Perks, Grifts, and Difficulty

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  • Developer

Hey grifters,

You may have noticed the grifts/perks in the data files. They're not quite hooked up yet (soon!) but I thought I'd take a moment to explain where we are headed.

Now that more of the game is in place, we're going to do some overall difficulty balancing. The tricky thing with this genre is that people come in with wildly different skill levels. We have players who've never played a card game before, and players who regularly win MtG tournaments. Including unlockable difficulty (prestige) is one way to let everyone find their place, but in it's current form it takes too long to get interesting for high-level players. At the same time, our baseline prestige-0 difficulty can be quite punishing to the unprepared (especially around the bosses). 

What we're going to try is the following:

  • Add a long-term carryover mechanic so that you can make the game easier by playing more
  • Compress the prestige track, so that the jumps in difficulty are more meaningful
  • Increase the baseline difficulty of the game
  • Add a "narrative" difficulty level


When you start the game, you will be able to equip a (small) number of perks. These are kind of like grafts that you start with and can't remove. You will unlock perks using perk points, which you get from performing grifts. Grifts are long-term goals (Do a thing x, y, z times) that you'll unlock naturally just by playing. Perks are tiered, and cost differing numbers of points. Each character has their own tiers of perks (although they do have many which overlap). 

The New Prestige track:

Our intention is to make each prestige level increase more meaningful, and to reduce the overall track length. The game will get easier as you play and unlock perks, so the overall difficulty can be raised. We are also adding a narrative-focused mode, for people who just want to explore the story without worrying too much about card play. 

  • Players start with levels 0 and 1 unlocked. The messaging points them toward 1 as the intended experience, but allows them to play at 0 if they just want to focus on the narrative. 
  • Perks and card unlock XP collects and unlocks as usual across all modes.
  • Mutators and Card set selection are broken out into a “customize” submenu on the new game screen. Activating any of these turns off prestige unlocks. To advance in prestige, you have to play the game as-balanced (but with any perks you have unlocked)

The new levels are: (old levels are in [brackets])

0 “Story”
    Unlimited day restarts
    Easier bosses
    Higher starting health/prestige

1 “Welcome to the Griftlands”
    one daily restart! [the old p0, with some number tweaks to make it a bit harder]

2 “The Griftlands strikes back”
    Enemies have upgraded combat abilities, promoted defs are spawned [1]
    Enemies have improved arguments    [2]

3 “Play every card carefully”
    non-bosses stronger in battle [5]
    negotiations stronger [6]
    stronger bosses [3]

4 “Getting hurt hurts”
    no resolve restore after battle [4]
    only heal 50% when sleeping [9]

5  “Combat is deadly”
    allies weaker [7]
    Species boons more powerful [8]
    Bosses are even stronger [11]

6 “Strive for perfection”
    start with less health [12]
    start with less resolve [13]

7 “Do more with less”
    everything is more expensive [10]
    start with one less negotiation slot graft [14]
    start with one less battle graft slot [15]


We're just starting the process of setting these changes up, so the details are subject to change (as usual). It will probably take a little while for us to hone in on the right balance for some of the elements, so please bear with us and keep the feedback coming!


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This all sounds good! I mentioned in another thread how I was worried the perks would tend to make the game easier, when it’s already on the easy side, so it’s great to hear that you intend to increase the difficulty at the same time! Compressing the difficulty into less prestige levels is also awesome.

I’m still generally wary of rogue-legacy mechanics because they tend to be a bit grindy, but I’m hoping the fact we get to tailor the bonuses we want will make up for it.

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Are these Grifts gonna unlock retroactively? Beating specific bosses isn't too big of a deal but dealing X damage in combat/negotiation, upgrading Y amount of cards, and winning Z amount of battles/negotiations is a bit chewy if you've been playing for a while.

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  • Developer

They won't be unlocking retroactively, because we haven't been tracking what they're looking for, necessarily. It's all lua, though, so I imagine some enterprising user will figure out a way to use the console to give themselves the amount of points they think is fair for their playtime :)

19 minutes ago, RageLeague said:


Yeah, that's a pretty fair comparison of the two rogueli* subgenres. We have the added wrinkle of prestige levels. In theory, the perks would just adjust-up a player's natural prestige, and perhaps move it up over time as they unlock higher tiered perks.

At the limit, a max prestige / max perk run reverts back to the roguelike end of the scale.



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Glad to see this post!


@Kevin, to clarify, the unlockable carry-over perks are "equipped"...

I obviously don't have an idea of what the new difficulty levels will feel like, but I'm assuming we are able to leave the perks off if we want (or maybe just take a couple that we like and not use the rest)?

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27 minutes ago, SASHIKISONS said:

Glad to see this post!


@Kevin, to clarify, the unlockable carry-over perks are "equipped"...

I obviously don't have an idea of what the new difficulty levels will feel like, but I'm assuming we are able to leave the perks off if we want (or maybe just take a couple that we like and not use the rest)?

The current thinking is that you'd only be able to enable a small number of the perks that you have unlocked at the start of a run. Like max 3. It would be part of the character selection process.

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Great! I always felt like the spikes were small, so grouping them up like this will probably make them more felt. Unlocking them for new characters will be faster, too.

I’m really exited for Grifts, there could be some really fun and hard tasks (I love theorycrafting a way through seemingly impossible runs) that add replayablity, and more unlockable things mean more stuff to do and look for!

As an aside: will new prestige 7 with grifts be more difficult than current prestige 15 (with no grifts)?

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I think the problem with difficulty is that, unlike most RPG, there is no critical rate, dodge rate, chance to apply bleed/stun etc. There is very low amount of randomness in combat and negotiation except card draw. So a player who knows every outcome of choices in game, who makes the logically best choice everytime, will almost win everytime except the last few prestige. And this cannot be solved without dynamically changing the game approach or by adding substantial content that is practically not feasible for any developer. And unlike some game where in theory you can clear the game without being hit once, I think the difficulty of the game is mathematically bounded by enemy stats. And to increase it beyond a certain threshold would only render some build obsolete and rely on exceptional luck that no amount of skill can overcome.

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That implies someone is going to play everything perfectly, which is almost never the case. Everyone makes mistakes. And at a certain point the game will be too hard for most people to ever beat. That's not even including that you can use mutators if you still think it is too easy. 

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