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Kaiju

A tiny change for fire stance to solve a (perceived?) problem

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Hi,

After a lot of play with the rules as written, there is just one minor thing that comes up in fights a lot, that I consider fixing: TN stacking has no real counterplay, leading to REALLY random results.

What I mean is the following: Even a mediocre bandit, sitting in obscuring terrain, in air stance, using the tinbe-roche combination, is TN 5 to hit. Worse if the bandit commander used Slippery Maneuvers, or they guard themselves, but lets just go with a normal situation. 

Unfortunately, there is no real tactical counterplay in the stance system for this: Fire is useless because it doesnt do anything until you hit. Earth and Air just try to outlast him. Water only reduces armor. Void helps a little bit with the obscuring terrain thing, so its the closest to counterplay, but most characters have low Void.

So I thought, what if I allow Fire to have the same ability as Water, just with TN reduction instead of armor reduction. This would create a system of counterplay: Earth countered by Water, Air countered by Fire, both offensive stances are good for a specific type of defense but worse against the other. Fire needing to keep opportunities, given how there is only ONE side of the black die, and none of the white that combines opportunity with strife means they now face a painful chance - in order to hit better, they will hit substantially weaker (in fact, mathematically, fire stance opportunities would still be worse than water stance), Void keeps its niche as being more efficient (needs just 1 Opportunity and doesnt cause strife) in certain cases and a bit of a wild card, and there is more incentive to use the fire stance if you are not totally built for it.

On the flip side, as it is now, we often end up in situations where 80% of the time nothing happens, and 20% of the time the high TN gets hit by the fire stance, and just annihilated. As a GM, these results are extremely dangerous to cause unintended PC kills, and difficult to balance. 

TLDR: Fire stance gets 1+ Opportunity spend: Reduce the target TN to hit by 1 per Opportunity spent, to a minimum of 1.

Thoughts?

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Why not.

There are hundred of opportunities examples or techniques to avoid terrain, or give you a better chance to succeed the next round, or what ever other tricks. There are multiple ways to counter a high TN to hit situation.

The problem is, it is extremely tedious to remember and manage. And ultimately simply not fun as you feel like "gaming the options". The game is badly designed...

So yeah, just do as you feel. As long as you and your player "understand" how you play, it is all good. You want to put high TNs, you want to create that rule to avoid those high TNs, you think it is fun? (Btw, no, it is not fun). Then do it. What you are basically doing is creating yet another option to reduce the TN, but better than the others, and the standard go to for your players instead of them breaking their head flipping through pages of bull to find the right "way" to game the system.

This is a case of; fight garbage with garbage. You simplify the game by making one way to spend opportunity the decisive counter to a lot of situations instead of playing as intended with hundreds of mechanicaly impactful options hidden all over the place.

All good.

Edited by Avatar111

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Observations:

  • What you've said is correct, however:
    • Using a sword-and-board combination defensively is usually a support action, which (in air stance) means you're not also stabbing anyone.
    • Being in obscuring terrain means you're not approaching your opponent.
    • By that logic, the bandit is stood still, hiding behind a shield, in a defensive stance. The odds of hitting them are minimal but that's because they're basically doing nothing other than avoiding being hit.
    • If your opponent has an invulnerable defensive position, let them stay there.
    • If the bandit wants to advance and attack, they probably forfeit their TN bonus for obscuring terrain, and either the TN bonus for air stance or the TN bonus for the shield (they could use the Tinbe-Rochin and still Strike in Water stance since it's movement/support and doesn't require a check).
  • I disagree there are some counter-play options already
    • Assistance and Seize The Moment both allow a PC to exceed the normal limits of their ring rank by some margin. Against an opponent in a defensive position, one player supporting another's attack is far more effective than two players attacking separately (this is especially true in mass battles, where a fortification can essentially wipe out the actual effect of a successful check, or against an armoured opponent whose resistance does much the same)
    • Void 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343 aren't just for ignoring terrain qualities. Reducing the TN of your next check is a default use of a Void 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343. Yes, it doesn't work on 'this' strike but if your opponent is just hunkering down, then planning for next turn is quite feasible (you could do a guard action in void stance, since that's a low TN check, to protect yourself whilst you search for a weak spot in your opponent's defences)
    • Not every useful thing you can do requires you to succeed at the check. Rushing Avalanche and Spinning Blades kata both let you cause damage by spending 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343 even if the check itself failed. Granted they're techniques not everyone has, but that's two examples off the top of my head*.
  • I would say there's always a huge incentive to use fire stance. It's actually most tempting if you have a decent fire stance but are unskilled in the conflict skill, since ring dice are heavy on strife results. It goes a long way to making every bit of paint rolled useful to you.
    • I'd say there is counterplay between the stances, but it's actually that air is the counter to fire rather than the other way around.
      • Earth is immune to conditions and criticals mid-fight (techniques and weird edge cases aside). Fire stance naturally generates many bonus successes meaning it does a lot of damage, and instead wins by incapacitating quickly, making it a counter to Earth
      • Air is a good counter to fire because (as you noted) whilst Fire generates many bonus successes they don't help you 'hit' in the first place.
      • The other rings aren't as obviously paired up, but Water is often a good counter to a defensive stance (air) by playing range-dancing games with polearms - you are hard to hit, but you don't get to attack me back at all. And so on.

 

Also TL:DR

My biggest problem is that an unrestricted "1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343: Reduce the TN" is massively better than any other opportunity, as @Avatar111 said.

Because it doesn't just reduce the TN to make it easier to hit; reducing the TN with the same number of 792424631_SuccessSmall.png.f580b7641c8c8, 1521230551_ExplosiveSuccessSmall.png.2cc (and 1518491343_StrifeSmall.png.6434e11e967f0 in fire stance) means you have more bonus successes. Which directly translates to more damage (effectively increasing damage) and therefore to an effective reduction in the target's resistance (since the amount of excess damage and hence fatigue they suffer when defending also increases). So you're basically giving Fire Stance the same ability as Water stance but making it even better.

Given that Fire Stance is already one of the most powerful skirmish stances - since, unless you must win a fight by a critical strike for some reason (normally a formal duel or an opponent with the Sustaining Fury ability), it's the stance which generates the most damage.

 

 

 

 

 

* Checking the books:

  • quite a few schools have abilities which spontaneously reduce the TN of conflict checks (Mirumoto, Isawa, Iuchi, Shinjo)
  • Soaring slice also lets you spend 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343 to reduce the TN of your next attack; throwing a free-to-draw knife with no particular confidence of scoring a hit basically allows you to use Bronn's throw-a-knife-on-the-charge-to-force-your-opponent-off-balance trick from the Battle of the Goldroad in Game of Thrones.
  • Fire invocations already have a one-use 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343 to reduce the TN of your next attack in the next turn at the target by 1
  • Feigned Opening can reduce the TN to hit a whole chunk of opponents if you roll well enough.
  • Blessing of Steel reduces the TN of the next check with the blessed weapon.
  • The Damned and Witch-Hunter title abilities reduces the TN of all martial arts checks targeting tainted opponents (not relevant for the bandit but awesome against relevant opponents). The Kuni Purifier's ability to spontaneously turn 1518491343_StrifeSmall.png.6434e11e967f0 into 792424631_SuccessSmall.png.f580b7641c8c8 in the same situation is awesome-but-niche as well.

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31 minutes ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Observations:

  • What you've said is correct, however:
    • Using a sword-and-board combination defensively is usually a support action, which (in air stance) means you're not also stabbing anyone.
    • Being in obscuring terrain means you're not approaching your opponent.
    • By that logic, the bandit is stood still, hiding behind a shield, in a defensive stance. The odds of hitting them are minimal but that's because they're basically doing nothing other than avoiding being hit.
    • If your opponent has an invulnerable defensive position, let them stay there.
    • If the bandit wants to advance and attack, they probably forfeit their TN bonus for obscuring terrain, and either the TN bonus for air stance or the TN bonus for the shield (they could use the Tinbe-Rochin and still Strike in Water stance since it's movement/support and doesn't require a check).
  • I disagree there are some counter-play options already
    • Assistance and Seize The Moment both allow a PC to exceed the normal limits of their ring rank by some margin. Against an opponent in a defensive position, one player supporting another's attack is far more effective than two players attacking separately (this is especially true in mass battles, where a fortification can essentially wipe out the actual effect of a successful check, or against an armoured opponent whose resistance does much the same)
    • Void 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343 aren't just for ignoring terrain qualities. Reducing the TN of your next check is a default use of a Void 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343. Yes, it doesn't work on 'this' strike but if your opponent is just hunkering down, then planning for next turn is quite feasible (you could do a guard action in void stance, since that's a low TN check, to protect yourself whilst you search for a weak spot in your opponent's defences)
    • Not every useful thing you can do requires you to succeed at the check. Rushing Avalanche and Spinning Blades kata both let you cause damage by spending 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343 even if the check itself failed. Granted they're techniques not everyone has, but that's two examples off the top of my head*.
  • I would say there's always a huge incentive to use fire stance. It's actually most tempting if you have a decent fire stance but are unskilled in the conflict skill, since ring dice are heavy on strife results. It goes a long way to making every bit of paint rolled useful to you.
    • I'd say there is counterplay between the stances, but it's actually that air is the counter to fire rather than the other way around.
      • Earth is immune to conditions and criticals mid-fight (techniques and weird edge cases aside). Fire stance naturally generates many bonus successes meaning it does a lot of damage, and instead wins by incapacitating quickly, making it a counter to Earth
      • Air is a good counter to fire because (as you noted) whilst Fire generates many bonus successes they don't help you 'hit' in the first place.
      • The other rings aren't as obviously paired up, but Water is often a good counter to a defensive stance (air) by playing range-dancing games with polearms - you are hard to hit, but you don't get to attack me back at all. And so on.

 

Also TL:DR

My biggest problem is that an unrestricted "1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343: Reduce the TN" is massively better than any other opportunity, as @Avatar111 said.

Because it doesn't just reduce the TN to make it easier to hit; reducing the TN with the same number of 792424631_SuccessSmall.png.f580b7641c8c8, 1521230551_ExplosiveSuccessSmall.png.2cc (and 1518491343_StrifeSmall.png.6434e11e967f0 in fire stance) means you have more bonus successes. Which directly translates to more damage (effectively increasing damage) and therefore to an effective reduction in the target's resistance (since the amount of excess damage and hence fatigue they suffer when defending also increases). So you're basically giving Fire Stance the same ability as Water stance but making it even better.

Given that Fire Stance is already one of the most powerful skirmish stances - since, unless you must win a fight by a critical strike for some reason (normally a formal duel or an opponent with the Sustaining Fury ability), it's the stance which generates the most damage.

 

 

 

 

 

* Checking the books:

  • quite a few schools have abilities which spontaneously reduce the TN of conflict checks (Mirumoto, Isawa, Iuchi, Shinjo)
  • Soaring slice also lets you spend 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343 to reduce the TN of your next attack; throwing a free-to-draw knife with no particular confidence of scoring a hit basically allows you to use Bronn's throw-a-knife-on-the-charge-to-force-your-opponent-off-balance trick from the Battle of the Goldroad in Game of Thrones.
  • Fire invocations already have a one-use 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343 to reduce the TN of your next attack in the next turn at the target by 1
  • Feigned Opening can reduce the TN to hit a whole chunk of opponents if you roll well enough.
  • Blessing of Steel reduces the TN of the next check with the blessed weapon.
  • The Damned and Witch-Hunter title abilities reduces the TN of all martial arts checks targeting tainted opponents (not relevant for the bandit but awesome against relevant opponents). The Kuni Purifier's ability to spontaneously turn 1518491343_StrifeSmall.png.6434e11e967f0 into 792424631_SuccessSmall.png.f580b7641c8c8 in the same situation is awesome-but-niche as well.

All of that is not very obvious at most tables... Stuff that is hidden in all kinds of cracks. 

I'm not sure your players are figuring all of this out in the spur of the moment. It's too much. All that mechanical shenanigan tactically bloated strategy doesn't make for a fun ttrpg, unfortunately.

As a GM, just don't put the TN that high...
Let your players chill and roll dices and have fun. +1tn for air stance, +1 for terrain if you feel nasty... but thats it. Do not start to use shields and fire opportunity +1 tn if the player doesn't hit your minion or what not. The game becomes a total mess (which it borderline is even without that much toying with the rules).

Abusing the system on the players to force them to game the bloated system is just not fun, I can tell you that much from my experience with the game. Players generally want to have fun and make cool stuff, they do not want to think 5 minutes in the middle of their turn how to bypass some kind clunky mechanic by trying to figure out all the cheesy combos and opportunity spendings in the multiple tables they can use to beat your "encounter".

Edit: while I totally respect your intention in teaching the solutions, it is very hard to implement during the game. Especially if most of your players didn't read the corebook multiple times over. The reality of most gaming table is that the average player knows the basic rules and that's about it. The GM could start to "help" the players like; "well you can use this void opportunity and the other player can assist you and your chances would be better." I'm still very uncertain it is fun unless all your players are very hardcore "gamers".

My players sure are not as versed in the many intricacies of the game. Which end up to be frustrating for them if I start to use such tactics against them. I had slightly better, and more fun moments, by simply avoiding such stuff at least until they start to figure out these "options" to game the system and use them regularly. Which, after 10 some sessions is still not the case...

Edited by Avatar111

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23 hours ago, Avatar111 said:

I'm not sure your players are figuring all of this out in the spur of the moment. It's too much.

Knowing specific techniques and tactics, yes. Though I'd expect a PC to know the effects of the four or five techniques their character actually has. Besides which, it's not like you're buying techniques you don't know on the fly mid-skirmish (with the possible exception of Shujenga).

 

I kind of went off down a rabbit-hole, frankly. Yes, you can - as the GM - avoid putting the TN that high by not doing that stuff. But equally, what I was (initially) trying to say is that even if you don't have a school ability or technique or whatever to throw; the three core ways the system has for dealing with  excessive TNs are available to anyone from day one - Seize the Moment with a void point, Assistance (especially skilled Assistance), and above all just ignoring the invulnerable opponent whilst they're in a defensive stance.

It's easy to pump the TN to hit you into the stratosphere but not to do anything else whilst you do so; one deliberate decision in the system is that there's no 'defense' stat - everyone's base TN to hit with a strike is '2' - there's no stat which passively increases defence, so being next-to-unassailable eats up your ability to actively do stuff by forcing your choice of stance, eating up 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343 results or even forcing your choice of action, each of which makes you more and more irrelevant to the conflict scene going on around you.

23 hours ago, Avatar111 said:

My players sure are not as versed in the many intricacies of the game. Which end up to be frustrating for them if I start to use such tactics against them. I had slightly better, and more fun moments, by simply avoiding such stuff at least until they start to figure out these "options" to game the system and use them regularly.

I agree it's definitely something you need to add in relatively slowly. Most importantly, letting them know that there are characters with techniques they don't have and may not have seen before. If a character has something weird and wonderful I try to make sure they've had a proper heads-up and explanation before they go up against them.

It doesn't always work, to be fair, because they often listen, comprehend, nod, then completely forget. School Of The Wolf/Fang Of The Wolf - the ronin/mercenary shinobi 'retarget your strike' ability was a very nasty experience the first time they encountered that one.

 

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On 9/11/2019 at 2:50 PM, Kaiju said:

TLDR: Fire stance gets 1+ Opportunity spend: Reduce the target TN to hit by 1 per Opportunity spent, to a minimum of 1.

Thoughts?

I think that is a bit problematic (though not too bad). Fire Stance is supposed to deal a lot of damage IF you hit. Making it easier to hit makes e.g. the Heartpiercing Strike kata even more effective, as well as all those fire attack invocations. Fury of Osano-wo can pretty much end even a powerful enemy, which is why it ahas a TN of 5. Your change would effectively count opportunities as successes for that. Similar with Heartpiercing Strike and TN 4.

I also think you overestimate the options to increase attack TNs:
- Obscuring Terrain counts for both sides and thus does not usually favor one side, and it isn't usually available when you want it unless you spend an action to create it (e.g. Blessed Wind), which probably isn't the best use of that time.
- Shields, as mentioned, need an action, so they are only really useful in water stance, which does not stack with wind stance unless you are a Hiruma Scout.
- Slippery Maneuvers calls for a special terrain to be available, which in my experience isn't usually the case. If you read the Examples under Terrain on page 267, those are not too common.

Sure, casting Armor of Flame and then Guarding in wind stance is a very good tactic, since you deal autodamage. That's why there is a special fire counterspell (Extinguish) and no earth, water or air counterspell.

But give an enemy two or three minions with assist, and he will ruin your day. That should not be made easier. Defensive fighting should be good at defending.

In my experience, the stances mean:
- Earth: I take damage, but only a little.
- Air: Even when they hit me, at least they don't crit me.
- Water: Either I outmaneuver them, or I am in for a world of hurt.
- Fire: I like to wager, and do so with my limbs.

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40 minutes ago, Harzerkatze said:

- Earth: I take damage, but only a little.

- Air: Even when they hit me, at least they don't crit me.
- Fire: I like to wager, and do so with my limbs.

Did you mix up earth and air?

And fire is actually the second best stance (sometimes the best) to avoid getting your limbs chopped.

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7 hours ago, Avatar111 said:

Did you mix up earth and air?

And fire is actually the second best stance (sometimes the best) to avoid getting your limbs chopped.

No, earth makes you immune to Opportunity crits, the most common source of serious damage.

I could have worded Air better as "They probably won't hit me  but surely won't crit me." As foes need to hit AND have 2 Opportunities.

Fire helps with the Crit resist, that is true. But in our experience not enough. But that may have been bad rolls.

Also, Fire stance crits are the ones targeting fingers and arms, that's why I wrote that.

Edited by Harzerkatze

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43 minutes ago, Harzerkatze said:

No, earth makes you immune to Opportunity crits, the most common source of serious damage.

I could have worded Air better as "They probably won't hit me  but surely won't crit me." As foes need to hit AND have 2 Opportunities.

Fire helps with the Crit resist, that is true. But in our experience not enough. But that may have been bad rolls.

Also, Fire stance crits are the ones targeting fingers and arms, that's why I wrote that.

Well, "even if they hit me, at least they don't crit me" is much more earth than air... Considering they literally cannot crit you if you are in earth stance.

And since weapons have a damage stat, and that bonus successes increase "damage", you will take less damage in air stance than in earth stance.

 

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