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Question about difficulty with small groups

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  • Question about difficulty with small groups

    Hi all, new here. I recently found out about Blue Rose and I've been infatuated with the game ever since, reading everything and anything on the game I can find all day, and I've seen a lot of people discussing the difficulty of the game, particularly Shadows of Tanglewood for a group of level 1 characters.

    The group I'll be narrating soon will either be a group of 3 or 4, including myself. Meaning only 2 or 3 player characters. That raises a small concern as I'm afraid it may be difficult to balance combat encounters around such a small group. I was wondering if you guys had any tips for how to keep encounters balanced around a smaller group? I've read about how not every combat encounter has to end with the absolute death of every enemy, and that's a bit of advice I already plan on taking into account when playing the game, especially as even though I mentioned Shadows of Tanglewood earlier, I've actually come up with an idea for a short story involving bandits for out first play session that I think will really grab this group.

    Any advice you guys have would be really greatly appreciated, even if it's not about this but about narrating the game in general!

    Oh, and I do have one other unrelated question. Does Blue Rose have any mechanic similar to attacks of opportunity? I haven't seen it in the core book, but I might have missed. This group is coming from DnD5e (where one of my soon to be players is actually our DM) and I plan to use the battle mat rules in the BR book, as that's my preference, so I thought I should double check about attacks of opportunity or similar mechanics.

  • #2
    Re: Question about difficulty with small groups

    Hi Kestral!

    My take: even if they come from D&D 5e and you want a smooth transition, try to show from the very first moment the differences not only in system, but in content. Shadows over Tanglewood is very straightforward, but not difficult. You can always pump up or cut down the difficulty of the antagonists of traps, but beyond that, what makes Blue Rose unique is the focus on relationships: the "why these things are happening." I don't know if you or your group have played Curse of Sthrad, but that is a better module to compare Blue Rose: high drama, low power. Always keep in mind what makes the setting unique: the civilization, relationships, belonging to a group, growing together as a team. Focus in the things that you like from what you read, the beauty and mistery of Aldis. That will make your session memorable.
    [COLOR="#2F4F4F"]Book lover, Music cultist, Professional geek[/COLOR].


    • #3
      Re: Question about difficulty with small groups

      The closest thing Blue Rose has for attack of opportunities is to use a Conviction token for a major action, and the Guardian specialization at Master rank.

      - -

      The difficulty of Shadows of Tanglewood depends on a lot of variables:
      1) How experienced are you and your players with RPGs? With the AGE system?
      2) How confident are you as a Narrator?
      3) How combat-heavy are your PCs?

      While I haven't ran my players through the adventure, I did use many parts of it throughout my campign. Overall, I feel that Shadows over Tanglewood may be a bit too difficult in the combat side of things for new and/or Lv1 players.

      Based on my experience, I recommend rounding the number of wolves and fey sprites that spawn to about half the players (rounded up). Then, lower all adversary Defenses by -1 and then another -1 if their Defense is still 13 or above. Finally, set all adversary's armor rating to 0 except for Deradiz and Clickclack.

      I expect Lv1 PCs to have anywhere between a +1 to +3 chance to hit and some of the adversary Defenses are too high (Wolves 12, Revelers 14, Sprites 16) for players to hit often enough to get a feel for the stunt system. There are ways to crank up the chance to hit (Charge, Aid Ally, and flanking), but that shouldn't be an expectation from new players.

      After that, I recommend focusing on ironing out each NPC's motivation, backstory, and state of mind. This helps me the most in being able to sell the world to my players.

      - -

      The Bones & Flowers Fast Play is a pretty good introductory adventure. It is what I used for my players, and I feel that it does better than Shadows of Tanglewood for the romance side of things.

      Converting it from True20 to the AGE system is simple. For the Skeletal variant of Walking Dead, I halved the Health and set Armor to 0.

      - -

      As for my general tips for balancing combat over the course of several sessions:

      Start with a set of key adversaries you want to throw at your players. The list can be as large or as small as you want, but try to keep it to 2-3 new monsters.

      Start simple, small, and easy using one of the new adversaries (e.g. 2 Walking Dead in an open field). Stick with that as the main adversary while gradually ramping up or maintaining the difficulty. Add a person to protect, or a swamp, or make it an ambush, or add a new adversary until you reach the end of the campaign.


      • #4
        Re: Question about difficulty with small groups

        An easy trick I learned in a different game is have an idea what an average hit roll was for the PCs and enemies, average damage, and armor and defense of each. Assume 10 on the roll. It should not take long to eyeball how a fight would likely go if everyone just charged in and hammered each other. Now this does not work for "real world" play but it gives you an idea. And you can decide if you need more/fewer enemies than the module suggests, or tinker with stats.

        I myself rarely use modules outright, but I read them and use scenes and ideas and twists, and occasionally locations, from them. It's a habit for me to do the above when planning t the start of the campaign, but I usually have a good enough idea in game of how they will do, and tend to make the first arc light on combat to give us all time to adjust, and be sure the first combat or two will be easier than usual if the players are new to the system.

        I rarely find group size to be an issue but again I write toward the group.
        Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
        "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"


        • #5
          Re: Question about difficulty with small groups

          You can always lower some stats. Taking away a few Health from a foe, or claiming that last hit from a PC was a killing blow (even if they needed a few more points) can make things go a little smoother. You can also add some healing items in the treasures that come later in the adventure if the heroes are having trouble keeping up with damage (which can be a struggle for small groups).

          When one party member falls in a small group it cuts the strength of the party more heavily than larger groups who lose a member. Try to kamel sure PCs who fall so so because of bad choices rather than outnumbering.
          If you enjoy the AGE system you might enjoy our podcast, The Adventure Game Engine Interest Series (The AGEIS)! Formerly known as the Wonders of Thedas, we talk about all iterations of the AGE system from Dragon Age to the Expanse! We do actual plays as well as discussion episodes where we take listener questions, feature fan creations, and share news about the AGE systems! Step through the portals to see the many worlds they hide!

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