Play Now!

Developer Diaries


November 2021 Dev Notes - Rho-Sham-Bo!

Hello Wizards!

Ben "Ratbeard" Durbin
Lead Designer
Hello again! We have an amazing amount of changes to cover but we’ll start with the usual caveat: unless otherwise specified (see Spell Audits, below), the changes we discuss here apply only to PvP.

What Even is Rho-Sham-Bo?

This children’s game goes by different names across the world, most notably Rho-Sham-Bo, but here in the U.S. it’s probably better known as Rock-Paper-Scissors. For us Wizard101 designers, Rhoshambo simply describes a more interesting interplay between the schools than the binary A-B relationships that you currently experience through the mainline content. In a binary relationship (like Fire and Ice) you are simultaneously strong and weak against the same school – you boost on them, they boost on you – but this doesn’t really offer the player any interesting decision points.

A Rhoshambo system is cyclical – Rock is good against Scissors but weak vs. Paper, Paper is good vs. Rock but weak vs. Scissors, and Scissors are good vs. Paper but weak vs. Rock. If you are a Rock, you might choose to "cross-train" elements of Scissors to boost your offense against Paper, or you might choose some tools from Paper to give you an edge against other Rocks. You could even do both – as long as you don’t start to spread yourself too thin.

Players of our Beastmoon events, which we first released in the Summer ‘19 update, are already familiar with the Wizard101 Rhoshambo illustration below:


If you can remember at least one mnemonic from each set, you’ll be able to remember the entire relationship wheel. I typically use "Fire melts Ice” and “Death ends Life” but for reference here’s the whole thing:
  • Fire melts Ice. Ice freezes Storm. Storm extinguishes Fire.
  • Death ends Life. Life precedes Myth. Myth endures beyond Death.
Balance, right in the middle, has no counter-relationship with any particular school.

Interestingly enough, that image exists in the earliest concept work of Wizard101, and references to these “original” Rhoshambo relationships can still be found in various places in the lore.

Rhoshambo PvP (and PvE...)

So why reintroduce the Rhoshambo at this time? It helps us solve a few problems, not just with PvP, but with school identity and game complexity in general. The primary relationships are simple and easy to remember, and help inform players towards their school identity, towards deckbuilding, and even in advancing the game state towards victory.

For example, you should know that if you are playing Fire, you will be strong against Ice, and the spells that you use (damage over time, or DOTs) are likely to be very good in dealing with the things that Ice is good at (creating and leveraging shields). If you’re playing some other school, you would likewise know that using spells from the Fire school are likely to lead you to victory against Ice, just as you would know that using Life spells (in particular, healing spells, which remove damage after an attack) will help you win against Myth (a school known for making it difficult to prevent damage before they attack).

“The intent is that, skill being equal, some single-school matchups are unwinnable. The fact that they are unwinnable will be why someone who wants to improve needs to go multi-school.” – Artie Rogers, Design Lead (and Beastmoon creator)

There are two main types of spells that emerge from the Rhoshambo, which we call Gambits and Ramps. Gambits are attack spells that leverage certain conditions (either on yourself or your opponent) into a greater advantage. For PvP, our first gambits deal x2 damage when their condition is met – much like the Scion spells you already know. In fact, our first gambit for each school is a reworking of the Scion spells to better fit the school identity informed by the Rhoshambo. There’s also a new Jinn gambit for each school as well as an Oni (aka Helephant ) that is specifically designed for players who want to jump right into dual-school decks that are built around a specific condition.

The ramp spells are (usually) utilities that clear hanging effects from the target and create new hanging effects that work with your gambits. For example, the Scion of Ice gambit does double damage if you have 4 or more positive wards (shields) on yourself. The first Ice ramp can be used to remove positive charms (blades) from the enemy and turns them into shields on yourself . You may have noticed that the ramps counter the hanging effects that your enemies are creating – but at the same time, they are creating hanging effects that your enemies may use. This is what makes the gambit spells risky to use: in order to meet the condition on the gambit, you must create hanging effects that a well-prepared opponent can use to ramp his own gambits!

The Rhoshambo will also help us guide players towards more interesting deck and gear setups that include spells from more than one school—and for high-level wizards, that means Mastery. We’ll have more to say about our long term plans for Mastery soon, but in the short term we’re taking a look at the gear options available to players now and making sure that you have Mastery options that don’t leave your other stats behind.

Three new gambits and four new ramps for every school is a big slate of new spells. Because they are specifically designed to support the Rhoshambo in PvP, their initial release will be PvP-only. We certainly DO intend to release these spells for PvE as soon as we can, but we have a few things we want to set up properly first. Artie will have more to say about PvE in his own Dev notes soon, and we’ll have a PvE-focused roundtable which Sparck will announce around the same time.

Chess Timer (Diego No Bueno!)

At long last, with this update, 1v1 Ranked will be switching from the current 30-minute timer – with the Decision-by-Diego conclusion – to a Chess Style timer. Here’s how it works:
  • Each player has a fixed amount of time on their personal timer (for example, 10 minutes)
  • During your own planning phase, which remains limited to 20 seconds, your timer counts down.
  • As soon as you select your spell and the execution phase begins, your timer STOPS counting down. (No time is lost due to spell cinematic times.)
  • If you PASS, there is a time penalty (so that simply passing over and over can’t win you a timer match).
  • When your opponent’s planning phase starts, their timer starts counting down.
  • Play goes back and forth with each player’s timer only counting down during their own planning phase.
  • If your timer reaches 0 seconds, you LOSE.
During the match, you will see a YELLOW warning indicator when your timer drops below a certain threshold, and an additional RED warning indicator when it drops dangerously low. You cannot see your opponent’s exact time remaining on their clock, but you will see the yellow or red warning indicators by their nameplate to give you some idea of where they stand.

We will begin testing the Chess Timer with 10 minutes (600 seconds) on each player’s chess timer. (This number was derived from analyzing hundreds of thousands of 1v1 ranked matches that went all the way to the current 30-minute timer.) This translates to 30 turns per player, assuming each player used all 20 seconds of the planning phase – which, of course, most won’t. Nevertheless, over the course of an entire match we expect the average number of turns to more or less hold true. As a result, we think that the total actual match time, including time for both players’ spell animations, should fall between 30 and 40 minutes.

When we initially bring the Chess Timer to Test Realm, we will bring it out in a very simple, straightforward form. However, we have built additional parameters that we can implement if it becomes necessary to prevent certain exploits, including “bonus increments” (which reward quick, valid plays) and “time penalties” (which penalize certain plays).

No PvP Enchant

We now have an added setting for spells—No PvP Enchant—which we will enable for specific spells. As of this update, all shadow-enhanced hits and all of the new gambit spells will be set to No PvP Enchant. This will bring the burst damage of hits down, while at the same time allowing players to use and enchant other spells in their library. We hope this increases the variety of spells used in PvP.

Incidentally, although these changes apply only to PvP, we have a setting for No PvE Enchant as well. With both settings flagged, we can exclude spells from enchanting entirely.

Show PvP Rank and Inspect Opponent

We have two new UI features for this update. The first is Show PvP Rank. It should perhaps be more aptly called Hide PvP Rank – in effect, when this setting is OFF, your PvP Rank will not show up when your wizard is inspected. The PvP Panel is not displayed as part of the information available via Inspect. You can find this setting on a new options tab (#4).


Of course, there are times when your PvP Rank must be shown, most notably at the end of a PvP Match where Rating is exchanged. When the Match Results window appears, regardless of this setting, your Rank must and will be visible on that screen.

We’ve added another feature to the Match Results window, Inspect Opponent. Next to each participant’s name you’ll find a magnifying glass. Click this button if you want to inspect your opponent’s stats, gear, and so on after the match concludes. This option is only available immediately after the match ends and only while the Match Results window is open.

Spell Audits

The following spell audits apply to spell functionality for both PvP and PvE.
  • Mana Burn (Balance) – Mana Burn’s damage output has been reduced to account for the value of the pip removal effect. We analyzed the damage output of Mana Burn across the range of possible opponent pips, then removed 3 ranks of damage (the value adding pip removal to an attack) and recalculated the average damage. The resulting audit reduces the damage from 80 per pip to 50 per pip. As this spell is also an attack, its Accuracy has been reduced to 85% to align with our audit rules for attack spells. These changes have been applied to item cards and TCs – and to mobs using the base spell as well.
  • King Artorious (Myth) - The impact of King Artorious’ DOT component has been curtailed by changing the effect from a damage-over-time effect (where damage is divided and ticks every round) to a deferred damage effect (where the damage is delivered in full at the end of the duration).
  • Witch’s Housecall (Myth) - The “Deviled Egg ” minion created by this spell has been rebalanced for value and to ensure that its library of existing spells is in line with our goals for Myth’s school identity. As this change affects only the PvP Deviled Egg minion, the functionality of Witch’s Housecall in PvE is unchanged.
  • Healing Current (Storm) - The healing effect of this spell has been constrained so that the heal is less variable, more predictable, and more useful in more situations. Instead of a healing burst of 100, 400, or 1000 damage, the spell now creates an initial healing burst followed by a heal-over-time (HOT) effect lasting from 3-5 rounds.
  • 4-Pip Global Spells (trained at Amelia Stardust) - All of these global spells have been standardized to 20% Pierce and 20% Critical boost, including all TC variants.
  • School Scion spells – All of the pre-existing Scion spells have been made PvE only.

PvP Work In Progress

We’re already running long so we’ll try to keep this short and sweet! Here is a list of PvP work that is underway but not yet ready for release:
  • Elo – We are working on converting our current “flat” +/- 16 rating system over to a true Elo system.
  • Rank Reset – When our Elo system is working (possibly invisibly to players, behind the scenes…) we will reset your current 4th Age rating and ranks in preparation for 5th Age.
  • Rewards – Of course, we’re working on all-new Rewards for 5th Age PvP. While it will certainly include new gear (sets?), we have some rewards planned for the “best of the best” that we think will be very compelling additions.
  • Leagues – We will have more to say on Leagues when that work is closer to completion. However, we know that a lot of players would like to know what’s going on with low-level PvP, and Leagues will help address a lot of our design concerns with that format. In short, the new tech we have requested for Leagues will allow us to create a play environment with specific entry criteria (e.g. L50 wizards and below) specific rulesets (e.g. no critical hits, no shadow pips, no Pets, custom Damage and Resist limits, etc.), and their own Rating. We may even be able to set up something like a “First Age” League, that only allows cards and stats that were in use way back in First Age! We’ve asked for a lot, and while we may not be able to support every ruleset when we first launch Leagues, we’re pretty excited about the possibilities that it opens up.

One Last Thing...

According to my notes here there’s just one question left to answer... When is 5th Age? There’s a lot to see in PvP in this update (and the next) but… dare I say it… we’re almost there! We’re not ready to announce the official launch but we’ve reached that point where we want to hear from YOU and ask, “Are you ready?”

Please let us know what you think of this update in the Forums!


Ben "Ratbeard" Durbin
Lead Designer

Dated: November 4, 2021

  • We’re rated E 10 and up for Crude Humor and Mild Fantasy Violence
  • We won the Massively Award for Best of the Decade

© 2024 KingsIsle Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved