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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 #39: Non-Core Classes, Cooldowns, Attack Resolution, Damage vs. Armor and a Tileset!

Posted by Obsidian Entertainment (Creator)
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Hail, elves. It's been a while since we've had a mechanics update, so I'd like to cover a variety of topics today: the basics of our "non-core" classes, our cooldown system (or lack thereof), an update on how attacks are resolved, and another update on the evolution of our armor system. I'd also like to show you a dungeon tileset test render and some sweet shakycam of some of the combat basics running in engine.

Non-Core Classes

We've previously discussed the design of our "core four" classes: fighter, priest, rogue, and wizard. The non-core classes are the other seven: barbarian, paladin, ranger, druid, monk, chanter, and cipher. Like the core four classes, the non-core classes all start the game with two active or modal abilities and one passive ability.

When it comes to the balance of active/modal and passive options, the classes generally reflect their D&D counterparts, with spellcasters having more active use abilities and weapon-based classes being oriented toward more passive or modal abilities. Even so, it will be possible to push a spellcaster toward more passive talents and to optionally buy more active/modal abilities for traditionally low-maintenance characters. While all classes will have many more abilities as they advance, here are some basic elements for each of the seven classes.

  • Barbarians can use Wild Sprint a limited number of times per day, allowing them to rapidly rush across the battlefield to a distant target while ignoring hazards along the way.
  • Paladins have limited healing capabilities, but their Revive command allows them to instantly snap an unconscious ally awake with a large Stamina boost.
  • Rangers' animal companions are so closely bonded to their masters that they share Stamina and Health pools, which can be both a blessing and a curse.
  • Druids can Shapeshift into animal forms, gaining natural -- and some supernatural -- abilities associated with those creatures.
  • Monks absorb a portion of incoming damage and convert it into a Wounds resource they can use to power their soul-based abilities (such as Stunning Blows) through any weapons they use, including unarmed strikes.
  • Chanters begin the game with a number of phrases they can arrange to form songs with different effects. Aefyllath Ues Mith Fyr is a phrase that causes allies' weapons to emit magical flames.
  • Cipher powers often gain intensity as they maintain focus. Their basic Mind Jab starts as a minor irritant but can build to inflict devastating damage.


Early on, some folks asked about cooldowns and both Tim and I agreed that we weren't opposed to using them in some form if it made sense for our mechanics. To be more explicit about it, the only way in which we are currently using anything cooldown-like is for per-encounter and per-rest abilities. Per-encounter abilities can be used a number of times in an encounter and are then disabled until combat ends. Per-rest abilities can be used a number of times after resting before you must rest to recover them. We've previously discussed grimoire-switching for wizards possibly invoking a cooldown. It's more likely that grimoire-switching will be limited through the inventory system and not by a cooldown.

We also have modal abilities that can be turned on and off at will, with some abilities being exclusive to others, meaning you can only have one active at a time.

Attack Resolution

I've talked about this a bunch on the forums, but not in an update. All attacks in Project Eternity compare the attacker's Accuracy value to one of four defenses: Deflection (direct melee and ranged attacks), Fortitude (body system attacks like poison and disease), Reflexes (area of effect damage attacks), and Willpower (mental attacks).

A number between 1 and 100 is generated to determine the attack rules. If the Accuracy and target defense are the same value, these are how the results break down:

  • 01-05 = Miss
  • 06-50 = Graze
  • 51-95 = Hit
  • 96-100 = Critical Hit

A Hit is the standard damage and duration effects, a Graze is 50% minimum damage or duration, a Critical Hit is 150% maximum damage or duration, and a Miss has no effect. In a balanced Attack and defense scenario, the majority of attacks wind up being Hits or Grazes. If the Accuracy and defense values are out of balance, the windows for each result shift accordingly, while always allowing for the possibility of a Graze or a Hit at the extreme ends of the spectrum.

Damage Type vs. Armor Type

We've previously talked about how different weapon damage types (Slash, Crush, and Pierce) fare against Damage Threshold (DT) in the game. We implemented that system and found that while it worked well on paper and scaled well, it was unintuitive when put into the game. It was not possible for players to make informed decisions about what weapons to use against a given armor type because doing so required making relative damage vs. DT calculations for all weapon types, i.e. having a spreadsheet open for comparison at all times.

In light of this, we are going to try a more explicit damage type vs. armor type model where armor, regardless of its DT, has a familiar weight classification: Light, Medium, and Heavy. Damage types are either good or bad against a given weight classification. When a damage type is "bad" against an armor type, it does half damage before DT is applied, making it very inefficient. Within the "good" types of damage, there's still an efficiency curve against DT for meticulous players to figure out, but it has less impact than avoiding "bad" damage types in the first place.

Energy-based attacks (like most spells) oppose a different characteristic of the armor, its substance type (Natural, Armor, or Spirit) and like damage types, have good and bad opposition characteristics. Weapon bonus damage that is energy-based is applied to the target separately, but at a fractional DT value matching the bonus damage. E.g. if a sword has a fire effect that does +15% the sword's damage, it is opposed by 15% of the target's Damage Threshold.

Tileset Trials and Tribulations

Link to Larger Version

Environment artist Sean Dunny has been experimenting with building tilesets for our dungeons. "Tilesets?!" you may be saying (or thinking). It may be a surprise, but many Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment levels started from a tileset or modular unit base. We use these tilesets to generate basic renders for testing layout, navigation, and combat. Once we like the basic layout, we refine it by adding additional "meta" (special) tiles, modifying the tiles individually in the layout, adding lights, and of course having an artist do a 2D touchup pass.

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading!

Update by Josh Sawyer

FORUMS: Discuss this update on our forums!

Dmitry Eliseev likes this update.


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    1. Missing avatar

      Lywald on

      I like everything that's been said in this update, especially making "armor type vs damage type" more important, it's going to be immersive. Also the class concepts seem well defined. Just hope you can make druid shapeshifting interesting. In BG2/NWN (or even Diablo 2) shapeshifting looked nice but I don't remember cool special abilities. For example having Web/Cocoon abilities in spider form, wolf Howl/Stealth, ect... I think it's better to have fewer forms but which are more immersive and add Active Abilities, not *just* a change of appearance, nor *just* adding a bunch of passive stuff. I don't even play druids but it'd be nice if they weren't neglected for once! Thanks and keep up the good work

    2. JC Stefansson on

      Personally, I'd like to see a Shadowrun 4E like system for the casters, where they can theoretically cast forever, but it starts stacking up subdual damage.

    3. When I do, you won't know. on

      @SGollasch amen. some people want to play a game with all kinds of shit like a calculator, spreadsheet, top ramen hat... I like games that make you think but games that go too far take away the immersion factor for me. Maybe this update is for people who calculate their taxes based on the thickness of air, ambient air temperature and if wally saw his shadow.

    4. When I do, you won't know. on

      No disrespect meant. Not the update I expected but then again maybe this game isn't for me. Not exciting at all. We'll leave it at that I guess...

    5. Missing avatar

      Quantomas on

      For a more intuitive combat system, instead of altering the mechanics, you may alternatively add an intelligent UI overlay, that tells the player what effects to expect for their character.

    6. Vladimir Lenin on

      Only one thing can cure unintuitivity of any system in game without: proper UI. For example, you can print a string "Change your fork to a real weapon, dumbass!" in battle log.
      Complexity of game mechanics in computer games is a good thing, players need to use these things on their shoulders.
      By the way, per-encounter cancer of 4e needs to cured. Numbers-per-day or simple mana systems or are good for roleplay: you have limits of your powers, you need to rest. Per-encounter system is some strange form of "Fuck you! It's a game!" reminder.

    7. Silver on

      Great update! I like the idea of damage type vs. armor type, it's definitely a lot more intuitive than the previous version of the system. The "cooldowns" are shaping out nicely too, I'm perfectly fine with this plan (I was opposed to the individual ability CDs per use).

    8. Missing avatar

      Henri S on

      Great update, just wondering where is the " sweet shakycam of some of the combat basics running in engine" you mention in the beginning of the post?

    9. McDrake on

      Thanks for all the updates!

    10. cichy on

      Great update. Can't wait to play the game. the way Josh, I think you need a new calendar on that wall, it's 2013 ;)

    11. Missing avatar

      Cutter on

      Tilesets make me happier than a pig in poo! Show us more assets!

    12. Igor Kaplounenko on

      You had me at "cooldown system (or lack thereof)". I loathe that usually inappropriate mechanic with a passion!

      Please tell me though that the ability names "Wild Sprint" and "Mind Jab" aren't final. (:

    13. Kage Tempest on

      When all is said and done, I hope that the abilities/spell portion of combat does not become as simplified 4th edition dnd. It may be easier to comprehend and may appeal to players that don't want to put forth the effort to learn a more complicated system (aka casuals), but in the end, it would be more of a disappointment to players that seek to learn the complicated mechanics and the nuances of how each class work.

      I know game development isn't easy, much less creating a whole new world in itself, and I also realize that sacrifices have to be made to move the project forward, but I hope Project Eternity will still be recognizable as a true CRPG by CRPG enthusiasts by the time the game is released under a different title.

      Personally though, a lot of the changes do make sense, and I know that you have probably only just scratched the surface, or perhaps only hit the bedrock of how these systems truly work instead of getting to the meaty nugget of the core. The rest system reminds me of Neverwinter Nights and brings back fond memories of cheesing the game and having my level 9 spells available for nearly every single encounter.... Its good to know you guys will literally have abilities that only are restored from resting and will have per day abilities separate from encounters and rests respectively.

    14. Jalister on

      It's nice to see paladins are still in the game.

    15. twincast ~ Mangy WoOS-DOoD Mage

      Meh, I loved the prior damage vs. armor system, like this one and sure hope it doesn't get simplified further.

      And Vancian Lite? Well, at least I won't have to deal with full-blown Vancian or actual cool-downs. I really like that fatigue-based system somebody kept promoting on the boards, though. Quite a shame.

    16. Peter "araziel" Cruickshanks

      Really like all the ideas thus far. Especially the fact that armors/weapon type are taken into account. Always been a pet peeve of mine when games let you mess up someone in full plate with a scimitar, just makes no sense.

    17. Humberto Freire L. on

      all is cool! keep going.. (Tileset video is soo close i can feel it!)

    18. pclabtech on

      Yea I kind of agree on the "per rest" argument. I watched my wife get through NWN and NWN2 because after each battle she would "rest" so she could have her abilities back. Her pack ended up with so many healing potions because there was no need to use them when you could just "rest" between battles.

    19. Jalister on

      Great update. I really like the look of the tileset image. I'm starting to wish I could throw more money at this.

    20. gandalf.nho

      Great update

    21. Céline .S. Sauvé on

      "If the Accuracy and defense values are out of balance, the windows for each result shift accordingly, while always allowing for the possibility of a Graze or a Hit at the extreme ends of the spectrum."

      Hit you mean there was a possibility of a Miss or a Critical Hit at either end of the spectrum? Or that a character with a really high Accuracy would at worst Graze and someone with a really bad Accuracy would at best Hit?

    22. Kevin B. on

      The damage/amor type and attack resolution mechanics sound very neat. I especially like the "Graze" hits.

    23. Missing avatar

      David Holmin on

      Sounds like you're on a good track!

    24. Missing avatar

      Mloren - Obsidian Order on

      the weapon vs armor mechanic still seems way too complicated.

    25. Mohd Syafiq Bin Jabaruddin on

      I hope all these classes can affect your dialogue options with the characters and environments, like in Neverwinter Nights 2 and its expansion. Like if there's a mission where you investigate cattle mutilations, rangers can identify if there's an animal involved, and a magic class can attempt to use a divination spell, and both these methods will give different results that lead you in different directions.

      Even better if the classes have unique non-combat abilities that can be used outside of dialogues. For example, if druids can use their animal form to detect scent trails you can follow in the game world.

    26. Missing avatar

      Wright Johnson

      This is sounding cooler and cooler.

      I particularly like that most hits will do some form of damage. Far and away the worst thing about the IE games was the potentially ridiculous amount of misses in any given melee battle; it works for PnP, but in a video game, it translates to two tiny dudes waving sticks at each other for ages until you start checking your watch. There's no nail-biting moment where all the players pray the DM's dice are kind, because there are no other players. It's just you and the homunculi onscreen, and when they miss each other far more than seems possible, you become a frustrated corner man at the most boring boxing match ever.

      The fact that the little dudes were prerendered sprites in the IE games made it even worse. A fight in a movie where the hero dodges a bunch of the villain's attacks can be cool, because there are other visually interesting elements at play to spice up the scene - props being destroyed by errant blows, for example. I mention this not because I think video games should be like movies, but to point out that the fight that goes on in players' imaginations in any standard PnP donnybrook is just as vivid, if not moreso. The imagination has no budgetary limitations, after all. In the IE games, and BG1 in particular, it doesn't look even mildly interesting, because it's just the same few canned animations over and over again. While the number of animations the sprites had were a fine literal representation of the *rules* of D&D, they were not a very good representation of a D&D fight as it's actually experienced by a D&D player in the moment.

      When I roll a nat 20 on a melee attack, for example, I understand intellectually that I've been granted an automatic hit and possible critical, but the part of my brain that's thinking about the encounter as a visual narrative of events quickly constructs an image of a snarling kobold being sliced lengthwise across the chest by my mighty dagger and screeching, at which point my character quips that the kobold's breath is terrible. In the IE games, it's just hit ---> miss ---> hit ---> miss ---> miss ---> miss ---> miss ---> et cetera, ad infinitum.

      Granted, if you played a spellcaster in the IE games, it was a little better. But on the whole, it gave the combat an air of stiff unreality. Considering that those games were and are pinnacles of the genre in most other respects, the limp moment-to-moment combat has always stuck out like a sore thumb, and any modern spiritual successor like PE should address the issue head-on. I understand that my imagination's production budget will always be higher than yours, but I'm excited that the 3D models will allow you to vary the animations enough that I can fill in the details in my head.

      ...Wow, I didn't mean to turn this into a long ranty thing, but I suppose I did. Oh well - if anything in this sea of blather has helped you guys in any way, I've done my job. ;)

      Can't wait for the game! :D

    27. Jonathon Gorlinsky on

      just because a system does not work well in a pen & paper game doesn't mean it won't work in a video game. Besides, the "per rest" & "per encounter" abilities were far from the worst thing about 4th edition.

    28. Brad Dobberfuhl on

      I really like the attack resolutions. Those percentages and results are perfect.

    29. Cipher- Weaver of lost dreams on

      Awesome update, I'm very happy with how things are looking in game.

    30. Josh on

      It sure would be awesome if you guys made it possible for use mere mortals to utilize those tile sets to make our own content once the game is released. I think Project Eternity could be an amazing place for community driven content from even the most tech challenged people (like myself).

    31. DaFriggenJedMan on

      "per rest" "per encounter" powers?

      Ugh, 4th ed.

    32. Don Reba on

      Is Art Supply Warehouse a project sponsor now?

    33. Zachary Sylvain on

      Are you planning any mechanics to discourage abusing the rest system to keep up the stock of per-rest abilities? I like having the option to have limited-use but fun/awesome powers, but I hate how it ends up getting turned into the fifteen minute adventuring day.

    34. Missing avatar

      J on

      I hope you can somehow make the Druid's shapeshift viable on a regular basis. In BG/IWD/NWN, at the lower levels, there wasn't really any need to shapeshift at all, except to change into a brown bear and run into a corner and hide when hp is low. It got a little better at higher levels with elemental forms and natural spell, but usually by that time the druid's equipment provides far better benefits than the shapes.

    35. pclabtech on

      Love the way you are combining D&D 4.0 "one time / per encounter until you rest" with the 3.5 and 3.0 rule set. I wonder how that will settle with my button mashing wife who thinks she can defeat the enemy if she mashes all of the keys on the keyboard and hopes for the best.

      Nice update (audio is out of sync)

    36. Mele on

      Great update !

    37. Bryy Miller on

      Audio seems to be screwy for this update.