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Combat and new Fated


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Ran my second game last night, first with Fated characters generated by the players.  I ran the one shot adventure from Chronicle 15: "Train of Thoughts".  All went well though I noticed a few interesting quirks in the dramatic events.  We have just come off a pathfinder season so are probably still in a table top combat (min/max) frame of mind.  This is my first time GMing though I've played

NOTE: Some spoilers below!!


Firstly, one of the Fated is a Guard with Might 3 and Heavy Melee 3 for an opening AV of 6.  Combined with a custom bludgeon with Enlarged (1/1/2 increase damage) & Extended (3" reach).  With a Def of 6 and a sprint of 14" he rushed past the Hunters at Faraday as he was loading the train with the intent of arresting him.  In hindsight I should have had the fated further from the train however to pin him down I had to rush two hunters into melee range and give him a negative twist to disengaging so we could get to the final train battle.  In combat he very quickly crushed the hunters needing only a 4 to hit, doing min damage of 3 (-1 for armor).  The Fated should probably have been more concerned for his new friends battling hunters behind him too! 

Secondly, one of the Fated is a Tinker with Elemental Strike, combined with Fire, Focus object -4 and Reduce AP Immuto.  Using Traditional Magic Theory and the Specialized Skill Talent on Intellect 3 and Sorcery 3.  For those playing at home that's 6AV with a positive twist to hit and the Tomes TN removed.  1 AP at TN11 does nominal 1/2/3 damage but stacks 6 burning tokens on the target.  He will also have a TN12 to land 4 burning tokens on a (0) action.  He murdered about 5 hunters comfortably by tapping them once each.  He was only really challenged by me throwing a stack of Hunters at him to drain his hand and threaten his wounds (needing an 8 to avoid a hit in return)!  See here.

So the combats felt a little one sided with the two above out shining the more balanced Fated (a paired pistol gunslinger and Graverobber with rifle).  I found it a little difficult to get the balance of minions right.  Too few and they simply smashed them apart which is a little out of the ordinary given the fluff on Hunters. Too many and they eventually flipped a few low cards for Def, had no cheat cards and took as much as 1/3 of their health per swipe.  Between the two above they cleared 8 hunters in the first dramatic section. 

So I was thinking of a few potential changes:

  • Bump the Def/Wp stats of combat NPCs by 2 to reduce the chance of hits landing (and not have to rush as many minions)?
  • Increase the TN of elemental strike by 4 to reduce the number of burning tokens applied (or make it +3TN)?
  • Make disengaging strikes harder?
  • Get the Fated to soften their combat scores?
  • Just GM it harder and give the Fated more consequences? 

Can any Fatemasters offer advice for me here?

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GM it Harder:

1. Make the Hunters swarm the biggest threat (the one with the Hammer) and let the Mage feel the consequences whenever he uses his Magic in more crowded Areas (Mages are not a common thing in Malifaux... they get hunted like dogs and are turned into witchlings or worse). The last time our Mage grilled a peacekeeper-like construct within the industrial Zone with a lightningstrike he brought the witchhunters down on the compound and the fated barely escaped. A weapon like the bludgeon might draw attention in crowded areas as well, just think of someone walking down the street with an RPG, how would people react?

2. Don't forget: Ttb is no tabletop, fights don't have to play out point by point. Let a Hunter jump the Hammer swinging guy from he train and make him take a high TN Athletic duel to keep him from getting brought down by the weight of the hunter. Once he's lying on his back see how he deals with the Hunters then. Or make him take - flips due to a Hunter attacking from behind or because he tried to ignore them. Just think of the Movies, even the most powerful heroes are sometimes brought down by asymetrical warfare.

3. level the field: the next time the hammer guy flips a black Joker on any might, athletic or combat duel make him hurt himself or lose his weapon, see how he fares with a broken hand, leg or without his Hammer. The same goes for the mage... have his focused object be damaged and see how he fares without it.

Edited by 96p
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Hey there!

I commented on what I'm assuming is a thread by your spellcaster over here, if you want to take a look: Link

It sounds like those two character are pretty focused on melee combat, so it's not surprising that they're both very good at it. I'd suggest varying up the ranges of the combats to let shooting characters have some time to drop the people charging towards them. Focusing attacks on characters that are swinging Buster Sword-sized weapons or unleashing Flaming Hell Meteor Punches is also a pretty good idea, as those are the characters that are going to draw panicked "Oh shit!" moments from the Fated's enemies. Nobody likes being reduced to a charred skeleton just cause they got punched with magic.

Similarly, don't have your enemies cluster up all in one place so often. If they're spread out and shooting the Fated, it makes it more difficult for the Fated to charge one guy into combat and tie them all up (particularly the Tinker, who only has a 1-yard range on his attacks). Have them fire down on the Fated from balconies or the roofs of trains, where they're not easy to reach (unless the Fated have ranged weapons or can teleport people around).

Give enemies melee attacks so that they aren't forced to constantly disengage from combat. A Guild sniper might be best with his rifle, but he should still have a knife or at the very least a pugilism attacks to defend himself if someone engages him.


It's also worth noting that Malifaux City, at the very least, is under Guild control, which means that magic use is heavily restricted. If the Fated aren't using the Thalarian Doctrine (and especially if they're casting spells left and right), they're likely going to attract the attention of the Witch Hunters, many of whom should have the Counterspell Talent. Killing a Witchling Stalker only partially solves the problem, as they tend to explode and light things around them on fire, which can include the building the Fated are inside if there are flammable materials around. A half dozen Witchling Stalkers rushing someone isn't going to be something that the Fated just walk away from unharmed.


Now, there are a few mechanical things you can do to provide more of a challenge to the Fated. The easiest solution is to just increase the Rank Value of enemies and call it good. Boosting a few Minions (5) to Minions (6) or Enforcers (7) can have a big impact upon a fight, and a "boss NPC" is a lot more threatening if they're a Henchman (10).

Adding more enemies is also a pretty good tactic; if you have four Fated, then four NPCs are probably going to be defeated in two to three rounds of combat. If there are eight or twelve NPCs, then weight of fire will start to take their toll and the Fated will find themselves in a rougher spot.

Varying creatures can help, too. A wave of Hunters is pretty dangerous, but if you have them supported by a Tinker who can use magic to shoot the Fated with elemental bolts that leave them Blind or Rooted in place - or enchants the Hunters' weapons with similar effects - then they become a greater threat than their parts. Toss a few Guild Riflemen up on the roof a nearby building and suddenly it's a more dangerous and more interesting encounter that starts to reward tactics over brute force numbers.

If you have Into the Steam, we've added a wide variety of creatures that can be used to present different challenges to the Fated, as well as Monster Pursuits that can be quickly used to make enemies more of a challenge. And, of course, don't forget that enemies can sometimes use magic, too; it's a two-way street!


All that aside, however, Through the Breach characters are basically action heroes. They're the protagonists in their own film, warping fate around themselves to ensure that they're on the upper end of most fights. So long as people are having fun, don't worry if they're on top of the fight; they're supposed to have a good run of things and feel bad-ass, so not every fight has to end with them barely pulling out a close victory. Sometimes they just pull out a pistol and shoot the awesome ninja guy dead on their first turn. :P

Varying encounters is also really helpful. If the Fated just steamroll combat, just let them have some fun fights they can power through, then toss some social encounters, skill checks, and Ongoing Challenges their way. The goal is to make a fun story, and if that story happens to involve literal juggernauts of damage, then just roll with it and incorporate it into the story. Is the magic guy awesome? That's cool, now he's being approached by the Arcanists, who want him to join their side. Of course, that means more encounters with Witch Hunters, which ups the stakes, makes the Fated feel more influential in the story, and allows you to toss tougher and more unique enemies at the players.

Is the melee bruiser just unleashing devastation all around him? Maybe he's contacted by someone that wants to bring him onto their side (whether the Guild, Ten Thunders, or even the Neverborn). Use your character's destinies and see who might be interested in their talents and weave that into the story.

If the other players aren't having fun because they're being outshone, that's a problem and you should find a way to let them have their moments of awesome as well (whether in or out of combat). If everyone's having fun, though, then just have a good laugh as the Fated cleave through their enemies left and right.

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In every RPG there's the problem of dealing with powerful PCs. There are a few things to consider I think.

1- First thing... Is this bothering someone? Are some players doing all the stuff and thus "stealing" all the fun from the others? Some characters will be more combat oriented while others can excel at social occasions. As long as every character has their moments to shine through the game session, I Imagine everyone should be happy. You cant always tailor your adventures around your player's characters aptitudes but you can always think of stuff that may result interesting to everyone of them. If everyone is happy and the "efficient character" isnt breaking your adventures, then, more power to them.

2 - If its a problem indeed... Sometimes narrative can control the troublesome character. As it's been said the practice of magic (by non sanctioned mages) is forbidden by the Guild. You can prolly get away with performing very vulgar magic in the wastelands or maybe in some slum areas, but casting spells in certain areas like Downtown can bring a lot of trouble (I wish my players tried... ;) ). Witch hunters would be upon them in no time. They could be killed or (if you feel merciful) they could be forced to work for the Guild as payment for their crimes. If not narrative, them you could "exploit" their weaknesses. If the problematic character is strong in melee, harass them from affar with sharpshooters. If he is strong at range, throw in some fast moving creatures that excel at melee. Some people dont like doing this (some people around here call it "Gm's metaplaying") but I think sometimes its necessary to keep things interesting.

Curiously enough I'm having the opposite problem, with a non combat oriented troupe of characters in my game that have trouble surviving most fights. I have to be very careful of what I throw at them. :D 

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Well.. I think that´s maybe because you have combat oriented characters. I recently finish a game and the two characters involved in the story almost die (an augmented with melee skills and a shooter criminal). They had about AV5 in their atacks and 6wd so was pretty hard for them because even minions were a though fight.

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Thanks everyone for the feedback.  I'll try adding a few more narrative elements and varying the enemies/enviroments to balance out the melee characters running amok.  Some form of occasional de-buff to counter the overwhelming offensive should help manage the two of them and give the others a chance to shine.  I might tweak a few of the minions to enforcers to up the difficulty level for the more powerful fated and make the glass cannon Tinker a little more cautious (though I still think he can burning tag a henchman level NPC without too much trouble). 

Consequences are an interesting balance.  I think for the tinker this will work well.  I'll have to get a bit more creative with the Guard.  As I work my way through the various adventures I'll get a bit more confidence with letting the story run to wherever it needs to go.  So far I've been closely following the Penny Dreadful adventures more though lack of GM experience!

My big concern was ensuring everyone gets involved in each event so I'll have to key my eye on it! 


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Play for the social encounters and have some fun.  My group has a character that for some godforsaken reason has agreed to marry a Gremlin (The Bushwackers crew cant come quick enough for the figures).  To get through the bayou they found some swamp gators, killed them then the Necromancer in the group stitched them together and then animated them for a raft.  I am now waiting the moment I can surprise the party with the abomination of a three stitched together Gator Zombie - Looking at Cerberus for inspiration.

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We have just come off a pathfinder season so are probably still in a table top combat (min/max) frame of mind.  This is my first time GMing though I've played

All I will add to the discussion above (truthfully just emphasizing Mason's point) is that you dont have to try to min/max characters, it will happen naturally (even by completely new players that have never played an rpg before). The game was really designed that way. Low level NPC's will fall easily and struggle against the Fated. As Mason points out the fated are action heroes.

Unfortunately, it is also true that at the other end of the spectrum, the Fated will really struggle against the higher ranked NPC's (especially the ones with a rank value of 10+. If you take a heavy handed approach with the combat system and try to offer a challenge you will likely just frustrate the players and seriously bang them up (with them doing little in return, even at the high end of development).

My best advice is to approach the game as a story telling game (where it is good) rather than AD&D or Pathfinder (where the system is just bad). This is especially true after your players have completed a few games and learned how to manipulate the system (custom weapons make it easier). If the players want a combat oriented experience either utilize the table top game rules or play another game. One last option is to peruse the forums here and find some of the nifty house rules that have been offered to introduce more randomness to the static NPC resolution system. This is really where the biggest weakness of the combat resolution system resides (Static resolution for NPC's against static value plus random value for players).

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It's an interesting point you make Omenbringer on the difficulties of the static NPC resolution.  In this instance the Fated were not at all challenged by the fight and therefore without the fear of death for the powerful combat Fated I felt the event lacked weight (or could if we kept having dramatic events that didn't have drama).  Not to mention the more balanced Fated were out shone.  Will see how I go with it this week taking the approach above. 

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That is definitely the issue I have found with the static resolution system. Focused characters (whether done intentionally or by accident) wont struggle except against the highest ranked NPC's (Henchman at least). When facing these NPC's the focused (even developed and significantly "kitted out" Fated) will struggle to do anything meaningful against them due to the top tier static resolution values. There are only so many 11+ cards in the deck that can result in success. The non-focused, generalist fares even worse here.

The system also shows weakness at the moderate to low ranked NPC's where even Non-focused, generalist characters will still fare well enough against most NPC's on average flips. As you point out though, if a focused character or two is in the group, they may not have much real opportunity to do anything other than watch and cheer them on.

The difficulty in trying to force the game to conform to a more combat oriented system is to keep it from appearing adversarial between players and Fate Master. As has been said already, playing up the magic prohibition and even adding significant repercussions for rushes to combat in the city or settlements of Malifaux is a good start, though one that can also just turn otherwise heroes into villains that no longer fear those repercussions at all (instead it becomes a badge of honor). Just reading the stories contained in the TTG books, it is clear Seamus doesn't give a damn about the Guilds magic prohibition or repercussions for criminal acts.

Probably the best advice is to ask your players what type of experience they want from the game. If it is an engaging story, then keep combat as an aside to be resolved quickly. Perhaps even just narrating most of it instead of resorting to the static resolution system. If it is a more combat focused experience they want, then try utilizing the table top rules for combat resolution. With the NPC's drawing from a fate deck (the Fate Masters own, not the players communal one) instead of static resolution, even the lowly Bayou Gremlin is dangerous when he has the potential to draw a Red Joker. If that doesn't work, then prehaps this just isnt the system for them.

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