Cutting Words is a massive nerf, pragmatic suggested tweak

7 months ago (edited)

Hey, absolutely love the game and I'm really excited about bards but something in the article has me a bit concerned

"On top of that Cutting Words has been buffed in Solasta: the targeted enemy decreases all its ability checks, attack and damage rolls by the value of the Bardic Inspiration die until the start of the Bard's next turn. This was done to avoid having pop-ups interrupting the game every time the enemy did something during their turn."

First up I absolutely accept that as written in SRD it would be too disruptive. And even if it was limited to hits/successes with a degree of success in range of the inspiration dice, similar to how shield is implemented it's probably still too disruptive.

But this is actually a fairly major nerf to the ability. The fundamental issue is that cutting words can be applied to every enemy you can see at the time they hit as opposed to a single enemy and the Bard player knows the value of the role and probably what is needed for a hit or success when they choose to use it, as player AC isn't hidden information like enemy AC sometimes is. In contrast targeting a single enemy even affecting all of their roles, thats a lot fewer roles and there's a good chance none of them could even be changed by the inspiration dice. With a d6 if it's even possible for the full range of 1-6 to be useful it's a 30% chance on any given role it even can make a difference, 9% with disadvantage. How many roles is the enemy making? That goes up to 50% (25% disadvantage) at d10 inspiration but then the full range being possible is an even bigger issue. For example if the player has an AC of 20 an enemy attack with a +5 bonus, a role of 20 is a hit regardless so the highest their attack can be is 24. Only a role of 15-19 could be changed by cutting words. So 25% in this example regardless of whether the inspiration dice is d6 or d10.

Not only do you have to be aware of the enemy on your turn and foresee they are the threat, their dice have to line up just right for the ability to even have a chance of doing anything.

My suggestion is that the ability works as written above but targeting an enemy doesn't cost an inspiration or reaction until a viable role occurs and then both are spent. I think this is still a major nerf (eg. targeted enemy misses regardless of the cutting words but another enemy hits is not an unlikely sequence of events) but it removes needing to forsee the target's dice roll to not waste the inspiration which makes it more fair.

7 months ago (edited)

Sorry to come back to this, but I kind of blanket asserted it's a major nerf without backing that up. I wanted to make clear why it is and give a rough idea of how much with some actual reasoning.

So imagine cutting words as written(in SRD) except with the change you have to declare the target on your turn and you can only effect their roles. That is clearly a major nerf to the ability. For example targeting an enmy that makes two attacks with a d6 inspiration and the full range of 6 as possible degrees of success, no disadvantage. There's a 30% chance of each attack being within that 1-6 degree of success range so 70% it's not. 70% x 70% for a 49% chance that neither attack is, giving a 51% chance of affecting one attack.

Now consider Solasta's Cutting Words in the same situation. There's three possibilities, neither attack is a viable possibility for cutting words, one attack is, or both attacks are. If neither is then this is clearly worse then our nerfed cutting words as you've spent an inspiration and reaction you wouldn't have spent. If one is then it's as good value. If two are, then it's better... maybe. Arguably you need to role a cutting words and successfully role a cutting words for it to better as only successes have any inherent value and you couldn't have spent the resources twice anyway. Whether rolling or succeeding is the bench mark of being better is a bit more work to untangle than I'm willing to do so lets just say rolling as that favours the Solasta version, so it gives a lower bound for how big a nerf this is. Also it makes the maths much simpler.

Odds of 0 - 49% (see above)

Odds of 1 - 42% (30% x 70% + 70% x 30%)

Odds of 2 - 9% (30% x 30%)

So in this scenario you are rolling on average 0.6 of a dice as cutting words per use (0x49% + 1x42% + 2x9%). It's worse than our nerfed SRD Cutting Words.

And there are whole bunch of assumptions which are in Solasta's implementation's favour. First the the full range is shouldn't happen often, only if you've left a soft target open to attacks. Second that you would role an inspiration dice when it needed a max result, rolling only at 5 or better on a d6 dramatically increases the rate of success which is much more efficient for resource use. Rolling on 6 is only really worth it in a desperation situation where flipping the result is high value.

It is conceivable Solasta's version in the right situation could have higher expected value. For example a larger inspiration dice, with that range possible, against more 3 or more attacks. But in practice that means you've badly messed up and left some one with low AC open to dangerous attacker, are aware of that on the bards turn before the enemy goes but have nothing else you can do to prevent it by that point. It's extremely situational to the point of being a rare case that will never come up for many players.

So in short Solasta Cutting Words is a two-in-one nerf:

-Declaring a target makes it weaker

-It's less resource efficient per result changed

My suggestion addresses the second point, and resource efficiency is kind of a big deal for inspiration because the max amount is low and doesn't go up much, and at low levels it's a really limited resource. It does nothing about the first point, and while that's hard to quantify (it depends heavily on the specifics of encounters) it's probably the bigger nerf. But the double whammy is the real problem. It's a really strong ability and can take some nerfing and still be great, but both nerfs together seem unfair.