Help with encounter design

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tzunder
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Help with encounter design

#1 Postby tzunder » Mon Feb 15, 2016 9:07 am

I am having real problems judging how hard to make the opposition for my players.
When they were Novices I almost wiped them out a few times and now they are Seasoned they seem to just demolish everything unless I make the Toughness too high and then they never hit.
Does anyone have advice on balancing and designing combat encounters in Savage?

kronovan
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Re: Help with encounter design

#2 Postby kronovan » Mon Feb 15, 2016 5:41 pm

I'd recommend reading through this thread which was made in this very forum just a few weeks back. The various replies pretty much address your questions.

UmbraLux
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Re: Help with encounter design

#3 Postby UmbraLux » Mon Feb 15, 2016 8:59 pm

tzunder wrote:Does anyone have advice on balancing and designing combat encounters in Savage?
In general, use lots of weak opponents or a few weak opponents backed up by one wild card. Avoid using single opponents...if it's something the party can damage the action economy will ensure the PCs take it out fast. Some of the other threads address ways to mitigate that but most boil down to 'change the rules' in some way. Some of those may be worth pursuing on occasion but SW is built for small group combat rather than 1 vs group.

A decent rule of thumb I use on occasion - a moderate battle will have twice as many extras as there are PCs with weak equipment (compared to the PCs) and one wild card with decent equipment. Speaking of equipment, my other thumb's rule is don't give good equipment to extras - keep the good stuff for the wild cards. They'll get more use out of it and it will keep the PCs from becoming too rich by looting weak creatures.

In addition to kronovan's link, there are other threads going into depth on the subject. They may take a bit of searching. :) Welcome to the boards!

tzunder
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Re: Help with encounter design

#4 Postby tzunder » Tue Feb 16, 2016 6:32 am

Thanks Kronovan and Umbralux.

I shall read the thread and then sit down this weekend and think through carefully some sample encounters. Play them through as solos against PC characters in absentia.

I have a friend who deliver excellent encounters in 13th Age and D&D, and I have noticed a few tips: ordinary foes with odd and quirky abilities, waves of reinforcements, blocking PCs so that NPC archers can bring missile or magic to bear.

My underlying barrier is that I have played games like RuneQuest where a single foe is a terrible challenges, that I am scared to place so many enemy figures on the table.

Thanks for the welcome.

Mavis
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Re: Help with encounter design

#5 Postby Mavis » Tue Feb 16, 2016 12:49 pm

tzunder wrote:My underlying barrier is that I have played games like RuneQuest where a single foe is a terrible challenges, that I am scared to place so many enemy figures on the table.


I get this. I went from solely playing Runequest for 11 years to Savage Worlds and this was also the biggest psychological hurdle for me to overcome. But after a few sessions and reading a few scenario's with the 1 extra / 2 extra's / 3 extra's per PC +WC set up it soon made sense. Using sound tactics and appropriate GM benny play helps a lot.

Most importantly though I would trust the dice, sometimes even the weediest mook will throw a huge spanner in the works. Whatever standard the PC's are, multiple exploding dice can take a PC down so the most throwaway combat can suddenly turn nasty. Because of this I have given up caring about CR's and balance, I present the opposition I think is appropriate for the situation. With experience GMing SW even multiple PC's against a single WC opponent can work in the right circumstances.

Also as a baseline give average mooks d6 skills, veterans d8 skills and the toughest mooks and WC d10 skills.

Grazillx
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Re: Help with encounter design

#6 Postby Grazillx » Tue Feb 16, 2016 7:31 pm

I used to be worried about correctly matching encounters to the characters, but the forum here helped me get over that stress. I think from a players point of view, it's better to have an encounter that makes sense (even if its only cinematic) than to have one that really matches a specific difficulty.

I'm currently running a fantasy game and the current chapter has a lot of undead, and one of the characters is an undead slayer, so that character commonly takes out 5 gang up skeletons with one sweep. I lured them into a trap and surrounded 3 wild card characters and 4 ally extras with 50 skeletons and 3 human veteran evil non-wild card champions. Being veterans, I gave the evil champions a few combat and leadership edges. The skeletons had bronze shields giving parry bonus and bronze plate and bronze swords, so they were just a little tougher. In the opening sequence the idea of facing 50 opponents made two of the players want to run off, but the slayer with leadership edges rallied the extras and they stayed to fight. The end result of the battle was that a few bennies were spent soaking wounds, but none of the WC characters were even close to seriously wounded. They had priest extras with healing spells that they didn't even use.

Later on they moved to hunt the evil priests in some ruins and because it was smaller quarters it only made sense to have less than 10 undead and maybe 1 priest or champion at a time. Not exactly the challenge of 50 at one time, but it made more sense and the players didn't blow off the encounters at all.

Don't be afraid to stack up weapon and equipment booty. I have "orc armor" and "orc hand axes" and "orc bows" which are all fully functional for the damage listed, but the resell of those items don't make it worth dragging back to civilization.

I had one evil WC champion that used armor and smite and was nearly impossible for the WC characters to take out. The next time they saw another one, one of the players charged on horse and slayed him with one hit. You can't really plan for that kind of thing.

Mavis
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Re: Help with encounter design

#7 Postby Mavis » Tue Feb 16, 2016 7:47 pm

Grazillx wrote:....You can't really plan for that kind of thing.


Yeah. :D Spot on post.

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Jounichi
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Re: Help with encounter design

#8 Postby Jounichi » Wed Feb 17, 2016 4:04 pm

I would say, if you want a balanced combat encounter, use two to three Extras with simple gear (Str+d6 or 2d6 weapons and no armor) per player character, and a Wild Card enemy for every 10-12 Extras. Combat ratings, which can be found in SWD, are usually a pretty good barometer.

That being said, not every encounter needs to be combat. Sometimes what you need cannot be accomplished with violence. Maybe you need to barter for goods and don't want to deal with the local constabulary. Maybe you need to interrogate someone for information. Maybe you have only 30 seconds to disarm a bomb in the middle of a firefight; which I would consider two different types of encounters (combat and dramatic task.) Remember Han Solo in Detention Block AA-23? Sometimes diplomacy doesn't work, but by the same token sometimes a fight can be diffused.

Keep notes on any important NPCs the players are likely to deal with. You don't need full sheets with statistics, but some notes on personality and tone of voice go a long way. I don't keep notes on all the shopkeeps in my games, but there is a hub with a few notable NPCS: the barber (who's shop has become a center for gossip,) the captain of the town guard, the majordomo of the town boss, and the boss himself. A couple of them have stat write ups, but that's more of a "just in case."
"Rush not in to fights. Long is the war. Only by surviving it, will you prevail." -Yoda
"Wise man once say, 'forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza.'" -Michelangelo

Ilina_Young
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Re: Help with encounter design

#9 Postby Ilina_Young » Wed Feb 17, 2016 10:36 pm

i agree with Jonouchi here. you don't need full sheets, just the important statistics the character is actually particularly strong or weak at, which can be filled over time through play. for example, all you really need for the village blacksmith is probably their repair skill and their smarts die. the blacksmith might need their vigor die if they are working hard in the forges. and all you need for the barmaid who recently joined the Tavern crew upon shortly after reaching adulthood is her persuasion skill, her spirit die, and her charisma.

tzunder
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Re: Help with encounter design

#10 Postby tzunder » Fri Apr 08, 2016 5:53 am

Thanks everyone. I took your advice and the next 2 games I had combats with many more mooks and interesting enemy WCs that teleported around and had whips with Reach2, and it was fun and challenging and they mopped up 20 mooks and once they got lucky with initiative took out all the enemy WCs apart from the leader who teleported out to come back in a few weeks.


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