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DM_Blake

Which is better, soak or defense?

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Ok, I see what you mean. Practice/mock combat is not very well represented by the normal system no, if the winning criterium is that the first hit wins the intitiative will always be the most important roll. For practice duels (or non-deadly first blood duels) you probably need to use some specific system, like the progress track. Another idea could be to rescale wounds/crits for these kind of combats (also for, e.g.,  fist fighting). Treat every 2(3?) wounds caused as one fatigue dealt, and every crit as one wound. Then the loser of a duel is the person who faints, or gets critted. It still gives the intitiative winner an edge but far less than the normal system.

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Ignoring the exact numbers, this is why I'd argue why Soak is better than Defence:

 

Soak is consistent and predictable, while Defence is a constant gamble.

Imagine a fight where one character takes 2 damage each round while another character takes no damage until suddenly taking 10 damage in one round.

 

The character who takes consistent damage can assess the situation as it develops. Is he wearing down his opponent faster than he is being worn down? Should he withdraw or go on the defensive? Maybe he has some healing he can use at the right moment to get a head of his opponent?

On the other hand, the character who avoids damage until suddenly bieng hit for a lot has less "feel" for how the combat is progressing. He can easily get the impression he's breezing through the combat until suddenly "BAM!" he's allmost taken out and might not have the time left to react to the change in the situation.

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To me it depends on how well you stack up your defense. Going from 1 to 2 soak isnt that big of a deal because you are always going to be taking significant damage from almost any attack. Assuming the average attack does about 7-9 wounds (3 Str + 5 Weapon on average), going from say, 5 soak to 6 can represent a significant reduction in the damage percentage you take.

On the other hand, having 1 Misfortune die as your only defense isnt likely to do much for you either. It's like that opposing attacks will still hit you the vast majority of the time. But again, if you already have 1 or 2 dice of defense, adding another greatly reduces the chances of a success leaking through and you taking damage.

So it really depends on the base defenses you are looking at rather than being able to definitively state that one is better than the other. Look for whichever one will give you the largest percentage of improvement and that is the better one for your character. 

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There might be one more thing to consider here, and that is the fact that any successful hit, even from some lucky punk-ass goblin, will still do a minimum of one damage, no matter how much soak there is.  So swarms of things, and longer battles can wear characters down, even with incredible soak.  Not to mention that you might also avoid other harmful side effects as well. 

On the other hand, a character probably needs enough defense (dice) to actually have the hit miss.  So having just a little bit of defense wouldn't be as useful as having enough to have most enemies miss.

 

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I think you guys are approaching this from a probability and duration vector.  In other words you're asking 'across the long run which is better' or 'statistically speaking'.  The problem is what Dvang said - not all enemies are created equal.

From my albeit limited experience Soak does seem more powerful overall.  When talking about a single point there can be some wheedling, but looking at it overall we're seeing a marked difference in combat performance.  A lower soak value (less stam, less armor) but higher defense does perform well against smaller opponents, as a single challenge against a die pool of 4 can often times swing the difference.  At higher pool sizes it doesn't end up mattering.

Soak however again matters mostly on breaker points (I'm going to sadly have to show my MMO background here).  Most characters taking damage have a TTL (or Time To Live) which is a count of how many hits you can take before you go down.  Our party faced off against a Tzaagor (big Tzeench Wargor) last game who was bisecting people with a 2H axe.  As a case in point we have two very different characters in the party.  One is a defense monkey who goes for defense, defensive weapon, training in WS and specialization in parry.  The other goes with soak and stam.  This Wargor was bringing 6 statistic dice (with some red) and 1 white die, plus aggression and expertise to the hit.  The defense monkey just didn't have enough defense for it to matter.  Even though the black dice did well, the hit got through and dropped him.  The soaker took 3 hits before going down.  Is the moral of the story that soak is better?  Not entirely.

Namely the TTL for the dodge monkey was 1, and for the Soaker it was 3.  If said Soaker could have taken 3 hits with 2 less soak, and would have transfered that to an additional black die to possibly mitigate some more, the additional soak is ostensibly 'wasted'.  Would 1-2 more points of soak have upped the TTL of the dodge monkey to 2 and therefore given him extra rounds of trying to get lucky on the parry?  Then those soak points may have been more valuable.

The point is that it really depends on the enemies.  Sometimes you throw 1 extra defense in there, and it can really swing the tide, and sometimes you go with the soak and its just not ENOUGH soak.  The value of the points really comes down to what you're fighting, as opposed to a generic enemy with some sort of 'average' attack stat across 10,000 strikes.  Overall on the armor chart, the further you can get the better ^_~.

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Without having statistic foundation for saying it, people forget that a black dice can sometimes mean a lot, even though you get hit.

Having your opponent roll a black dice can result in him scoring one less crit, or him not reaching enough success to score +3 damage for example.

So while having high defence might not save you from being hit by strong opponents, it might actually help soften the blows.

But like some say, a mix of the two is often the most desired.

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Sunatet said:

pumpkin said:

 

I do wonder though if additonal options in OoW might try and re-address this balance slightly providing combat actions for unarmoured or lightly armoured characters that allow them a "virtual soak" value in some way shape or form, much like the slayer's ability card?

 

 

Hmmm...

You know, that gave me some thinking.

Not sure how will it work, or how much impact on the balance it could have but what if defence apart of adding usual misfortune dice could also give some additional protection against critical hits?

Something like:

If your Defence is higher than 0, and your enemy hit you for a critical wound, and at the same time rolled some chaos stars, add the number of chaos stars rolled to your Defence rating, and compare it with the critical wound severity. If the sum of your Defence and number of chaos stars rolled by your enemy is HIGHER than critical wound severity, then it is converted into normal wound.

Lets say it could be done once per round/enemy/encounter/act or something like that so it wouldn't break the balance completely.

To a large degree, this is also an innate factor into Defense.  Defense has a chance (be it slim) of lowering boons by banes.  This decreases Critical value overall.  

The big thing to remember in this debate, despite some probably impressive math, is you absolutely cannot look at Defense existing in a bubble.  The three cards:  Improved Block, Parry, and Dodge are massively powerful cards when backed up with a good defense.  It gives the player a lot they can add to some simple rolls.  

Looking at most current creature stats even one of these with a defense of 1 against 3 characteristic or less monsters are absolutely fantastic.  The four characteristic, you may need a higher defense, but it is enough to nickle and dime them to a failure.  Being missed, in my opinion, is way better than having to soak damage period - but feel free to call me crazy.  

So really, this question is about build.  High defense with the right defense action cards are fantastic.  Especially when you consider the reaction cards like repost.  It gives them the ability to get in two hits rather than just one in a single turn.  Plus, creatures that "smash-big damage" if they miss you, you and all your party have a chance to take them out without anyone taking any damage.  3 purple added to a base 1 purple, then a good amount of black, equals almost guaranteed misses from anything.  Back that up with those reaction cards, and watch a big monster crumble. 

Honestly, I think player's undervalue those advanced defense cards and don't see its impact versus soak a lot of the time.  But if a creature hits for 15 base damage, before successes are rolled, I'd rather him not hit me at all.  Or more dreadfully, ignores soak. 

I guess it is a matter of perspective here.  And again, build.  Though I find my players with the Improved Dodge, etc plus a riposte or two up their sleeves and a good amount of damage do way more damage than the ones with Thunderous Blow, Reckless Cleave, or Troll Feller.  Because of that second hit and another good, powerful hit to lead into it...like Duelist or Acrobatic Strike...man, those are just good cards. 

From my experience, defense almost always beats soak if the cards are chosen right.  If not, soak is the best thing out there for a quick damage fix.  But, personally, I'd always take +1 defense over +1 soak any day.  Then boost up those basic defenses and away I go to the slaughter. 

 

 

 

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 You must not fight very heavy monster encounters commoner.

When there's 6 sets of henchmen, led by 3 generals and a big baddie, the players get swarmed.  That one parry helps, but then you're out of 'defensives' and that soak is all that keeps you up.  Your scenario works well when the party is fighting even odds and each PC can 'isolate' or target his chosen opponent (I got the one with the big scar!) as opposed to having 2-3 groups of white-dice heavy henchmen coming in.

On 1-to-1 or slightly over odds, this works out exactly as you've stated, with the 'interrupt' action and a fast weapon use with a few key fate points really rips things up.

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Shortly after the games release there was some debate about armors and their defensive values, which led to some number crunching around Soak and Defense.  I'll see if I can dig up one of the spreadsheets that got made.  The overall result, was that (probability-wise) at lower attacker skills, Defense was better. The extra misfortune dice provided by the armor had a significant impact on the ability to be hit in those cases.  At higher attacker skill levels, a single misfortune die was less likely to prevent or even reduce the effectiveness of an attack (as the attacker is much more likely to consistently get multiple successes).

IIRC, the cutoff point where they broke about even was the 4 characteristic or 3 + 1 training.  Above that (such as being attacked by an attacker with a 4-stat plus a training) and soak begins to be statistically better (and defense gets progressively worse as the attacker gets better) ... and vice versa.

Of course, the testing was a 1v1 scenario, although I'm not sure it's affected by multiple opponents (non-henchmen). The way henchmen work, they are essentially "higher-skilled" because they gain [W] for each in the group, so soak would be more effective vs most henchmen as well.

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shinma said:

 You must not fight very heavy monster encounters commoner.

When there's 6 sets of henchmen, led by 3 generals and a big baddie, the players get swarmed.  That one parry helps, but then you're out of 'defensives' and that soak is all that keeps you up.  Your scenario works well when the party is fighting even odds and each PC can 'isolate' or target his chosen opponent (I got the one with the big scar!) as opposed to having 2-3 groups of white-dice heavy henchmen coming in.

On 1-to-1 or slightly over odds, this works out exactly as you've stated, with the 'interrupt' action and a fast weapon use with a few key fate points really rips things up.

Actually, I do fight large combats.  Very large combats indeed.  However, I find the system begins to bog down quite a bit if there are too many NPC tokens on the side-board as the players have to wait for me to roll all those actions, describe, take maneuvers, etc.  I generally don't like making players wait and sometimes, the time it's taking me to roll and plan actions slows the game down considerably.  When the mechanical aspect of fighting begins to slow down the action and loose suspense/drama there has to be a better way to communicate the combat sequence.  The thing I try to avoid the most, is when a fight round is taking so long, players begin to space out after they have acted that turn.  

So, when I get to large fights I feel there are better mechanisms in the system to make this happen, such as a cleverly designed tracker.  Ultimately, if the PC's are fighting that many baddies, they have to have a reason they're in the thick of it.  So the tracker becomes the objective, the actual round to round fighting are treated as obstacles.  This way, the players can be highly effectual without having to cut down the opponents.  Generally, when they fight the "horde" scenario there are henchmen token per player + 1 token for anything else big and nasty I muster up + any additional big and nasty that spawn later. The big ones begin to stack very quickly if they don't finish off the first ones quick enough.  These obstacles add to the dramatic tension, but since I only have to make fewer attack rolls, the action keeps moving.  Gathering Storm has something similar in it, concerning zombies...don't want to say too much as not to give spoilers, but if you are familiar with the module, you'll understand what I mean.   

I guess, what I'm saying is yes.  I don't use the "combat" system in its flat-out form that often when the PC's have to fight tons of enemies.  Generally my fights concerning PC's in the "standard-play-system" are PC's against light-to moderately worse odds.  So again, I agree that in your scenario, soak may play out better.  Still, in your example, the split in a standard party of four is only going to save a PC from 1 or 2 points of damage against soak.  However, if you can remove that third boon with 5 bonus white from the henchmen group, that's one crit avoided.  Critical hits are way worse than normal wounds.  That 1 point of soak isn't going to help you with that all that much because of the flat damage mechanic WFRP uses.  It's simply not enough mitigation.  Where as the extra defense when stacked with defensive actions can be the difference between a critical and not a critical.  Critical hits kill, wounds don't.  

Also, you have to consider not just parry being used alone.  Improved Parry, Dodge, and Block when used in unison adds 2 purple to the first round of combat, 1 purple the following + armor defense + natural defense + (if your smart, Diestro Training), can be brutal.  It's all a matter of how they are used.  I wish FFG would give more credit to the power of defense and make it more available to expand in the near future.  Hopefully, we'll get a ton of it in OOW.  

 

@ Dvang:  

I'd love to see the math if you can find it. 

 

I cannot argue that the system, in general, begins to break down at high levels because of a low fail rate.  Therefore, something like defense will also break down because of this low fail rate.  At that point, soak has to be better because everything is always hitting each other.  It is a systemic problem to the mechanic and one that cannot be denied.  Unless of course, you could throw five to six purple dice at an attack roll.  Which, I imagine, FFG will have to consider if they want the RAW to remain the same.   That is the way to balance it out.  But, then again, do we really feel like rolling 12-20 dice just to determine if an attack hits or not.  My vote, no...  

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One defense misfortune die has 33% chance to potentially prevent 1 damage and half that chance to prevent one boon. Against an opponent with a big dice pool adding a misfortune die impose a very minor penalty. Even against an average opponent a defense die just can't match one point of soak. The more times you're hit the bigger the difference is. Being hit five times means that one soak has prevented 5 damage. The chance for that happening by adding one misfortune die is very very slim.

 

It also depends on the enemys strenght and damage, which happends to make up his dice pool too. So if his dice pool is small he will most likely cause little damage as well and the damage could be well below your soak and as such an extra soak won't help you, but a misfortune die would.

 

In situations where things are really dangerous soak is better, but in situations where the enemy isn't very dangerous defense is better. But the situations where you really need all you can get aren't situations against weak enemies.

 

Soak always prevent 1 damage or a critical in situations where soak is high enough.

 

And soak combined with defensive actions is still better than defense combined with defensive actions.

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I guess that it also greatly depends on houserules.

I use GM Lethal combat, that stuff where your defence gets a bonus equal to your training in the skill, critical wounds allways landing, no matter the soak, and a few more.

So in this case, you'll generally have a higher defence, thus extra dice begins to really matter.

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As I really likes this discussion I decided to throw in my point of view.

I'm playing as Ironbreaker [i know some of you don't like that particular profession but I love it because I player 3 years in WFB always using an Ironbreaker unit]. So my PC has highest possible Soak and Defence at this same time. We faced different opponents both strong and weak and I can tell you that Defence is fun but I prefere Soak.

1. PC can have 2 maximum 2 soak using standard items so it is not much. Defence is rather more usefull for GM and his NPC as he can boost their defece with aggression so when an NPC has 2 defence and GM uses 3 aggression it rather hard to hit because 5 black dices will give you like 2 challanges.

2. In this edition the probability is very complex so I had such sitaution when I used two improved active defences and GM was rolling 4 challange [one from NPC action difficulty, one standard difficulty, one from improved parry and one from improved block] dices with 2 black dices and he still managed to get a rather good hit while on the next round this same enemy [an Ork] disangaged me, engaged our team mage and missed an easiest attack while rolling 1 challange and one black dice. So as some of you pointed out before me, defence is a constant gamble.

So that's my point of view.

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commoner said:

Also, you have to consider not just parry being used alone.  Improved Parry, Dodge, and Block when used in unison adds 2 purple to the first round of combat, 1 purple the following + armor defense + natural defense + (if your smart, Diestro Training), can be brutal.  It's all a matter of how they are used.  I wish FFG would give more credit to the power of defense and make it more available to expand in the near future.  Hopefully, we'll get a ton of it in OOW.    

This is incorrect.  Those improved cards function not in the first round of combat, but against the first (potentially 3) attacks of combat.  When your 'tanky' types get attacked 4-5 times a round by groups or henchmen or no, that defense just runs out.  I'll keep an eye out for that Diestro Training and mention it to our Rapier/MainGauche defense monkey.

Also at higher 'levels' you have potentially more silver/gold allowing for the purchase of the consistently higher soak value armors.  Something to keep in mind. ^_^

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shinma said:

commoner said:

 

Also, you have to consider not just parry being used alone.  Improved Parry, Dodge, and Block when used in unison adds 2 purple to the first round of combat, 1 purple the following + armor defense + natural defense + (if your smart, Diestro Training), can be brutal.  It's all a matter of how they are used.  I wish FFG would give more credit to the power of defense and make it more available to expand in the near future.  Hopefully, we'll get a ton of it in OOW.    

 

 

This is incorrect.  Those improved cards function not in the first round of combat, but against the first (potentially 3) attacks of combat.  When your 'tanky' types get attacked 4-5 times a round by groups or henchmen or no, that defense just runs out.  I'll keep an eye out for that Diestro Training and mention it to our Rapier/MainGauche defense monkey.

Also at higher 'levels' you have potentially more silver/gold allowing for the purchase of the consistently higher soak value armors.  Something to keep in mind. ^_^

I can't argue there.  But then, I feel the other players in the group may not be doing their fair share to draw the aggro off the Tank. 

I also agree that if you are designed to charge head-long and fight a half-dozen opponents at one time, then yes, soak is better. 

One thing I do have to ask though about your play, do you actually have six players?  Or do you simply house rule more henchmen groups than the RAW allows.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but the number of groups is equal to the players.  So 4 players is 4 groups of x number of henchmen. 

 

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i think you missread something about henchmen rules, commoner, it says that the size of a henchmen group is = to the number of PCs. 4 players = 4 Henchmen per unit (1 Unit with 1 initiative and 1 action, combat action getting a +3 Fortune while there are 4, +2 if 3, etc.)

That way, you can describe a scene telling the players "you see an army of goblins running towards you, they don't look big or strong, but it's an army!!" when it's really only henchmen, you'll have like 8 units (initiative & actions) but 32 goblins yapping and running gran_risa.gif

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 What CWell said.  

Also as an example:

[spoilerS TAG! SPOILERS ALERT! AAAA RUN AWAY SPOILERS!]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a point of note in EfaE towards the end, the beastmen units are 12 ungor henchmen of groups of #PCs, 6 Gor (who should have been Henchmen units as per RAW (AAW?), but were individuals since the party is a bit combat beefy) = 6, and a Wargor leader (who I believe was set up to be a Tzaagor with a bird motif specifically in our game, but ended up not being so awesome at the casty, albeit it gave him something to use Cunning on).  So that's 12 GROUPS of player numbered henchmen units, 6 medium sized individual units (which should have been player sized clusters as well), and 1 beefy boss guy.  For various reasons, while the PCs were concerned with the cult, they wanted to make sure that Aschaffenberg, his non-culty men, and the housing unit were safe before dealing with the rest of the plot.   So they ended up building a barricade in the great hall (bonus dice) and trying to defend a localle, which I believe reduced the total number of ungor (so it wasn't a meat grinder dice roll-fest) henchmen groups in half.  And there were 4 PCs.

In our case, even splitting the attacks we're still looking at 13 units taking on a set of 4 PCs an 1-2 Expert NPC and some Commoner types.  Needless to say, it was down to the PCs very quickly, which is where the numbers I was quoting earlier came from.

Of course ... I may have been misunderstanding something myself. >_>

[END SPOILERS TAG]

Hope that helps! ^_^

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 Now that I think about it ... I should probably start jotting down some of our game stuff like a number of people on the GMs forums (valvorik and monkeylite come to mind immediately) just to see if people spot inconsistencies or have any suggestions/questions.

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From what i remember, i used less units for that encounter. Like 1 Wargor, 2 Gors, 12 henchmen Ungors (3 PCs, 4 units of 3 henchmen), 7 units total with a big bad one (with a Great Axe).

The Fortification access wasn't easy for the beastmen in my game. Soldiers + Expert Captain with X-Bows + with Elven Archer (one of the PCs) did well enough. I rule that they would come with a bundle of tree trucks as a bridge (Hard Athletics check to get up the wall ain't good even for them). Thanks to the players, 2 Guards & Captain were woke up (still drugged), Olver and his hounds were patrolling. The non-surprise of the attack was the major factor here (thanks Olver's hounds & the PC's Observation - he's a Bounty Hunter).

Sorry for the out of original subject comments.

On that matter, i guess both are valuable and some situations will gain more from one that the other, and the other way around. Fight a couple of BIG guys or fight a swarm of tiny winy things will benefit more from different types of Soak/Def.

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