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CornyTDog2000

Adversary ideas

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If there's a fault in the mechanics it's that it really favours offence, and WT is consistently on the low side.  If you have seasoned PCs, almost no adversary can keep up with the damage output.  You need ways to keep several PCs busy at once so they can't all gang up on one person, and multiple attacks against the PCs so they feel the stress.  Basically your nemesis should almost never be alone, they should have capable rivals and minions to keep everyone busy.

 

When it comes to beasts, I have no problem giving them multiple attacks per round if it suits the situation.

 

This is one of the suggestions for high-level nemeses like Inquisitors, but I'm not a fan of that because the players will rightly ask "when do I get to do that?".  So give them high soak, and lots of henchmen, and it should work out.

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A few things that can improve your Nemesis in the face of ever powerful players.

 

- minion/rival groups: rarely should a Nemesis fight a group of players alone

 

- Enhanced Nemesis Combat: The GM should add an additional NPC slot at the end of the initiative order. the nemesis may take a second turn during the same round in this slot. Any effects that are suppose to end during his next turn end instead  during his/her next turn in the following round. See Under a Black Sun page 38. 

 

- Talents: Adversary is so good, and Durable. Also if you want to be a real jerk use the old version of the Durable talent (ignore the X "where X equals ranks in Durable" critical injuries suffered per day), See the beginners game Adversary list.

 

- Darkside Points: Flip those bad boys, upgrade the difficulty of players combat checks, change the scene to give your nemesis an unfair advantage, upgrade the nemesis combat checks!

 

- Stimpacks: like the pirate said!

Edited by unicornpuncher

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A few golden rules for a Nemesis.
'Do unto others before they do unto you.'  When the party has reached the point that the Nemesis has taken note, the Nemesis is going to try to eliminate the party right away.  The party may not even know that someone is gunning for them, if you do it right.  A random sniper....a bomb on the ships hyperdrive barely disarmed in time...while they may figure out that someone is after them, they may not know who, and that give the Nemesis time and advantage.

 

'Do unto others, but bring backup.'  The Nemesis should never ever, ever fight the group by him/her self.  If the party is shrugging off assassination attempts and SEAL-level hit teams, then the Nemesis is going to bring all the back up he/she can muster.  And this is a chance for the Gm to really pull out all the stops...squads of minions...rival-level opponents with some Serious Weaponry...go to town with it.  And it gives the players a chance to cut loose with their own talents and toys, as well.  And besides...who doesn't like an epic battle to round out a campaign?

'Do unto others, but stack the deck.'  Send hit squads at the group when they are busy, or when they are taking some 'down time', or just to keep the group off balance.  PC in the local Hospital?  Have a 'concerned friend' show up with flowers and a concealed knife or hold out blaster.  Group travelling through town, trying to avoid attention?  One speeder drive-by, coming up.

 

Bottom line, the Nemesis should never fight fair.  Assassination attempts and hit squads and planted explosives are the Nemesis' stock and trade.  And, naturally, the group shouldn't have to be dealing with attacks every 20 minutes.  But they should deal with enough attempts often enough to realize that someone wants them out of the way.  And when the group finally does take down the Nemesis, its going to be that much more satisfying for the players.

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As unicornpuncher and LugWrench said, Nemesis should never fight alone or fairly, if you want him to be a challenge. Remember new minion/squad rules is AoR GM screen, and apply those to nemesis. I.e. (if I remember correctly) squad leader (Nemesis) can direct an attack targeting him to a minion. Which means instant misses until nemesis runs out of minions. 

 

IMO good nemesis can even be physically truly a weakling, who is easily beaten, if PCs cannot just easily walk to him and beat him up. He uses his skills and underlings to attack PCs indirectly. Difficulty to win the nemesis doesn't come from his hitpoints and the fight, but finding him. (And I'm not saying this is the only way, or that this works always, but I'm saying this is a possibility.)

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'Do unto others, but bring backup.'  The Nemesis should never ever, ever fight the group by him/her self.  If the party is shrugging off assassination attempts and SEAL-level hit teams, then the Nemesis is going to bring all the back up he/she can muster.  And this is a chance for the Gm to really pull out all the stops...squads of minions...rival-level opponents with some Serious Weaponry...go to town with it.  And it gives the players a chance to cut loose with their own talents and toys, as well.  And besides...who doesn't like an epic battle to round out a campaign?

 

Pretty much this.

 

Unless your PCs are fighting a Krayt Dragon, there's not much need for monastic Adversaries who don't like hanging out with Minions.

 

Even the best Adversary is not designed to be a "beat everything and anything" combat figure. Every one will have SOME kind of weakness or drawback (as do your PCs). Usually, the biggest weakness when fighting a single foe is not that it dies fast, but that it becomes susceptible to what in traditional tabletop speak (or now MMO-speak) is called CC, or Crowd Control. When you swamp a single opponent with a ton of advantages, you tend to put them off-balance to the point where they are utterly ineffective on their next round. You can reduce the effect of this by distracting the PCs with lots of Minions, leaving even a low-level Adversary to do serious damage simply because the PCs are occupied. This means that Minions act as a kind of force multiplier, rather than a direct threat.

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Or just accept the fact that when the blasters come out, the bad guy gets pounded into paste - and don't build your game around a 15 round dicerollathon climax.

 

Go for quality, not quantity.

This.  I think too many people have  'WoW raid boss' in mind for their Nemesis characters and not how it would actually be. The big boss invariably sends waves of minions at the heroes long before they engage them directly.  The way to keep the Nemesis more relevant is to have the PCs get the sh*t kicked out of them in encounters before they're anywhere near the Nemesis.

Edited by 2P51

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One other thing to keep in mind for your Nemesis battles.  Location, location, location!  Any group worth their salt can gun down a Nemesis in the middle of the street at high noon.  Boooooring.  But what if the Nemesis is hiding out in, say, a factory?  Lots of things moving, lots of noise, lots of machinery to get tangled in.  Now things aren't so easy for the group.  And lets say a player botches a roll, or comes up with more threat than advantage...Oops, some piece of machinery just moved unexpectedly and knocked him/her over a railing.  Another player trying to chase the Nemesis through the factory, but bungled the check to keep up...well, the Nemesis had time to pull the pin and drop a flashbang grenade as he/she rounded a corner, and the player didn't see it.  Lots of mean tricks a Nemesis can do, with the right location.

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Or just accept the fact that when the blasters come out, the bad guy gets pounded into paste - and don't build your game around a 15 round dicerollathon climax.

 

Go for quality, not quantity.

This.  I think too many people have  'WoW raid boss' in mind for their Nemesis characters and not how it would actually be. The big boss invariably sends waves of minions at the heroes long before they engage them directly.  The way to keep the Nemesis more relevant is to have the PCs get the sh*t kicked out of them in encounters before they're anywhere near the Nemesis.

 

 

While not all Nemesis fights should work like that you certainly can and in some groups even encourage those kinds of grand spectacles.

Firstly a piece of advice is that FFG is kinda awful at building npcs that would stand up for more than a couple of rounds in a fight. You don't need to throw lots of enemies you just need to understand that action economy and raw volume of fire is super important in any combat system. Now the exact numbers obviously depend on your group but generally speaking for a 4 person group of at least two combat focused characters your Nemesis needs a solid 30+brawn wound threshold (same with strain roughly)  a soak of at least 6-8, with 1 defense and adversary 3. Now obviously that soak can go up or down but if you have a group who tends to all put out huge right hook attacks then you bump the soak up while if you have a group that does lots of pin prick attacks then the soak can be lower while boosting the overall wounds. This exact build can vary a lot depending on how much gear/xp/optimized your characters are but this is a good rough outline when you have a group of players hitting the sweet 2 yellow/2 green threshold + some combat talents

On top of that any nemesis needs at 2 actions per round and/or minion+rival support or they just get cut to pieces. A good standard villain fight for characters in the 100-150xp (emphasis again that this can vary a lot on your groups focus on combat + power) range would ordinarily be say an Inquisitor, 1 Stormtrooper sergeant/officer rival + 2 squads of 3 stormtrooper minions. Inquisitor gets 2 actions and has a solid 8 soak (especially for a lightsaber fight setup though). Replace this with an Imperial Agent etc but this is mostly a character who will actually get stuck into a fight themselves rather than being a support nemesis like a moff. The Nemesis needs to have a way to deal damage, limit damage AND a way to switch up fights.

Dealing damage can simple; they are good at weapon type x (preferably with a backup weapon they are worse at but not terrible at) Say either 3 yellows or 2 yellows + 2 greens with the main, worse with their backups. Maybe they instead have an ability that does damage be it a force power or not, the damage is super dependent on the players you are fighting but match it so that a success should do a reliable 1/3rd of the health of the toughest member of the party after soak. 3 hits without the player responding is roughly the length of a fight I like but that’s a personal opinion so again figure that out here. It also means two really big hits roughly takes the player down (if they dont use anything to defend or heal). If they dual wield pistols or do lots of attacks reduce the damage but this is super up to how tough the players are.

Limiting Damage is the one people dont think about as much but its critical to any kind of challenging fight. Sometimes this is simple, have the character get deflect/reflect on their lightsaber or side step/dodge but you can also have the star wars version of 'Look Out Sir!' (called Imperial Valor) and have the player just use other NPCs to take the hits for them. The idea for having a limiting damage ability is to allow the GM to switch between offense and defense with their actions should the fight swing. If the Inquisitor walks up and does a huge roll and gets a bunch of success nearly killing a player before they can react you dont want to just double tap them with their next action, instead you can throw another player with a force power and then manoeuvre to set up a bunch of defense actions. This way if a fight has gone far worse or better than expected you can take an action which gives the players a chance to take a breather (or make your villain far more of a pain to kill) without making it look like you are pulling punches. Its about keeping both the Nemesis AND the Players alive and these kinds of mechanics are fantastic for it.

Switching Up fights is another underused tool that really needs to be considered whenever you want to design a 'challenging' combat encounter. Your players know the rules and they probably know how to roll over a target once they get into routine. The trick to making a fight challenging is often about just breaking up the routine of the fight. Present it as one thing then change it to something else if it starts going wrong for either side. Take that above encounter for example. An inquisitor is swing around a lightsaber all menacing and maybe they are getting their butt kicked. You need to pivot from kind of combat because otherwise its just about the players making the villain's numbers go down faster than theirs do. If hes losing, he suddenly just stops attacking with a lightsaber and focuses on throwing people around or trying to deliberately split up the party or focusing on grabbing and holding a player so the stormtroopers can attack them with ease. It means they have to suddenly confront what else is going on than 'nuke down the target'. On the same front if the Inquisitor is crushing the players they have that same moment to switch things up and try a different approach or retreat if they need to. The important part is the dynamic of the fight needs to be able to change and have an idea of that in mind. A bounty hunter can be fighting them in melee but then hit their jetpack and just having a ranged fight or an imperial agent can give up his blaster and start draining strain (scathing tirade is great on imperial officers btw) or buffing troops as they arrive just in time/after failing to hit or hitting better than the agent.

The important thing to take away from this is that raw damage is not what is interesting or challenging about the game. The players can be hit with big damage attacks but often they are not going to have time to make a fun decision about how the fight is going to go. 

 

Finally as was mentioned elsewhere, do not make your fight a static event. Fights that are interesting are often because the fight and combat itself is the barrier to whatever your group is actually trying to achieve. Its a problem the player needs to divert time towards but don't all want to focus on because something more important is happening. It could be as simple as fleeing to their ship for a dramatic escape or downloading the plans to the death star before the Imperials roll over them. Just make sure its dynamic and there is a 'success state' that can be achieved without actually defeating their opponents.

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If you run it like the movies all of the heroes never confront the Nemesis together.  Luke is herded alone to Vader tactically. Han is taken out. Fast forward Luke meets Vader and the Emperor alone, it's Han, Chewie and Leia on the ground and Lando in space.  Makes running things difficult, but for it to truly be like the movies the Nemesis never lets the heroes into a position to bring their 'A' game to bear.  They wouldn't be a very smart Nemesis if they did, and if they aren't very smart, they aren't a Nemesis.

Edited by 2P51

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If you run it like the movies all of the heroes never confront the Nemesis together.  Luke is herded alone to Vader tactically. Han is taken out. Fast forward Luke meets Vader and the Emperor alone, it's Han, Chewie and Leia on the ground and Lando in space.  Makes running things difficult, but for it to truly be like the movies the Nemesis never lets the heroes into a position to bring their 'A' game to bear.  They wouldn't be a very smart Nemesis if they did, and if they aren't very smart, they aren't a Nemesis.

 

Depends on the nemesis, thats certainly one option but never the only option. Theres the nemesis who is built around their ego as a defining characteristic wanting to take the entire group on or the nemesis who might want use the less combat capable members of the party against another member of the party (especially if they are an obligation or personal character) which are often pretty great. Season 2, Episode 1 of rebels is a pretty good example of how to run the everyone is in the same fight as the Nemesis, the rebels all split off to do their various tasks and while only two are fighting Vader themselves, everyones actions and decisions are still impacting that big fight. 

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Lots of good suggestions here, but don't be afraid to think outside the box.

 

What about a nemesis that can't be defeated in combat and/or isn't designed to be defeated in combat? Say your big bad guy is a Tony Stark-type. Sure he's got all this money and tech, and you could play him as the Iron Man... but what if what protects him is not his armor but rather his reputation? He's got philanthropic trusts everywhere. He feeds the poor and shelters the homeless. People do good in his name. If the PCs kick his tail, they'll just make him a martyr. To really win, they'll need to pull off a character assassination, which is much more difficult (and, not coincidentally, going to make for some great role-playing).

 

You can also have the party's nemesis attacking them where it hurts: in the pocketbook. If their assets are seized or frozen, if they get blacklisted by major crime organizations so that no-one will trade with them, if their BoSS clearances and permits are all revoked and licensed equipment is seized, then suddenly the party's situation is rather uncomfortable. They'll have unpalatable decisions to make about their priorities, which can lead to additional Obligation or to acts of selfless heroism (depending on your angle). Alternatively, it could lead to a cyberspace/slicing showdown with the tech-savvy nemesis.

 

My point is that it doesn't all have to be shooty-stabby all the time. All of the other ways that PCs interact with the game environment are valid ways to "combat" a nemesis if you build the encounters accordingly.

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I made this for a game, it almost knocked out a party of 4 with 200 earned xp. Its weakness is vehicle weaponry... but sometimes those are not available:

 

 

Giant Dragon: "Maw"
Brawn 6, Agility 3, Intellect 1, Cunning 3, Willpower 3, Presence 1. 
WT 65     ST 23     Soak 17
Silhouette 4, Adversary 3, Fearsome 3.
Brawl 3, Perception 2, Athletics 3, Vigilance 2, Survival 2, Resilience 2, Cool 2.
Attacks:
Bite & Claw: Engaged, Brawl, Damage 12, Crit 2, Breach 1.
Tail Whip: Short, Brawl, Damage 10, Crit 5, Knockdown, Triumph to hit all engaged with target.
Flaming Breath: Medium, Resilience, Damage 8, Crit 4, Blast 8, Burn 2

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Remember, that because combat in this game isn't a tactical but a narrative element, simply having a long combat does nothing on its own. Some rpg's are almost like a tabletop miniatures game with exact positioning and the crunchy bits supporting tactical maneuvering and stacking buffs and debuffs on party members and foes. The NDS doesn't. work with the system. You don't need a Villain with 20 talents to combat the group, make sure there are several setback dice on most checks and have a long list of events for exiting advantages and disadvantages as well as triumphs and despairs prepared. No time to kill McEvilface when your mate's on fire, the walkway you are on is being pulled into the wall, that shuttle with a battallion of stormtrooper almost incoming and a meteorshower smashing the giant satelite dish you are fighting under slowly to bits.

 

What others have said, the big 12 round diceathlon doesn't always have to be the end of a campaign. BUT sometimes it has to be, then really go over the PC's strengths and give every character something (usefull) to do.

 

"Its weakness is vehicle weaponry"

 

"We found his weakness...bullets."

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All good points.  I think, as some have said, many players are conditioned to think of a 'boss fight' as a JRPG or MMO thing, where it takes ages to whittle down a billion hit points. 

 

In most movies, certainly pulp ones like Indiana Jones, there's rarely villains like that.  Thrawn, Tarkin, Illusive Man, Lex Luthor, The Joker etc are all classic vilains who aren't raging engines of destruction.  Even Corypheus goes down fairly quickly when you finally corner him in Dragon Age Inquisition - the trick is getting him in that position, and getting rid of his serial immortality.  As Desslok says, by the time the PCs have corned a bad guy, he's pretty much ready to be killed off.  It's everything that leads up to that which should be the hard part.  

 

And the tough guys in Star Wars, like Vader and Maul, never had half a dozen 1500+ XP PCs  unloading their best attacks at them either. If a villain intends to fight, then he should be fighting on his terms.  And if somehow they Pcs get him on their terms, not his, they have earned their now-easy victory.

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