Monday, December 5, 2011

Ridiculously Powerful Gear

Among other things, one of the aspects that I'm really enjoying in my Deathwatch game is that it is exposing me to a brand of old school gaming that I haven't had a chance to experience in a while. Namely, the loot and gear gets kind of ridiculous at some points. But, that in and of itself can present a challenge. Not necessarily in the power of the PCs and how to reward them, but in how to properly challenge the PCs once those items are out in the open without it seeming too broken or bad.

Power Level Doesn't Matter
I say this a lot here, but since this topic has a lot to do with the "power level" of the PCs, I want to re-iterate it here. The power of the PCs in most situations doesn't matter. You, as the GM, are always capable of putting something mechanically challenging in front of them. How do I know that? Well, because you can cheat. However, today isn't about how to challenge those PCs in terms of mechanics, but in how far is too far, and what is god to do.

A Bit About Fields
So, to put this in perspective - and so you'll understand th examples I'm going to use - let me talk about fields. Fields are basically invulnerable forcefields that characters can have in Deathwatch. When you are successfully attacked - and have failed to parry/dodge the attack - you make a field check. You roll percentile, and if you get under a certain number then the attack is negated. if you roll too low and get under the overload rating as well, the attack is negated but the field goes away. Now, like all gear heavy games, improving the quality of a field reduces the overload rating. Now, in my game two of the PCs have an item that gives them a 50+% chance of negating any/all attacks on them, and only overloads on a natural 1 on percentile. That is powerful. Trust me, more than  afew "hard fights" and "ridiculously over powered weapons" have been negated by these fields.

Fair For the PCs...
Now, generally one of the things I expouse is that special npcs should have all the rights of the PCs. Meaning, in this case, that the NPC should also be able to have a field as good as this - and potentially better if it exists, because the PCs also have them. The problem here though is that the field can make an NPC simply invulnerable. There are ways around it sure, but those can also rob the encounter of other things as well.

Take for example if (lets call the villain Straud in a nod to Ravenloft) this situation. Say Straud has this field, and for whatever reason he keeps rolling well on his field test. Now, no matter what the PCs throw at him nothing is getting through. The fight becomes boring for the PCs and GM as it just boils to rolling dice and no real effect. It gets frustrating for the PCs because they can't do anything about this one villain. Sensing this, as the GM, I mix it up. I have Strauds field fail. I've essentially just gimped the NPC mid fight.

Other fixes to spice it up are just as big a cheat. Straud has reinforcements come in can turn an unwinnable fight into a deliberate (appearing) TPK. That isn't to say it is impossible though, just hard to do.

So  What to Do?
Now, obviously, you can handle the gear as yo do any other overpowered NPC. Give the NPC different objectives or win conditions. Make the PCs have to retreat and regroup for once. Nuke the site from orbit (it's the only way to be sure!) But in the mix of things, is this a situation you should really open yourself up to? Not even worried about the looting of the field after, just the fact of frustration this type of fight can bring to a group?

And this is just a defensive item. What about with something offensive? Now, not only is the NPC ridiculously powerful, but they're also able to insta-kill a PC with their god offense item. Sure, the PCs have one too, but that still feels different, don't it?

My thoughts on this circle now. On the one hand, my normal GM style tells me to just roll with it and keep it fun in game. However, one of the things I'm trying to do with this game is keep it by the book and not just throw bones when needed - or where needed. So, for now, I'm curious as to your thoughts on the matter.


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  2. If the NPC forces relevant to the campaign know that two of the PCs have items that negate 50% of all physical attacks made against them, why are they still trying to attack head-on?
    They'd look for ways to negate this.
    NPCs could...
    ...try to steal it. Stealing the item is one thing, though not necessarily 'fair' if something non-recoverable went into getting the item. I don't know Deathwatch, but Items in BESM are bought with character points, same as any other Attribute. Still, even in that situation you could temporarily remove it, and that may leave the PCs wanting to get it back (more adventure!)

    ...attempt to recruit one or both of the PCs, if they're not totally opposed to the NPCs' plans. Amusing roleplaying opportunities, but probably not likely to succeed from a meta-viewpoint.

    ...try non-combat means of neutralising the party. Get them arrested or charged with treason/heresy/whatever is applicable that sets NPCs who should be assisting them, or at least being non-hostile to them, against them.
    Or just get them in jail and out of the way for a few months/years.
    Or politics. Politics is good. Says a lot when one of the possible responses to an item is 'go legal, or at least look like you have to all qualified inspectors'.

    This is all independent of throwing the party a bone or sticking to the rules. If NPCs know that certain methods are not likely to work due to item X or party member Y, they can try to remove that trait, item or member, or they can just bypass that protection by taking another approach.

  3. All very good answers. The non-combat ones don't necessarily work for the enemy du jour, nor the 40k universe with some opponents. But definitely a thing that IS going to happen at some point later on in the game. :)