous; I can also add less dependent on the perception of "same level of optimization" which plagues every discussion about Tiers).

    I find the post misses other equally valuable concepts. For example: where elegance lands in this? Elegance is ambiguous as heck, but it's easier to understand innately: if the solution looks and feels like it can be understood easily and handles the problem the best way, then it's elegant. Where, then, many of the fixes and 'brews land on the side of elegance? Granting a +1000 to attack rolls and +4000 to damage rolls is completely inelegant: it solves only a portion of the problem, doesn't even deal with the rest, and introduces new ones (how can you handle something that can one-shot everything, particularly if it's against you?). A +1000 bonus to Strength is likewise inelegant, but in comparison, is far more elegant than the previous solution: increasing Strength increases your Strength modifier, which thus increases melee attack rolls, melee damage rolls, grapple checks, successful disarms and trips, longer distance with bull rushes, better chances to open locks and doors, dead-lifting obstacles, dealing enough damage to items to bypass their hardness and bursting them, AND lifting capacity. Thus, if you gauge how much of a Strength bonus you should grant (and how: a bonus to Strength checks applies to pretty much everything sans attack and damage, but still applies to the difficult default checks you have to do nonetheless), you can provide a solution that's elegant, and thus solves a great deal of the problems better. It might strain credibility a bit, but by expanding willing suspension of disbelief, you can make mundane characters achieve extraordinary goals without having to resort to magic, and thus allows people to act better. I find sometimes that fixes don't aim for elegance, thus they feel clogged; however, given that elegance is an acquired taste and something that has to be developed, it's not something you should expect naturally (but something you can help with).

    Another thing to point out is that, no matter what, the game IS pretty much focused into combat. The rules are tighter in this regard, in that they're much better detailed. Thus, it's natural that a larger proportion of the character's power and versatility are handled in how they deal with combat. Never expect that a class should be 50% focused on combat and 50% focused on out-of-combat ability. I suspect a 66% combat/34% out-of-combat effort for each class, with a boundary based on the concept (Fighters might focus a bit more on combat and thus aim towards 70-75%, while Rogues may aim for 40-45% out-of-combat versatility). Likewise, fixes and 'brews could focus on those proportions, so that they remain true to their concepts and still contribute on both sides.

    It's a good read and a good start, but the problem with Tiers is a bit more complex. Definitely it's great advice, but that doesn't mean people will now actually aim for Tier 4, or that there'll be less fixes. It's great to allow people to aim for better fixes and refine their 'brews better.
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    All the times I've looked at Fixes of classes that were made to fill a gap and join the Beguiler and Dread Necromancer as Tier 3 "specialist sorcerers", a great many of them turned out to be still only Tier 4, and a few Tier 2. It's harder to make a Tier 3 Fix, it seems, than making a Tier 3 original class. When I recently dug through a lot of Fighter Fixes, indeed many of them were simply Tier 4, and that's okay. I also agree with you in that making a Fighter better at non-fighting things is a good thing, but the way in which people go about it often seems to turn the Fighter into something less generic, and it's the generic-ness of the Fighter that makes it the Fighter.

    On the subject of ToB though, this is something a lot more complex. Yes, disciplines are made primarily for combat. However, many of them have applications out of combat. Shadow Hand, for instance, has its teleportation maneuvers. Diamond Mind has its save-replacers. Stone Dragon has Mountain Hammer. In most cases it's pretty minor, but it's still there and still adds up. Due to the variability of disciplines, especially when Homebrew disciplines are concerned (many people make their disciplines try to do a lot of things and the discipline ends up losing focus, which is a sad, sad thing; others have a fine focus, but the maneuvers are either way too strong or much too weak), judging Homebrewed martial adept classes is hard, unless you were to judge all the disciplines they can have first. And considering that with time and training many disciplines can be acquired as extras, the variability increases immensely and the class can choose from a great many maneuvers. Many of these maneuvers suck, just like with how a lot of ToB maneuvers hardly see play, whereas some are nearly always picked (IHS, WRT, MH, I'm looking at you).

    If you ditch disciplines from your analysis of a class and just assume that they alone make it Tier 4, then go on to look at the rest of the class, many of them have other stuff as well, especially skills, because ToB is somewhat skill-focused (though perhaps not as much as it should be). Of the official classes, Swordsage then comes along with Use Magic Device and sneaky skills, while the Warblade and Crusader have Diplomacy, among others, though the Crusader is obviously better due to Cha-focus, though Bards are likely still better than them since they need other ability scores less. The thing to remember though, is that there isn't always a [member of X class] in your party who might take one of your possible roles instead of you. And if there is, then sure, you might not be a full Tier 3 in that party anymore, but it doesn't take away that the class still can do that. Still, in some measure I have to agree with you, and that is on the subject of classes who have no other reason to pump an ability score associated with a very good skill, because the rest of the class doesn't need that particular ability score at all.

    Does this mean ToB classes are always Tier 3? Most definitely not! It just means that because they have such a strong baseline it is much easier to make them Tier 3 than other classes and they need much less optimization to become Tier 3 than other classes do.

    ...also, I'm kind of ashamed I aided the Fighter with this problem, since a handful of Fighter Fixes sprung up immediately after I went over a bunch in the HTC thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by T.G. Oskar View Post
    While others claim this is a pretty big "essay", you'll have to forgive me if I say this is a "light read".
    Forgive me, Oskar, but you seem like the kind of man for whom the Iliad would be a "light read" over the course of finishing a cup of tea.
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    T.G. Oskar: Yes, by the standards of some of your posts, I suppose that this would be a pretty light read for you.

    Having balance points is certainly a grokable alternative mechanic, though it might result in the loss of relevant information from the tier system. I'd personally just bunch our current tier system into 3 groups with tiers 1&2 being high power, tiers 3&4 being Average power, and tiers 5&6 being low-power. For most of these groupings (except maybe 5&6), the functional distinctions between the two groups seem relatively minimal and lots of headaches and arguments could be eliminated by their grouping (It's a lot easier to make a high-power class than a tier 1 class or and average power class than a tier 3 class, for example). Unfortunately, one hurdle that this method can't overcome is showing how... um... reverse-compatible classes are (wizards could potentially play nicely with a low power group but warblades can't unless you really try, for example). Perhaps having a low-range and high range for each class would help but that might be too complicated in the long run.

    As far as missing a tier and ending up with a lesser one, I'm not saying that people should make more barbarians and rangers but rather that they should shoot for combat-focused "tier 3" classes but label it as tier 4. I just suspect that a strong class with a correct label would get a warmer response than a strong class that fails to live up to its own standards. Again, though, I can't really see the future.

    As far as elegance, I didn't go into talking about it because... it seemed completely unrelated from the main topic?

    I'm not saying that elegance isn't good. It's awesome. Even so, in a discussion of tiers (which was the entire original point of the topic), I don't see how elegance fits into anything or how anything lost or gained tiers (other than in really general ways such as the elegant way in which spellcasters fit thousands of abilities within a single mechanic) through elegance. If someone homebrews a class tomorrow that requires a player (not the character) to do logarithms and dance the hokey pokey with their tongues out to gain bonuses, I personally wouldn't rate the class any lower on most forms of power spectrums available. It wouldn't be too usable, sure, but more for practical reasons than anything else (limited space and lack of graphing calculators at most gaming tables, for example).

    If you want to talk about elegance, however, it sounds like a good part of what you are searching for is parsimony (at least as it applies to text). Namely, you want to fit as good of a solution in as small of a space (at least on the class table) as possible. Granting bonuses that apply in multiple ways, granting abilities from menus instead of granting each and every single one of the options at set levels, or using mechanics such as spellcasting to include hundreds of options all using a single unified framework. Of course, comprehensibility and matters of breadth and effectiveness also play some part.

    And, of course, as I allude to (twice) in the OP, I'm well-aware that combat is the per-eminent presence in most games (Which is precisely the justification I used for why high-powered combat-focused tier-4 classes should generally be as "celebrated" as tier 3 classes). Again, the "change" I'm proposing is one of perception and labeling, not one of what is actually produced (though I believe it could have positive effects even so).

    Morph Bark: Thank you for raising up the topic of ToB classes once more. You are certainly right that I have likely underestimated the non-combat potentials of those classes and of what disciplines can do (especially when homebrew discipline shenanigans are brought up).

    LordErebus12: Yeah, while I'd consider a tremendous attack/damage bonus to make that character highly effective, I wouldn't count it as versatile. As far as abandoning tiers altogether, that may be hard in relation to homebrew because (1) it's one of the most descriptive measures we currently have to say how powerful we have intended something to be and (2) it provides DMs with a heuristic to let them check if a class would be balanced in a party (assuming that it seems correctly labeled), which becomes quite vital when talking about homebrew classes as there's a good chance that the DM has never seen that class in a campaign before. The only problem with the tier system is that (to me) it seemed to have become a bit prescriptive (telling people what to do) instead of descriptive (describing what has been done). With that said, using different reference points of power (as mentioned both above and in T.G. Oskar's post) may provide a nice alternative.

    Djinn_in_Tonic/Toapat: Options, Power, and Versatility are all important axes to consider. As far as the combat/non-combat distinction, you could probably reduce things into the following four stats:
    Combat Options high/medium/low
    Non-Combat Options high/medium/low
    Combat Power high/medium/low
    Non-Combat Power high/medium/low
    It would result in two separate graphs, unfortunately, though it remains relatively easy to list (though admittedly not as precisely as a graph could).
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by Realms of Chaos View Post
    Djinn_in_Tonic/Toapat: Options, Power, and Versatility are all important axes to consider. As far as the combat/non-combat distinction, you could probably reduce things into the following four stats:
    Combat Options high/medium/low
    Non-Combat Options high/medium/low
    Combat Power high/medium/low
    Non-Combat Power high/medium/low
    It would result in two separate graphs, unfortunately, though it remains relatively easy to list (though admittedly not as precisely as a graph could).
    I think you missed the point, Versatility is to be a measure of non-combat options and power (but you wont score a 0 if you arent a monk. Even Commoners and Truenamers have something redeeming to them.), while Power was to be a measure of Combat ability. Options is actually chosen because you cant have the word Potential in with Power. Actually i should have called it Opportunity, as it is a measure of how much actual room for growth does the class have, for instance Monk vs Paladin: You can not really make monk better then they are other then with Wild Monk, while paladins were handed alot of potential for growth over time with 3.5
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by toapat View Post
    I think you missed the point, Versatility is to be a measure of non-combat options and power (but you wont score a 0 if you arent a monk. Even Commoners and Truenamers have something redeeming to them.), while Power was to be a measure of Combat ability. Options is actually chosen because you cant have the word Potential in with Power. Actually i should have called it Opportunity, as it is a measure of how much actual room for growth does the class have, for instance Monk vs Paladin: You can not really make monk better then they are other then with Wild Monk, while paladins were handed alot of potential for growth over time with 3.5
    Nope. You missed the point. At least if you were talking about my re-imagining of the Tier system.

    Versatility is a measure of the number of different options, whether in-combat or out-of-combat. Power is the STRENGTH of those options, whether in combat or out of combat.

    The Combat axis would be the determinant for whether the class was combat-skewed or non-combat skewed. The Warblade, for example, is fairly powerful, fairly versatile, but heavily combat-skewed. While he has a number of options, MOST of them are useful only in-combat, and those that are useful elsewhere are still largely combat-utility as well.

    Without Combat as an axis, versatility has to pick up double duty as both number of options AND flexibility of approaches. Flexibility might actually be a better name for such an axis.

    That's why it's awkward. Options within a narrow confine should be able to be represented differently from options OUTSIDE of said narrow confine.

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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by toapat View Post
    I think you missed the point, Versatility is to be a measure of non-combat options and power (but you wont score a 0 if you arent a monk. Even Commoners and Truenamers have something redeeming to them.), while Power was to be a measure of Combat ability. Options is actually chosen because you cant have the word Potential in with Power. Actually i should have called it Opportunity, as it is a measure of how much actual room for growth does the class have, for instance Monk vs Paladin: You can not really make monk better then they are other then with Wild Monk, while paladins were handed alot of potential for growth over time with 3.5
    Ah, it seems that I have indeed misread things. When I saw the word options, I immediately thought you meant options as far as ability to do different things (For example, having more to do in combat that make powerful full attacks each round and more to do outside of it than just skills). Perhaps the word you are looking for is Potential, then?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Realms of Chaos View Post
    Ah, it seems that I have indeed misread things. When I saw the word options, I immediately thought you meant options as far as ability to do different things (For example, having more to do in combat that make powerful full attacks each round and more to do outside of it than just skills). Perhaps the word you are looking for is Potential, then?
    I said Opportunity fits better, Potential screws the entire naming up because then you have VPP instead of VOP

    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn_in_Tonic View Post
    Nope. You missed the point. At least if you were talking about my re-imagining of the Tier system.

    Versatility is a measure of the number of different options, whether in-combat or out-of-combat. Power is the STRENGTH of those options, whether in combat or out of combat.
    I think you are Underestimating how simplistic it is to have Versatility measure number and Power of the number of things a class can do, Power is best left as a measure more similar to the Same Game Test because then you can measuere if the Class erases enemies from existance in multiple creative ways, can do so with a single trick, can reasonably contribute in combat, and is a monk
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    So, to get at the power/usefulness of a class, we have to consider the possible ranges of versatility and power that members of that class can have both in and out of combat depending on what builds they use.

    This is starting to get complicated, not to mention a tad off-topic. Perhaps this reimagining needs a thread of its own.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Realms of Chaos View Post
    This is starting to get complicated, not to mention a tad off-topic. Perhaps this reimagining needs a thread of its own.
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by toapat View Post
    It needs a dedicated University of its own.
    Where di' y'all thunk Ida gotten ma qualumvacations t' Tiershizzle up in 'is nizzle, ay?

    *cough* Sorry. Acquired an accent during my stay there.

    At any rate, I got some things to say about that subject as well, but I think I'll put that up in the HTC or in a seperate thread if that'll get put up.

    In the meantime, I'll say that I prefer party members to all be within the 3-4 spectrum. Yes, spectrum. Within Tier 3 there are classes that are higher-powered than the others, bordering on Tier 2, whereas with others it's hard to judge if they're Tier 3 or Tier 4, such as with the incarnum classes. High-powered Tier 4s (such as the Races of War classes) though? That's bad, and I much prefer having Tier 2s rather than those.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morph Bark View Post
    Where di' y'all thunk Ida gotten ma qualumvacations t' Tiershizzle up in 'is nizzle, ay?

    High-powered Tier 4s (such as the Races of War classes) though?
    I mean like a dedicated Thinking body consisting of 400-500 separate people.

    What classes are those?
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Nice light read, Realms of Chaos.

    I've always thought that areas other than combat need a little more in the area of "hooks" where you can hang mechanics; I'm currently working on a much more mechnically-defined rehash of the d20 Modern Allegiances mechanic (partially because I always look so longingly at the concept of "Intimacies" that Exalted has going.)

    Once that's done, I think that, along with a little more "fleshing out" for social rules, you could have a great deal more "cool ****" for people to do outside of combat.

    I mean, I like to think of how given classes should be approaching communications, and it makes me smile. Lots. (Barbarians use Intimidate for damn near everything.)

    I might end up rewriting a bunch of skill replacers with just plain skill boosters (so it's better to cast them on the expert in that field than on yourself.)

    But, more on topic; I've always felt that the "tier" system is more a grid, where Tier 1 and Tier 3 share a slot (both theoretically have a high level of options) and Tier 2 and Tier 4 share a slot (more restricted in their options, just at different scopes), and Tier 5 and Tier 6 kinda cry in the corner without optimization tricks.

    I also intensely agree that people, when fixing the Fighter, try to remove some of its generic nature. I've recently been considering stuff that, you know, makes the options that they do get (feats, obviously) a bit more worth the effort and easier to get your hands on.

    But, to get back on topic... you do realize that Tier University in Walla Walla, Washington is my alma mater? My reunion's next month.
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    @ RoC
    Narrowly avoided getting critted by that wall of text.
    I agree with nearly everything you said. One thing that might be worth more discussion is how to rate the power level of something that merely has the potential to be powerful (sorcerer) vs things that can be powerful in any build (wizard) and things that are powerful because they have access to ALL their tools ALL the time (cleric, druid)

    Reading that has actually made me feel a lot better about my fighter fix, because frankly I was wracking my brains over that exact problem- how to increase it's versatility without diminishing it's iconic feel and flavor.

    Quote Originally Posted by LordErebus12 View Post
    i do not take much stock in Tiers, i believe it closes our eyes to the possibilities of a well designed and well built class.
    I would ask, how then do you judge if something is "well built"?
    If Power is basically how you keep score in this game, and you decide to say "I don't care about score!", what determines if your 'brew plays nicely with everyone else?

    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn_in_Tonic View Post
    Agreed almost completely.

    I think the Tier system is badly in need of a revision, and I'd suggest one along the lines of a graph, with an axis for each of Power and Versatility.
    That's an interesting concept, but the problem with D&D is that most time power and versatility are directly corelated. For example, a magic spell that turns you into a dragon could be counted as powerful in combat terms, but it also gives you energy attacks, flight, maybe boosts to social skills like intimdate, etc.

    I think that if you tried to measure things on a 2-way axis, you'd find very few classes that where powerful but not versatile, and even fewer classes that where versatile but weak.
    Last edited by Deepbluediver; 2013-01-15 at 04:31 PM.
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by Realms of Chaos View Post
    So, to get at the power/usefulness of a class, we have to consider the possible ranges of versatility and power that members of that class can have both in and out of combat depending on what builds they use.

    This is starting to get complicated, not to mention a tad off-topic. Perhaps this reimagining needs a thread of its own.
    Uh... I thought that was the way that everyone looked at it.

    Huh.

    I do agree that it can be summed up nicely, though. In light of that, do you think it's too early to look at a general test to determine the general tiers?
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by SamBurke View Post
    I do agree that it can be summed up nicely, though. In light of that, do you think it's too early to look at a general test to determine the general tiers?
    there already is one, its here.
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by toapat View Post
    there already is one, its here.
    Is this meant to be a joke or taken seriously? Because some of this stuff just seems hilarious.

    Specifically:
    A forest made out of lava and infested with hostile fire-element dire badgers.

    Long story, but I have a soft spot for dire badgers. The fact that these are fire-dire-badgers is just icing on the cake.
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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by toapat View Post
    there already is one, its here.
    The results you get from that are very dependent on which challenges you use, though.

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    Default Re: A Closer Look At the Tier 3 Ideal (Theory)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    The results you get from that are very dependent on which challenges you use, though.
    You're not supposed to pick some challenges from the list, you're supposed to put a class through all the listed challenges, and maybe a few more of similar CR, to get as many data points as possible.
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