How Do You Balance Skills?

Hello, FEU!

Today, I bring you the titular question as food for thought, as I am fan of the skill system and I believe that, done properly, skills can be used to add further options for the players, or else help patch up the balance so that every class can have a proper niche.

Granted, this may be a question that might be kinda pointless to ask in a vacuum, but I still want to ask it anyways, since there are so many different perspectives on what the definition of game balance is- just get a feel for how people consider using it, you know?

Anyways, I’m looking forward to what you all think, so have fun with it!

  • Telos.

you don’t



You could try giving stronger skills to bad units, and weaker skills to good units.

I don’t usually use Skill Systems, but I would try to avoid skills by level up, a la Tellius

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It’s easy. Just give six skills to every unit. Make sure they have no cohesion. Make sure they don’t imply any specific playstyle for the unit. Also make sure they give random stat buffs that are super hard to calculate.

A big big protip for balancing skills: More is better. If players have to scroll through ten skills per unit, that’s clearly better than 6. If you can fit 20, go for it. Remember, small icons are sexy. Big icons are clunky. The more you can cram in there, the better.

Skills on enemies that have random chances of instantly killing player units? Now we’re talking GOLDMINE.


So… let me see if I got this straight…

I give each unit a very particular set of skills, skills honed over a (hopefully) long career. Skills that will guide the player into using the unit such that they can become a nightmare to the enemy units that they are brought to fight against in the form of simple, yet effective, stat buff/debuff skills that can easily be calculated.

Make each icon something that the player can see without having to squint, and the fewer skills they have to worry about, the better.

And don’t give them shit like Lethality, or else proc skills that will basically let them one-hit-kill any unit that they hit.

Do I have that down correctly?


Exactly! Do exactly the opposite of what I said and you’ll be just fine :smiley:

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So go with the good ol’ ‘you learn it as you level up’ treatment. Got it!

Every playable character and boss gets a personal skill. Non class skill soutside of generic: lockpick, canto, steal.

That’s the easiest way cause you know at all points what your people have vs the enemies, and you can make the skills personal to their characters and personalities. Aka teachers get Charm, gamblers get Armsthrift, wandering adventurers get the +2mv etc etc etc

I also try to avoid pure stat boosters cause those are boring. +6atk on initiation is boring. But having an archer with Close Combat, and having High Hp/Def low Spd making them a frontliner is alot more interesting. Having Vanity (+2mt +10hit at 2range) on a soldier making them a javelin user. etc etc etc

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By giving broken skills to everyone :sunglasses:

Shoutouts to everyone who incorrectly believes it’s impossible to balance 6 skills at once. It isn’t, and they’re wrong.

Just, don’t make the player study too much at once and ensure every skill adds to an engaging playstyle and you’re golden. That’s honestly it. Not too gamebreaking ofc, but a little spice is always fun. Use skills like nihil to balance out the presence of other skills, too.


Regarding Nihil:

Nihil in Skill Systems has a very unusual property- it doesn’t negate just proc skills from proccing, but virtually all skills that take effect in combat from what I’ve seen- so balancing around that is something I’ll have to keep in mind (might be interesting on a utility-type unit, though).

(Though it doesn’t stop Savage Blow from affecting you if you aren’t the target of Savage Blow).

Also, I agree with the statement of it being impossible to balance six skills at once- I believe it can be done… you just have to know what you’re doing.

Have you ever heard of (what was it called…) Cancer Emblem?

That’s what happens when you give broken skills to everyone. (I suppose you get balance in a way, in the sense that 'everybody’s broken, so nobody’s broken).

I like that way of thinking- actually. While I do think pure stat-boosting is kinda boring, it’s also quite practical- and honestly, I would take boring but practical any day over having to rely on something elaborate. Also, Personal Skills do help add character to an enemy, yeah.

I don’t know how much of this is really “balance” advice, given that’ll be highly dependent on the context they’re in, but I think there’s definitely some best practices.

First of all is that bonuses to “soft” stats, i.e. Hit, Avoid, Crit, and Crit Evade, need to come in much higher amounts compared to say, bonus damage, to feel good. Because the Hit/Miss and Crit rolls are binary, it can be hard to feel out how much a +10 to Hit actually affected the outcome, but a +30 bonus will allow you to feel much more confident that your attack will hit. My rule of thumb is that a +1 to damage or defense is roughly equivalent to a +5 or so to Hit, Avoid, etc.

Furthermore, making skills require the player to meet simple conditions to activate are good. It makes the player feel satisfied for successfully using a skill (even if it doesn’t really effect the outcome), and it allows you to influence the way you want the game to be played. Adding skills that only activate when the player initiates (i.e. Darting Blow, Quick Draw) is a good way to make your hack more player phase focused, for example.

If skills are decided by class, then it’s generally preferable to reinforce strengths as opposed to covering up weaknesses. Making a unit too self-sufficient can incentivize snowballing or low-manning, which is usually undesirable. Exacerbating existing strengths makes a unit excel in a particular field while still needing to rely on others. Weaker classes, i.e. knight and archers, might be exempt from this clause, but only if the weakness is particularly crippling.

At the end of the day, however, creating skills is more of an art than a science. If you’ve got a cool idea for a skill, script it and see how it plays in practice. Playtesting is the ultimate tool in your arsenal for measuring balance.

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Personally, a +10 to hit is small, but in practice, this can be an extra 10% chance to hit- a +30 is actually pretty scary because, in practice, an extra 30% chance to hit. Though I digress, I’m not exactly well-versed in the field.

Otherwise, yeah, simple conditions are fun. Skills decided by class are also things that I do want to focus on, though… hm. Your words on Knights and Archers are indeed interesting…

Errrr, while I don’t disagree with the sentiment, I’m not looking to script an actual skill lmao. That’s something that’s beyond me to do.

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You balance skills by turning off skills

for real though if you have to use skills then keep them off of generics, make it so your units get their own niche (for example one myrm could be the crit guy and get a crit bonus or something and another could get astra or vantage), and give bosses interesting skills that make the fights interesting. DO NOT GIVE BOSSES CHANCE BASED SKILLS LIKE PAVISE this doesn’t make the bosses fun, it makes bosses tedious and annoying.

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I think most importantly: No chance based skills. Replace them with condition, passive skills or combat arts. FE combat doesn’t need another layer of RNG, it’s already RNG heavy to begin with.

Then i think you should make most skills personal rather than class based and go wild. For example, why not have a Armor unit with Canto? Or a Flier with Sacrifice? Or or etc. Don’t make you skills based on rigid classes concepts, but rather on units. That way, units of the same class can play different depending on their skill sets.

Also, generics can have skills, aslong as they fit in the map design. See Conquest and their generics with skills. Something like generics with Lunge is a way to make them threatning without doing stat inflation.

I think that the way in which you Balance out Skills is by making them consistent and also not broken.

Paragon is one of the best skills in every FE game it is present not just for what it does in making your units grow twice as fast, but primarily because you are always guaranteed to gain double the XP gain.

Compare it to Astra for example. Sure, getting to pop off 5 consecutive attacks is ridiculous but so often does it come out as being overkill or it doesn’t happen when you really need it.

He is an example of what I would do is with the skill Adept :

Instead of making it so that you get an additional attack based on your skill, Adept makes it so that you get an extra third attack in combat whenever your character doubles an enemy.

This way we make the skill consistently good without inconsistently breaking the game in the way that skills of the likes of Luna or Astra are able to do.

Heck, imagine how much better Path of Radiance Soren with his light-weighted Wind Magic would be if he had this version of Adept.

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Disagree. Bosses with offensive proc skills like Luna or Astra are cool because, if the roster is well developed and map good enough, then it forces the player to find creative ways to approach the boss. Naturally, Great Shield is an enemy of many players’ sanities (arvis fe4 lol), but enemies with skills like those can still be approached tactfully. If they have pavise, use magic, for example.

If the design does not accommodate this chance-based scenario, then it can easily feel cheap. However, I believe that success in Fire Emblem, inherently, is about taking the most likely route to victory. If you remove RNG, it turns into a puzzle game. If you add too much RNG, then it will become difficult for the design to create a “fair” experience. The distribution of skills should offer more control to a more skilled and observant player. They will prevail by determining and taking the most likely route to victory, which changes constantly. A plan can change every time their luck goes against them.

Now, of course, I respect your philosophy. But I disagree with this line of thought that random chances are bad and combat arts are the new in that a lot of people seem to have. I think a Fire Emblem with rampant crits that punish me for being stupid is fun. The frustration simply comes from when control is seized from the player and their units are killed by means outside of their control. Fog of War and ambush spawns are not inherently bad, but because they are so intrinsically linked to creating unfairly punishing scenarios, they are disliked on sight. Unlike either of those, however, random skills can create genuine excitement, in the same way the anticipation of you landing a critical hit or you dodging one does.