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Old 03-28-2018, 02:04 AM   #21
evileeyore
 
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Experience running ISAR and some concerns

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Originally Posted by Myrion View Post
I'll look into subbing in the Rogue, and make sure that my most experienced player will take the wizard.
Oh and Bards! DF and DFRPG Bards need some... genre and rules savvy to make work and not feel like it's 90% total losing and 10% OVERWHELMING POWER.
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Old 03-28-2018, 09:07 AM   #22
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Experience running ISAR and some concerns

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90% total losing and 10% OVERWHELMING POWER.
Every profession, every race-profession combo, and every customization choice falls somewhere on the "total losing"-to-"OVERWHELMING POWER" spectrum. Nothing is at 0 or 100 . . . it's all somewhere in the middle. Of course, some choices are easier to play than others.

This isn't a design flaw! There are players for whom "fun" = "making a marginal character work" and others for whom "fun" = "dominating out of the gate." The game aims to deliver both.

We shouldn't be unduly harsh on people new to the DFRPG, the GURPS engine, fantasy RPGs, or even all RPGs for not knowing this, and therefore running into trouble. I wrote Advice: Scaling Encounters (p. 3) to minimize the odds of such difficulty, but ultimately it's impossible to plan for every combination of professions, abilities, gear, and player strategies.

I will make two lists that could help new groups, though. First is the list of professions in order from easiest to hardest to play usefully if you lack system mastery:
Barbarian – Hits hard and can take hits. All you really need are three magic words: "I hit it!" Don't sweat gear; ST makes any weapon effective, and Tough Skin can cover for no armor. Bonus: Useful out of combat, thanks to noncombat abilities like Stealth and Tracking.

Knight – Basic fighter with balanced skill, damage, and defense. Most of the barbarian notes apply, but there's a slight design challenge in selecting and affording good gear.

Cleric – It's stated repeatedly that you're a healer and should take Healing spells; it couldn't be clearer. That alone means you'll always know what to do. You're strong and skilled enough to contribute in a fight (and have spells to help that). You have noncombat stuff to do. But you do have the added fuss of choosing spells and abilities.

Scout and Swashbuckler – These two are about tied. There's a certain level of system mastery needed to understand that a scout will always want odd-numbered ST for thrust, Strongbow, Weapon Master (Bow), and fine arrows, and use a quirky combat rule that only applies to scouts. Similar mastery is needed to make sure the swashbuckler takes Striking ST, a sword with a swinging attack, and even-numbered skill for Parry, and uses all the melee options that exploit high skill. But either can contribute in a fight and both have noncombat uses.

Holy Warrior – Probably the hardest pure warrior to play, because a lot depends on special ability choices and on what monsters the GM throws at the group. A lot of general combat effectiveness is sacrificed for situational power. Still, this is a warrior who can get by with "I hit it!", and one with a good range of stuff to do outside of a fight.

Wizard – Hard to play well because there are so many spell choices. But with the right choices, wizards can always contribute in any situation. Plus they have no secondary list of abilities to confuse matters. It balances out to keep the wizard fairly high up this list.

Thief – Thieves are tricky to play because they have to be cautious in combat and don't have a long list of spells. With decent system mastery to choose a good range of useful skills, and player experience to convince the GM to let you use them, a thief is wonderful fun. But it does require a veteran player who really wants to play a thief.

Druid and Martial Artist – Tied for being difficult to play. First, both demand choosing from two lists (for the druid, spells and special abilities; for the martial artist, chi skills and special abilities). Second, each can be made useful or useless all too easily through player choice. For instance, a druid with Animal and Plant spells in the dungeon isn't as useful as one with elemental attacks, and a martial artist faces problems similar to the swashbuckler's (having enough ST, a swung weapon, etc.), but with points spread far more thinly. Handle with care.

Bard – Without question the most difficult to play. Has the "choosing from two lists" challenge of the druid and martial artist and the "convince the GM to let you use all these skills" challenge of the thief, but with less combat potential and an out-of-combat role that only matters in town.
Second is the list of importance to a well-rounded adventuring party, which isn't the same thing:
A-List

Cleric – Essential!!! Without a healer, even a crummy one, the party is doomed unless everybody goes out of their way to load up on healing items galore, which is expensive for starting characters.

Barbarian or Knight – You'll want at least half the party to fall into these professions. They'll do most of the monster-killing and protect the other half of the party.

Wizard – While you don't strictly speaking need a wizard, most adventure designs assume you have one. Showing up without one is usually a bad idea.

Thief – Sometimes maligned for being redundant if the wizard has the right spells, realize that the wizard won't always have the right spells but the dungeon will always have locks and traps, very often involving no-mana zones and meteoric iron.

B-List

From here on down, everybody is a specialist. "Need" would be too strong a word. Don't fill the party with these people until you have the above delvers.

Scout – A ranged combat expert is nice to have, if not essential. But all professions can do some ranged combat, so a scout is never absolutely necessary, especially if you have a barbarian to cover outdoorsmanship.

Martial Artist or Swashbuckler – A speedy skirmisher, like a devoted ranged fighter, is also nice to have. But unless the whole group is fast or capable of offering ranged support, such characters tend to end up either not using their potential or running ahead and getting annihilated.

Holy Warrior – Almost essential if your cleric is bad at specialized demon- and undead-slaying, but otherwise redundant. That puts this profession right in the middle of the B list.

Bard – Really nice to have on urban adventures. Otherwise really marginal. But every party visits town, so still more important than . . .

Druid – Really nice to have on outdoor adventures. Otherwise really marginal.
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Old 03-28-2018, 09:30 AM   #23
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Experience running ISAR and some concerns

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Originally Posted by Myrion View Post
S

Of course, the players didn't bring a lot of system mastery, but I feel like that shouldn't be required for Dungeon Fantasy, yet it really feels like a balanced party and a good deal of system mastery are a hard requirement.
You could have let them take Henchmen.

Even a 250 pt NPC Cleric
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Old 03-28-2018, 03:28 PM   #24
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Experience running ISAR and some concerns

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
Every profession, every race-profession combo, and every customization choice falls somewhere on the "total losing"-to-"OVERWHELMING POWER" spectrum. Nothing is at 0 or 100 . . . it's all somewhere in the middle. Of course, some choices are easier to play than others.
Truth. I was just pointing out that Bards really need special care. The Player either feels like they aren't doing anything (compared to D&D Bards) or that they are dominating the encounter (compared to D&D Bards and the rest of the Party).

I've yet to see one played consistently for a long stretch as the Players always decide that the Profession just isn't working out for them.


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I will make two lists that could help new groups...
Excellent lists.
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Old 03-29-2018, 12:57 AM   #25
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Experience running ISAR and some concerns

Excellent lists, thank you!

I feel that now I understand the assumptions behind DFRPG better, which will help avoid trouble in the future. I still think that it's at least a bit weird to design classes such that they'll be useless most of the time (or unless you pick one specific way to optimize them) but I'm more aware of the traps now, so I can help my players better.

lachimba, I did. I kinda made them bring henchmen the second session. But remember, they're newbies - they didn't consider henchmen even though I specifically told them they exist. It was simply not part of their experience and corpus of ideas to deal with "suboptimal party". Again, I didn't want to force anything on them and so they went without henchmen.
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Old 03-29-2018, 01:09 AM   #26
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Experience running ISAR and some concerns

Oh yeah, and just to be clear - what quirky combat rule that only applies to scouts are you referring to, Kromm?
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Old 03-29-2018, 02:10 AM   #27
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Experience running ISAR and some concerns

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Oh yeah, and just to be clear - what quirky combat rule that only applies to scouts are you referring to, Kromm?
Probably the Move and Attack Maneuver rule about taking a -2 or the weapon's bulk as a penalty which Heroic Archers are immune too, but Scouts are the only Profession to really ever do.
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Old 03-29-2018, 03:19 AM   #28
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Experience running ISAR and some concerns

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I will make two lists that could help new groups, though. First is the list of professions in order from easiest to hardest to play . . .
Very helpful stuff. This is the kind of thing we'd hope to see collected into a future How to Be a DFRPG GM. Alas . . .

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Second is the list of importance to a well-rounded adventuring party, which isn't the same thing:
It's interesting that your A-List mirrors the original D&D foursome: cleric, fighter, magic-user, thief.

I suppose it's possible that those are four rather arbitrary roles, and the genre has shaped itself over the decades to keep them at the forefront. But I suspect, instead, that Gygax and friends perceived from the start that those four make up something special.
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Old 03-29-2018, 08:42 AM   #29
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Experience running ISAR and some concerns

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Very helpful stuff. This is the kind of thing we'd hope to see collected into a future How to Be a DFRPG GM. Alas . . .
Why "alas?" DFRPG is not getting another *print run*. It's not "please don't send us ideas for new products."
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Old 03-29-2018, 08:55 AM   #30
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Default Re: [Spoilers] Experience running ISAR and some concerns

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Thief – Thieves are tricky to play

A-List
Thief – Sometimes maligned for being redundant if the wizard has the right spells, realize that the wizard won't always have the right spells but the dungeon will always have locks and traps, very often involving no-mana zones and meteoric iron.
And this is the reason that so many modern dungeon crawling games significantly upped the combat capabilities of the "Rogue." The DF thief is unarguably old school, but it is a part of old school that folks in general have moved away from.
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