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Player dissatisfaction about losing Shadow Rune Finale.


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#1 Madmartigan

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 07:10 AM

Greetings,

 

I just finished playing through the Shadow Rune campaign as the Overlord (Warlord focus, Goblin Uprising plot deck). I was playing against a friend and his wife (2 heroes: Laughin Buldar - Knight, Andira Runehand - Spiritspeaker).

 

The heroes won the Introduction,  First Blood.

 

In Act 1, I won A Fat Goblin, and the heroes won The Masquerade Ball and Death on the Wing.

 

Thus, the Interlude was The Shadow Vault, which I won.

 

In Act 2, I won The Desecrated Tomb, and the heroes won The Ritual of Shadows and The Wyrm Turns.

 

Thus, the Finale was Gryvorn Unleashed, which I won.

 

Tally: Heroes quests won - 5, Overlord quests won - 4, Campaign victory - Overlord.

 

As has become clear in this official campaign, if one side is winning, the difficulty of the interlude or finale will be slanted toward the other side by design. So, since the heroes were winning in both acts, the interlude and finale we had to play were both slanted in the Overlord's favor.

 

The dissatisfaction came during and after the finale. As you may or may not know Dragonlord Gryvorn is a beast. His stats are very high. And during the finale, I pulled both of my Frenzy cards in a row on the first two Overlord turns, and rolled a surge for Fire Breath on almost every attack. Gryvorn roasted the heroes alive without taking a single point of damage.

 

This result caused a conversation about balance issues, and a negative hero player assessment of the campaign. My evaluation was quite different.

 

During the campaign, I noticed that many of the quests force the heroes to make a decision between searching (earning more gold and gear), and completing the victory conditions of the quest. During this campaign, the hero players almost invariably chose to ignore many of the search tokens in favor of completing victory conditions. This was not much of a problem for them in Act 1, because they drew a Treasure Chest twice, and had enough gold to purchase 2 or 3 more items. In Act 1 they were well-geared. However, in Act 2, they left a lot of search tokens on the map, did not pull any Treasure Chests, and so were only able to purchase 2 items total. In the finale, they seemed under-geared. The heroes had gained a lot of Experience, and so had many skills unlocked, but they were not able to absorb or produce large amounts of damage.

 

Thus, when they came up against Dragonlord Gryvorn, who also benefited from the luck of the draw (Frenzy x2), the less flame-retardant heroes were literally toasted.

 

My conclusion is that when playing a campaign, and because all of the quest materials are open to all players, a group must sometimes choose to concede victory to the Overlord in a quest, in favor of searching, so that in addition to unlocking skills, there is the potential for better gear, which is also very important.

 

Gryvorn Unleashed is slanted in the Overlord's favor. But, I think that if the two heroes in this campaign had had better gear and maybe 1 or 2 less skills, and if I had not pulled both of my frenzies so early, that the heroes would have had a fighting chance, and the player dissatisfaction may not have been so pronounced, if they were still to lose.

 

So, my question is, given how I have explained this playthrough, and your experiences with campaign play on either side, what is your evaluation of campaign balance in Descent 2E? Is it broken, or relatively fair? I still think the latter, but that is just my opinion based my experience with 1E, and on one 2E campaign and a few individual quests.


Edited by Madmartigan, 01 June 2014 - 07:13 AM.

"Everything will be alright, once we get to Tir Asleen."


#2 Kunzite

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 08:01 AM

Gryvorn Unleashed is, in fact, very much geared for the heroes, but a two hero party is geared for the Overlord in the long run. And this is why.

 

Like you said, money is an issue. Two people have less of a chance to get money *and* win quest. Two heroes running around, they are spread too thin.

 

The Overlord's monsters are often too much for the heroes, even though the OL often gets less/weaker monsters then a three or four hero game. There are also less heroes for the OL to maneuver their beasties around. Less heroes to stop him.

 

And in the final with Gryvour, I am sure you made out like a boss in the first encounter. The last time I played that, I got one of the tokens out the door. Gryvorn lasted MAYBE five rounds before going down. I was very easy for the group to make sport of him. But we had four heroes as well.

 

Like you said, two heroes make it REALLY easy for fire breathing to eat away at them. And with Zak there to help, no issue at all.

 

I would encourage your heroes to find another player. If that isn't an option, have one or both of your heroes play two heroes. Playing even a three hero game helps that allot. My favorite is four. It seems to me more fun can be had and a very balanced hero party can be done.


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#3 BenOverlord

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 08:04 AM

A lot of what you say is correct.  Sometimes it is best to give up the win and just go for searches.  As for "Gryvorn Unleashed", it very much depends on the hero set up.  If you have a way to immobilize her, it becomes trivial for the heroes.  Last time we played it, our runemaster basically soloed the dragon.  Think it took 2 rounds to end it.  Also gear matters a lot as well.


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#4 Zaltyre

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 03:25 PM

Agreed. Gryvon is completely mothballed if a hero has a reliable "immobilize." However, as Kunzite says, a two hero game is very tough on the heroes- I second the recommendation to play with 4, even if there are only 2 or 3 hero players.

 

Also, how did you lose the Ritual of Shadows?  I picked that quest (with 4 heroes) because the reward was incredible, and it also looked like a nearly guaranteed victory.


Edited by Zaltyre, 01 June 2014 - 03:25 PM.


#5 amoshias

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 05:47 PM

Balance issues aside, I think it's hard to accept - for either side - that a campaign you might have spent six months or more on comes down to one adventure, one set of rolls, etc. I've completed two campaigns so far. Both of them were Shadow Rune. As the overlord, I aced the heroes in Act 2 - won all three quests - and honestly, while the hero player (I was playing OL, a friend was playing 3 heroes) was dejected about it, he also felt it was reasonable that, after crushing him in act 2, he wasn't able to come back and just win the finale.

 

The other campaign was me as one member of a 4-player hero team, we had won one act 2 quest vs. two by the overlord. We won the finale fairly easily - I sacrificed my character to secure the victory, but I was the only death - and the overlord was pretty miffed about it. Again, we had been playing for a long time, and it was a purely emotional thing.

 

Frankly, I think I'm likely to skip the finale for the next campaign I play. Breaking down a long, involved game into a two hour "win or lose" session doesn't make a ton of sense to me. Frankly, I'm not sure that FFG had a ton of better options - but my friend from the first campaign put it best when he said that he didn't really care much about there being a "winner" of the campaign. It's more fun to see how things progress as skills, equipment and tactics evolve.


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#6 Indalecio

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 01:48 AM

Yeah, I also think it all comes down to the way you look upon the campaign thingy. I made very clear to my playgroups that they would be disappointed if they expected some raw epicness in the finale, although I do still believe there is some kind of klimax in it because it's still a final boss battle. From my perspective (I have only played OL in this game), it's kind of a relief to play this quest and end the campaign. I always feel like I want to start anew because my heroes are too strong and cocky.

 

On the other hand, I also had heroes winning a lot of quests in some campaigns, and getting ultra-confident with every attack they made, and that simply wasn't enough for the finale. I took out the guy with the immobilize bow and was called a ****** for it, what can you do about it? I seriously think heroes are playing a different game than you, and you're just a troublemaker, I have never felt as if there was a good versus evil aspect to the game, which is a shame. So if they walk over you and lose the finale, they can just say that the result was not representative over the course of the campaign and your win was not deserved. But at the end of the day you use the tools you've got in the quests you play, finale included, to do the best that you can. An OL win is just not a very appreciated situation by heroes especially if the campaign ends straight after it. Mainly because the heroes lost their reward, not because you got to buy an extra card that will be probably marginal at best anyway or a random relic to hang over your bed, but because not getting maxed up is utterly annoying for the common hero. They are greedy in nature, I tell you. Very much indeed.

 

Hey, even one player did not know the OL could win the campaign. I got this strange comment in one of our sessions close to the end of the finale. He thought the heroes would get some sort of victory points calculation that would tell how well they did in the campaign.  :rolleyes: Like I said, it's their own game and you're kind of an accessory. You feed them with monsters. Heroes cannot be killed anyway and this sense of immortality does seem to do something to the atmosfear around the game.

 

I'm at the edge of starting two new campaigns and I made sure we discussed these things together so people have a clear view of the OL role and how a campaign is run. It's a question of respect, to avoid heated debates and misunderstandings.


Edited by Indalecio, 02 June 2014 - 01:50 AM.


#7 ProtoPersona

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 03:48 AM

Sounds like too many people look at Descent as an RPG like D&D, instead of a competition between 2 sides. To be fair I can't think of very many games where not only is the bad guy trying to win, but things are actually balanced enough for them to have a chance at winning. Most games of this type it feels like you're only there to give the heroes an interesting game since the rules are slanted in favor of the good guys.


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#8 Madmartigan

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 05:12 AM

Sounds like too many people look at Descent as an RPG like D&D, instead of a competition between 2 sides. To be fair I can't think of very many games where not only is the bad guy trying to win, but things are actually balanced enough for them to have a chance at winning. Most games of this type it feels like you're only there to give the heroes an interesting game since the rules are slanted in favor of the good guys.

There have been many other discussions regarding how to play the Overlord, which seem to come down to two sides:

  1. Ruthless Competitor (Gamer) - plays as hard as possible within the rules, to win at all costs.
  2. Fun Facilitator (GM) - plays only hard enough to provide a fun experience for the hero players, may lose on purpose for the sake of hero player enjoyment.

I kind of fall in between, but more on the side of 2. It is no fun for me as the Overlord to lose all the time, but I also may pull back sometimes if the hero players are getting frustrated. In this particular finale, I pulled my 2 frenzies, and I could not bring myself to thematically ignore them, when a crazed Dragonlord is trying his best to kill the heroes. Although maybe I should have ignored them, because, even if the heroes ultimately lost, the fight would have taken more than two rounds, and perhaps the dissatisfaction would not have been so pronounced.


"Everything will be alright, once we get to Tir Asleen."


#9 Indalecio

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 05:16 AM

Sounds like too many people look at Descent as an RPG like D&D, instead of a competition between 2 sides. To be fair I can't think of very many games where not only is the bad guy trying to win, but things are actually balanced enough for them to have a chance at winning. Most games of this type it feels like you're only there to give the heroes an interesting game since the rules are slanted in favor of the good guys.

 

Yeah exactly, many heroes think you're just there to accomodate them. The game is articulated around them.  This said I have no interest of playing Myth for instance, I really prefer being the mastermind behind the evil forces, and who the hell cares if my heroes still think they'll meet Hello Kitty in a treasure room. 



#10 Whitewing

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 06:29 AM

This game is designed to be competitive. If the players don't want the risk of possibly losing and don't understand that they carry that risk when they play, they should play something else.



#11 Madmartigan

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 06:47 AM

This game is designed to be competitive. If the players don't want the risk of possibly losing and don't understand that they carry that risk when they play, they should play something else.

That is a pretty hard line to take. Especially for RPG players, who may want something lighter than a full blown RPG campaign which does not take so much prep. Yes Descent is designed as a competitive game, but it can also be fun as a kind of light RPG with only slight adjustments to mindset and play style. And even that does not mean the Overlord has to let the heroes win. PC's die all the time in my RPG games. Saying "play it hard, or play something else" seems excessive, and limits the appeal of Descent to only hardcore competitive gamers, which is unfair in my opinion.

 

Also, knowing that there is the possibility of losing, is different from knowing that there is no possibility of winning, which is how I felt a time or two playing Descent 1E with a particularly ruthless Overlord player, and is what one of my players expressed after this particular finale.


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#12 Whitewing

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 10:16 AM

I simply meant there are better games to play if you don't want a competitive game. It's generally a better idea to play a game intended for what you desire rather than try to shoehorn one that isn't.

This game is fun to play as a hero because you're up against an intelligent opponent who is actively trying his best to crush you. Sometimes that means you lose, but many people (myself included) have more fun with games that we don't always win, because it means we can appreciate victory more when it comes. That isn't for everyone, and there's nothing wrong with that.


Edited by Whitewing, 02 June 2014 - 10:21 AM.


#13 BentoSan

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 11:22 AM

I fall on the ruthlessness side for sure. If i were playing as a hero and the overlord was going easy on me the game would just not be fun at all for me; I really enjoy the challenge. If an OL was to go easy on me the victory would feel cheap and i would not feel that great about my victory.

 

Back to the original topic, in a 2 hero game its no wonder the heroes got roasted. I would let them know that a 2 hero game favors the OL and that the last quest favoured the overlord. Invite them to try the 4 hero experience, let them know that they will get a lot more gear, the quests will be more balanced and they stand a better chance of securing a victory.


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#14 griton

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 01:03 PM

My conclusion is that when playing a campaign, and because all of the quest materials are open to all players, a group must sometimes choose to concede victory to the Overlord in a quest, in favor of searching, so that in addition to unlocking skills, there is the potential for better gear, which is also very important.

There are definitely some players (thought not all) that are of the opinion that gold/gear is the biggest determining factor in the end-game, more than the quests won/lost on the way there. (You'll see a number of people decrying the Treasure Hunter as OP, etc.) These players will almost exclusively focus on collecting all the treasure first, then try to win the quest (unless it's for a quest that they know has a particularly good reward for them or the overlord.



#15 Zaltyre

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 03:33 PM

 

My conclusion is that when playing a campaign, and because all of the quest materials are open to all players, a group must sometimes choose to concede victory to the Overlord in a quest, in favor of searching, so that in addition to unlocking skills, there is the potential for better gear, which is also very important.

There are definitely some players (thought not all) that are of the opinion that gold/gear is the biggest determining factor in the end-game, more than the quests won/lost on the way there. (You'll see a number of people decrying the Treasure Hunter as OP, etc.) These players will almost exclusively focus on collecting all the treasure first, then try to win the quest (unless it's for a quest that they know has a particularly good reward for them or the overlord.

 

Depending on the Finale, they may well be right- "Gryvorn Unleashed" can be almost entirely determined by the presence or absence of an "Immobilize" weapon- "The Man Who Would Be Kind," not so much.

 

Thematically, I don't mind victory being determined by the finale. It's clear from the structure of the campaign (quest choice determined by previous victories, etc) that the campaign is meant to be a dynamic story, with future events impacted by how quests unfold. Why isn't Alric in the finale? Because you killed him during the Duskblade quest, remember? Oh, you never stopped him? Well then, he went and got the Duskblade while you were busy dealing with Merrick, and now he's going to stab you with its wonderful Pierce 5.

 

Therefore, the campaign isn't decided solely by the finale- rather, the finale is simply one piece of a progressive story, and every quest along the way impacts the conditions of that final encounter.

 

If the campaign victory condition is a problem for your whole group (OL included,) it would seem to be pretty simple to house rule victory points of some kind. This would have to be decided at the outset of the campaign- just off the cuff, what about:

1 pt for an Act 1 quest

2 pt for an Act 2 quest

3 pt for the Interlude & Finale

0 pt for Introduction + Rumors

 

There are an odd number of points, so draws wouldn't happen.


Edited by Zaltyre, 02 June 2014 - 03:36 PM.

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#16 Kunzite

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 05:43 PM

I fall on the ruthlessness side for sure. If i were playing as a hero and the overlord was going easy on me the game would just not be fun at all for me; I really enjoy the challenge. If an OL was to go easy on me the victory would feel cheap and i would not feel that great about my victory.

 

Ruthless is as it should be. From the heroes and from the Overlord. After all, the Overlord is evil. And the heroes are blessed, or I guess presumed to be blessed, to take out the evil.

 

But also I think there is a difference between ruthless and pro-try-hard, as in only using a handful of monsters (if you have access to all monsters) because these are the only good ones. Or always using the same heroes/class/skills because they are the best ones out there. Playing around with options is what makes it fun, but I guess that's for another thread.

 

 

Another suggestion might be encourage your heroes, and heroes, encourage your overlord. What I mean by this is learn from one another. After the game is done, talk about things and how your winning plot could have been thawed if they did blank before you did blank. It will help everyone feel less isolated and help the learning curve. This might also eliminate any question on why something is or is not broken.


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#17 Whitewing

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 05:49 PM

To avoid burnout, we all take turns playing overlord, especially when somebody starts complaining about balance.

 

When I play overlord, most monsters get used at some point or another, as I find that each quest calls for something different. I will say, however, that certain monster groups rarely, if ever, get chosen. I don't think I've ever voluntarily chosen zombies as a monster group, or goblin witchers.



#18 Inspector Jee

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 12:19 PM

The importance of Winning/Losing Quests is directly proportional to the skill level of the Overlord.  Letting Master Overlords have extra XP/relics can be as bad, or worse than, not having enough gold.

 

Jee



#19 Kunzite

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 12:43 PM

The importance of Winning/Losing Quests is directly proportional to the skill level of the Overlord.  Letting Master Overlords have extra XP/relics can be as bad, or worse than, not having enough gold.

 

Jee

 

I think this is an important point. A point my seasoned heroes have come to know. While the heroes max out their equipment and skills at some point, the OL never runs out of options to better fine tune his deck. My heroes have forfeit gold to make sure I don't get a relic or more ex. Outing me on a new toy is always in their best interest. They always know I run for the big picture plan and if I don't get all my toys for that big picture by the final, they have a better chance at stopping me because my grand plan has fallen short.


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#20 Whitewing

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 01:32 PM

 

The importance of Winning/Losing Quests is directly proportional to the skill level of the Overlord.  Letting Master Overlords have extra XP/relics can be as bad, or worse than, not having enough gold.

 

Jee

 

I think this is an important point. A point my seasoned heroes have come to know. While the heroes max out their equipment and skills at some point, the OL never runs out of options to better fine tune his deck. My heroes have forfeit gold to make sure I don't get a relic or more ex. Outing me on a new toy is always in their best interest. They always know I run for the big picture plan and if I don't get all my toys for that big picture by the final, they have a better chance at stopping me because my grand plan has fallen short.

 

 

My groups usually do the opposite: they start trying right off the bat to win, ignoring treasure, but when they realize I'm winning and it's going to snowball, they decide on acceptable losses and just let me have the relics and extra XP while going all out on treasure, since they figure they're not going to win anyway, and they only need to win the finale.






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