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Game Mechanics and how you make combat challenging (GM thread + spoilers)

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Let's talk about some dice mechanics.  I've been running the beginner box campaign now a few times, and I think I'm starting to grasp the concepts of the challenge and upgrade dice.  I've also researched the statistics on the dice pool, and it seems that the black dice add more of a threat than the red.


But let's talk examples.  I like examples:


Beginner Box Spoiler!!!-  Don't read past here.





Anyway - so the bridge scene with the mercenaries on guard.  Here is how I've amped up the challenge:


1. I've added some others that were patrolling and get added to the mix if the PC's just charge in.

2.  If one of the ranged PC's just takes a shot without attempting to speak to them, then I leverage their mercenary training, and all difficulty goes up by one purple.

3.  Also, if a shot is heard from the trees, then they all drop prone and any ranged shots to them add one black.



Any other tweaks you make to your combat to make it more of a threat?  


With a one time medicine check per encounter, plus stimpacks, the PC's don't normally feel really threatened.


Advice I read was to sprinkle the challenge dice liberally, because as they lvl up, they get counters to those dice and those upgrades wont feel very good unless they see the intended affect.



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3 basic mechanical methods;

Upgrade the check by changing a purple to a red.

Add setback dice to the pool.

Increase the number of NPC's in the encounter

For a bit more of a narrative way to make it harder try these:

Mix up the environment a bit, add rain and wind for some setback on combat checks,

Clear skies and very quiet to add setback to stealth checks.

Use Threat/Despair rolled by PC's to bring in reinforcements or change the scene.

Simply adding a couple of guys to minion groups can seriously up the challenge.

Change the mood of an NPC the PC's are trying to talk with therefore upgrading the check.

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There are several ways to make combat more challenging. One favourite of mine is to look to the environment and throw in factors that add setback dice - high/low temperatures, rain, smoke, darkness, obscuring vegetation, and so on. Then I give the NPCs talents like Outdoorsman and Brace, which remove setback dice. Or equipment like thermal cloaks, night vision goggles, and so on. This sort of thing can make any encounter harder wiithout necessarly buffing the NPCs to any great degree. And of course, it's also pretty cool for PCs who happen to have talents like those and get to use them.


If you want to represent more seasoned NPCs with combat experience the best way is to give them some offensive or defensive talents. Adversary is always good, along with Side Step, Dodge and the like. If your players rely on critting a lot, give them a few ranks in Durable. Also, the "flip a Destiny point to add damage"-talents are really great; they mean you can easily vary your damage output when the NPCs are shooting at some of the tougher PCs and when they're shooting at the squishier ones.

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