Shifter Feedback

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Shifter Feedback

Post by Aradin » Wed Sep 22, 2021 8:04 pm

I remember some time ago Garrbear mentioned there was potentially going to be some kind of shifter overhaul in the next x time, so I figured I'd get my feedback in now for if and when that does happen.
I recently finished leveling my shifter from 1 - 30 (and like the masochist I am I did it without taking writs) and I wanted to offer my thoughts on the class as a whole as well as critiques of each specific form; specifically, how each of those forms plays out in the Arelith setting. Here we go!

1) Overall Experience
2) Form Critiques
3) Notes & Suggestions

I went for an RP-heavy build, going Shifter 17 / Druid 8 / Loremaster 5. The mechanically stronger variants are multiclassing into swashbuckler or monk instead, and I'll try and take those builds into account when offering my critiques. I've done plenty of testing with those builds in the PGCC for comparison's sake. Generally speaking going monk gives you a huge AC boost and offers more APR. Going swashbuckler gives some help with AB, APR, and has a couple other boons to help survival.

I found that throughout leveling I could comfortably solo PvE content about 8-10 levels below my current level, with the use of consumables and self-cast zoo buffs from druid levels (although they can be dispelled by a strong breeze). Doing level-appropriate PvE content is by and large impossible except with the gimmiest of tactics, and doing higher-level stuff is a deathwish. The recent changes to writs will certainly help a lot.
Doing writs or adventuring in a group certainly eases things up, but then you run into the whole other problem of being a shifter. Depending on your character concept, you don't necessarily want people to know you're a shifter; going out willy-nilly with random adventuring groups can be tricky if you have a secret to hide. This isn't mitigated by you being in the surface or the Underdark if it happens to be a core character premise.
Speaking of that, you do tend to have a lot of freedom in where you travel. Because you can change form you can fit in everywhere. You can only take writs from one side or the other, but you can roleplay everywhere on Arelith if you're smart about disguises, forms, and keeping your stories straight - and that's great!

All the mechanical weakness aside, being a shifter is lots of fun. You're constantly getting new cookies, new forms, new abilities, and they open up so many avenues for potential roleplay. It's just a shame that most of the forms suck in terms of effectiveness.

Pros: Being able to choose from 5 different wyrmlings is nice for RP. Infinite uses of breath weapon (pairs well with Expertise).
Cons: You're level 6 by the time you get this form and by that point it's not strong enough to tough out the fights. Which is REAL BAD news because wyrmling form is the only thing you have going for you at that point.
My Experience: What I ended up doing was sitting in Improved Expertise and spamming the various breath attacks. That worked for low level stuff with reasonable effectiveness.
I've had fun roleplaying as various wyrmlings. It's a dragon the size of a cat - there's a lot of lighthearted fun to be had!|

Pros: None. What are you doing you useless warbling mess
Cons: Unimpressive stats. Captivating Song is hot garbage, not useful in PvP, solo PvE, or even group PvE. If surfacers see you they'll kill you. If Underdarkers see you they'll probably enslave you.
My Experience: I can imagine some potential for roleplaying a harpy, but it's not a road I went down so I won't comment on it. The model is terrific though. A gross winged lady, and the idle animations are even these unsettling twitches. If I can find a way to use it for roleplay I'd like to.

Pros: 15/+1 DR as early as level 8 is real nice. You just become invincible to a lot of low-level content. And the Epic Gargoyle's DR of 25/+7 (plus its pierce resist 25/-) is fantastic. It competes with a fully EDR'd dwarven defender.
Cons: Has nothing else going for it. Lackluster attack, decent-ish AC. There's not much redeeming about the gargoyle besides the DR, so it's hard to find situations where it'll be useful. Also, its epic form has Power Attack?? But...why?
My Experience: I used it once in a group PvE setting to soak up damage, and it worked well for that. Roleplay wise most people won't attack a gargoyle on sight, but I still had a tough time coming up with ideas and plots for a gargoyle to be involved in. Maybe there's a good story out there to be told, but I certainly don't know it!

Pros: Can actually compete in melee combat with reasonable effectiveness. Minotaur axe is a magic +1 weapon which helps for bypassing DR, and with all your gear merging with you your kit finally starts to make a difference.
The Epic Minotaur gets some bonus fire damage, a +3 axe, and the knockdown feat for free - all nice things. By that point you're better off using other forms, but if you're roleplaying a minotaur you at least get a nice boost there.
Cons: If you're seen on the surface you're probably two seconds away from getting powerganked to death's door. You might be able to manage some PvE but your non-shifter peers are already far outstripping you in combat effectiveness.
My Experience: If you can roleplay a minotaur well, you can cause some real terror. I had a blast in Skal being this one demon-touched minotaur from the wild who was smarter than his peers and was seen as a genuine threat by the adventurers he encountered. It never came to PvP (and good thing too...) but there was some great villainous banter. It continued over into a whole subplot on the mainland which was lots of fun.

Pros: Can petrify enemies with a cone attack. Tragically the petrification only lasts 30 seconds or so, but still! You're limited to only a few uses per shift, but once you get infinite Greater Wildshape III, you can theoretically just go in and out of basilisk shape at will to replenish the uses.
Cons: All-around bad stats. Petrify DC is laughably low. Granted if it does work that's game over, but you can't rely on it enough to be effective. And because you only get a few uses per shift, it's just a pain to use. Epic form doesn't provide anything beyond slightly better (still terrible) stats.
My Experience: Because basilisks aren't intelligent (and aren't cuddly like other animals) it's hard to go down most RP routes. You could I suppose roleplay as a familiar to a wizard PC or something like that, but roleplaying a basilisk doesn't lend itself easily. IMO, of course.

Pros: Extremely cool-looking. All your gear merges with you, so this is the natural upgrade to grinding writs in minotaur form. On-hit strength-draining poison, a bit of spell resistance, and permanent freedom are nice little perks.
The epic form looks AWESOME!...and also gets 5/+20 DR, which is a nice little boost. It gets a nice little ranged weapon in the form of infinite casts of magic missile, but by the time you reach epic levels that's more a gimmick than anything else.
Cons: Drider model often has trouble going through doors and squeezing through other small cracks. You can make it through, it's just a pain. Darkness ability is only a few uses per shift so isn't particularly useful. By this point you're veeeeery far behind your peers in terms of mechanical effectiveness, so while the drider form is a good upgrade from minotaur, it's really just making the best of a bad situation. If surfacers see you they'll kill you, and most drow will as well (what with you being an abomination cursed by Lolth).
My Experience: I haven't done much dridering besides killing enemies, but the roleplay potential looks really really fun. You're cursed by Lolth - if that isn't a kickoff point to roleplaying with some drow priestesses of Lolth then I don't know what is. There are a bunch of angles you could take, from seeking redemption to plotting against them.
I think it'd be great if driders were armed with a bow instead of a spear like many of the driders we see out in the world. Shifters suffer by not having any form dedicated to ranged combat; the drider seems an obvious choice to give a ranged weapon to.

Pros: Big fun form to play as, while not being difficult to maneuver through terrain. Manticore spikes are a touch attack so nearly always hit and do reasonable damage (since the ability can be used infinitely). Epic form gets the same DR 5/+20 as the drider.
Cons: Like most other forms has terrible stats. Manticore spikes choose targets indiscriminately, so you 1) can't target a specific high-priority enemy to take down, and 2) your spikes target friendly PCs. Also, like most of the monstrous shifter forms, most people will try to kill you if they see you.
My Experience: Good for relaxed solo PvE content - so long as you're good with doing PvE content that's 10 levels lower than where you should be. Because manticores are smart enough to speak but not smart enough to have any wits about them, I've had a fun time playing a manticore who can be tricked, coerced, lied to and misguided. It's always fun playing someone simple.

Pros: All gear merges with you, nice natural spell resistance, on-hit poison. The upgrade to an on-hit freeze for epic drow is really nice, as is the free improved evasion.
Cons: Just a little bit worse than the lizardfolk whipmaster and the kobold commando (even in epic form comparison), so there's not ever much incentive to use the drow. Darkness ability suffers from the same problem as the drider, which is that you can only use it a few times per shift.
My Experience: Good for roleplay and not much else. As soon as you unlock drow form there are immediately better options in the kobold and lizardfolk, but being able to roleplay as a drow is its own reward.

Pros: All gear merges with you. Highest BAB and near-highest AC of all forms, Hide In Plain Sight (enough said), 2d6 sneak attack that becomes 5d6 in epic form, on-hit poison, lots of bonuses to rogue skills, epic form has infinicast invisibility.
Cons: Despite being one of the best shifter forms, it's still a shifter form - so you still suck.
My Experience: Hide In Plain Sight is a lifesaver. I used the kobold for most of my leveling in the teens. The roleplay is as fun as you make it - you're a kobold! This is one of the *very* few forms that is a regular player race on Arelith, so you have lots of freedom to roleplay a kobold however you want (as opposed to the rare races or monstrous forms, which are pigeonholed to be roleplayed in very specific fashions based on their uniqueness).

Pros: Looks real cool. On-hit stun is the best (IMO) on-hit ability, with you proccing a potential 4-round daze every single attack you land. It doesn't matter that the DC is low, I've found that you don't go through most battles without getting a daze or two off. Damage reduction of 5/+1 which helps a lot for early leveling, and epic form has DR 15/+5. Big boost to discipline, +2 boost to universal saving throws. Epic form gets whirlwind attack.
Cons: Little bit lower AC and AB than the kobold commando which you unlock at the same time.
My Experience: Very fun to roleplay, and nearly equal to the kobold commando in terms of combat effectiveness (if the kobold didn't have HiPS).

Pros: Big fun animal to roleplay as.
Cons: Just terrible stats, considering what level you unlock it at. Doesn't merge most equipment, doesn't have any bonus feats like knockdown to make the shift worth it. The humanoid forms, which you unlocked 3 levels ago, are better in every metric.
My Experience: Haven't used it for one iota of leveling, but I have had a good time roleplaying a big ol' dire tiger.

Pros: Good roleplay potential if done right. Can petrify (for a short time) creatures in a cone.
Cons: This is...this is just the basilisk? But 5 levels later? what are u doing nwn
My Experience: Some good potential for roleplay - not in a long term sustainable way, but in a short-term story arc kind of way. I've done a liiiiittel bit of medusa RP which has been reasonably interesting. All my criticisms aimed at the basilisk apply to the medusa in terms of mechanical functionality, and really the main problem (besides the generally terrible abilities and stats of all the forms. Have I mentioned that yet?) is that from a mechanical perspective the medusa fills exactly the same niche as the basilisk. Why have it at all?

Pros: Interesting abilities, fascinating creature to be able to shift into for roleplay's sake. Immunity to mind-affecting spells, decent natural spell resistance
Cons: Bad stats, abilities are limited uses per shift which really ruins things.
My Experience: I feel like the mindflayer form is so close to right. The mind blast and the psionic barrier are fun and unique, and if they could be used infinitely/on a cooldown they'd be much better off. The roleplay potential for this is just terrific. Very impactful. Andunor has a long history of being entangled with illithid. Roleplay it right and you can have some memorable moments, because unlike some of the baser bestial shifter forms that brave adventurers might laugh at, no one messes with mindflayers. I've only done very rare appearances as a mindflayer but when I have it's like in the air in the room freezes still. It's intense. Really fun with the right people to roleplay against.

Pros: Merges all equipment. Stanky x4 crit modifier with the scythe (with a keened weapon equipped, oh baby!), DR of 15/+3, 50% slashing and piercing immunities, whirlwind attack, vampiric regeneration +2, undead form immunities (sneak attack, critical hits and more!).
Cons: Healing potions damage you because you're undead, and since you can't cast your spells or use healing kits while shifted, you're pretty much boned if you get to low health.
My Experience: You can nab undead form right at the start of epic levels which is a reasonable (contextual) upgrade to any of the humanoid forms. There's a stigma to being a risen / a lich, but it's a lot of fun to roleplay. It was my bread and butter for most of my epic levels. The damage reduction combined with the immunities allows you to shrug off a ton of damage. My combat log was often filled with "you resisted 14 points of damage from damage reduction, and another 14 points from slashing immunity, and another 2 points from your equipment". If a creature can't break through your damage resistance, then the risen lord is very very hard to kill.
The problem is that creatures do break through, and then you're quickly ground into dust. With the risen lord you reach a threshold of creatures you can kill effortlessly, and once you step over that cliff you're suddenly fighting creatures that kill you effortlessly. There's no in between, because you rely on the damage reduction to survive and not your bad AB and even worse AC. Like the kobold commando, you're ultimately just making the best of a bad situation.

Pros: Dominate ability is tremendously fun. Keeps grinding fresh. All the undead immunities with +5 regeneration and DR 15/+1 make you tough to kill and quick to get back up. The level-draining vampire bite that has a chance to proc on every hit is really nice, although in practice it triggers fairly rarely.
Con: Your weapons don't merge so you're a wet noodle in melee combat, which is all you can do in this form once you've dominated a creature.
My Experience: You can be any kind of vampire you want, so roleplay-wise there's fun there. A challenge is not being able to change the creature model. You look like a vampire. You have the stock image portrait of a vampire. can't really disguise yourself to not look like a vampire.
Combat is fun because you can use the domination cone infinitely, and firing it into a crowd is sure to likely have at least one creature fail the saving throw.

Pros: DR of 15/+4, big boosts to Hide and Move Silently, immunity to knockdown, and infinicast invisibility. Reasonably high AC (for a shifter form, anyway).
Cons: Absolutely 0 combat capability and damage output. Shadow Attack is nice in theory but you get 1/round (2 if hasted), it's at a very low DC, and what are you gonna do, level drain each individual enemy to death?
My Experience: The spectre is a survivor. Hard to pin down, constantly casting invisibility, resists a good chunk of damage. It just doesn't do much else. Roleplaying a ghost, however, is its own reward.

17) AZER
Pros: All gear merges. Great for roleplay as they're generally accepted across the surface and Underdark both, though not without enough natural conflict and xenophobia so as to keep things interesting. Gets knockdown, power attack, and cleave as bonus feats, and does a good chunk of bonus fire damage.
Cons: Burning Hands and Fire Stream are pretty useless, although important to have for flavour's sake. Having no damage reduction at this stage in the game makes things really tough for azer, compared to so many other forms you now have that do have damage reduction of some kind. Also, in terms of raw stats and abilities they're just not as good as rakshasa who you also unlike at this same level.
My Experience: Give azers an innate fire shield and then we'd be cooking with butter. Still, they're great for roleplay (exotic, but not inherently evil or dangerous like most of the other shifter forms).

Pros: All gear merges. Fantastic for roleplay. Immunity to all spells level 8 and lower (annoyingly, this doesn't appear to apply on wards you place on yourself before shifting into rakshasa form). Lots of skill bonuses, permanent true seeing, free knockdown, bonus fire damage, and one of the best shifter form damage resistances at 15/+5. Can infinicast a few spells.
Cons: Honestly, not many. The stats aren't great like all shifter forms, but the DR, magic immunity, and infinicast spells make up for it.
My Experience: Absolutely phenomenal for roleplay, and up there with the best shifter forms for PvE content. I haven't gotten into PvP in the rakshasa form yet, but I think the immunity to nearly all spells would be huge for survivability.

Pros: Regeneration +5, DR 10/+5, a handful of elemental damage resistances as well. Chaos Spittle attack isn't great, but as a ranged touch attack you can infinitely cast, it's pretty decent.
Cons: Sloppy in melee combat, generally not great stats.
My Experience: Roleplaying a slaad is its own kind of fun, but not something I've done often enough to really comment on the quality of it. I've done a bit of PvE content with the slaad and have ended up sitting in Improved Expertise while hucking Chaos Spittle at enemies. Good for surviving but reeeeeeeaaaaaaal boring. When you compare Chaos Spittle with Eldritch Blast, two abilities that function in very similar ways, you can see how lackluster the former is.

I didn't take the Construct Shape feat, so my playtime with them is only in the PGCC. But they're just terrible. Their hit points and damage reduction - which in my opinion should be by far the highest among all shifter forms - are only on par with other shifter forms. And besides the DR the constructs don't have much to offer. The iron golem's poison gas is impotent, and the stone golem's rock hurl (while lots of fun) can't possibly compare to someone even half your level with a longbow.

Also why can shifters shapeshift into constructs at all? They're machines! For the second time, what are u doing nwn

Pros: If you've made it to level 30 and picked dragonshape, congratulations! You're actually competitive for the first time in your entire shifter life. It's too bad it's literally at the end of the leveling journey.
Huge AC jump to mid-60s, 70s with Improved Expertise. Despite weapons not merging, your melee attack is reasonably fearsome with a much higher AB than you're used to (although let's be honest, even with buffs you're only reaching 50). The dragon breath weapons are decently strong, far-reaching, and can be infinitely used. See invisibility is a great perk.
Cons: For the first time you're mechanically competitive...but you can't use it anywhere. Dragon shape is so big and unwieldy. You can't go through doors, you can't go through small places, and you can't infinitely shift in and out of it so it's not like you could even cheese the system by unshifting to go through doors.
If you're a monk your Wisdom boost to AC won't apply to dragons - which is necessary or you'd have 85-90 AC.
My Experience: I haven't done too much dragoning yet, so I'll just say I'm looking forward to testing it out more and seeing what kind of roleplay I can weave. My impression at this point is that it feels disappointing I can finally compete on some mechanical level with other characters, but to do so I have to become a massive creature that can't move through most dungeons. You can't really run most dungeons in dragonshape, and that's a bummer.

I think the shifter class struggles with what it wants to be. It wants to be some kind of naturalist, hyper-druid (thus requiring druid classes) but for some reason you can shapechange into golems. It wants to be a melee-focused class, but is outpowered in that capacity by...well, everyone, pretty much. It wants to be something whose domain is monstrous forms and beasts, but then you can shapechange into rakshasas and kobolds. In base NWN, sure I get it. But on Arelith, kobolds are a player race. What we have on Arelith is a totally different interaction between characters than what the shifter class was originally designed for in base NWN. I think it needs a clear direction and a more focused niche.

One miscellaneous note before I talk about mechanical balance.

NPCs shouldn’t be able to tell when you’re shapechanged, or should at least have a check. This is a particular issue when accessing banks, writ-givers, and settlement castellans. If I’m shapeshifted into a kobold and the kobold banker in the Hub tells me I’m a stranger (instead of referring to me as kin), that’s a pretty big tell to any players within earshot and it feels like that's an unfair way to out a shapechanger - does every banker have True Seeing? I'm not saying that it shouldn’t happen if the kobold banker is able to detect that I'm shapechanged, but bluff or performance should figure into it somehow.

* * *

Generally speaking, none of the shifter forms can compete with equal-level characters of different classes. They universally have terrible AB, and although going monk or swashbuckler can help with your defense, you're still not in a great position to survive much. Dragonshape would be super if the model size weren't so restrictive.
At the same time, I believe that the roleplay implications of shifters propel the class to a higher state of quality than its stats would suggest. I see the ability to live a dozen different lives all across Arelith as a mechanical benefit. The appearance of mindflayers, rakshasas, and dragons should be something that is rare and impactful. Those forms don't necessarily need strong stats to make an impact - their uniqueness is already a huge gateway to RP.

So with all that said, here are a set of ideas I've been mulling over about possible ways to improve the shifter class.

If a shifter class rework wants to keep the class looking generally how it does now, I would strongly suggest for a few key changes across the board.
1) Higher AB. 90% of these shapes can't hit level-equivalent targets, and by and large your only option in most shifted forms is to hit stuff in melee combat. If they can't do that effectively - and right now they can't - then they feel impotent.
2) Change all abilities that can only be used x times per shift into abilities that can be used infinitely, but give them a cooldown.
3) The DCs of most abilities need to be adjusted. Some should remain low, like the basilisk/medusa's petrification cone, but some are so low as to be useless, like the harpy's captivating song.
In this same vein, the damage of most damaging abilities needs to be raised. The slaad's spit and the azer's fire stream are two glaring examples of single-target touch attacks that do laughably low damage for a form you can only unlock by your mid-20s.
4) Rethink the variety of shifter abilities. Shifters are supposed to be this jack-of-all-trades class that can fit into many scenarios, but they're only designed for attacking things - in melee combat, mostly - in different ways. Give them some variety. What if the mindflayer could apply its psionic barrier to party members? What if the drider had a bow so you could have at least *one* form with a regular ranged weapon attack? What if the harpy's song stopped enemies from attacking all party members, not just the shifter? What if the risen lord could summon undead on a cooldown? What if the golem forms could guard party members with increased effectiveness like the knight?
5) Give shifted forms with weapons the ability to sheathe those weapons. It doesn't even need to be a mechanical item being sheathed, but just the appearance of it. The number of times I've had to come up with a reason for why my kobold can't put away his knife, or why my azer can't sheathe his axe, or why my drow won't let go of his the end all your shifted forms end up looking a little crazy because they have some kind of weapon fetish.
6) Give shifted humanoid forms dynamic models. My drow can't wear any clothing besides armour, my rakshasa can't wear anything besides the base clothes, etc. This doesn't matter for forms like the mindflayer or the dire tiger or the minotaur, but for more civilized races you end up looking a little silly.
7) I don't know how much of this is hardcoded, but right now when you shift, all your items merge into a single item that is then equipped by the form. That is, with the exception of bracers. For some reason, NWN decided that whatever you're wearing in your glove slot doesn't merge. No shifter forms gain the benefits of your glove slot, and that really hurts because on Arelith the only reliable way to get DR is with mithril/adamantine bracers. Although a number of forms offer their own DR, it would be great if we could ensure we get at least a little with the use of bracers.
8) If a shifter form doesn't merge equipment (or only merges armour, or only armour/items), their stats/abilities/capabilities need to be adjusted to compensate for that compared to the forms that do merge those items. When I'm picking a form to go hunting in, the ones that don't merge items aren't even given serious consideration.

* * *

Now what if the shifter class went in a totally different direction? Here are a few thoughts (from a mind that knows nothing about NWN coding limitations).

Variant 1: If I see it, I can shift it
Shifters have no base forms to shift into. Instead, once they kill (or examine, in some fashion; maybe they get a special console command to -study a living creature) x amount of one creature type, they become able to shift into that form. A possible UI could be giving shifters a message box whenever they want to shift. When use their shift ability, the message box opens up and lists all the forms they know and could shift into (think like how the teleportation message box opens up when you use a portal).
This could lead to the shifter traveling all around Arelith, studying different creatures in order to learn how to shift into them. The prospect of that journey seems extremely fun to me.

Variant 2: Shifter Paths
When you take your first shifter class, you decide on a path (like we have with many classes). These paths could be things like Underdark, Mountains, Ocean, Forest, etc. As you level up, you learn creature forms that are specific to the biome you picked.

Variant 3: Sub-Shifting
Maybe shifters don't need to fully shapechange into other creatures - maybe they only need certain traits of those creatures. Instead of shapeshifting into a manticore, you gain a manticore's tail and can use the tail spikes ability. Instead of shapeshifting into a dire tiger, you gain its claws and gain a big boost to unarmed strikes.
Although this reduces the 'wow' factor of shapeshifting, it could make playing a shifter something that can be done more in the open. This could also open the class up to get played by all sorts of people - rather than just by application - because DMs wouldn't need to worry about shifters roleplaying different creatures appropriately.

If you've read all the way to the bottom then congrats! If I come up with any other ideas I'll edit this. Hope this feedback helps the devs.
|AR 170 - 174| Sai Aung-K'yi | Princess, archivist, spiritfarer. (Shelved)
|AR 161 - 169| Ikarus | Elder, shaman, warchief. (Deceased)
|AR 150 - 161| Revyn the White | Inventor, administrator, warlock. (Deceased)

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Waldo52 » Fri Sep 24, 2021 4:06 am

Excellent post.

I think you hit the nail on the head with the paths idea. It certainly doesn't make sense that an avowed ludite and protector of nature can turn into an iron golem. It doesn't make sense that a transformation based necromancer has to learn basic druid magic and then learn how to be a bear and a dragon and a drider before becoming a risen lord.

Power level aside it's just a nonsensical class of random party favors. There is no theme and each zainy new form throws another wrench in the druid narrative.

Why can't we just have a generalist path for eclectic shifters who want a little bit of everything and then more themed paths that fit different types of characters? Why does any of this have to be druid related?

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by underowl » Fri Sep 24, 2021 9:47 am

I don't think there is much appetite to do a major rework of shifter as it would be a lot of work as I understand and given its gated how few shifters there are. Honestly though having played around with the class on PGCC an easy and quick fix might be just to give the class a static +2 or +even +3 AB boost which applies to all of the shapes other than dragon.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Waldo52 » Sat Sep 25, 2021 6:28 pm

underowl wrote:
Fri Sep 24, 2021 9:47 am
I don't think there is much appetite to do a major rework of shifter as it would be a lot of work as I understand and given its gated how few shifters there are. Honestly though having played around with the class on PGCC an easy and quick fix might be just to give the class a static +2 or +even +3 AB boost which applies to all of the shapes other than dragon.
The lack of shifters doesn't represent a lack of interest, it's just that the class is terrible. A major rework wouldn't just benefit the three of four people playing the class, it would benefit a lot of interested would be shifters.

The class doesn't need an easy quick fix, it's fundamentally flawed.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by garrbear758 » Sat Sep 25, 2021 7:10 pm

Fixing shifter is an enormous amount of work compared to any other class. The amount of work to do it properly would be about the same as adding 5-10 brand new fully featured classes. Every once in a while we have a dev who wants to do a shifter overhaul, and then backs out of it after looking further into the work it would take. Maybe someone will take it on someday, but I wouldn't count on it anytime soon, or even soon(tm).
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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Ork » Sat Sep 25, 2021 10:15 pm

It might be easier to instead tweak 1 form in each catagory and block the rest, and slowly add the variety back.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Scylon » Mon Sep 27, 2021 8:51 am

Maybe do it in a few phases? Just here and there tweak a form's stats and abilities, as to no get overloaded with it.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Skeletor » Mon Sep 27, 2021 3:10 pm

I tried a shifter in the pgcc starting from Fey walock instead of druid thinking that would add more to the mix, but it was still epically underpowered

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Skeletor » Mon Sep 27, 2021 3:13 pm

I had some suggestions for it sent to the dev team a long time ago thinking I was so clever but i agree its a ton of work and who's gonna do it?. Perhaps patchworking it slowly is the way.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Jagel » Mon Sep 27, 2021 5:50 pm

I have probably mentioned these ideas before but here are some tweaks that could make the class slightly less of a trap:

- let shifters gain elemental shapes. Even greater shapes are better than almost anything a shifter gains along the way (maybe/maybe not monoliths)
- expand their class skills so you can tech into hide/ms/tumble or disc/taunt etc depending on the shapes you want to try and patch up
- scaling soft ab bonus while shifted (or make shifter class lvls count ad full bab when shifted)
- scaling soft physical ability bonuses
- a shape using the totem progression would mean much in terms of durability when lvling
- gaining access to dragon shape with 25 wisdom via the secret druid “npc” or gaining vanilla NWN stats for DS with 30 and taking the feat the classical way
- give the rakshasa polymorph ability at a high shifter lvl

- disable all monk synergy

Shifter is soooo bad mechanically and any semblance of power comes so late that it’s almost hilarious. I really love the class and enjoy my character but the mechanics are just so ludicrous that I end up shelving her again and again.

Anything to make the class just somewhat viable would be a god-send. Otherwise I really think, as much as I love the class, it should be disabled.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Waldo52 » Mon Sep 27, 2021 10:06 pm

garrbear758 wrote:
Sat Sep 25, 2021 7:10 pm
The amount of work to do it properly would be about the same as adding 5-10 brand new fully featured classes.
This is a respectable position and I never actually stopped to think about it that way.

Maybe a revamped shifter isn't meant to be. Maybe polymorphing spells could be revisited so that they have more to offer and we'll see "shifter" as more of a viable playstyle for all sorts of classes.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by RedGiant » Mon Sep 27, 2021 10:48 pm

Having played a shifter for years and years on another server, I will say this post is excellent in its depth.

I would add that you've chosen an RP build over some obvious mechanical helps, which is fine, but you knew this going in. Doing this, plus your feat choices, somewhat colors the experience.

I also think your idea of playing secret shifters and deep dwelling in a single shape is great RP, but terrible levelling practice for a shifter. One of the things I enjoyed most about the class is picking the right shape for a given conflict, or even dancing in and out of shapes to deal with specific threats in a given spawn. If you aren't doing this, or don't have this built into your concept, well this is a new layer of suboptimal. By all means, do it if you enjoy the RP, but the class can't be balanced around every individual shape being good, when most have very specific roles (sans a few overlaps you've already identified). In short, you have to balance the class around all its capable of, which when it comes to shifter is quite alot.

This being said, I think there are some great ideas in this thread already for boosting the class without a full rework.

1) Allow more or any classes to qualify instead of just druid. If you do this right, they may not even need the sorely needed AB boost mentioned earlier. We know the team can do this already, just look at the Knight class.

2) As others have suggested, maybe throw in some other shaping options from the game already coded, such as elemental shape and monolith shape. Heck, while we're at it, there are other shapes available even from polymorph and shapechange perhaps appropriate for pre-epic grabs. Not to mention lycanthropy even!

3) Similar to the dragonshape boon suggested earlier, maybe give shifters certain shaping feats for free at heavy levels of investment, freeing up their epic feats for advantageous tweaks common to other classes. - Or - give them the warlock treatment where every x levels they can choose a shaping feat, incorporating some of the extra love mentioned in step 2, so that shifters would have to choose making their end games look very different based on those choices.

4) An even further idea, give shifters paths or trees where perhaps their end-game feat is free and significantly boosted (without reworking the shapes, but just slapping some leadership-like bonuses on top: an extra attack, pluses to AB/AC, skills, etc.) Ie., the path of the beast, the path of the planewalker, the path of the wyrm, etc.
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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Aradin » Tue Sep 28, 2021 2:50 am

RedGiant wrote:
Mon Sep 27, 2021 10:48 pm
I also think your idea of playing secret shifters and deep dwelling in a single shape is great RP, but terrible levelling practice for a shifter. One of the things I enjoyed most about the class is picking the right shape for a given conflict, or even dancing in and out of shapes to deal with specific threats in a given spawn. If you aren't doing this, or don't have this built into your concept, well this is a new layer of suboptimal. By all means, do it if you enjoy the RP, but the class can't be balanced around every individual shape being good, when most have very specific roles (sans a few overlaps you've already identified). In short, you have to balance the class around all its capable of, which when it comes to shifter is quite a lot.
I 100% agree on a purely mechanical level. The class is certainly stronger when you 1) optimize multiclassing + feat choices and 2) dance in and out of shapes as fits the situation. I'll agree with no hesitation that I'd have a stronger character had I done those things.

I think it's worth noting, however, that 2) can be difficult to do on Arelith. If you go adventuring with paladins and suddenly shapeshift into a vampire, they'll likely have a problem with you. If you're adventuring with drow and shapeshift into a drider, they'll likely have a problem with you. If you're adventuring with surfacers and shapeshift into a kobold, they'll likely have a problem with you. And if you run into strangers while hunting, they'll assume you /are/ that creature, whatever creature you are. Most shifter forms are taboo to surface sensibilities, and one or two are even taboo to Underdark sensibilities.
Although it's certainly possible to find people who don't care, or understand that (depending on your character concept) the shapes aren't "real", you're definitely going to have to have a lot of conversations about it, and often tense ones that turn hostile. The times I've been more open about my shifting, exactly zero characters have said "Cool cool whatever, neat powers, let's go adventuring." Everyone wants an explanation, everyone wants to understand. Shifters are rare; other characters don't understand them and they can't be expected to accept the unknown without explanation. Many characters generally mistrust shapeshifters because the only other innate shapeshifting, except for the widely known druid forms, comes from rakshasas, werewolves, and vampires (possibly more on Arelith, correct me if I missed any) - all of whom are not happy-go-lucky sorts.

An example: why would any given character accept the explanation of "Oh yeah I can shapeshift into a rakshasa. But I'm not a rakshasa. Even though they can shapeshift to look like humans. And I'm a human that shapeshifted into a rakshasa.". These are the sorts of questions I've had to deal with over and over again whenever I've revealed my powers to people. It's just the nature of the class. As a shifter you can't just join an adventuring party, shapeshift into the useful rakshasa form to overcome a battle, and then expect there to be no conversation about what in the Nine Hells you just did.
(Warlocks, hexblades, necromancers, palemasters, etc. all have to deal with this sort of thing, but they're evil by nature. The shifter isn't. Or is it? Who knows. Another confusing cog in the mess of the shifter machine.)

I'm not saying you can't talk your way out of these situations and I'm not saying you can't find people who will accept you, particularly if you're playing an "open" shifter and not a "secret" shifter (wherein I'd imagine you just build up a reputation as "that shifter" and people know what to expect from you). But I think it's important to recognize that shifters and most other classes are not on equal footing when it comes to utilizing the full potential of their powers. On a practical level you can't ward up and go hunting in random groups like you can with other classes, particularly if you're on the surface. Even if shifter was the strongest class, you'd still have to deal with the social stigma attached to the forms.
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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by jomonog » Tue Sep 28, 2021 1:13 pm

As an easy quick fix I'd give them free feats at shifter 5, 10, 15 and 20 that add +1ab,+1ac and +3 disc while in shape for each tier of the feat. I'd also give them a bonus feat at shifter 10. Maybe not let the ab/ac/disc bonuses apply to dragon shape though because that's already pretty impressive stat wise even though its completely impractical to actually play.

Going deeper you'd really need a complete rework of the shapes and maybe even the way items merge and/or abilities are restricted in polymorph because the biggest problem seems to be not being able to self buff to +12 on stats, not being able to do anything other than drink potions in shape, and the overall limitations on gearing skills and stats because of the way things merge.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Party in the forest at midnight » Tue Sep 28, 2021 4:33 pm

I guess the real question is, what do you want the class to be? How are you RPing it? And in answering that, is it tied to druid? Can it be its own thing? Why not just scrap the original shifter and make a new class? The best idea so far has been to allow for people to study a creature and then be able to transform into it.

If the thing people want is to transform into things, then why not make it so the transformations don't have any mechanical benefits? Or if they do, they're very minor. Like one grants some level of fire defense, one grants some sort of damage reduction, and so forth.
Have categories for benefits so many creatures can give the same type, so you don't run into the issue of transforming into a rakshasa because it's the only transformation that offers a benefit.

I think this would be a lot easier to create and balance than trying to fix vanilla shifter. It'd probably be a lot more fun for players too.

There's models for moving chairs/chests/etc, that might be something fun that shifters could shift into as well. Be an unassuming piece of furniture. I think it could open up a lot of different RP concepts if shifter was decoupled from druid. I'm envisioning a shifter that transforms into furniture to try and blend in while spying on people or breaking into places.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Skibbles » Fri Oct 01, 2021 3:15 am

I think it's better if the class was just removed until such time it gets attention (never, probably) and probably a complete ground up rebuild.

It's like watching someone play pure vanilla fighter with OG kensai attached.

Massive props for getting all the way to 30 though!
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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Skeletor » Wed Oct 06, 2021 6:25 pm

I think the problems with the class are...

1.- The access point. Druid or Fey Warlock? Not a great synergy.
2.- The itemization. The shapes can't use items. Period. Yes, they can merge a few stats, but that won't make a difference when everyone's buffing their stats with up to +12 with items and the most you can get is +2 or even +3 with some very exclusive items.
3.- The multiclass potential. Taking levels in this means not taking levels in something else, and often that investment doesn't pay off and there's not enough synergy. Since it doesn't give spell slots or caster level, you're better of going pure druid and getting both shifting and spells.
4.- The sub-standard utility of the abilities. You can turn into an Ilithid, cool, let's use psychic blast... oh, surprise, you don't get the ilithid's blast but the toned-down version that pales in comparison. Most of the shape's DC's are outright low, and increase with Shifter levels but require excessive investment for them to be useful at all.
5.- The Stat requirements. Too high wisdom for shapes, you don't get enough feats for everything, you don't get to spend epic feats in anything else than shapes or wisdom...
6.- The inability to use medikits.
7.- The substandard damage of the shapes.
8.- Three attacks per turn and you're essentially supposed to melee in most shapes...
9.- The shape variety. More shapes would be needed to make this interesting... what about oozes? Giants? The rust monster, why no elemental shape, why no shadows or devils/fey/celestials... so many possibilities.

So yeah, basically everything's wrong, it's very easy to go pointing out how to fix one thing but when you have to fix everything it's basically starting-from-scratch time and that could take forever.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Lucifron » Wed Oct 06, 2021 10:59 pm

As a Shifter player myself I have had to regulate my Shifter down to a traveling scholar more or less, as attempting to assert myself as some sort of Eldritch shape-shifting abomination killing machine is out of the question when it comes mechanics. Though I do agree that the class is a ton of fun to RP.

One of my ideas was to have a system similar to the new familiar skin options, perhaps just give Shifters a similar progression to Fighter but they can save the "skin" of a certain creature they have encountered numerous times? That way you can just apply a new skin ontop. It won't add any other benefits which takes a bit from the class itself, but what do I know, this is why I'm not a dev.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by Waldo52 » Fri Oct 08, 2021 3:42 am

Lucifron wrote:
Wed Oct 06, 2021 10:59 pm

One of my ideas was to have a system similar to the new familiar skin options, perhaps just give Shifters a similar progression to Fighter but they can save the "skin" of a certain creature they have encountered numerous times? That way you can just apply a new skin ontop. It won't add any other benefits which takes a bit from the class itself, but what do I know, this is why I'm not a dev.
This or something like this would be perfect.

I think you can get a lot of milage out of these reskinning options. With familiars and animal companions they've done a lot for me and it's so easy to design a few simple forms (tank, sneak, etc.) and give them the skins you want.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by underowl » Thu Oct 14, 2021 7:09 am

Looking at all the above suggestions, if they were just changed to a full BAB class and got a free feat at level 10 then that would probably be enough to at least make them playable given they are essentially a melee class.

Surely that can't be alot of work to implement in the name of a balance change.

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Re: Shifter Feedback

Post by WanderingPoet » Thu Oct 14, 2021 1:06 pm

Shifter should probably never be a very good mechanical class. They can already become a super tank, or a decent DPS, or a sneak, or immune to magic, etc. The can fill a lot of roles, so you don't want them to be great at any of them. A sort of jack of all trades, master of none (or as my shifter called themselves "Jack of All Trades, Bad at Everything").

Sadly right now you're far better off not changing forms and full focusing one form. It's gotten a bit better with the weapon changes (before if you got epic weapon focus, it was for one form). But you still need the skill points to be good at any of the forms roles.

The fact that the forms also change your stats makes it so you have an upper limit on capability; you need ridiculous amounts of wisdom just for the epic forms, and every time you transition your form explodes visibly for everyone around to see you're polymorphed.

Ultimately I think it's an RP class and the easiest way to solve it's problems is just give it the Rakshasa shifting with Humanoid Shape (with even more forms). That way you keep all your equipment, you can go ranged/melee as you want, and there isn't a balance around the fact some forms get +5 merge-weapons or boosts to skills. Give them access to more skills and full BAB as underowl said and you have a class that has a few monstrous forms but a lot of humanoid forms that you can mechanically build/gear for.

It would be nice if they got the epic shifter feats for free to avoid the heavy and needless wisdom requirement; or at least if the wisdom requirement was removed.

It doesn't need to be a strong class; but it should be good at the RP trinket that makes it fun - the shifting. Right now it's just a myriad of unrelated forms, most of which are gimmicky; or even if you can use them in RP for spying you're ousted as soon as you transition.
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