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Tweek87

Making a home brew campain hard(er)

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My personal favorite is to have not one, but two fully fleshed out, powerful antagonists working together, in addition to any less powerful or less important minions.  Just one enemy, even a powerful one, tends to get mauled very quickly by my players, and the added dynamic of two adversaries complementing each other's abilities and weaknesses is just a lot more interesting than a 1v1 or 1v4 fight.

 

Not to mention the possibility of the players finding a way to divide the two.

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In an abstract sense, a time-crunch can ratchet up the difficulty and tension without too much of an on-the-table impact (unless that's what you're after). If the PCs know that they're working against the clock, it instantly instills a sense of urgency in the party. If the PCs describe their actions as hurried, you can feel free to ratchet up the dice-pool difficulty. If they respond by taking their time, feel free to advance the countdown timer. I find a simple prop (like a Doomsday clock) does wonders.

 

Some examples:

  • An Imperial survey team is due in-system in the next week to investigate rumors of Jedi ruins/Rebel base/important resources
  • Darth Vader is supposed to be visiting this space station anytime in the next 48 hours, but no-one knows exactly when for security purposes (this is a bit more abstract than a concrete deadline, but should still accomplish your goal)
  • "The Rebel base will be in firing range in seven minutes."

This type of scenario depends heavily on you to describe the increasing air of tension and give the PCs a sense of foreboding about the consequences of failure. You should be prepared to follow-through if the PCs DO fail, but be aware that this can take your campaign off the rails pretty quickly.

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I did a piece on this in the "Balancing NPCs" thread on the Edge of the Empire board, but the gist of my advice is mix up your encounter types and styles.

The PCs are the heroes of the story, and are incredibly hard to kill. So don't aim at them - aim at the people around them that they need for stuff. Do they need to bring a bounty back alive? A sniper is after the guy to make sure he keeps quiet; they can plow through a thousand stormtroopers given enough time? Don't give them enough time. They're powerful but not discreet? The only way to get what they want and get out is to be super-stealthy.

Don't take away their super-gear, but make it less-than-useful sometimes. Give them a major BAMF to avoid, so they can't always go exactly where they want, or sometimes have to leave without warning. That sort of thing.

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For combat? 

 

Forget trying to just increase pure difficulty and, instead, go for making it interesting

 

Some examples:

  • Ladders leading to catwalks above the battlefield that either side can take advantage of for high ground advantage.
  • Various crates filled with mystery stuff that might be useful (or that might literally blow up in someone's face when opened)
  • Levers and switches that activate potentially dangerous or hindering machinery such as giant magnets that pull weapons out of people's hands if they get too close.
  • Environmental hazards like vats of acid or live wires.
  • Unaffiliated NPCs or dangerous wildlife that are as likely to attack the NPCs as the characters (and which could be possibly baited by either side to attack the other).
  • Pipes spewing steam every other round that blocks line of sight so characters have to choose to shoot blind or find something else to do that round (like possibly shutting off the steam).
  • Terminals in the combat area that might have useful information so the characters have to try to prevent them from being damaged in the firefight. 

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I like to scatter LEGO bricks on the floor under the table. It doesn't make things harder, per se, but it makes people uncomfortable and prone to mistakes.

There's a level of evil in this which makes it brilliant

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My suggestion is what I call "The Third Man."

So you've got your heroes (using the term loosely). They want to rescue the princess and throw the bad guy's MacGuffin into the volcano. Easy.

The bad guy. They want to force the princess to marry him, murder her, frame Gilder for it to have justification to declare war, and use the MacGuffin to gain INFINITE COSMIC POWER. Fair enough.

Then there's the third man. They don't give a lick of a moose's back door about the princess, and if the war happens they'll profit from it, so they want that to happen, but only if the MacGuffin gets tossed into the volcano so he can stand up against the bad guy in the war.

So the third man helps and hinders, sometimes simultaneously, throughout the whole thing.

All I know for certain, is that Lord of the Rings and The Princess Bride would be an awesome crossover.

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