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Pillars of Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
Pillars of Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
73,986 backers pledged $3,986,929 to help bring this project to life.

Update #7 - Non-Combat Abilities with Tim Cain

Posted by Obsidian Entertainment (Creator)

We are over 1.8 million dollars and climbing! I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to make this dream possible, and in return we promise to make you the most amazing game we can. I know you all have asked for more details about the game, so let's talk about non-combat abilities. 

Most role-playing games can be divided into two sets of mechanics: those rules you use in combat and those you don't. For many people, an RPG is really defined by its combat. These people spend most of their time killing things and taking their loot, and leveling up is just a means to kill bigger things and get better loot. But for other people, an RPG is about the elements of the game they experience when not in combat. It's about the NPC's they talk with, the places they travel to, and the choices they make, including the choice to avoid combat altogether. 

Non-Combat Abilities

Let's talk first about your goals as a player, about the things you would like to do besides fighting. Then I'll talk about our design goals and explain how we are putting the non-combat systems together.

Player Goals

When you are not fighting, that's when non-combat abilities come into play. We plan to add abilities that will let you become better at achieving four different non-combat goals.

  • Learning new things. This includes finding out previously unknown information, like the location of town or a hidden door, or uncovering secret knowledge, like a potion recipe or the true name of a demon. Or maybe you just want to know a good place to gather materials like ore or herbs. We will make abilities that let you find things out. 
  • Traveling around the world. You will want to improve your movement capabilities (such as sneaking around some ruins), or traveling across the world map faster or more safely, or even teleporting directly to your destination. And sometimes movement requires removing barriers like locks or traps, so you will need some way to unlock and disarm. We'll add abilities for these actions. 
  • Getting new items. If you are not going to kill a creature to take its things, then we will give you the means to make new items, buy them, or steal them. Or maybe you will choose to support NPC's by bringing them the materials or the recipes needed to make new items for you. We congratulate you on your non-violent and cooperative plans of wealth acquisition, and we'll give you the means to do it. 
  • Interacting with companions. Once we have added many interesting and useful NPC companions, we will have to give you ways to recruit them, improve their usefulness, and keep them from dying (or even worse, disliking you!). We will make non-combat abilities that interact with your companions, so you can keep them alive and filled with a grudging respect for you. 

Now each of these goals represents a whole slew of related non-combat abilities. For example, for player traveling, we could have all kinds of abilities, including stealth and teleport abilities, as well as abilities to make world map travel faster, less likely to have encounters, and able to make use of alternate transportation routes such as over mountains using passes or over water using ships.

Design Goals

In putting together our non-combat system, we have made a list of goals for the design of these skills and the rules they need to follow.

  • Non-combat skills are gained separately from combat skills. You shouldn't have to choose between Magic Missile and Herbalism. They should be separate types of abilities, and you should spend different points to get each one. 
  • Non-combat skills do not use the same resources as combat skills. You don't spend the same stuff for a non-combat skill as you do for combat skills. Some don't use anything at all to use, so you will never find yourself unable to blast an opponent if you get caught sneaking. 
  • All non-combat skills are useful. If we add lockpicking to the game, we will make sure that there are locks to pick and worthwhile rewards for getting past them. 
  • All non-combat skills can be used frequently. If you take disarm traps as a skill, you should expect more than two traps in the entire game world. Frequency of application has a large impact on how useful something is. 
  • Combat can be avoided with non-combat skills. There will often be ways to avoid fighting. Yes, we will have the standard methods of talking your way out of a fight or sneaking around an encounter, but there will be other ways too. Perhaps you can re-sanctify a desecrated cemetery to prevent any further undead from rising, or maybe figuring out a way across a ruined bridge will always avoid the bandits on this side of the river. 
  • Avoiding combat does not lead to less experience gain. You shouldn't go up levels any slower by using your non-combat skills rather than your combat skills. We plan to reward you for your accomplishments, not for your body count. 

We are still in the early design stages, but our plan is for non-combat abilities to make the game as fun and enjoyable outside of combat as it is in the heat of battle.

Thanks for keeping up to date with Project Eternity and stop by the Kickstarter site or the Obsidian Forums for all the latest information.  Next update will be on Monday!

FORUM THREAD: Join the discussion on Update #7!

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    1. Missing avatar

      Julia on

      Thank you for adding skills and leveling abilities for those of us who don't want to run around cracking skulls the whole game! A certain amount is fun, but after a point I just want to see more of the storyline and world - constant enemies to battle can be frustrating. Any future stretch goals out there for more romances/companion side stories? Please, please, please give female avatars the option of a sarcastically funny romantic interest, not just the industry standard whiny paladin/healer!

      Awesome work, and I'm excited to see the final game! I'm checking in from time to time to see what goals you reach. :)

    2. Missing avatar

      Ryan Ulch on

      So I completely misunderstood that the languages were a stretch goal addition and not the entirety of the stretch goal reward. My apologies to the guys at Obsidian, though I'm not sure whether this will be read or not. I just had to say something because I obviously reacted without really knowing the whole story. Keep up the good work!

    3. Vincent Prescious Altieri on

      Static monsters ftw... as much as the whole Skyrim/open world thing is appealing, there should be a point to grinding and getting stronger so you can pwn earlier enemies, and meet greater challenges. A perfect example of the way this was done awesomely IMO is Dark Souls. Open world, yes, but somehow a guided path, with the ability to branch off to do side quests, etc, and not able to reach certain areas or survive in them until you get stronger.

      And most importantly, the combat needs to be strategic, challenging, and FUN, as is such a large part of the game.

      Love what you guys are doing so far.

    4. Tuhalu on

      Your design goals for non-combat abilities sound really good. The worst part of the Elder Scrolls games is "levelling up" from doing non-combat things and then being penalized by having all the enemies get tougher as if you'd been leveling up only your combat skills! Being forced to game the system just to keep up is the complete opposite of what a roleplaying game should be about.

    5. Jordie on

      It would be cool to see an ability to help you ambush an enemy too, to compliment the ones that help you avoid the enemy..

    6. Missing avatar

      Stefan F on

      A house like in Oblivion mate? If Project Eternity is anything near as shallow in any aspect as Oblivion or Skyrim, then I will lose 50% of my faint, faint hope for a GOOD RPG to ever again be made.

    7. Missing avatar

      Lars Møller on

      Nice - the player house has been reached! I know it's probably a silly nesting instinct or something like that, but I love it when a game implements housing correctly! Please heed the lessons from games such as Oblivion (there would almost be no distinctions between the houses you could get and you would have close to no reasons for using them) and Fable. (Sure, you could "upgrade" the houses, and to a very small degree personalise them, but again, there was nothing special about the different houses)

      Imo, the best game so far regarding housing has been Everquest 2. You could use ingame coin to choose between a number of different houses, upgrade the look of the floors and walls, and when you completed certain quests, you would receive a memento (sword, axe or the like) you could put in your house. Also, you could purchase work tables and obtain teleporters and the like, which gave you a reason to return to your house ever so often!

    8. Dracuella, Warden of the Obsidian Order on

      As far as getting items in a non-combat fashion is concerned, why not include some sort of breaker when combat starts that can initiate conversation? I mean, I would like to at least hear the views and opinions of the person I'm about to obliterate so I won't have to kill him for the sake of an item I might have gained otherwise.

      I always thought that, "well, everybody wants -something-" so what if there were a, say, 5 second exclamation mark in red you could (optionally) click or the like to say "whoa, whoa, let's talk about it first before we kill eachother, shall we"? You might then engage in conversation and discover either a) He wants a new shiny for which he would be willing to trade the item of YOUR desire or b) he's still a wanker, let's chop his head off. Now obviously this won't be available in every skirmish but it would be nice to have as a way to 'skip' combat once in a while.

      My alignment is chaotic good and this my desire to not just mindlessly flatten enemies probably stems from that. I really don't want those who love combat for the sake of a good fight to miss out but I also know a lot of people find vast amounts of fighting a waste of time and, especially in the case of second, third of even fourth play-through, down-right boring.

      Just an idea :)

    9. Missing avatar

      Hmm-Hmm. on

      Yes. Just, yes. As an aside, I hope that kickstarter backers can after a while also act as a base for the testing of such systems to see if what they combine into makes more engaging gameplay.

      But yes. Thank you. Thank you so very much.

    10. Malkaven

      Please consider unique non combat skills as well. Like the ability to lie, gain influence, politic. Maybe building up your position in the political realm can influence other adventurers to do necessary tasks.

    11. TremeX73 on

      Honestly, your non-combat goals seem features from a common and current rpg (or mmo). When you speak about non-combat time, I'm hoping something different.
      For istance, avoid a combat with stealth skills is still a combat action. Same for disarm a trap or dialogs.
      Crafting and gathering are actions already seen and, ultimately, they result in something useful in combat again.
      Instead, travel, make relationships, administer a manor(!), acquire lore (laboriously)... this is other than, I'm agree with you.

      In any event I really believe in you!
      Cheers (sry my eng)

    12. Tobi (Crusader Kickstarter pls!!) on

      @Lill - LOL, yeah Fallout 1 & 2 were awesome. good times! i once smashed my intelligence due to massive grug misuse and had very low intelligence. the dialogue options werre awesome. I think my intelligence was so low that all my dialogue-options were: *grunt*

    13. Missing avatar

      Ian on

      This is a great decision. And for those people saying that most players prefer to play the game in the original language, I wouldn't have been able to play the Witcher, Drakensang, or Gothic if there wasn't localization.

    14. Christopher on

      I hope you can get XP in the same way as Planescape where you got XP for figuring things out and doing significant things along with quests. Personally I think you should get XP for killing things, say like 65 xp for killing a zombie and 750 xp for beating a quest for example.

    15. Missing avatar

      Thorongil on

      I hope the tone of dialogue chosen from the beginning will have influence on other character in the same way it did in Alpha Protocol.
      I loved how people could mistake us for a complete fool, or a real professional or a total aggressive nuts, or be at a total lost regarding us, depending on our action and previous dialogues.

    16. Lill-Beate Nymoen on

      Hihihihiih!! I LOVE this update!! sounds more and more like the 2 early fallout games! wich is a good thing! :D i still find the scripting and depth really thought thru and genious in those two games. Like for instance when I played a weak woman who only could take out the boxer in the boxing ring in fallout 2 with kicking him in the groin, and as i finaly got him, he said "you croch kickin bitch!" :D still amazed that it was recogniced that i actually did that :D

      and how they talked generally to a person with low inteligence:
      "you.. go.. there"

      I hope you'll add the depth like that too in this game :D

    17. theAnton on

      This is getting better and better! :D

    18. Jeff Kaplan on

      Tim and crew:
      I have read and watched the update on non-combat. I love the depth you guys are giving the game. I always loved the non combat perks used in Fallout and the D&D style secondary abilities/perks. It really contributes to the whole suspension of disbelief scheme by making a game realistic to the point of immersion. Like Fallout set the bar in being able to go off on non-linear quests, as well as Icewind. The world had background sounds and music that set a mood.
      I can't speak for everyone, but as a veteran and fan of all the folks that make up Obsidian, I have to say I trust in your vision. You guys being gamers first let you have a deeper and wider depth and breadth of vision. Make it happen. Also, make plans now for those expansions and maybe since you're going with Unity, a utility/toolset for players to submit to Obsidian player/fan made expansions! Good hunting!

    19. John Bara on

      This has to be my favorite update from the team so far. I have nothing but faith this project and Tim Cain you are the man, I loved Fallout and Arcanum. Cheers!!

    20. Missing avatar

      Fredrik Lundgren on

      @Dectilon: You bring up a good point. When diplomacy is used it sometimes go to the extreme where you can solve any problem with a smooth mouth. Though I think there should be a non-combat solution to any problem (if just going around the problem) it should not be a simple talk with the bad guy. Talking is one tool but it sometimes need to be combined with other skills to get the outcome your looking for. And sometimes this means being pragmatic which could mean in the end that the good archetype peace keeping paladin has to choice between his honor or using his sword to resolve the situation. Is the hard choices that makes it interesting. Not the easy ones.

    21. Tobi (Crusader Kickstarter pls!!) on

      ok guys, I've put my money where my mouth is and 1. increased my pledge and 2. increased it by 8 more bucks to join the order, woohoo!

    22. Missing avatar

      Stefan F on

      Update 7? LOVing it! Hopefully it goes to serious depth too, it sure sounds like it might.. just might..

    23. Tobi (Crusader Kickstarter pls!!) on

      in addition to my previous post I just want to add: yay for Tim Cain, you da man! I love Fallout (I still exactly remember opening the game box while waiting at the bus station for my bus. the awesome manual... sigh...) and the post-mortem Tim did at the GDC 2012 was also great. I am sooo happy that he's working on this game!!

    24. Missing avatar

      Dectilon on

      I personally hope you thread carefully with the abilities to influence people. Something I've loved in the Witcher games is how people act like individuals rather than puppets for the protagonist. Sure, you can perhaps win an argument, but that doesn't mean you've just solved their personal problems or turned them into loving puppy dogs. Maybe it even makes them hate you more without you knowing it. It's something I feel has been a real weakness in most of bioware's games. You can cure a drug addict with a few words? Dismantle a terrorist group? Change someone's entire outlook on the world? That sort of thing makes the setting weaker in my opinion.

    25. Missing avatar

      Kyle on

      I just want to say, I love your concept for non-combat ability goals and designs. Usually when someone posts information like this, i might love half of it, and not really care about the rest, but everything here sounds absolutely amazing. This post basically addresses most of my complaints about modern day AAA WRPGs.

    26. Missing avatar

      Fersoltil on

      Twelve Gods this sounds so right!
      Waiting for 04/14 is the hardest thing

    27. Song Kim on

      How about adding a peaceful mode with less enemies, less combat items, non-combat companions, and only peaceful quests? That way you don't have to fit in two different games into one mode, or make a dynamic world that changes based on what you choose about the character in the beginning.

    28. Mark Fenrir on

      Wow, really liked the idea of nor receiving XP for combat. This adds a whole new depth to how the game can be enjoyed!

    29. Phillip Haydon on

      I can't wait till the day someone makes another RPG that isn't Level based. Ultima Online was the most fun MMORPG for it's ability to play any role, PvP or PvM or Role Play, and not be limited on where you could go because of some stupid level based system.

    30. Missing avatar

      Nicolas on

      Awesome i love that i can play anyway i like, usually don't like the combat that much roleplaying.

    31. WD - Ordinator of The Obsidian Order on

      I loved almost everything I heard in this update, the only thing I feel unsure of is the lack of XP for killing stuff, I know this won't be a combat heavy game but I'm hardwired to love XP for combat...cannae help it.

    32. Anaeme on

      Fantastic update Tim...I like what I hear. Making all the skills useful, enabling non combat ways of solving quests, etc. very well thought out indeed!

    33. Missing avatar

      sth128 on

      Cain looks like he's got gas. They should include a quest in the game where the hero gets the "gassy" affliction and must search for pepto-bismol or suffer a charisma penalty.

    34. Devin McNaughton on

      Every issue I could think of regarding non-combat abilities was addressed in this update. Shared combat/non-combat point allocation? Nope. XP loss if you avoid combat, even when you're playing as a sneak-thief? Nope. Those two aspects have always frustrated me in RPGs, and I'm ecstatic they're eliminating them both.

    35. Missing avatar

      Matt Nevins on

      This sounds like a good way to do it, straight combat gets really boring after a while.

      One neat idea would be to allow the player to "sacrifice" combat skill in order to advance further in a non-combat skill (but not vice-versa). Say a thief could give up a chance to increment his backstab skill in order to further increase lockpicking or trap disarming more for a given level. This way people could make characters more focused on diplomacy or other activities other than combat. You wouldn't go the other direction of course, or else people would just max out combats and be slaughter happy.

    36. Ardent on

      Great update! Non-combat abilities are crucial for a good RPG. The decision to gain them separately from combat ability is absolutely superb.

    37. Gusanito on

      i really like the Non-Combat Abilities,

    38. Lucas Pierce on

      Finding the true name of a demon.. I REALLY love this idea! Perhaps in order to summon demons/monsters etc you must know their true name? This would make the types and kinds of things you could summon "collectible" in nature, the same way as other loot in the world will hopefully be.

      Also.. procedurally generated items, perhaps (along with unique "fixed" items?) Something to think about.

    39. Antulamatsch on

      Yeah, Non-Combat Abilities ^^

    40. Никому Не on

      Only D&D.
      Nothing except D&D!

    41. Martin Kramer on

      Does this update mean there will be crafting? Like bringing ore to NPCs? I sure hope not. I could live with BG2-style crafting, but everything else is totally unnecessary in my opinion. Aragorn didn't need to gather 17 ore and three pieces of leather to get Narsil back together, so I don't want a DIY-homebuilding simulator in my RPG, but epicness!

    42. Missing avatar

      Tuomo Kontinen on

      I hope, that you wont release stupid 5/10$ dlc.s for this game such as player gear, enemies or player houses. Those are things that always feel like theyv`e been cut from the game so you can sell em for profit later. And that just sucks. But if you decide to make full expansion packs such as f.ex Throne of Bhaal was for Baldurs gate 2. That kind of things im always willing to pay for.

    43. Jen Tonon on

      Yay, a Kingdom of Loathing shirt!

    44. Missing avatar

      Anatoliy Tyukpiekov on

      I am scared to wake up and all this will become just a dream!!!!!

    45. Missing avatar

      Derrek G on

      I appreciate the non-combat approach. For those of us who will elect to fight, just like with lockpicking, there needs to be a good payoff for taking that challenge. The benefit from that challenge would hopefully have some sort of unique reward. Since we don't have exp for the fight it would be either impactful to the social development of the characters, skill advancement, or loot that would specificly help you take on the next challenge.

      I'm not a big fan of random encounters but I feel like a certain risk/reward should be toggled for those of us who are looking for the tactical challenge. When traveling depending on the ease of travel, such as teleportation, there should be some level of risk associated with it. I'm going 1600 miles in a second and geographicly I cross over a magical dense area, maybe I get intercepted by magical creatures who disrupt my stream of travel. I would be ok if there was an option to turn that sort of feature off but if you are causing me to think (Hmmm maybe I should take the carrage vs teleporting) it adds weight to those decision points when traveling the world.

    46. Missing avatar

      Mamali Kosari on

      YES! This is the game I've been waiting for!

    47. Missing avatar

      GoodKnight on

      The best option in my opinion is where you can do both.
      As in disarm the trap and then use it against your enemies (the ones you just avoided)

    48. Wojciech on

      Mr. Cain, it's great to see you making video games again .