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The Threat of Setbacks.


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#1 Gamerunner

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 06:19 AM

I've had trouble, finding an easy way to integrate Threats rolled by myself or players.

I also have trouble imposing setbacks. I should be applying setbacks (from one reason or another) so my players can make use of their talents. (It also feels like adding insult to injury) but after all this time I've just been using the purple/red difficulty dice as the opposition.

I tell the story, and the game has been fun, so I must be doing something right, but I feel like I'm missing something. Any advice, tricks, or tips to remember?



#2 riplikash

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 06:31 AM

One way our group handles despairs and threats as story effects in most situations, usually in a way that bypasses the characters actual efforts. They are a kind of "outside the box" failure scenario.

Trying to bluff a clerk into give you the admirals dry cleaning? He picked it up yesterday. Slicing into a security system to bypass a camera? A guard walks by. A Performing evasive maneovres to escape from storm troopers? The manouvers succeed, but damage your engines, forcing a crash landing.

So my tip is for despairs (or lots of threats) is: How could the situation go wrong in an unexpected way? Do that.

We tend to treat threats as mini-despairs. Little bumps in the story the player can work past with a little effort. Instead of a trooper walking into the room, a couple may walk in talking, but they haven't noticed you. Instead of damaged engines they are becoming overloaded. Instead of the admirals dry cleaning not being there the clerk may suddenly wonder why you don't have your claim card.

So a despair is an encounter changing unexpected event.
A threat is a potentially encounter changing unexpected event the players can avoid with a little effort. It adds spice to an event rather than changing it in any fundemental way.



#3 whafrog

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 09:16 AM

 

I think this is related, but if not my apologies, I'll create a new topic.

I've been wondering how people handle threats and advantages in combat.  My son and I just worked through the Beginner set adventure, and are completely sold on the rules, and the whole idea of "narrative" roleplaying.  Breath of fresh air for me, as I've spent my life doing the "GM thinks of everything" style of play.  Breath of fresh air for him, as he gets to inject some creativity into the story over which, in hindsight I've been too domineering.  Old habits, yada yada.

Anyway, for a while it was fun getting an advantage in combat and saying "I spit in his eye" or "I distract him with a kick to the shins" so the next PC can roll a Boost die; or something equally bad for a Threat, eg "your blaster trigger sticks a bit".  But after a time we just ran out of ideas.  Maybe we just got tired (he was running 3 PCs from the Beginner adventure, I ran the droid and everything else), but … how do people handle this on a regular basis?  Do you only pass the advantage if it's well-described.  If I sprung this on my crusty older group, I'd have to offer some reward for good description, and they'd probably only do it if the situation was critical.



#4 LethalDose

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 10:54 AM

Gamerunner said:

I've had trouble, finding an easy way to integrate Threats rolled by myself or players.

I also have trouble imposing setbacks. I should be applying setbacks (from one reason or another) so my players can make use of their talents. (It also feels like adding insult to injury) but after all this time I've just been using the purple/red difficulty dice as the opposition.

I tell the story, and the game has been fun, so I must be doing something right, but I feel like I'm missing something. Any advice, tricks, or tips to remember?

There was some discussion about when it's appropriate to add setback dice or upgrade difficulty dice in this thread.  That may shed some light on the issue.  I think the best guidance is on page 17 in the Beta text, under "Adding dice" in the the "Modifiying a pool" section:

"One way to modifity the basic dice is to add dice to reflect the environmental conditions or various advantages and disadvantages.  This is done primarily through the use of Boost and Setback dice.  As a general rule, one Boost die (W) is added to the dice pool for each advantage that would help the character succeed, and one Setback die (B) is added for each disadvantage or obstacle impeding success."

continued one paragraph later:

"Likewise, a single Setback die (B) is usually enough to reflect the impact of detrimental or obstructing effects like poor lighting, inferior supplies, harsh enviroments, or outside distractions.  If more than one fo these disadvantages are applicable, the GM may add mulitple Setback dice to the dice pool."

So, enviromental effects and other conditions external to the task are typically why you apply Setback dice to a roll.  For example, if a PC was tracking a humanoid on a terrestrial (say "Average" difficulty), you could add Setback dice to the dice pool if:

  • The ground is very hard, and its difficult to find tracks
  •  It's foggy
  • The lighting is poor
  • It has rained since the character moved through the area, washing away tracks

To contrast, I'd say you'd increase the difficulty if the PC was tracking the target in a jungle or other really problematic terrain (blowing snow, caves, etc) and if the target they were tracking was a highly trained survivalist, that's when I'd upgrade.  Different GMs may draw lines in different places, though.  You mention that yuo've been relying on purple and reds for adjusting difficulty.  If you've been increasing difficulty (+P) instead of adding setbacks (+B) to account for the kinds of situations listed above, you may be guilty of "doing it wrong", as far as you can apply that phrase to a creative, narrative game.

As far as spending threat, the options on page 133 for combat threat are a decent place to start (though cost-benefits on a lot of the options are totally screwy).  It can be tricky to come up with appropriate narrative results on the fly, but keep practicing at it.  I'm really worried that as time goes on, though, tables may fall into using the same, easily remembered ways to use threat, instead of coming up with novel results for every result, which a level of creativity that's hard to sustain for a few hours.

A similar example occured while my table was playing WHF3e recently, the GM really agonized over the equivalent of a "Success with Threat" on a skill roll. The conundrum was how to impose a penalty that didn't negate the success.  It was a sneak roll, and the GM didn't want to force another sneak roll, which he felt would negate the success.  What we came up with was that, while character sneaking wasn't detected, he didn't end up where he wanted to be, and had to RP his way out.

The take-home here is that you should keep at it, and try to keep it as novel as possible while keeping the game moving.  The results Riplikash provided are great.

-WJL



#5 LethalDose

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 11:05 AM

whafrog said:

Anyway, for a while it was fun getting an advantage in combat and saying "I spit in his eye" or "I distract him with a kick to the shins" so the next PC can roll a Boost die; or something equally bad for a Threat, eg "your blaster trigger sticks a bit".  But after a time we just ran out of ideas.  Maybe we just got tired (he was running 3 PCs from the Beginner adventure, I ran the droid and everything else), but … how do people handle this on a regular basis?  Do you only pass the advantage if it's well-described.  If I sprung this on my crusty older group, I'd have to offer some reward for good description, and they'd probably only do it if the situation was critical.

This is kind of my point at the end of my post above; it takes a loooot of creativity to keep the description stuff rolling every combat round.  My group has preferred to only require narrative description when they choose to if they're selecting a 'stock' option (pg 133) OR whenever they want to do something not on that list.

And the game has to keep flowing.  That's super critical.  So if it's taking too much time to come up with a description of what happens as a result of the roll, just skip it and apply the result anyway.

-WJL



#6 Fiddleback

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 06:20 PM

Sorry…  am I allowed to sneak in and mention Skill Monkey?

 

I'm not?

 

Oh, ok.

 

:)


Freelance Editor and Writer  (Ed: Rogue Trader: Faith and CoinStar Wars: Age of Rebellion Beta and Core) - Contributor of the Skill Monkey segments to The Order 66 Podcast - Bon Vivant and gadabout town. www.MadAdventurers.com

 

 


#7 Barefoottourguide

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 10:29 AM

Threats are what happens after the heroes say "It could be worse."

Walls start closing in. The ceiling starts to collapse. Cats and dogs living together! Mass hysteria. Walking around the corner and hitting your head on a durasteel beam someone is carrying. Something comedic. Something that makes it worse. It's the virus you get when using google maps to plot your astrogation course. It's the ankle that gets twisted during a foot race. It's the having to stop every five miles for a potty break on a pilot check.

Garrett






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