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Thread: Playing around with a house rule for powerful solo villians.

  1. #1
    Hierophant Yeoman's Avatar
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    Playing around with a house rule for powerful solo villians.

    So, one of the problems I've run into both as a GM and a player, both in 2nd and 3rd edition, is that Solo villains tend to get stomped by groups of heroes. There's just too many attacks, and they only get one action per turn. Minions seems to be meant to change this, but I find they usually get taken out by any decently built hero team before they even act. Even if there are dozens of them.

    To try and even this out and make solo team-beating villains threatening, I've been playing around with the idea of Legendary Actions/Resistences from D7D 5th edition, for what I'm calling Legendary Foes. While it's meant to big bads that are meant to be truly epic encounters, that can be relative to the PL of the character involved. So a Legendary foe to a group of PL 8 characters, may be someone a group of PL 12's roll over on their way to bigger bads.

    Legandary Foe: A legendary foe gets one legendary action each round. This can be used to either take one additional action on the villains turn, to automatically succeed any save test not caused by a critical hit, to take only one degree of failure from a test caused by a critical hit, or to activate one of their unique Legenary Actions (if they have any).

    A few possible unique legendary actions include:

    Nightmarishly Fast!: The villain may take two extra attacks with their legendary action, but they must both be normal melee attacks.

    I am Power Incarnate!: Until the beginning of their next turn, all successful saves from attacks from this villain are considering to have one degree of failure.

    Nothing can stop me now!: Until the start of their next turn, all failed saves are considered to have failed by one degree less (minimum one degree).

    Fools! Did you think I was not prepared for this?: The villain has reserves, or robots, or automated turrets in their lair. The villain makes an attack with attack and damage bonus equal to their PL against every hero.

    I'm trying it out in a few games, but I'm open to thoughts, proposed changes, thoughts of how I'm wrong/insane/a terrible GM who needs a crutch.

  2. #2
    Inceptor
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    Re: Playing around with a house rule for powerful solo villians.

    There's nothing really wrong about this idea, but these sound like things you can already do with what I would refer to as "GM Fiat." While there's no explicit rules about this in 3e, it was a thing in 2e, and worked pretty well. Using a GM Fiat is largely like using a Hero Point on behalf of a villain NPC, and should grant the affected character with a Hero Point.

    Using an extra attack is like taking the "extra second action" option of Extra Effort. A villain could do this normally, but suffer fatigue. If he isn't fatigued, it's like the villain using HP, so the affected character should get an HP.

    Automatically saving against an effect or reducing the failure degree could be replaced with the reroll option of a HP, with the normal +10 if below 11, or the additional resistance check option of EE without fatigue. The character who used the effect gets HP.

    Nightmarishly Fast! could be like a power stunt to get Multiattack on a power.

    I am Power Incarnate! could be like power stunting for the Luck Control ability to force a reroll, or the +1 rank option of EE.

    Nothing can stop me now! resembles the "Instant Counter" option of HPs.

    Fools! Did you think I was not prepared for this? could again be a power stunt for an area attack, a terrain feature, or the minions advantage, all of which you can add for a hero point or extra effort.

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    Hierophant FuzzyBoots's Avatar
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    Re: Playing around with a house rule for powerful solo villians.

    Two other possibilities are Area Attacks (especially if you allow for 2e Targeted attacks) or having Reaction or Triggered effects to simulate preparation.

    Another possibility for monstrous foes, which Ysariel sometimes uses, is the Final Fantasy approach of playing various limbs or weapons systems as separate villains that act in concert, with a tougher "head" or "heart" that can be Targeted for immediate defeat, generally getting more vulnerable as limbs are eliminated.

    Using Fiat is the most rules-friendly approach, but my experience is that it just imbalances things more in favor of the heroes.
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  4. #4
    Hierophant Yeoman's Avatar
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    Re: Playing around with a house rule for powerful solo villians.

    Quote Originally Posted by prufock View Post
    There's nothing really wrong about this idea, but these sound like things you can already do with what I would refer to as "GM Fiat." While there's no explicit rules about this in 3e, it was a thing in 2e, and worked pretty well. Using a GM Fiat is largely like using a Hero Point on behalf of a villain NPC, and should grant the affected character with a Hero Point.

    Using an extra attack is like taking the "extra second action" option of Extra Effort. A villain could do this normally, but suffer fatigue. If he isn't fatigued, it's like the villain using HP, so the affected character should get an HP.

    Automatically saving against an effect or reducing the failure degree could be replaced with the reroll option of a HP, with the normal +10 if below 11, or the additional resistance check option of EE without fatigue. The character who used the effect gets HP.

    Nightmarishly Fast! could be like a power stunt to get Multiattack on a power.

    I am Power Incarnate! could be like power stunting for the Luck Control ability to force a reroll, or the +1 rank option of EE.

    Nothing can stop me now! resembles the "Instant Counter" option of HPs.

    Fools! Did you think I was not prepared for this? could again be a power stunt for an area attack, a terrain feature, or the minions advantage, all of which you can add for a hero point or extra effort.

    One of the issues I find though, Is that often using HP for villain attacks affects everyone, and thus everyone gets an HP. Which puts the villain even further behind the game. I just find that as is, it just makes what should be challenging villains into quick stomps for the heroes. And while, yeah, GM fiat is a thing, I prefer having a system for it rather than just cheating.

    Quote Originally Posted by FuzzyBoots View Post
    Two other possibilities are Area Attacks (especially if you allow for 2e Targeted attacks) or having Reaction or Triggered effects to simulate preparation.

    Another possibility for monstrous foes, which Ysariel sometimes uses, is the Final Fantasy approach of playing various limbs or weapons systems as separate villains that act in concert, with a tougher "head" or "heart" that can be Targeted for immediate defeat, generally getting more vulnerable as limbs are eliminated.
    I've considered something like this a few times. Would work great for a giant mecha type. Might have to think about that. Thanks.

  5. #5
    Hierophant Ysariel's Avatar
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    Re: Playing around with a house rule for powerful solo villians.

    One thing I intend to try again is a villain who counterattacks (as a reaction) whenever attacked. In theory, since the villain is higher PL, this makes trading blows straightfowardly a losing proposition for the heroes, and strongly punishes AOA/PA. It encourages the mechanics that allow the heroes to work together and increase their own offensive PL (feint + setup, team attacks, inspire). It also gives a sense of being more personally involved in the battle as the villain will trade blows (and banter!) with whoever engages it. I might add exceptions for Affliction/weaken/nullify and interaction skills so that using these to help land blows isn't penalized.

  6. #6
    Hierophant Yeoman's Avatar
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    Re: Playing around with a house rule for powerful solo villians.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ysariel View Post
    One thing I intend to try again is a villain who counterattacks (as a reaction) whenever attacked. In theory, since the villain is higher PL, this makes trading blows straightfowardly a losing proposition for the heroes, and strongly punishes AOA/PA. It encourages the mechanics that allow the heroes to work together and increase their own offensive PL (feint + setup, team attacks, inspire). It also gives a sense of being more personally involved in the battle as the villain will trade blows (and banter!) with whoever engages it. I might add exceptions for Affliction/weaken/nullify and interaction skills so that using these to help land blows isn't penalized.
    I was actually gonna use something very similar in the Chivengers 2 Finale I'm running. Any time any of the heroes attacked Poison Ivy, Harley was gonna get a free attack on them. The fight with them ended up not happening though.

  7. #7
    Inceptor
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    Re: Playing around with a house rule for powerful solo villians.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yeoman View Post
    One of the issues I find though, Is that often using HP for villain attacks affects everyone, and thus everyone gets an HP. Which puts the villain even further behind the game. I just find that as is, it just makes what should be challenging villains into quick stomps for the heroes. And while, yeah, GM fiat is a thing, I prefer having a system for it rather than just cheating.
    You need not give a hero point to all the PCs, though, only those negatively affected. Any PC that the villain misses with his extra attack, or any PC that successfully saves against a villain's power stunted area attack, should not get HP.

    Villains already:
    - can be of any power level, up to and including PL X
    - can use any number of power points, meaning they can already have as many area effects, reaction attacks, triggered effects, and minions as they need
    - have GM-level knowledge and planning abilities, including setting up the battlefield

    In addition, the rules already allow for the villain to use Extra Effort to power stunt, and for the GM to ignore rolls when convenient, in exchange for hero points. My "GM Fiat" variant is just an extension of that, granting the villain the capability to use ALL the options for Extra Effort and to effectively spend HP (by granting bonus HP to the heroes) to even things out. Villains already have enough of an edge; HPs are a way to level the playing field. I've never had a main villain get steamrolled by a team of heroes using the rules as written.

    Your variant duplicates some things that are already possible within the written rules, but gives the villains an additional edge for no cost by eliminating the HPs heroes would normally get.

    It may be a difference in gaming philosophies. You call the Fiats "cheating," but you can do pretty much all of that within the existing rules in varying ways. Adding rules that unilaterally favour the villains seems more like "cheating" from my perspective. In the end, of course, do whatever works for your group and your game.

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