Jump to content
Aramur

How do you do with character skill imbalance?

Recommended Posts

Someone mentioned it above that this happens in all RPGs.  Rogues rarely get excited about finding a room full of spellbooks like the Sorcerers and, maybe, Clerics do.  For the most part, a fighter isn't going to be much use disabling a trap - unless he's just full up on health points and figures the best way to disable it is to trip it (been there done that).

The trick is to have as much general use activities spread in among the specialties.  If you have one person who is the pilot, then push others into a turret with Gunnery, doing repairs with Mechanics as 2P51 just said.  Games like this actually accentuate this issue on purpose to make you want to be a part of the team.  There are [a lot of] games where I am not able to get everyone gets something geared to their specialty but I try to not go more than two sessions without covering everyone.   That said, I had one adventure that spanned several weeks that was designed specifically to require a lot of sneaking and skullduggery. There were a lot of old Star Trek misquotes those sessions "**** it Jim, I'm a pilot, not a Bothan Spy"

Edited by Varlie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Varlie said:

Someone mentioned it above that this happens in all RPGs.  Rogues rarely get excited about finding a room full of spellbooks like the Sorcerers and, maybe, Clerics do. 

Are those spellbooks worth money?  I bet they are!

This does happen in all RPGs, but this specific RPG can encounter this a bit more because the archetypes aren't as rigid as some others. 

I like to build my encounters from both ends - first I set a scene in my head and kinda throw it together, then I throw the PCs in and envision how they will interact - it should be pretty obvious right away if there's a deficiency.  Of course the #1 rule of GMing is "no plan survives contact with the players" but that's why everything is a bunch of bullet points and vague notes to quickly remind me when the time comes.  Now, this is the tricky part - variety.  I don't like to always have the slicer running to a terminal or a face cowering behind a crate until it's time to talk.  Rather than repost, I'll direct curious readers to this thread where we hashed this out at length:

I also advise all encounter designers to at least read O66's THE LIST for essential encounter design tips, vetted at thousands of tables, some near you!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Varlie said:

The trick is to have as much general use activities spread in among the specialties.  If you have one person who is the pilot, then push others into a turret with Gunnery, doing repairs with Mechanics as 2P51 just said.  Games like this actually accentuate this issue on purpose to make you want to be a part of the team.  There are [a lot of] games where I am not able to get everyone gets something geared to their specialty but I try to not go more than two sessions without covering everyone.   That said, I had one adventure that spanned several weeks that was designed specifically to require a lot of sneaking and skullduggery. There were a lot of old Star Trek misquotes those sessions "**** it Jim, I'm a pilot, not a Bothan Spy"

Yes I agree. I try to do this as much as possible. I just noticed more 'gaps' in common tasks that I'm used to from other games. More of a challenge for the game master to put together encounters that have a satisfying role for most characters.

Our party has five people, two high Agility characters, both pilots, technicians, gunnery people. The other three are more Brawn or Willpower focused, with some melee, some force powers and some social stuff etc. into the mix. But no piloting, mechanical or gunnery skills to speak of and a range of 1 and 2's in the relevant abilities. In the typical roles available in space travel (and combat in particular): they (to say it bluntly) suck. With regards to social skills, there are differences, but they are small, so everyone participates. With close-quarters combat, the pilot/mechanic is a liability. A couple of stray shots from some minions that would only put perhaps just a scratch on the high-soak and defense melee people would put him down. 

Sometimes, when the skills and situation synergize, you have great play. But some of the more standard situations (and you see them in some published modules as well) the required mix of skills is not offered. At the start of play, the differences were there and small enough that one could stand in our take over from another PC, but as XP and skills grew and PCs become more specialized, the challenges we tackled become larger, the PCs could not longer stand in for each other. "No more, I'll hold them off for a couple of seconds while you use the stimpack on your buddy", no more "I'll just take the wheel of the speeder in this city chase while you try and patch the damage."

Social encounters still feel like a group effort with everybody can pitch in, even though with varying degrees of success, but some other challenges.... nope.

I have not had an effect this pronounced with some other RPGs that I have played.

We are trying to 'fix' the issue by acquiring a broader set of skills, but the game mechanics seem to tell us that investing XP into non-class skills and abilities with 1's or 2's is a waste of precious resources and the way to go is to hyper-specialize.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Aramur said:

At the start of play, the differences were there and small enough that one could stand in our take over from another PC, but as XP and skills grew and PCs become more specialized, the challenges we tackled become larger, the PCs could not longer stand in for each other. "No more, I'll hold them off for a couple of seconds while you use the stimpack on your buddy", no more "I'll just take the wheel of the speeder in this city chase while you try and patch the damage."

What do you mean "no more"?  If you're the GM, do you refused to present challenges that the PCs aren't able to double up on or can only apply a couple dice to?  If you're the player, do you refuse to do anything that you don't excel at?  That seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy.  How about hit them in the dump stat more often, or revel in that single green you're rolling to try and Coerce a guard.  Sometimes it actually works, and is much more satisfying when it does...

1 hour ago, Aramur said:

We are trying to 'fix' the issue by acquiring a broader set of skills, but the game mechanics seem to tell us that investing XP into non-class skills and abilities with 1's or 2's is a waste of precious resources and the way to go is to hyper-specialize.

It's true the game mechanics (RAW) make it cost more to branch out, but that exists so the GM has a way to prevent players from bouncing around from spec to spec and picking up all the cheap Grit (or whatever they're after).  There are other ways to skin that cat--offer discounts on spec costs, require a certain level of investment in a previous spec before taking a new one, etc-- but the simplest tool, and the one that requires the fewest pages in the rule book, is the XP cost.  So I'd say that you're misinterpreting what the game mechanics seem to tell you.  Think outside the box.  It's not a straightjacket, it's a toolkit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

OR everybody engages in ranged combat since it's often more effective at a lower investment of XP than all of the other options. Agility 2, no ranks of skill, and a Boost from an Aim maneuver can easily hit a Difficulty 1 target at Short range.

 

Hahaha.

 

Not with my GM. He rolls like a fiend. If I don't have 3 times as many dice as him, for ANY roll (combat task or non-combat) I don't even bother trying.

 

I'm starting to dislike the system and its floating target numbers. 

Edited by the mercenary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

OR everybody engages in ranged combat since it's often more effective at a lower investment of XP than all of the other options. Agility 2, no ranks of skill, and a Boost from an Aim maneuver can easily hit a Difficulty 1 target at Short range.

Yah, double Aim and the weapon/attachments available.  There's no complaining about not being able to hit in this system. You may not be a damage juggernaut, but you can easily add to a stack of crits on a tuff target or take advantage of them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, the mercenary said:

 

Hahaha.

 

Not with my GM. He rolls like a fiend. If I don't have 3 times as many dice as him, for ANY roll (combat task or non-combat) I don't even bother trying.

 

I'm starting to dislike the system and its floating target numbers. 

2 green dice and 1 blue die is three times 1 purple die. Anybody can hit at short range barring high-end defenses (including high ranks of Adversary).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

2 green dice and 1 blue die is three times 1 purple die. Anybody can hit at short range barring high-end defenses (including high ranks of Adversary).

I can't remember the last time I got to roll against one purple.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, the mercenary said:

I can't remember the last time I got to roll against one purple.

One purple is the standard difficulty for shooting at short range. Two purple is for medium range. Unless you houserule it, these don't change. Adversary and dodge upgrades to reds, defence adds setbacks. But that's mostly on rivals and nemesis. Minions are pretty much always easy to hit, it's what they're there for.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/17/2018 at 3:59 PM, Aramur said:

As XP levels rose, characters become more specialized and differences become more pronounced. What was an fairly easy task for a specialized character was often a difficult task for a non-specialized character and what was challenging to a specialized character was next to impossible for a non-specialized character. Non-specialized characters who tried to contribute often formed more of a liability. Unless the GM went out of his way to create an encounter with specific things to do for each of the character, you often had one or two characters who were basically  'sitting out an encounter'.

We are now at 400-500 XP, and I see a tendency back towards more generalization again as most are hitting their peaks on their areas of speciality.

Does anyone else experience this widening gap between the different characters that seem to put increasing demands on the GM to plug them?

The system, with its specific talent trees and increasing costs to switch between trees seems designed to provide characters a narrow focus and thus specialization. But in effect many encounters now creating a sense of being useless in a portion of the players.

The GM has a responsibility to create encounters that give different characters a way to shine but the Players also have a responsibility to play to the GM's version of the world. The GM should be setting up a wide variety of encounters with several ways to achieve results but if they are having difficulty because overspecialized PC's and those PC's are finding themselves less and less useful in more and more encounters the Players have to also be part of the solution. In a game like this where you get EXP after every session there really is no excuse for Players to complain that they don't have the right skill set to participate enough, all they have to do is spend some of that EXP on other Skills. 

Edited by FuriousGreg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, the mercenary said:

Not with my GM. He rolls like a fiend. If I don't have 3 times as many dice as him, for ANY roll (combat task or non-combat) I don't even bother trying.

 

I'm starting to dislike the system and its floating target numbers. 

You blame the target numbers, I blame shoddy dice manufacturing.  I haven't yet tested the entropy on mine, but I think I should.  When I use an online dice roller I knock it out of the park for my big-XP skill rolls, but as soon as I use dice, it's more often a brigade of failures.  I mean honestly, how can an Ace Pilot with 4 yellow dice to fly manage to bungle it at speed 1 every-stinkin-time?   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, FuriousGreg said:

The GM has a responsibility to create encounters that give different characters a way to shine but the Players also have a responsibility to play to the GM's version of the world. The GM should be setting up a wide variety of encounters with several ways to achieve results but if they are having difficulty because overspecialized PC's and those PC's are finding themselves less and less useful in more and more encounters the Players have to also be part of the solution. In a game like this where you get EXP after every session there really is no excuse for Players to complain that they don't have the right skill set to participate enough, all they have to do is spend some of that EXP on other Skills. 

 I absolutely agree with your first point - this is communal storytelling.  We get the gestalt when everyone participates.

The second point - PCs not finding a place in the story - is a little harder to quantify, as this one seems to be a failure in communication between GM and Player.  However, it's not uncommon for players to develop malaise over a character after some time, I know it happens to me despite my best intentions.  Communication solves this, or a break. 

The third point - anyone can try anything - is core to this system, and in my opinion a great reason we can have interesting PC groups. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay to set the situation.

1) The PC's that I'm GMing for are about 1,000 - 1,200 Exp.

2) The skills disparity is pretty dramatic between the PC's.  We have one PC who will drop any opponent at any range with any long arm.  If there's a gun fight, then that character will dominate.  Another PC is a brawler and can do . . . 'okay' in a gunfight, but if they get their furry mitts on you, game over!  We've had a recent change, but the third PC was a lightsaber wielding Jedi rube who did a cuisin-art through a Stormtrooper battalion recently. (It was beautiful).

And in reading all of the lovely advice, I do NONE OF IT!

I don't care about "balance."  I don't even try to achieve balance in the encounters.

I focus on the story.

I assign missions and then sit back and watch the players try to puzzle out the problems. 

I do some pre-planning and figure out what puzzle pieces are on the board, but I don't even try to anticipate how the PC's are going to 'preposition' the obstacles.

 

Now to approach this from a different angle.  When I got started as a GM, I understood that the FFG rules were flawed.  (Not tremendously so.  There are some really good features to FFG Star Wars).  I made a couple of adjustments by 'nerfing' stimpaks and 'nerfing' soak.  The resultant effect is that the PC's are glass cannons.  They can dish out impressive amounts of damage upon any unwary opponent, but if they don't take care of themselves, they can be taken down in a big fight.  And as a GM I've already proven that fact to each PC . . .  (Except for the new guy.  But he just joined last night).  It's still hard to kill a PC and I'm okay with that.

 

And now for the final answer.  I began to worry about this issue, but I realized that I should let my PC's shine and not worry about them taking a spotlight occasionally.  I also need to focus on allowing the players to participate in an engaging story.  So rather than trying to fight for "Balance" I'm focusing on setting a scene, immersing the PC's into an environment and letting them have fun exploring.  I'll try to introduce them to unique NPC's and make even the common encounters colorful and memorable.

 

And for my weekly example.  Last night the group found themselves in an interesting pickle.  One of the PC's was a former member of the Black Sun with a sizable bounty and that PC turned themselves in.  I was sidetracked by this and had to do a lot of tap dancing, but the PC's figured out pretty quick that the recalcitrant Black Sun member was wanted dead and that fighting would make everyone DEAD.   They couldn't fight their way out of this one!  Too bad they hadn't put together an elaborate "Skywalkers Six" plan before going in . . .:wacko:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, themensch said:

The second point - PCs not finding a place in the story - is a little harder to quantify, as this one seems to be a failure in communication between GM and Player.  However, it's not uncommon for players to develop malaise over a character after some time, I know it happens to me despite my best intentions.  Communication solves this, or a break. 

I dunno... by the time a party has reached the 4-500Exp mark you should have a pretty good idea of the way the GM is building encounters. If you have chosen to overspecialize in one aspect to the point that you are finding yourself with nothing to do enough of the time that it becomes an issue, well that's on you. The GM can only do so much and they can't build your character for you.

From what the OP has said in their initial and follow up posts it seems that all the Players have overspecialized and are kibitzing at the table to guarantee only the best at a certain type of skill set is going to act when encountering those tasks. They don't role play it naturally as the scene develops but roll play it for maximum effect. The Combat Monsters handle combat and very little else so they generally sit around when anything but combat is going on. The Slicer always pushes ahead in line to do anything and everything related to computers and such. The Face, the Engineer, the Medic, the Pilot all do their one thing well and essentially nothing else and so they are always chosen to do whatever they're best at. So of course half the party are going to get stuck sitting around when anything other than their specific specialty is needed. This isn't a GM problem, it isn't even really a PC problem so much as it's a Player problem. The Players are choosing to sideline their own characters by allowing only the best at a task to do that task regardless of the role playing element. The only things a GM can do is nudge the situation in such a way as to remove the specialized PC from being able to do every task and forcing other, less skilled PCs to attempt it, or split the task up so they can't do it all. This can work sometimes but after a while it's just going to get annoying and Players may feel like they are getting shafted because they're too good.

In my opinion this problem is because Players forget RPG's aren't about winning, they're about having fun and often the most fun comes not from succeeding all the time but failing and having to clean up the mess. 

Try this: the next time a Player comes up with an idea that their PC isn't specialized for instead of saying out of character "hey Bob your PC is the best at - insert skill here - you should go do the thing" have that Player's PC actually have to communicate that in-game. This sounds like a little thing and for a lot of situations it'll be meaningless but if those PC's are in combat and not right next to each other, or are in the middle of negotiating, or sneaking around, having to actually tell another character to do something can be really problematic. It may even be impossible or could screw things up really badly if an NPC knows what you are trying to do, so much so it might be safer to just have the mediocre guy do it...  And don't wait for the GM to impose this "rule" on you do it yourself and encourage everyone else to do it as well. I run my games this way and it has always worked out to be more fun for all involved.

 

Edited by FuriousGreg
Some grammar...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
50 minutes ago, FuriousGreg said:

 

In my opinion this problem is because Players forget RPG's aren't about winning, they're about having fun and often the most fun comes not from succeeding all the time but failing and having to clean up the mess. 
 

 

Excellent. Failure is interesting. I am usually bored when it's a game about how we did what we wanted successfully and it went exactly to plan.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Archlyte said:

Excellent. Failure is interesting. I am usually bored when it's a game about how we did what we wanted successfully and it went exactly to plan.  

OTOH, Shadowrun unfortunately taught many players of my generation that all plans will go down in flames, so don't bother with planning and just shoot from the hip (not that this was necessarily successful, but the consequences were really no worse than failing after spending hours on planning). There needs to be a middle ground between the two.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, themensch said:

You blame the target numbers, I blame shoddy dice manufacturing.  I haven't yet tested the entropy on mine, but I think I should.  When I use an online dice roller I knock it out of the park for my big-XP skill rolls, but as soon as I use dice, it's more often a brigade of failures.  I mean honestly, how can an Ace Pilot with 4 yellow dice to fly manage to bungle it at speed 1 every-stinkin-time?   

I hadn't *seriously* considered that. Everyone who's gamed has joked about crappy dice but I haven't given any thought to the possibility of there actually being an issue with the dice.

 

Maybe I'll see if my GM will let me use an app next time we game. I'd sure like to be able to succeed against three purples one of these days, WITHOUT having to have four yellow, a green, and four blue (and even then *barely* succeeding, IF at all).

 

Quoting numerous other posts is a pain on my phone, especially when the part I want to quote is within a bunch of other text. Someone else basically said don't worry about it, come up with a good story and let the players/characters worry about it. I agree with this. When I GM, regardless of system, I put stuff (numerous and type of opponents, security measures, traps, whatever) in front of the PC's that makes sense within the context of the story, not something that meets a formula for a balanced encounter.

 

For example, I was GMing Twilight: 2013 about 7 years ago, and at one point the PCs were faced with several platoons of Russian infantry and a couple BMP's. They didn't have to fight *ANY* of them if they didn't want to, they certainly didn't have to fight the entire group, but the opponents were there because of the story. The heaviest weapon the group had was a SMAW, IIRC, with an M203 being the second heaviest. They ended up engaging the Russians a few at a time, destroying one BMP and getting a mobility kill on another, slowing the enemy's advance before withdrawing. I think two of the four player characters got slight wounds out of it (good luck), and an NPC with them died of a head shot (bad luck). The group had a heck of a story for a while, until it was replaced with others. And if I'd given that scenario, or pretty much ANY scenario I come up with, to the Encounter Balance Formula Wizards from D&D or Pathfinder, they'd lose their minds.

 

I would add to not tailor things to a specific character too much, because if that player is absent or their character is unconscious or whatever, the group is hosed. We've had that happen a time or two because the only character that has even a decent amount of social skills had to work. When I GM I try to always have two or three ways for the group to accomplish something. Try. Sometimes I do better at that than other times.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, FuriousGreg said:

 The GM can only do so much and they can't build your character for you.

Well, I'll recall a recent game in which I played a face character in a D&D game that was practically worthless in an environment filled with undead.  Of course that is my problem and my build but I also chose to play in a more structured environment where it's not easy for the GM to adapt to my character despite his great skill.  So I feel like this isn't something everyone can solve all the time.  I would never ask to change the "officially sanctioned adventure" that the rest of the party is suited to.  At the end of the day I realize this is primarily my fault, a little of the GM's fault, and considerably WOTC's fault. 

For me though, I don't have that problem in this system, running or playing.  I am not constrained by any leagues.  My problem is that my dice are imbued with the Dark Side. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, the mercenary said:

I hadn't *seriously* considered that. Everyone who's gamed has joked about crappy dice but I haven't given any thought to the possibility of there actually being an issue with the dice.

I'm no statistician but there's a lot of fud out there surrounding these tests.  Some claim it's of no significance, others claim it is.  I only have my own experiences to go off and I'm inclined to suspect something is up, but I can't prove it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, Mark Caliber said:

I don't care about "balance."  I don't even try to achieve balance in the encounters.

I focus on the story.

I assign missions and then sit back and watch the players try to puzzle out the problems.

I think overall this is a solid plan and I do similarly at the onset, but how do you deal with players flailing due to option paralysis or over-analysis?  How do you provide opportunities for the 100-XP character that's just joined a group of 400XP characters?  It's all well and good to create something static and "let them figure it out" but I find that sometimes PCs need a leg up, so that's where this sort of refinement comes into play. 

I think everything we do should be focused on the story with the ultimate goal of table enjoyment, I think that's everyone's intention and we all get there different ways. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, themensch said:

I think overall this is a solid plan and I do similarly at the onset, but how do you deal with players flailing due to option paralysis or over-analysis?  How do you provide opportunities for the 100-XP character that's just joined a group of 400XP characters?  It's all well and good to create something static and "let them figure it out" but I find that sometimes PCs need a leg up, so that's where this sort of refinement comes into play. 

I think everything we do should be focused on the story with the ultimate goal of table enjoyment, I think that's everyone's intention and we all get there different ways. 

Okay let me address a couple of these questions sequentially:

Q) How do I handle Option Paralysis?

Answer: Poorly.  I have a tendency to let the players squirm.  I will also try to puzzle the issue out and if I can make a useful suggestion via one of the NPC's, I'll eventually do an in character comment or suggestion.

Q) How do I provide opportunities for the "100 XP" character that just joined the group of 400 XP characters?

Answer: HappyDaze pointed out correctly that there is a flaw with starting characters for FFG Star Wars in that there isn't enough to distinguish or differentiate the "starting" characters for FFG.  SO, we started our campaign but stating out starting characters with an emphasis and focus on the Characteristics.  After that, each player was given an additional 350 Exp to spend on talent trees, skills, and talents that cost less than 20 exp.  So our basic "starting" characters are starting at 450+ Exp.

We did have a new player join our group and while he has the same basic instructions that I just outlined, he's also being given +800 Exp so he's going to start playing with only a 100 - 300 exp deficiency.  So he's not going to be that far behind everyone else.  I also have a tendency to award additional experience for characters who spend time on Jedi Training for specific Jedi powers & talents.  If this character takes the training seriously, then he will also catch up pretty quickly.

Other than that, I let the players sort out the disparity.  As an example, if the Tank gets to the door and finds that it's locked, they'll bellow out to the slicer to come and take care of the door, only to be told by another player that the slicer 'just went down' who is now calling for the healer, but that player just quit so will a stimpak work?  And btw, that's when I point out that the Storm Trooper's reinforcements have just arrived . . . 

Q) How do I handle the players set in a static environment?

Answer: My campaign isn't static, but a dynamic environment.  The actions of the PC's have consequences, both good and bad.  And the Players have appreciated going back to some of their previous worlds and seeing how their actions have altered the terrain.  Certain NPC's treat the characters differently based on previous interactions.

And some of those "puzzle pieces" that I set up are mobs.  (Mobile Elements).  For instance (and no spoilers), the PC's took a side trip which delayed their current mission by about 4 days.  This 'delay' will have some deleterious alterations to the plot . . .   :o

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...