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GilboD

Your Players Want Ascension, You know it's Broken, How can you fix it?

33 posts in this topic

I have been running Ascension since shortly after it came out.  The party is an Interrogator (recently moved to Inquisitor), Vindicare Assassin, Psyker Primaris, Sage and Death Cult Assassin (all are Rank 10-11).  Yes, each Ascended Class has its obvious strengths and a list of weaknesses. As a GM, I let them go crazy with their powers and abilities but I make sure their major story encounters are populated with equally powerful baddies. When the story calls for "and out of the alley comes a group of 20 thugs with clubs and stub pistols…" I don't even throw dice, I just asked how they respond and storytell what happens.  Only for the epic fights, etc. do I get the miniatures and the mat out and roll dice.

Some tips without changing (much) any rules:

1. Let the psyker go nuts and burn minions to a crisp the first round. Just make sure he feels the pressure of his actions as he is targeted as the biggest threat. People hate psykers and people with guns kill psykers although you might have to find the right one like a heavy flamer (Burn the Witch! anyone?)

2. Vindicare Assassins are still vulnerable to autofire and even large blast weapons not to mention squads of 10 Imperial guards men all shooting at semi-auto because they have heard the lethal rumours of the Vindicare. A compareable swordsman can tie him up in melee. Also, psykers work well since WP checks are easily failed (possession and then use him against the party psyker is fun). Oh, and even though the Vindicare can hit just about every target he aims at, baddies can still dodge his overpriced bullets (Trust me, at Unique, the Vindicare doesn't get his special ammo back often). And really who cares?? The Vindicare Assassin is usually good for only one kill a turn… not a lot when the party is up against 20-30 baddies. (Same goes for the Death Gult Assassin who carves up 1 baddie a turn.)

3. The only rule I got rid of was "This One Thing I Ask.."  I changed it so that the party could burn 1 Influence to get +10 on an Influence test (up to +60 max. bonus).

4. I never say no, but do not let your party get a hold of any force fields… but let your big baddies have them, which can be destroyed when the psyker goes too far and burns the baddie and all his belongings :-)  Also, any baddie with any Intelligence gets Dodge +20, because they didn't get to be that bad by standing there to get hit. Also, no hexagrammic wards, etc.  Warp Weapons make people pay attention.  Limit Blessed, Sanctified, etc. weapons (there is a short story called Sacrifice by Ben Counter where they talk about how blessed weapons, etc. are made and their rarity… good information)

5. If you have them, use the NPC stats from the Deathwatch or Rogue Trader books for Ascension level DH characters and even these should be tailored a bit. I don't use the Horde Rules, I make them kill each baddie dead (yes, lots of numbers for me but your Primaris Psyker thins the horde quickly).

6. Traps work.  People forget that things like a covered pit still catch people off guard when you are not actively looking.  With science you can make up all sorts of fun stuff. I love servitors… yes, they are slow and have lower stats but 6 of them with a mix of heavy bolters, multi-meltas and heavy flamers  means someone is bound to get hit.  Add armour, immune to fear, etc. and they are great to put fear back in a party… oh and those heavy weapons are not really useable by the party when the servitor dies.  Same goes for servo skulls with boltguns and flamers (of course GW has the miniatures for all these).

The thing to keep in mind about Ascension is that it is Epic. Your players are not taking on a cult cell, they are taking on the Fortress of Evil.  Look at the NPC examples given in Ascension, one is a planetary governor.  Also, the normal person is afraid of the Inquisition, Assassins, Psykers, etc. so if the party comes out blowing things up, people hide… investigations become harder because people stay hidden, bad guys run away (yes, let them get away and they can come back again or you can let the Calaxian Conclave remind the party of their failure… too many failures and they might suspect the Agents are Heretics themselves.)

Let your players know that Ascension becomes less of about combat than basic DH and more about intrigue and politics.  My party upset an Inquisitor Lord who wanted to capture Haarlock and his secrets instead of banishing him to the nether which the party did in the Haarlock Legacy.  They make Influence tests that "pass" and my Inquisitor Lord makes Influence Tests (yes, I actually roll for him) to block their access to things… not to mention he sent his own Vindicare Assassin who shot and "killed" the Interrogator. Also, after completely the Apostasy Gambit trilogy there are Ecclesiarchy and Imperials who think the part killed St. Drusus and zealots never forgive… or even listen to explanations.

Note:  GMs play different ways, players have different attachments to characters but with the ability to burn Fate points to "escape death", I feel if you are not "killing" a player character from time to time (esp. when they do something really brave… i.e. dumb) then you are not doing something right.  No matter how powerful they become, they should fear death.  It is a dangerous universe, people die.  All of my characters (but 1) have some sort of cyber limb (or lungs) because the Critical damage killed them and they Burned a Fate Point to survive it … yes, they lived but usually at a cost.

Also, Do Not Forget Insanity and Corruption.  At the Ascension level, even with Jaded, characters should be worried about Mental Disorders and Mutations.  They have seen some serious **** and it should always leave a mark.  (My party's newly minted Inquisitor has 81 Corruption… the Ordo Malleus NPC is a Puritan and refuses to deal with him and the party's Holier-than-thou-art Death Cult Assassin is inching closer to sacrificing him in the name of the Emperor).

Wow, sorry so much, but hope it helps.

-Cynr

 

 

 

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My players are all Rank 7 now, so I'm coming up fast on Ascention. This thread has been very helpful, since I have one player who wants to be a Vindicare and another who wants to be a Primaris Psyker…

One question: what about Magos (Magi?)? I've seen a couple posts saying they are overpowered- how so? And any suggestions to reign them in?

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In my opinion, except the primaris psyker (because of the psychic powers that are already broken before ascension), no characters in Ascension are broken. Take up a plasma blaster and shoot your magos and he'll be hurted bad. In ascension, these are big characters, they need strong ennemies, but also mob of lesser ennemies.

And who says mob, says many different weapons; a complete cult fighting the players will certainly have one or two melta in the group. This will hurt bad any player when the shot touches hum, and stop the vindicare from dodging anything (because he simply can't dodge that much).

 

The magos will be hard as nail to kill, but even there, it will happen when he'll become a higher level in ascension, you'll have also time as a GM to find ways and create ennemies that can give them enough hard time.

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Anything that bypasses Armour, and esp. anything bypassing Armour AND Toughness, will kill the Magos.

There are many options on how to control the power in the game especially with high-level characters. The Ascension Wounds are suppose to cap at 25 but your Aliens and Daemons can run wild with the numbers.  Remember that Ascension level baddie bosses should be able to deal damage on the level of your players and should have a small army of minions to soak damage, tie up players and deal damage.

Kill your players!  I don't think any player should get to Ascension without having burned a Fate Point to escape death.  Players need to fear the very real chance of dying with every major encounter (and should still worry that 20 minions armed with basic weapons can cause harm) or there is no epic sense of accomplishment.  In Ascension, the baddies are on a power level equal to Space Marines and if you read the novels, Space Marines die all the time, even with all of their bio-engineering and power armour… your players shouldn't have any of that stuff.

@Cymbel: The Vindicare Assassin may jump on an autocannon for a scene, but they should never be dragging one around as "their" weapon. The Exitus Rifle is one of the greatest guns man has ever made and designed specifically for that Vindicare Assassin; not using it should feel like a betrayal to the weapon's spirit.  The Vindicare is trained for the perfect kill, not mass killing.  I won't even go into the logic of the assassin using a weapon that requires a two-man team to set up and use properly when it is not mounted on a vehicle.

-Cynr

 

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InquisitorAlexel said:

In my opinion, except the primaris psyker (because of the psychic powers that are already broken before ascension), no characters in Ascension are broken. Take up a plasma blaster and shoot your magos and he'll be hurted bad. In ascension, these are big characters, they need strong ennemies, but also mob of lesser ennemies.

And who says mob, says many different weapons; a complete cult fighting the players will certainly have one or two melta in the group. This will hurt bad any player when the shot touches hum, and stop the vindicare from dodging anything (because he simply can't dodge that much).

 

The magos will be hard as nail to kill, but even there, it will happen when he'll become a higher level in ascension, you'll have also time as a GM to find ways and create ennemies that can give them enough hard time.

Of course you can kill them. Even the psyker can be killed. That doesn't mean they aren't broken. A GM has infinite resources he can throw against the PCs, if he wants to kill them they will die. The mark of a broken character is when a GM has to engineer situations and antagonists carefully so that they provide any kind of challenge for the PC. As it stands many of the most powerful sample enemies in ascension are little or no threat to certain careers.

It's especially problematic with something as unbalanced as ascension, because what will barely challenge one character will one-shot-kill another. There's also the fact that the ability to kill a PC isn't the only measure of its brokenness. There's also his impact on the game - what he can do that others can not. Players with some careers will feel totally useless because other members of the party will outshine them. Sure, you can kill the psyker, but until you do he'll be rendering most of the other PCs surplus to requirements. And intentionally killing him is just poor GMing.

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I think that the mark of a good GM is when he does engineers his storyline to fits the fun/playstyle/ needed by each player in his game. So if a character is broken when you do need to engineer trials that fits for its level and its capacites, then all character are broken. It is sure that if you build a scenario in ascension where all characters storm the same room at the same moment, I completely agree that the storm trooper sucks in comparison to the vindicare assassin (or worst, the primaris psyker). But when a world is in the thrall of a giant chaos cult which is leaded by many magus, you send the vindicare taking position in a infiltrated place, bypasses security and take his spot to aim at the head of one the chaos champion while the Inquisitor and his Interrogator masses clues and information to know where they are all; and when you must kick a door open and kill 30 cultists, the storm trooper comes in with his masters and does the job.

Everything depends on how you play the battles and the intrigue; the vindicare assassin took a lot more punishment in the prosecution of a Slaanesh Greater daemon and his cult/daemonic army than the arbitrator-built Interrogator of the team or, even worst, the sage who stood in front of the greater daemon when reciting his book. There are thousands of weaknesses to the vindicare assassin and thousands of missions you can send him into that will be hard for him, while he can't do what the Inquisitor/Interrogator do investigation.

On the other hand, I certainly don't know what to do with the primaris psyker with the dark heresy psychic power rules; what I settled by converting the powers to fit the black crusade standard.

 

But maybe it is just a question of how GM want to lead their game, but I GM'd one ascension game and I'm GMing an other one at the moment, in both of them, there is a vindicare assassin; all the characters do perform well in their settled roles and still find trials that fits them. I indeed have had problems with the brokeness of some characters, but only with the Primaris (which is now settled, as I said)


PS: I hope my messages don't look angry or anything, english isn't my first language and there are subtilities that maybe I don't master at all.

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I agree with InquisitorAlexel. All scenarios should be engineered with your player characters in mind to let them flex their muscle or their mind.  Each character class has roles to play from the obvious killing to the investigative and politics game.  If you really are playing the game right, then the most powerful character will always be the Inquisitor or Interrogator… How?… because with the right Fellowship, Peers/Good Rep, etc. I can use my Influence to recruit any number of "clones" of any character class. Why fight anyone when I can use my Influence to call in the Imperial Guard, Arbites or other assassins to do the work for me.

Character classes are not suppose to be equals in "power". The Sage is really a non-combatant who has a dangerous job. The Magos (unless playing the Myrmidon) is a scientist first and foremost no matter how tough he can become. The Death Cult Assassin, Vindicare Assassin and Primaris Psyker will never really be the pointman for an operation because of the negative social stigma that they inherently possess.  Imperial citizens to backwater feral worlders are raise to hate witches and have you looked at the pics of either assassin class?  Would you want to talk to them?  Not to mention the cost to raise their Fellowship and Intelligence.

Just for fun my party (Interrogator, Sage, Primaris Psyker, Vindicare Assassin, and Death Cult Assassin) played one-on-one to the death.  Obviously, the Sage lost all of her fights to each of the other classes. The Interrogator lost to all but the Sage. As for the big 3… it came down to Initiative, Dodge and Damage with anyone making a bad roll dying quickly (no Fate Points were used to keep it purely rolled numbers). At the end of the fun, the Death Cult Assassin won all 4 matches…. how?… Good Dodge, able to soak all damage from 1 attack, and 3 melee attacks on a charge. The Death Cult Assassin ate the psyker with Inititive, many more attacks and ignoring 1 massive damage attack.  It took longer for him to killed the Vindicare Assassin with all his Dodges, but 2 hits put the VA into Critical while 2 hits (1 ignored) left the DC assassin standing without penalty to finish the job.  We found out that when the Death Cult Assassin is within charge range, no one is really safe…. VA assassin moved away dodging the attack to be able to shoot and got Charged all over again; he lasted longer staying in melee and using the Exitus pistol in melee.

-Cynr

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