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 Post subject: Challenging Characters at Tier 3 and beyond...
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:47 am 
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Good morning,
A discussion about traps and trials at ArcaniCon got me thinking about something. The discussion went along the lines of "Since characters can heal all Stamina damage after an encounter, Traps or Trials which only do Stamina damage have no lasting impact on the characters." So, we tried to come up with penalties or other long-term effects, such as Wounds or Action Roll penalties. However, as characters get higher Tiers, the ability to repair those things means it may be even more difficult.

At Tier 3 and beyond, what is it that will challenge characters beyond the current encounter and be the 'limiting factor' on how far an adventuring group can go in a day or when they will start to worry about their chances for success?

Fate Points are a limiting factor but nothing 'requires' the use of Fate to perform and it's mostly optional...so I won't consider that.
Combat Maneuvers and Spells are 'unlimited / day' as Strain/Recovery all clears out after an encounter. This is by design and allows characters maximum impact every encounter without unnecessary tracking.
There are a few "once / day" abilities, but they are fewer and pretty specialized so I won't consider those as a general limiting factor.

What remains is this:
- In Tier 1/Tier 2, after most combat encounters, everyone is able to heal all Stamina loss. The main limiting factor is any Wounds taken. In general, characters in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cannot heal Wounds, so as the characters take more Wounds, penalties increase and characters are at risk of being Vanquished by Wounds and potential death. With the Gritty Rules, Wounds are more common and will naturally limit the characters' ability to adventure in an unlimited way.
- In Tier 3 and beyond, Mend Wounds becomes available as do spells such as Restore Senses, Mend Bones, and others which make healing injuries and other penalties possible and easier. Since spells aren't limited nor is the ability to BE healed limited at all. Even the spells which provide these healing / restoration are not limited in how many times someone can benefit from them.

Because of this, it *appears* (I'm making a supposition as I have not played many games in Tier 3 and beyond) that the only way to really challenge characters is *within* a given encounter. After the encounter is 'done' and characters have a chance to catch their breath, they will heal up Stamina, Wounds, and have any penalties removed. Granted, the "Mend Wounds" is only available in the Corpus tradition, but it's rare to be at a table without at least 1 Divine Caster. Psionics have multiple ways to heal their own Wounds and a few spells let the healing of Wounds once / day.

So the main question is: Does anyone else feel this might be an issue beyond Tier 3? If so, how might it be addressed?

John

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 Post subject: Re: Challenging Characters at Tier 3 and beyond...
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 12:25 pm 
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As someone who writes statblocks for his own mods and others, this is a problem I've been facing for some time now that we have crossed the T3 barrier (my own character is now 3.1 as of the end of the last adventure). I do think it is a real problem, and I am more than open to hear suggestions.

I will agree that the biggest issue with this is that Wounds no longer have long-term effects. Sure, TAKING Wounds is still harsh, but as long as you have a Divine Caster or a Shaman who took Mend Wounds as their 'free' spell, you're golden. Similarly, I know of a few people who will be looking at Spell Runes of Mend Wounds with some of their excess cash (haven't looked at the practicality of that yet).

One way around this is to write 'bigger and more epic' adventures. For example, you are climbing the sheer face of a mountain and fall 100 feet down. This adds a 'do or die' level of threat. The problem with this is that a significant portion of the Arcanis player base is Tier 1.5 to 2.5, which means that writing such adventures really hurts the low level (and, usually, newer) players, which can lead to frustration in the campaign. While we can theoretically get around this by making HP's 'epic', SP's make up more than half the adventures and are meant to bulk out Heroes and help prepare them for greater threats. This means that unless we want to make a restriction that High Tier Heroes cannot play SP's, we have to budget adventures for 1.5 players and up, which means that what might destroy a low level table offers no threat to a high-level table, even taking scaled encounters into effect.

For example, the same mountain fall: A low level player taking some 20d6 damage falling would be almost certain death (that is 70 points average, btw), but a 3.1 player could survive it (I know that my own Haakon could walk away from it, suitably chastened). Even making the rolls easier for the lower table (say, a TN 15 rather than a 25), the consequences don't balance. If you cahnge the height of the fall, it balances that out a bit more (say 50' + 25' per Tier), but then we also have to account for the fact that we have very mixed tables often. My last adventure I played had 2.10, 2.9, 2.1, 1.8, and 1.5 if memory serves, which make such restrictions come out as even more artificial.

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 Post subject: Re: Challenging Characters at Tier 3 and beyond...
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 12:43 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:46 pm
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The encounter does tend to become all encompassing given the ability to refresh between fights.

For traps / skill challenges if they're run immediately as precursors to combat where the use of healing can't be done for free, that's one option. Another is that the stamina or other damage from the challenge is considered the net damage. So if you're climbing up a mountain and failing a skill challenge you take 9 stamina damage from missing your footing and sliding down, that's really just indicative of how your trek is going. It or something like it actually happens a lot more often, but even with a proper healer and trying to keep moving it's where you net out.

Another option is to impose a temporary Stamina penalty against the cap for X period of time for each wound healed. The basic idea being that magical or not, the broken femur is still going to be a bit tender to walk on for a while (-10 stamina say) until you've had a proper night's sleep. Now, if you've had 5 wounds healed at -10 stamina each and have to wait until tomorrow or have a stamina cap 50 points lower than normal. As an alternative you could have a -1 penalty for all ASRs for each wound healed because the lingering sensation of being healed is distracting.

I agree it probably needs further thought.

With a sweep of his hat,

Paul


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 Post subject: Re: Challenging Characters at Tier 3 and beyond...
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:53 pm 

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1. Do the trap as an immediate precursor to a combat, so any damage impacts your status during a combat
2. Allow the trap to warn a combatant, thus increasing the difficulty of the combat by some measure
3. Allow the quiet disarming of a trap or opening of a door bypass an entire worthless combat – this seemed extreme to me, until I thought of the number of times a persuasion check accomplishes this in the campaign as well.
4. Perhaps my favorite, put in locks that allow access to treasure you can’t get any other way (a wall safe in a location you can’t brute force it out of the wall, etc) or a trap that destroys the contents of a location. So that non-mission critical treasure is dependent on the use of the skills. Everyone is sad when they realize they can’t get treasure. 
5. Maybe have a trap change conditions within the environment. Damage from a steam trap is healed before the next combat, but the next combat is fought with reduced visibility or a miss chance or balance checks to move due to lingering steam
6. Exhaust someone hit by a trap, since there are fewer ways to deal with that
7. Some other situational condition – covered in sap that then infuriates the bees you encounter later, horrible odor that makes it impossible to avoid an enemy, etc.
8. Poison or disease that has a longer term impact and is harder to heal?

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 Post subject: Re: Challenging Characters at Tier 3 and beyond...
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:58 pm 
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Good discussion...

I guess one big question is: At Tier 3 and beyond what is the limited factor for characters? Almost every game I've played has something that limits the length of time a character can 'adventure' before they get worried they can't continue...
In some games it's Hit Points (Which may only come back by natural rest)
In some games it's Wounds (Which are harder to heal)
In some games it's Healing Dice (Which come back only after a day's rest)
In many games it's "Spellcasting Resources" (Spells, spell points, etc) - Which indirectly affect the amount of times someone can be healed in some systems

In Arcanis, it's generally going to be Wounds at Tier 1 / Tier 2.
In Tier 3, I'm having trouble finding out what that 'limit' would be.

Perhaps it's a flaw in my thinking and Arcanis is not meant to have a Limit of that type. If that is the case, then really it's going to be incredibly difficult to provide 'long term challenges' for characters at higher Tiers.

John

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"The highest compliment an Altherian can pay you is to shoot you with his flintlock. It means you were worth the expense."


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 Post subject: Re: Challenging Characters at Tier 3 and beyond...
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 5:21 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:55 pm
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Why not have said traps have added effects on top of being more lethal for Tier 3?

Like what has been mentioned above. Poison or Damage that also afflicts the target ability die drops and adds other effect (Blinded, Deafened, Shaken, Exhausted, etc, etc, etc ...). So instead of characters having a one answer for all, they have to deal with several, different, aspects at the same time.

Eh, just a thought.

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 Post subject: Re: Challenging Characters at Tier 3 and beyond...
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:10 pm 
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Location: Tampa, Florida (temp.)
Harliquinn wrote:
A discussion about traps and trials at ArcaniCon got me thinking about something. The discussion went along the lines of "Since characters can heal all Stamina damage after an encounter, Traps or Trials which only do Stamina damage have no lasting impact on the characters." [...] as characters get higher Tiers, the ability to repair those things means it may be even more difficult.

At Tier 3 and beyond, what is it that will challenge characters beyond the current encounter and be the 'limiting factor' on how far an adventuring group can go in a day or when they will start to worry about their chances for success?

Given the nature of the world of Arcanis and most adventures, to me the challenge is not combat but figuring out how to overcome the scenario with my brain--and I don't mean psionics. Sometimes it's a matter of solving the mystery to find the guilty culprit. Sometimes it's deciphering the political intrigue to realize who's really doing what to achieve certain ends and then deciding how to react to that. Sometimes it's deciphering the bad guys' M.O. so we can get one step ahead of them and stop them before they do their "bad thing" again. Once in a while I need to try to deceive my fellow party members as I accomplish secret faction orders. Often there's a moral dilemma where we have to discuss and decide what we want to do in a situation with no clear answer and shades of grey. Occasionally it's deciding whether that patron who hired us is really doing the right thing and whether we should do what we were asked or take another course.

Those are the unique challenges that Arcanis presents, and those are the challenges where characters of any tier can succeed or fail as easily as any other.

If I cared about challenge in combat, I'd play any of a huge number of game systems and campaigns that are combat-focused. The Arcanis RPG is intentionally designed so that death is unlikely. Let Arcanis challenge us in the ways that are special to the world.

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 Post subject: Re: Challenging Characters at Tier 3 and beyond...
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:00 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:46 pm
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Dante wrote:
Given the nature of the world of Arcanis and most adventures, to me the challenge is not combat but figuring out how to overcome the scenario with my brain <snip>
Those are the unique challenges that Arcanis presents, and those are the challenges where characters of any tier can succeed or fail as easily as any other.

If I cared about challenge in combat, I'd play any of a huge number of game systems and campaigns that are combat-focused. The Arcanis RPG is intentionally designed so that death is unlikely. Let Arcanis challenge us in the ways that are special to the world.


It's a valid view, but one of many reasons people play the game. Not everyone is in it for the problem solving either because other elements are of greater interest or because it's not their strength. Even once you solve the puzzle, there's usually some action that needs to be taken so that "bad things" don't happen. John's question is more whether storytellers are losing tools from their toolbox in making for exciting adventures because challenges are harder to make mechanically meaningful.

Extending the mechanics into in-game, if it's quite possible to have an individual who can heal wounds, banish exhaustion and restore fatigue, what's to prevent an organization of any type (military, clandestine, whatnot) from running people pretty much 24/7, non-stop in attempting to achieve their goals? If the only solution is to knock them all unconscious and tie them up or kill them, why don't we see more impact like this on the world?

Consider this a problem to solve. And.... GO! ;)

With a sweep of his hat,

Paul


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 Post subject: Re: Challenging Characters at Tier 3 and beyond...
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2016 3:16 am 
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I have written before (and elsewhere) that I think the Arcanis rules set generally favors a swashbuckling tone and that its hard for the results of one combat encounter to meaningfully impact another. (Because the game has deliberately avoided resources to manage). Generally I don't think it's wise for module authors to try and fight that.

I feel one of the consequences of that is that minor encounters are not meaningful challenges. Whether it's a pair of sentries or a trap, I feel it's generally filler on the way to the meaningful "showdown."

I think traps are potentially (very) useful within a combat...but we are hindered in this too by the fact that there are no published rules for trap design.

My opinion? There was & is no meaningful limit to the number encounters a party can handle beyond the time on the clock. That can be in game time or real world time. So if someone came to me and said that they had a great idea for an adventure and the idea was that it was going to be a horror themed combat grind through a "dungeon" with the players growing ever more fearful that they will run out of gas before reaching & defeating the "Big Bad" at the end...my response would be that those stories are great and that I had played some in other rule sets ... But that I don't think the A:RPG does supports that idea well.

Okay...with that said here are my thoughts beyond "make your peace" with encounters with no lasting/meaningful effects:

1) effect reduces your maximum Stamina by a d4(d6, d8 etc) until you sleep.
2) gain a penalty to a useful skill until certain condition is met (eg. Athletics until you get 6 hours of sleep)
3) temporarily gain a flaw (punjab trap gives you the Lame flaw for 3 hours/days)
4) Curses that do X until removed (impact depends on the ability of the party to remove curses)
5) Gain vulnerability to damage (like negative AR). Collapsing wall hurts you all over...for the next 24 hours take an extra 2 points of damage whenever you get hit with physical damage.

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 Post subject: Re: Challenging Characters at Tier 3 and beyond...
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2016 11:53 pm 

Joined: Thu Dec 19, 2013 8:03 pm
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I see the issue as "if you don't have resources to manage you don't have material tension."

I also think that -respecting Val'Holryn's assessment for it's accuracy- swashbuckling is a mistake. There isn't drama in knowing The Destroyer is coming and that it'll mostly work itself out. That's the twin of the rancid feeling of helplessness as one is "I can do nothing and that's distressing" and the other is "I can't really screw this up and that's disengaging." That's like turning Arcanis into the PG-13 version of Game of Thrones and substituting combat for commercial breaks (yeah, I know HBO doesn't have commercials) -"tune in next time for 60 mins of plot divided by 3 hours of combat!"

I think this is an issue in need of an official fix. How about, "there is no generic Mend Wounds cant so I hope you bought Heal"? Or that Mend Wounds has a single-day-long onset time. So it'll patch you up between scenes, but not between encounters in the same location?

The relative upside to this problem insofar as I understand it is that it's centralized in a single effect -Mend Wounds. Prune that back, and you've got some kind of hold on the problem.

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