Friday, October 29, 2010

Scaling Combats

I've talked about this before, but the recent post by Jason Richards (you should read his blog, and encourage him to stick around and keep blogging this time!) brought it back into mind again. Now, in his recent post Mr. Richards is extolling the virtues of The Force Unleashed (the first one), not the best game in my opinion, but to each their own. So, let's expand a bit on one of the points he makes.

In his entry, Mr. Richards mentions that one of the things he really likes about The Force Unleashed (hereafter referred to as TFU) because of the way it handles scaling. Basically, he points out that in a lot of games the enemies scale with you, so that the fights you have in the end are just as challenging as the fights you have in the beginning. Sure, they may be more upgraded enemies, but the fact is you are fighting just as hard at level 10 as you were at level 1.

The problem with this is that it eliminates any sense of growth. SUre you are more powerful, but so are the enemies. You needed to roll a 15 to hit then, you need to roll a 15 to hit now, so basically there is no difference. Instead, the thing to do, that TFU does, is keep some of those weak enemies around. Don't power them up, just leave them alone. If the player had to roll a 15 to hit them before, maybe they only have to roll a 5 now, but it is important to let them see that. This way they get to see how much they've grown as the game goes on.

This, basically, is the point of the recent blog post by Mr. Richards, that as your players grow you need to give them signs that they have grown. Show them how far they've come, and that they are making progress. Let them enjoy it, after all, they earned it right?

There is a lot more on this earlier in my blog, I'll try to dig up some links for the comments section later if I can. Mostly I wanted to touch on it briefly, and see how many times I could naturally say 'Mr. Richards' in this blog while linking to

Happy Halloween everyone!


  1. You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar. Obviously we see eye to eye on this, and I wholeheartedly agree. Nothing can break the sense of immersion in a game (tabletop or video) than suddenly being jolted into thinking, "Wait, why is this grunt kicking my butt?" As GMs we often scale up the opposition, which honestly is probably just laziness on our part. We need to find other ways to challenge our players that let them show how they've grown over time.

  2. Deathwatch has an interesting mechanic for this. You use Hordes, where the characters aren't fighting just one generic stormtrooper, but 30 of them. THe whole horde is treated as one creature, and as you go through it instead of doing "hit points" you are reducing the size of the horde.

    It looks like it will work wonderfully well, and could be easily ported, to a lot of situations.

  3. Sounds a little bit like Risk combat. Is that a fair comparison?

  4. I'm honestly not sure. I have very limited experience with Rifts, and what experience I do have didn't involve hordes of enemies, but more bad PvP and dick waving.