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TheDisgruntledPoet

Advice for new BC GameMaster

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Hi all, looking for advice for others for my first tabletop session next week.

 

I have 30+ years experience of GMing but have not run any WH40K games before.  I've played 2-3 sessions of Dark Heresy and I've run a 5-6 sessions of WHFRPG 3rd ed.

 

My plan is to have my group make characters at the first session, and then discuss if they are belonging to an existing warband, etc, and then, time allowing, to start them on Rivals for Glory, the adventure that comes with the screen.

 

I generally do lighter-type games so the screen should help as a reference.  I'm curious to see if anyone has any streamlining, lighter-rules houserules to share or other advice along those lines.   Or any advice for a (BC) newbie.

 

Thanks!

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My advice;

1 don't give your players alot of xp. : Too much and they gain to many skills/talents to make the game in anymore.

2 try and avoid force fields. : It becomes ridiculous when somebody puts all there points into dodge and on top of that have a force field.

3 remember to plan for derailment. : since your running a adventure be sure to plan for stuff that they might do before they do it just in case the whole adventure fails.

4 have fun : it might seem stupid but if nobody is having fun be prepared to scrap the whole thing.

As for house rules AVOID FORCE FIELDS. Lol. My players have got force fields on top of a stupid high dodge. It's become to the point where it's not fun anymore.

Edited by PhaKnight

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Hrm, alright, the long and the short of what you're going to find out very soon:

-RAW, BC is horrendously unbalanced and at times completely contrary to other fluff/canon. It has a heavy bias towards Slaanesh and a milder one towards Tzeench, both in mechanical power and in terms of actual power in FFG's setting. My advice is to completely ditch the Screaming Vortex and its ridiculousness and put your players someplace where they are either in an interesting region of Imperial Space with a lot of potential (Ultramar, Cadia, Segmentum Pacificus in the setup to the night of 1000 Rebellions) or outside the Imperium where there are no established powers of a strength they could just immediately roflstomp any minor disturbance (i.e. give them a bit of a safe zone out in, say, the Halo Stars).

 

-Nerf the everliving **** out of minions. Do not listen to your players if they complain they are 'weak'. It may be OK to increase the stat ranges and variations a bit, or just flat out grab statlines of existing people and critters instead, but in terms of talents the minions get for free, learn to use the thumbscrews if your group is full of people who have a poor grasp on how to be...reasonable or sane.

 

-Forcefields are far less OP than the poster above me makes them sound. If your players absolutely insist on using them, be aware that it is fairly easy to oversaturate a field with volume of fire and that you can only dodge once per round.

 

-BC does not include proper ships, or even functional mass combat rules, let alone do the rules in Tome of Decay actually work for running a black crusade in any reasonable timeframe (because it's literally risk, and you know how long risk games tend to take...). Check out Battlefield Gothic (for background stuff and fluff, too), and various house rules around here and the rogue trader forum. There's also this: https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/174831-accounts-of-black-crusades-using-tome-of-decay-rules/
It works, and it's actually helpful for GMs. If it's too much resource management entirely, there is always the option of running an eventual crusade entirely in the narrative, which is the fastest way and the easiest way to do it, tbh.

 

-WHFRP2e's Tome Of Corruption is a better supplement than any of the 40k splatbooks. Moreover, it is almost entirely 1:1 compatible with any other d100 system. All you really need to know is that "Strength X" in damage rolls means 1d10+X and, for NPCs, that the % totals in the career paths do not stack, but are the maximum bonus they have on top of their racial base (for which you can use black crusade core's own).

 

-The prepackaged adventures are terrible. With 30 years of GMing experience, you'll see that for yourself soon enough, as they get progressively worse with the tomes and Hand of Corruption, for example, needs an almost complete rewrite from the ground up to make sense.

 

And, most importantly, decide with your players what kind of game you want to play. If one guy is going for camp, the other for seriousbusiness infiltration and heresy and the third something in the middle, your game'll fall apart at the seams due to conflicting personalities. BC especially requires a to the point, honest discussion about how the players see Chaos.

 

Once you've done that, I personally encourage picking a gear tier to select things from with your players and ditching starting equipment entirely. It creates a fairer, more balanced beginning than you might have for that poor sap who picked a humie from the Khorne book in a party with a bunch of Neshers with power armour and plasma.

Edited by DeathByGrotz

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Count sticky reputation gain and loss. Infamy gain is the main goal in this game (more or less). Balancing could be a problem as said above, but as you claim experinece in gm-ing you could overcome it. (for first try to avoid mixed human&csm parties later maybe)

Characters could gain as little as a bolter and as much as the service of another warband or assistance from the Dark Mechanicus. Set the mood an the style, and ask players what they want.

Change the rules if necessary. (As always..)

Seattle some lore/fluff bassed questions before the starting the game. (could be problemathic if players thought differently like one play an archetypical Khronate Berserker, other want they to hit a more dark and proud noble-ish warrior/dueller)

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Creative Use for adversaries: 

  • Use hordes if necessary (like always in troop level  in CsM (Chaos Space Marine) level maybe elite 1-2 times)
  • Grapple
  • Ganging up against 1 Player character
  • Use advanced weaponry 
  • Lure them to traps
  • And every other dirty trick ( jurry-rig mine and bombs to first-aid kits, fake treasures)

They can go and probably go dirty anyway so Chaos npc could and advised too.. (if they up to that kind of game) (we like it)

sometimes make devilish offers from daemons and important npc-s ( imagine-it like a very-very chaotic and evil free market competition where everybody want their profit and infamy gain)

Decide if there will any chance to do PVP and how seriously could it go

Keep in mind there could be a lot of back stabbing from the Npc-s and also from the pc-s

Edited by Athanatosz

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-BC does not include proper ships, or even functional mass combat rules, let alone do the rules in Tome of Decay actually work for running a black crusade in any reasonable timeframe (because it's literally risk, and you know how long risk games tend to take...). Check out Battlefield Gothic (for background stuff and fluff, too), and various house rules around here and the rogue trader forum. There's also this: https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/174831-accounts-of-black-crusades-using-tome-of-decay-rules/

It works, and it's actually helpful for GMs. If it's too much resource management entirely, there is always the option of running an eventual crusade entirely in the narrative, which is the fastest way and the easiest way to do it, tbh.

 

Way to toot your own horn, dude.  <_< So far as I can tell you're the only person who's made that assertion.

 

-Gear is important. There's a wide variety between the low ends and the top ends in weapons and armor, and there are numerous other items that can tweak things in one direction or another.

-Marines are generalists, humans are specialists. Marines in general start with better weapons and have some broadly useful capabilities (such as with defense), but in return don't have the same focus toward some niche that the humans all get. And with sufficient effort (good weapons, rituals) humans can keep pace with Marines at their own game. (None of the really crazy weapons in the game, such as powerfists or the lascannon, are Marine-specific.)

-Hereteks in particular are basically Marines-lite with their unrivaled gear access (primarily to some wacky cybernetics).

-Pay attention to power variance within the group. BC allows for a lot of range between players, so you'll want to be sure to keep the PCs in line with each other. (If the PCs as a whole are powerful, that doesn't matter so much; there's always something crazier to present as a challenge.)

-Be prepared for things to go pear-shaped.

-Be prepared to offer crazy deals to the players, whether it's that their god most prefers Action X or that some NPC wants to exchange Outlandish Good/Service A for Even More Outlandish Good/Service B.

-Minions are only so powerful as their equipment. On their own, getting minions to be powerful requires such investment that they basically will be your build...and yet, by default a Greater Minion is an even match perhaps for an Elite. But that said, if you take away the Rubric Marine's bolter in favor of a lascannon...

-Discuss PvP beforehand. The themes in this, both in flavor and in mechanics (given the variety of aims based on which god a PC worships), allow for some degree of backstabbing. Make sure your players are aware of this, and about how far they'd be willing to go in-game.

-Psykers are really powerful in this version.

-Think of the Screaming Vortex as a giant sandbox for the PCs to Do Ridiculous Things In. Sure, it's mostly filled with Chaos, but there are a huge number of flavors thereof That Violently Disagree With Your Flavor/factions/places to go. And it's only mostly filled with Chaos - notably enough you can also find Necrons, Dark Eldar, and Harlequins if you look hard enough.

-Note what the game didn't include, and what that says about the intended themes. For instance, voidships aren't given stats in BC. This is perfectly fine; BC isn't about the minutiae of ship-to-ship combat, exploiting new worlds for resources, running a business, or High Adventure Across the Stars like Rogue Trader is. If you want to generalize things that's alright, but keep in mind that such things are not necessary prima facie.

-Stealth can be very useful with the wide variety of bonuses you can acquire for it. (The usual trick is to combine a cameleoline cloak with several stummers running in a cycle, connected to someone's power armor.)

-The mass combat and social combat systems are admittedly kind of a mess. Mass combat just boils down to "calculate your TN versus my TN and roll off", while social combat relies heavily on an obtuse bidding mechanic.

-Use Fear when appropriate. Unlike all other 40K RPGs, fear as an effect in BC doesn't lead to crippling insanity so much as comically annoying mental disorders.

-Some of the rituals are bonkers, most notably the Rite of Fleshmoulding (add custom traits to a target) and the Rite of Sundering (aka the Chaos Sauna).

-Just like in MtG, the only point of Corruption that matters is the last. Having some Corruption to start out with can actually be useful to gain certain mutations.

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-BC does not include proper ships, or even functional mass combat rules, let alone do the rules in Tome of Decay actually work for running a black crusade in any reasonable timeframe (because it's literally risk, and you know how long risk games tend to take...). Check out Battlefield Gothic (for background stuff and fluff, too), and various house rules around here and the rogue trader forum. There's also this: https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/174831-accounts-of-black-crusades-using-tome-of-decay-rules/

It works, and it's actually helpful for GMs. If it's too much resource management entirely, there is always the option of running an eventual crusade entirely in the narrative, which is the fastest way and the easiest way to do it, tbh.

 

Way to toot your own horn, dude.  <_< So far as I can tell you're the only person who's made that assertion.

 

Kek, when it's posted without the link it's "Oh yeah, make something better", when it's with the link it's "tooting your own horn". Yes, I was the only reply in that thread. What does that tell you about how often games even reach the crusade level the game advertises as being all about? 

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OFF:

"There's also this: https://community.fa...of-decay-rules/"

"Yes, I was the only reply in that thread. What does that tell you about how often games even reach the crusade level the game advertises as being all about? "

 

Not replying does not mean other games had not reached Crusade level. Not posting means uninteresting topic...

(Not to offend only pointing i out, also it is off the topic)

Edited by Athanatosz

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Psionics can be hideously broken.  Bound psykers face essentially 0 penalty for pushing and the focus power test can easily be near 100%.  That matters when you have unopposed DoS test (labyrinth(?) is a prime example) .  Even opposed DoS are horribly skewed like a force sword strike.  the psyker is testing against 100 and the opponent against 50 if they're lucky.

Flat out you should ban the force rod that eliminates the phenomenon chart for unfettered.

Force storm is something you should look at banning or curbing.

 

Stated demon weapons tend not have their stated abilities line up with their stat lines.  I recommend using the craft your own rather the published ones.

 

Despite being named black crusade, not a whole lot is actually written or stat-ted with marines in mind.

 

rite of fleshmoulding in ToE is a power gamer's wet dream

 

Don't hesitate to slam the players with corruption when they get out of line.  (A nurgle sorc using the slannessh dedicated rite of fleshmoulding for powergaming being a great example)

 

On the encounter design side, hordes as the focus of the encounter tend to get boring fast.  This is more of an issue for Marine campaigns.

 

Players should be conspiring against eachother if you're doing it right ;)

 

Keep in mind that unlike other game systems, your players are not nobodies just promoted from squire.  With a starting infamy around 30, they are already a somebody.

 

The corruption timer runs out faster than you likely first realise.  Only so many mission objectives you can cram in before you're at the epic destiny stage.

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Use a different method for determining Degrees of Success, since the default method is painful in play. (Calculating it isn't hard per se, but it is annoying.) Good options include either the Dark Heresy 2E method (1 DoS for a success, plus 1 per point of difference in tens digit between the target and the roll) or the Eclipse Phase-esque method (DoS is whatever you rolled minus 1, so higher is better so long as you aren't over the TN). The former has the advantage of being similar conceptually to the original method while being faster, while the latter requires negligible processing and is isomorphic to the original method but requires a conceptual flip.

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The moment you're rolling dice, you're slowing things down quite a bit. If you have a solid grasp on tactics and what a gun can do, it's best to just handle mass combat narratively aside from things targeting your players directly. The first Dawn of War game (plus expansions) is actually a decent gauge on just how much punishment a unit can take in 40k as a whole.

 

Eclipse Phase's method for determining DoS is also much, much faster than the default, which I see NFK just mentioned. Colour me surprised; last I heard, the book was sacrosanct. :rolleyes:

 

A cheat sheet with the various modifiers on it, as well as some core mechanics like fear (most people houserule it out/nerf it because it is a terrible clog in gameplay), combat actions and applicable skills (command: inspire, terrify, Stealth, Awareness) gets your players into the system faster, too.

 

Last but not least, a Nurgle sorcerer might want to do the rite of fleshshaping because it makes a lot more sense for a Nurglite biomancer to have it than a Nesher. Don't punish your players for being creative and fluffy. FFG's grasp on the 40k universe's chaos side is...dubious at best. Do what you think makes sense for your game, don't slavishly stick to the splats. They're some of the worst out there aside from Matt Ward's WHF Daemon codex.

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FFG's grasp on the 40k universe's chaos side is...dubious at best. Do what you think makes sense for your game, don't slavishly stick to the splats. They're some of the worst out there aside from Matt Ward's WHF Daemon codex.

How so? I will admit that my grasp on the lore can be tenuous, so by all means enlighten me.  :) (Notably I have not read a codex more recent than the Tau from 3E, or any of the novels.)

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Alrighty, first thing to note is that chaos, as it is portrayed in 40k, has vastly changed over time. It went from five gods, to four, and with AoS incoming over the horizon, rumours of Nesh getting canned in favour of an unknown fourth are all over the net currently (I'm hoping it happens, and I'm hoping it's a nice contrast like, say, Orion...). So, a large amount of what FFG writes could work, depending on your canon of choice and even if it contradicts canon. Some of the details and mechanics that have fairly far reaching implications that snuck in, though, create a sour feeling in my stomach when I read the tomes, particularily blood, decay and excess.

 

I'll start with the positives, though:

 

Tzeench, by and large, is oddly enough fairly spot-on. Q'Sal gets mentioned often as jarring, but I find it less so, given it is entirely within the scope of what a collective of powerful sorcerers could achieve. Most notable IC example of the same being the Astronomicon. I feel it especially could have benefitted from a focus upon Eldar, Harlequins and Ceogorach as well, given they, specifically, are Tzeench players' primary rivals and the quest for the Black Library is something player characters could pick up, too, and not just the Thousand Sons. A missed opportunity, but largely, a solid take on the god.

(Personally, I would have done Q'Sal a bit differently as well. With that much assembled sorcerous might, it is more than possible to move the planet through the warp and, with warp storms in its wake and a small fleet of ships, Q'Sal being a planet-scale, moving soul harvester would have been pretty frickin' awesome).

 

The other three tomes, collectively, have some problems, as does the premise of the game itself. This has to do with the differences between Warhammer Fantasy's take on chaos and the Warhammer 40k chaos lore. In Fantasy, the gods are much more active, cults and priests can commune with them, and they show their might through their followers and to thier followers directly through visions, sorcery and artifacts. Older, original 40k lore is much the same. The gods do not act directly, but they're very active nonetheless, and hold palaver with mortals. This soon changed however, and the chaos gods were more seen as forces of nature that twist their followers into images of the same, which is why in WHF, you will find coherent, intelligent and well-spoken Khornate chosen at times, while in 40k, the gros of Khornates are represented similar to the World Eaters (ignoring Abnett's attempts at making Khorne more diverse). It's still inconsistent, mind, and changes from author to author. One vitally important thing to remember however, is that the chaos gods are fueled by powerful emotions, usually one specific one, and everything they do is motivated by creating MORE of that emotion. This is important. This is the alpha and omega of how and why gods do things.

 

The issues first become truly apparent when one looks at the division of power and scope:

 

Where Nurgle and Khorne, for example, are the strongest of the four, in Black Crusade, they are not only the weakest mechanically, but in the number of key worlds they get that actually matter, or are even represented on the map (missing planets-> bad). Nurgle especially get shunted to the side quite a bit, while Slaanesh is on an unimpeded win-train throughout the entire material. Maybe it's frustration from table top, where the exact inverse was the case for a long time, maybe the authours just really like pretty pink daemons, I dunno. Point is, it's inaccurate.

 

The issues in Tome of Blood are still fairly minor. It's easily considered, in crunch, the most well-balanced of the four, and the one with the least glaring errors. Still, the ones it does have are pretty jarring. My personal pet peeve is the bloodstone. Now, these exist as Khornate artifacts- in Warhammer Fantasy. What happens there is that for an exceptional deed in Khorne's name, you often get a bloodstone, which is like a lifesaver button when **** hits the fan. You crush it, a daemon pops out and saves your ass, and the balance is restored until your next great deed. Perfect for a god of battle, really. Bloodstones in 40k are a dark eldar artifact that are based upon soulstone technology and work as the tome details, namely a direct damage spell, which, as the basic definition of "Sorcery" is one huge, huge anathema for Khorne.

 

Tome of Blood also tends sideline what Khorne's secondary focus in 40k is: Making daemon engines. If any tome should have had daemon engine creation rules, it should have been this one. From the iconic brass scorpions to countless, personalised war machines, the god of war's infamous smithies get a couple of fluff paragraphs, while the majority of the book seems intent on depicting the frothing berserker and norsca 40k aspect of Khorne. Khornates have this single minded focus on traditional warfare, depending on where they're from, and the brains among them, instead of delving into sorcery like the others, focus everything on building ships and war machines. If ANYONE should have a fleet in the vortex, it shouldn't be the Slaanesh pirates of the Ragged Helix, it should be the Dark Mechanicum or a Khornate forge.

 

The Tome of Decay has similar issues, in that it completely misses the point. Nurgle's portrayal in FFG's books is essentially as the fat kid no one wants to play with in high school. And while "fat" is iconic for the big man himself, there are a myriad of other ways to portray disease and dispair, which is what Nurgle really is about. FFG's books depict Nurglites as...jolly, even friendly, when in other material, Nurgle is a horric, macabre figure akin to the Violator in spawn comics, which he's probably based on in part. The "jolly laughter" is a tool used to grind down those already succumbing to the dispair Nurgle gains his power from, and it is one tool among mainy. FFG simplifies decay, plague and rot into one narrow facette, and applies grossly inappropriate talents, such as the fearless path which is far more appropriate for Khorne.  Nurgle's relationship with his followers is an unhealthy one, much akin to a galactic scale domestic abuse situation, only that they will literally die due to the horrific diseases constantly tormenting them, the moment they dare tell their significant other "No". There are exceptions to this, mind. Plague marines, especially, and other utterly far gone followers who are so out of it with their personal biochemistry, that they're actually 'happy'. They're few and far between, however, and something Nurgle keeps around to use to terrorise and horrify the rest of his beaten down flock.

 

The crunch involved is also problematic. Daemon engines can come in all shapes and sizes, there is no "minimum size" and, in fact, daemonic motorcycles have been an iconic thing since Doomrider. I confess I completely skipped the daemon prince bit. It wasn't appliccable to our game, since none of us were going that route, so we didn't bother reading it and I no longer have access to the book. I do recall a jarring issue with the possession rules, however. For some unfathomable reason, Slaanesh daemons were the second best combatants, and all around best allrounders, behind Khorne. Now, anyone who's played TT knows that that is the definition of hitting the crackpipe, and that nurgle daemons, in a fight, are absolutely terrifying.

 

This brings us finally, to the book where the line completely jumped the shark: Tome of Excess. I don't even know where to begin. It's all just bad, from beginning to finish. It portrays Slaanesh and his followers as perfect little perverts who succeed at things that simply are not possible in universe (that story about someone 'consuming' a daemon's essence; I'm sorry, miss, you're not a Tyranid). The Monty Haul goes way overboard, the minions are easily the best in the system, etc. What really gets me is the portrayal of Slaanesh, however. There is that one terrible crux where they completely miss the point entirely:

Slaanesh is about failure.

 

Ambition only exists as long as your goal is not achieved, excess is motivated by that very same ambition. There is something you want, and Slaanesh promises you the means to get it, and as long as you do not have it, you grow more and more dependant on the god, which in turn, feeds Slaanesh's hunger. Lucius the Eternal is the best example of this. The man is not the best duelist of all time. Far from it, in fact. But he wants to be. His driving goal is one he constantly falters at, and finds himself in a state where he is persisntantly driven to greater heights and deeper falls as a consequence. He fails again and again and again, and for Slaanesh, this is a non-issue, because it is this constant, burning fire of just barely having what you wanted and then yanking it a bit away again that keeps the god going. FFG instead decided to focus on diversifying the debauchery instead, while introducing a heavy snowflake factor not only in the cultists' heads (that would be perfectly fine), but in ingame reality. And that's where I start to cringe, personally. When you go from what should be endless Torments fo Tantalus to deals that are no longer Faustian, but actually enable Nesh's followers to succeed in ways that make no sense when you consider the chaos gods' primary motivation is to churn out more and more of their emotional "food". Once those ambitions are achieved, where's the food, exactly? Gone. That's where.

 

Finally, what especially irks me about the vortex is the underpowered portrayal of the Dark Mechanicus. Over in the Eye of Terror, you have a group of hereteks with their own fleet, titan legions etc., who are a power group of their own and maintain a monopoly on tech outside of Khorne's domain and a warband's own raiding. In the Vortex, there is none of that. Every faction has its own forge, no one needs the mechanicus for anything and their position is so weak, it's ideal for player techpriests to usurp with relative ease. Where the Lathe Worlds were too OP, the DM here is too toothless. I would strongly encourage upping the ante on both sides of the admech civil war here, and give them things that create the impression of actually dealing with a powerful faction, and not a bunch of hacks.

 

 

When all is said and done, it's still playable as chaos, it's still possible to hammer the tomes into something that works if you're already familiar with chaos lore. If not, you're going to end up with a very cartoony mixture that fails to consistently convey what makes the gods tick, which for the gamemaster of a game where they play a prominent role, is vital. The big four are not your friends, they're not your enemy either. You only matter to them insofar as you can make more of a specific kind of emotion happen through your deeds. That is why they'll reward you, or tear you down, or a mixture of both at the same time. If you handle it like that, BC can be really, really fun and deep at the same time. And to be fair, most people instinctively do, either because the GM is familiar with other chaos stuff, or because the players are, and just ignore the most glaring contradictions in the tomes. Still, as far as chaos books go for 40k, they're on the bottom rungs, because they're internally inconsistent, inconsistent with other lore, and don't really help the GM get into the mindset of the big four properly. Their portrayal is closer to DnD gods, or WHF's pantheon, and less to the Urgewalten of 40k with more lovecraftian motivations and perspectives.

Edited by DeathByGrotz

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A quick and easy change to make the math easier is instead of trying to roll under your skill, roll the d100 and add your skill.

 

If you beat 100 you succeed and then the math of 110, 120, 130 etc for DoS is a lot faster than figuring out 27 under an 84.

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I Do not understand what is hard about the skill roll... Maybe I know it wrong or being clueless but 27 is under 84.  It can be understand in a blink. And every whole 10 percent what is under means another Degree of success which means 1+5 degree of success in this situation.

Or as the Core Rulebook says: 

 

"Haargoth’s player makes a roll against his character’s Ballistic Skill of 55, scoring a 12 on the roll and rolling under his target number by a whopping 43 points. Haargoth gets one Degree of Success for succeeding on the test, and an additional four levels of success for his lucky roll."

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The point is that counting that 10 points per DoS is easier using addition than subtraction especially when your tired and/or throwing additional situational modifiers in why calculating.  Fast addition tends to work left to right (not right to left like your elementary school teacher taught you when using pen and paper)

 

Sticking with 27 roll with an 84 target.

Adding you just need to figure out that 20+80 =100 and that 7 +4>10.  You don't have to track the ones place to anymore accuracy beyond that.

This kind of looseness is where the famous quote 2+2=5 for large quantities of 2 comes from.

 

 

Going with subtraction, you have to hold the ones place while finalizing the 10s.  In my group (full of engineers) you hear people just going 27, 37, 47, 57,67,77, 87...no 77, while using their fingers because its just as fast.

Edited by Kamikazzijoe

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Jumping off the math and back to the original topic; another power gaming annoyance to look out for is the players attempting to take poor quality items that don't have an actual downside.  Shimmering Robes from Tome of Fate are a prime example.  Being poor quality just makes them look bad rather than reduce their effectiveness as a force field.

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