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How "bad" is this system, really? Looking for pitfalls.

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Hi.

This might be a strange thing to ask in this forum - because I generally assume if you're on these forums you really like the game - but I'm hoping to find issues with the system so I can look out for them later when teaching friends or running an adventure. This isn't a "this system sucks, who's with me?" thread, but a lot of you here have have way more experience with the system than I do, so you've probably seen things that aren't apparent when you first read the rules.

 

To give a few examples from other games I've ran:

D&D 3.5/Pathfinder: Once you start getting past 8th level or so, the number system begins to fall apart. You see this in Natural Armor; a lot of monsters start to have huge amounts of Natural armor to counteract the -AC for size and to account for the players' high Base Attack Bonus. Something like this is even exposed in 4th edition D&D, when the TNs for skill checks raise based on your level for no other reason than to maintain a certain percentage chance of success.

Savage Worlds: the SW system isn't really built to have the party fight one BBEG. A party of four or five will always beat a party of one, unless you somehow invent a way for that one person to have more attack than normally allowed for one character. That doesn't mean you can't have a dramatic, final fight against there villain of the story; your crime boss/dragon just needs to have enough minions there to back him/her up.

Conan, Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of (Modiphius): At a certain point (Conan doesn't have levels, so it's a little hard to say exactly when), the players make short order of their opponents in battle. The Momentum (a resource) the players can generate is faster than the Doom (a recourse) the GM can in the same amount of time (Doom is player dependent). Depending on your game, this may or may not be a bad thing. I've thrown Dynasty Warrior levels of minions at the players. The players feel like epic heroes (which is good), but it feels weird as a GM when you're wondering if your group of fourteen minions is going to be enough to wound a party of four... and then do that four more times ("Didn't you say this castle was deserted? We just killed like 70 people.")

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I think you’ve posed the question poorly.  It looks like what you’re asking is “Where does the system for this game start breaking down?”  That’s a really useful thing to ask, and it really isn’t the same as asking whether the game is “bad” or not, because “bad” depends in part on whether the broken parts of the system matter to the players at that point.

One of the long running defects in TTB is casting spells against high ranking foes.  If the target of a spell has a high rank, that’s going to put the numeric part of the target number for the attack flip fairly high; and there really isn’t any reason to build a spell with a lower numeric value for the casting TN.  In other words, if you need to flip an 8 to overcome the target’s Wp, you might as wellbuild the spell to the point where you need to flip an 8 to cast it.

 

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I was kind of looking for a little of both, but trying to avoid a "this is what I hate about this system" conversation. Closer to a "I wish I had known this before I started."

Like in my examples above, it would have been nice in the GM section of Conan and the Savage Worlds books if they mentioned you shouldn't try to build a fight around one, big villain. That's not a bad thing about the system, but knowing that ahead of time would help construct battles differently.

 

Your example helps though, thanks. That's not something I would have seen from the onset.

 

 

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The one thing I can think of is that you pretty much need someone in the group who can take care of Crit effects, especially the Bleeding out condition.

Almost all the Crit effects are pretty balanced, but the bleeding out effect is horrible for players. If you don't have anyone with a high enough doctoring skill, you are dead within a minute, and if the doctor is the one who got it, there's almost no hope of survival, because removing it on yourself is really hard. 

That being said, I like the urgency of the effect, I just think it's a bit too hard to remove.

 

Other than that, I like this system because it's not much that breaks the game, it's really thought through, and fairly well balanced. Sure, some pursuits are stronger than others, but all pursuits seem useful in what they do, so none of them seem underpowered.

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The game is excellent, accessible and flows like too few RPG. Jokers are a huge thing to make things happen, whether the black one or the red one.

The downside is also an upside the vast domain of possibilities and the liberty you have to create and develop a character.

If your players usualy try to abuse the system, there is no safeguard in the rules, you will have to be the one limiting them to the frame YOU choose. For exemple, as a Malifaux player, I just told them that what they do in the rpg could be transposed to the wargame, and that they had to be reasonnable ! In addition, if an ability has some nice history parts, but they just think it is bad, I'll just improve that ability for them to use.

  • For exemple, with manifested powers and the Oxfordian school, one could teleport some guys on top of a building and make them suicide themselves.

So I will tell you : buy this game, it's awesome (And I don't have to be a fanboy to say this !). Just take care to balance your group.

 

 

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I think maxing out combat stats and abilities makes combat not much fun (If your base is 11 you rarely miss).

Invisibility & Teleport can be OP.

Solkan's point about immuto's vs high tn targets is very true.

I love the system though. It's possibly best to just embrace characters can be super human

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Thanks for the responses.

One of the things I didn't like about Edge of the Empire (FFG Star Wars RPG) was that it seemed to favor spending XP on your stats and skills over buying new talents (it looks like they fixed this in the Genesys RPG). I think that was that game's version of min/maxing though. I don't see that as an issue here since you just get new talents at the end of a session.

Can you spend XP on stats in this game? I thought it was only for skills?

 

The players in my group aren't tournament level min/maxers, so I don't anticipate too much abuse ("take this level 1 talent, and work your way to the other level 5 talent later on and wreck face!"), but they'll exploit something immediate if they get the chance (like two, Level 1 talents that synergize pretty well).

I don't multiclass in D&D, but it looks like it works for this game; the lore looks like it supports a "do whatever you need to get by" kind of vibe, and that was one of things that drew me to this game. That, and I like it when a magic system gives me different philosophies to use when casting (Shadowrun does this too).

 

 

How "swingy" is the system? On average, are players praying to draw like a 10 or better a lot, or do they mostly pull hoping for a big margin of success? I like the idea of the Twist Deck (I'm always a fan of luck mitigation), but since there's only one of each number I'm wondering how often it comes into play. Is there a way to abuse :+flip, like are they easy to come by?

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43 minutes ago, SaveVersus said:

Can you spend XP on stats in this game? I thought it was only for skills? 

No, XP is only spent on skills or skill triggers :)

45 minutes ago, SaveVersus said:

How "swingy" is the system? On average, are players praying to draw like a 10 or better a lot, or do they mostly pull hoping for a big margin of success? I like the idea of the Twist Deck (I'm always a fan of luck mitigation), but since there's only one of each number I'm wondering how often it comes into play. Is there a way to abuse :+flip, like are they easy to come by?

It can be pretty swingy because it's a limited amount of cards in the deck, so if you only draw awful cards at first, you know that the bottom half of the deck is mostly good cards, and vice versa.

And sure, you can abuse :+flip, but it's not always a good thing either, since you are more likely to draw the black joker, which you can't cheat.

Some skills are easier to get:+flipon than others though. 

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On 9/26/2018 at 11:29 AM, SaveVersus said:

Hi.

This might be a strange thing to ask in this forum - because I generally assume if you're on these forums you really like the game - but I'm hoping to find issues with the system so I can look out for them later when teaching friends or running an adventure. This isn't a "this system sucks, who's with me?" thread, but a lot of you here have have way more experience with the system than I do, so you've probably seen things that aren't apparent when you first read the rules.

So ive been playing TTB for about 1-2 years on and off and I can point out some issues and gripes.

Firstly it's fairly easy to break characters and become over powered if you focus on a single aspect. doom laser spell casters and super punch bro's as well as snipers who are flipping 3-4 cards milling the deck real hard. Even focusing on a single skill and getting it up to 5 (the max) adding positives or if you have a good associated aspect can cause issues.   however I find this can easily be combated by making a wide and varied set of encounters. Reminding your players other skills are important and conflicts arnt always fighting is the key. Malifaux is a setting of intrigue, cunning, betrayal, investigation and as well as adventure and combat. So it's good to make your Fated players do what isn't in their wheel houses' to keep them feeling like human.

Next thing I've seen as being a potential issue is some immuto(spell modifiers) can break the game for instance if you add the location immuto to the mind control(obey) spell and try to mind control every unit in the fight. whoever loses you get to make an action for including allies. 

After that, manifested powers are as strong or weak as you the game master want. that is to say I played with a player/fatemaster who wanted to use manifested powers in such a way as it would break characters and themes in the game. Not to say it's wrong, but the tone of the game changed in such a way it felt less like playing malifaux and more like monty python. on the other hand they are ment to be milestone rewards so dont try to give a player nothing, the key it to work with the player to come to a compromise you are both satisfied with... though there is something to be said of the trope (powers unasked for) and bestowing something they cant control on them. all in all it's about communication of both what you as a story teller want and what the players want to act out!

Fourth, and this is kind of a big one, the money system in the game doesnt work very well. 1 guild script can feed you for a week in most places, weapons range from 3-25 script in general plus mods. Same with Armour and skill kits are expensive. ammo should be bought as well. However once you have an adventuring kit, there isnt anything to spend your cash on. soulstones and spell books are prohibitively expensive and borderline illegal to buy and sell. weapons and ammo can be found on at least 1/2 of most combatants. With all the classes in the game and the high magic would of malifaux, it's starting to feel like the game needs a lot more consumables (1 use magic items) as well as the ability to buy enchantments or some other form of treadmill for leveling up one's gear.

Another issue I've found id the way destiny steps work, this is less and issue but more that getting the spotlight on the correct player for them to make consciously push to meet their destiny or try to cheat it can be pretty tough. Most desity steps can be shoehorned into one of the penny dreadfuls but it feels awkward most of the time. The game really seems to flourish with a custom adventure and I'll throw this in here, a themed party. Having the group choose to be guild guard or resserectionists, Spies or pinkerton mercenaries helps shape the theme of the adventure a lot better than the generic hodgepodge of adventurers most first or second games  produce. Again working with the party to put a few boundaries really improves the process more than restricting it imo.

Death and injury after a few sessions can become a thing of the past. Ive played many many sessions and have yet to see a player die. Injuries on the other hand a dousy if you dont have someone on hand to deal with it. doctoring skill/sawbones class to risk a surgery, magic with mend critical and or healing spell or an engineer to make an invention that auto fixes the problem. This can make the players loose a sense of risk. between all this and cheating fate the players a pretty safe to be honest.

scaling- the game has none of it. you'll have to eyeball every encounter you make. also try not to be afraid to make easy skill checks, as well as impossible ones.  back to the point the game doesnt tell you to not pit master level enemies or peon level doods against you players. there is no scale to it. This means a higher level of system mastery is required to make good fights and challenges. when in doubt air on the side of harder.

Last major issue and this goes back into the first issue is the game is designed to have a time limit. players become very powerful very fast. Keep this in mind because when a player puts a 2 or 3 in their main fighting skill, gets a 5 in that same skill with a kitted out weapon or spell book, their accuracy of 6-8 with positive twists and triggers can make many encounters trivial. 

 

With all this in mind, TTB is one of if not my most favorite systems and setting. While I still think It needs a lot of work, I am only critical of it because I love it so much. I highly recommend the new core rulebook as it covers the setting in depth, has everything a player needs as well as a pretty sizable monster manual. That being said each expansion book adds classes, monsters, a little bit of spells and equipment as well as dives into a particular place or zone in malifaux.

 

Good luck and I hope you enjoy the ride, and dont forget...bad things happen!

~a friendly Merchant  

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Cool, thanks for the reply.

My players in Conan like that they're larger than life, and that sounds like it could also be the case here. As long as I know that ahead of time, I can plan accordingly.

 

 

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On 9/27/2018 at 7:04 PM, SaveVersus said:

Can you spend XP on stats in this game? I thought it was only for skills? 

No but you can use destiny steps to increase attributes - which if for example you boast speed/str/grace to 4 or 5 and primarily use those attributes in combat makes you pretty powerful. Especially Speed for defense, charge and Martial arts combo!

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On 9/27/2018 at 11:04 AM, SaveVersus said:

 

Can you spend XP on stats in this game? I thought it was only for skills?

There are spells that can increase your base stats as well as some machines like the pneumatic harness. Ideally the engineer class should be able to invent things that could improve stats as well...or if you are a stitched you could talk to the Fate master about allowing your friend to sew bigger arms/ legs to you to make you more powerful and finally the invested (sentient constructs) have many of their own talents for improving their profile in very robot-y ways!

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I think the biggest issue I have found with the system is with construct or undead opponents of enforcer+ station (which are not exactly uncommon in Malifaux). They are both immune to unconsciousness challenges from hitting 0 wounds (due to enforcer+ station), and immune to bleeding out from being non-living. In addition to often giving opponents :-flipon damage flips and/or having armour. They're also (narratively) the opponents least likely to flee or surrender. All this can add up to a bit of an annoying grind as the PCs need very hit severe criticals to take them out of the fight... I've learned to narrate the end of the combat once they're reduced to being ineffective from critical effects (which is usually long before they are actually taken out of the fight).

Also, another thing to bear in mind is that with negative aspects and a randomisation range of 0-14, the range of even starting PC capability can be much greater than you're used to with other RPGs. I.e. things that challenge a party member with a +3/4 aspect and a couple of ranks of skill, will be all but impossible for a PC with a -2/3 aspect and no skill ranks. And vice versa - anything that the weaker PC can comfortably achieve, the stronger PC will likely be achieving with margins of success.

Other than that I've found it to be a pretty good and well balanced system. Among my favourites, and something I bring out when we're in the mood for something different from the standard dice-based games.

 

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