Aramur

Combat too fast? Damage vs wounds

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After we have played 10 sessions or so, I'm a bit worried about the combat dynamics. Combats tend not to last long with our group, but, more importantly, combats are often missing real moments of suspense. I believe this is mainly due to the large amounts of damage put out in comparison to the wounds PCs and NPCs can suffer.

At 150 XP + starting XP, some of the groups characters can easily put out 12-16 damage in a turn. This amount of damage will take down most adversaries after one hit and a few (mostly nemesis-level) NPCs might need two hits to disable. Additionally, attacks rarely miss (for combat focused PCs).

PCs (especially non-combat focused ones) suffer from the same issue: they tend to go down in 1 or maybe 2 hits (depending who's shooting). This tends to make combat really fast and really unpredictable, often being decided in the first round.

I also tends to devaluate minions. With only 5 or so damage needed to disable one, it is often more efficient to focus on the stronger opponents when given a choice, although they sometimes play a good role in absorbing fire from the non-combat focused PCs.

Do others have this experience as well? Is it intentional?

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Unlike Dungeons & Dragons and other trad simulationist games, the narrative FFG SW combat mechanics are designed for quick resolution. Yes, damage numbers are high. However, that's backstopped by the PC/Nemesis death mechanic which requires a 150 roll on a d100. I'm running my fourth campaign right now and I've only had 1 PC in all those games die in combat.

Borrowing from D&D slang, minions are "glass cannons." They can be easily removed from a scene but they also put out a great deal of damage, depending on the number in play, if they have the appropriate group combat skill, and their equipment modifiers.

I suspect that you're viewing these rules through the lens of a more traditional role-playing gamer. It's helpful to push aside preconceived notions and accept that FFG SW is attempting to replicate the feel of the entire Star Wars experience, not just providing a setting. This means also putting emphasis on skill test resolution and social encounters. The career books go into more detail about how to integrate this into a game.

I don't know if you're a GM or a player but a rookie mistake most GMs make is an over-reliance on combat encounters to fill game time. Unlike D&D, you're not going to spend 30-60 minutes resolving one combat encounter. The emphasis is on how the characters interact within the game's story. The outcome of the encounter, not the encounter itself, is what affects the story. How the players defeated a group of NPCs usually isn't relevant. 

A second rookie mistake is a failure to understand that failure in an encounter doesn't end the game or a character, it simply reduces a resource. A player can flub a skill roll and keep the game moving forward by accepting a loss of Strain or Wounds. This helps to avoid the stupid D&D trope of a single die roll ending your character. A missed Coordination check doesn't necessarily mean your PC falls to his death unless all other reasonable options have been eliminated.

A third rookie mistake is a failure of players to think creatively and narratively. Simply taking cover in a firefight will only add 1 setback die to the attacker. If she's outgunned, a defender is better off coming up with a creative, Star Wars-y solution to quickly end combat rather than standing in place and trading shots. For example, shooting the bottom of a stack of crates and causing them to collapse onto a squad of stormtroopers. See every episode of Rebels. A bad GM will either fail to provide PCs with options or say "no" to reasonable ideas.

Edited by Concise Locket
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1 hour ago, awayputurwpn said:

Are you factoring in Soak?

Of course. Soak of most rivals/nemesis type characters in Edge of the Empire book is between 2 and 5, Wounds between 12 and 20 roughtly speaking. Add a little bit of pierce to the inflicted damage, and it takes about two hits to disable one.

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1 hour ago, 2P51 said:

More target sets than a group has attacks to deal with in one round.

Use all the weapons available.

Stimpacks. Bad guys use em too.....

There is already the issue that many of the current 'target sets' have sufficient to disable many of the PCs in 1-2 hits as well.

Two hits from a Stormtrooper minion will take down the Bothan Brawn 1 Explorer(Driver) with Armored Clothing or the Mon Calamari Pilot with little trouble.

Stimpacks don't really work during combat for adversaries, healing 5 wounds for an Action doesn't help if next turn you'll simply receive 10 damage from a PC attack.

Combats are very all our nothing: a serious threat to the players can cause the battle to be decided in 1-2 rounds in favor of the adversaries.

In combat I tend to look for dramatic tension as well, there needs to be a build-up of sorts. Just a few die rolls and people dropping left or right and combat being over in moments doesn't really do that.

 

 

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Stimpacks are a maneuver, not an action.

You're also simply making general statements. Without details in regards to PCs, adversaries faced, weapons used, details of the situation in which the combat occurred, it's virtually impossible for any of us to give useful advice.

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1 hour ago, Concise Locket said:

I suspect that you're viewing these rules through the lens of a more traditional role-playing gamer. It's helpful to push aside preconceived notions and accept that FFG SW is attempting to replicate the feel of the entire Star Wars experience, not just providing a setting. This means also putting emphasis on skill test resolution and social encounters. The career books go into more detail about how to integrate this into a game.

I think you have a good point about how I view combat. However, with a lot of the book devoted to weapons and armor and a lot of talents explicitely combat-focused, one would expect more of a focus on combat

Additionally, when I'm thinking of Star Wars movie combat scenes as well, the heroes seem to have quite some time in exchanging fire or engaging in duels. Not, poof, poof, its over after the first exchanges of fire. I don't know how you would want to replicate a light-saber duel like in the movies. I more or less believe the system will cause such fights to be over really, really fast, perhaps 3 rounds at best.

A better balance between damage / wounds, especially for the heroes or nemesis type characters would serve to draw out combat more and create more opportunity for dramatic scenes IMO.

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On 9/16/2017 at 4:38 AM, Aramur said:

I also tends to devaluate minions. With only 5 or so damage needed to disable one, it is often more efficient to focus on the stronger opponents when given a choice, although they sometimes play a good role in absorbing fire from the non-combat focused PCs.

Well, that's a mistake. Just last week, three very strong Jedi (we are about 800-ish points plus starting) had to face 5 groups of Stormtrooper minions and it was a VERY tough fight. Play smart with your minions - spread them out so one grenade doesn't get several groups, that melee people cant just hop from one group to another. Have them fall back and regroup as their numbers dwindle. Have them entrenched and using the terrain to their advantage. Also, you can tweak the minions slightly. Give them linked - yes, a house rule, but it's a pretty solid one. Give them a level of adversary for your elite Storm Commandos or Death Troopers.

The other thing to remember? A combat is not a dice rolling marathon. If you've gotten past 6 or so rounds? Then you are recreating the battle of Hoth. Expect your usual combat to last 4, maybe 5 rounds. The key to shoot for is quality, not quantity. A short narrative combat with awesome usages of your threats and triumphs will have more weight than just a "roll, damage. roll, damage. Roll, damage" diceathon.

Edited by Desslok

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6 minutes ago, Desslok said:

The other thing to remember? A combat is not a dice rolling marathon. If you've gotten past 6 or so rounds? Then you are recreating the battle of Hoth. Expect your usual combat to last 4, maybe 5 rounds. The key to shoot for is quality, not quantity. A narrative combat with awesome usages of your threats and triumphs will have more weight than just a "roll, damage. roll, damage. Roll, damage" diceathon.

There was this Master Slicer protected by an Assassin Droid: initiative rolls along, we get the drop on him. A good barrage from our shooting guy and a good stab from a Force Pike and the droid is down in 1 round.

If it had gotten the drop on us, it might have simply blasted us out of existence with its missile tube or also deciding the combat basically in one round.

In both cases the odds not to hit each other were fairly low and the amount of damage compared to soak/wounds high. Combat can be over without warning, but more importantly, without much room for dramatic tension.

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I don't know what to tell you then - I'm seeing plenty of dramatic tension and the group is a bunch of high level Jedi, a class that should break the game. Maybe give the players something to do during the fight? "Okay, you two - go hold off that battalion of stormtroopers while our guy skullduggers the blast doors open!"

Or make sure you're using your despairs . "Good job wiping out those battalions. By the way - that despair you got? Yeah, the reinforcements have arrived and they brought a Walker with them. No, an AT-AT."

Did the bad guy slicer know the good guys were coming? Then why didnt he have more than just the one droid? Why was there no defenses or blast shields or whatever do hold off the players? Yes, sometimes the PCs outmaneuver the bad guys, but a smart End Boss will control the time and place of the confrontation to maximize his desired outcome where he can. As for the missile the droid was carrying, it's easy to fudge things behind the scenes if a fight is too strong one way or another.

Also, sometimes a fight is just a curb stomp battle. As a GM, I'll often just handwave it - "Yeah, there's only two lone minions on the bridge and you guys are coming in hot and pissed. Dont bother rolling - you subdue them without issue" - but your millage may vary.

12 minutes ago, awayputurwpn said:

Are you a GM asking for advice on how to make combat more tense or dramatic, or a player complaining about the encounters your GM is running? 

Strong question - I was assuming you were coming at this from a GM standpoint.

 

 

Edited by Desslok
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41 minutes ago, Aramur said:

Additionally, when I'm thinking of Star Wars movie combat scenes as well, the heroes seem to have quite some time in exchanging fire or engaging in duels.

There's very little in the media, except for duels, where the characters spend a lot of time in combat just exchanging fire with another group.  They are usually making a plan to do something else and the firing is incidental.  Whey they are having a shoot-out, it's usually when one group is running from another.

I won't disagree though that the system definitely appears lethal.  To that end, a couple of pointers:

  • early on, don't use opponents that have a base damage of 9, like stormtroopers.  These guys will always be difficult to handle, so don't start with them.  Instead focus on thugs and the like that have a base output of 6 or less, have lower agility and brawn, and use smaller minion groups.  You can also stagger minion group arrivals, which means that:  the minions don't overwhelm the PCs; the PCs have a chance to flee if things go poorly; the PCs won't necessarily know how many reinforcements there are.
  • reconsider the "incapacitated" level.  I'm not a fan of stimpacks, because they are nowhere in the media (only in video games), so if I can get rid of them I will.  Still working out details, but I think exceeding WT might cause Disorient for the first turn, but the PC can keep going, especially if they make a Resilience roll.  Note that each hit after the first WT will still cause a crit, so there is plenty of reason for the PC to leave asap, but at least they can do so.  I might make 2xWT Incapacitated, not sure yet
  • mix in chases and other goals.  Combat should be about something specific.  If you come from a D&D background, it's tempting for the players to think "here are some thugs, let's stand our ground and take their loot", but that's really not the way the game is set up.  In some ways, the mechanics force you to rethink this as a goal.  So you could easily have a situation where the PCs need to make it across town to get to their ship and take off.  Interspersing a single round (maybe two) of combat in a longer chase can give a lot more tension than "we killed all the stormtroopers in this area, let's see what's in the next area".  And as a side note, about chases, the default might be Athletics but really any skill (and I mean any) can be used instead.

 

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13 minutes ago, Desslok said:

Strong question - I was assuming you were coming at this from a GM standpoint.

 

Yeah, and not that complaining is necessarily a bad thing, but if we're giving the OP a bunch of GMing advice and the OP is a player, then it is not going to help much :D

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I noticed that in my game the combats tend to be pretty quick but I actually like that, and the reason why is that I hated D&D 3.5 two-hour long combats. Maybe if you are used to your GM time being largely about combat resolution the problem is just that this is making it seem like you are spending very little time in an activity that you are used to have taking up a lot of your time.  The combat rounds in SWRPG are also elastic time measurements with a lot happening in each attack. It's conceivable that if a PC takes a hit from a blaster it was probably one of several shots that hit close to them over a good span of time as the opponent walked rounds onto the target. I think that even though D&D rounds are supposed to be similar they are never portrayed that way, and most people use it for the one attack = one sword swing. 

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2 minutes ago, awayputurwpn said:

Yeah, and not that complaining is necessarily a bad thing, but if we're giving the OP a bunch of GMing advice and the OP is a player, then it is not going to help much :D

Mostly I'm a player. I'm a stand-in GM and played 8 out of 10 sessions, GMed 2 out of 10.

As an experienced GM in other games, I know a lot of tricks to extend dramatic tension in combat, but for less experienced GMs who sort of take the system 'as is', I was wondering what the experiences are. Because in my experience it actually takes quite a bit of effort to create a tension-filled combat. Less experienced GMs just take a couple of seemingly appropriate adversaries and run with that. And with 1-2 hits capable of incapacitating both PCs and Rivals/Nemeses in combat you actively have to spend effort to prevent combat from turning into walkovers.

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21 minutes ago, whafrog said:

There's very little in the media, except for duels, where the characters spend a lot of time in combat just exchanging fire with another group.  They are usually making a plan to do something else and the firing is incidental.  Whey they are having a shoot-out, it's usually when one group is running from another.

I would say that is true of ANY movies. Ah-nold on the island at the climax of Commando? Get to where they are holding his daughter (while gunning down every sonuvabith in his way). Rambo 2? Set traps, get into the prison camp (while gunning down every sonuvabith in his way), getting the POWs and getting to the chopper. Indy at the end of Temple of Doom? Save the kids and fistfight Pat Roach while trying to get to the minecart.

Any Jackie Chan movie - he doesn't stand there and Kung Fu dudes - he's usually fighting his way to a goal or Kung Fuing goons who are playing keep-away with a macguffin.

Edited by Desslok
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10 minutes ago, Aramur said:

As an experienced GM in other games, I know a lot of tricks to extend dramatic tension in combat, but for less experienced GMs who sort of take the system 'as is', I was wondering what the experiences are. Because in my experience it actually takes quite a bit of effort to create a tension-filled combat. Less experienced GMs just take a couple of seemingly appropriate adversaries and run with that. And with 1-2 hits capable of incapacitating both PCs and Rivals/Nemeses in combat you actively have to spend effort to prevent combat from turning into walkovers.

It can help to figure out what the actual goal of the encounter is. Why is the fighting happening? If the goal is to just "kill everyone," then you're shooting yourself in the foot; you're setting yourself up for a flat encounter. But if you go with the idea that "Someone wants something and is having a hard time getting it," you have an automatic tension. The key is to establish who wants what, and why having them get the thing they want would be bad for the other party :) Now you have a reason for an encounter, and a clear goal for either party.

Regarding a general lack of tension due, I guess I see where you're coming from, but for me that only happens when I accidentally fall into the trap of, "[Roll] ...okay, Ota, you get hit for 9 damage, make sure and subtract your soak, next player...(rinse and repeat)."  If I take the time to actually use the narrative dice and narrate the outcome, there's plenty of tension to go on. This attention to the narrative can't save you from every poorly-planned encounter, of course, but it does (in general) cover a multitude of sins :) 

Now of course you're gonna have your one-round encounters. It happens (Especially if you just have one NPC vs multiple PCs!!! Missile tube or not). I experienced this most recently a few months ago in the D&D Beginner game, in fact, when my party one-shotted the Bugbear "Klarg" at the beginning of the adventure :) It can happen in any game when the dice fall just right. But now the two questions are, 1. "What do you do with this (narratively)," and, 2. "What do the enemies do with this?" 

As a GM, you can prolong the encounters (to give yourself a little room for drama) by upping your standard adversaries' soak, or ranks Adversary, or Defense, or skills/characteristics, etc. You can also bring in reinforcements! This can breathe some new life into a DOA encounter, or ratchet up the tension in an already difficult encounter. The main thing is to challenge the players by keeping them on their toes. Make them seek alternate ways of completing their mission. 

The NPC enemies of the PCs can take their own measures upon getting "pwned." Do they cower in fear and try and hide from the PCs? Do they up their game, trying to escalate things with better-trained or better-equipped thugs? Do they hire mercenaries to try and take the PCs out? Do they try and circumvent the PCs through other means? Maybe they report them to the Empire as "concerned citizens," and tie up the PCs that way. 

In either case, there are plenty of adversaries out there whose forces are limitless (at least, as far as the PCs can tell!). Don't be afraid to play this up, if all else fails. This will get your players out of the mindset of "kill 'em all" and into the mindset of actually accomplishing their goal. The adversaries are obstacles, and their deaths should almost always be tangential to the actual goal of the encounter.

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3 minutes ago, awayputurwpn said:

Regarding a general lack of tension due, I guess I see where you're coming from, but for me that only happens when I accidentally fall into the trap of, "[Roll] ...okay, Ota, you get hit for 9 damage, make sure and subtract your soak, next player...(rinse and repeat)."  If I take the time to actually use the narrative dice and narrate the outcome, there's plenty of tension to go on. This attention to the narrative can't save you from every poorly-planned encounter, of course, but it does (in general) cover a multitude of sins :) 

Thing is, this is a VERY hard trap to avoid. I've been playing ever since the game came out and I still occasionally go "Take damage, next player. Take damage, next player. . . ." And I'm always asking my players "No, don't tell me numbers. Tell me what happens! Tell me how you are awesome! (and then give me some numbers so I can track the wounds :) )" or I'm asking them to justify why they're passing a blue to the next player.

And not every single roll is going to be epic and game-changing. What are you going to do with a "no threat, no advantage straight success" roll? Nothing really - perhaps just a bit of color. But yeah, it's a pretty bland result.

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5 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

I noticed that in my game the combats tend to be pretty quick but I actually like that, and the reason why is that I hated D&D 3.5 two-hour long combats. Maybe if you are used to your GM time being largely about combat resolution the problem is just that this is making it seem like you are spending very little time in an activity that you are used to have taking up a lot of your time.  The combat rounds in SWRPG are also elastic time measurements with a lot happening in each attack. It's conceivable that if a PC takes a hit from a blaster it was probably one of several shots that hit close to them over a good span of time as the opponent walked rounds onto the target. I think that even though D&D rounds are supposed to be similar they are never portrayed that way, and most people use it for the one attack = one sword swing. 

I agree that this system is less meant to take up the majority of the play time, and that is a reason that we are actually playing it: combat is more of an option, and less of a neccessity! But once combat starts, I'd prefer it to be more cinematic and a major part of that is simply have more time to go into the ebb and the flow of combat. If your buddies already shot down the big bad once your turn comes around and you haven't even spent a maneuver to draw your gun from your holster, then yeah, it feels kinda anti-climatic.

Game mechanics clearly suggest (visible in the way ammo, two-weapon fighting, aiming etc. is handled) that one roll = one shot/swing/grenade throw.


 

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5 minutes ago, Aramur said:

Game mechanics clearly suggest (visible in the way ammo, two-weapon fighting, aiming etc. is handled) that one roll = one shot/swing/grenade throw.

Reading the game rules in context, it becomes clear that these are ways of abstracting things, and are not necessarily indicative of a single swing/throw/etc. It can be, certainly. But if you're always playing it this way, then it can feel really lackluster. 

A combat round is, essentially, as long as it needs to be, up to around a minute in length. 

Edited by awayputurwpn
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5 minutes ago, Aramur said:

I agree that this system is less meant to take up the majority of the play time, and that is a reason that we are actually playing it: combat is more of an option, and less of a neccessity! But once combat starts, I'd prefer it to be more cinematic and a major part of that is simply have more time to go into the ebb and the flow of combat. If your buddies already shot down the big bad once your turn comes around and you haven't even spent a maneuver to draw your gun from your holster, then yeah, it feels kinda anti-climatic.

Game mechanics clearly suggest (visible in the way ammo, two-weapon fighting, aiming etc. is handled) that one roll = one shot/swing/grenade throw.


 

According to the book a round can last a minute! That's forever. Now the character's turn may be a small slice of time as it's not specified, but the character isn't just hanging about for their 5 seconds of action. I think that the grenade throw is supposed to not be the whole time, there is room for the character to be shooting, looking for the next bit of cover, and then seeing the situation that requires a grenade. Grenade is readied and thrown once the timing or opportunity is right. 

 

My point is that this game allows for the round to be described in more time than I think is usual for the other games. Perhaps you could really allow for a lot of stuff going on so that it feels like there is action and tension instead of just being crowded to do their turn. Maybe encourage out of turn incidentals that can essentially be little dramas or side actions within the combat. Just a suggestion but it has worked for me when It looked like they were going to clobber my bad guys :)

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2 minutes ago, awayputurwpn said:

Reading the game rules in context, it becomes clear that these are ways of abstracting things, and are not necessarily indicative of a single swing/throw/etc. It can be, certainly. But if you're always playing it this way, then it can feel really lackluster. 

 

It does, but the game rules are the common ground that players and GM start from.

For example: narratively speaking, in earlier sessions everybody in our group was happy when a single advantage on a attack roll was used to cause an opponent to trip and fall. But once we read the Knockdown talent on the Marauder tree, it became clear that the game intended making someone fall was much harder. It seemed to require not only a successful attack, but also a Triumph *and* a special talent to knock someone down.

Mechanics very clearly suggested that using it like we did was not appropriate. The mechanics did not force that interpretation on us, but it made a very clear suggestion how it was 'supposed to work'.

We could simple ignore that of course and run with it as we did. But doing so would make the Marauder talent obsolete and would penalize a player for choosing it. This would in turn meani we would probably house-rule that talent. 

Similarly, one could argue that 'size matters not' and throw a big object over medium range even if just possessing the basic 'Move' force power. A GM can allow this where narratively appropriate, but game rules suggest that you really can't and shouldn't.
 

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47 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

According to the book a round can last a minute! That's forever. Now the character's turn may be a small slice of time as it's not specified, but the character isn't just hanging about for their 5 seconds of action. I think that the grenade throw is supposed to not be the whole time, there is room for the character to be shooting, looking for the next bit of cover, and then seeing the situation that requires a grenade. Grenade is readied and thrown once the timing or opportunity is right. 

Well, sure, but the rules still restrict what you can do, even if the narrative doesn't. Many rules simple don't make any sense if you have a minute worth of actions. Quickdraw talent? Narratively useless. You could easily draw a dozen or more weapons inside of a minute. Dropping to prone and standing up again. I don't know about you, but a typical person should be easily able to manage 10 of those paired maneuvers in a minute. Doing this will result in the GM needing to find convoluted narrative reasons to make the way the rules handle the game to fit the narrative. It is just much easier, narratively speaking, to assume you'll get of only a single shot in that time unless you weapons is capable of autofire. And hence assume that rounds run much faster than a minute.

GM: "You take the grenade and while moving from cover to cover and avoiding crossfire and lob it towards the Stormtroopers"
Player A: "No I don't, I'll take the risk of getting caught by a shot and use the extra time to lob three more grenades. That is what my character would do. Death or glory!"
GM: "????"
Player B: "I wan't to move closer to the airlock as fast as possible, before it closes. I skip using cover entirely. That should save me some time to also get out my vibroknive and stab the closest Stormtrooper after having thrown the grenade, right?"
GM: "????"
Player C: "You said the Stormtroopers had their weapons holstered just now, and they haven't had their turn yet, how can they be setting up a crossfire already?"
GM: "????" 

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21 minutes ago, Aramur said:

We could simple ignore that of course and run with it as we did. But doing so would make the Marauder talent obsolete and would penalize a player for choosing it. This would in turn meani we would probably house-rule that talent. 

The Knockdown talent is serious weaksauce. I allow it to give any wielded melee weapon the Knockdown quality.  

But that's an anomaly, and not important to your main point. Here's a paradigm in example-form: you can narratively knock someone down without mechanically getting the full benefits of having knocked them down. Think about it. Your players say, 'I wanna use that Advantage to knock him on his butt!" Which is a better response?

  1. "Great, your ferocious assault causes him to reel and he falls on his keister. The next attack to target him gets a Boost die, since he's been put off balance." 
  2. "Nope, you can't do that, the rules say that a character can only be knocked prone by 3 Threat or by the Knockdown quality. You can pass a Boost die to the next player."   

Both are equal in terms of mechanics, and both are easily within the Rules As Written...and yet, they are two entirely different responses. 

Anyway, if you had fun, then what you did in the moment at your table was the right call. You can always review and adjust things, but the fun is paramount and is the reason any of us plays this game to begin with. But one last piece of advice: whether you're a GM or player, let the dice rolls inform your narrative, and then allow the GM to insert some appropriate mechanical effects.

 

1 hour ago, Desslok said:

And not every single roll is going to be epic and game-changing. What are you going to do with a "no threat, no advantage straight success" roll? Nothing really - perhaps just a bit of color. But yeah, it's a pretty bland result.

A good example of how the dice can inform the narrative. A wash on the dice doesn't have to be a "nothing happens" moment. It could be a failure of training if the Proficiency dice come up blank, or a superiority of opposition if the Difficulty dice cancel out the positive symbols. If a failure on the Setback dice cancel the Successes, then it could be that a character's defenses or environmental factors were insurmountable. There's no code to this, no "right way" of doing it, but it's just a source for inspiration even when there are no pips that tell you anything mechanically.

Here's an example of a "wash" that has some narration: 

Again, I don't pretend to be an expert, but it's at least an example. Throw a little bit of narration into your dice rolls, and encourage your players to do the same.

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