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KahlessNestor

How do you handle new characters?

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I love the FFG Star Wars RPG and am currently playing in 3 bi-weekly f2f games and 1 pbp game. But there is one problem I've kept running into: new characters that join after the campaign has started, either from new players joining, players replacing dead characters, or players wanting something new. My GMs have typically given them XP equal to what the party has earned (for new players), or at a penalty (for replacement characters).

And that's where the problem lies, I think. This is a game designed for incremental XP advancement and we're suddenly giving characters massive XP dumps. This lets them max out key skills and abilities with five yellows right from the go, often outshining those of us that slogged through the XP to get our measly two or three yellows in our core skills. The problem is compounded if said new player/character selects to play something that runs similar to your character. Suddenly your stealthy guy is a bumbling idiot compared to the new kid. It especially shows in combat, where they tend to wipe the floor with everything.

Some examples: 

1. One of my early characters came in with a 600 XP. He was a slicer, so I maxed out his computers. I could slice anything.

2. One player, who is a GM now, said "I normally wouldn't make a character like this, but I wanted to break the system" came in with a massively tricked out heavy blaster rifle with autofire maxed out, putting my Driver, who had earned his six yellows in gunnery and his sidewinder blaster rifle, to shame.

3. I've head my stealth-focused character outshined by a new player who decided to play the same type of character.

I could probably come up with more examples. Making enemies that can compete with these can lead to party wipes.

TL;DR

A character with 600 XP earned does not equal a character just given 600 XP to "keep them up" with the rest.

But is the solution to start everyone new at the beginning? Can they keep up in the system with characters with hundreds of XP more than them?

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It's usually that a character earning 600 xp in small chunks will end up less focussed than one that spends 600 xp at once, and be more generally skilled but probably less broken.

Some players do manage to keep the tight focus when getting it in small chunks, but I've found it unusual.

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Well, with this system, people have done tests on mixed XP parties, to see if there is any flaw in having a seasoned party of PC's, who have a new character with just starting XP join the party.  And the result from most of the play testing is apparently no it doesn't have a measurable effect.  In fact, players who were given the pre-generated characters, without knowing how much XP it was to make their PC, weren't aware of any disparity.  And the "weaker" PCs felt just as effective as the higher level ones.  Now, I'm sure there is a line in the sand when it comes to this.  I doubt a starting PC would feel equal to say...a 1000xp character, and there would be some very obvious differences in ability.  But it is possible to have mixed.

 

As to your issue with people minmaxing better than you, eh, I can't really give you any advice here.  There are plenty of gamers who are just good at streamlining a character, and they will not deviate.   To be bothered by someone doing that, and "stealing your thunder", is just a thing you have to deal with.  If you must have your gratification for effectiveness, outthink the other player.  Be more creative than them when it comes to using your abilities, and don't focus on the dice as much.  

 

Personally, I've never had much of an issue introducing new characters, mostly because it doesn't come up much.  I never GM'd in those situations, but if I did, I'd probably give them half the current amount of XP for the party, and run with it.

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Oh, and the main thought I have is:

Make sure they create a character using standard rules and only then get the 600 xp, of course. It is vitally important that they can only get extra stats via Dedication.

On money, make sure they don't have as much as the other players have gained overall, as some of theirs will have been spent on the way on things that don't last.

Don't allow them access to rare items that the other players having also had a chance to obtain, nor to mods / attachments that the other players couldn't set up themselves. I'd suggest not allowing modding of attachments pre-game, just obtaining the attachments.

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45 minutes ago, KungFuFerret said:

Personally, I've never had much of an issue introducing new characters, mostly because it doesn't come up much.  I never GM'd in those situations, but if I did, I'd probably give them half the current amount of XP for the party, and run with it.

What I might do in that circumstance is  start a new character with the starting points and then a small bonus (say, 100 points or so). And then every session, give them twice as many points as the rest of the team until they catch up. That allows the new character to grow more organically and for the player to discover "Man, I really need Tree X, too!" - but without the annoyance of playing behind the character's power levels.

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This is the same problem, but exaggerated, of starting characters.  If a starting character tries to focus on one thing, they are great at it, but tend to suck everywhere else.  Most of the players in my game tend to be fairly rounded, because they learn on one adventure that yes, they do need XYZ skill.  So they pick up a rank or two.  Or they see a couple combats and say, my play style is exposing me to more fire than I expected.  Maybe I should pick up toughness and enduring, rather than Ranged (Heavy).

But I do have 1 player that maxed his way to Ranged Heavy 5, 2 ranks of True aim, Lethal Blows, Deadly Accuracy and Natural Marksman.  He tends to do 20 plus damage on first hit, then autofires for multiple hits.  

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In terms of players creating well optimised characters I don't really see it as a problem. Sure, they might be better than the rest of the party in a numbers to numbers comparison, but in practice they tend to all contribute quite well unless some of the characters are built particularly badly (tough to do by accident in this system).

As for your stealth guy hypothetical? Why the hell is the player choosing to build a character that totally replaces the role of an existing one? That just sounds like an ******* player to me.

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I give players experience individually. Some players will get bonus xp for Obligation or just good roleplaying, on top of the general session Xp. Players who miss a session get half of the Xp for that session. When I have had new players, they get the Xp of the player with lowest level of Xp. I find that this way, new players don't come along and jank everything up as there will still be better characters at the table than them.

When I get a new player, I talk to them. I ask them what they want to play and tell them about what the other players are playing. I try my best to let them know about party roles that need to be filled, and what might help them carve out their own niche within the group. I try to discourage players from taking on the same role as a player who is already established in that role.

 

9 hours ago, TheShard said:

Why does an earned xp of 600 not equal 600xp out the gate?

Players who have established party roles over 600xps worth of sessions will definitely feel a bit salty over some new guy who comes along and plonks a character they built with 600xp for free. Xp that is earned through play and adventure makes a player feel very attached to a character. When some janky newbie sits at the table with a min-maxed stat block they just pulled out of their arse, then the player who spent several sessions earning that experience is going to feel rightly peeved.

There is also the fact that when players are given more Xp during character generation, players tend to build overly optimized personality-less stat-blocks instead of a character. (That is more just a personal peeve of mine though :P )

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When this happened in an old saga edition game I was in, our GM was good enough that he saw it and figured out what it could mean.  So he allowed a one time rebuild of our characters so we could recalibrate to the new group dynamic.  We had restrictions and could deviate completely, but the new characters were strongly encouraged to either fill a role not filled by the existing ones, or if a similar role to take it from a different angle.  

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I can't possibly see why two stealthy characters is a bad thing, double the sneaking power!

incrimental raises sound a good thing, and clip them around the ear if they opt for auto fire cheese.

Edited by LordBritish

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Regarding 600xp characters being more powerful if created at that level as opposed to earning it over sessions, an explanation by some D&D min-maxers I knew explained it best: when you start at level 1, you have to take feats and abilities to ensure your character survives to get to higher levels, ones that might not be as useful later on, whereas when you start at level 20 you don't need to 'survive' those twenty levels and can build the character to be the most powerful it can be at that level.

19 hours ago, Desslok said:

What I might do in that circumstance is  start a new character with the starting points and then a small bonus (say, 100 points or so). And then every session, give them twice as many points as the rest of the team until they catch up. That allows the new character to grow more organically and for the player to discover "Man, I really need Tree X, too!" - but without the annoyance of playing behind the character's power levels.

That's how I do it too.  As you say, it helps the character grow more organically, as what looks good on paper doesn't always play out well in dice rolls and with players new to the system you don't want to drop a ton of xp on them and expect them to not get overwhelmed.

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I have a group of players (6), and usually there are 3 PC in every session. I'm keeping a scorecard, who was present in which session, and how much XP they gained. If PC is not present in session, he gains 50% of XP of that session. Currently active PCs have XP between 580 and 300 XP. I have also tried to keep PC roles as clear as possible. There are medic, pilot, faceman and bountyhunter gadgeteer (mechanic). I tend to follow PC development quite a intensively and guide it so they don't shadow each other. Currently PCs are fairly balanced and their share of screentime is more about my ability to guide the game than their XP. Maybe this is easier for me, because our group averts combats. 

First and foremost, I'd say that I'm with 2P51. Speak with your players and make sure that you manage and lead your players and their characters. I have learned that big part of being GM is managing the group.

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At the moment the XP-range in the group ranges from 480 to 760; no issue there. I'm redistributing XP from the two frontrunners to the laggard; they are getting 5 XP less than average, giving the extra 10 to him.

 

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On 4/3/2017 at 10:07 AM, KungFuFerret said:

Well, with this system, people have done tests on mixed XP parties, to see if there is any flaw in having a seasoned party of PC's, who have a new character with just starting XP join the party.  And the result from most of the play testing is apparently no it doesn't have a measurable effect.  In fact, players who were given the pre-generated characters, without knowing how much XP it was to make their PC, weren't aware of any disparity.  And the "weaker" PCs felt just as effective as the higher level ones.  Now, I'm sure there is a line in the sand when it comes to this.  I doubt a starting PC would feel equal to say...a 1000xp character, and there would be some very obvious differences in ability.  But it is possible to have mixed.

 

As to your issue with people minmaxing better than you, eh, I can't really give you any advice here.  There are plenty of gamers who are just good at streamlining a character, and they will not deviate.   To be bothered by someone doing that, and "stealing your thunder", is just a thing you have to deal with.  If you must have your gratification for effectiveness, outthink the other player.  Be more creative than them when it comes to using your abilities, and don't focus on the dice as much.  

 

Personally, I've never had much of an issue introducing new characters, mostly because it doesn't come up much.  I never GM'd in those situations, but if I did, I'd probably give them half the current amount of XP for the party, and run with it.

It isn't so much better min-maxing. It doesn't take any effort to min-max when you get a 400 XP dump, while the guy playing the other character is dealing with dribbles of XP from 10-25 a session. There's no contest there.

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