The Master’s Affliction
Basic Game Concepts:
Master’s Affliction seeks to find a perfect challenge for veterans of the 4x and RPG genre. It tries to do a better job of fleshing out the nuances of the different game elements into one cohesive game. Over the course of the the beta I desperately hoarded a multitude of wonderful design ideas from users and used them to create a mod that explored the many design possibilities the developers did not choose on their quest for perfection. What we have now is the culmination of those ideas and wants. I will try to explain the philosophies of why things work the way they do in my mod.
Weapon and Armor Balance:
Realism is simply a forlorn goal for Elemental. The game relies on representational visuals and mechanics. It is more akin to experiencing a tale of a great battle, than actually being there. In balancing weapons and armor, game mechanics must lean towards what adds value to tactics and strategy over realism. With that in mind, I have set out to reach near realistic functions of armor and weapons. I rely on realistic costs and the undeniable truth that plate is just a superior armor. But better armor should be difficult to achieve. The resource and wages cost of a full plated knight is rather extreme. There is a serious encumbrance penalty to wearing full plate. It is most often advisable to use a plate breastpiece and chain or leather for the extremities. Of course there are certain races that are capable of more more efficiently crafting this armor. Yet others possess a natural strength that lends their race to being able to wear full plate. There are even some magics and fabled smiths that are capable of breaking the general rule. So with this limitation, we find interesting exceptions for the player to strive towards. To me, that lends to more depth in strategy and better faction differentiation.
Weaponry has been designed to offer a large variety of tactics. There are traits a unit can use to accompany any weapon strategy, but the combination of equipment begins with the weapon choice. Each early game weapon will be cheap. Midgame weapons will have more tactical options, but cost more resources and take longer to train with. Each weapon has a trade off in their ability to do damage, to counter enemy weapons and how often a unit will strike. Many weapons have special abilities when they strike. There are a few basic ways to design an army. You can go for fast striking units, tank and ranged units, or combined melee tactics. Ranges weapons are less effective, but with a decent defense, you can overwhelm their ranged units and pick off their unshielded units. Fast striking units are good for trying to outnumber your enemy early on. A strong use of every weapon type allows for much more flexibility in battle. You will find you have a decent counter to most any strategy. I advise looking at the weapon balance chart I have provided so you can get a general idea of where each weapon’s strength lies.
I found the core game’s hero leveling to be too random and somewhat simplistic. I am a proud role playing gamer and I expect many many choices when leveling my unit. To that end I have made a more comprehensive Path system akin to the dungeons and dragons of yore. The Path Chart shows the basic descriptions of what each Path does. These Paths are mutually exclusive and will provide the majority of power for your hero. Weight capacity is very important to keep an eye on. Only defenders and warriors have the capacity to wear heavier armors. Mages and rogues are better off in leather or magic garb.
The basic concept I went with for city levels is that each new level would be about double the power of the previous level. Choosing a specialization may seem simple, but each of the three options contains many different city strategies. It is generally a good idea to check the surroundings of a city. Take some time and really decide on what resources the city has and how you want to exploit those resources. Essence can be as great for the economy as it is for research, or even unit training. The key to success is calculating at what point a city will be at a given level and how it could best support you overall. Conclaves focus on research, mages and mana. Fortresses train expert soldiers, knights, but also can refine metal more efficiently. Towns are harder to defend, but offer extremely fast growth and the gildar you need to support your armies. No choice will cause you ruin, but a series of good choices can save your skin. It is often a good idea to keep a notepad handy and write down info about each city.
Each tech tree will offer a number of different strategies. Each tier of techs will generally cost twice as much as the ones before it. Keep that in mind when you are choosing whether or not to rush ahead in technology. You will be losing out on other techs that your enemies are programmed to take first. I have tried to make sure no tree requires any techs from a previous tree. At the same time, you will at several points have the option to combine techs from two trees to unlock some inter-tree benefits. From magical armor to Defensive Castles, you will often need to consider whether a one-tree strategy is the right path to victory.
Magic primarily comes from Paths in this mod. Anyone with an affinity for fire magic can cast a fireballl. But it takes a true arcanist to do so efficiently. There are some spells that flow from the Sovereign to any hero he commands. Those are considered common spells. Most spells will come from spellbooks, either elemental or the lost spells of before the Cataclysm. The rest are learned from increasing the level of a given hero.
Advanced Game Concepts:
Beyond that which you have come to expect from the realm of the fallen enchantress, this mod has some more advanced uses of core game concepts. The endgame was in dire need of some attention. I have tried to add some new mechanics and content that makes a path to victory more interesting. Some major game changes: Parties can now upgrade in size, Taxes allow for higher levels, wages force higher tax levels, taxes start at None, heroes choose their path at level 2. There are a great many of small differences that you will notice and hopefully enjoy.
It is very important that you try out every weapon. It may seem like there is a perfect weapon that is much more powerful than everything else. It is called a Mace. But I assure you, there is a counter to that. It is kind of the theme of tactical battles. Maces, for instance weigh 20, have -8 Initiative, but do twice the damage of weapons from that tech tier. So you will do better damage against heavy armor, but you will be very slow. You are an excellent unit to keep on the rear line and move forward only to deal a crushing blow against a strong defender. Shields offer a huge level of protection against ranged weapons. If your enemy is spamming bows or mage staves, get a roundshield and a light weapon. Mounts offer great movement and increased weight capacity. They are superior and there is no counter. But they take forever to train, cost more to upkeep and are fairly limited in number. You won’t be countering 9 groups of knights, but you can train 45 groups of spearmen. In general, a very strong army can defeat a great many weaker ones. But every battle is balanced to have casualties.
Stacks of Doom:
A stack of doom is something I am unable to remove, other than to make it much harder to achieve. I can force the stack to take refuge in cities. I can make sure only the endgame has these. But I can’t mod the AI enough to have it properly counter them. Make sure you play as each faction a few times and create lots of great trained units. This will help the enemy stack doom against you. The other way I control this is by making cities nearly impossible to capture and allowing Fortresses to train higher level troops. A level 5 Fortress can train a unit that starts at level 7 unit. One of the biggest problems in the vanilla game is that once a stack starts leveling, there is no way for other factions to catch up. I have made leveling take much longer and have added levels to newly trained troops. You may be able to get a level 15 stack of knights, but it will take you all game and the enemy will be training units that have a pretty close power level. So, if you are dominating strategically, you can overcome a stack of doom. But you can’t use a single army to take over the whole map without some serious magical mojo. Well, Warlord Verga might be able to...
Countering Heavy Armor and Large Units:
There are several weapons capable of sundering armor and reducing enemy initiative. Axes in general can sunder armor. This effect will reduce enemy armor by 2 points and is more effective against larger groups of units. But armor can armor be reduced to a value of 8. This makes it more effective against stronger armors, and weaker against basic defenses. Hammers are great for reducing enemy initiative by disorienting the enemy with concussive force. As with sundering, the effect is most powerful in a situation where several units are attack a single unit. It allows larger weaker forces to subdue a well armored foe.
Weapons of War:
The highest tier weapons have special battlefield tactics that represent the superior training and craftsmanship of a highly evolved warfare culture. Pikes can organize into a Pike Wall, doing damage to attackers on taking a hit. Longswords have the ability to parry blows for a short time. Finally, greatswords can maul a unit, striking in a flurry of attacks. These abilities make units extremely powerful, but the training cost to use these weapons and the metal required make these weapons cost prohibitive. One or two of them can win a battle for you, but their presence will be markedly rare.
Unit Design Traits:
Unit Design Traits have been reformed to represent training choices associated with the months of training time a unit undergoes. They will cost no additional labor and it is assumed a unit will be designed with at least 3 traits. The variety of traits a unit has available is determined by race, faction traits and special unit types. The idea is that you can train your units to perform specific tactics on the battlefield. You can also design them to counter battlefield tactics. For instance, Charge is a great way to get the first strike in battle. This can weaken your enemy’s front units early on, giving you a tactical advantage. This can be countered by training your front line to prepare for charging attacks. This is emulated by giving them a short duration of extra armor, preventing early damage. The general choice in battle is whether to focus on winning over a long battle or trying to gain early damage and winning by numbers. More variety will be added over time until there is a sufficient level of tactical diversity.
The elemental damages are problematic for game balance. The way I have chosen to handle this is by making bonuses to elemental damage a trade off for elemental resistance. You will be able to get +4 fire damage, but you will also gain 20% weakness to cold damage. There will be no unit that is totally immune to everything as a rule. Of course, that opens the door for exceptions in the form of unique armors and amulets. There will also be some cases where you can become immune to magic, but you will be prevented from having that and excellent armor. Magic is a mistress wrought with guile.
Monsters and Lairs:
Lairs are extremely dangerous in this mod. You will see that each lair will increase in power over time. You need to wipe out even the mite lairs before you are overwhelmed later in the game. Increasing the world difficulty increases the rate at which lairs grow in power. The strongest lairs will be found later in the game where factions have not conquered. Lairs will grow in these areas, making up their own massive armies. Once they are strong enough, they will come for your cities and womenfolk.
Sieges are quite simply impossible in this mod. Cities at level one are easy enough to defeat. Level 2 provides a decent army of defenders. At level 2 each city type will have some different options for defense. You will have to spend valuable construction time on this, so only do it when necessary. Towns will always be the weakest targets. It is often best to sack their towns first and then move on to their Fortresses. Level 3 offers a much stronger army and begins the theme of cities requiring massive efforts to capture. Level 4 and 5 cities have extremely powerful armies. A level 5 Fortress will actually get 2 volleys of light arrows at the start of battle on every enemy unit. This is representative of volleys being fired at approaching troops. I suggest bringing several catapults and mages that can do radius damage to siege cities. Remember that losing the battle means their garrison will be resupplied most of the time for the next battle. Don’t attack until you are sure you can win.
Wildlands are too optional in the vanilla game. I never really have a reason to fight the world, because I can win without it. This is something I plan to change. Spell of making is going to require an artifact from the wildlands. Masterquest will as well. This is still a work in progress, but I want every victory type to see major incentives to take on Wildlands. I will likely have each wildland either offer a spell for city sieges or in the case of Imperium, a massively powerful Citadel that is nearly impossible to capture. I want players to look on at Wildlands with green eyes. On the other hand, trying and failing to defeat a wildland is going to unleash hell on earth. You will often find that the Wildlands are winning the game more often than factions. In fact, there is no longer any boss monster with less than 600Hp and 40 defense. They now deserve the title of boss.
Trained Monsters and Mercenaries:
In general lairs have been increased in power. The units you get will make up a reasonable frontline of wage free soldiers. Conquering a lair is no small task. It is rewarded with several armies of unique units. A troll frontline is excellent to hold off enemies as you pelt them with fire. Ogres are great at countering other powerful beasts. Wildings and Darklings provide large numbers of light infantry. I highly recommend searching out ways to boost the spawn rating of these beasts. You will find their core abilities to increase exponentially.
The best thing you can do to have powerful summons is to start as an Archsummoner. Every hero should be leveled to: Mage-Cleric-Conjurer. From there you will be able to summon creatures that are easily as powerful as an entire army of units. Summoning a Familiar doubles the number of summons for the caster. Beyond that, I am currently working on adding 100 new summons to the game. There will also be special wonders that unlock new summons. Much later, the Ivory Towers Mod will add a new level 2 city specialization called Tower. This will allow the player to specialize as a conjurer faction on an economic level as well.
There are a great many options on the strategic level. Resources are very valuable, but in this mod, securing them is very difficult. You will need to choose where to send your armies very wisely. Make sure you are specializing your cities to take advantage of nearby resources. The choice to train units versus build improvements is a choice of investing in new territory or improving the land you have. Do not assume that more is better. At any given time, a horde could come through your lands and wreck years of expansion. Every nation needs about three cities. Past that, you must decide on the best way to move forward.
I have spent some time increasing the AI’s strategies for technology and spell choice. This is a work in progress, but my AI plays the game much much better than the vanilla version. Make sure you design lots and lots of units at each tech tier to start off. This will greatly help the AI. Of course, as Fb increases the vanilla AI’s intelligence, that will transfer over to this mod. Please, if you see the AI do something really dumb, mention it and I will add it to my notes for the next AI update.
You can win the game, but this mod focuses moreso on making that a rare occurance. I will be continually adding new ways to win, new masterquests, new diplomatic masterquests, and other things that affect the endgame. Expect to lose alot before you win a game. One thing I suggest is going after Spell of Making before I make it impossible. Then click the choice to continue playing after your win. You might notice that your Sov has become a god. Enjoy crushing the ants at your feet that were just last season threatening your very existence. Things like that add value to my game. I hope you like them too.
Faction Type Strategies:
I want each faction type and individual faction to have a unique series of strategies. Kingdoms have more incentives to build towns. This means they will have more opportunities to get Influence. In the late game they can build the Labor Guild, which greatly increases the production of one city. Overall, a good Kingdom build will have mostly Towns and a single Fortress and Conclave. There are of course exceptions, but the overall incentives push the player in this general direction. Kingdoms have more opportunities from many Towns to grow larger cities and do so much faster. They can build epic tank units from Towns. There are also more opportunities for Kingdoms to reduce Unrest, leading to higher taxes and more units. This should be the main goal by the midgame for a Kingdom player. Kingdoms get a bonus to diplomacy, but cannot attack a fellow Kingdom without causing total war.
Empires play much the same on a basic level early on. By the midgame, the player should be moving towards slave exploitation. This means getting Slavers District (Slave Pen sounds too small) and Slavers Bazaar. The strategic situation of your Empire will vary how successful this will be for you. In general, getting your greatest producer cities all in line as slave cities will allow you to move your tax level up to higher levels than Kingdoms with few penalties. The increased income, along with the Black Market, allow for a very solid rush buy ability. You will also be able to afford excellent gear for champions. The major problem with managing this type of economy is adding new cities. Much of your income will go towards rushing a new city up to a slaver city. As stated, not every Empire needs to use this strategy, but there are more incentives to do so. In general an Empire will have a very all of one type city specialization. From Yithril only using Fortresses to Resoln specializing in Conclaves, no Empire will play much like any other. Empires tend to be slightly stronger, but are more easily pushed into large wars.