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Tradeskills - proposed rebalance

Discussion in 'The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim' started by Sir Rechet, Jan 19, 2014.

  1. Sir Rechet

    Sir Rechet I speak maths and logic, not stupid Veteran

    Nov 9, 2003
    Likes Received:
    [​IMG] Let's face it - tradeskills are widely regarded as overpowered. However, there's no need to make players decide between just plain not using them or breaking the game. Here's how I solved it in my current and future games.

    Chapter One: The issue.
    Let me specify WHY exactly the tradeskills are overpowered.

    They break the game's economy.
    Everyone knows by know that you can get rich by creating Iron Daggers and enchanting them with Banish. Or by doing just about anything with Alchemy in general. Or by smithing items and improving them. None of these require anything more than a way to reset merchant inventories, and widely surpass any income rate you could theoretically gain by just looting dungeons.

    They break the game's loot system.
    Since you can get the best items by making them yourself, you're really "not playing to your best ability" if you just abstain from doing so, removing any incentive to loot anything besides quest items.

    They unbalance the game in favor of physical armor and dps.
    Enchanting is powerful on its own, but combined with Smithing, the damage and armor scaling just goes through the roof. Can be partially remedied by upping the game's difficulty level, but since magic in general and Destruction in particular scale so poorly, choosing anything but physical dps and/or armor is willingly gimping yourself.

    They allow for easy and infinite leveling.
    Even if you were to abstain from direct powerleveling exploits such as repeatedly spamming spells in towns, repeatedly boosting tradeskills from 15 to 100 and making them Legendary is still by far the fastest method of gaining extra levels and perks. Not only that, but the cycle keeps on getting faster due to infinite gold gain exploits (see first point).

    Their perks are generally stronger than anything else in the game.
    Using seven perks in Enchanting (to boost skill enchants) leads to +288% dps enchants, ie. more than 40% increase per perk, making even the actual dps perks for weapon skills inferior in the early game.
    Using seven perks in Alchemy allows the creation of strong Fortify Smithing potions, and even if we consider these seven as "prerequisites" for the seven already mentioned in Enchanting, the net effect is till more than 20% damage increase per perk point spent. STILL better than putting any perk points into actual, you know, dps skills.
    Using just ONE (!) perk in Smithing puts the game's armor cap into reach without a single perk in either one of the Armor skills. Additionally, it increases the dps Steel weapons by a whopping 60-150 percent (depending on the weapon type), compared to just having 100 skill without that perk.

    Chapter two: Removing the gold feedback loop.
    As noted above, it's the possibility of gaining an infinite amount of interest on the initial investment needed to get the tradeskill gold production going that ENABLES most of this. The rest of it is mainly just follow-up effects.

    Hence, enter Trade and Barter. Strictly speaking, anything that alters the fBarterMax and fBarterMin values is enough including console commands, I just find the mod very well suited to the task. Now the hard part: Deciding the values so that they are large enough to remedy the problem, while small enough to not make trading in general completely null and void.

    I chose Smithing as my baseline skill to balance around. It's very easy to buy very large amount of supplies for, at least without other, often heavy-handed and/or conflicting mods. It is plain easy to use in extremely large quantities, compared to both Alchemy (mix'n'match) and Enchanting (the amount of keypresses per enchant is astounding). Also, it has the by far narrowest cost/benefit ratio of all tradeskills in vanilla.

    The best vanilla crafting recipes for most materials produce items that are roughly two to five times the value of the ingredients needed, while improving items heavily depends on the skill itself, including enchants & potions. However, improving has the intrinsic requirement of needing actual base items to apply on. Since we're ELIMINATING the gold feedback loop, all we really need to do is to make sure that creating new items yourself is ALWAYS a losing proposition. Preferably even more so, if you're also doing it with store-bought materials. This puts the absolute minimum required fBarter value to around 2.4 so that you lose 2.4 x 2.4 = 5.76 times the money when buying ingots yourself, ie. just barely negating the five times increase of value in best crafting recipes.

    However, any modifications to fBarter must also be accounted for, be it via Speech perks, Fortify Barter enchants or the Blessing of Charity in addition to any of the optional price adjustments you choose to enable within Trade and Barter itself. A good rule of thumb here is that you can easily get a combined Barter multiplier of 2 with nothing but the prereq perks on your way to Merchant (as good as an obligatory perk in my book), the blessing and a combination of self-made enchants together with Thieves Guild hat and Dark Brotherhood's "Jester's Clothes". Hence, anything below fBarter 4.8 is dangerously close, and WILL still break as soon as you start taking potential +100%, +200% or even greater base value improvements with nothing but a single extra ingot into account.

    By playing with the fBarter values alone, you'd need to set it to at least 8 or so to really make sure Smithing doesn't turn into a self-sustaining gold mine, and that would seriously slash any other trading into oblivion. Come on, eight times the markup on buy prices and one EIGHTH of base value when selling!? Thankfully, all we're really trying to curb here is the potential of keeping the gold rolling with store-bought ingredients alone - anything you find yourself shouldn't be penalized so hard. Thus, by keeping fBarter at 8.0 while raising both the Buy and Sell multipliers to +100%, you effectively land at fBarter 16.0 for buying stuff and fBarter 4.0 for selling. Please note that this WILL create extreme inflation on buy prices, but I'll get to that later on. All we really need here is a baseline. :)

    Chapter Three: Forcing Enchanting and Alchemy to follow suit.
    Quite frankly, I'm not sure what the designers at Bethesda were smoking when they thought that it would be a good idea that a single Banish enchant would turn 53g worth of ingredients (Iron Dagger and filled Petty Soul gem) into a 2k valued item. Or that you combine up to three ingredients valued from zero (!) to 20g into a potion worth well in excess of 1000 gold. Anyway you put it, trying the fBarter route to curb both of these would require values well above 10.0 to even begin to adress the problem. No, you need more drastic measures here.

    I decided to go with SIPPS for Alchemy. It makes the rare ingredients - not just marked as rare, but generally hard to acquire in game - to give stronger benefits than your everyday Red Mountain Flower that you can easily gather several hundred of. I modified the gold values further with Tes5edit by quartering them, and added/modified the Alchemy leveling formula to give as much more exp to keep leveling speed as close to vanilla as possible. Furthermore, I increased the gold value of ALL alchemy ingredients so that the cheapest ones start at 10g or so and quickly ramp up to 30g or even 50g a piece. This way, you need a rather high alchemy skill, enchants and perks to be able to push past potions worth just two HUNDRED gold. Which is, incidentally, in the order of roughly five times the value of ingredients put into it.

    As for Enchanting, the remedy is called SkyTweak. SkyTweak has settings for both enchant value multiplier (I recommend x1.0 instead of vanilla's x8.0) and the soul gem multiplier (x0.25 instead of vanilla's x0.12). This way, the enchants put on the item matter very little in comparison to the size of soulgem used, just as it already is with apparel enchants. Banish is still the best, but only by about a hundred gold per enchant. Compared to the price of FILLED soulgems, these settings make sure you're not making money out of thin air. The infamous Iron Dagger with Petty-sized Banish is only worth like 200-300g, depending on your enchanting skill. :)

    Chapter Four: Question of power.
    The tradeskills in general are a difficult bunch, and not only so in Skyrim. Traditionally you had two options: Make them too weak and nobody uses them, make them too strong and you might as well skip developing a loot system in your game. While World of Warcraft is a MMO, its solution was brilliant: Every tradeskill had small but tangible benefits over not having them since you could upgrade even raid tier items with them. And while there's no upgrading enchantments in Skyrim, Smithing DOES apply to all armors and weapons, whether you find them or create them yourself. (Some variants may need a mod fix so that they can be tempered, but that's yet ANOTHER broken aspect in Skyrim.)

    The big revelation here is that there really is just two possible and distinctly intresting states for tradeskills: Either you can create items that are better than the loot you find, or you can't. There's no real difference whether they differ by a little or by a lot, since you just always select the better. (Role-playing reasons aside.) And in terms of balancing them, it's actually better if they are just as close to each others as possible. IMHO, using the game's standard random loot equipment as a balancing point is just as good as any. It's also a whole less intrusive than going through the hundreds upon hundreds of premade items.

    In order to achieve this, I used Enchanting Rebalanced. Instead of capping at +100% perks, you end up with +50%, putting self-made enchants more in tune with loot you can find, surpassing the best ones only at extremely high skill levels (think 160+) and maxing out at just a few percent above them: 29% instead of 25% for most skills at 199 skill. Additionally, since you only ever need Fortify Smithing and Alchemy when crafting AND their effects stay permanently, a nerf to the base value of these enchants from 8% to 6% leaves them a couple percent points below the best random loot at 25% a piece.

    Alchemy is even worse in its vanilla state: it's completely worthless without external aid and tremendously powerful when backed up by both perks and enchants. Hence, I added similar nerfs to the Alchemy perks (Tes5edit) as Enchanting above and dropped its huge skill scaling of 1.5 to just 1.2, but instead increased its base power multiplier from 4.0 to 6.0 (all three of these edits courtesy of SkyTweak) so that you get at least SOME use out of it with minimal perk investment. Together with the modifications present in SIPPS, you need at least 100 skill with decent enchants to beat the store-bought potions and elixirs. And since Fortify Alchemy enchant is nerfed, you need just a hair above skill 100 in both if you rely on self-made enchants alone.

    Chapter Five: Inflation and how (not) to tackle it.
    Now that both gold production and power curve of tradeskills is fixed, let's tackle with the fallout effects, of which buy price inflation is the worst.

    A fBarter value of 8.0 combined with a +100% buy price modifier means that everything you'll buy also costs 16 times its base value, and still at least x8 with the standard Fortify Barter equipment. While that's a LOT, let's see how it actually effects you, for each and every item category.

    - Ingredients, ores/ingots and soulgems ARE the reason why these edits are necessary. Working as intended.
    - Weapons. Hands up, how many of you has ever purchased a non-enchanted weapon from a merchant? Thought so. And pretty much the only reason to buy an enchanted one is to get your hands on the enchant. Which is exactly the thing we're trying to DIScourage. Arrows play a minor part in Archery dps and anyone can produce Iron Arrows themselves (DLC and/or appropriate mod needed). So, doesn't really matter.
    - Armor. Same as with weapons, with the possible exception for the various mage robes. Then again, you are guaranteed to find generic robes already in Helgen and you can get Archmage's Robes fairly early in the game. Besides, aren't the mage items traditionally the most expensive ones around? Yes I'm looking at you, Robe of Vecna from BG2!
    - Potions. In vanilla, potions are plentiful already as it is, without having to buy them, apart from the occasional Enchanter's (or Blacksmith's) Elixir. If you wish to get more, may I suggest the now non-sucky Alchemy even without heavy investment into it?
    - Scrolls. I have zero experience with these and intend to keep it that way. Even in vanilla, the effects are barely justifiable compared to the gold for just selling them.
    - Food. Inconsequential to boot and dirt cheap even at x16 prices.
    - Books. The only expensive AND potentially required ones are spells. Just dropping their base value does the trick, or if you also mod magic to not suck quite as badly as in vanilla, maybe even justified?
    - Non-merchant merchandise such as carts, horses, houses, bribes and a handful of quest items aren't affected in any way by these settings.

    So, unless you both play as a mage AND are extremely bothered by the increased one-time cost of buying your spells, none of the inflation issues are game-breakers. Besides, if you really wish to rebalance the game's trade system decently, you'd do better to keep looking for complete overhauls such as the (now obsolete) Economics of Skyrim.

    Chapter six: Fine-tuning the fBarter value.
    IMHO the Bartering system is a brilliant idea, having many different factors affecting both buy and sell prices. However, once you apply a modicum of powergamer's approach to it, it's really poorly balanced. Just the items available via Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood questlines make a bigger total contribution to the available Barter modifiers than completing the entire Speech perk tree.

    The more you limit and/or nerf the amount of Barter modifiers available in the game, the less you need extra headroom when setting the fBarter values in Trade and Barter mod. This lessens the extra burden put on loot you find yourself and lowers the inflation necessary on bought items.

    My next go at Skyrim will happen with halved values on ALL Fortify Barter effects, except for the ones in the actual Speech tree. This allows me to keep the "expected" Barter multiplier much closer to 1.5, and thus requiring a fBarter value of no more than 3.6 (bare minimum) and thus fBarterMin at 5.0 is plenty already.

    Chapter seven: Physical vs Destruction.
    While this has nothing to do with tradeskills directly, I'm including it since I'm making these changes partly so that I don't need to go into such extremes to boost Destruction damage.

    It has been demonstrated several times over that as long as your Smithing improvements stay at or below Legendary, the dps of various skills isn't skewed all that much. But as long as the only thing boosting Destruction dps directly are just two perks per element and the occasional Alchemy potion, any sort of balancing between them is going to be hopeless. Not to mention that would require the total gutting of Smithing, a thing we're trying to avoid. Now, you COULD just use SkyTweak to boost Destruction directly, but then you end up with the hybrid problem of it being powerful for everyone. Doesn't matter whether you're pure mage or not.

    The question becomes then, what does a mage have that hybrids do not? Answer: Available enchant slots (no physical dps, remember?) and heaps of mana. Hence, a combination of Simple Magic Rebalance and Mastered Magicka fits the bill perfectly. Please note that SMR partially overwrites SIPPS, so you might need Tes5edit to carry over the SIPPS values to SMR.

    And finally, as for the Smithing skill itself: The recently published Complete Crafting Overhaul finally lets you separate smithing improvements getting better from the materials you're allowed to work the skill on. Plus it's extremely customizable to suit everyone.. and then some. Shameless promotion, but kryptopyr seems to know what she's doing. :)
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2014
    olimikrig likes this.
  2. olimikrig

    olimikrig Cavalier of War Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

    Aug 20, 2004
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    I'm looking forward trying out these suggested changes in my next play through! Although it appears I will finally have to read up on how to use Tes5edit beyond the basic mod cleaning :p.
  3. Sir Rechet

    Sir Rechet I speak maths and logic, not stupid Veteran

    Nov 9, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Just came to think of it - even the balance between tradeskills themselves is weird. Consider the following:

    Most smithing perks give a straight +100% bonus on improving certain items.
    Fortify Smithing gives +112% bonus on improving even without Alchemy or +116% with it.
    Fortify Alchemy allows the creation of +130% bonus improve potions.

    So, you're actually better off by skipping Smithing perks entirely, if you only wanted two tradeskills. The fact that you only need one smithing perk for the full bonus is well and good, but isn't it strange that the actual smithing perks pale in comparison? Also, dropping Smithing has the intrinsic "bonus" of being able to improve everything to the same quality level, instead of just Steel items.

    With the nerfs discussed above, the theoretical best Fortify Smithing enchants and potions fall to +99% and +68%, respectively. (SIPPS halves the base value of Fortify Smithing potions, to better conform with the store-bought potions.) Not only that, but you need either clvl 40+ to have a CHANCE at finding the best Fortify <skill> enchants or have both Enchanting and Alchemy well past 100 skill, before this even becomes an issue. :)

    Edit: I guess I've implied it above, but just to put it into print. There are other reasons for these nerfs besides just the gold production aspect. These include:
    - The vanilla game lacks meaningful money sinks once you've purchased your first house and spells. Now you get tradeskills as a money sink.
    - The difference in base items (say, between Steel and Daedric) is better preserved by dropping both the leveling speed and theoretical maximum for smithing improvements.
    - Rather than killing scaling entirely, it's spread around. In vanilla, you go from a weakling with no skills and Leather/Iron items to max everything all at once. With the elimination of powerleveling tradeskills, you're most likely going to get better base items first, upgrade your dps skills and perks second and START working on your smithing improvements as a distant third.
    - It's no longer "necessary" (thinking from the POV of a powergamer) to drop your first 15 perk points into tradeskills, but into the skills you actually use.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2014
  4. Sir Rechet

    Sir Rechet I speak maths and logic, not stupid Veteran

    Nov 9, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Some playtesting observations:
    - Gathering the first 5k gold for your house takes a while when you start at fBarter 5+. With the quadruple extra penalty on buying stuff, just a simple EMPTY Petty Soulgem feels like an investment. I managed this first after having completed the main questline's first dragon kill quest.
    - Complete Crafting Overhaul makes ingot gathering for Smithing a joy, as just about every piece of loot can be smelted into ingots and/or leather strips. Also, by enabling smithing experience from both mining and smelting, you don't NEED to create a metric ton of items just to get the skill into meaningful levels.
    - Using the smelt/create loop for ingots replaces the arduous "create/improve/sell items/buy more ingots" routine from vanilla. Also, it's conveniently detached from the bartering system, making it feasible to powerlevel smithing even before you have acquired all the required Fortify Barter items to be able to do it the old-fashioned way. A beautiful combination of convenience WITHOUT it being overpowered or even lore-unfriendly.
    - Did I mention that Complete Crafting Overhaul is just pure genius in general? :)
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