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Old 03-12-2020, 07:04 AM   #1
Dalin
 
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Default Serendipity

In an upcoming game, I have a PC whose schtick is that he is crazy lucky. He’s got a high level of Luck and three levels of Serendipity. I’ve dealt with Luck many times, but never Serendipity. It sounds fun to me, but I thought I should tap into the collective wisdom here to see if you all have any tips or cautions.

How have you seen it used well?
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Old 03-12-2020, 05:44 PM   #2
bocephus
 
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Default Re: Serendipity

Serendipity is lesser to me, because its more part of the story. It doesn't undo a roll and really thats a tool the GM can use to bail out of something that might end up going very badly (but the PCs dont have enough info to know it).

For the cost I might allow Serendipity (at least one level) but I would try to put most of the work on the player, so it would be like a "flashback token" most likely. Level per session the player could just say "The mirror that I stuck in my bag before we left would be handy against this laser" or "what a surprise, that guard is an old drinking buddy of mine" ... but it would be up to them to set it up. This is often how I handle good role play rewards BTW, passing out a "flash back token".


In a regular game I wouldn't allow Luck. Its too much for me to have to keep track of when creating encounters and I don't like Luck. Luck combined with Serendipity quickly becomes overpowering vs the other players and a shortcut in encounters. In a heavily cinematic campaign, maybe, but I don't really run those. Or a single player game, that might be interesting.

I allow a lesser home brew Luck of "Once per session in a non-combat roll - 5pts" or the first level of luck at normal price for an experienced roll player. I also give out "Give someone else Luck" tokens, which I find encourages cool roleplay in the group moments more than give yourself luck. I usually give out regular Luck "tokens" at the end of an arc/chapter, but that comes out to a Luck token once per 5-10 sessions per player which also seems reasonable to me.

I have seen Luck ruin other players experience because it lets the Lucky player perform without needing the group or in a really bad situation, play in-spite of the group. I have also experienced one player who ended up not playing at my table because he "couldn't/wouldn't play a char without the Luck advantage".

I also spend a lot of time working on encounters to keep them balance but challenging for the group, and extreme luck can undo a chunk of that work, which is frustrating if its happening a lot. My games aren't ultra realistic but they're grounded solidly in some sort of logical construction and common rules.

IMO Luck is going to be your bigger problem. I mean you could see luck used multiple times in the same combat session if its the 60pt version which is really OP in my mind.
As a player Serendipity is almost too expensive points wise for what you get, which makes it seem ok to me as a GM.
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Old 03-12-2020, 07:23 PM   #3
Harald387
 
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Default Re: Serendipity

Serendipity can also be used to make the usual adventuring tasks easier. A canonical example is with Scrounging (Exploits, p.13), but it's also reasonable to use it for most of the 'Getting Stuff Cheap' tasks, or any time the question of whether a particular special order or magic item is available for sale (the merchant 'just happens' to have that in stock!). I'd allow it to guarantee success on Advertising (Exploits p.14), whether it's to find scrap dealers or quest-giver; to guarantee that found armor fits the character (Fixer-Uppers, Exploits p.15); to ensure that a wandering monster roll passes uneventfully ('We're lucky they didn't hear that') - basically, in place of anything where a lucky break could reasonably help the PC's cause. At 1/session for 15 points, this is very unlikely to get out of hand.
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Old 03-12-2020, 10:51 PM   #4
Dalin
 
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Default Re: Serendipity

Quote:
Originally Posted by bocephus View Post
For the cost I might allow Serendipity (at least one level) but I would try to put most of the work on the player, so it would be like a "flashback token" most likely.
I'm intrigued by the flashback idea. Will try it out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bocephus View Post
I have seen Luck ruin other players experience because it lets the Lucky player perform without needing the group or in a really bad situation, play in-spite of the group.
I haven't had much trouble with it thus far. It's been popular on character sheets. I mostly see it act as a get-out-of-critical-failure card. Or when something is especially important, they'll invoke luck to improve their odds of success. I also see it used as a way of improving the odds on a challenging roll. As often as not, though, they still end up failing the attempt.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harald387 View Post
it's also reasonable to use it for most of the 'Getting Stuff Cheap' tasks, or any time the question of whether a particular special order or magic item is available for sale (the merchant 'just happens' to have that in stock!) . . . basically, in place of anything where a lucky break could reasonably help the PC's cause.
Lots of great ideas here, Harald387. Thank you!
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Old 03-13-2020, 05:11 AM   #5
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Default Re: Serendipity

I would let characters use Serendipity to add plausible elements to a scene. If you have GURPS you may want to look at p. B347.
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Old 03-13-2020, 07:11 AM   #6
Kromm
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Default Re: Serendipity

Where most of the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game has been streamlined to be accessible to "beginner" and "intermediate" gamers, I must confess that Serendipity is one of the few elements left in the game that works best with an "advanced" GM. It absolutely requires excellent ad-libbing on the GM's part. With that condition met, the GM can make it as powerful as they want if players feel their 15 points aren't working for them. As the rules say, it can be as good as a critical success, which isn't nothing.

Serendipity is a cross between a "Fortunately, I anticipated something like this . . ." advantage and a "By some strange coincidence . . ." advantage. It can be used whenever the situation could be made easier on the PC by finished one of those sentences. The thing to avoid is making the whole adventure too easy.

Some examples similar to ones I've permitted:
"What are the odds we'd walk into the Wizards' Guild Library and the book on <major plot point> would be sitting there on the table?"
"Hey, see that woman? She's the merchant who sells exactly the <special or magical item> we want to buy!"
"Wow, look at this footpath to the dungeon. It'll take us right past all the <dangers> we were warned about!"
"After all that searching, who'd have thought I'd just lean on the button that reveals <secret thing>?"
"My cousin fought one of these! Its weakness is <flaw>."
"How fortuitous that we walked in on the monster just when it was <eating, peeing, sleeping, etc.>."
"Oh, wonderful – the dead monster just happened to be carrying <key, map fragment, password scrawled on paper, etc.>".
"Fortunately, I anticipated poison and bought an antidote. Who knew it was <specific poison>, though?"
"Why, that isn't just any ugly necklace! It's the long-lost <McGuffin>, which <NPC> is offering a huge reward for!"
"Wait a second . . . I recognize this artifact. It's the <fabled thing>, and it can <power>."
Plus it should always be able to pull off a guaranteed use of Last Ditch (Exploits, pp. 90-91) when the PC is in dire straits, with no need to spend character points or pay off the gods at the temple.
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Old 03-13-2020, 08:27 AM   #7
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Default Re: Serendipity

As a player, I greatly enjoy serendipity (and in Gurps, forethought, destiny point, ...).

As a GM, luck is almost mandatory. I advice all players to take it, and never found it to be a problem.

For serendipity, it depends.

I ran a campaign when all the characters were focal point of fate/destiny (sort of like Jordan Ta'everen), and therefore each started with one level of luck, serendipity and destiny (with more available).
I noticed that those advantages are greatly dependent on the *player*.
Some will embrace the concept and run with it, some will not.
It does require GM flexibility, especially on written scenarios rather than sandbox, but to shine it really need players who enjoy making suggestion and adding elements to the scene on the fly.
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Old 03-13-2020, 08:45 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Celjabba View Post

As a GM, luck is almost mandatory. I advice all players to take it, and never found it to be a problem.
Same here.

In 34 years with various editions of GURPS, and now the DFRPG, I've never seen Luck become any kind of problem. Throughout that time, Luck has always seemed to serve as a one-in-a-while "Get Out of Jail Free" card that most players hold in reserve against disaster, and thus use less often than they could. It's mostly defensive in character, and I've never seen it make its user better at affecting the world – only cover for blown defense and resistance rolls, and critical misses, that render the game less fun for that one player. If I were asked to comment on its effects in my games, I'd call it a "don't get bored sitting out, doing nothing with a badly wounded or dead PC" button.

I'd be very curious to see how Luck could possibly make the game less fun for others. I suppose that in a campaign with lots and lots of PvP, it could be too much of a wildcard to be fun. ("I had him dead to rights and then he undid my hard-won victory with this one weird trick.") But that's so far from my gaming experience as to be alien. And this is the DFRPG forum . . . the game is so explicitly pro-teamwork that adversarial gaming is close to off-topic.
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Old 03-13-2020, 09:04 AM   #9
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Default Re: Serendipity

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
It's mostly defensive in character, and I've never seen it make its user better at affecting the world – only cover for blown defense and resistance rolls, and critical misses, that render the game less fun for that one player.
While I agree that this is by far the most common use, once characters hit Ridiculous Luck my experience is that players (especially spellcasters) will weaponize it by fishing for critical successes. Depending on the speed of play at the table, that 10-minute timer can be up by the time your next turn comes around - or even by the time the enemy turn comes around!

This still isn't unbalancing: as one of my GMs is fond of saying, the player chose to spend 60 points on that and they deserve to get 60 points of unfairness in the form of lucky breaks. The player who spends 40 on ST and 20 on Weapon Master instead gets 60 points of unfairness in the form of hitting things really really hard. It balances out.
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Old 03-13-2020, 09:15 AM   #10
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Default Re: Serendipity

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harald387 View Post

While I agree that this is by far the most common use, once characters hit Ridiculous Luck my experience is that players (especially spellcasters) will weaponize it by fishing for critical successes. Depending on the speed of play at the table, that 10-minute timer can be up by the time your next turn comes around - or even by the time the enemy turn comes around!
Yeah, Ridiculous Luck is a bit of an exception in that regard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harald387 View Post

This still isn't unbalancing: as one of my GMs is fond of saying, the player chose to spend 60 points on that and they deserve to get 60 points of unfairness in the form of lucky breaks. The player who spends 40 on ST and 20 on Weapon Master instead gets 60 points of unfairness in the form of hitting things really really hard. It balances out.
I've said almost exactly the same thing. Considering that you can get Magery 3 for just 35 points and go on to learn every spell ever, or spend your 60 points on HT 16 and be just about immune to death, I don't really see the problem. Indeed, I encourage players who take Ridiculous Luck to use it ("Your Luck is available, want to change that roll?") so that they get as much out of their points as people who have overwhelming abilities of other kinds.
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