The pros and cons of CON

Last week we saw a new effect come into play with CON now directly aiding in damage mitigation and surprisingly CON past your class maximum would still apply to this effect.

My initial, reserved reaction was that I didn’t know if I liked the idea of using stats beyond the class limits.  This feeling was precipitated by the satisfaction I get from building a character and hitting the maximums in a particular build.  Knowing that you can add beyond the limits means that there’s always some bonus that I’m neglecting to achieve.  For me, and to others like me with a tip of the hat to Fight Club … this is like a cut on the roof of your mouth that would go away if you’d only stop tonguing it, but you can’t.  Stat effects past the boundaries are the Marla Singer of video games.

Ok so that’s out of my system.  That’s the initial reaction: knee-jerk and unqualified.

Of course the only way to qualify an opinion is to go out there and get beat up in some consistent manner and see how much of a reduction there is.  Or wait for Gagnon of Dragonslayer to do some initial testing .. you know, one way or the other 🙂  I’ll note that the only qualified opinion I can give is about opdamage, though I rather suspect mpdamage or rpdamage would be identical.  It’s difficult to quantify in a combat situation because of the number of variables not only from round to round but also from repop to repop (ever had a higher level repop of Danbala?).

I was pleased to find that the effect appears to have a fairly low floor where the player won’t feel more damage.  I didn’t observe any increase in damage on my characters, but I didn’t put a great effort into seeing how low I could drive my con, though I may.  It’s taken me a little while, but I am getting my head around the idea that penalties don’t have to be directly applied to players … as in the lack of con causing more damage than normal, that the lack of a benefit can be a penalty in and of itself.

On the upper end it appears that hitting class limits gives you a decent little reduction to your damage taken, certainly enough to consider adding CON where possible but not so much that I’d give up a radical amount of hit points to accommodate it.  Gagnon managed to push a build to 47 con, which I applaud heartily but did so to the exclusion of every other stat.  The character saw a continuous reduction in damage taken, though we did observe that beyond the class limits the effect does slow down, but by 47 con it was quite a nice reduction.  Too bad you’d be a one-hit-wonder for anything better than a Darkhaven guard, but hey, you’d get your reduction!  *grin*

So where does this fall into the worth the effort/not worth the effort spectrum?  I think that it’s fairly clear that this should fall into the category of an optimization.  New players don’t need to stress out about this, just take con into account when you’re making a new character.  Ultimately I don’t think this mitigation is going to cause you to survive a fight that you otherwise couldn’t.  You may survive a few close calls because of it but in the final analysis if you couldn’t quaff your way out of trouble before, you’re still in trouble.  Where this does have a nice shine to it is that it may save you some equipment damage and gold in heals, which if you’re an active player is probably not insignificant.  If you are on a tanking character where hit points, AC and damage evasion are far more important than DR, then trading DR for CON probably makes sense.  Is it worth glorying extra CON on?  That’s up to you.  1 con will cost you the same as 7.5 hp … The numbers depend on where in the spectrum you are but I don’t think you’re going to save 7.5 hp per round unless there’s more than 1k of damage coming through sanc and protect per round.  Straight mitigation doesn’t make the case here.  On a long term basis there is an argument that more CON = less heals but that doesn’t translate directly into a gold/glory cost analysis since the days to glory trading came to an end.  Were glory trading legal, you could probably save gold if you were an active enough runner by buying CON.

It remains to be seen if this will translate into lower equipment damage.  This is the one spot where this could be a shining star.  If tanks can stay in a fight longer because the damage is lessened and their equipment isn’t being so heavily hit then I would say every tank should load up all the free CON they can grab.  Simultaneously it will reduce repair costs giving a second direct economic benefit to the player who doesn’t want to spend their time golding for repair bills.

All in all I think this is a good change.  What changed my mind about pushing past the class limits was my experience building my character in Diablo 3.  I can take things as far as I want to, starting thinking in terms of “effective health” instead of raw hit points.  It goes against the grain of the Realms of Despair, but I think it’s worthwhile.  I can see not eliminating the stat caps on characters because it would require a total review of everything that is dependent on those limits, but selectively breaking the cap seems a great compromise.  As with saving throws the numbers are not directly read off the score screen (I won’t see myself with 27 con by typing score) so some element of mystery remains, even if many database programs (my own included) will count the actual totals.

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