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Author Topic: Why Tier 2s are Tier 2s  (Read 26124 times)
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Gr1lledcheese
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« on: July 06, 2009, 12:07:10 PM »

It was brought up that there's no set explanation for why low tier classes are generally less effective. With that in mind, I figured I'd start one. I'll be doing one for each tiers, but I want to get the low tiers out of the way first, because most people know why classes like Wizards and Druids are above average. I'm looking for your input on the classes, and to make this a guide for people new to CO. Thanks to all who contribute in advance.

From JaronK's Tier System For Classes guide, the widely accepted Char Op base power description thread:

Tier 2: Has as much raw power as the Tier 1 classes, but can't pull off nearly as many tricks, and while the class itself is capable of anything, no one build can actually do nearly as much as the Tier 1 classes. Still potencially campaign smashers by using the right abilities, but at the same time are more predictable and can't always have the right tool for the job. If the Tier 1 classes are countries with 10,000 nuclear weapons in their arsenal, these guys are countries with 10 nukes. Still dangerous and world shattering, but not in quite so many ways.  Note that the Tier 2 classes are often less flexible than Tier 3 classes... it's just that their incredible potential power overwhelms their lack in flexibility.

Examples: Sorcerer, Favored Soul, Psion, Binder (with access to online vestiges)

Why Tier 2s are Tier 2:

Sorcerer:
A note on Sorcerers: Well, the sorcerer and favored soul are obvious examples because they're spontaneous version of tier 1 classes (the wizard and cleric respectively).  They get more spell slots per day, but they have far fewer spells known.  Thus, any one trick of theirs can be just as powerful as a tier 1 caster, but they don't have as many tricks.  Their sheer versatility drops compared to a tier 1 class.  They can completely solo some encounters, but not all encounters.

Of course, smart players will take very versatile spells to maximize each spell known.  Spells like Alter Self/Polymorpth each cover a wide range of possibilities, as do the Summon Monster spells.

Also, being able to spontaneously apply metamagic feats is nice, but the full round action cost really cuts into the action ecconomy.  Being one level behind on their advancement also hurts their power a bit compared to the tier 1s. -Robbypants

Cons: A Sorcerer gets shafted in nearly every way compared to a Wizard.  A Sorcerer's only entry in its class feature table is a familiar which is often quickly traded for a better class feature while Wizards have a familiar, the ability to specialize, a larger skill list, and get a bonus feat every 5 levels.  Regardless, a Sorcerer's primary strength lies in his spell selection which, with minor notable exceptions, is the same as the Wizard's.

Sorcerers know few spells, and many would agree that their spells known list starts small and progresses abysmally slowly.  While a Wizard can spend some cash and pad his repertoire, Sorcerers are meant to be balanced by casting more spells per day spontaneously and requiring less money to be effective.  (If your DM allows you to buy Knowstones, Sorcerers may spend more than Wizards on new spells.)  Were a Sorcerer's 'spells per day' table for each spell he knew instead of total, his stamina would make him a much greater contender for equality with a Wizard.  As it stands, at each level a Sorcerer gains a new spell level, he knows exactly ONE spell of that level that he can cast thrice plus his bonus slots per day.  Meanwhile, a specialist Wizard- the typical modern species- can cast the same number of spells per day and choose to allocate them as he sees fit, assuming the Wizard's INT equals the Sorcerer's CHA.

A Sorcerer4 has more level 1 slots and can spontaneously cast Grease, Mage Armor, or Silent Image 7 times per day and Alter Self 4 times per day, but a level ago while the was Sorcerer fixated on exploiting Silent Image for all he could, the Conjurer was casting Alter Self and forcing Will saves with Glitterdust.  Alter Self is still a spiffy spell, debatably broken, but it's annoyingly using my sole level 2 spell known at this point.  Even if the Conjurer never buys a scroll, he knows 4 spells and has 3 general slots and 1 specialist slot to change on a daily basis.  (If the Conjurer took Collegiate Wizard at level 1, he automatically knows more spells of a spell level than a Sorcerer ever will, unless the Sorcerer learns a buncha spells.)  By the time the Sorcerer levels to 5 and gains another level 2 spell- Glitterdust in this case to keep up- the Conjurer is busy casting level 3 spells and gleefully screaming, "Haste makes waste of mine enemies!"

A Sorcerer knows about as many spells as a specialist Wizard of 4 levels lower has slots.  Assuming he starts with 18 INT, a Conjurer5 has 5 L1 slots, 4 L2s, and 3 L3s.  A Sorcerer9 knows 5 L1s, 4 L2s, 3 L3s, and 2 L4s and can cast them more often, but in terms of L1-3 versatility, the Conjurer's probably ahead.  As a Wizard rises in level and INT, the balance tips farther in his favor and away from the Sorcerer, especially if the Sorcerer isn't higher level.  (In practice, most people only reliably cast spells from their highest 2 spells levels.  Being able to look at my low level spell list, like levels 1 and 2 when I can cast level 5+ spells, and spontaneously cast these low level spells is handy.  A high level Wizard in a similar situation may find it annoying he hasn't looked at this page of his spell list in months, or updated it for that time.)

A Focused Specialist loses 1 more school but gains the casting stamina Sorcerers should have had.  While this FS may only know 2 spells of a spell level, he can cast them so often that he makes the wee Sorcerers cry.  It doesn't help that Andy Collins, one of third edition's designers, hated the Sorcerer class.

Spontaneous casting is lovely and if you know the spell, you can cast it, instead of struggling in the moment and trying to guess the DM's plans.  I strongly believe spontaneous casting is worth far less than what WotC demanded in return for it.  Wizards can cast spontaneously via various tricks, like a Hathran1 with an Acorn of Far Travel granting full spontaneous casting to any prepped class.  (If your DM allows you to preserve the Acorn by full submersion in Quintessence, so much the better.)

A heavily optimized Sorcerer works well in a party with a full-time Wizard so the Sorcerer can learn the spells worth spamming while the Wizard focuses on more situational spells.

With certain tricks, especially ones involving Dragonwrought Kobolds, Sorcerers can learn spells at least as soon as Wizards; however, being a spell level ahead of a Wizard is only meaningful if those spell picks are significantly better than the Wizard's selections.

The Sorcerer class may have been made as a more newbie-friendly version of a Wizard, but it's more of a newbie trap.  While Wizards demand careful planning to be effective on a daily basis and are harder to screw up long-term, Sorcerers demand more long-term optimization to be similarly effective but can spam buttons on a daily basis.  If a Wizard is a person famous for creating marvelous works of original music, a Sorcerer is a band that remixes or plays many of the original songs as a tribute, perhaps adding some spice of their own, but always lurks in the background, hoping to be loved and appreciated just the same. -Endarire
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Due to his small list of spells known, and his inability to shift his casting from day to day, the sorcerer is not as likely to have the best spell for any situation as the wizard. The fact that he is one spell level behind prepared casters through half of his progression means that he is always a little behind them on the power curve.

Sorcerers have poor hit points and bad fortitude saves.

Aside from their spell list, Sorcerers have no class features to speak of. They are greatly benefited by most full progression prestige classes. -Braithwaite
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WotC hates sorcerers. Focused Abyssal Specialist Wizards get more spells known, more spell slots per day, and can spontaneously cast more than enough spells to be god in combat. Fact is, sorcerers were supposed to be comparable to wizards but with each book WotC printed the wizards got more ways to replace the sorcerer. The only boons tossed towards the sorcerer is the dragonspawn and Spellsurge. And one of those is pretty much banned from all games... -SorO_Lost
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What the sorcerer has in raw power, he lacks in spell versitility without serious optimization.  Don't get this wrong though: even with limited spells per day, he can still be far more flexible than any Fighter, assuming he picks versitile and powerful spells like Alter Self or Glitterdust.  Also, his biggest weakness is being printed next to the Wizard in the PHB, which forces people to compare him to that monstrosity and thus makes him seem weak.  Another big weakness is that a Sorcerer becomes much weaker if he's not allowed to use the spells that are both powerful and flexible, but those spells are often banned by DMs.  While a Wizard can just pick a spell that's powerful and not flexible (since he can chose the spell for the occasion anyway) the Sorcerer is stuck with weaker spells, so Sorcerers are often weakened more noticeably by heavy handed DM nerfs than Wizards. -JaronK

Pros: The sorcerer is a full caster, with one of the best available spell lists in the game. While limited by their spells known, a carefully built sorcerer has the potential for both game breaking power and significant flexibility. There are a few sorcerer only spells, or spells with added benefits when cast by sorcerers. The large class spell list means that sorcerers can get significant mileage from spell trigger items and runestaffs. Unlike the "specialist sorcerer" classes, a well built sorcerer can target will or fortitude saves, do battlefield control, buffs, or direct damage, and can be a formidable opponent even to foes with spell resistance or other defenses to certain types of magic.

The sorcerer does not need to protect a spellbook. In circumstances where the party falsely guesses what to expect in a given day, the sorcerer with his varied list can temporarily surpass even prepared casters.

With bluff on his class list, and his high charisma, the sorcerer can make an adequate party "Face" in the absence of better classes for this role. -Braithwaite
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Sorcerer advantage is that they can cover the bases with their spells. At 20th level a sorcerer might have shades, shape change, wail of the banshee, greater shadow evocation, moment of prescience, greater planar binding, limited wish, mage's mansion, plane shift, mass suggestion, solid fog, teleport, true seeing, animate dead and some other stuff. This allows him to do every thing pretty good, but not at the awesome level that they could if they had a less restrictive spell selection.To get versatility a sorcerer has to take things that it can't spam, and spamming is what they do. Planar binding, shapechange, plane shift, the mansion and teleport are likely one slots in the daily scheme of things if that. -lians
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Assuming your party has a wizard in it then your DM should allow you to whip out some dragon cheese on your sorcerer which leads to some major ass kicking. As a White Dragonspawn Abomination Dragonwought Kobold with Greater Draconic Rite you're casting three levels ahead of normal which has it's own goodies. Follow that up with the Arcane Spellsurge spell and Invisible Spell combo and your casting two spells per round. For your buffing round make both of those spells a greater arcane fusion that casts arcane fusion and poof, two 1st level spells and four 4th level spells per round at the cost of two 8th level spell slots.

Sorcerer's also make better gishes than wizards, not because they have simple lame weapons proficiency, but because they can use the Spellsurge trick without caring about conserving spell slots. Thus they can nova out the first two or three encounters and just rely on standard combat and their lower level spells to get them though the day. Also Wings of Cover deserves it's own mentioning, as an immediate action you can gain full cover. This means the sorcerer can break the line of effect of a 9th level dominate monster spell cast on him at the cost of a mere 2nd level spell slot. -SorO_Lost
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They have access to all the broken tricks of a Wizard... but no one Sorcerer can actually do very many of them.  Nonetheless, a Sorcerer can still Alter Self into a Crucian or Dwarf Ancestor at level 4 (depending on his type).  He can still Planar Bind rediculously powerful creatures, Shapechange into a Solar to become a Cleric, spam Explosive Runes all over the place, knock out dragons with a single Shivering Touch, and so on... if he chooses the right spells.  Certainly, if played by RAW a higher level Sorcerer can absolutely break the game (Planar bound Efreetis, Flowing Time Genesis, Flesh to Salt on cows, etc).  And of course there are ways around his spell limitations, such as Mage of the Arcane Order, Sand Shaper, and Runestaffs.  Plus, Kobold Sorcerers can by raw get huge boosts to their effective level... with a liberal DM, you could quite possibly get +3 to Sorcerer level (Loredrake + Draconic Reserve + Greater Draconic Rite) for the cost of a single feat and some other more negligible costs.  Even if your DM doesn't accept Loredrake, Greater Draconic Rite lets the Sorcerer keep up with the Wizard in spell levels... if you're cool with being a tiny dragon creature. -JaronK
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Sorcerers become significantly more flexible if you allow Psychic Reformation, though the XP costs will mean that you can't use it very often.

Of course, if you rebuild correctly, you shouldn't have to  use it very often.

One thing to keep in mind about sorcerers vs wizards is that in most games, wizards can't be played to their fullest extent, so the power gap narrows a little.

Still, the class is poorly designed. There is no reason for the slower spell progression. -Solo


Favored Soul:

A note on Favored Souls: Well, the sorcerer and favored soul are obvious examples because they're spontaneous version of tier 1 classes (the wizard and cleric respectively).  They get more spell slots per day, but they have far fewer spells known.  Thus, any one trick of theirs can be just as powerful as a tier 1 caster, but they don't have as many tricks.  Their sheer versatility drops compared to a tier 1 class.  They can completely solo some encounters, but not all encounters.

Of course, smart players will take very versatile spells to maximize each spell known.  Spells like Alter Self/Polymorpth each cover a wide range of possibilities, as do the Summon Monster spells.

Also, being able to spontaneously apply metamagic feats is nice, but the full round action cost really cuts into the action ecconomy.  Being one level behind on their advancement also hurts their power a bit compared to the tier 1s. -Robbypants

Cons: Lacks Turn Undead (one of the reasons Clerics are tier 1), forcing the favored soul to multiclass in order to get it. The bonus feats it receives are sub par. Even the capstone could be better. And they are 1 level behind his Tier 1 counterpart. -Risada
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Favored souls are sorcerers with a slightly worse spell list, MAD for spells, and somewhat underwhelming class features. -The_Mad_Linguist

Pros: Favored souls have access to one of the best spell list in the game, including healing, buffs, debuffs, blasting and some battlefield control, with spontaneous casting to boot. They also have good saves and grant access to the Weapon Focus line of feats. -Risada


Psion:

A note on Psions: Psions are very similar to arcanists in that they fulfill the same basic roles in a party (gish, mind control, summoner, battlefield control, blaster, divination specialist, and so on), though their class structure tends to restrict them in how many of these abilities they have access to at one time. It takes considerably more effort to build a truly varied psion than it does for a wizard or archivist, in large part because the enforced specialization they undergo due to the existence of psionic disciplines (also known colloquially as 'devotions' to avoid confusion, as 'discipline' means both psionic 'schools of magic' and psionic 'areas of specialization').

Psions tend to be considerably more flexible in their area of expertise than sorcerers are, for the simple fact that their casting system was designed explicitly with spontaneous casting in mind (rather than being a class that was tacked-on to a system designed around the fire-n-forget mechanic that wizards, clerics, and druids are designed to fully exploit). However, the majority of their abilities are considerably less powerful than their arcane/divine counterparts, though their most 'broken' powers are actually direct analogues to stock-standard wizard spells.

The base chassis for the psion class is as follows: d4 Hit Dice; poor BAB; proficiency in simple weapons (though they aren't proficient in armor or shields); Good Will saves; 2 skill points per level with a different skill list for each devotion; Int-based manifesting; one psionic, metapsionic, or psionic item creation bonus feat at levels 1, 5, and every 5 levels thereafter; enforced devotion specialization; and the best power progression and power point acquisition of any of the psionic classes. Psions also get access to psionic focus (both a boon and a bane) by virtue of having power points, which is covered briefly below:

Psionic Focus

Psionic focus is a mechanic unique to psionics, which is based around the Concentration skill. "Psionic focus" is an on/off state, depending on whether you've regained (as a full-round action and a DC 20 Concentration check) or expended (as part of another action) or otherwise lost your focus. You must have at least 1 pp in your pp pool in order to maintain psionic focus.

Psionic focus only does a single thing on its own; it allows you to 'take 15' on a Concentration check when you expend it. Otherwise, it fuels psionic feats, metapsionic feats, and certain class features (either by means of maintaining focus [for feats like Up the Walls] or by expending it [mostly for metapsionic feats]).

This restricts what a psionic character can do, since most characters can only have a single psionic focus at one time, but it also allows them to use feats and abilities somewhat more powerful than most other characters. Thus, it's both an enabler and a restriction to psionic characters. -Lycanthromancer

Cons: 1.) Psions pay for their versatility. Powers, unlike spells, don't generally auto-scale. Instead of expending a 3rd level spell-slot (the equivalent of 5 pp) for 10d6 points of damage at level 10, you must expend 10 pp for the same amount of damage (twice the resource expenditure for the same effect). This leads to issue #2:

2.) Psions have nova issues, which means that it's fairly easy to run out of power points after a couple of encounters. You have to ration a psion's powers where they'll do the most good, without overextending yourself; otherwise you end up as little more than a commoner with a crossbow and a few tricks up his sleeves. The way to deal with this as a player is to ration yourself; as a DM, make sure there are an average of 4-5 equal-CR encounters per day (as the DMG itself suggests) to teach your psion player to practice self-restraint.

3.) Psions are good at applying metapsionics on the fly, but the restraints on metapsionics are severe enough that it takes a good chunk of build-resources to overcome them. While they have considerably more flexibility when it comes to using them, pp spent on metapsionics steals pp away from augmentation (which is used in lieu of auto-scaling), a psion's numbers tend to be a bit smaller (sometimes quite a bit smaller) than a wizard's or sorcerer's.

4.) Despite being considerably less broken than even core spellcasting, the horrible mechanics used pre-3.5, the Psionics Is Different Variant, and cheating players (along with DMs who don't understand the checks-and-balances on the system) have garnered 3.5 psionics a wholly undeserved reputation for being utterly broken, and so it won't be used in most games. Luckily the stigma seems to be wearing off, but quite unfortunately the blemish remains to this day. The biggest dent in their supreme might, the reason why they're not tier 1, and are still a step behind the sorcerer in utter power is they don't cast spells.

Their power list simply isn't half as broken as what wizards and sorcerers get, even in Core-only.

As I said before, the primary source of brokenness for psionics are the powers that are near-direct analogues of staple spells. Metamorphosis, for instance, is broken for a 4th level effect, but it's based wholly on polymorph. Psionic dominate is, as you probably guessed, based on dominate person/monster.

Powers simply don't compare to the insane power of the Core spell-list, mostly because the really bad exploits have been weeded out by halfway-decent editing and playtesting. -Lycanthromancer
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The low HD is worse than just being squishy, it prevents you from making full use of overchannel, the boot leg version of wild surge.  This can be offset with talented or manifesting vigor before hand.  Both have their limitations but not so bad once you get metamorphosis which in all likelihood heal any damage incurred when overchanneling.

No mantled variant is kind of a downer since psywar and wilder both had those options.

There are legal ways to effectively give yourself much more PP than you should which might prompt the DM to call foul on you.  There is that temp PP trick in ToM and the old "make 50 manifesting bolts" trick (effectively giving you a free 250 PP to spend on L1-L3 powers).  Both can do much to enhance your PP pool but may have your DM banning psionics as broken.  Especially true if you had to beg your DM to give  psionics a try in the first place. -Samb

Pros: 1.) Power points are far easier to keep track of than spell-slots, and the system as a whole is considerably more streamlined and organic-feeling. You don't have to deal with clunky, chunky spell-slots, and you don't need to worry about which spells you've used that day. Simply subtract the pp you've used from your total, and you're golden.

2.) Likewise, you aren't limited by which spell-slots you have available. Since power points are discrete, and can be used spontaneously, you can fire off a whole bunch of low-level powers, a smaller number of augmented low-level powers, or a few of your highest level powers, limited only by the action economy and how many power points you have left.

3.) Psionic manifesting is inherently flexible, with most powers retaining their usefulness for multiple purposes throughout the manifester's career, due to augmentation and the inherent flexibility that psionic powers have. Many powers are generically-useful enough to have several (perhaps unintended) uses, meaning that even those that seem subpar can be amazingly useful in numerous situations. Psionic feats likewise tend toward being extremely flexible, with Psicrystal Affinity being one of the most useful low-level (and high-level) feats I've ever come across.

4.) Due to the nature of psionics, manifesters get the Still Spell, Silent Spell, and a watered-down version of Heighten Spell, essentially for free. They can also manifest in armor with no inherent penalties (though psions aren't proficient in armor, so armor check penalties apply to attack rolls with weapons and powers).

5.) Int-based manifesting and access to a (potentially) awesome skill list, dependent on discipline, means that psions make good skill-monkeys. All psions make good Knowledge-monkeys, while telepaths make excellent party faces and nomads and seers make decent scouts.

6.) Psychic reformation was the original retraining ability, allowing manifesters (especially psions) to swap out their preexisting powers, skill points, feats, and possibly class levels (depending on interpretation). Since psions have no other mechanic for changing their builds (unlike wizards, clerics, and druids, which can swap their entire spell lists every day; and sorcerers and bards, which can swap out spells every other level), swapping out class abilities for a power known, some power points, a double-fistful of XP, and 10 minutes of manifesting time seems a decent alternative.

7.) Psions aren't campaign-wreckers, meaning that any DM that has read the class abilities and understands game balance should have no problems keeping them in check; they have some good tricks, and an optimizer with a good understanding of the system can do some surprising things, but it's nothing like unto what any plain-vanilla wizard can do to a game. Psions ARE pretty powerful, and flexible.

Their design schematic is better than the sorcerer's in every way. They're built as spontaneous 'casters' from the ground-up, and you actually get class features.

They're the epitome of flexibility and elegance-in-design. -Lycanthromancer
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Psychic reformation is a lot better than retraining in that it only requires you qualify for the feats and powers that you alter.  So you can see psions with nothing but 9th powers (stupid but possible by RAW).  There is another stricter interpretation of this, but by RAW it is possible.

Researching a power can also offset a lot of restrictions on psions' power lists which is especially potent at higher levels when you have more XP to spare.

Mind's eye provided a lot of PrCs that fit great for any type of psion, personal favorites are crystal master and arch psion. -Samb


Binder (with access to online vestiges):

Binder online vestiges can be found here: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/frcc/20070718

Cons: See Binder description in Why Tier 3s Are Tier 3.

Pros: One of the vestiges lets you cast Summon Monster as though you were a sorcerer of your binder level once per 5 rounds (so at Binder 16, you can cast Summon Monster VIII at caster level 16).  This lets you keep up and endless stream of versitile minions up all the time, often with nifty spell like abilities to help out.  They even get a template.  Other vestiges make you an incredible item crafter as well. -JaronK
« Last Edit: July 11, 2009, 05:40:13 PM by Gr1lledcheese » Logged

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RobbyPants
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« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2009, 12:38:43 PM »

Well, the sorcerer and favored soul are obvious examples because they're spontaneous version of tier 1 classes (the wizard and cleric respectively).  They get more spell slots per day, but they have far fewer spells known.  Thus, any one trick of theirs can be just as powerful as a tier 1 caster, but they don't have as many tricks.  Their sheer versatility drops compared to a tier 1 class.  They can completely solo some encounters, but not all encounters.

Of course, smart players will take very versatile spells to maximize each spell known.  Spells like Alter Self/Polymorpth each cover a wide range of possibilities, as do the Summon Monster spells.

Also, being able to spontaneously apply metamagic feats is nice, but the full round action cost really cuts into the action ecconomy.  Being one level behind on their advancement also hurts their power a bit compared to the tier 1s.
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2009, 01:34:36 PM »

A Sorcerer gets shafted in nearly every way compared to a Wizard.  A Sorcerer's only entry in its class feature table is a familiar which is often quickly traded for a better class feature while Wizards have a familiar, the ability to specialize, a larger skill list, and get a bonus feat every 5 levels.  Regardless, a Sorcerer's primary strength lies in his spell selection which, with minor notable exceptions, is the same as the Wizard's.

Sorcerers know few spells, and many would agree that their spells known list starts small and progresses abysmally slowly.  While a Wizard can spend some cash and pad his repertoire, Sorcerers are meant to be balanced by casting more spells per day spontaneously and requiring less money to be effective.  (If your DM allows you to buy Knowstones, Sorcerers may spend more than Wizards on new spells.)  Were a Sorcerer's 'spells per day' table for each spell he knew instead of total, his stamina would make him a much greater contender for equality with a Wizard.  As it stands, at each level a Sorcerer gains a new spell level, he knows exactly ONE spell of that level that he can cast thrice plus his bonus slots per day.  Meanwhile, a specialist Wizard- the typical modern species- can cast the same number of spells per day and choose to allocate them as he sees fit, assuming the Wizard's INT equals the Sorcerer's CHA.

A Sorcerer4 has more level 1 slots and can spontaneously cast Grease, Mage Armor, or Silent Image 7 times per day and Alter Self 4 times per day, but a level ago while the was Sorcerer fixated on exploiting Silent Image for all he could, the Conjurer was casting Alter Self and forcing Will saves with Glitterdust.  Alter Self is still a spiffy spell, debatably broken, but it's annoyingly using my sole level 2 spell known at this point.  Even if the Conjurer never buys a scroll, he knows 4 spells and has 3 general slots and 1 specialist slot to change on a daily basis.  (If the Conjurer took Collegiate Wizard at level 1, he automatically knows more spells of a spell level than a Sorcerer ever will, unless the Sorcerer learns a buncha spells.)  By the time the Sorcerer levels to 5 and gains another level 2 spell- Glitterdust in this case to keep up- the Conjurer is busy casting level 3 spells and gleefully screaming, "Haste makes waste of mine enemies!"

A Sorcerer knows about as many spells as a specialist Wizard of 4 levels lower has slots.  Assuming he starts with 18 INT, a Conjurer5 has 5 L1 slots, 4 L2s, and 3 L3s.  A Sorcerer9 knows 5 L1s, 4 L2s, 3 L3s, and 2 L4s and can cast them more often, but in terms of L1-3 versatility, the Conjurer's probably ahead.  As a Wizard rises in level and INT, the balance tips farther in his favor and away from the Sorcerer, especially if the Sorcerer isn't higher level.  (In practice, most people only reliably cast spells from their highest 2 spells levels.  Being able to look at my low level spell list, like levels 1 and 2 when I can cast level 5+ spells, and spontaneously cast these low level spells is handy.  A high level Wizard in a similar situation may find it annoying he hasn't looked at this page of his spell list in months, or updated it for that time.)

A Focused Specialist loses 1 more school but gains the casting stamina Sorcerers should have had.  While this FS may only know 2 spells of a spell level, he can cast them so often that he makes the wee Sorcerers cry.  It doesn't help that Andy Collins, one of third edition's designers, hated the Sorcerer class.

Spontaneous casting is lovely and if you know the spell, you can cast it, instead of struggling in the moment and trying to guess the DM's plans.  I strongly believe spontaneous casting is worth far less than what WotC demanded in return for it.  Wizards can cast spontaneously via various tricks, like a Hathran1 with an Acorn of Far Travel granting full spontaneous casting to any prepped class.  (If your DM allows you to preserve the Acorn by full submersion in Quintessence, so much the better.)

A heavily optimized Sorcerer works well in a party with a full-time Wizard so the Sorcerer can learn the spells worth spamming while the Wizard focuses on more situational spells.

With certain tricks, especially ones involving Dragonwrought Kobolds, Sorcerers can learn spells at least as soon as Wizards; however, being a spell level ahead of a Wizard is only meaningful if those spell picks are significantly better than the Wizard's selections.

The Sorcerer class may have been made as a more newbie-friendly version of a Wizard, but it's more of a newbie trap.  While Wizards demand careful planning to be effective on a daily basis and are harder to screw up long-term, Sorcerers demand more long-term optimization to be similarly effective but can spam buttons on a daily basis.  If a Wizard is a person famous for creating marvelous works of original music, a Sorcerer is a band that remixes or plays many of the original songs as a tribute, perhaps adding some spice of their own, but always lurks in the background, hoping to be loved and appreciated just the same.
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Speaking of which:
Don't even need TO for this.  Any decent Hood build, especially one with Celerity, one-rounds [Azathoth, the most powerful greater deity from d20 Cthulu].
Does it bug anyone else that we've reached the point where characters who can obliterate a greater deity in one round are considered "decent?"
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« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2009, 01:59:57 PM »

Psions
Psions are very similar to arcanists in that they fulfill the same basic roles in a party (gish, mind control, summoner, battlefield control, blaster, divination specialist, and so on), though their class structure tends to restrict them in how many of these abilities they have access to at one time. It takes considerably more effort to build a truly varied psion than it does for a wizard or archivist, in large part because the enforced specialization they undergo due to the existence of psionic disciplines (also known colloquially as 'devotions' to avoid confusion, as 'discipline' means both psionic 'schools of magic' and psionic 'areas of specialization').

Psions tend to be considerably more flexible in their area of expertise than sorcerers are, for the simple fact that their casting system was designed explicitly with spontaneous casting in mind (rather than being a class that was tacked-on to a system designed around the fire-n-forget mechanic that wizards, clerics, and druids are designed to fully exploit). However, the majority of their abilities are considerably less powerful than their arcane/divine counterparts, though their most 'broken' powers are actually direct analogues to stock-standard wizard spells.

The base chassis for the psion class is as follows: d4 Hit Dice; poor BAB; proficiency in simple weapons (though they aren't proficient in armor or shields); Good Will saves; 2 skill points per level with a different skill list for each devotion; Int-based manifesting; one psionic, metapsionic, or psionic item creation bonus feat at levels 1, 5, and every 5 levels thereafter; enforced devotion specialization; and the best power progression and power point acquisition of any of the psionic classes. Psions also get access to psionic focus (both a boon and a bane) by virtue of having power points, which is covered briefly below:

Quote
Psionic Focus

Psionic focus is a mechanic unique to psionics, which is based around the Concentration skill. "Psionic focus" is an on/off state, depending on whether you've regained (as a full-round action and a DC 20 Concentration check) or expended (as part of another action) or otherwise lost your focus. You must have at least 1 pp in your pp pool in order to maintain psionic focus.

Psionic focus only does a single thing on its own; it allows you to 'take 15' on a Concentration check when you expend it. Otherwise, it fuels psionic feats, metapsionic feats, and certain class features (either by means of maintaining focus [for feats like Up the Walls] or by expending it [mostly for metapsionic feats]).

This restricts what a psionic character can do, since most characters can only have a single psionic focus at one time, but it also allows them to use feats and abilities somewhat more powerful than most other characters. Thus, it's both an enabler and a restriction to psionic characters.

Pros: 1.) Power points are far easier to keep track of than spell-slots, and the system as a whole is considerably more streamlined and organic-feeling. You don't have to deal with clunky, chunky spell-slots, and you don't need to worry about which spells you've used that day. Simply subtract the pp you've used from your total, and you're golden.

2.) Likewise, you aren't limited by which spell-slots you have available. Since power points are discrete, and can be used spontaneously, you can fire off a whole bunch of low-level powers, a smaller number of augmented low-level powers, or a few of your highest level powers, limited only by the action economy and how many power points you have left.

3.) Psionic manifesting is inherently flexible, with most powers retaining their usefulness for multiple purposes throughout the manifester's career, due to augmentation and the inherent flexibility that psionic powers have. Many powers are generically-useful enough to have several (perhaps unintended) uses, meaning that even those that seem subpar can be amazingly useful in numerous situations. Psionic feats likewise tend toward being extremely flexible, with Psicrystal Affinity being one of the most useful low-level (and high-level) feats I've ever come across.

4.) Due to the nature of psionics, manifesters get the Still Spell, Silent Spell, and a watered-down version of Heighten Spell, essentially for free. They can also manifest in armor with no inherent penalties (though psions aren't proficient in armor, so armor check penalties apply to attack rolls with weapons and powers).

5.) Int-based manifesting and access to a (potentially) awesome skill list, dependent on discipline, means that psions make good skill-monkeys. All psions make good Knowledge-monkeys, while telepaths make excellent party faces and nomads and seers make decent scouts.

6.) Psychic reformation was the original retraining ability, allowing manifesters (especially psions) to swap out their preexisting powers, skill points, feats, and possibly class levels (depending on interpretation). Since psions have no other mechanic for changing their builds (unlike wizards, clerics, and druids, which can swap their entire spell lists every day; and sorcerers and bards, which can swap out spells every other level), swapping out class abilities for a power known, some power points, a double-fistful of XP, and 10 minutes of manifesting time seems a decent alternative.

7.) Psions aren't campaign-wreckers, meaning that any DM that has read the class abilities and understands game balance should have no problems keeping them in check; they have some good tricks, and an optimizer with a good understanding of the system can do some surprising things, but it's nothing like unto what any plain-vanilla wizard can do to a game.

Cons: 1.) Psions pay for their versatility. Powers, unlike spells, don't generally auto-scale. Instead of expending a 3rd level spell-slot (the equivalent of 5 pp) for 10d6 points of damage at level 10, you must expend 10 pp for the same amount of damage (twice the resource expenditure for the same effect). This leads to issue #2:

2.) Psions have nova issues, which means that it's fairly easy to run out of power points after a couple of encounters. You have to ration a psion's powers where they'll do the most good, without overextending yourself; otherwise you end up as little more than a commoner with a crossbow and a few tricks up his sleeves. The way to deal with this as a player is to ration yourself; as a DM, make sure there are an average of 4-5 equal-CR encounters per day (as the DMG itself suggests) to teach your psion player to practice self-restraint.

3.) Psions are good at applying metapsionics on the fly, but the restraints on metapsionics are severe enough that it takes a good chunk of build-resources to overcome them. While they have considerably more flexibility when it comes to using them, pp spent on metapsionics steals pp away from augmentation (which is used in lieu of auto-scaling), a psion's numbers tend to be a bit smaller (sometimes quite a bit smaller) than a wizard's or sorcerer's.

4.) Despite being considerably less broken than even core spellcasting, the horrible mechanics used pre-3.5, the Psionics Is Different Variant, and cheating players (along with DMs who don't understand the checks-and-balances on the system) have garnered 3.5 psionics a wholly undeserved reputation for being utterly broken, and so it won't be used in most games. Luckily the stigma seems to be wearing off, but quite unfortunately the blemish remains to this day.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2009, 02:02:52 PM by Lycanthromancer » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2009, 02:00:28 PM »

Favored souls are sorcerers with a slightly worse spell list, MAD for spells, and somewhat underwhelming class features.
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« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2009, 03:16:20 PM »

Come on guys, these are some of the most powerful classes in the game, and their entries read like "Waaahhh! I'm not a wizard or a cleric!" If I just read that sorcerer thread I would be wondering why it isn't in tier 5 with the healer.
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« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2009, 03:53:29 PM »

Let's see what I can get about the Favored Soul.

Pros: Favored souls have access to one of the best spell list in the game, including healing, buffs, debuffs, blasting and some battlefield control, with spontaneous casting to boot. They also have good saves and grant access to the Weapon Focus line of feats.

Cons: Lacks Turn Undead (one of the reasons Clerics are tier 1), forcing the favored soul to multiclass in order to get it. The bonus feats it receives are sub par. Even the capstone could be better. And they are 1 level behind his Tier 1 counterpart.
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« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2009, 04:00:42 PM »

Psions ARE pretty powerful, and flexible.

Their design schematic is better than the sorcerer's in every way. They're built as spontaneous 'casters' from the ground-up, and you actually get class features.

They're the epitome of flexibility and elegance-in-design.

The biggest dent in their supreme might? The reason why they're not tier 1, and are still a step behind the sorcerer in utter power? They don't cast spells.

Their power list simply isn't half as broken as what wizards and sorcerers get, even in Core-only.

As I said before, the primary source of brokenness for psionics are the powers that are near-direct analogues of staple spells. Metamorphosis, for instance, is broken for a 4th level effect, but it's based wholly on polymorph. Psionic dominate is, as you probably guessed, based on dominate person/monster.

Powers simply don't compare to the insane power of the Core spell-list, mostly because the really bad exploits have been weeded out by halfway-decent editing and playtesting.

Thankfully.
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« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2009, 04:00:51 PM »

But Braithwaite, sentence 1 is the point exactly.
Sentence two, nope.
Sorc versus Two Adepts ; I'd pick the Sorc. I want those silly high level Core spells.
But heck, I want them sooner, and I want more choices of them.
Hence Wizard.
2 Adepts < Sorceror < Wizard
2 Adepts < Favored Soul < Cleric
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« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2009, 04:15:20 PM »

The scout got pros. The warlock got pros. The warmage got pros. The sorcerer deserves more than a page long argument about how it was dumped on by the designers. Thats all I'm saying. Why it is above tier 3 is at least as important as why it isn't in tier 1.
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« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2009, 05:01:32 PM »

That's because the only real pros to the sorcerer and favored soul are their awesome spell lists. That's all that really needs to be said.
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« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2009, 05:22:05 PM »

That's because the only real pros to the sorcerer and favored soul are their awesome spell lists. That's all that really needs to be said.

Given that the spell list is effectively the sorcerers only class features besides having a familiar it is hardly surprising. With the right spell chosen they can cause untold devastation to the game.  They are incredibly powerful but in a more rigid way then the wizard.
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« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2009, 05:26:37 PM »

Just to show that it can be done.

Sorcerer

Pros:
The sorcerer is a full caster, with one of the best available spell lists in the game. While limited by their spells known, a carefully built sorcerer has the potential for both game breaking power and significant flexibility. There are a few sorcerer only spells, or spells with added benefits when cast by sorcerers. The large class spell list means that sorcerers can get significant mileage from spell trigger items and runestaffs. Unlike the "specialist sorcerer" classes, a well built sorcerer can target will or fortitude saves, do battlefield control, buffs, or direct damage, and can be a formidable opponent even to foes with spell resistance or other defenses to certain types of magic.

The sorcerer does not need to protect a spellbook. In circumstances where the party falsely guesses what to expect in a given day, the sorcerer with his varied list can temporarily surpass even prepared casters.

With bluff on his class list, and his high charisma, the sorcerer can make an adequate party "Face" in the absence of better classes for this role.

Cons:
Due to his small list of spells known, and his inability to shift his casting from day to day, the sorcerer is not as likely to have the best spell for any situation as the wizard. The fact that he is one spell level behind prepared casters through half of his progression means that he is always a little behind them on the power curve.

Sorcerers have poor hit points and bad fortitude saves.

Aside from their spell list, Sorcerers have no class features to speak of. They are greatly benefited by most full progression prestige classes.
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« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2009, 05:50:00 PM »

Sorcerer advantage is that they can cover the bases with their spells. At 20th level a sorcerer might have shades, shape change, wail of the banshee, greater shadow evocation, moment of prescience, greater planar binding, limited wish, mage's mansion, plane shift, mass suggestion, solid fog, teleport, true seeing, animate dead and some other stuff. This allows him to do every thing pretty good, but not at the awesome level that they could if they had a less restrictive spell selection.To get versatility a sorcerer has to take things that it can't spam, and spamming is what they do. Planar binding, shapechange, plane shift, the mansion and teleport are likely one slots in the daily scheme of things if that.
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« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2009, 05:50:51 PM »

Come on guys, these are some of the most powerful classes in the game, and their entries read like "Waaahhh! I'm not a wizard or a cleric!" If I just read that sorcerer thread I would be wondering why it isn't in tier 5 with the healer.
The sorcerer is the one class we all like but the designer's hate leading to a lot of fan ranting. It can't be helped Sad

Sorcerer pros
Assuming your party has a wizard in it then your DM should allow you to whip out some dragon cheese on your sorcerer which leads to some major ass kicking. As a White Dragonspawn Abomination Dragonwought Kobold with Greater Draconic Rite you're casting three levels ahead of normal which has it's own goodies. Follow that up with the Arcane Spellsurge spell and Invisible Spell combo and your casting two spells per round. For your buffing round make both of those spells a greater arcane fusion that casts arcane fusion and poof, two 1st level spells and four 4th level spells per round at the cost of two 8th level spell slots.

Sorcerer's also make better gishes than wizards, not because they have simple lame weapons proficiency, but because they can use the Spellsurge trick without caring about conserving spell slots. Thus they can nova out the first two or three encounters and just rely on standard combat and their lower level spells to get them though the day. Also Wings of Cover deserves it's own mentioning, as an immediate action you can gain full cover. This means the sorcerer can break the line of effect of a 9th level dominate monster spell cast on him at the cost of a mere 2nd level spell slot.

Cons
WotC hates sorcerers. Focused Abyssal Specialist Wizards get more spells known, more spell slots per day, and can spontaneously cast more than enough spells to be god in combat. Fact is, sorcerers were supposed to be comparable to wizards but with each book WotC printed the wizards got more ways to replace the sorcerer. The only boons tossed towards the sorcerer is the dragonspawn and Spellsurge. And one of those is pretty much banned from all games...




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Tiers break down into who has spellcasting more than anything else due to spells being better than anything else in the game.
6: Skill based. Commoner, Expert, Samurai.
5: Mundane warrior. Barbarian, Fighter, Monk.
4: Partial casters. Adapt, Hexblade, Paladin, Ranger, Spelltheif.
3: Focused casters. Bard, Beguiler, Dread Necromancer, Martial Adapts, Warmage.
2: Full casters. Favored Soul, Psion, Sorcerer, Wu Jen.
1: Elitists. Artificer, Cleric, Druid, Wizard.
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« Reply #15 on: July 06, 2009, 08:15:29 PM »

Sorcerers, Psions, and Favored Souls are, from a DM's perspective, more restrictive and saner versions of tier 1 classes because of a short list of spells known.

A Sorcerer's greatest boon is his mooching off the Wizard spell list with some minor Sorcerer-only additions.  A Favored Soul mooches off the Cleric spell list, but requires WIS and CHA to cast and lacks Turn Undead and Knowledge (religion) as a class skill.  (Maybe that's why the FS pictures in Miniatures Handbook and Complete Divine are so ugly.)  Both are a class level behind the casting curve and rely on CHA for casting..

Psions are kinda like Wizards and Sorcerers.  They're INT-based spontaneous 'casters' that can spend money and XP (or feats) to learn powers.  A typical Psion could fill a role similar to a Sorcerer because of powers known, and because a Psion is largely offensive.  L9 powers are generally less uber or/and more restrictive than L9 core arcane spells.  Many powers are analogs of spells, like grease or polymorph/metamorphosis, meaning many especially liked or disliked the familiarity.  Lack of support by WotC and awkward nerfings in Complete Psionic, coupled with a legacy of psi-bashing, leaves the typical Psion feeling neglected, but useful if allowed and properly built.
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Speaking of which:
Don't even need TO for this.  Any decent Hood build, especially one with Celerity, one-rounds [Azathoth, the most powerful greater deity from d20 Cthulu].
Does it bug anyone else that we've reached the point where characters who can obliterate a greater deity in one round are considered "decent?"
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« Reply #16 on: July 06, 2009, 11:37:07 PM »

Sorcerer Pros:

They have access to all the broken tricks of a Wizard... but no one Sorcerer can actually do very many of them.  Nonetheless, a Sorcerer can still Alter Self into a Crucian or Dwarf Ancestor at level 4 (depending on his type).  He can still Planar Bind rediculously powerful creatures, Shapechange into a Solar to become a Cleric, spam Explosive Runes all over the place, knock out dragons with a single Shivering Touch, and so on... if he chooses the right spells.  Certainly, if played by RAW a higher level Sorcerer can absolutely break the game (Planar bound Efreetis, Flowing Time Genesis, Flesh to Salt on cows, etc).  And of course there are ways around his spell limitations, such as Mage of the Arcane Order, Sand Shaper, and Runestaffs.  Plus, Kobold Sorcerers can by raw get huge boosts to their effective level... with a liberal DM, you could quite possibly get +3 to Sorcerer level (Loredrake + Draconic Reserve + Greater Draconic Rite) for the cost of a single feat and some other more negligible costs.  Even if your DM doesn't accept Loredrake, Greater Draconic Rite lets the Sorcerer keep up with the Wizard in spell levels... if you're cool with being a tiny dragon creature.

Cons:

What the sorcerer has in raw power, he lacks in spell versitility without serious optimization.  Don't get this wrong though: even with limited spells per day, he can still be far more flexible than any Fighter, assuming he picks versitile and powerful spells like Alter Self or Glitterdust.  Also, his biggest weakness is being printed next to the Wizard in the PHB, which forces people to compare him to that monstrosity and thus makes him seem weak.  Another big weakness is that a Sorcerer becomes much weaker if he's not allowed to use the spells that are both powerful and flexible, but those spells are often banned by DMs.  While a Wizard can just pick a spell that's powerful and not flexible (since he can chose the spell for the occasion anyway) the Sorcerer is stuck with weaker spells, so Sorcerers are often weakened more noticeably by heavy handed DM nerfs than Wizards.

JaronK
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« Reply #17 on: July 07, 2009, 10:38:26 AM »

Added: Endarire's, JaronK's, SorO_Lost's, RobbyPants', Braithwaite and lians Sorcerer description, Lycanthromancer's psion description, and Risada's, RobbyPants' and The_Mad_Linguist's favored soul descriptions.
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« Reply #18 on: July 07, 2009, 01:07:51 PM »

Lol at sorcerer fans complaining about WotC hate.  Psionics is well know to be the red-haired stepchild of DnD, if anything sorcerers are a slap to a psion's face.

As always Lycan provides a summary, here's some more:

Pros
Psychic reformation is a lot better than retraining in that it only requires you qualify for the feats and powers that you alter.  So you can see psions with nothing but 9th powers (stupid but possible by RAW).  There is another stricter interpretation of this, but by RAW it is possible.

Researching a power can also offset a lot of restrictions on psions' power lists which is especially potent at higher levels when you have more XP to spare.

Mind's eye provided a lot of PrCs that fit great for any type of psion, personal favorites are crystal master and arch psion.

Cons:
The low HD is worse than just being squishy, it prevents you from making full use of overchannel, the boot leg version of wild surge.  This can be offset with talented or manifesting vigor before hand.  Both have their limitations but not so bad once you get metamorphosis which in all likelihood heal any damage incurred when overchanneling.

No mantled variant is kind of a downer since psywar and wilder both had those options.

There are legal ways to effectively give yourself much more PP than you should which might prompt the DM to call foul on you.  There is that temp PP trick in ToM and the old "make 50 manifesting bolts" trick (effectively giving you a free 250 PP to spend on L1-L3 powers).  Both can do much to enhance your PP pool but may have your DM banning psionics as broken.  Especially true if you had to beg your DM to give  psionics a try in the first place.
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« Reply #19 on: July 07, 2009, 02:24:59 PM »

Quote
There is that temp PP trick in ToM

Which one?
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