Gauging difficulty

Savioronedge
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Re: Gauging difficulty

Postby Savioronedge » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:57 pm

Most of the replies I see here are great...at helping gauge how difficult an encounter is going to be, but you can never be 100% sure of how the dice will turn out. "This will be a speed bump; you need need a 2 to hit, a 5 for good, and spending a possibility will guarantee you an outstanding hit....And you rolled a 1; ok, use your Second Chance, and you rolled another 1. Ok so now you're disconnected, but with your Reality at 14 you should be able to reconne...and you just Transformed. How did you make your dice so angry at you?"

I think the best way to gauge how difficult an encounter was would be to look at how many possibilities, cards, and Cosm cards were spent. If the party makes it through without spending any, it was obviously pretty easy; if the players are complaining about how hard it was, just realize they were the ones who chose to the 3 Heart Challenge, not the encounter. Meanwhile if the last card in the last player's pool is the Martyr and they have to use it because the party is out of Possibilities and other options, then the encounter was Nigh Impossible, even if it was written as 1 farm boy and his sheep against a 6 character group.

As someone who has lost 36 armies failing to capture North Africa against 6 defenders, twice in a row, I can say with certainty that "How difficult an encounter will be" does not always mean anything when you look back at "How difficult was it really", which I believe was the question.

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Gargoyle
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Re: Gauging difficulty

Postby Gargoyle » Sat Feb 02, 2019 10:20 am

agarrett wrote:
Gargoyle wrote:Action economy. This is related to numbers. Lone villains aren't as hard as a small group of weaker foes, because they don't get as many actions. Love it or hate it, one of the good ideas in D&D 4th edition was Solo monsters. The idea that a big foe like a dragon should have more actions is a way to make such foes a threat. They will be focus fired, after all. So if you do have a big solo enemy, you might want to give player characters other things to do in the fight and/or find a way to make that character be able to do more per round. Villains with special abilities that allow them to react to player character actions can still be a threat when outnumbered by Storm Knights. Most fights only last five to seven rounds, so a big list of special abilities doesn't buff a villain unless they can be used. And some immunity from stunning effects might be in order too, but it might be a good idea to be transparent about that if the characters would have a way to know.


A form of this I used recently. My players used Eye of the Saar and managed to get Baruk Kaah appearing in the battle. I really didn't want them fighting him, but was fine with them getting away. So I improvised a new ability for Kaah - had him make a faith test, and for each level of success he stole one of the players' cards from their pool for himself to use. My players were utterly terrified, and suddenly even the idea of facing a High Lord doesn't seem so appealing. I got what I actually wanted there - they ran. I like the idea quite a lot, but it's staying High Lord only, probably Baruk Kaah only, though the others might get something at least along those lines.


That's a really good idea for a special ability for High Lords, or perhaps for the Darkness Devices themselves and make it a Reality test instead. I really think the key to killing a High Lord, or at least the way I think it should be, is to separate them from their Darkness Devices, or perhaps somehow convince the Darkness Device that their High Lord is unworthy and have them abandon them to make them prove their worthiness again. An ability like this would work well for me in this regard, I feel like Darkness Devices should be unbeatable, and their lack of loyalty and thirst for destruction their only real weakness.
Last edited by Gargoyle on Sat Feb 02, 2019 10:55 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Gargoyle
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Re: Gauging difficulty

Postby Gargoyle » Sat Feb 02, 2019 10:27 am

Savioronedge wrote:Most of the replies I see here are great...at helping gauge how difficult an encounter is going to be, but you can never be 100% sure of how the dice will turn out. "This will be a speed bump; you need need a 2 to hit, a 5 for good, and spending a possibility will guarantee you an outstanding hit....And you rolled a 1; ok, use your Second Chance, and you rolled another 1. Ok so now you're disconnected, but with your Reality at 14 you should be able to reconne...and you just Transformed. How did you make your dice so angry at you?"

I think the best way to gauge how difficult an encounter was would be to look at how many possibilities, cards, and Cosm cards were spent. If the party makes it through without spending any, it was obviously pretty easy; if the players are complaining about how hard it was, just realize they were the ones who chose to the 3 Heart Challenge, not the encounter. Meanwhile if the last card in the last player's pool is the Martyr and they have to use it because the party is out of Possibilities and other options, then the encounter was Nigh Impossible, even if it was written as 1 farm boy and his sheep against a 6 character group.

As someone who has lost 36 armies failing to capture North Africa against 6 defenders, twice in a row, I can say with certainty that "How difficult an encounter will be" does not always mean anything when you look back at "How difficult was it really", which I believe was the question.


Isn't the main point of gauging difficulty, even in past encounters, to plan future encounters so that there are not unfair TPK's or that is not a boring cake walk?

I mean the dice are always going to be a factor, and in Torg it's very swingy. But I don't see the value of analyzing past sessions when the dice are hitting the outlier parts of the probability curves. Over time, that's not going to happen often; the dice results will usually settle into those peaks most of the time given enough sessions of play, and it doesn't give you a good indication of how to plan future sessions, which is the real practical point of it all.

I do think you bring up a good point though. The dice can be cruel and you need a failsafe. One thing I forgot to mention is that I use the oTorg "GM's fiat" rules. I haven't had to do it in Torg Eternity yet, but if things get really bad, it can offset those outlying die rolls back to something more fair, or do the opposite and turn a dull encounter into something exciting. I feel they should have included GM's Fiat in Torg Eternity.
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fougerec
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Re: Gauging difficulty

Postby fougerec » Sat Feb 02, 2019 12:01 pm

Any game with exploding dice tends to be far more swingier than others and it has been my experience that it's super hard to plan for. Deadlands Classic is notorious in our gaming circle for that. Years of Deadlands has taught me to never take the exploding dice into account - it's a good way to drive yourself up the wall (especially because you find yourself needing to take into account the possibilities of a d4 exploding vs. a d12...).

I find I do analyze why an encounter was tougher than usual. Did my players not use Possibilities and if so why not? Was it sheer numbers? Was I rolling higher or lower than I usually do (my dice are notoriously cursed. Like Wil Wheaton levels of bad rolls)? Did my players? Was it just bad cards? Once I get a feel for why I look at elements I can control and ones I can't. If my players are possibility starved then I can adjust. If it was a numerical advantage or disadvantage I can adjust. If it's weird dice rolls or bad card draws then it's out of my hands.

I think adventure design in Torg Eternity is more art than science as there are so many variables.

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Shayd3000
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Re: Gauging difficulty

Postby Shayd3000 » Sat Feb 02, 2019 1:44 pm

fougerec wrote:I think adventure design in Torg Eternity is more art than science as there are so many variables.


I agree. Plus, the cards really can help with "balance" issues. The card play really swings things in favor of the players. I found in oTorg, and have been finding in TE as well, that I can really just "go crazy" with encounters and I'll be fine. However, that does assume semi-competant card play on the part of the players. In my oTorg days I did have 1 player that just refused to grok the cards - part of it was a blind spot to cards being in an RPG, so he just really never paid much attention to them. I had enough other players at the time though that it really made up for it. That particular player loved the idea of Torg and the fast action and narrative play style of Torg, but never could get that it was the card play that really helped with that.

The group I have now is VERY good at card play, which is why I think with only 2 players I've nto had to tweak any of the encounters we've run in any adventures. We just wrapped up Act 3 of God Box, and again, ran RAW and they even defeated the avatars (which was pretty impressive). It was in a very large part to good card play, which they are then very good about integrating into the role playing and telling me what it looks like.

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Kuildeous
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Re: Gauging difficulty

Postby Kuildeous » Sat Feb 02, 2019 8:15 pm

Something I need to work on doing to gauge the difficulty is to trickle in enemies rather than throw everything at them at once. Rather than have the group facing 30 gospogs at once, I have them face 15 at first. Then next round 5 more arrive. And then again and again.

This has two opposing benefits.

* If the encounter is too hard as written, then the group faces a smaller threat and can whittle them down. Even if the number of enemies grows faster than the Storm Knights can cut them down, the nature of cards is that PCs get more and more powerful the longer a fight goes on (at least until round 4 possibly). They get a challenging fight without getting overwhelmed right away.

* If the encounter is too easy as written, then the group doesn't defeat the entire enemy right away. There's a chokepoint in the enemies so that an easy encounter can still provide some challenge. Say the group is skilled enough to take out 30 gospog in the first round. Instead, they take out 15 gospog. Then in round 2, 5 more show up, and if villains go first, they get to attack the PCs and try to provide some danger. Then it's a matter of the PCs controlling the fight.

And yeah, die luck can be a huge factor. The fun thing about Torg is also a weakness: the d20 is really swingy. It's why Shatterzone switched to 2d10, I believe. It's hard to account for the difference between a bad roll and a good roll with a d20--not even taking into account the explosions.
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