The Value of a +1


Whatever you do, don’t let this guys beat you just because you are looking at that new sword or ability and thinking, “It’s ONLY a +1 bonus? Is that all?” It happens to all of us at some time or another, as a GM or a Player, we don’t see the value in the incremental increases. A slightly better weapon, a new ability, a new skill, or a new magical item may not seem very powerful when it only bumps our Stats up a little bit. It’s the nature of things to look for what’s bigger and better, and also why companies usually try to do something game changing with each major release of a product. The little things don’t get the attention they deserve. Ignoring the value of little things in an RPG, whether it be a video game or a Tabletop RPG like Unchained Heroes, is not the same as a product release. Ignoring them can prevent you from being as effective as you should be at your current level.

It Applies to Unchained Heroes and Video Games

When I started playing RPGs I most definitely did not understand the “Value of +1.” For the next 15 years it would elude me. Higher was always better, of course, but there were many times when I sacrificed a bonus for some other reason. It took someone to explain it to me, to make me truly understand. Everything was there in front of me, but I did not see it the way they did. I finally learned the “Value of +1” after while playing the biggest MMORPG of the time World of Warcraft. I often found myself with great gear, but my gem slots and enchantments were always 2nd tier; the stuff that was good, but didn’t cost a lot. I have seen this in Unchained Heroes during our Development testing as well. I as the GM would sometimes neglect to grant the players new loot or the players themselves wouldn’t keep their tech or rune modifiers to the maximum available. It ended up hurting me in World of Warcraft and my players in Unchained Heroes.

The Little Things Add Up

A +1 bonus or modifier is the smallest positive modifier that a player can receive. It may not seem like much, but it adds up. Depending on the circumstances, it can add up to a lot. In Unchained Heroes, a +1 modifier either increases your chance to perform an action or alters the damage and healing you perform. In one case it is a straight +5% chance to perform the action and in the other it is a modifier multiplied by Weapon Speed modifiers. Weapon Speed modifiers can go as low as a +1 mod that equals 1 damage and healing or a +1 mod that equals 1.75 damage and healing. In video games, a +1 modifier is more akin to the damage and healing example than the +5% chance. In either case the modifier is applied through a piece of equipment, an ability, a power, a technique, or a talent. It might seem like a good idea to wait for the bigger bonuses, but that mentality can end up hurting you. Those that play MMORPGs can attest to the drastic change in their play after upgrading all their gear to level appropriate items. In a Paper RPG like Unchained Heroes, this is no different.

The Value of a +1 bonus comes about from the combined bonuses from all your potential modifiers. It may be marginal in one piece of equipment, but upgrading it on four or five pieces of equipment makes that become a +4 or +5 bonus. Unchained Heroes has 5 areas that increase your modifiers, Physical Equipment, Abilities, Talents, Techniques, and Magical Equipment (like Runes). Keeping your character with the best possible equipment, even if it only adds a +1 here and there, is integral to keeping yourself in tip top shape, both in Combat and a Skill Battle. You never know when you may be performing Athletics checks to fight for your life, or facing a new enemy with defenses so strong that they are nigh unhittable at your level. Imagine you were facing these fights for your life with a -3 or -4 penalty, that is what you would be doing if you neglect your equipment, runes, abilities, and techniques.

It’s Part of Game Design

I will let you all in on a game designing secret, Unchained Heroes, like in many other games, makes assumptions that you are going to have a particular set of Statistics at each level. We have to do this so the encounter can be challenging. All games have this sort of level progression. It’s how we can measure the difficulty of encounters and make the challenges scale as you level. This is not a matter of power-gaming, but only of playing by the rules.

No matter how you play Unchained Heroes, a +1 for Role-playing or Roll-playing is going to be important. If your group is highly story-driven, be sure to increase your Talents that modify your Character Skills. Without doing so, you might find your Influence check falls short of getting your point across to the local dignitary or your Subterfuge check does not disguise you in the eyes of the trained local constable. If you are a dungeon crawler, you may find that your Strife Blade can’t slip past the defenses of that Champion level Villain or your Psychic Assaults are shrugged off by the power magical defenses of the Mighty Evil Sorcerer. Don’t forget about the Value of +1. It’s the little things that add up. You are not being a power-gamer by looking at stats, you are just playing the system as it was designed.


  1. Mike says:

    I think it’s all about expectations. When I was a kid we were perfectly happy at level 1, searching the unknown, get accosted by giant centipedes and kobolds, and getting shouted at by magic mouths (“Who Dares Enter…”). Back then a +1 dagger, a potion of heroism, or a scroll with 2 level-1 spells was the coolest thing ever. MAGIC weapons was a fantastic new concept. Especially since there were whole hordes of monsters that could only be hit by magic. A +1 sword in the fighter’s hands might mean the difference between killing the werewolf, or having him bury your bones in his backyard for a snack later.

    Nowadays expectations have increased exponentially and everyone wants to be Batman on day 1. That’s cool too, since we all want to be the heroes of the story. But sometimes I miss the innocent joy of finding a garnet, 10sp, and a 3 +1 arrows at the bottom of the goblin kings treasure chest and thinking I was Donald Trump.

  2. turkzapt says:

    I know how you feel about the “good ole days,” Mike. I remember them fondly as well and I agree with the Batman comment. I confess that I am one of the Batman people. There is a whole post that I could write about the topics you bring up, especially the dynamic that is created by a low-magic/low-ability game and a high-magic/high-ability game.

    In the low/low case, those three +1 arrows and a +1 dagger are amazing. In the high/high case, magical items can seem to take the backseat to abilities. It’s something I struggle with, but I don’t think that it has to be lost. I think you could take the Occam’s Razor to it all and really cut out the abilities and items in Chronos to give everyone that feel again.

    The world of RPGs is coming full circle. Those games that can adapt easily will be far better off than those that can’t. I suppose that system-wise, taking things away is easier than giving them later.

    I played 3rd Edition, which was a medium/medium game in my mind and I was slammed by certain players that didn’t feel they received the magical items they deserved.

  3. Gregg says:

    I agree it has to do with expectations and settings. In those highly magically settings a +1 is nothing really, run of the mill, the innkeeper keeps a +1 club. In a more limited magically setting a +1 is like the holy grail, you are now head and shoulders above normal citizens. Loot needs to be distributed based on campaign settings, well at least in my mind.

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