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P-47 Thunderbolt

Always Get My Mark OP?

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Title says it all. Is the Bounty Hunter Signature Ability "Always Get My Mark" OP? The ability to just flip a (couple) DP(s) and start with the target in custody seems a bit much.

Perhaps I'm just not particularly comfortable with narrative abilities, but even with the advice on use of narrative abilities it seemed a bit OP. Particularly since I would have to always plan two sessions, one where the challenge is getting to the target and one where the challenge is getting out with the target.

Do you think it is okay to just veto use of it sometimes? One of the things that makes it a little bit difficult is how much it can throw a session plan into disarray.

Do you think removing the ability to start with the target in custody is a viable fix? If so, what to replace it with?

With a Hard difficulty, they have to be pretty high in that skill/characteristic to reliably succeed, but the Reduce Difficulty upgrade makes it so that someone who is fairly average in their field (YYG) has a pretty good chance of succeeding fairly consistently.

In the event that they are trying to track down someone who has a (hidden) base of some kind, I guess it would make sense for them to find the base with the ability...

As you can probably tell, I'm pretty unsure on this. I'd appreciate any advice or insight any of you have on the topic.

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7 minutes ago, P-47 Thunderbolt said:

Title says it all. Is the Bounty Hunter Signature Ability "Always Get My Mark" OP? The ability to just flip a (couple) DP(s) and start with the target in custody seems a bit much.

Perhaps I'm just not particularly comfortable with narrative abilities, but even with the advice on use of narrative abilities it seemed a bit OP. Particularly since I would have to always plan two sessions, one where the challenge is getting to the target and one where the challenge is getting out with the target.

Do you think it is okay to just veto use of it sometimes? One of the things that makes it a little bit difficult is how much it can throw a session plan into disarray.

Do you think removing the ability to start with the target in custody is a viable fix? If so, what to replace it with?

With a Hard difficulty, they have to be pretty high in that skill/characteristic to reliably succeed, but the Reduce Difficulty upgrade makes it so that someone who is fairly average in their field (YYG) has a pretty good chance of succeeding fairly consistently.

In the event that they are trying to track down someone who has a (hidden) base of some kind, I guess it would make sense for them to find the base with the ability...

As you can probably tell, I'm pretty unsure on this. I'd appreciate any advice or insight any of you have on the topic.

All signature abilities are intentionally over the top. hence the 2 destiny point requirement and hving to have bought enough of your career tree to attach it plus more xp to have it. 

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1 minute ago, Daeglan said:

All signature abilities are intentionally over the top. hence the 2 destiny point requirement and hving to have bought enough of your career tree to attach it plus more xp to have it. 

Well, yeah, but it's a different sort of OP than being able to ignore Armor or fire a ton of weapons on your turn. This one just seems too over the top. (coincidentally, I just noticed that OP are the bookends for "Over the toP". Interesting)

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8 minutes ago, P-47 Thunderbolt said:

Well, yeah, but it's a different sort of OP than being able to ignore Armor or fire a ton of weapons on your turn. This one just seems too over the top. (coincidentally, I just noticed that OP are the bookends for "Over the toP". Interesting)

All the narrative signature abilities are like this. 

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20 minutes ago, P-47 Thunderbolt said:

Perhaps I'm just not particularly comfortable with narrative abilities, but even with the advice on use of narrative abilities it seemed a bit OP.

I agree, I have some trouble with most of them.  There's a "kill all the minions in two turns" ability (forget the name) which just seems kind of dumb given that if I want the PCs to actually experience some kind of challenge, I'm just going to have to bring in reinforcements once the first wave is handled.

This one is worse, because it's so specific.  If you had set it up so the PCs have to find and probably chase the fugitive, and then he's just "there"...now what?  How is that epic or memorable?  If you have a table of thespians and they take 30 minutes to describe what "actually happened" in dramatic/tragi-comedic detail, then maybe it's worthwhile, but I'm probably the only thespian-ish one in my group, and I'm GM-ing.  So then the only way to introduce tension (which is the whole point of the game) is to either drop that story thread entirely, or have some kind of "now you have to transport the fugitive without him escaping" scenario.  I certainly love winging things, but it seems a bit contrived.

All of them really beg the question of "why are you playing?"  Nobody remembers the time they succeeded at something and there was no risk or consequences.

Thankfully, from the brief look they bothered to give the signature abilities, my players just shrugged and exhibited no interest.

 

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14 minutes ago, P-47 Thunderbolt said:

Well, this is the first one that's made my GM hat jump off my head and hide behind the couch.

It just means you have to keep the ability in mind when planning. Just like you have to do for any ability in the game. 

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14 minutes ago, whafrog said:

There's a "kill all the minions in two turns" ability (forget the name) which just seems kind of dumb given that if I want the PCs to actually experience some kind of challenge, I'm just going to have to bring in reinforcements once the first wave is handled.

I wasn't actually too bothered by Last Man Standing, but it can certainly be an issue.

14 minutes ago, whafrog said:

This one is worse, because it's so specific.  If you had set it up so the PCs have to find and probably chase the fugitive, and then he's just "there"...now what?  How is that epic or memorable?  If you have a table of thespians and they take 30 minutes to describe what "actually happened" in dramatic/tragi-comedic detail, then maybe it's worthwhile, but I'm probably the only thespian-ish one in my group, and I'm GM-ing.  So then the only way to introduce tension (which is the whole point of the game) is to either drop that story thread entirely, or have some kind of "now you have to transport the fugitive without him escaping" scenario.  I certainly love winging things, but it seems a bit contrived.

Yeah, that gets to the crux of the matter. Especially if the plan is one session=one bounty or even 2-4 sessions=one bounty because they end up being able to skip pretty much every session.

7 minutes ago, Daeglan said:

It just means you have to keep the ability in mind when planning. Just like you have to do for any ability in the game. 

Yes, planning twice as many sessions every time is so easy and painless. This ability can rewrite the entire session. Last Man Standing or Inventive Creation don't have the potential to throw off an entire session, just an encounter or two at the most.

Edited by P-47 Thunderbolt

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Narrative abilities have to be carefully managed (and restricted) so as not to turn into plot busters. Two things that work in the gamemaster's favor: First, it says "NPC on the same planet." So the player characters have to figure out what planet the NPC is on and get there before they can use this ability. Second, it says "The exact nature of the encounter, as well as the circumstances under which it takes place, must be approved by the GM." I take that as an invitation to heap more trouble on the heroes and to make them work for it. An example:

So, you tracked your mark to a jam-packed spice-fueled gang-run multi-level club  on a corner in a dangerous warren of crowded undercity streets on Coruscant. Great!  Now you have to extract him. You have to get in without tipping him off, find him, and then extract him despite opposition and tons of bystanders. But, wait, did I mention there are several avenues of egress from this club. Did he use his friends and the chaos to escape? Now you have to chase him through a twisting maze of streets as he pushes vendors hover-carts and more bystanders into your path, or steels a speeder turning it into a high-speed chase. Oh, but now you are out on the streets. Are there local police or Imperial troops on patrol? Or, has the commotion sent a major response barreling down on you and your quarry?

Edited by Vondy

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10 minutes ago, Vondy said:

Narrative abilities have to be carefully managed (and restricted) so as not to turn into plot busters. Two things that work in the gamemaster's favor: First, it says "NPC on the same planet." So the player characters have to figure out what planet the NPC is on and get there before they can use this ability. Second, it says "The exact nature of the encounter, as well as the circumstances under which it takes place, must be approved by the GM." I take that as an invitation to heap more trouble on the heroes and to make them work for it. An example:

So, you tracked your mark to a jam-packed spice-fueled gang-run multi-level club  on a corner in a dangerous warren of crowded undercity streets on Coruscant. Great!  Now you have to extract him. You have to get in without tipping him off, find him, and then extract him despite opposition and tons of bystanders. But, wait, did I mention there are several avenues of egress from this club. Did he use his friends and the chaos to escape? Now you have to chase him through a twisting maze of streets as he pushes vendors hover-carts and more bystanders into your path, or steels a speeder turning it into a high-speed chase. Oh, but now you are out on the streets. Are there local police or Imperial troops on patrol? Or, has the commotion sent a major response barreling down on you and your quarry?

Thanks! That's helpful.

What about once they get the upgrade that allows them to start with the guy in custody? In your example, would you consider it as them succeeding at the first bit (up till "But, wait, did I mention that there are means of egress"), but then having to avoid him escaping?

I'd say my main issue is the ability to start with the target in custody (and there's also the range upgrade that allows you to track across the galaxy). And I guess that having to get upgrades for it to apply to more than Minions makes it less OP.

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15 minutes ago, Vondy said:

Narrative abilities have to be carefully managed (and restricted) so as not to turn into plot busters. Two things that work in the gamemaster's favor: First, it says "NPC on the same planet." So the player characters have to figure out what planet the NPC is on and get there before they can use this ability. Second, it says "The exact nature of the encounter, as well as the circumstances under which it takes place, must be approved by the GM." I take that as an invitation to heap more trouble on the heroes and to make them work for it. An example:

So, you tracked your mark to a jam-packed spice-fueled gang-run multi-level club  on a corner in a dangerous warren of crowded undercity streets on Coruscant. Great!  Now you have to extract him. You have to get in without tipping him off, find him, and then extract him despite opposition and tons of bystanders. But, wait, did I mention there are several avenues of egress from this club. Did he use his friends and the chaos to escape? Now you have to chase him through a twisting maze of streets as he pushes vendors hover-carts and more bystanders into your path, or steels a speeder turning it into a high-speed chase. Oh, but now you are out on the streets. Are there local police or Imperial troops on patrol? Or, has the commotion sent a major response barreling down on you and your quarry?

Great explanation. 

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42 minutes ago, P-47 Thunderbolt said:

Thanks! That's helpful.

What about once they get the upgrade that allows them to start with the guy in custody? In your example, would you consider it as them succeeding at the first bit (up till "But, wait, did I mention that there are means of egress"), but then having to avoid him escaping?

I'd say my main issue is the ability to start with the target in custody (and there's also the range upgrade that allows you to track across the galaxy). And I guess that having to get upgrades for it to apply to more than Minions makes it less OP.

That upgrade probably should never have been included and requires a table-talk with the player about the context and frequency of its use. If the player uses it all the time when going after major non-player character antagonists it breaks the game and isn't much fun. There comes a point where you have to go full Nancy Reagan and "just say no." However, in the scenario I described I'd do this:

The player has succeeded in getting into the club and has grabbed their mark by the arm... That's when all of his gang friends notice and pile on as the club erupts into chaos! Maybe the mark's unarmed mob moll jumps on the player's back before he gets the stun-cuffs properly affixed! And then a nearby hired Trandoshan thug tackles the player and moll over the back of the couch while the mark scrambles up and bolts! The player pistol-whips the Trandoshan and comes us to see the mark between three armed thugs pointing back and screaming "kill him!" before bolting for a door. The chase is on!

However, here is another GM trick you can use. What if the mark isn't the actual end-game? What if the mark has to be caught to get vital information or access to an item they need to further the adventure? Maybe the mark has that info or item, or can be traded to someone who does. Or, maybe catching the mark draws a bigger mark out? You still make them work for it, but then the mark's capture is necessary to your plot as GM. In that scenario this ability can become a shortcut to moving things along.

Another twist (use sparingly): it turns out the mark did not have what they were looking for at all... back to the drawing board. Maybe the mark just has a name for them. Another twist: they realize the mark, who will certainly be killed by their employer, is innocent of their alleged crime. Do they have scruples? Do they have to now have to identify the actual culprit and then take both back to their employer and plead the original mark's case? In both of these latter scenarios I'd try to arrange it so that the player's use of the ability happened at the beginning of the adventure. In other words, they grab their mark in the "opening scene." Then, they have to identify and capture the real mark the old fashioned way.

Alternatively: Let the players get the mark in cuffs and be walking them out the door or loading them into a vehicle when they are hit by a heavily armed group that wants to stop them. Or.... They are so good at finding people a rival bounty hunter is using them to "get their mark" and is using them as an unwitting bloodhound.

Edited by Vondy

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14 minutes ago, Vondy said:

That upgrade probably should never have been included and requires a table-talk with the player about the context and frequency of its use. If the player uses it all the time when going after major non-player character antagonists it breaks the game and isn't much fun. There comes a point where you have to go full Nancy Reagan and "just say no." However, in the scenario I described I'd do this:

The player has succeeded in getting into the club and has grabbed their mark by the arm... That's when all of his gang friends notice and pile on as the club erupts into chaos! Maybe the mark's unarmed mob moll jumps on the player's back before he gets the stun-cuffs properly affixed! And then a nearby hired Trandoshan thug tackles the player and moll over the back of the couch while the mark scrambles up and bolts! The player pistol-whips the Trandoshan and comes us to see the mark between three armed thugs pointing back and screaming "kill him!" before bolting for a door. The chase is on!

However, here is another GM trick you can use. What if the mark isn't the actual end-game? What if the mark has to be caught to get vital information or access to an item they need to further the adventure? Maybe the mark has that info or item, or can be traded to someone who does. Or, maybe catching the mark draws a bigger mark out? You still make them work for it, but then the mark's capture is necessary to your plot as GM. In that scenario this ability can become a shortcut to moving things along.

Another twist (use sparingly): it turns out the mark did not have what they were looking for at all... back to the drawing board. Maybe the mark just has a name for them. Another twist: they realize the mark, who will certainly be killed by their employer, is innocent of their alleged crime. Do they have scruples? Do they have to now have to identify the actual culprit and then take both back to their employer and plead the original mark's case? In both of these latter scenarios I'd try to arrange it so that the player's use of the ability happened at the beginning of the adventure. In other words, they grab their mark in the "opening scene." Then, they have to identify and capture the real mark the old fashioned way.

Thanks! That's (again) very helpful! I now have renewed confidence in the ability.

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When I read "have the target in custody" I take that quite literally. You're cutting to the moment where the cuffs have been slapped on the character's wrists.

Now the trick is "How do the PCs get out with this guy?"

Admittedly, I run Age of Rebellion, so if the PCs decide they want to take out an Imperial Officer, it's very likely the PCs will find themselves in the middle of a heavily fortified Imperial Compound, teaming with more Stormtroopers than you'd functionally need to count.

Also note that they can track an NPC if they know what planet that NPC is on. I have an easier time of this, because a lot of the officers in my game tend to be stationed aboard their flagship... Technically, this means they are not on a planet. That seems like a bit of a loophole, but it also makes a certain amount of sense: Infiltrating a ship is a lot harder than infiltrating a facility groundside.

With that said, though, for certain really pivotal NPCs, I tend to apply their adversary Rating to any signature abilities that target them. And I'll also throw in setback dice depending on various factors, such as, "They are in a heavily fortified facility," or "they have a lot of bodyguards" or, "They're pretty central to the plot, so I'm not gonna make this easy on you." (That last one is more of a silent factor that I use to inflate other "reasons" to add setback dice)

Still, when the PCs have really solid dice pools, even a mountain of setback dice isn't necessarily a great defence. And on those occasions, I have the hostage be more trouble than they're worth. Hidden tracking devices, lockpicks, tempting bribes, other people looking for the same bounty. There's lots of ways to screw with the PCs on the way back from the mission, too.

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52 minutes ago, abookfulblockhead said:

When I read "have the target in custody" I take that quite literally. You're cutting to the moment where the cuffs have been slapped on the character's wrists.

Now the trick is "How do the PCs get out with this guy?"

Admittedly, I run Age of Rebellion, so if the PCs decide they want to take out an Imperial Officer, it's very likely the PCs will find themselves in the middle of a heavily fortified Imperial Compound, teaming with more Stormtroopers than you'd functionally need to count.

Also note that they can track an NPC if they know what planet that NPC is on. I have an easier time of this, because a lot of the officers in my game tend to be stationed aboard their flagship... Technically, this means they are not on a planet. That seems like a bit of a loophole, but it also makes a certain amount of sense: Infiltrating a ship is a lot harder than infiltrating a facility groundside.

With that said, though, for certain really pivotal NPCs, I tend to apply their adversary Rating to any signature abilities that target them. And I'll also throw in setback dice depending on various factors, such as, "They are in a heavily fortified facility," or "they have a lot of bodyguards" or, "They're pretty central to the plot, so I'm not gonna make this easy on you." (That last one is more of a silent factor that I use to inflate other "reasons" to add setback dice)

Still, when the PCs have really solid dice pools, even a mountain of setback dice isn't necessarily a great defence. And on those occasions, I have the hostage be more trouble than they're worth. Hidden tracking devices, lockpicks, tempting bribes, other people looking for the same bounty. There's lots of ways to screw with the PCs on the way back from the mission, too.

Also it just changes the nature of the story from how do you get the guy to how do you get your mark to the destination with out them getting away.

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1 hour ago, Daeglan said:

Also it just changes the nature of the story from how do you get the guy to how do you get your mark to the destination with out them getting away.

Despite the inventive and helpful suggestions on how to deal with it if it comes up (thanks @Vondy  and @abookfulblockhead ), I still don't see the point of these things.  That aspect of the story could have also been part of it from the beginning.  The signature ability doesn't change anything really, it just short-circuits part of the story, and most importantly, to zero dramatic effect.  In similar situations, I have hand-waved what the signature ability does anyway, if the players indicate or I sense they are more interested in the followup.  Signature abilities seem to have all the drama of checking a box.

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For me, as soon as PCs get one of those "Win the Encounter" buttons, I start planning around it. In my group, I had PCs with Last One Standing, Always Get My Mark, and Diplomatic Solution. Basically, three "Nope" buttons.

So I expect my players to use these tools. That means giving the bad guys more resources, more than can be deployed in a single encounter. I plan "Capture the NPC" as the start of my session, rather than the end. I start thinking of possible motivations for NPCs that might open them up to Negotiation.

It means I throw away less content, because I'm expecting it to be bypassed...

And then, every once in a while... in spite of giant dice pools... the players don't succeed on the check. That's when it gets interesting. Everyone once in a while, those 4 dice skew hard on advantages, and the purple dice skew hard on failure. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, the PCs are suddenly screwed pretty hard, and those make for some exciting, improvisational sessions.

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23 minutes ago, whafrog said:

Despite the inventive and helpful suggestions on how to deal with it if it comes up (thanks @Vondy  and @abookfulblockhead ), I still don't see the point of these things.  That aspect of the story could have also been part of it from the beginning.  The signature ability doesn't change anything really, it just short-circuits part of the story, and most importantly, to zero dramatic effect.  In similar situations, I have hand-waved what the signature ability does anyway, if the players indicate or I sense they are more interested in the followup.  Signature abilities seem to have all the drama of checking a box.

I agree. I don't like narrative signature abilities because they are... narrative. That's something the GM (primarily) and players (secondarily) have to make decisions about. My table doesn't use the strictly narrative signature abilities because all the things I proposed are things I would be doing anyways. Yet, many gamemasters don't have tables that are as cooperative as mine is or don't feel comfortable excluding it. At that point you have to find ways of managing the problem.

Edited by Vondy

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7 hours ago, whafrog said:

Thankfully, from the brief look they bothered to give the signature abilities, my players just shrugged and exhibited no interest.

Same here.  I haven't had to make a decision on whether or not I want to allow them because none of my players are interested in "I win" buttons.

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As others have said, it doesn't have to break the encounter - it just changes the type of encounter. What looked like it was going to be a manhunt/investigation session is now an escort mission trying to get your quarry off-planet before his friends/enemies can get to him, or an interrogation trying to get information out of him with a ticking clock in the background, etc.

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It depends. I personally have unmatched devastation and I had, at one point, had to ask the GM to have some linance when starting a combat with huge numbers. It was getting to the point that we were always outnumbered three to one in the action ecomany pretty much every encounter and I was always having to use unmatched devastation to equalise those odds; which most of the time usually ends up with me basically rolling and adjudicating 5 checks in a row for about 10/15 minutes at the absolute worst. It's cool when it's an intentionally huge combat that is meant to be the epic set piece and the gunslinging "Jedi" rotates through his entire armoury, it's much less epic when every other encounter is this huge epic set piece and everyone is kinda looking at their phone when I'm having to play super market sweep before most encounters "Looks like I'm gonna have to do that thing, *again*". That was less of a balance issue and more of a "look, I don't want to be an additional roadblock before everyone else gets to roll per encounters.", which is a problem last man standing doesn't have. Sometimes I wish I had access to that more since it's a one check and done kinda effect.


That being said; as with all things, it's always worth having a talk about what is intended. For me that ability sounds like a cool one to change the conditions of the test; and the reason that the ability has to have GM approval to work. "Dude, that person is the BBEG, you can't just start with him in cuffs." That being said, most other NPC's are fair game and there's some interesting material I might make note of myself.

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Mhh if you want to let the PC use his ability on a big guy (after all he went through all the different tree lines for takedown and increase effect, so it seems important to him) you could "approve the nature of the new encounter" by having a little montage where you go around the table and every player gets to tell a little story how he helped put the mark in custody and make a skill check for it. Since the mark is already in custody failed  checks dont "fail" per se, but they make the current encounter worse. For example the mechanic failed the check to take out the underground bosses security system so you have him in cuffs, but you are stuck in his luxurious suite surrounded by his gang. It also makes the other players feel less useless. 

If someone skills into this ability heavily its definitely worthwhile talking to them about why they want to be able to shortcut chases/bounty hunts like that.
After all they wanted to play a bounty hunter, and with this ability the overall focus of the game will most likely shift away from bounty hunting.
(This is easy to circumvent by not buying the nemesis upgrade to target the named supervillain...)

Also the ability always talks about a characters mark. You could restrict what a mark is (an NPC is a mark once a certain amount of research has gone into catching them etc., so the players will have to scout out the building, do the legwork.) It should definitely mean that there is a bounty approved by the bounty hunters guild on the targets head. So the story could be about framing the NPC instead to get that approval....Make it possible to use it on a Nemesis NPC, but also make it clear that the ability is much easier to use on a rival even with the upgrade bought. 

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