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I'm making a turn based rpg and I have an attack allows for a party member to draw an enemy's focus towards it for a set number of turns. I feel an attack that draws all aggression from enemies is very strong, so I am unsure how to balance it.

Should taunted enemies get bonus attack stats to make up for the temporary loss of their AI and the ability to target weaker party members? Or is a party member being the focus of attacks something that should be rewarded, and the party member should be given temporary healing or defence to compensate for the risk they took?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Taunts in games I've played usually affect everyone in some radius (instead of being global), have a short duration and increase defence, to strike a good balance between being not too strong, but still useful. But I agree with the answers: judge it based on how it interacts with other mechanics and play testing. \$\endgroup\$ – Dukeling Nov 14 '19 at 11:36
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Whether a special ability is too strong or too weak depends on how it interacts with everything else in the game, and even on what inputs the player has to use to cause it to happen. Maybe you find that your taunt attack is so strong the party member never wants to use any other ability again once they learn it. Sure, if after testing you find that's what happens, you could nerf the taunt attack by having it give taunted enemies bonus attack stats... but maybe you actually like the strategies that come about when you're trying to protect your one taunter from an endless barrage of angry monsters, in which case the thing you should actually do is make it easy for the player to just declare that that party member should automatically taunt every turn instead of navigating through menus each time to repeat their taunt.

If it turns out the taunt is so weak players almost never have a good reason to use it, then you can certainly buff the ability by giving them bonus defense stats while using it.

Basically, it's hard to balance things in that much detail without testing, so just make sure your ability framework is tweakable and start adjusting abilities when you find some strategies are too powerful or too useless for your liking.

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I feel an attack that draws all aggression from enemies is very strong

Unfortunately our feelings are often very misleading when it comes to game balance. The only way to find out if our feelings are warranted or not is to collect some data through playtesting. So I would recommend you to implement that feature in a provisoric way, try it in different scenarios and see what happens. Possible results could be:

  • It is completely overpowered because it allows the player to draw all enemy damage output on one party member which can then be made almost immune to that damage.
  • It makes almost no difference. Maybe the player already got enough tools at their disposal to control what units the other side can and can not attack. Maybe it isn't even that relevant in your game which character in particular tanks the enemy attacks.
  • It is almost always a mistake to use that ability, because no player-unit is capable of surviving a turn where the whole enemy team focuses their damage output on them.

But the only way to find out is through playtesting.

OK, so what if we find out that your intuition was correct and the ability is indeed overpowered? What can we do about that?

We could limit its use. Add a cooldown so the player can only use it every other turn. Or we could make it only usable a limited number of times per-combat or per-dungeon. Or we could have it consume some resource which is hard to replenish.

Or we could introduce a counter to it. Some enemies might be able to ignore it. Some enemies might even hit extra hard when they are taunted. Some enemies might be able to negate the taunting-state of the character so the other enemies can attack normally. That way the player might be able to win some battles using the taunt strategy, but has to find a different strategy in those battles where a counter is present.

I am looking forward to playing your game.

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