it's not that i think "scathing tirade" as written kills. i understand that this is not the case. (actually, that it doesn't have to be the case. it could be if you play it raw.)
i still have a problem imagining any reasonable scenario where anyone would be "defeated" by nasty words only.
could anyone give examples? star wars relevance for bonus points.
i don't think it is implemented very well as a combat skill. and that's what it is as written... a combat skill. i can imagine it being used outside of combat. it could even "defeat" someone outside of combat. (you'd need to tweak the rules for that i guess).
but when used as a combat skill i think the idea of the tirade only debuffing enemies is much more reasonable. you can weaken them, but you have to defeat them with other means. this also fits better with the politico being more of a support character.
"improved scathing tirade" should be the default power, with improving talents adding more setback dice or other effects. the worst thing that can happen is when a player uses scything tirade as a default "attack". this would result in a joke character talking smack through every fight. scating tirades should be rare. if they are not, they become boring fast.
The way we played Tirade the one time it killed was a bit of revisionist history. The last blaster shot that hit the enemy had actually killed him and he was on his last legs. The Tirade was just enough for him to give up the fight.
I don't know if talking had ever been used to "defeat" someone in star wars. Everyone is so prone to violence in those movies. Heck, even Obi Wan would rather cut off arms instead of talking. But for a film example that is fitting for this conversation, how about Dirty Harry's "Do you feel lucky" scene? The punk has been hurt and is going for his shotgun. Harry gives his speech, which if you ask me could be a Tirade. The punk gives up instead of fighting. To me, that's an example of strain damage "killing" a minion.
I'll agree with your assessment, that Tirade is written as a combat skill. A handful of points of strain damage doesn't really mean anything to most NPCs. Minions and Rivals just see it as a couple extra points of damage, no big whoop. Nemesis actually use strain for things, but by the time you do enough strain damage with Tirade to do anything meaningful the fight's already over. The setback die is useful, but in my experiences it isn't as powerful as I think the designers thought it would be. The threat of gaining a setback die has never stopped me from doing anything.
Honestly, I feel that strain damage is best against the PCs. Sure, there are ways to recover it in combat and between fights. The trick is to force them to manage the strain resource. If you keep PC strain low then they will think twice before buying extra maneuvers or dodging or other fun stuff. NPCs don't worry about that.
I too feel that Tirade needs something. I don't feel like it's getting the desired effect. I wish it was more debuffing effects instead of strain damage. As written, it does feel like a combat power intended to give Politicos a way to fight back with their words. It just isn't very effective at doing something very meaningful in the combat.
As someone who played a Tirade character, it didn't get boring for me. It was fun (and sometimes frustrating) to come up with new things to yell at the bad guys. It kept me more involved in the game than if I was just shooting. I had to use more strategy to stay alive and affect the bad guys. Where as everyone shooting is on autopilot, only aiming and shooting, which sounds boring to me.