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Consideration: Make SI: Alteration provide immunity to Time Stop.


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Posted (edited)

I've been thinking about this for a bit, now - but I think this would create a more interesting tactical space, when used by players, or enemies.

Problems: Time Stop (when cast by the player) currently produces problematic gameplay.

  • Players generally win when they can bring down PFMW cast by enemy mages. Buffs tick down during time stop. Even casting a Time Stop, and then doing *nothing*  brings you that much closer to that win condition.
  • (This win condition is not symmetrical. My party wins when their mages lose PFMW and get chunked by my fighters in 2/3 seconds. The *enemy* party does not win when *my* mages lose PFMW - because they don't train my mages as aggressively, because I can kite and make space, because they rarely have elemental/poison damage on hit, so PFMW is usually less important for me than it is for them).
  • It's does not create interesting gameplay, when used offensively. You cast Time Stop, and then just free-cast/free-attack completely defenseless enemies, who can't react to anything you do. Hitting target dummies is not peak fun!
  • Outside of ~three fights (Demogorgon and Amelyssan and Balthazaar(?)), casting it as early as possible is a complete no-brainer - there are no drawbacks to it, it always produces great value, and it is incredibly versatile.

Not-really Problems:  Time Stop (when cast by the enemy) is usually OK. It's not super-fun, but it's also not a game-over - it's a reasonable threat.

  • When enemy mages cast Time Stop on the player, it's *usually* not an immediate win condition for them. Enemy Mages have limited offensive power against protected characters - and while they get a lot of value out of freecasting under Time Stop, they don't win outright.
  • When enemy fighters are free to act during Time Stop, it often *is* an immediate win condition for them. (Amelyssan or Demogorgon killing a defenseless PC.)

Pros: Making SI: Alt stop Time Stop (And scripting enemy mages to include it in their protections) would actually make Time Stop something you will think about casting.

  • If you cast it right at the start of the fight, enemy mages will be free to cast three times - which otherwise may be the only times they get to cast, outside of contingencies.
  • Three casts from an enemy mages are meaningful - but not game-ending. But if you chain time stops, this turns into six - or nine casts. That becomes a real threat - and discourages the player from chaining time stops.
  • This creates an incentive to strip enemy mage protections *before* you cast time stop (As opposed to during it.) - which is both harder, and spends rounds that your mages would rather be using on something else.
  • This creates more fun moments. An enemy mage free-casting on you during time stop is a stressful - but often fun moment. It can be frustrating, but much of that frustration comes from you not having any agency during it - the mage chose when to cast time stop, and the mage is now attacking defenseless statues. Moving the trigger for the time stop to the player's hands removes a lot of that frustration - because now, it's the player's fault that there's an enemy mage free-casting on the party.

Cons:

  • SCS mage contingency defenses are already a bit bloated. Throwing SI: Alt into the pool may be a bit much... Especially when it will only have an impact after the player's party hits HLAs. I still think the value of it outweighs the costs.
  • SI: Alteration cast by the *player* will neuter a lot of the danger of *enemy* time stops, especially throughout SOA, before the party gets HLAs. This might be too much of a buff for the player (But it is not entirely unprecedented - Ascension gives you time stop immunity for the final fight - albeit with rather limited uptime...)
  • It can turn enemy time stops into a *boon* for a player Fighter/Mage - because it will give them the chance to attack during it.
  • It will turn *friendly* time stops cast, by a mage into a huge boon for a player Fighter/Mage - now *your* time stop gives you control over *two* characters, instead of one. If the encounter you are in has no enemy mages (or their contingencies didn't include SI:Alt), this is a huge, completely unwarranted boon for your party.

... Now that I think about it, I can't think of a good way to solve the last con, without breaking the SCS philosophy of having party members and enemies use roughly the same rules. I would probably be happy if *only* enemy mages with SI: Alt were immune to party time stops, but that would be weird and janky.

Maybe SI: Alt should somehow be a level 8 or 9 spell? To reduce the value for the player party, but still include it is part of the contingencies that enemy mages with HLAs get? I guess that would also be weird and janky.

So, uh, maybe this isn't as good an idea as I thought...

 

Edited by EmmEnnEff
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Posted (edited)

I just want go on record saying this is definitely a bad idea.
If you think Time Stop is overpowered, you don't need to use it. No fight is requiring you to cast it. You say casting it ASAP is a no brainer. I rarely do this, if ever, even playing on insane and still have no issues with fights. I don't see why you feel like this needs to be a go-to strat, and I actually think Time Stop is a bit overrated if you're not playing a fighter mage or just a solo arcane caster.
If someone actually agrees with you on this I'll return to (constructively) argue against it.

Edited by JDSilvergun
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, JDSilvergun said:

You say casting [Time Stop] ASAP is a no brainer. I rarely do this, if ever, even playing on insane and still have no issues with fights.

When I did a run with a sorcerer (dragon disciple) protagonist and Nalia in the party, at full Insane difficulty SCS the whole way, how many times did I cast Time Stop? Once. Plus one instance of the wish version in combat.

And that party absolutely dominated. It turns out that opening practically every fight with a 3x Incendiary Cloud chain contingency while having a party that's permanently and undispellably immune to fire is good.

Incidentally, there's one more fight in which Time Stop immunity is a thing - the Rilmani, in the Watcher's Keep final seal level. They're all melee attackers with TS immunity, and their leader can cast a Time Stop.

Time Stop immunity should remain firmly in the realm of epic nonsense. I could see putting it on a kit-specific HLA or something, but that's as far as I'd go in allowing it for players.

Edited by jmerry
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5 hours ago, EmmEnnEff said:

Three casts from an enemy mages are meaningful - but not game-ending. But if you chain time stops, this turns into six - or nine casts. That becomes a real threat - and discourages the player from chaining time stops.

I don't remember wether this exists in some part of SCS' scripts and I copied it from there, or I wrote it myself forever ago, but you can get the AI to do this by keeping a timer, and I put checks for it on all other spellcasting blocks to prevent those other non-Timestop refreshing spellcasting blocks from ending the Timestop chain. Since you also have to prevent really long spells from causing the chain to end due to the caster being busy casting something else, you need to track spell casting time, which is too complex to do perfectly so my choice was to make spellcasting blocks check against half-round timers in case they took longer than that to cast.

9 minutes ago, jmerry said:

And that party absolutely dominated. It turns out that opening practically every fight with a 3x Incendiary Cloud chain contingency while having a party that's permanently and undispellably immune to fire is good.

I've been doing that on my latest run, and it's a really good strategy. But being able to have multiple Mages acting on a single Time Stop cast trivializes basically every fight, even where 3x Incendiary Cloud wouldn't make a difference. It's absolutely OP.

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2 hours ago, JDSilvergun said:

If you think Time Stop is overpowered, you don't need to use it.

There are a number of overpowered interactions that have resulted in poor gameplay that have been retuned. SCS doesn't allow vanilla Chain Contingency in-combat exploits, for instance. This in itself isn't an interesting, or good argument.

> I actually think Time Stop is a bit overrated if you're not playing a fighter mage or just a solo arcane caster.

Compared to what? It's second to offensive Chain Contingency cheese, and if I could only cast a single level 9 spell, I'd prefer a Planetar over it, but that's not a long list.

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l would be strongly against such a change for the reasons you state toward the end:

7 hours ago, EmmEnnEff said:
  • It will turn *friendly* time stops cast, by a mage into a huge boon for a player Fighter/Mage - now *your* time stop gives you control over *two* characters, instead of one. If the encounter you are in has no enemy mages (or their contingencies didn't include SI:Alt), this is a huge, completely unwarranted boon for your party.

Besides other reasons, Spell Immunity is already too powerful and I regard it as a bug that multiple schools can be immunized against by stacking it (stuff like Protection from Evil also stacked in the original game, that was confirmed to be an oversight but I believe SI was missed for some reason, no enemy script in vanilla calls for multiple SI's to be stacked). Anyway, the stackability of SI is an assumption baked into SCS AI, that's not going to change.

7 hours ago, EmmEnnEff said:

I've been thinking about this for a bit, now - but I think this would create a more interesting tactical space, when used by players, or enemies.

Problems: Time Stop (when cast by the player) currently produces problematic gameplay.

  • Players generally win when they can bring down PFMW cast by enemy mages. Buffs tick down during time stop. Even casting a Time Stop, and then doing *nothing*  brings you that much closer to that win condition.
  • (This win condition is not symmetrical. My party wins when their mages lose PFMW and get chunked by my fighters in 2/3 seconds. The *enemy* party does not win when *my* mages lose PFMW - because they don't train my mages as aggressively, because I can kite and make space, because they rarely have elemental/poison damage on hit, so PFMW is usually less important for me than it is for them).
  • It's does not create interesting gameplay, when used offensively. You cast Time Stop, and then just free-cast/free-attack completely defenseless enemies, who can't react to anything you do. Hitting target dummies is not peak fun!

The solution for opponents' buffs wearing off during player's Time Stop is to do what SCS already has for "pre-cast" spells, clone silent versions without an associated visual animation of Improved Alacrity, ProMW etc, and apply those by script at end of Time Stop for those spell-casters (all except a few bosses) that aren't immune to TS in order to extend the duration, since Time Stop in recent SCS versions actually summoned an invisible, Time Stop immune creature as part of a shout script thing, it wouldn't be too onerous for the invisible spy to also check for AURACLEANSING (Improved Alacrity) or whatever stat is being used (engine dependent) to detect weapon immunity spells, thus it doesn't even necessitate an extension of mage scripts. On the other hand, the solution for TS being overpowered with TS-melee is to nerf the duration for anyone except single class mages and sorcerers, btb it's supposed to last for 1d3 rounds in 2nd edition, but few would appreciate that randomness, so 3 rounds for single class mages and sorcerer, 2 rounds for cleric mages (dual or multi, don't want to disadvantage Melissan and Sendai too much), 1 round for anyone else would be a good way to break the spell down.

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Posted (edited)

Making sure the enemies' buffs don't wear off during time stop while yours are still ticking definitely goes against the SCS plays fair mantra.

I also don't think it's a bug that you can cast different copies of S.I. on yourself. They are different sub-spells for a reason. I agree it's a very powerful spell, but it's balanced by being a relatively short duration, and all instances of it can be dispelled at once with Spell Thrust, a level 3 spell. If you have Spell Shield it will take 2 Spell Thrusts.

Edited by JDSilvergun
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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, EmmEnnEff said:

Compared to what? It's second to offensive Chain Contingency cheese, and if I could only cast a single level 9 spell, I'd prefer a Planetar over it, but that's not a long list.

Chain Contingency with offensive spells is not cheese. It's a legitimate strat. The A.I. has done it to me too. Fortunately I was prepared for it, but it's not unfair. And yes, Chain Contingency is a better spell than Time Stop. I'd also put Wish above Time Stop for a sorcerer. There have been playthroughs where I didn't even take Time Stop with my sorcerer. It's literally not needed. I'm not saying it's bad. But it is overrated. Fighter mage gets the most value out of it. It's not even close compared to a pure caster.
 

EDIT: Sorry I missed part of what you said. I've not been feeling that great today. Anyway. It was not meant to be an argument. I even said it wasn't an argument. I didn't feel my statement warranted a defense, and I said I would return later to defend my side if anyone actually agreed with you. And I was immediately backed up by the next poster. Time stop is not the end all be all that you think it is. There are many "cheesey" or "overpowered" strats that do not involve Time Stop at all. You picking this hill to die on, then proposing a solution no one has agreed with that would just create more problems and then seeming to get angry at me. This is just getting silly. People decide not do things they think are overpowered in this game all the time if they think it makes the game more fun for them. Some people don't like setting traps with thieves, so they don't do that. You think time stop is overpowered, and you don't have to use it.

Edited by JDSilvergun
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51 minutes ago, JDSilvergun said:

Making sure the enemies' buffs don't wear off during time stop while yours are still ticking definitely goes against the SCS plays fair mantra.

No more so than their contingency conditions which also fire under situations that players can't set, or enemy thieves being able to "backstab" when not actually behind someone.

As the OP noted, being able to wait out buffs under (potentially chained) Time Stops is a tactic utilizable by the player, not the AI. It wouldn't be that much harder to ensure PC's buffs don't wear out either, but it does involve more complexity and background scripts.

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Posted (edited)

Enemy thieves and backstabbing from any side has always been a thing since before SCS, and from what I understand due to scripting limitations the alternative would be worse (as in the enemy wouldn't be guaranteed to be able to utilize their backstabs) , unless something has changed. I could be wrong about this, but it's neither here nor there.

32 minutes ago, polytope said:

No more so than their contingency conditions which also fire under situations that players can't set

In theory this sounds unfair, but have you seen anything that looked like "cheating" in practice, as in actual gameplay? I'm legitimately curious about this.

32 minutes ago, polytope said:

As the OP noted, being able to wait out buffs under (potentially chained) Time Stops is a tactic utilizable by the player, not the AI.

This just isn't even true. Maybe it's not their "intent", but it certainly happens. I've seen Irenicus do it multiple times, both with a regular Time Stop and with the double length Time Stop from Wish as well. Regardless, this is just kind of part of the game. Time Stop has been a wonky spell since day one, and fixpacks and EE never addressed it. This is nothing new. I also do think it's a perfectly reasonable suggestion for the OP to not use Time Stop it's taking the fun out of the game for them. There's a guy who says Improved Haste is overpowered, and he just doesn't use it. He didn't petition for SCS to "fix" it.  I don't like my party members' buffs ticking down during Time Stops, and it's one of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of the spell in general; but if it's "fixed" it should be "fixed" for both sides. I'll cite the other recent complaint about Time Stop, and I think it's reasonable to conclude that the answer will be the same. This very well might not be SCS' job to fix this. I of course can't speak for the creator, but I this seems pretty similar to me.

Edited by JDSilvergun
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I'll agree that for the sake of "fairness" it should be applied to both sides, however, the player still makes better use of it - and it ruins battles where there are multiple high level enemy mages like the Twisted Rune or the SCS version of Odamaron and his helpers in Sendai's enclave. It would be possible to make sure short term buffs don't wear off for anyone during Time Stop, but the scripting is complex and fiddly.

Quote

Time Stop has been a wonky spell since day one, and fixpacks and EE never addressed it.

Fixpacks won't address it because it's hardcoded, it's a shame that EE didn't and instead focused on things like making sure shadow dragon breath permanently drains levels, to standardize it with level draining undead, which was contrary to both the vanilla game and the description of shadow dragons in AD&D.

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The player makes better use out of everything though. If you are high enough level to be casting Time Stop from memory before the Twisted Rune I don't think it's reasonable to expect them to put up a fight. I've only played SCS on Insane lately, and I've been doing that fight in chapter 3 with parties at level 12-14. 

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My point was that in both the Twisted Rune and Odamaron encounters there are more than one enemy mages of above 18th level who can cause each other's protections (plus those of other spellcasters) to expire during their Time Stops, paradoxically making the fight easier, doesn't really matter if the party also has a mage capable of doing it.

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Posted (edited)

I could see that being a thing. I didn't immediately put that together because that has not been my experience, and you said it right after "the player makes better use of it." This made me think you meant a player controlled character was casting Time Stop. I could see that happening though. Although I don't think that's anything new to SCS vs. vanilla. Maybe I've been too fast to shut down Layenne, and that's why I've not seen that. But this is still nothing new. Even if it's just a single lich or a single mage, after their Time stop is done (close to one round casting time and then 3 rounds of "stopped time"), their PFMW, Improved Mantle, etc. is gone, regardless of anything the player does. Having more high level casters doesn't really change that too much.

Edited by JDSilvergun
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While this is an interesting suggestion, it's a sufficiently fundamental change to SCS's mage-combat structure that I wouldn't want to try it without rather extensive playtesting, which I'm not realistically going to have time for in the foreseeable future. (I do agree that the fact that buffs tick down during TS is a major annoyance, though at the game engine level I can see why it's unavoidable.)

12 hours ago, polytope said:

Spell Immunity is already too powerful and I regard it as a bug that multiple schools can be immunized against by stacking it

This has come up from time to time ever since Tactics, but I've never seen the slightest actual evidence, either in game or from any developer, that it's a bug. I agree that no mage in the vanilla game uses multiple Spell Immunities, but that's hardly dispositive given how relatively weak and minimal the original game's AI is - spell immunity itself is hardly used by vanilla-game AI, and the only Spell Immunity used is Evocation.

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