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The13Fates

TN vs Opposed

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I'd like to preface this by reminding all to remain civil, and that there isn't a wrong way to play your own games, nor should there be personal criticism against others for liking one method or another.

So...

I'm nearing the end of my campaign, players about to reach their last destiny steps and as a Finale, I've built from the ground up the BBEG using character creation rules and gave her the same amount of pursuit path steps, destiny steps and EXP. Originally I was just going to go Master rank and leave it there, but I also really love the idea of the final encounter being Fated vs Fated. Their Fate deck vs GM Fate deck, their twist decks vs GM twist decks; very excited about how it's going to go down.

That's fine and manageable for the big last fight but I started speculating on doing it full time for my next campaign, being a big fan of M2E. The trouble I reached Theoryfaux-ing it was that; unless I raised all NPC stats up to match player stats (the typical 5-6 becoming a more common 6-7)... it doesn't change much player side.

The question I want to ask is: for those that have experimented with opposed flipping vs TNs, what are the pros and cons to Both methods?

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This thread looks at some of the pros and cons of doing this, and some theoryfaux on what you'd need to change. Lepercolony plays it that way so his advice is based on actually doing it. , I just looked at the mathematical implications of playing that way.

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I obviously think there's plenty of :+flipto it (else why would I), but since I actually do run my campaigns this way, here's a few of the :-flip:

1)  You have to come up with AVs for NPCs.  Not a big deal if you're using NPCs from the books, because they give the stats.  But if the NPC isn't from one of the books, it is a little bit more work.

2)  It's a little slower than the standard resolution system.  

3)  It's not the actual rules.  I'm not convinced this is a :-flip, but there are certain people out there who just don't like derivations.  If you have a player with that personal preference, they may naturally resist it.  However, what has been consistently under-appreciated during the various discussion on the topic is that opposed flips is an optional rule under the Fatemaster's Almanac.  Admittedly the rule in question was to substitute Malifaux resolution for TtB, the principle difference of which is opposed flipping, and as written it only pertained to combat.  But I don't see any reason to restrict it in that way.

4)  It produces less "reliable" results.  By that I mean the players are not able to determine the likely outcome of events in the same way and to the same degree of certainty as they can with fixed TNs.  Now, I rate this as a :+flip, and the narrative and mechanical uncertainties (they're not the same thing) are probably the biggest appeal to me personally.  But I do recognize that it's possible to appreciate the mathematical certainty of fixed TNs and to prefer it.

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Two of my main roadblocks theory wise have likely been brought up in the past, but:

1./ The way [-] & [+] work with opposed deck vs deck. The language in the book can be confusing but for core rules if I have it right in my head: if an NPC has a [+] to their ability (Focus, included in AV etc), it's in fact a [-] to a player to defend against it; if an NPC has a [-] to their ability (from Impose, some critical effects etc) it's in fact a [+] for the player to defend against it. 

Now, in my mind, positive & negative flips aren't part of the same coin, if I had the choice, I'd much prefer my player to have a negative flip for Def against an attack, rather than my NPC having a positive flip; the inverse is true for player side. You get better results if your target has the lower of two cards with no ability to cheat higher. This is the main thing stopping me from a full switch, it would be very hard to tell players "yeah I know it says my npc gets [-][-] but instead, you get a [+][+] and I'll cheat in this 13, GG"; how does not having this affect gameplay?

2./ Twist decks (control hands) and cheating cards. This is a big reason for the switch, triggers feel worthless when players can switch them off for little cost at will and it kills me a little inside when the phrase "I cheat in *yawn* a Five, they miss"; it's just the logistics of the thing I can't wrap my head around.

Do the NPCs not cheat? Then I'd much prefer a static 8 for everything, it's at least a mathematically better choice. Do the NPCs have their own individual twist decks? That's a nightmare scenario, having 12 different decks on the table because I'm using a mix of creatures, no thanks.

The best thing in my head would be to have a single GM deck and a single deck to use for cheat hands that all NPCs share, only now I have no basis for hand size. Standard 3? Not great if 5 NPCs are sharing it. Draw rank # for each? Maybe. Assign an "on the pursuit" for each NPC just to level the playing field? 

It's a lot of rhetorical questions which nothing outside of many one-shots would answer, have you run into/solved/found out it wasn't a problem to any of these concerns?

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1 hour ago, The13Fates said:

Two of my main roadblocks theory wise have likely been brought up in the past, but:

1./ The way [-] & [+] work with opposed deck vs deck. The language in the book can be confusing but for core rules if I have it right in my head: if an NPC has a [+] to their ability (Focus, included in AV etc), it's in fact a [-] to a player to defend against it; if an NPC has a [-] to their ability (from Impose, some critical effects etc) it's in fact a [+] for the player to defend against it. 

Now, in my mind, positive & negative flips aren't part of the same coin, if I had the choice, I'd much prefer my player to have a negative flip for Def against an attack, rather than my NPC having a positive flip; the inverse is true for player side. You get better results if your target has the lower of two cards with no ability to cheat higher. This is the main thing stopping me from a full switch, it would be very hard to tell players "yeah I know it says my npc gets [-][-] but instead, you get a [+][+] and I'll cheat in this 13, GG"; how does not having this affect gameplay?

So the :-flip to fated defense for NPC focus is actually a consequence of taking the Malifaux rules, upon which TtB is based, and trying to make it work within the (in my opinion convoluted) fated-only flip system.  Since the NPC doesn't flip, any modifiers to its flips has to be rendered in the fated's terms.  Changing to opposing flips untangles all of that, because it is based on the original rules system that underlines TtB.

In an opposed flip system, you just apply the modifiers to whomever it should belong.  So if your NPC is focusing, they get a :+flip to the attack and any subsequent damage, and if the fated has taken the defense action, they get a :+flip to their defense.  For your situation, both the NPC and the fated could potentially cheat, since neither are facing a :-flip.

I should say that I only give control hands to meaningful NPCs, so cheating on the NPC side is relatively rare in my games.

1 hour ago, The13Fates said:

2./ Twist decks (control hands) and cheating cards. This is a big reason for the switch, triggers feel worthless when players can switch them off for little cost at will and it kills me a little inside when the phrase "I cheat in *yawn* a Five, they miss"; it's just the logistics of the thing I can't wrap my head around.

Do the NPCs not cheat? Then I'd much prefer a static 8 for everything, it's at least a mathematically better choice. Do the NPCs have their own individual twist decks? That's a nightmare scenario, having 12 different decks on the table because I'm using a mix of creatures, no thanks.

I touched on this a little at the end of my previous section, but I only give control hands to significant NPCs.  To generate that NPC's control hand, I do what Malifaux does and draw cards from the Fatemaster deck.

I'm not sure what you mean by the fated switching triggers off.  But in an opposed flip system, since the NPC is flipping for itself, the NPC can declare any triggers its flipped (or cheated, when applicable) card qualifies for.  And because the fated aren't flipping for the NPC, the fated cheating can't avoid a trigger (unless they win the duel, of course, and thereby invalidate the trigger).

1 hour ago, The13Fates said:

The best thing in my head would be to have a single GM deck and a single deck to use for cheat hands that all NPCs share, only now I have no basis for hand size. Standard 3? Not great if 5 NPCs are sharing it. Draw rank # for each? Maybe. Assign an "on the pursuit" for each NPC just to level the playing field? 

I do use a Fatemaster deck of my own.  As I mentioned, I don't give generic NPCs control hands, but if I did, one control hand for all the NPCs seems fair.  In fact, it might be a good way to sort of "bump up" intermediate NPC groups (like more elite guards), to give them a control hand.  It's something I might now do in the future.

As for size, I think 3 would be fine.  The question is what you're trying to achieve by giving them a control hand, what the purpose the encounter is, how you want this encounter and these NPCs to be perceived, etc.  If you look at it from a comparative resources point-of-view, in terms of adding challenge to the encounter, one card per fated might be fair.    

Because TtB is an RPG and not a competitive miniatures game (like Malifaux), I don't use opposed flipping because it's more fair.  I use it for several reasons detailed in the thread @Adran linked, but principally because I am very much against the kind of mathematical certainty the single-flip fixed TN system creates, and the kind of "gamey" and "mechanical" decisions I've seen players make once the narrative uncertainty element is diminished or even eliminated.

1 hour ago, The13Fates said:

It's a lot of rhetorical questions which nothing outside of many one-shots would answer, have you run into/solved/found out it wasn't a problem to any of these concerns?

I haven't found the issues you're worried about to be of any concern in my own games.  One thing to be aware of though is that opposed flips are more likely to produce outlier results than the standard single-flip fixed TN system.  This is partly a consequence of making things less mathematically deterministic, but it does mean that the enemy flipping the Red Joker on their attack while the fated flip the Black Joker on their defense is a thing that can occur.  

I'm not sure I'd agree that fights necessarily become more deadly, but I would concede that they have the potential for it.  

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19 minutes ago, The13Fates said:

Two of my main roadblocks theory wise have likely been brought up in the past, but:

1./ The way [-] & [+] work with opposed deck vs deck. The language in the book can be confusing but for core rules if I have it right in my head: if an NPC has a [+] to their ability (Focus, included in AV etc), it's in fact a [-] to a player to defend against it; if an NPC has a [-] to their ability (from Impose, some critical effects etc) it's in fact a [+] for the player to defend against it. 

Now, in my mind, positive & negative flips aren't part of the same coin, if I had the choice, I'd much prefer my player to have a negative flip for Def against an attack, rather than my NPC having a positive flip; the inverse is true for player side. You get better results if your target has the lower of two cards with no ability to cheat higher. This is the main thing stopping me from a full switch, it would be very hard to tell players "yeah I know it says my npc gets [-][-] but instead, you get a [+][+] and I'll cheat in this 13, GG"; how does not having this affect gameplay?

The rules in the rulebook (about converting between polarity of fate modifiers) exist so that fate modifiers actually do something when only one side is flipping a card.  If you're having both sides flip cards (like fated vs. fated), you don't do that.

If you're having minions flip cards vs. fated, then you have to follow the fated-vs-fated rules.

19 minutes ago, The13Fates said:

2./ Twist decks (control hands) and cheating cards. This is a big reason for the switch, triggers feel worthless when players can switch them off for little cost at will and it kills me a little inside when the phrase "I cheat in *yawn* a Five, they miss"; it's just the logistics of the thing I can't wrap my head around.

Do the NPCs not cheat? Then I'd much prefer a static 8 for everything, it's at least a mathematically better choice. Do the NPCs have their own individual twist decks? That's a nightmare scenario, having 12 different decks on the table because I'm using a mix of creatures, no thanks.

The best thing in my head would be to have a single GM deck and a single deck to use for cheat hands that all NPCs share, only now I have no basis for hand size. Standard 3? Not great if 5 NPCs are sharing it. Draw rank # for each? Maybe. Assign an "on the pursuit" for each NPC just to level the playing field? 

It's a lot of rhetorical questions which nothing outside of many one-shots would answer, have you run into/solved/found out it wasn't a problem to any of these concerns?

I thought at some point the game had "trigger points" to address this sort of thing, where when you're setting up the encounter you decide how many times the opposing forces will be able to use their triggers.  Basically a lesser version of Fate Points, so that you can choose when the suit-based abilities get used instead of letting the players and/or the cards do it for you.  It'd probably be most fun as a tension system:  You get 1 trigger point on 4th opposed flip between a character and NPC, and start the encounter with a dramatically appropriate number of trigger points (though probably just 0, 1 or 2). 

The other alternative, if you find the fate modifier conversion rules annoying, would be to not use them as instead try something based on the NPC vs. NPC rules:  +2 AV for each positive flip for the NPC. -2 AV for each negative flip.  If you have a positive flip, triggers are half price or free since they'd be more likely if you were using cards.

--

Disclaimers:  One of the fundamental conceits of 1st edition was that the Fatemaster didn't touch the deck of cards.  The players are the ones messing with their fate by using the cards, and their control hands to try to manipulate the deck.  "Luck" is what the players are gambling with.  The Fatemaster should only have expected results, and deterministic results, in my opinion.

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39 minutes ago, solkan said:

--

Disclaimers:  One of the fundamental conceits of 1st edition was that the Fatemaster didn't touch the deck of cards.  The players are the ones messing with their fate by using the cards, and their control hands to try to manipulate the deck.  "Luck" is what the players are gambling with.  The Fatemaster should only have expected results, and deterministic results, in my opinion.

It's accurate to say the game was developed with this philosophy.  However, as I've pointed out almost every time this topic emerges, and as you've never deigned to acknowledge, opposed flips is an actual official though optional rule in the Fatemaster's Almanac.  

@Omenbringer once linked me to a blog maintained by Mack, and he (like all of us) has very particular ideas of how games should be run, and TtB is his manifesto.  You can see it in sections of the Fatemaster's Handbook, like his diatribe against Fatemaster's manipulating the results of a flip to produce a different outcome.  When in my opinion, it should be the story and not a sliver of paper that has primacy.

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58 minutes ago, LeperColony said:

In an opposed flip system, you just apply the modifiers to whomever it should belong.  So if your NPC is focusing, they get a :+flip to the attack and any subsequent damage, and if the fated has taken the defense action, they get a :+flip to their defense.  For your situation, both the NPC and the fated could potentially cheat, since neither are facing a :-flip.

...To generate that NPC's control hand, I do what Malifaux does and draw cards from the Fatemaster deck.

...I'm not sure what you mean by the fated switching triggers off.

...If you look at it from a comparative resources point-of-view, in terms of adding challenge to the encounter, one card per fated might be fair.    

...because I am very much against the kind of mathematical certainty the single-flip fixed TN system creates, and the kind of "gamey" and "mechanical" decisions I've seen players make once the narrative uncertainty element is diminished or even eliminated.

...but it does mean that the enemy flipping the Red Joker on their attack while the fated flip the Black Joker on their defense is a thing that can occur.

(Quoting on mobile is hard work, geez)

The thing I liked, despite the core rules confusing terminology ("Discard a card" actually means "spend a fate point" for example) was that NPCs had the power to say to a player "choose the lowest of two cards and you can't cheat" simply by gaining a [+] to its attack flip and it's been So. Damn. Useful against 6+ AV defense flips to actually hit a Fated. And that's something a lot harder to replicate with Deck vs Deck.

Just drawing from a single deck to gain a control hand is so easy and streamlined that I'm hitting myself for not thinking of it. Thank you.

When I said "Switching Triggers off" I was referring to the common instance of: Enemy attacks > player flips Def, card has suit which triggers slow > "I cheat in a 5 crows" > Trigger no longer goes off. Which yes, is a good thing but when player values are so high, static TN "low" and the NPC has no way to ensure a trigger, it makes them worthless to have. Being able to say this attack WILL make you Slow unless you exceed my attack flip just feels better than "oh I'll still take damage, but no triggers".

A cheat card for every fated, again an elegant solution to control hand size, again hitting myself and again thank you.

A player of mine has an opening gambit of using the trick action with a [+] with built in trigger of a free attack which, due to the successful Trick has [+] to both attack and damage. He gets this off 100% of time due to Skill+Aspect+Rank of an NPC being average TN10 & he has an AV of 6... it's no longer a choice to make, it's just automatic, which is why I want to experiment with ways to make sure it becomes slightly less preordained.

NPCs flipping a Red Joker (or hell a Black Joker) would be amazing, if only for that "Oh S#%!" moment when severe damage + weak critical hits them. If it can be done with static TN I haven't seen it created yet.

1 hour ago, solkan said:

The other alternative, if you find the fate modifier conversion rules annoying, would be to not use them as instead try something based on the NPC vs. NPC rules:  +2 AV for each positive flip for the NPC. -2 AV for each negative flip.

This is actually a really good fix if I stick with Static TNs, it would mean if I were to do something crazy like add +2 to ranks (minions are now rank 7-8; enforcers are now 9-11 etc) the players would have a way to combat the higher numbers (and make the Dazed condition actually worth a damn like it should).

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19 hours ago, The13Fates said:

The thing I liked, despite the core rules confusing terminology ("Discard a card" actually means "spend a fate point" for example) was that NPCs had the power to say to a player "choose the lowest of two cards and you can't cheat" simply by gaining a [+] to its attack flip and it's been So. Damn. Useful against 6+ AV defense flips to actually hit a Fated. And that's something a lot harder to replicate with Deck vs Deck.

I think you'll actually find that combats will become more challenging for the Fated.  In standard TtB, even relatively humble enemies have decent AVs.  But instead of flipping a random card, they add a value based on their rank, so an AV of say 3-5, which is decent, only results in a fixed 7-9 for a peon, 8-10 for minion etc.  For an AV 6 fated, they're going to beat an TN 10 ~ 76% of the time.  Thus, even though the fated only has an AV edge of a few points, they benefit significantly from getting to flip a card and matching that against a low fixed value.

The situation changes if the enemies flip.  The average value of a card in a fresh deck* is 7 (378/54), so lower ranked NPCs are likely to see an increase in their flipped results.  However, that does not actually mean they will see more hits, because of course the fated also flip at the same numbers.  But even if the math didn't change at all (it actually does, but not as dramatically as might seem at first), the feeling of certainty does change.  Now when the fated flips a 4, they no longer feel as confident about succeeding because they only have a 10, which is only the average expected total for an enemy with an AV of 3.

Another subtle result is if the TN is something the fated have to meet, they win ties.  So in a single-flip situation, the fated win ties on the defense.  However, in an opposed-flip system, when the enemy attacks, they win ties.

*= the numbers change dramatically as the deck changes.  The upside is it becomes very difficult if not practically impossible for the fated to have the kind of mathematical certainty they can achieve with single-flip fixed TN.

19 hours ago, The13Fates said:

When I said "Switching Triggers off" I was referring to the common instance of: Enemy attacks > player flips Def, card has suit which triggers slow > "I cheat in a 5 crows" > Trigger no longer goes off. Which yes, is a good thing but when player values are so high, static TN "low" and the NPC has no way to ensure a trigger, it makes them worthless to have. Being able to say this attack WILL make you Slow unless you exceed my attack flip just feels better than "oh I'll still take damage, but no triggers".

In an opposed flip system, this dynamic doesn't exist.  The trigger happens based on the NPC's card.

19 hours ago, The13Fates said:

A player of mine has an opening gambit of using the trick action with a [+] with built in trigger of a free attack which, due to the successful Trick has [+] to both attack and damage. He gets this off 100% of time due to Skill+Aspect+Rank of an NPC being average TN10 & he has an AV of 6... it's no longer a choice to make, it's just automatic, which is why I want to experiment with ways to make sure it becomes slightly less preordained.

Yes, the "automatic" nature of the situation is a consequence of mathematical certainty.  In a fixed TN system, the players can determine the math very easily, and in fact as the deck changes, actions can actually become automatic (or impossible).  Opposed flips do not entirely eliminate this situation, but they make the math very difficult, and if two decks are used (one for fated, one for fatemaster), practically impossible to work out in real time.

19 hours ago, The13Fates said:

NPCs flipping a Red Joker (or hell a Black Joker) would be amazing, if only for that "Oh S#%!" moment when severe damage + weak critical hits them. If it can be done with static TN I haven't seen it created yet.

It can in fixed TN, but it's more likely in opposed. Especially if the RJ is in the fatemaster's control hand...

19 hours ago, The13Fates said:

This is actually a really good fix if I stick with Static TNs, it would mean if I were to do something crazy like add +2 to ranks (minions are now rank 7-8; enforcers are now 9-11 etc) the players would have a way to combat the higher numbers (and make the Dazed condition actually worth a damn like it should).

Increasing the scale of the game is one way to increase the difficulty in a fixed TN system.  But it has the consequence of putting a lot of pressure on people with lower AVs.

Remember, in a fixed TN system, the universe of cards that provide success (or relegate failure) is also fixed.  Low AVs, and "low" is always a relative term dependent on the game in question, are subject to much harsher deck degradation.  That is, as higher cards disappear, the inability of lower AVs to succeed increases at a higher rate than that of higher AVs.  It's a "rich gets richer" dynamic (or rather, it's a "poor get poorer faster" one).

In opposed flips it's possible to get the same results, but it's much more difficult.

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