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Hey all,

 

So our game is going absolutely fantastic as we get back into EotE, however, I read a topic here a few days ago about Setback dice and wanted to delve into that a bit further--Particularly after yesterdays game.

 

Someone asked "How often should you use Setback dice?" and the general answers were "Liberally." I thought about this, and decided to try it in yesterdays game. I explained to them the situation, and that it emphasizes the Talents that remove Setback dice. My players were curious and agreed. I was pretty much handing out a Setback die on every roll my players, only a single one with a second (or third) depending on the circumstance. It was certainly fun, and even my players had a good time . . . but now a few things came up.

 

I'm thinking of bumping it up to TWO Setback Dice on pretty much every (non-combat) roll. This is because most Talents allow you to get rid of up to two Setback dice, so getting those Talents would make you feel pretty good. The only issue is ... how do I explain it cinematically?

 

For example, they made a few Knowledge rolls and asked if they should add the new mandatory Setback die. I said no, since it's a knowledge check and a Setback die makes no real sense. Well, lo' and behold I see a talent "Remove 2 Setback dice from any Knowledge Roll". :(

 

So, in all, is it a good idea to just add two Setback Dice to every roll my players make, adding more if needed? Additionally, what are some good general ways to explain Setback dice RP wise?

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I'd say that's a bit over-zealous :)  I wouldn't, and I wouldn't be adding one to every roll either.  Setback dice change the odds almost as much as adding difficulty dice.  There really should be a valid reason for the setback dice.  If you can't think of one, there doesn't need to be one.  I also wouldn't invent one, e.g.:  don't retroactively say "BTW, it's raining" just to impose a setback.  Also, if you're always adding setback, that's not much of an opportunity to add boost dice, which are just as fun and interesting.

 

The Talents that remove setback are valuable, but you shouldn't be adding setback just to cater to those Talents.  Not everybody has them, for one thing, and for a lot of GMs, one thing we often do to enhance the tension is pull PCs out of their comfort zone.  Make the Mechanic be the face for a bit, make the Scoundrel have to defuse a bomb...adding setback to these tests "just because" seems unnecessarily cruel.  This doesn't mean all their mechanical and piloting Talents and Skills have gone to waste because you certainly want to let them shine when it's critically important.

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Part of the answer is to put them in situations where two setback dice can be easily explained.

 

For example, in a shootout on a temperate day in mild weather in an empty street, it would be hard to justify adding setback dice.

 

If your encounter takes place in scorching heat in a windy, dust-storm-prone environment on a busy street packed with speeders zooming by at high speed and crowds of people getting in the way of the everything, you might see how you could easily apply 3 or even 4 setback dice to a given check.

 

Generally it makes things more exciting if the encounter is taking place in an environment that is challenging, even aside from the threats involved.

 

* Low visibility: Darkness, mist, clouds, fog, heavy rain, snow, sleet, hail

* Extreme temperature: very hot, very cold, very wet, unusual atmospheres

* Extreme weather: high winds, snow, dust storms, heavy rain, hail, magnetic storms, fire falling from the sky, avalanches, rockslides, mudslides

* Dangerous environment: heavy traffic, unstable rock formations, slippery ice, falling trees, dive-bombing birds, fighting on top of a moving vehicle

* Obstacles in the way: Innocent or friendly people, canisters of explosive gas, important computers which must not be destroyed

 

There are many more options, but if you can pick a couple from this list to add to many of your encounters, they might help you ramp up the drama as well as justifying setback dice which make your PCs feel good about the Talents they've purchased.

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IIRC, setback dice are used to represent external factors about the current situation that make it more difficult to succeed. Things like trying to hack a computer while in combat, or being on an icy and slippery surface while trying to engage in combat. But not everything has to be complicated by combat, of course.

So, in that context, if you can come up with a plausible reason why the current external factors should result in setback dice for a given roll, then I would encourage you to use them.

IMO, this rule should apply to any roll based on any skill, talent, or attribute — knowledge included.

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Right, well first, I wasn't adding them to combat. Only with normal rolls. 

 

I guess I just have a hard time visualizing what makes a set back dice. My players are around 350 XP, so they're entering power house mode where they can get by a lot of things I throw at them. We never play much with Setback dice, so the Talents don't have much sway. I was just curious to change that.

 

And I do hand out Boost dice, but I can't really ever think of reasons to hand out Setback dice. I can't stress enough how little they've come into play in our games except for Defense and Cover. 

 

That being said though, my players did actually enjoy it. It was upping the difficulty for them and yet still having ways around it (Via Talents)

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Even for knowledge checks you're going to see them pop up. I think when people use the description of "liberally," they tend to really mean, "don't be afraid to," instead of the literal definition. It's just a go-to response really.

I have found that the best way to answer if you should or shouldn't give setback dice is this simple question, "If I were in that situation would I find it hard to perform [skill]?" Perfect examples can be found all throughout cinema, even the Star Wars films, of characters facing setback dice. Indy trying to quickly decipher ancient text when lives are on the line, R2 trying to stop the compactor before his friends get flattened, Andy trying to remember how to read sheet music in the Goonies before they fall to a spiky doom, etc etc.

There's the intricacy/difficulty of the check itself, and then there's the external forces influencing the outcome. Stress, environment, doubt, and everything beyond and between can add setback dice. The same goes for Boost dice.

Honestly, once you start using them you'll start getting a feeling for how many, if any, make sense. You'll look at the situation and the skill being rolled for and without thinking you'll just know "add x amount of SB/B dice for [reasons]."

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Social situations:

The guy you need to doesn't trust your species - add setback

The lady doesn't like working with guys - add setback

Your characters aren't dressed for the situation - add setback

etc...

 

Attitude and prejudices change things for the good or bad. What the characters say to an NPC could add or remove certain setback dice. So, there are lots of reasons for setback to be used in non-combat situations. Similar reasons can be used for Knowledge checks and such.

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Social situations:

The guy you need to doesn't trust your species - add setback

The lady doesn't like working with guys - add setback

Your characters aren't dressed for the situation - add setback

etc...

 

Attitude and prejudices change things for the good or bad. What the characters say to an NPC could add or remove certain setback dice. So, there are lots of reasons for setback to be used in non-combat situations. Similar reasons can be used for Knowledge checks and such.

Instantly thought of the Cantina scene! "I don't like you."

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Social situations:

The guy you need to doesn't trust your species - add setback

The lady doesn't like working with guys - add setback

Your characters aren't dressed for the situation - add setback

etc...

 

Attitude and prejudices change things for the good or bad. What the characters say to an NPC could add or remove certain setback dice. So, there are lots of reasons for setback to be used in non-combat situations. Similar reasons can be used for Knowledge checks and such.

Instantly thought of the Cantina scene! "I don't like you."

 

Not a bad example, heheh.

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You can get a setback die for...

...being unfamiliar with the situation at hand.

...being unfamiliar with the planet you're on.

...being unfamiliar with the local cultural customs.

...being unfamiliar with the tech in front of you (weapons, ships, droids, other gear).

...being unfamiliar with the geographical layout of your immediate area.

...being unfamiliar with the person with whom you're conversing.

...being unfamiliar with the species with which you're interacting.

...being unfamiliar with the region of space in which you find yourself.

...being unfamiliar with the bureaucratic procedures of the organization with which you're dealing.

You can also get a setback die for...

...having a poor reputation with the locals.

...making a bad first impression.

...having done something in the past that make people not trust you (or like you).

...belonging to a certain disfavored species.

...belonging to a certain disfavored organization.

...belonging to a certain disfavored gender.

...being too young, and alienating your older target group.

...being too old, and alienating your younger target group.

...being too heavily-armed.

...not being heavily-armed enough.

...not knowing enough about the current situation.

...knowing too MUCH about the current situation, which makes you gloss over important minute details.

...being of a certain social class or standing.

...the company you keep.

...being in a hurry.

...being stressed or under pressure.

...being hungry or thirsty.

...starving or being dehydrated (two setbacks).

...being uncomfortable.

...being ill.

...being tired.

...being intoxicated.

...going too fast.

...going too slow.

...lacking proper resources to deal with a situation.

Adding the word "very" to the majority of these things will give you two setback dice instead of one!

Okay now you make a list :)

Edited by awayputurwpn

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You can get a setback die for...

...being unfamiliar with the situation at hand.

...being unfamiliar with the planet you're on.

...being unfamiliar with the local cultural customs.

...being unfamiliar with the tech in front of you (weapons, ships, droids, other gear).

...being unfamiliar with the geographical layout of your immediate area.

...being unfamiliar with the person with whom you're conversing.

...being unfamiliar with the species with which you're interacting.

...being unfamiliar with the region of space in which you find yourself.

...being unfamiliar with the bureaucratic procedures of the organization with which you're dealing.

You can also get a setback die for...

...having a poor reputation with the locals.

...making a bad first impression.

...having done something in the past that make people not trust you (or like you).

...belonging to a certain disfavored species.

...belonging to a certain disfavored organization.

...belonging to a certain disfavored gender.

...being too young, and alienating your older target group.

...being too old, and alienating your younger target group.

...being too heavily-armed.

...not being heavily-armed enough.

...not knowing enough about the current situation.

...knowing too MUCH about the current situation, which makes you gloss over important minute details.

...being of a certain social class or standing.

...the company you keep.

...being in a hurry.

...being stressed or under pressure.

...being hungry or thirsty.

...starving or being dehydrated (two setbacks).

...being uncomfortable.

...being ill.

...being tired.

...being intoxicated.

...going too fast.

...going too slow.

...lacking proper resources to deal with a situation.

Adding the word "very" to the majority of these things will give you two setback dice instead of one!

Okay now you make a list :)

This is a great start for ideas for new GMs :)

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Go big.  Go real big with your descriptions.

 

It isn't raining, it's hammering down.

It isn't windy; it's a gale so strong you have to turn your head away from the dust and grip hard enough to turn your knuckles white.

The mud doesn't make walking a slog; it's a sucking bog that threatens to drag you down and choke you.

The slang-dialect the mercenary is using isn't unfamiliar; it's harsh and guttural and threatening, and you're searching for a phrasing that - if he hears it wrong - won't accidentally insult his mother.

The mechanism isn't in an awkward place; the mechanic has to contort themselves or hang, inverted to get to it.

 

And when they still succeed, they'll know how awesome they are.

Edited by Col. Orange

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Okay, so AMAZING responses here that really help me, although Col. Orange went a bit too Dead Poets Society on me . . .

 

However, after mulling it all over, I think I figured out why I feel uncomfortable with Setback dice.

 

I don't know what the players are going to do. Yes, I can set up and have a general feel for it, but in the end they can break out anything on me. The big bad guy may pull a blaster out on them, then suddenly the negotiator may suddenly say "Wait, I have this to tell him. Let me make a Negotiation check." (Or something.)

I'm not going to say NO to that player, but the bad guy doesn't want to negotiate or anything. So it's a Hard or Devastating check. There's no need for Setback dice, it's a near impossible check anyways.

I just have this overwhelming feeling of Setback dice being "Oh wow, I didn't expect you to do that . . . how can I, as the DM, try to thwart you? What environmental, mental, physical, or other things are going on in the scene that I can use against you to prevent you from succeeding?"

 

Is this the right way to think? No. Probably not . . . but it's a feeling I can't shake. This is why I brought up the "Setback dice (or even two Setback dice) on just everything you do, so the Talents have more weight and I don't feel like an ******* DM."

 

Again, I get it, they do make sense, but it's not something I'm comprehending in a free form RP environment. If you want to do something under stressful conditions, to me it's not an AVERAGE check with Setback dice, it's a HARD check, because it's FREAKIN HARDER TO DO. :P

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I don't know what the players are going to do. Yes, I can set up and have a general feel for it, but in the end they can break out anything on me. The big bad guy may pull a blaster out on them, then suddenly the negotiator may suddenly say "Wait, I have this to tell him. Let me make a Negotiation check." (Or something.)

I'm not going to say NO to that player, but the bad guy doesn't want to negotiate or anything. So it's a Hard or Devastating check. There's no need for Setback dice, it's a near impossible check anyways.

I just have this overwhelming feeling of Setback dice being "Oh wow, I didn't expect you to do that . . . how can I, as the DM, try to thwart you? What environmental, mental, physical, or other things are going on in the scene that I can use against you to prevent you from succeeding?"

 

Is this the right way to think? No. Probably not . . . but it's a feeling I can't shake. This is why I brought up the "Setback dice (or even two Setback dice) on just everything you do, so the Talents have more weight and I don't feel like an ******* DM."

 

Again, I get it, they do make sense, but it's not something I'm comprehending in a free form RP environment. If you want to do something under stressful conditions, to me it's not an AVERAGE check with Setback dice, it's a HARD check, because it's FREAKIN HARDER TO DO. :P

And there's your problem. Setback aren't an adversarial component of the system. You aren't adding them to try and force the player to fail. The difficulty is set by the task itself, then modified by the specifics of the situation. What I mean is that removing all other factors, how hard is something to do or know. Then you adjust it from there for the circumstances.

 

In other systems, especially D20, where there is just the single scale (success/failure), all those modifiers are hidden in the "Target Number" or "Difficulty Class", but not so in FFG's system where there are two axes about which the roll revolves (success/failure, advantage/threat).

 

So: How hard is it to install this piece of gear? That sets the difficulty. Now, do you have the right tools. Are the lights movable to allow you to see. Is it raining. Is there a firefight going on and you keep flinching from the bolts impacting nearby, etc...

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Think of the Difficulty being the innate, actual *difficulty* of trying to do something (negotiate with a hostile) and the setback being a complication (he's already escalated by drawing a gun). A master negotiator would be able to ignore that setback and take the hostile's focus off the gun.

It's not adversarial. It's good gaming! It's boring if the PCs win it all, all the time.

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Okay, that actually makes sense. So when the players say they want to do something . . .

 

As a DM I would say "Okay, you want to accomplish this. That's an Average difficulty of itself. (Throw in 2 purple dice) Unfortunately, this is going on. (Throw in a Setback dice) And also, this is happening. (Throw in another one.) Additionally, you know you're on a time limit and you don't have all day. (Throw in another one)"

 

That works a bit better in my head, separating the task from various things happening. In the Negotiation above . . .

 

We'll say it's a Hard check to negotiate with someone who wants to kill you. Additionally, he's already ready for battle, 1 Setback. Also, he's got more men than you, so he's also inclined to ignore you. 2 Setback dice. Finally, you killed his adviser last week, and he's still pretty mad about that. 3 Setback dice.

 

Like that?

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I guess then one more issue that comes into head is the perspective of easy, hard, and so on.

 

For example, if someone who has 4 points in Mechanics wants to "hotwire" a Speeder . . . it's probably a no brainer. Easy task.

However, if someone with 2 Intelligence and 0 points in Mechanics wants to "hotwire" a Speeder . . . it's a bit harder. Average or Hard I would say.

 

I recognize that the points they have in it shouldn't be an issue, but again . . . this is how my brain works when you judge a thing to be "easy" or "hard" (With betweens, I know.)

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I guess then one more issue that comes into head is the perspective of easy, hard, and so on.

 

For example, if someone who has 4 points in Mechanics wants to "hotwire" a Speeder . . . it's probably a no brainer. Easy task.

However, if someone with 2 Intelligence and 0 points in Mechanics wants to "hotwire" a Speeder . . . it's a bit harder. Average or Hard I would say.

 

I recognize that the points they have in it shouldn't be an issue, but again . . . this is how my brain works when you judge a thing to be "easy" or "hard" (With betweens, I know.)

Again, you're mixing up a given character's chance of success with just how hard is the task on a scale of 1-5. Regardless of having 0 or 5 ranks in a skill, the check doesn't change. So, if hotwiring a speeder is difficulty 3, then it is difficulty 3 regardless of if you have Mechanics at 0 or 6.

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As a DM I would say "Okay, you want to accomplish this. That's an Average difficulty of itself. (Throw in 2 purple dice) Unfortunately, this is going on. (Throw in a Setback dice) And also, this is happening. (Throw in another one.) Additionally, you know you're on a time limit and you don't have all day. (Throw in another one)"

 

Bingo.

 

We'll say it's a Hard check to negotiate with someone who wants to kill you. Additionally, he's already ready for battle, 1 Setback. Also, he's got more men than you, so he's also inclined to ignore you. 2 Setback dice. Finally, you killed his adviser last week, and he's still pretty mad about that. 3 Setback dice.

 

 

Exactly.  On that last one...just MHO, but some things are worth an upgrade instead of setback.  "Ready for battle" has less emotional charge than "killed my advisor", so depending on the situation that chance of Despair may be appropriate.

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Okay, so AMAZING responses here that really help me, although Col. Orange went a bit too Dead Poets Society on me . . .

 

However, after mulling it all over, I think I figured out why I feel uncomfortable with Setback dice.

 

I don't know what the players are going to do. Yes, I can set up and have a general feel for it, but in the end they can break out anything on me. The big bad guy may pull a blaster out on them, then suddenly the negotiator may suddenly say "Wait, I have this to tell him. Let me make a Negotiation check." (Or something.)

I'm not going to say NO to that player, but the bad guy doesn't want to negotiate or anything. So it's a Hard or Devastating check. There's no need for Setback dice, it's a near impossible check anyways.

I just have this overwhelming feeling of Setback dice being "Oh wow, I didn't expect you to do that . . . how can I, as the DM, try to thwart you? What environmental, mental, physical, or other things are going on in the scene that I can use against you to prevent you from succeeding?"

 

Is this the right way to think? No. Probably not . . . but it's a feeling I can't shake. This is why I brought up the "Setback dice (or even two Setback dice) on just everything you do, so the Talents have more weight and I don't feel like an ******* DM."

 

Again, I get it, they do make sense, but it's not something I'm comprehending in a free form RP environment. If you want to do something under stressful conditions, to me it's not an AVERAGE check with Setback dice, it's a HARD check, because it's FREAKIN HARDER TO DO. :P

 

In the example you give the difficulty would be the bad guy's Negotiation or Cool (I wish the rules gave some guidelines on when to use which, but I'd probably use Cool here).  The difficulty should not be adjusted based on the situation.  The situation is what adds setback dice.  I'd probably add one if he simply doesn't like the character that is trying to negotiate, another for he's had a bad experience with the player in the past, and probably two more for the fact that things have escalated beyond talk and blasters are drawn.  Maybe one more if he's under orders from his boss or feels it is his duty to apprehend/kill the PCs.

 

To give a more simplified example let's talk about picking a lock.  Let's say the PCs need to get into a secure warehouse to steal something.  The lock is of a good quality but it's no bank vault so that is three difficulty.  The lock will be of the same difficulty regardless of the situation.  If the PCs decide to sneak in at night then there would be one or two setback for bad lighting or darkness.  If they failed to sneak past the guards and one of them is trying to pick the lock during the middle of a firefight that would add at least one more.

 

If one of the PCs is trying to pick up the waitress at the local diner then it would be his charm opposed by her cool.  The player might get a setback die if he is a different species and another if he is a species that the waitress has reason to dislike.  If the PC has been to the diner regularly, but leave small tips or none at all, that might be another setback or two.   If he decides to try and win her heart during the middle of the lunch rush right after she manages to spill an entire pot of Jawa juice on herself that probably isn't going to help either.

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For example, if someone who has 4 points in Mechanics wants to "hotwire" a Speeder . . . it's probably a no brainer. Easy task.

However, if someone with 2 Intelligence and 0 points in Mechanics wants to "hotwire" a Speeder . . . it's a bit harder. Average or Hard I would say.

 

To reinforce Kallabecca's point, you'll notice that combat difficulties don't change that way.  Shooting something at extreme range is still Daunting, no matter how good you are, it's not relative to your skill.  If you did what you're suggesting, then you've effectively doubled the value of each skill rank.

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Although to be fair, I might throw some blacks at the mechanic if they've never hot-wired cars before. Oh sure, it's not that hard and in theory he knows how to - but the first time he puts screwdriver to lock? All new world!

 

(Conversely, another mechanic with the same skill set and skill dice - but who has been stripping cars since he was ten - would get a blue)

Edited by Desslok

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