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How do you do with character skill imbalance?

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5 minutes ago, Mark Caliber said:

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

Thanks for your answers - I only have one remaining comment/question: when I mentioned a static environment, I should have been more precise - I was referring to your static challenges that you set in front of players to watch them squirm.   That was my confusion - you don't change things to better suit the story and the success of the PCs? 

 

My apologies for the confusion, it was early for me!   I'm a firm believer in a gaming world being a living thing. 

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How do I handle static challenges?

Hmmmm.

One piece of GMing advice that I heard decades ago has helped a lot.  

Quote

Before you add an obstacle or a trap, try to determine two reasonable ways that YOU could overcome that obstacle.  If you can't come up with two, don't use it.  And then expect the PC's to come up with a third method to overcome the issue.

So that helps me keep from inserting impossible road blocks.

And as I've already pointed out, I'm dealing with some highly capable PC's so they can overcome quite a bit so I don't mind putting in some pretty difficult obstacles or opponents.

 

In general I won't change a challenge mid game.

As one example, the PC's were sent on a procurement mission to pick up a bunch of Astromech droids, and the planet they were on was overrun by homicidal battle droids.  They had just discovered the location of the supplies and began the loading operations when a swarm of battle droids began a persistent attack.

Mechanically, I informed them that an endless column of battle droids were approaching and I had six new droids enter the far side of the combat map each turn.

Meanwhile the PC's (and allied NPC's) had twenty containers to load up onto two ships, and they HAD to make sure they didn't try to overload either of the ships.  (IIRC one of the ships had a capacity of holding 10 containers and the other capped at 14).

So the operation was a balance of committing assets to combat and loading.  They could take as much time as they wanted, but that would mean facing more droids.

I did not modify the challenge one bit for this encounter and it was a very close battle.  The droids were able to advance to the ships at least once and were on the verge of overrunning the entire group at the end.

The X-Wing flying CAS ran out of Torpedoes, but it's salvos had been quite effective at giving the ground team sufficient breathing room.  But in the end it's laser canon's weren't able to take out enough ground troops.

One of the gunners spent most of the time blasting droids with the linked medium laser cannons on one of the ships.

And at the very last, those PC's and NPC's who weren't down were dragging their buddies onto the ships, as the pilots launched just as that next wave of droids rushed for the hatches.

Epic.

The PC's had spent about three sessions on this world and the robots were beating them back at almost every turn and they only but narrowly escaped three major conflicts.  PC's wounds were common and the medic was only barely able to keep everyone on their feet.  They were poisoned, beaten, blasted, and back-stabbed.  Important NPC's were killed and valuable assets were lost.

The Players will NEVER willingly go back to that world!  :ph34r:

However, the problem still exists and that world is the best source for Astromech droids . . . something in short supply for the fledgling Rebellion  ^_^.

 

And last session I had to "downgrade" the threat.   Logic dictated that the sole PC was slated to die and in order to keep the story moving forward I allowed their desperate ploy to "work."   ;)  More on later (possibly).

 

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3 hours ago, themensch said:

Thanks for your answers - I only have one remaining comment/question: when I mentioned a static environment, I should have been more precise - I was referring to your static challenges that you set in front of players to watch them squirm.   That was my confusion - you don't change things to better suit the story and the success of the PCs? 

I think there's two forces at work here: the desire to scale difficulty so that everything isn't a cakewalk, and also the desire for XP to actually mean something. 

If you want your skill advancement to matter, then you'll want some jobs to become easier as your characters advance. The stronger I get, the easier the same rope is to climb. However, also the stronger I get, the more difficult stuff I can do. So that is where scaling comes in.

You don't want to make it so that the same stormtroopers that you players fight over and over just keep getting tougher, with higher wound thresholds and better armor—if you do, then XP is meaningless. But you can throw way more stormtroopers at them, or stormtroopers kitted out with E-Webs, when they attain higher levels. Now it's exciting, because your players can look back and say, "Man, when we started several months back, that encounter would have wiped us out!"

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35 minutes ago, awayputurwpn said:

I think there's two forces at work here: the desire to scale difficulty so that everything isn't a cakewalk, and also the desire for XP to actually mean something. 

If you want your skill advancement to matter, then you'll want some jobs to become easier as your characters advance. The stronger I get, the easier the same rope is to climb. However, also the stronger I get, the more difficult stuff I can do. So that is where scaling comes in.

You don't want to make it so that the same stormtroopers that you players fight over and over just keep getting tougher, with higher wound thresholds and better armor—if you do, then XP is meaningless. But you can throw way more stormtroopers at them, or stormtroopers kitted out with E-Webs, when they attain higher levels. Now it's exciting, because your players can look back and say, "Man, when we started several months back, that encounter would have wiped us out!"

I agree with your assessment and I've often wondered after the latter point about making the same complications more difficult as characters increase in skill - to me that seems like a no-no, for the same reason you state.  I've opted to do as you suggest and increase the count of minion groups (for real fun, give them Adversary) and all of a sudden, a squad of 8 stormtroopers it a threat again. 

 

In order to combat the ever-creeping escalation of difficulty, I try not to frame the challenge from a variable point of view -- e.g. "This would be easy for the slicer but hard for you" -- because that defies the very nature of the dice mechanic.  Instead, I like to add additional challenges in the form of timers and environmental factors. 

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I think that's one thing that I did right.

My stormtroopers haven't changed any.  Certain units are "smarter" and are using smarter tactics, but for the most part, most of these kids still can't hit the broad side of a barn, but if the battle goes long enough and if the troopers get enough flanking attacks, PC's start to suffer.

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I mean i think the thing is if your dealing with combat oriented characters at high xp, well... You should be giving them plenty of cannon fodder to go through. The certainly have invested in it.

At high xp, serious arch-enemies should be used, much bigger groups of storm troopers can be used, but don't just scale things up for artificial reasons, the local Cantina security is generally not gonna have a squad or two of storm troopers at their beck and call.

Hopefully the story itself and the progress of their character arc's should be propelling them towards more risky and dangerous goals. To be more daring.

This gives the reasoning for bigger bads, better minions or even whole armies.

I'm hoping the high xp jedi master campaign I'm in is able to establish what ridiculous xp levels need in challenges to keep them interesting. My charcter in particular is a defensive monster, I'm looking forward to fighting small armies.

 

Edited by TheShard

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1 hour ago, Richardbuxton said:

Haven’t read the thread, sorry, but my answer is to split the party. In this system, with the way initiative and movement works, it’s really easy to have 5 characters doing 5 different things in 5 completely different places.

It's doable, but not necessarily easy. Splitting the party isn't a suicidal option here like it is in D&D or Pathfinder, but it does create a lot of work for the GM and it tends to create some dead time at the table for some players (it's hard to come up with five equally engaging simultaneous encounters, and even harder to run them all well).

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5 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

It's doable, but not necessarily easy. Splitting the party isn't a suicidal option here like it is in D&D or Pathfinder, but it does create a lot of work for the GM and it tends to create some dead time at the table for some players (it's hard to come up with five equally engaging simultaneous encounters, and even harder to run them all well).

True that it’s hard, or at least harder, but for me it’s mostly because it’s different. The thing that I find hardest about it is having reason for the players actions to be interconnected. For example placing things so that when the face distracts the guards the sneak can benefit and get into the building.

Allowing players the freedom to come up with spontaneous ideas and running with them is key, not getting tied down in forcing the group to all stand next to each other. You also need to be confident in assigning difficulties and presenting NPC’s off the cuff.

So a lot of it comes down to the approach the players take, if they have the d&d attitude of “must stick together, must complement each other, the party can not have a weakness” then it will never work.

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2 minutes ago, Richardbuxton said:

True that it’s hard, or at least harder, but for me it’s mostly because it’s different. The thing that I find hardest about it is having reason for the players actions to be interconnected. For example placing things so that when the face distracts the guards the sneak can benefit and get into the building.

Allowing players the freedom to come up with spontaneous ideas and running with them is key, not getting tied down in forcing the group to all stand next to each other. You also need to be confident in assigning difficulties and presenting NPC’s off the cuff.

So a lot of it comes down to the approach the players take, if they have the d&d attitude of “must stick together, must complement each other, the party can not have a weakness” then it will never work.

I've had a lot of success with the group splitting into pairs and trios, but I think I'd be adverse to running a group with a bunch of people each going off on their own.

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32 minutes ago, Daeglan said:

Split the party. Have the killy characters have to negotiate and have the talky characters have to deal with combat. Basically hit them in the dump stats every so often so they need to diversify a little.

I generally prefer to let the party split itself. That way when they get into a bind because of it they have only themselves to blame.

Your version sounds more antagonistic to me, but that may not be what you meant.

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3 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

I generally prefer to let the party split itself. That way when they get into a bind because of it they have only themselves to blame.

Your version sounds more antagonistic to me, but that may not be what you meant.

And if you’re hitting them in the dump stat then the players will be more inclined to stick together in the future, thus getting back to the original problem. Much better if they’re default is to want to split because they know you won’t screw then over immediately.

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1 minute ago, Richardbuxton said:

A really important tool to use is having encounters where combat isn’t actually the solution. Perhaps the fighters need to keep an enemy at bay whilst the others do the actual important task, delivering a package before the guards can alert authorities for example 

I've noticed that when I run Edge games, combat happens but is rarely the point of an encounter. When I run Age games, dedicated combat encounters are pretty common. I only ran FaD in playtest, so just about every encounter was combat to some degree.

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I've seen this issue come up a few times in other discussions and it seems like it is usually described as a phenomenon associated with high skill numbers vs. static challenges. The larger the number of dice the more normalized the results will be according to the FFG guys, which I took to mean that the more dice you add to the pool the more toward the middle the results tend to be. That was supposed to be the check on the advancing number of positive dice used in the course of the progression scale as I understand it. The more dice were added on both sides of the pool the more the result would tend toward the middle so having a ton of skill would not be super powerful as long as the difficulty challenge and setback went up as well. 

I don't like balancing combats and checks to the characters, but I think I hate facerolled stuff even more. My suggestion earlier in the thread was to take one of the factors in this, namely expected rapid and linear progression, and alter that to be slower and more random. But most people cannot handle the idea of retarding the progression of this game because it is built on the future plans for the progression of the characters. Given that there is no appetite for slowing the progression juggernaut, the problem is how do you provide a challenge for overblown skills that the character has at max levels because the player was shooting for having tasks challenge largely removed.

PLAYER = wants to have challenges ever reduced by Characteristics, Skills, Talents, Powers, and Equipment.

SYSTEM = wants to have challenges ever reduced by Characteristics, Skills, Talents, Powers, and Equipment. Supplies difficulty upgrades but still promotes progression as a main tenet of Playing a Character. 

GM = Wants to present challenges that the Players will find fun by the players having a sense of accomplishment when they defeat or overcome a challenge. As players defeat more and more things without significant resistance the risk of satisfaction nosediving increases. The players will soon see that challenges are not actually challenges. The Gm then tunes enemies to have the same capabilities as the Player Characters, balancing the pool. Players see this new challenge and respond by using the FFG-endorsed Player Prime Motivation: Progression through the Trees.

the power treadmill loop is perpetuated

Some people have advocated just varying the challenges to hit Dump Stats or lesser skills, and to split the party up. I feel that these are great solutions, but they do not address the underlying cause. Having them do other things simply gets them to spread XP to other skills bringing those up as well, effectively slowing XP into the favored build skills for the character. Slowing the progression will extend the duration of challenges, but eventually the character will get to the point of reducing challenges to easy actions. 

XP feeds Progression, Progression leads to lack of challenge, Lack of Challenge kills the Tension provided by risk of defeat or death. 

Obviously no one is going to change the way XP works in the game, but my point is just that it is a powerful force that should be handled purposefully. I'm going to use the Uncle Ben line and say that with great XP comes great responsibility.

Playing the game like a pure game is also another cause here because approaching an RPG like a typical win-condition game leads to using everything you have every time in the pursuit of the win. For some people that style of play may be your thing and the whole reason you like the game, and if so then it's going to be about Player and GM having a referee and player relationship with the dice as the deciding factor. But if it's to be a role-playing game where story and characters are just as important as winning, the maybe players shouldn't do something repeatedly and every time just because they can. I think if you have 4Y 1G in Ranged(Heavy) it's kind of going to happen that you are gonna shoot like a demon, but every player who isn't 10 years old knows when it is gratuitous and getting old. 

 

 

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