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Ghaundan

Fear and the horrendous, unexpected effect it can have on combat. Solutions?

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Fear in combat is a very real thing! How a person deals with it is what defines bravery! I like the fear system because, all too often, I see players willing to march headlong into the greatest horrors of the universe with a snarky "I don't care! I'll just roll another one just like it" attitude. The fear chart to me is not nearly as debilitating as you make it sound! On top of that, there are very few creatures in the RAW that actually have fear as a trait. Remember that the 40k universe is in a large part, a gothic horror game! If players encounter an extradimensional creature of hellish appearance who's reason for existence is to rend from them their very soul, maybe they should be a little fearful! :huh:  :blink:  :unsure:

 

This also means that "Jaded" Characters are that way for a reason! Remember, any character with 20 or more insanity points effectively also has the "jaded " talent! 

 

I don't think that certain abilities to ignore fear in the system are an issue. Most of them happen in an incremental fashion! Fearless for example, is a tier 3 talent that requires a Tier 2 talent (Nerves of steel) in order to buy. Yes ultimately, The fearless talent does allow you to ignore fear but you'll work to get there.

 

Lastly, The majority of effects below 100 on the shock chart are either temporary or allow for the character to "snap out of it" on any result below one hundred. Unless your players are all phenomenally bad die rollers (or doing it deliberately) I find it hard to believe that a single shock test (Especially at fear levels 1 or 2) would cripple half the squad! 

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I agree, players being overly brave is a problem, but I tend to have a rule. You die, you have half the exp to make a new character. That stops it pretty quickly. 

Yes, characters who go insane are jaded. But the characters aren't insane. They fail, and then roll slightly bad as to either puke, freeze or flee. They can snap out of it, but they often don't. And it's boring for them and screws up an otherwise ok combat encounter.

I have only used fear 1 and...frankly I never want to use anything more without some sort of backup plan to keep half my players being bored as they continue to fail their WP rolls.

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I agree, players being overly brave is a problem, but I tend to have a rule. You die, you have half the exp to make a new character. That stops it pretty quickly. 

Yes, characters who go insane are jaded. But the characters aren't insane. They fail, and then roll slightly bad as to either puke, freeze or flee. They can snap out of it, but they often don't. And it's boring for them and screws up an otherwise ok combat encounter.

I have only used fear 1 and...frankly I never want to use anything more without some sort of backup plan to keep half my players being bored as they continue to fail their WP rolls.

 

It sounds like you aren't GMing this very well. As a GM, you have to be flexible and use the rules to help frame an encounter, not necessarily define it IMO. Just because a PC succumbs to fear doesn't mean he is effectively out of the encounter and thus forced to be bored for the next 30minutes.

 

If indeed a PC is unable to determine his own actions (because forced to puke or flee etc.) you can still do plenty to/with this PC...You can have the scary opponent attack it, allowing the PC to snap out of it but with a -20 penalty (or whatever you feel is justified) because he is still shitting his pants. Or perhaps the PC starts running away and encounters something else scary and has to do another fear check, maybe running back towards the initial scary thing (which might not look so scary now that scary thing #2 has appeared). Maybe the scary thing wants to eat the PC and you have the player feed it parts of the PC's equipment one at a time....At the very least, you can let the player help you run the opponents, just give him the stats and let him kill his buddies at the table ;)

 

I once had a PC run away and he ran into a minefield they didn't know was there and triggered a mine. I ruled that the wounds & blast allowed him to regain his wits. The player ran back, got his fellow PC's to run into the minefield with him while the scary opponent followed. One PC snuffed it but it also killed the scary opponent. Had they continued their stand up fight, more PC's could have been killed if they were unlucky. That became a quite memorable encounter for the players....

 

Just an example of using fear to make an encounter come alive....

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Well, the thing is I'm trying to figure out good ways others have handled it. I want to have some sort of system, however loosely defined, so both me and my players have the same understanding of what they can do and what will happen. It's just so we're both on the same page in how the world works. I've had to make stuff up at times just to keep the flow going, which i sometimes have to do in regular combat as well to keep a good flow. I HATE long combats that end up with dice rolling fests.

I'll defineatly look into it, giving my players more tools both to RP but also to cope with it. But currently I despise the shock table so much I'm considering throwing it out.

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Correct me if I'm wrong but it seems to me that the answers presented in this thread, varied as they are, are all reasonable ways of handling the fear system. You just specifically want a toned down shock table?

 

I guess I could look into it and write something up more that's more forgiving.

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Nnono, I'm taking what I get and I do like it. Just was wondering/hoping if anyone had any solutions. i'll defineatly be giving my players some more tools on dealing with fear/shock, and remind the command characters to use the terrify skill.

Are my players the only ones who've struggled with this?

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Nope. I had the same problems as a player in D&D. My DM loved the stunned condition in which a PC couldn't take any action. Usually for a couple of rounds. And then he'd ignore your PC.

 

That got old very quickly. We finally revolted and told him where to stick it. I didn't travel 1 hour to join a game and then sit around doing nothing. So now he only does that for 1 round max if it happens or turns it down to dazed (which allows some action by the PC).

 

The main point of these special actions IMO is to add a bit of uncertainty and complexity to the game. But it should add to the fun, not detract from it. Which is why as a GM I do offer the chance of 'snapping out of it' but at some cost (either a wound or two or a fate point) or by adding some role-playing effects/situations to the encounter which still engages the PC in some way.

Edited by ranoncles

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Right, guess I'll do two things then. 1) Give the players more tools to help eachother against fear, and tell them to use command 2) Limit it, somehow (will just have to play test). I don't like what being shocked into mumbling nothingness for parts of the session is much fun for the players, and it can make "small" combat encounters eat up way more time then they should.

I don't want to ignore it, that's...boring and proves there's a point. NPC I COULD do but we already have a PC commissar and I'm afraid it will come off as pandering or going easy on the players for the sake of it.

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No,no, if that is what you got from it I must have misrepresented my position. He does refuse and I'm fine with it, even though it can be annoying both for players and myself. Got a vehicle? Yeah, big guy won't get in. Missions inside habstack? Won't go in! But that's something I'll deal with, I kinda signed an "OK" on him playing an ogryn.

I'm just not a fan of the randomness and possibly wonky outcomes of a few poor willpower tests. Talents that ignore it just...proves it's not that great a system, at least in my eyes. But I've gotten some ideas and hopefully next time it will go better and more cinematic. Although I won't be surprised if the suicidal commissar gets himself killed.

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Fear and the ability to overcome it are are misconstrued as an inherent trait. It is not. One develops the habit of dealing with fear efficiently and is thus often mistaken as being immune to it. Given his profession, I would defer to Nimsim on this but I think he would agree with me!

 

In a nutshell: This actually justifies the way the fear system the way it works. The shock table represents a character temporarily losing control his actions due to fear. The various talents and abilities represent not so much the ability to ignore it but rather to overcome and redirect it. Mechanically it amounts to the same thing but I guess it amounts to how you view it.

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Yo’re not alone on this Ghaundan, I have the exact same issues with the shock table. While a Fear  mechanic is entirely appropriate, the current version is just No Fun. Fun is when the game challenges you to make tough but meaningful decisions. But with most Shock results, you don’t get to make any decisions at all – in fact, it’s likely you won’t even be participating in the encounter anymore.  

Odds are you are more likely to fail your WP test to snap out of it than to succeed. All you can do is wait for your turn, probably fail your roll, and wait some more. What is supposed to be a terrifying encounter for the PC becomes the very opposite: a boring and frustrating sit out.

 

What’s worse is the result where a PC falls unconscious for 1d5 hours. Especially in Dark Heresy 2.0, which adds “from which he cannot be roused.” In other words, whatever clever things you or your friends try to do to get you back in the game, it won’t work. In some scenario’s, 1d5 hours may well mean you’re out of it for the rest of the game session. But hey, thanks for coming over! Guess you really shouldn’t have botched that roll!

 

One ‘fix’ we quickly added was that a character can spend an action to assist another PC to ‘snap out of’, by allowing a re-roll (a simple +10 often won’t cut it).

I also like the suggestions by DeathByGrotz and Ranoncles (automatically snap out of it at the cost of 1d5 Insanity points, or use a fate point - see ‘tough but meaningful decisions’ above.)

But these fixes are still attempts to ignore the Fear effect, rather than making Fear interesting and challenging.

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Fear and the ability to overcome it are are misconstrued as an inherent trait. It is not. One develops the habit of dealing with fear efficiently and is thus often mistaken as being immune to it. Given his profession, I would defer to Nimsim on this but I think he would agree with me!

 

In a nutshell: This actually justifies the way the fear system the way it works. The shock table represents a character temporarily losing control his actions due to fear. The various talents and abilities represent not so much the ability to ignore it but rather to overcome and redirect it. Mechanically it amounts to the same thing but I guess it amounts to how you view it.

 

Well, most of these characters are adult and have had either a hard life, rigorous training or both before joining the guard. A person from a death world should either be insane, jaded or fearless. Or all of the above!

I don't know who Nimsim is and would need some clarification about his profession. And the system we're playing doesn't make you more resilient against fear as you experience it, unless you choose to invest exp into it and that doesn't require the character to meet dreadful creatures or surroundings. The only thing that works towards this is insanity, where you become jaded as your mind becomes unhinged. 

Captain Erf, glad to see someone else have had problems. I was worried I was doing something wrong. I'll just have to think it through and give my players more tools if I ever GM again. A player wanted to GM a bit and his stance is: I will never use fear. But this has defineatly given me food for thought at my own GM'ing.

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Fear and the ability to overcome it are are misconstrued as an inherent trait. It is not. One develops the habit of dealing with fear efficiently and is thus often mistaken as being immune to it. Given his profession, I would defer to Nimsim on this but I think he would agree with me!

 

In a nutshell: This actually justifies the way the fear system the way it works. The shock table represents a character temporarily losing control his actions due to fear. The various talents and abilities represent not so much the ability to ignore it but rather to overcome and redirect it. Mechanically it amounts to the same thing but I guess it amounts to how you view it.

 

Well, most of these characters are adult and have had either a hard life, rigorous training or both before joining the guard. A person from a death world should either be insane, jaded or fearless. Or all of the above!

And the system we're playing doesn't make you more resilient against fear as you experience it, unless you choose to invest exp into it and that doesn't require the character to meet dreadful creatures or surroundings. The only thing that works towards this is insanity, where you become jaded as your mind becomes unhinged. 

 

Just because people might have a hard life before (forcibly) joining the guard doesn't mean they are necessarily protected from fear. If you take a conscript from a death world, that person will be familiar with the scary things on his own planet. He will (ideally) know how to avoid them and what they can do to a person. That will likely be covered by the survival skill. Should he ever face such a scary creature, he'll still likely be scared. Just as I would be scared if I ever encountered a lion in the wild, despite knowing a lot about them....

 

Yet even if such a conscript has managed to conquer his fear for all scary creatures on his planet, he is very unlikely to know much about scary creatures from other planets. Certainly not if he has to rely on the Uplifting primer ;) .

 

All he will see is a scary creature, possibly with big claws and big, pointy teeth.....and humans are just hard wired to be afraid of that....

 

If you look at the human reactions portrayed by soldiers in Starship troopers or in Alien 2, you see a wide range including freezing for a bit, losing it to indiscriminate hosing of an area (usually where the scary creatue isn't) until the ammo runs out.

 

Perhaps adding more options to the fear table would help you improve the game to your own preferences?

 

Progression of a PC is based on spent XP. It's that simple. Players get XP and can then spend it on acquiring skills, talents or improvements. So yes, conquering fear is expressed as buying jaded or such. Even without having seen all scary things out there. Complaining about that is a bit silly IMO because that's the way the game works.

 

You could houserule that players can only acquire skills/talents etc. which fit narratively which means you need to introduce trainers and/or encounters/situations which make it logical that players buy certain skills/talents. But that is often a can of worms best left closed IMO.

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I didn't complain. When did I complain? Apart from having problems with, and thus not liking, the way fear and shock tables work. I pointed out that Radwraith's assertion that characters grew better at handling fear as they experienced it, which the system doesn't. I have no issue with the experience system and how it works.

I have houseruled that way before and I do like it, but it works better with systems with a bit more freedom to the players. The archmilitant in Rogue Trader wants to buy ballistic, weapon skill, strenght or toughness? She trains in the barracks to hone her skills. Rogue Trader wants to become better at haggling? He reads up on tricks, or asks his sensechal for instructions. They want to learn forbidden lore? Well, now they have to find someone who can help them because that stuff doesn't come by itself.

I feel that can cause problems in a system in only war and agrew with you, a can of worm best left closed. And even in systems it works within it does pose problems, defineatly.

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I usually do the first fear check as per RAW. Echoing redwraith a summary execution snaps all PCs into working, if there is no commissar I have a house rule that all characters get +x*10 to their snap out of it checks where x is the degrees of success of the PC who did best on his/her check.

Example: Billy, Timmy and Mary are guardsmen who need to pass a fear check. Billy fails and runs away, Timmy passes with 1 DoS and Mary passes with 3. Billy now can look to Mary for inspiration and gets +30 to snap out of his stupor. If Timmy the commissar kills the comrade billy automatically snaps out of it.

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Fear was always a problem in the 40k line for its effect had a rather big impact on the PCs. Most of the problems though do originate from the PCs not being used to being affected by something different than combat rolls. I for example use social skills on my PCs just like they do use them on NPCs. They are not utilized as some sort of super-argument that makes peoplecthink the way they want but it introduced them to the idea that there are rolls outside of combat that might have some sort of effect on them.

Fear on the other hand is not just an effect, it may be strong enough to define actuall RP but that is how it rolls. Even though a NPC was quite charming with its sucessfull charm skill and role played efforts to seduces it is most of the time finally the choice of the PC to be convinced or not or to have other issued with such an affair like being a professional - fear goes deeper.

Fear makes you to do things and that might even seem worse after it seems to be only mechanic of that sort some GMs seem to utilize. I for example, and so my players, had never an issue with the Shock table. It is a golden rule in our group that willpower is a stat, just important for survival as toughness is and hence it is never a "dump" stat people save their precious allocations point on to boost their Balistic Skill or what ever. That way those that want to play a somewhat seasoned character that has seen some "****" also do have rather good WP score that make failure not that often - and the mechanic goes that way that even if you fail you still benefit from great WP.

Also Talents like nerves of steel / jaded / fearless / unshakable faith are free to go for. My group is mature enough to only pick talents that suit their actual characters and so I never encountered someone that min/maxed over the top. They might have efficient character builds but in the end they play efficient soldiers and as long as they do not start to make redicioulous combinations that is okay.

 

You do not have to charge something to be a brave lad. I cant perfectly translate a saying of my langauge and I do not know if it exists in some way in english but that would be called the "Bravery of a Fool". By pushing yourself into a situation you cant escape from you actually negate the need of confronting your fears and overcomming it. The brave people still do fear - they just handle it well and stay calm. So the guy charging something blindly is often just acting out of desperation while the soldier, that calmy holds its position and distance might be the actually guy that has mastered its fear. And just because that soldier is supsicious, holds back, calmy acts and always is careful without a desire to confront the enmy or walk straight into an ambush he is not a coward though these actions could be discribed as such.

 

"fearlessness" does not define itself how you act in you all day life, it is defined by the very moment that counts. You might be the most illusive snake out there but as long as you hold the line the moment it is requried of you - you have mastered your fear.

 

So making the choice of being able to pick that talents dependant on how ballsy your charakters play their social interactions is imho a rather bad way of implementing these talents. Just because that guy does not want a bare knuckles fight with the mechanic of the leman russ that has not to mean he cant be a jaded veteran capable of looking straight into the eyes of some rather disgustion xeno.

Edited by FieserMoep

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I want to lead this response with the fact that I have not caught up on all the comments.

 

However, I did read some of the earliest ones regarding Jaded and how FFG's solution to the Fear mechanic is to come up with talents that simply negate it altogether. I don't like this and have come up with the following tentative solution.

 

Jaded is no longer a Fear denial system for anything short of Warp Terrors. I don't care how Jaded some medic is, if they see a Fear (4) creature on the battlefield (Ork, Tyranid or other beast that is NOT of the Warp) they are going to need a change of chonies and some big cahonies to keep on keeping on.

 

My amendment: Jaded now treats Fear inducing creatures/conditions as though they were 2 degrees less fearful. PCs with the Jaded talent will be immune to fear tests from creatues/conditions with the Fear (1) and Fear (2) qualities. Fear (3) will require the PC to test WP at -10. Fear (4) will require the PC to test WP at -20.

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