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Old 11-26-2021, 03:40 PM   #1
Shuckster
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: Near Chicago
Default Why dose my party struggle with basic thugs but not boss monsters?

Has anyone else had this experience? You throw all sorts of stuff at your players, killer robots, werewolves, swarms of piranha men, krakens, aliens and zombies yet they come through all those encounters unscathed, but then a standard goon with a club or a knife just utterly wrecks them.

Ive had this happen a lot, like bigger bad-er enemies with more power aren't a big deal but one dagger wielding cultist manages to kill somebody, and a couple henchmen with batons puts the whole party in the hospital.

Why is this? They're just standard "Mooks" with a primary weapon skill no higher than 12 yet they do more damage to the party than huge monsters in so many of my games even when they arent aloud anything more powerful than a knife or a stick for weapons and have no armor.

I'm not sure if my players just automatically assume normal humans are less of a threat and just act carelessly, or if there's an element to how the antagonists are designed that I'm missing
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Old 11-26-2021, 03:50 PM   #2
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Default Re: Why dose my party struggle with basic thugs but not boss monsters?

I would speculate that it might be a combination of two other things:

* Truly random rolls produce unexpected outcomes: The really inept combatant gets a lucky roll, or the really skilled one gets an unlucky one

* You tend to remember those outcomes more vividly because they're improbable, and not to remember the many more events that lack surprise

And there may be more going on than that, but that's the null hypothesis I'd want to eliminate first.
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Old 11-26-2021, 03:59 PM   #3
Christopher R. Rice
 
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Default Re: Why dose my party struggle with basic thugs but not boss monsters?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shuckster View Post
Has anyone else had this experience? You throw all sorts of stuff at your players, killer robots, werewolves, swarms of piranha men, krakens, aliens and zombies yet they come through all those encounters unscathed, but then a standard goon with a club or a knife just utterly wrecks them.

Ive had this happen a lot, like bigger bad-er enemies with more power aren't a big deal but one dagger wielding cultist manages to kill somebody, and a couple henchmen with batons puts the whole party in the hospital.

Why is this? They're just standard "Mooks" with a primary weapon skill no higher than 12 yet they do more damage to the party than huge monsters in so many of my games even when they arent aloud anything more powerful than a knife or a stick for weapons and have no armor.

I'm not sure if my players just automatically assume normal humans are less of a threat and just act carelessly, or if there's an element to how the antagonists are designed that I'm missing
Put simply, because GURPS combat is swingy and there are more of them. Boss attacks once (usually), the mooks collectively attack multiple times allowing for more opportunities to crit or for the PCs to fail their active defenses.
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Old 11-26-2021, 04:25 PM   #4
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Default Re: Why dose my party struggle with basic thugs but not boss monsters?

For most characters, they have finite resources of some kind. Against bigger, badder, bosses, it's an easy choice to throw everything at it. More of everything, use the bigger spells, the fancy arrows, the special abilities that take time to reset, and so.

With mooks, the assumption is that it won't be needed. And experience will bear that out. But this is GURPS. And even a mook rolls a 3 or 4 now and then, and there are usually more of them. That can drain defences and dilute attacks against them. It's why throwing a couple of mooks with the boss can be more of a challenge than just boosting the boss.

Unless your PCs are boss level themselves, mooks in even small numbers can be a threat if they try to take it easy.
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Old 11-26-2021, 04:30 PM   #5
Willy
 
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Default Re: Why dose my party struggle with basic thugs but not boss monsters?

Groups of relative low level monsters are really dangeroius if they outnumber and / or encircle the party. Itīs in fact the same tactic the players use on the big bosses turned the other way around. You canīt block, parry, dodge and take other defensive measures without end, you eiter run out of the allowed numbers for blocking and parrying, or your luck with the dice runs out. Same goes for a modern or scifi scenario. Best advise is not ot let them hit encircle you or even better use a bottleneck to fight them piecemeal, otherwise you are doomed.
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Old 11-26-2021, 11:25 PM   #6
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Default Re: Why dose my party struggle with basic thugs but not boss monsters?

yeah thats the thing... the party usually dose outnumber them and they still lose, even when its like, 3 on 5 in there favor, and they do better against a similar number of higher point level threats, its really strange
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Old 11-26-2021, 11:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: Why dose my party struggle with basic thugs but not boss monsters?

Point level isn't that indicative of combat power, but it may just be coincidence, GURPS is pretty swingy.
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Old 11-27-2021, 04:27 AM   #8
Willy
 
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Default Re: Why dose my party struggle with basic thugs but not boss monsters?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shuckster View Post
yeah thats the thing... the party usually dose outnumber them and they still lose, even when its like, 3 on 5 in there favor, and they do better against a similar number of higher point level threats, its really strange
It may be the result of just being unlucky with the dice rolls for the players. In this case a little GM fiat can help. Or they just undersetimate the low point mooks and get to cocky, GURPS can be very unforgiving if you try to pull some stunts, just to be cool. The last idea that comes to my mind is, that even if the players have a lot of more points, even a lower point mook with all points spend in combat skills and advantages, can be deadly. Itīs like Stephen Hawking fighting a street mugger.
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Old 11-27-2021, 05:16 AM   #9
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Default Re: Why dose my party struggle with basic thugs but not boss monsters?

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
I would speculate that it might be a combination of two other things:

* Truly random rolls produce unexpected outcomes: The really inept combatant gets a lucky roll, or the really skilled one gets an unlucky one

* You tend to remember those outcomes more vividly because they're improbable, and not to remember the many more events that lack surprise

And there may be more going on than that, but that's the null hypothesis I'd want to eliminate first.
Indeed. The way to check this is to start taking notes - this can be as simple as writing down what category a given battle was meant to fall into (mook fight vs boss fight) and what the result was (party win/loss/retreat, number of dead PC's, number of surviving PC's reduced to or below 0 HP, number of PC's wounded to a lesser extent). After a few sessions, review your notes. Add up the number of party losses, PC deaths, severe wounds (<0 HP), and lesser wounds separately for each category, then divide by the number of battles in that category to get the average. If the null hypothesis is true, you should see lower averages for losses, retreats, deaths, severe wounds, and lesser wounds for the mook fights than for the boss fights. Of course, because the latter is going to be working with a much smaller sample size, its results are going to be a bit more swingy - if the "true" average is 0.1 PC deaths per mook fight and 0.2 PC deaths per boss fight, and you had 20 mook fights but only two boss fights, there's a very good chance you saw at least one death from the mook fights (anticipated deaths: 2.0) and no deaths from the boss fights (anticipated deaths: 0.4). If it's the case that you had some PC deaths in mook fights and none in boss fights, calculate the expected number of deaths you would have experienced in the boss fights if they were at the same level of occurrence; if the value is less than 1, you need more data. You can probably look at the occurrence rates for severe wounds (reduced to or below 0 HP) and lesser wounds to help, however - if boss fights are truly easier than mook fights, you should see lower averages in these categories as well.
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Old 11-27-2021, 06:16 AM   #10
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Default Re: Why dose my party struggle with basic thugs but not boss monsters?

This may seem a bit overly obvious, but don't forget the NPCs' motivations, also. Do these guys get paid enough to fight to the death? Are they really going to stick around to the bitter end after seeing even one of their number killed or maimed? Maybe so if they're mindless zombies or something, but otherwise remember the, "Holy crap Bob just got his hand chopped off I'm outta here!" factor.
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