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Old 04-18-2013, 02:52 AM   #21
PseudoFenton
 
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Default Re: [DF] Solving for N

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Originally Posted by Stripe View Post
I have no idea how the Pathfinder/D20 Challenge Rating works in practice, either. There are complaints, I've read.

However, the point is those respective designers have such a mechanic. We now have something of the equivalent, something sorely lacking until MotFD, what I consider the other, more important half of DFM1. I may never run the adventure, but Lord knows I'm using everything else in the book.
Sadly the CR of D&D breaks down very easily, and is purposefully misleading in places too - like how all dragons are 'costed' at a lower CR rating than they really should be (even more so for the bigger tougher ones designed for higher level groups), just to ensure they're always dangerous and 'memorable' encounters.

Also, an optimised wizard/cleric/druid can make a CR several levels higher than them childs play, whilst other classes are highly underpar even when optimised (mostly fighters to be honest, especially the monk) which means they'll struggle with CR's that should be equal to them by level. This makes 'appropriate' CR dependant on how well optimised the party is, and what classes they chose to go. Once you throw in idealised loot drops or high purchasing power, its also very easy to elevate the power of a party with equipment alone, making their levels (and thus how CR is calculated) even less important.

So although other games do have a mechanic for this - I wouldn't agree that they're in any way less based on guesswork and approximations of what the likely potency of any given party is. Which only leads to greater and greater discrepancies the longer you play, leading neatly into this sort of trouble...

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Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
In my experience in 3.5 it worked perfectly at low levels and became progressively more unwieldy and less accurate at higher levels. I eventually ended the campaign early because I was tired of the work that had to go into encounters (one of my personal challenges was to run it "by the book") that weren't actually guaranteed to be "balanced" in any meaningful way.
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Also, when you're running a campaign in a point buy system, or even a level system with lots of choices at higher levels, the characters diverge enough that gauging encounter difficulty becomes more and more of an art than a science. So N becomes "fuzzier" in general the more choices PCs have to choose from. In practice, even with templates, this happens immediately in GURPS, but will happen eventually in any system that grants lots of choices to characters as they advance.
This is perfectly true, the ability to make choices means you can make non-synergising/under-par ones just as easily as you can make 'average' or optimal ones. So although in theory all choices should be equal and all average out to form perfect balance - the truth is the more choices you give, the quicker and easier it is to deviate from the expected profile.

The problem mostly being that potential power and applied power are different things, and once you start min-maxing some traits over others you get disproportionate applied power even when you've rigorously maintained the potential power available - this is why its hard to 'balance' GURPS, nothing (but the GM) stops you min-maxing a small field of excellence and thus dominating that area at the cost of all other areas.


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Or, you can be old-school and not worry about whether the fights are balanced ;)
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I know it is absolutely no help to anybody, but in GURPS I just do what makes sense. ... If a fight is especially easy or hard for the PCs, I'm not overly concerned as it's the PC's choices that led them there.
This is how I do it, balance is all well and good, but it doesn't mean anything if you're party isn't playing by the normal rules of combat/social etiquette in the first place.

Yeah a troll might squash you flat if you try to engage them in a toe-to-toe fight, and therefore should be a 'tough' foe for the party to deal with. But nothing stops you collapsing their cave/bridge on to them, or kiting them into traps with ranged weapons and harrying tactics, or even just pacifying them with a silver-tongue or a well picked spell.

How you approach a problem determines its difficulty, and maintaining a world which makes sense allows you to use intuition and logic to solve problems - rather than trying to shoe-horn every problem into little boxes of "can only be solved by a party of N engaging it in direct combat" and then finding it doesn't work out that easily.

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That's reasonable for a sandbox game, but for a prepared adventure, it should be designed so the characters expected to play the adventure can reasonably succeed, without too much time-wasting extraneous stuff. That means that expected fights should be beatable and shouldn't feel like a waste of time (this doesn't mean all fights have to be challenging, but there should be a reason to play out the fight, rather than declaring that the PCs win).
Although I agree with your counter-argument, I still think published adventures should have a list of potential solutions (ranging from "this instantly solves the problem" to "if you're players are desperate or misguided enough, they might be able to employ this solution effectively, but it'll be tough") and then encourage the GM to accept any logical course of action the players might take that could lead to a solution. This applies to traps, barriers, social interaction and plot progression ('you need x clues to progress') and not just combat (although combat is a type of problem that needs a solution, even if most solutions tend to involve blood).

As such successful completion of an adventure often is (even when it's not explicitly stated, or even considered by the author) based on how well suited your players approach is to the challenges they face. Therefore it's entirely dependant on how well they choose to balance the world in their favour, rather than how well the world is already balanced to suit the players.

Nothing stops any player/group pulling a leroy jenkins or choosing to fireball in close-combat whilst in a tinder-dry rickety old tower that's half leaning over the side of the cliffs of insanity. Ultimately you make your own luck, the world shouldn't conspire to keep you from failure (or success for that matter).

Published world or not, there is only so much you can anticipate ahead of time when writing an adventure, and it's up the GM to skip over things that are wasting the groups time.
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Old 04-18-2013, 03:28 AM   #22
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Default Re: [DF] Solving for N

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That's reasonable for a sandbox game, but for a prepared adventure
Well, yeah. Which is why I said it won't be any help to anyone.
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:17 AM   #23
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Default Re: [DF] Solving for N

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Many have tried, their broken minds laid waste in the sands of this forum.
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It is is a peculiar obsession of Nymdok.
Yes...yes it is! :)

And I dont know that Id say my mind is broken...it just needs a little bondo and a fresh coat of paint. Maybe even a new hood ornament? :)

The system I worked up, and I must always stress this, is no substitute for an experienced GM that knows his players and characters. Its some fairly quick math to get you some useful approximations using variables that the gm can easily understand and adjust.

I still stand by the work I've done on the topic even though, as Phoenix dragon illustrated, its approximate at best and boss fights can still be very 'swingy'. There is no getting around this.

As to the value of N....

N, 2N, 1.5N etc is as useful and lucid an approximation as you can have. Even in the system I worked up, I came to fractional equivalents and ways to classify numerically what is 'mook/fodder' what is 'worthy' and what is 'boss'.

Although I have not read MotFD nor do I own it, I suspect that played across a large number of tables, each encounter would have a rather large and variable number of outcomes. This not a flaw in the author, this is a feature of the dice. N should, If I understand correctly, get you gameably close to what you need.

As to the trial and error needed to arrive at that number, I eschewed this tack in my approach as I simply dont have the time to run that many itterations and even if I did, there is no way of knowing that my players (crafty as they are) wouldnt do something that I wasnt prepped for anyway.

As to what makes 'sense', it is a limitation of the human mind that what makes 'sense' in your head is different than what makes sense in others. The mechanics of the game and what the dice read ARE something that we agree on. We both point to the book, read the same words in the same context and usually come out with a pretty close match as to what they mean.

I would like to say, in defense of the work that I did, that my system is (I think) more general, and allows for variations along a multiplicity of factors including Skill, Defense, DR, Damage, AND number appearing. It is also not as simple as the N value that TBC used.

2 quick caveats that you should be on the lookout for:

Depending on the type of game you're running, and the skill level of your players (not to be confused with the point value of the characters) Multiple enemies per PC CAN cause a rather abrupt spike in difficulty. Especially when it gets to be more that 3 per pc. THis is due to many factors including the nature of Defenses, shield position, bonuses for back attacks etc.

As mentioned above, Boss fights can swing wide in the variance. Keep an eye on those.

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Old 04-18-2013, 11:09 AM   #24
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Default Re: [DF] Solving for N

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I still stand by the work I've done on the topic even though, as Phoenix dragon illustrated, its approximate at best and boss fights can still be very 'swingy'. There is no getting around this.
GURPS fights in general are very swingy; it's a function of low hit probabilities (counting successful active defenses as misses) and high damage per hit.
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Old 04-18-2013, 11:14 AM   #25
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Default Re: [DF] Solving for N

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GURPS fights in general are very swingy; it's a function of low hit probabilities (counting successful active defenses as misses) and high damage per hit.
That's a symptom of bringing a sword to an area effect fight.
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Old 04-18-2013, 11:24 AM   #26
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Default Re: [DF] Solving for N

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That's a symptom of bringing a sword to an area effect fight.
Well, it's useful to do non-zero damage, which is my experience as to the average damage of area effects.
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Old 04-18-2013, 03:22 PM   #27
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Default Re: [DF] Solving for N

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GURPS fights in general are very swingy; it's a function of low hit probabilities (counting successful active defenses as misses) and high damage per hit.
Thats really a function of how you set the dials on your bad guys. You can build low dmg, high hit% 'death of a thousand cuts' type monsters same as you can build 'haymaker' specialists.

Granted, it DOES take some large skill values, some that you may find beyond the tastes of your game, but they are possible.

Also, assigning a defensive penalty to the players (justify it how you see fit) but telling them Defend at AD -7 certainly brings it in line. Again, if such harsh modifiers are unsuitable for your game, you may want to build your monsters along a different line.

<aside>
Say for an AD of 14, you could have an Skill of 30 which means they would hit (roughly) 80% of the time. After DAing down to 16 brings the defenders Defense down to 7.

Getting through the DR (we assume DR 3 arbitrarily) and dealing only 1 dmg means that we need to have about 1d -3 after dr so 1d - the 3 from the DR suits us fine.

Now the odds that both of that happens together gives us about .8 dmg per turn.

Again, if you have no problem with the higher skills, and no problem with the low Dmg, then you can really build that or anything in between.
</aside>

The more dice you roll, the closer your going to get to that expectation, so in a way, these types of monsters should be more predictable.

Why would you have these kinds of attacks? Weak, Barbed tentacles maybe? A swarm of insects? Doesnt really matter why I suppose, but there they are just the same inside the envelope of these possiblilites and should be less swingy.

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Old 04-18-2013, 03:30 PM   #28
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Default Re: [DF] Solving for N

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Thats really a function of how you set the dials on your bad guys.
True, you can set things up to have many hits to drop a foe, but it tends to involve critters with stats that are well outside the norm for GURPS. I mean, if you just drop Create Fire on the party it's pretty predictable results.
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:31 AM   #29
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Default Re: [DF] Solving for N

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True, you can set things up to have many hits to drop a foe, but it tends to involve critters with stats that are well outside the norm for GURPS. I mean, if you just drop Create Fire on the party it's pretty predictable results.
Outside the norm for GURPS

I simply cannot get my head around this statement.

TO be fair though, create fire can cause lotsa problems and if your looking to deal some area damage, it can certainly work.

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Old 04-19-2013, 09:54 AM   #30
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Default Re: [DF] Solving for N

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Outside the norm for GURPS

I simply cannot get my head around this statement.
most GURPS games I've played, run, or heard about keep HP under 15 points for protagonists and villains, and use lower scores than DF. Which is to be expected.
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