Should Neverwinter Substantially Rework the Paragon Path System?

The devs like to say that balancing is a process that never stops. That’s not entirely true however for Neverwinter, a game that doesn’t seem to have a developer exclusively working balance all the time. Balancing passes are more like bigger projects that happen once every three to four modules. And even then it’s usually only one developer having to deal with figuring out and improving the dynamics of no less than 48 combinations of classes, paragons, and feat paths. Of course the whole (systems) team gives feedback, but Module 15 once again showed how these tasks really push the devs to their limits. This time around Cryptic wasn’t able to include all changes in Neverwinter’s Heart of Fire, and instead had to schedule a second phase of the balancing process for Module 16. And that was even before the guy working on the project decided to leave the studio.

So yeah, it’s kind of a mess. I mean it works, but you can’t avoid to think that the current size of the team might not allow to balance all classes equally, much less in timely fashion. That’s why I’d like to pitch what some might be hot-ish take. Why not substantially rework the paragon path system?

Let’s Rework Paragon Paths

Some of the current balancing struggles are rooted in the fact that paragon paths are not distinctive enough. In fact, the feat paths largely decide a toon’s tole on a team. This means that paragons compete with each other all the time instead of offering true choices. They are almost redundant. And that’s what players do actually complain about when it comes to balancing. They expect to have choices when in reality there’s only one viable build most of the time. This is not a recent development but has been an issue ever since. So I do believe it’s time to cut down on options instead of trying to find ways to make it all work.

What got me thinking is how the Oathbound Paladin is set up. I really like that the paragon path gives a boost in one major area. This defines the overall play style (tank or healer) while the feat paths refine a much smaller niche (buff, survivability, …).

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I believe this is a great concept for all classes. Why not let paragon paths be that one big tone setter to start with. Control Wizards could choose between buffing and DPS, Trickster Rogues between stealth and melee combat, Devoted Clerics between buffing/support and healing, etc. The key to this approach would be that you can’t have both. So if you’re choosing DPS on a CW, you cannot buff at all and vice versa. This of course would mean that all classes, just like the Oathbound Paladin, get additional effects on (some of) their powers based on the path they choose.

Feat Tree Adjustments

The feat trees would need to get adjusted as well. If you’re picking tank vs. utility with your paragon path already, it doesn’t make tons of sense to include the same aspects in your feats as well. The goal is to add a secondary layer to your build. You’re always your paragon first, but then can add an additional element like control, survivability, or single target potency. Take Hunter Rangers as another example. Players would like to freely choose ranged and melee combat and not just base it off what’s currently performing better. Well guess what, let’s make that choice a paragon path!

I think those distinct choices are necessary. What you’re doing when coming up with builds is looking for that one best combination anyway. So the game might as well just tell you where to look. This doesn’t change the fact that some builds might be more viable within a meta, but at least you don’t have to make sure that two paragon paths are equally powerful in the same role. In my opinion that’s much easier to balance. In case you feel like a class needs some more DPS, you either tweak the paragon boost or one of the feat paths. You don’t have to be aware any longer what it potentially does to other paragon/feat combinations.

Scratching Additional Feats and Powers

Despite the fact that the devs would have much less dynamics to be aware of, I would additionally get rid of different powers and feats. Just have one set for all builds. Powers then get that extra paragon effects, but feats stay the same all the time. This takes away some build options from players, but to be honest the current system only offers variety in theory anyway. Practically, only a fraction of powers and feats are actually used. Many paragon/feat combinations try to achieve the same thing and in the end one is best in DPS (or whatever), and the rest gets ignored. So I envision this as defining the purpose of paths more clearly. The full layout could look like this:

ClassParagonFeat
Control WizardDPSBuffSurvivabilityControlAoE Focus
Devoted ClericHealingBuffAoE FocusSingle Target FocusSolo DPS
Guardian FighterTankUtilityThreatSurvivabilitySolo DPS
Great Weapon FighterSingle TargetAoESurvivabilityUtilityAgility
Hunter RangerArcheryMeleeDPSBuffControl
Oathbound PaladinHealingTankSurvivabilitySolo DPSBuff
Scourge WarlockDPSBuffSurvivabilitySingle Target FocusAgility
Trickster RogueStealthMeleeAoE FocusControlSingle Target Focus

I don’t think this is perfect, but I guess you get the overall idea. The paragon gives a big boost that defines the play style and role. Feat trees in the meantime refine much smaller aspects. A Guardian Fighter or Oathbound Paladin that choose to be tanks for example shouldn’t be able to equally hold their own with just the “survivability” feats.

Might Be Too Difficult to Pull Off

I think this is a great way to both give paragon and feat trees a necessary distinction as well as making it easier for the devs to balance classes going forward. Unfortunately the concept might still be a pipe dream, because it takes substantial amount of time and effort to rework the current system into the proposed one. It’s possible, but I’m fairly certain it’s not something the devs are thrilled about. If at all, this would be a long-term project.

I also haven’t researched whether this version of paragon and feat paths is even possible under D&D 4th edition rules. I’m discussing Neverwinter the MMO here, and not Neverwinter the D&D system. We know Wizards of the Coast has a say in all of these things. And in case it messes with their rules too much, it may never get a green light.

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It was nonetheless fun thinking about how to simplify the paragon system and first and foremost avoid competition between different paths and combinations. I’d love to hear what you think about it. Do you agree or do you think the game’s current approach is better? Share your thoughts and experience on our social channels, in the comments below, or visit our message board!


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j0Shi

j0Shi

j0Shi plays the Neverwinter MMORPG since the open BETA in 2013 and is a regular contributor to the blog and the whole UN:Project. Originally a Guardian Fighter, he has built up ALTs of all classes and plays on BIS/near-BIS level.

13 thoughts on “Should Neverwinter Substantially Rework the Paragon Path System?

  • December 13, 2018 at 8:16 am
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    Pretty cool idea. Sometimes you wanna play a different role or playstyle but if you don’t run the best path it just feels terrible.

    On a side note, “healing” as a role is basically pointless, since in current content you either get one shot or you just sustain yourself through life steal, so I would preffer the DC paths to be DPS and Buff

    Reply
  • December 13, 2018 at 9:39 am
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    It’s indeed actually obvious that “real path choices” are Feats Trees and not the Parangons.

    The simple-stupid-solution whould be to switch both (Parangon/Feat Trees).

    But trying to do that will not be simple and will not change the original problem :
    –> Powers/Feats/Actions/etc in D&D are unique/discrete, with that it’s fundamentally impossible to create any good balancing (especially synergizing asymetrical balacing involving a team of Roles).

    A (quasi) continuous theory able to link all concepts is mandatory to achive any lasting balance.

    Actually it’s a bloody (bugged) mess: Damages (Single target, Multi Target, DoT, …), Criticals (Change & Efficiency), CA, Buffs, Debuff, Defence, Penetration, Life, Recorvery, Dodging, Life stealing, …

    Reply
  • December 13, 2018 at 10:32 am
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    One question: what would be the utility role of GFs?

    I would sincerely like to see the return of crowd control. Unfortunately CC fell victim to Cryptic’s “jerfing” a few year’s ago. It was overpowered, they completely killed it by making epic enemies so resistant that they’re pretty much immune. Why not bring that slider back just a tad to make CC relevant again? Then CW could be DPS or CC, depending on the loadout. It would make them desirable in addition to other support classes because they would be unique.

    Reply
    • j0Shi
      December 15, 2018 at 1:34 am
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      I honestly haven’t put as much thought into how the paragon roles of classes would look like. A GF already has many intercepting and reflecting skills that would fit the theme. I agree on CC, but as said this is more about adding distinction between paths. To make all viable the content has to change as well of course.

      Reply
  • December 13, 2018 at 10:49 am
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    Perhaps a reduction in the number of paragon paths from three to two. For instance, for the CW Spellstorm could be the DPS path and the paragon be either AOE or Single target. Then Master Of Flame could be utility and the paragon either buff or (actually useful) control. This would help increase the difference between the various paths and make it more likely to buy load outs so a boost to craptics income.

    Reply
    • December 13, 2018 at 11:51 am
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      That might be a good idea, if they combined the best of all three into two, although that might not be so good for the OP. I actually like the idea that the two Paragons should be as obviously distinctive as the OP Paragons. And yet, even within those there are only two or three sub-builds, and they are usually variants of 5:3 Justice:Light or 5:3 Light:Justice. I don’t think any end-gamers are Bulwark.

      With two Paragons per class, and the three Paragon Feat Trees, there are effectively 6 possible combinations per class, with very many sub-variants, EG Renegade/Thaum with Spell Twisting vs Diamond Feather’s Renegade/Thaum without Spell Twisting.

      EG, GF IV and GF SM, with the three Trees, Conqueror, Protector and Tactician. This is meant to be dps, defence and buff, but hardly anyone plays Protector.

      Maybe if they gave:
      Tactician the full Defence of the GF and better buffs,
      Protector double the Defence and better enemy debuffs
      Conqueror half the Defence and keep the dps as it is.

      The differences between any two Paragons are just 3 Class Features, 1 Encounter, 1 Daily and 1 At Will, and one 2nd Tier Feat from the Paragon Feat trees. That doesn’t really allow for much variation. And hardly anyone makes full use of it, anyway. I do tend to go for the At Will or a Class Feature or the daily.

      EG, I prefer the gap-closer of the IV’s Threatening Rush to the tedious sweep of Weapon Master’s Strike, but I love Steel Grace and the speed bonus of Swordmaster.

      AC DC Righteous/Virtuous has Blessing of Battle and AA, DO Righteous/Faithful has the DoT of Brand of the Sun and Terrifying Insight and so on. I have a Virtuous/Righteous as well, but no one really needs her.

      But whatever they do, someone will find a combination that beats another build by 1.2% damage in ACT logs and that will become the new meta.

      🙂

      Reply
  • December 13, 2018 at 9:41 pm
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    i find paragons a bit challenging because powers seem to contribute more to your “style” of play than paragons. Not completely but at least more so. An effort to modify paragons is for not if the other paragons do not have value in party. As discussed before there is no separation in dps types in terms of contribution. No content favors aoe classes (cw) over pure dps (gwf). Similarly no content favors ranged (sw, hr, cw) over melee (hr, tr, gwf). So some changes would need to happen outside of the paragon changes to make the options worth playing, else everyone will still got with the one trusted build.

    i’d like to see the powers have meaning, not just removed. If you look at DC, most of the powers have a specific function. They just aren’t meaningful in the current system. Granted i find more utility in DC powers than most other classes.

    Another big challenge with balancing is that not all classes benefit equally from changes. Ex. gwf benefits more from enchants that have damage based off of weapon damage (because gwf weapon damage is higher than other classes). So even if they get things balanced, the first time they increase weapon damage we go all out of whack again. Which means attempts at balancing will always fail because its a moving target.

    I would put the feat trees maybe toward roles. Ex. a GWF should be able to step in as an off tank (although that role is not really necessary in the current game mechanics). Which i think that is what iron vanguard was supposed to be. Where maybe you end up with a matrix of Iron Vanguard Sentinel as most tanky all the way to glass cannon of Swordmaster Destroyer. Of course that means in high end groups all gwf would ever play is Swordmaster Destroyer and at lower ilvls or in solo play may take some more tanky options.

    I’m not sure that same logic applies to OP as well since their paragons have two totally separate functions.

    Another thought experiment would be in making the paragons have influence toward your alignment. Ex dark magic vs light magic. Similar to how CW has fire for storm.

    Maybe each class will have to be done a bit differently.

    Either way its a good thought experiment… that I hope cryptic has done and on a white board somewhere has a map to which thought experiment won their debate.

    Reply
  • December 15, 2018 at 2:40 pm
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    This is a horrible idea and makes me think you want NWO to shut down. This kind of change would kill the game. The Paragons Paths are fine the way they are currently. The issue with balancing is not PVE it is because of PVP. PVP has an overall negative impact on NWO and specifically PVE.

    Reply
    • j0Shi
      December 15, 2018 at 2:59 pm
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      I think different paragons could also help with separating PVE and PVP. If you introduce a PVP paragon that grants the “Tenacity” resistance bonuses, you would basically have an independent set of powers for PVP only. Tweaking that paragon has little to no effect for PVE. Who says no?

      Reply
      • December 16, 2018 at 2:31 am
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        that’s kind of how DC was pre-mod 6. AC was pretty much PVP focused and DO was pretty much PVE. It had been that way since AC was introduced as a paragon.in module 2

        Reply
        • December 16, 2018 at 4:39 am
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          That’s interesting, Putz, as I found the opposite. I was always much more comfortable with my AC DC as a party buffer, whereas my DO DC was much better solo and in PvP.

          I did come across a Halfling Virtuous/Faithful with a Valhalla set that was almost completely immortal in PvP, which may be what triggered the Astral Shield nerf and HG cooldown in the first place. Maybe I was just doing it wrong with Righteous/Virtuous AC in PvP? But I stopped doing PvP almost completely around Mod 7.

          Reply
  • December 17, 2018 at 7:51 am
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    I seen something discussed like this on the forums already. I agree that the paragon path should determine role as the game already uses this feature for OP and would be easy to implement compared to other measures. I have a feeling we may see something like this come mod 16. I feel mod 15 class changes was a slight move in this direction.

    Here is how I view each class and its probable roles will be in mod 16.

    I think any tank or healer role will still provide some buffs/debuff and come mod 16 a new role buffer/debuffer will be added with the highest % of buffing. This means any tank or DC will have their buffing abilities reduced in mod 16. This is just my thought on what is to come in mod 16.

    DC: Healer / DPS
    CW: DPS / Buffer
    OP: No change
    GWF: DPS / Tank
    GF: Tank / DPS
    TR: Buffer / DPS
    HR: Buffer / DPS
    SW: Healer / DPS

    Tanks: OP, GWF, GF
    Healers: OP, DC, SW
    Buffers: HR, TR, CW
    DPS: All classes but OP.

    As for feats, simply removing a path that focuses to much on one aspect of the build will help direct how each role is built. So instead of three feat paths to use for a build we would be limited to two based on the paragon path selected.

    Reply
  • December 20, 2018 at 1:59 am
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    > Great Weapon Fighter Single Target AoE

    Are you serious? This would require change of loadout before each boss and after each boss. With current loadout change in campfire only, this would be a hell and will delay runs in dungeons like CN where one sometime need to track back to campfire quite a lot.

    Currently, there is no problem to create a GWF build that is good at both.

    I would rather elminate difference between Single Target and AoE builds for each class as it is very annoying for classes that require it. And I’m switching only before the last boss, because changing in the middle of the dungeon will delay the group. I really do not understand why I cannot change loadout at any time when not in the combat.

    If there a choice needed, create a good GWF tank paragon path.

    Reply

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