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Lecram

House ruling combat

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I'm not actually playing zombies...but the Wrath of Gods.  But, I figured my question is mainly mechanical and there seems to be more people posting here so I thought I'd also post it here.

 

So, firstly, I understand how to run a combat but I'm not happy with how it works and want to house-rule it.  I'm looking for advice.  Here is my problem:

 

The people I'm running the game for have extensive training in a variety of weapons, martial arts and firearms.

 

Now, one of their group has none of the aforementioned skills.  He's just a guy who works in an office. With a new game and the point-buy system, everyone is on a fairly even playing field - with the exception of Features, which the trained fighters will use to enjoy extra positive dice.

 

But, if you take player UNTRAINED and pit him against player TRAINED in combat, there is almost no difference in the ability to hit.  There may be a 1 point difference in stats and, an extra positive dice but, with a lucky hit, the UNTRAINED character is almost as likely to hit.

 

Example:
Trained: skill 3
+1 dice base; + 2 dice (sword) +1 dice (positive feature: Trained swordsman) total dice: 4 positive
Untrained: skill 2

+1 dice (base); +2 dice (swords) -1 dice (negative feature: Sedentary job): total dice: 3 positive; 1 negative

 

There is no dodge rules incorporated into the game.  A trained, highly skilled martial artist/military trained individual should have a huge advantage over an completely untrained person.

 

I thought about doing all combat as opposed tests, where successes from dodges cancel successes from attacks but, I think that would draw combats out unnecessarily.

 

The solution I'm toying with is this:

 

-The attacker gets +/- dice based on the difference between the defenders stat.

 

Example 1:  attacker has a 3; defender has a 2 - Therefore, attacker gets to add 1 positive die to his attack  (5 postitive)

Example 2:  attacker has a 2; defender has a 3 - Therefore, attacker must add 1 negative die to his attack (3 positive; 2 negative)

 

Thoughts?

 

My concern is survivability when fighting some of the bigger beasties in the book and general game balance.

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So the boosts are really in the gear and the perks. My trandoshan character gets an extra three hit points for any uncancelled success. A skilled fighter will have a higher brawn and therefore hit harder where as a non skilled person will have weaker hits. Weilding efficient melee weapons make a big difference too. A person who can weild two vibroswords would have +4 black dice in a melee fight.

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So the boosts are really in the gear and the perks. My trandoshan character gets an extra three hit points for any uncancelled success. A skilled fighter will have a higher brawn and therefore hit harder where as a non skilled person will have weaker hits. Weilding efficient melee weapons make a big difference too. A person who can weild two vibroswords would have +4 black dice in a melee fight.

It's not so much attacking that I'm trying to balance (or it is...but in a backwards sense).  What I'm saying is that, by your example, despite the fact that you have two vibroswords, those +4 do not apply when you are being attacked by an enemy.  And the fact that you are trained in those swords makes absolutely no difference.

 

A Zombie attacking civilian office worker attacks with, let's say, 3 positive dice.

A Zombie attacking a trained swordsman attacks with....3 positive dice.

 

So, it has the exact same chance of hitting both targets.  Which doesn't sit well with me.  A trained swordsman should be able to parry a blow.  It should be harder to hit them.

So, if the Office worker has a low defending stat, the zombie will get extra dice to hit.  If the trained swordsman has a high stat, the zombie will get no bonus...and might even get a negative dice.

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I think it's important to keep in mind a number of things:

1. this is not a representationalist system; its goal is not to accurately represent what it is portraying. It is a story-telling game.

2. it's mechanics are on a much more "flat" scale than many/most other RPGs - there is not the capability/granularity/"resolution" present in the system to create huge gaps in abilities that may be present "in reality".

3. that combat Trait is probably going to easily turn into a stat-bump - THEN - you are going to begin seeing a larger difference in play. Plus, even that 1 die difference in a system like this should add up. It should cancel more negs and result in more damage, in aggregate play. It should be noticeable but not pronounced - and given the flatness of the system, that may be all you can ask for.

4. keep in mind: negative dice DO NOT represent the difficulty of a task. They are much more likely to cause stress than cancel successes, therefore they represent the DANGER inherent in an action. I would recommend keeping negative dice fairly low and fairly consistent. Accordingly, altering the number of successes required to succeed is the true representative of a tasks difficulty. So if the players are facing an especially more skilled combatant, require more successes to hit them.

Ultimately I think you're envisioning a simulation that this system just isn't made for, if you want characters to play more differently, it's probably easiest and best to just play a different system. This one is meant to have a level playing field and through that, emphasize the survivalism aspect. You're trying to turn a basic calculator into a graphing calculator and I think you're kind of barking up the wrong tree.

Edited by emsquared

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The games I play are mostly co-operative story-telling games.  So I'm very familiar with how they work.  I've also played super crunchy games and know the difference.

 

That said, there is an amount of 'simulation' in every game.  A higher stat equates to a more likelihood of success.  This simulates the fact that someone who is more agile/charismatic/smarter is more likely to succeed on those tasks.

 

If I wanted to get really crunchy, I could make every attack an opposed test.  This would probably be the best way to 'simulate' a real combat situation.  But this seems like it would bog down the game unnecessarily.

 

I'm, mostly, looking for a balanced tweak to take into account a person's skill when opposing attacks, which is only one part of the game - The whole campaign won't be combat - but, To me, it makes better story-telling if the UFC fighter can actually defend against attacks better than the sedentary couch potato and the story would flow more naturally if the rules actually supported that.

 

1) I addressed this already, I think

 

2) Which is why I want to tweak slightly.  So they are slightly less flat.  And I don't want Huge gaps.  I want subtle, observable differences, though.

 

3) I was wondering whether or not a 1 dice difference was significant.  I've only played one session, so I don't have a good grasp as to how much it effects the game.  This is why I'm seeking advice, obviously.

 

4) Requiring more successes to hit sounds interesting.  How would you do it?  When would your require more hits?  GM fiat or would you base it on something specific?  It seems tougher than just adding a dice.  Also, it's not the kind of thing I'd  want to do arbitrarily or  with GM hand-waviness  I want something more concrete so the players know what they're getting into and so that some players don't think I'm being overly generous to some while being hard on others.

Regarding negative dice, fighting a skilled opponent seems more dangerous than fighting an unskilled one, so I could see applying negative dice to an unskilled/unfit fighter's dice roll.

 

So, I don't think I'm "barking up the wrong tree".  I'm playing this game rules 'as is' with one group but different groups have different preferences.  I think tweaking rules to accommodate different playing styles is part of any rp game.  I Know the next group I will run this for will want to show-case their fighting abilities. The important thing is making it balanced.  What I'm really worried about is the monsters will obliterate my players with this house rule.  But I'd need to check monster stats to be sure.

 

If you think, as a player who's experienced with these mechanics, that Positive Features and the few extra dice are enough to add the flavour of 'skill', then I'll have to take your word for it.  Like I said, I haven't played enough to know, which is why I'm asking questions in the first place.  I can't know if my suggested house-rule would 'break the game' without having played it enough. 

 

The other important thing is this would go across all three stats: mental, physical, social.  It's just that physical combat is much more prominent than mental or social as those are more likely to use the opposed test mechanic.

Edited by Lecram

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Don't get me wrong, I get where you're coming from. I houseruled the crap out of this system to try to make it "fit" a long-term, more crunchy campaign/play style.

Evidence A: https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/136401-my-homebrewed-crunch/

But, one thing my houserules did not do was alter the basic mechanics of this game like you're proposing by adding this "difference" mechanic. If you are doing that - altering the base mechanics - it might indicate you're playing the wrong system, IMO, as there are just sooo many other systems out there. Even some very much like this one.

We played 5 sessions with my houserules, and unaltered combat mechanics (however using my previous advice about controlling negative dice tightly and using number of successes as difficulty). Here are my take aways:

1. The rating of the Attribute is going to result in the most noticeable difference in play - by far. What this means is, you/your players need to scrutinize this more than dicepool size. If your couch potatoe says "yea, I'm a couch potatoe, but I'm quick and have great hand-eye coordination so I deserve a 4!" That can't fly. Since there is only 1 physical attack stat, you have to treat it as a more all-encompassing physicality than just "Dexterity" allows you to describe, if you want the system to perform as you do. Same goes for all the other stats.

2. If you're not careful, negative die can and will cripple and incapacitate your players if you just build the pool as recommended in the book (which can easily result in 4 or 5), and it's going to frustrate them IMMENSELY. It will make them not want to do anything - and it will get boring if you're trying to have a campaign about dynamic and daring survival choices. This is why I would very rarely place more than 2 negative dice in a physical pool, leaving "room" for combat damage. Mental and social you can and should be more liberal with the neg die, because those "combats" do not have "weapons" which augment and quickly take down entire Stress tracks. Mark my words, be careful with the negs.

3. I only used "Increased Successes" in combat if the player was trying to do something fantastic, calling a shot, shooting a longer distance than the weapon is practically meant for, etc. Increasing successes-required significantly increases difficulty until you get into higher pool sizes (5+?/after some advancement).

4. The gear/weapons used was the second greatest determinant in combat effectiveness and playstyle. Therefore I would highly recommend re-configuring the books weapon stats (which don't play well with my neg die advice). You can use mine if you want (from the above link), if you like them, if they fit your campaign. Pool sizes were pretty similar amongst my table (3-4 early one w/ push/weapon, 5&6 later), but the PCs played very differently - one guy used a whip, one guy used a katana (of course), one guy was knives/chainsaw (depending on what noise needs would allow), one guy all he did was "assist" for the most part - cuz he was the Social/Mental guy.

I'm here to tell you, you're trying to achieve your goal in the wrong way. It could result in a power-creep that's going to make them unstoppable monsters after just a little bit of advancement - whole those without the pool-size will die quickly.

Granted all of this advice comes from play with zombies (fairly soft targets, danger largely in numbers) - I don't know the nature of the threats in your Wrath campaign or how that might influence play, but the mechanics bits should be applicable.

I guess maybe these posts are all just a long winded way to say: this system is probably not going to satisfy you if you feel you need to change the base mechanic - because you "shouldn't" have to, to get the game to function as it was designed. You have a problem with the design, so why use it at all? I have since hacked this game into a different (more robust) system, that has many similar qualities as this one, just more granularity, and it works really well for my tables more crunchy/long-term interests. I could PM you about it if you're interested in knowing more about that, but will otherwise respect FFGs place here.

But ultimately, there is nothing wrong with this games base mechanic - it does what it is meant to do (quick, brutal combat) well, we used it to good effect for 5 sessions, but it does not do the kind of high granularity nuanced combat differences that you seem to want, at least not well, so what's the point in using it at all when something else is basically the same system, but naturally facilitates that nuance.

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I'm doing one-shot adventures.  Maybe 2 or 3 sessions at most.  Kind of "survive the night" type scenarios.

 

That said

 

" I have since hacked this game into a different (more robust) system, that has many similar qualities as this one, just more granularity, and it works really well for my tables more crunchy/long-term interests."

 

I guess this was my goal.  But since I don't know the nuances of the system, I don't know the best way of doing it.  I'll just have to take your advice regarding the minutiae of the stats and the negative dice.  The system is fine, and worked well with my group so far...but being unable to defend an attack irks me somewhat and I was trying to find a fix.  I didn't feel the system was broken or anything, but it did feel like an oversight.

 

If I'm trying to achieve my goal in the 'wrong way', as you say, I wonder if there's still a 'better way' that won't lead to power creep.

 

Monsters have stats that range from 3-5.  the latter being the strongest opposition(unless they want to fight Cthulu itself) which I'll build up to and save for more tense scenes.  Given that we are doing a one-shot, they'll be playing with their starting stats.  That said, I may do an extended campaign for one of my groups at a later date, but I'm not really looking to house-rule anything for them (unless we find something worth using).

 

I'll look at your house-rules.  Thanks for your help.

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After going back and re-reading your OP, I feel like I lost sight of your ultimate stated concern and probably fixated a bit more on your earlier statements about player differences/balance.

RE: >My concern is survivability when fighting some of the bigger beasties in the book and general game balance.

Towards the goal of increasing survivability and balance, I would suggest by starting with a couple of things I've recommended above, 1.) being careful with the negative dice use on physical tasks, 2.) use the "increased successes" for the opposition too, and 3.) reconfigure the Gear.

Giving them body-armor (or some other defense) as they face increasingly potent foes should go a long ways - the caveat being, lesser foes are then unlikely to be a threat after that genie is out of the bottle. Another option is reconfiguring the foes as well.

But beyond all that, again, this system is meant to be deadly and combat quick, players are supposed to stack up Traumas, and yes even die. This requires you to have a good grasp on the mechanics, but also them to have lots of opportunities to convert Traumas, and heal (which they'll probably need aids to achieve, so be sure to give them that), lest they die too quick.

At this point, I can understand why you might be thinking; "Why reconfigure all this back end stuff, when I might be able to just change the front-end/base mechanic(s), and have to do less work?"

Here's why I have a strong opposition to changing base-mechanics: the point of playing in a given system is at least in part so that you can go and talk about and play that system anywhere else with anyone else - . Changing the fundamental system means 1.) players can't just read (or have read) the book and know what's going on in your game, which means 2.) base houserule changes don't "travel well", you'd have to explain things anytime your audience changes, your "new" (to your rules) players could be put off by a fundamental alteration of their understanding of what to expect. Maybe you're not gonna play with anyone beyond your group, but even then why use the system at all if it doesn't work?

The back-end changes (like item stats) for a simple system like EotW can be handled (hopefully) on a one-page handout, and since it doesn't change any base mechanic, the player should be able to look at it and move on, other ones (like neg die and success threshold) are largely GM fiat to begin with and so require nothing of your audience.

The system isnt poorly balanced, in my opinion, the mechanic is just poorly explained/understood and poorly implemented through the book. Honestly I have trouble believing the ppl who wrote it ever played it (which I know FFG just purchased rights from the company/fellow that developed the original - El Fin del Mundo - but seriously, did a game designer ever even look at it?). Because if you play it straight from the book, your players are gonna be so frustrated, and die so fast.

Ultimately you should do what is best for you/your table, but I just wanted to explain the reason for my approach, I guess.

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My two cents, the game is designed where there's a similar level of training between characters, i.e. all of them are worker drones or all of them are special ops.

Or to be even more accurate, that most survivors are going to get a lot more on the job training when it comes to swords and guns.

With your group, I like the idea of only getting a full dice bonus of a weapon only if you have a basic competency with it.

Brown belt with a claymore, you get two dice with swords. Black belt? Full sword dice plus positive trait bonus.

Joe Schmoe who just picked up a junk "katana" from a pawn shop, you only get one dice.

Edited by Vonether

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My two cents, the game is designed where there's a similar level of training between characters, i.e. all of them are worker drones or all of them are special ops.

Or to be even more accurate, that most survivors are going to get a lot more on the job training when it comes to swords and guns.

With your group, I like the idea of only getting a full dice bonus of a weapon only if you have a basic competency with it.

Brown belt with a claymore, you get two dice with swords. Black belt? Full sword dice plus positive trait bonus.

Joe Schmoe who just picked up a junk "katana" from a pawn shop, you only get one dice.

This is a great idea!  Each session, untrained PC's can get better and add more dice to their weapons.  Nice.

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