Friday, November 5, 2010

Bigger Penalties?

Something I've noticed in combats is that some of my characters are very good at what they do. I mean very good. No one's got a knack higher than 7, but between cyberware and aspects, some of them can chuck some mighty die pools indeed.

Now, when they get hurt some of those dice transform into penalty dice, and this does cut into their odds of success. But let's face it, when you've got 12 dice in your pool, transforming 4 of them into penalty dice doesn't have that much of an impact. Especially when those penalty dice can come up successes, just less often than regular ones.

We've been playing this system for a little while now. I've given out karma a number of times. I don't think anyone's bought anything with it yet. At all. The sam at one point asked about getting an implant upgrade, but outside of that, everyone is so confident in their abilities that they've not even considered trying to learn what it takes to increase anything on their sheet (even though it's not hard, I swear).

Clearly, being hurt doesn't hurt enough. I wanted to avoid a death spiral situation where the heavily wounded had no chance of ever succeeding in anything, but in so doing it looks like I've soft-peddled the characters to the point where they aren't bothered by wounds at all.

What to do?

I like the idea of penalty dice instead of straight up die pool reductions. Penalty dice mean that the player will always have something to roll, even when badly hurt. The odds go down, certainly, but they never go down to nothing, and with a decent method they even stay pretty reasonable. This means that a horribly wounded character can still accomplish some of the simpler tasks as long as he stays within his strengths. If he needs to venture into unfamiliar territory, he might be hosed. But hey, I'm okay with that. As long as the character has some recourse available to him, it's up to the player to leverage his remaining strengths.

So I'm pretty committed to the idea of keeping penalty dice for the moment. This means the easiest way to make wounds matter more is to increase the number that each wound category inflicts. Right now it's a simple 1-4 for light through deadly. Clearly that's not enough. So I'm proposing a new scale:

  • Light = 1
  • Moderate = 3
  • Serious = 6
  • Deadly = 10
That ought to bring the pain much harder without installing a death spiral. It also makes the prospect of taking an injury more interesting again. When I made injuries worse, it took away their appeal. After all, you can just suck up the wounds and just deal with it until you think you might get taken out, and then take the injury. Now you're looking at way more die penalties. Maybe taking the injury early is a better idea. Of course, taking that injury means more now as well, since it'll stick you with any subsequent wounds for that much longer...

My real hope? Making both more painful makes combat itself more meaningful and promotes a slightly more defensively oriented combat style. Months of play and the only person to ever generate yin dice on a roll was the mage when he cast spells. We'll see.

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