Question about surprise attacks & intuitive defense (etc)

Do you have suggestions? Questions? Are there mechanical or balance problems?

Question about surprise attacks & intuitive defense (etc)

Postby Wazat » Fri Feb 06, 2015 1:34 am

I want to make sure I've been doing this right, since I have a stealthy backstabby player and I worry about denying him bonuses or giving him too much opportunity.

If the player attacks an unaware opponent or gets in a back attack, what does the target roll? They're unaware, so they get their intuitive defense bonus, but do they get to roll dodge as normal? Do they roll agility and add their dodge bonus AND their intuitive defense, or only intuitive defense (forfeiting their skill bonus to dodge)?

The reason I ask is because some foes actually do better when sneak/back-attacked, if they're allowed a full skill roll plus intuitive defense. For example, the skill Eyes on All Sides easily gives a character an ID of 2 or 3. A player with only a +1 surprise attack (slightly below-average cunning) vs an opponent with a +2 or +3 intuitive defense (from 11 intuition) should always attack from the front, since a back attack or surprise from the shadows is oddly less effective. Alternatively, a player with a +2 surprise attack vs a foe with a +2 surprise attack would never gain any bonus from attacking from behind (save for special bonuses like the dagger technique, etc), but no penalty either.

Is this intended behavior? I can see such a narrative working out in some ways. For example, a not-so-cunning player attacks a foe with high intuitive defense: this means the player goes into the attack with overconfidence, and the foe is able to exploit that vulnerability to gain an edge. That said, it does create odd situations where it's mechanically better to announce your presence and face an aware foe than it is to stab them in the spine from the shadows. Elemental Mages in particular are hazardous to knife in the spine, though again, that could be thematically explained. :D

Am I getting this right? The paragraph on page 40 leaves this a bit vague, so I wanted to check.


Another question: Do spells get the surprise attack bonus for back attacks or unaware targets? I assume spells cannot crit (thankfully!).

More questions: Page 37 says a character needs to receive magic healing to reduce their damage and avoid death in 3 turns. Does that mean they need to receive enough healing to get them to positive HP? Or does any amount of magical healing stave off death, as though they received a successful medic check?


Finally, a long-winded commentary on damage. :)

I've been looking over damage of spells, and some of these are absolutely terrifying. One dedicated mage could easily kill a player in an action or two, let alone a pair of spellcasters working together. With 16 willpower, 12 intuition, and a few spellcasting support abilities, a mage could spend one round firing off all three circles of spells and deal lethal damage to even a heavy-endurance player. I just built a sephret werewolf with a few fire spells and lots of HP and spell abilities; she can spike out amazing damage, yet despite her HP focus she would rapidly fall to the same tactics. At an impressive 70 HP, she'd die to a mere clone, and not necessarily a suicidal one. Clone goes first (clones are sneaky) and casts Fireball III (7d12, 45.5 average), followed by Blast (cast for free with persistent flare; 1d12 and probably prone; 6.5 average damage), and finished with Ember Cloud II (3d8, 13.5 average).

The target is now probably prone in a burning cloud and possibly unconscious by now. Unless she dodges/grits at least one attack, this 70 HP meatcake is looking at an average of 64 damage in the first round (12 clock ticks), and damage could possibly swing even higher than that for rapid KO. And that's without a lot of other power gaming to push the damage further. The feedback is very manageable for the caster, and several abilities help even further to make sure the spells get off. If the casting skill is 10, it's 23 feedback, so even a non-suicidal gheist or werewolf could easily pull it off.

A character with a more typical HP of 35 and a low Grit/Dodge skill or dice size would drop like a rock. Some melee abilities like double-wielding mauls (12d6 damage in the first round, average 42) can be very scary too, but such a build is more limited in reach and ability. It's true that feedback greatly curtails a caster's threat after they nova, but their nova is terrifying and could end several player careers very quickly, even if the dice don't roll high. Likewise, a nova-happy player can do terrible things to enemies that would otherwise be a major challenge to the party.

To address this, I think I may homebrew some of the spells to start reducing the size of dice. D10s and d12s are fun to roll, but their damage ranges too widely, and rolling several of them can make players and foes alike too delicate. And I would reduce the dice count in some cases.

I love the fact that Mayhem's HP doesn't increase markedly with character growth (unlike D&D and many similar games, where players become so meaty they just laugh at foes a few levels behind them); but spell damage grows and swings too wildly. I think the size and count of the dice is the issue -- if it ranged from d4s to d6s to d8s, scaled up more evenly/slowly, and eschewed the d10s & 12s for special cases, that might help battle be more strategic and less in the hands of fate.

I'm told a good rule of thumb is to add more small dice (thus weighting toward the average roll, and giving incremental damage boosts), not larger dice (making the swings harder to predict and damage range more scary, and thus putting player lives in the hands of fate). 12d6 is nicer for game design than 6d12, even though they're close to the same average damage. 12d6 is heavily weighted to the average, and is less likely to spike and surprisingly insta-kill; when it does, that's exceptional and amazing. 6d12 rolls wildly, and should be reserved for more thematically wild spells (and even then, be rare). 12d6 is an amazingly powerful spell because normally creature HP never gets very high, so I would even tamp down the die count unless it's supposed to one-shot. I still need to think about whether that rule is appropriate or helpful in this case though.

I'm not sure yet on any of this; still thinking about it. Don't panic and rewrite everything based on my gut reaction so far. :D I love the design of Mayhem's feedback-based magic system and its non-scaling health, and I'm still tinkering with its edges to see where it excels vs hits bumps. Definitely open to feedback.

BTW, a nice tool for die roll calculation is anydice.com . It's great for seeing damage range and averages for multi-dice rolls.

Thanks!
-Dan
Wazat
 
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Re: Question about surprise attacks & intuitive defense (etc

Postby Wazat » Fri Feb 06, 2015 3:34 pm

Ah, one more question while I'm at it. If a player has both +5 armor and 10 fire resistance, does he apply both to a fire attack or just the highest one? So would a 20 damage fire attack deal 5 damage or 10?
Wazat
 
Posts: 44
Joined: Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:00 pm

Re: Question about surprise attacks & intuitive defense (etc

Postby Wazat » Tue Feb 24, 2015 2:58 pm

Another silly question. Hide in Daylight is a powerful ability, letting the player hide in plain sight any number of times it seems. How does this ultimately work (e.g. does the play hide and stay hidden for 1 round, or indefinitely)? And are you planning any limit to its frequency of use, e.g. with a cooldown of 1 hour, 10 minutes, etc?
Wazat
 
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