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Analysis of Troubled Design: After Sundown
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Whipstitch
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Yeah, the complaints about discipline bonuses weren't really about attribute bonuses from Magnetism and Clout. Those were always set to "on" and each discipline enjoyed exclusivity so the bonuses were powerful but largely under control and easy to remember. Where shit got out of hand was with things the +2 skill bonus to Sabotage per Walk of Flame rank or the way you could stack Survival bonuses from Path of Blood and Chasing the Storm. That mixed poorly with the fact that skills all have some off-label uses like determining your pools for sorcery or Master Passion frenzy checks. On the extreme end you could use it to build Strength+Survival pools for Beckoning and Abyss of the Body that are hueg like xbox.
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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 6:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Chamomile wrote:
Concerning writing style, I am strongly in favor of organizing things to be less of a series of essays and more of a reference that is easy to navigate. I don't mind the strong voice of the writing and I think that having that voice will help it to stand out and get people reading, which is good for a game that has almost nobody willing to give it a try just on the strength of its title (unknown) and premise (very intentionally the same basic premise as an existing well known game). Without anything else to serve as a hook, After Sundown does at least benefit from the fact that if you can get someone to read one page, they might be having enough fun reading it to keep doing it just for fun, hopefully long enough to actually like the game.

I feel less strongly about whether major contributors should be mimicking the Trollman style or doing their own thing, but I favor the latter. While strong disagreements should be left out because that encourages people to rehash those arguments at the table and makes it less clear what the rules actually are (even if, from a strict RAW perspective, the actual rule is spelled out clearly, in actual play people will be going from memory a lot and may remember the thing that writer X talked about preferring but ultimately conceded to writer Y as being the actual rule), otherwise having the game be a series of essays, demonstrations, and flash fiction between two or more writers only helps it stand out from the crowd more. In fact, if you're going that route, go whole hog and have individual sections have individual attributions. Let the combat rules be "by Frank Trollman" and the dowsing rules be "by Orion Anderson" or whatever. Come up with moderately spooky symbols to assign to yourselves and put it in the margins for easier identification. Make it very obvious that this is a collaboration between different people with strong, individual voices but a shared vision.

Also, I mentioned flash fiction. You need more of it. The pieces tucked away in the back of After Sundown were not that evocative, involved little that would resemble actual gameplay or which illustrated conflicts at all, and weren't even identifiable as fiction as opposed to a sudden soliloquy by the author as some kind of weird outro. After Sundown was one of the first things I read after finding this forum, and I didn't know Frank well enough to know that he wouldn't just do something like that, so his first person fiction at the end seemed like he was just describing his actual real life for some weird reason until I got a few paragraphs in and it became obvious that this wasn't "why I'm fascinated with spooky vampires" and "I am a fictional person who has personally become a vampire." This is the drawback of having a strong voice in your writing, and it's easier to get around if you label your fiction more clearly, with a title and a header and by having the first one be third person rather than first (you can put in your own Da Vinci Forward Regular joke here).


I've got to say, the fiction and the flavor text are more important than the rules. No one ever played a World of Darkness game because they liked the rules.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

By far After Sundown's biggest weakness is that after reading it I have no particular desire to play it.
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DeadlyReed
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I was considering running it 2 years ago. I might just run it eventually. This thread is useful for determining what to house rule, that's for sure.
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Lokathor
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I ran an absolutely fantastic "one shot" adventure last October. I've got the audio recordings of the sessions, and I've wanted to transcribe them for some time so that I could share them here, but haven't quite gotten around to it (VLC says it's about 19h21m of recording, usually takes 2x to 3x as long to transcribe and edit it into something readable). Theoretically they're available upon request (1.24gb total), but they're not podcast quality or anything like that. Just raw recordings of the game session.

It... well... it quickly became apparent that playing AS [by the book / RAW / however you want to put it] would have been really stupid, so I just did a bunch of on the fly patches to keep the game workable.

The game's biggest pain points (at least to us, I guess) aren't much to do with magic dice pools or how well a particular skill is incentiveized by having good magics. It's a lot more to do with "Celerity and initiative passes are garbage to resolve" and "strength is a god stat that pushes people off the RNG stupid fast". Which doesn't even fucking make sense to me because I do like GMing/resolving SR4 combats. Somewhere in the translation from SR4 to AS, whatever key element of SR4 was lost, and it became so unfun that reverting to Magical Tea Party became better.
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DeadlyReed
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Lokathor: What were your patches? Interested to say the least.
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Lokathor
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The thing about design on the fly is that it's shit. It's really shit.

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Blicero
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Lokathor wrote:

One player was a werewolf that just picked all the "be strong" powers. He wasn't trying to go crazy with it ahead of time, he just picked all the powers that let you flip out and then later when he added it up his strength was 28 or whatever the hell. Nothing that could meaningfully interact with him wouldn't just instantly grease stain anyone else in the party. So he had to be split off from the party and given special event monsters to fight, like how The Hulk has the space whale things that are kinda mostly for him to fight during the New York City battle in The Avengers movie (yes, Iron Man handles one of them).


This was very much my experience with Sundown.
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Prak
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So, I don't know if this would really be a desired thing, but I kind of like the idea that someone who wanted to could basically play The Hulk and fight set piece monsters while the rest of the group handles softer targets, as Lokathor's werewolf player did.

Is there some way that Strength could be less of the god stat and still let people do that sort of thing if they wanted? Indeed, it seems that if Strength was just not the auto-win god stat, that people could invest as much or as little into it as they wanted.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 10:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Lokathor wrote:
I ran an absolutely fantastic "one shot" adventure last October.


How did you track movement, did you abstract it or have a gridmap or what.


I feel like we've had many many many many pages of arguments about how to divorce strength stat from combat effectiveness involving the levels of abstraction a game has or how your combat relevant stats are calculated.


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Blicero
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OgreBattle wrote:

How did you track movement, did you abstract it or have a gridmap or what.


Not Lokathor, but when I ran Sundown, we used roll20 maps for combat scenes. Distances were sort of eyeballed and sort of measured precisely. It worked okay; relative to other parts of combat, moving tokens around and measuring distances was not a huge timesink.
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Judging__Eagle
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

A gridmap works perfectly fine for AS combat play. In fact; I'd say that when the party includes a lot of PCs with Celerity, Superstrength + Athletics, and/or, Clinging, does a map become more useful in adjudicating just how crazy the superstrong characters are able to move around the battlefield (Athletics Checks for running so far beyond expected limits that it's like the PC has Elder Celerity, intsead of merely Master Celerity; Death-from-aboving/Mariojumping enemies who are at elevations higher than the attacking character).

While Superstrength is really potent; it's not that scary to the players the way that powers like Song of Silence's Cold Note or the Pain Drops sorcery seems to be. Most of that has to do with the fact that they are powers that aren't resisted with Strength.

Song of Silence can shut down a basic Kaiju... in a single attack, from range. While Pain Drops can capture all sorts of enemies; and given enough time and high enough argumentative skills can craft supernaturally reasonable/rhetorical arguments to convince former enemies to join them.
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Whipstitch
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 10:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Lokathor wrote:
Devastation, which I don't even know how you're intended to resolve it honestly, just became "this power also lets you fight hordes effectively"


My interpretation is that Devastation lets you lift or smash as 6 people at Advanced and 10 people at Elder and defenders can only set a defensive threshold against a number of attackers equal to 1 plus their Combat skill. So if you get to count as the 6th or 10th attacker that would make Devastation into a pretty nasty mook clearing power since you're just rolling for extra DV against anyone short of a kung fu master, which is pretty stronk when you factor in that Devastation's other big bonus is the ability to jack up your base damage value with super sized bullshit. With that said, the explanation in the book is about as clear as mud on all of that and I can't even spitball about what exactly it's supposed to mean when it says you can attack multiple people without penalty since as far as I'm aware there isn't a basic rule for splitting your pool or adding to your threshold when trying to cleave fools.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The really high strength effects generally require you to quite visibly hulk out - which is definitely hard to square with the Vow of Silence. But combining Giant Size and War Form also makes you taller than a single story building, which puts limits on what you can do and often makes you have to fight in the open where bigger weapons are possible answers to you.

Where Strength gets out of hand isn't at the top end, but at the middle end. Where Androids and Werewolves just don't transform and simply power up their Strength dicepools so that they are big enough that no resistance stat is liable to compete. And then they turn people into frogs or dissolve them into bacterial goo using sorceries that are entirely plausible as indoor affairs. The fact that those builds even exist is simply wrong and needs to be edited out of existence. With the revision, no Strength-based save-or-lose spells will exist.

Another issue is Power Points in general. The cost schedule is mostly based on what did and did not cost blood points in the old Masquerade, and that has little relation to game balance, to be honest. With people picking their own powers, it became way too easy to end up being way too thirsty for power points or simply not giving a shit about them at all. Things need to be a bit more top down, including power points having a few generic things they can do all the time - like buy extra dice on Resistance tests.

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Lokathor
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I hear what you're saying in terms of the Vow of Silence, but at the same time the game suggests three alternate worlds that are supposed to be suitable for adventures, and remote haunted houses, and long forgotten cave complexes, and graveyards in remote parts of Russia. So, the game should keep working even if the Vow of Silence is out the window. Trolls and stuff also don't give a shit about your dumb Earth vows, should they ever show up. If we look at the "source material", classics like Monster Squad and Ghostbusters are examples of situations where there's no Vow limits during the final sequence, but the game has to keep working.

Also, it's questionable for the hulk-out powers to exist in the player section of the book if the players are expected to never be able to use them. Thus we should be assuming that players are going to use them, and that the game needs to keep working even when they're in effect.

Further, you didn't seem to touch on the fact that just one player had the super toughness and the others didn't. Even if the enemies had the super weapons required to potentially injure the hulked out werewolf (which they don't necessarily, which is its own availability issue), there's still the mild problem that such weapons will insta-kill every other player. And if they don't insta-kill the other players, then they don't scratch the hulk and can't accumulate into significant harm.

So, maybe the hulk should somehow get scratched by more at the low end of things?
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Omegonthesane
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 9:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

If it wasn't for them explicitly ceasing to work when you have immunity to pain, Pain Drops would probably be a small remedy here due to not being resisted with Strength. Since there's no reason to assume the Hulk has $TEXAS in stats that aren't Strength, if there are thematically appropriate powers that do damage or effectively-damage that isn't resisted with Strength that would be something that would be on the same playing field against the whole party.

Granted I would be tempted to say that Pain Drops is ~maaagical~ pain that is so painful that it cuts through immunity to pain if forced to implement this in the laziest way possible.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Actual sorcery has a number of ways to stop the Hulk. If you can use incapacitating magic that targets Perception or Willpower, then Huge McWolf doesn't have better than average defensive dicepools. Any Witch or Deep One should be able to drop a melee combat monster iff they don't get beaten to death with a lamp post before their spell goes off.

The issue being discussed is that mundane assets only have strength targeting attacks. And that therefore the existence of a heavily invested Strength character means that it is necessarily impossible to fairly threaten the team as a whole with mooks - if the mooks are armed well enough that they can scratch the paint on a hulked out Werewolf, their armament of missile launchers and plasma torchers will turn the team Necronomicon enthusiast into a grease smear in one hit.

Basically the issue is that for reasons of simulation, Rock attacks are defended with Rock defenses, and Scissors attacks are defended with Scissors defenses. And because the world is Urban Fantasy, most of the things in the world only have Rock.

Finding things for mind melters and illusionists to do is not particularly hard. There are always bigger Kaiju, and the intervention of Scissors and Paper attacks by other party members can easily and plausibly be made necessary in any particular adventure. But these characters will find that their primary activity in any combat that even slightly threatens a heavily invested Rock combatant character should be to take some fucking cover.

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Omegonthesane
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I thought mook monsters who had mook sorceries were a thing?

I was also under the impression that much of the ridiculousness of Rock defence was from things that turn off if you bring a rum super soaker or a few fire hoses (or strike during daylight, if there are Hulk builds that have a daylight weakness, I dunno). Because if the enemy knows enough to know they need to be loaded for tank, someone can probably let slip that they need to debuff the Rock in ways that only require you to be secretly in the employ of another supernatural. Which you probably are if you're an opponent in a WoD game that is meant to be even vaguely a threat to any PC.
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Kaelik wrote:
Because powerful men get away with terrible shit, and even the public domain ones get ignored, and then, when the floodgates open, it turns out there was a goddam flood behind it.
FrankTrollman wrote:
As far as death and human misery goes, Tobacco is basically World War II grinding on forever with no real sign of stopping in our life times. Death camps and nuclear bombs and stuff are certainly dramatic, but public health crises are always and forever bigger than wars on the global scale.

FrankTrollman wrote:
White people are basically just horrible...The entire Reagan Revolution is just white people voting to destroy their own social safety nets because they'd rather fucking starve than let black people eat.



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DrPraetor
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 12:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It's an interaction problem.

The power of seeming harmless and therefore not being a target is a classic for Doctor Who or Talia al'Ghul, but it wants to be a lower level effect if you are a cloth-wearer than if you are 9 feet of teeth, bees, claws and laser swords.

Just as vampires need to be able to feed themselves, from a design perspective, the various low-strength types need some answer to, "what do you do when the bullets start to fly?".

There should be several answers. One should perhaps be a social-based combat invisibility that drops if you attack physically (make any offensive use of the combat skill?)

But both "Bullets, my only weakness. How did you know?" and "why does this cost a power point?" indicate the need of a review of each power progression, especially in places where the vampire heartbreaker DNA shows through. Is Hand of Flame balanced against Poison Heart? No, it's not, but it's a
  • ability because that's what fire Tremere had to start with.
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    FrankTrollman
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    PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    DrPraetor wrote:
    Just as vampires need to be able to feed themselves, from a design perspective, the various low-strength types need some answer to, "what do you do when the bullets start to fly?".


    ...yes. But "cower behind Frankenstein's Monster" is a valid option most of the time. It's not Dungeons and Dragons, and combats aren't supposed to necessarily happen every session. It genuinely is OK for a group of characters to have one monster whose job it is to pop claws and rip shit up when faced with a group of guys with guns. That challenge isn't an every session, several times a session challenge the way its goblin bandit equivalent is in D&D.

    DrPraetor wrote:
    But both "Bullets, my only weakness. How did you know?" and "why does this cost a power point?" indicate the need of a review of each power progression, especially in places where the vampire heartbreaker DNA shows through.


    This is 100% true. The original disciplines and magic paths that a lot of these were inspired by aren't remotely balanced at the levels they appear, and a better theory of what a Basic or Advanced power looks like is something I'm working on. Some powers are going up or down in level and/or being combined.

    -Frank


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    DrPraetor
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    PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 1:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    FrankTrollman wrote:
    But "cower behind Frankenstein's Monster" is a valid option most of the time. It's not Dungeons and Dragons, and combats aren't supposed to necessarily happen every session. It genuinely is OK for a group of characters to have one monster whose job it is to pop claws and rip shit up when faced with a group of guys with guns. That challenge isn't an every session, several times a session challenge the way its goblin bandit equivalent is in D&D.


    So you've solved the problem you don't have - because almost every After Sundown build is going to have something killer to do on their turn when the fur starts flying; many save or die spells also have potent non-combat applications that support your idiom. You could plausibly build a monster who can't do anything in a gun fight but you probably didn't? This game generates cloth-wearers but it seldom generates noncombatants.

    The problem is, how do the game mechanics support "cower" as a life choice during combat?

    Let's talk about your favorite subject, demographics.

    Of the supernaturals with whom you mainly interact, roughly 10% are members of heavily armed death cults? More? A swat team shows up to kill you isn't an every-session thing, but it is a most-campaigns thing and if your answer is, "the DM has to find some implausible reason for me not to just get shot in the head" then that is a problem.

    So as it happens most After Sundown characters will have something productive to do on their turn unless they die.

    Therefore, you need more powers along the lines of "too sexy to kill", "happens not to get shot", "form of mist", "just gets up later if riddled with bullets" and "invincible dodge", and archetypes (if not entire types of supernaturals) should be combat builds or get one of these survive-the-gunfight powers, or both.

    The combat builds, meanwhile/alternatively, can have powers that either force enemies to target them or which provide some kind of free aid-another bonus to the cloth wearers doing stuff in the aptly-named Escaping from Harm section.

    Being a liability in combat should, if anything, be more of a valid life-choice than it is, since some characters are clearly liabilities in challenges like, "let's all attend the governor's ball", or "let's all sneak into the triangle corporation research facility". For characters to take the lead in some situations and be a liability in others, enabling their comrades to shine by comparison, is a feature and not a bug.

    But you don't want PCs whose combat role is to increase the combat monster's dramatic tension level by getting brutally murdered.
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    Lokathor
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    PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 2:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    FrankTrollman wrote:
    But "cower behind Frankenstein's Monster" is a valid option most of the time.


    If this were a show or movie I'd agree, but since every Player Character is played by their own Player, that's terrible to offer up as a main solution. "I guess I cower because there's nothing I can do", is something that a player might have to say from time to time, but it's not something you shouldn't look to eliminate as much as possible. That's what makes people go play Super Smash Bros.

    As much as "there doesn't need to be a fight every session", fights are still a big time sink to resolve. If it takes 3 minutes to go around the table and get back to you, then all you say is "I do nothing", and now you're waiting for another 3 minutes with nothing to do, people just pull out their phones and tune out.

    Or, alternately, you need to write chapters and chapters of content about how to construct and run an After Sundown chronicle that doesn't have fights all the time. Because even when I played several nWOD games that were run by people who were really into nWOD and oWOD, we had 1-2 fights every single session. I genuinely have no idea what a no-combats game session is supposed to be like, and I think that a majority of the gaming world (having only been exposed to DnD) is similarly confused about what this mythical no-fights game style you're proposing is like. Which makes After Sundown come off really poorly, if everyone is assuming that there are all these fights, and then the fighting mechanics are kinda rocket-tag and not even everyone gets to actually do anything.
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    OgreBattle
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    PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 3:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    After Sundown isn't meant to emphasize combat so perhaps an even more abstract 'gridless' way to do combat would be better suited for the game. Like what Assymetric Threat is going towards.
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    ...You Lost Me
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    PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 4:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Yeah, I think a less-mathy combat where it's more like a few checks would be better. If the rules try hard not to emphasize the importance of combat, I think the players will angle that way as well. Right now there is a lot of stuff about armor, damage values, actions, etc that are only valuable for combat.
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    PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    DrPraetor wrote:
    The problem is, how do the game mechanics support "cower" as a life choice during combat?


    Specifically they encourage cowering behind Frankenstein's Monster, in the sense that if you flee from combat, the Strength beast in the party can take the hit for you. Which means that as long as you have one member with high Rock defenses, they can bail out the characters with low or medium rock defenses if they get overwhelmed.

    But back on to the general theory of discipline power. I think it's unavoidably true that there are some powers (like throwing fire bolts) that are stand alone, and other powers (like being super strong or fast) that lego together. Furthermore, there are some powers (like Small Witness) that help you do detective work and other powers (like Attraction) that make you better at schmoozing, while still other powers (like Devastation) make you better at comic book punch ups. What that means is that different groups are going to have different levels of combat and other optimization and appropriate challenges are going to have to be scaled to that.

    For example, it's an entirely reasonable life choice as a Werewolf to simply stop your combat investment at the point where six police officers with shot guns isn't particularly threatening and spend the rest of your powers and skill points and such being a good legal secretary and socialite. But it's also a reasonable life choice to grab moar beatdowns and be even stronger and have acid blood and shit so that you can turn our legal secretary werewolf into a grease stain. Let's call these two options Barbara and Cassandra for reasons. If the combat challenges the game provides are mostly armed cultists and the occasional aligator pit such that Barbara's abilities are sufficient to beat rock encounters, she is simply a better character than Cassandra. If, on the other hand, the combat opposition has a lot of Trolls and Oni that Barbara struggles with or even loses to, Cassandra is a much more defensible life choice.

    That being said, I don't think we can credibly say that all the powers in the first edition are balanced. Some are at the wrong levels and others are way too narrow in application.

    In general, I'm looking for a Basic spying power to be somewhat better than having a camera on a remote control helicopter or a laser microphone. I'm looking for a stand-alone basic attack power to be somewhat better than having a gun, while an Advanced stand alone attack power should be somewhat better than throwing a grenade. Basic movement powers should get you places like having a motorcycle you're willing to drive inside like Blade, while Advanced movement powers should get you places humans can't go like with mist form or shadow walk.

    -Frank
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