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Thread: Encounter Design for FAGE?

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    OPA Belta gabeprime's Avatar
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    Encounter Design for FAGE?

    When I started with FAGE, Iíve had difficulty in setting up combat encounters that werenít too easy nor too difficult. I just realised what couldíve helped me (and a lot of other new FAGE GMs) was the Encounter Design section in the Dragon Age RPG books!

    Now that Iíve read it, I wish that short section was in the FAGE basic rule book.

    Anyway, for those who want to read that section, you can see it in the Dragon Age RPG core rulebook (p.219-225) or the Dragon Age RPG Set 2ís Game Masters Guide (p.14-21).

    Unfortunately, the core book will cost you $29.95 just to get to that section and Set 2 will cost you $19.95.

    Iím hoping this will be in the upcoming FAGE campaign book but I wish Green Ronin had released that section as a $2.95 FAGE module pdf so that FAGE-only GMs could benefit from its advice officially already.

    Is a similar advice described in the Encounter Design section available elsewhere on the internet?

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    Re: Encounter Design for FAGE?

    Quote Originally Posted by gabeprime View Post
    When I started with FAGE, Iíve had difficulty in setting up combat encounters that werenít too easy nor too difficult. I just realised what couldíve helped me (and a lot of other new FAGE GMs) was the Encounter Design section in the Dragon Age RPG books!

    Now that Iíve read it, I wish that short section was in the FAGE basic rule book.

    Anyway, for those who want to read that section, you can see it in the Dragon Age RPG core rulebook (p.219-225) or the Dragon Age RPG Set 2ís Game Masters Guide (p.14-21).

    Unfortunately, the core book will cost you $29.95 just to get to that section and Set 2 will cost you $19.95.

    Iím hoping this will be in the upcoming FAGE campaign book but I wish Green Ronin had released that section as a $2.95 FAGE module pdf so that FAGE-only GMs could benefit from its advice officially already.

    Is a similar advice described in the Encounter Design section available elsewhere on the internet?
    I have the Dragon Age Core book so I went and read those pages. I 100% agree with you. This material is so important. How did it not make it into the Fantasy Age Core book? Or other books since?

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    OPA Belta Kot the Protector's Avatar
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    Re: Encounter Design for FAGE?

    Maybe they are saving it for the Fantasy Age Campaign Builderís Guide? They mentioned there would be a section for encounter design. They may even write new advice.
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    OPA Belta gabeprime's Avatar
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    Re: Encounter Design for FAGE?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kot the Protector View Post
    Maybe they are saving it for the Fantasy Age Campaign Builderís Guide? They mentioned there would be a section for encounter design. They may even write new advice.
    Thatís what I figured too. I just wish they had put it in the first FAGE book. It wouldíve helped a lot of new GMs (who didnít already own DAGE) in creating good encounters for FAGE. I hope the new book is coming soon but if it isnít, I wish they just release this section in DrivethruRPG or something.

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    OPA Belta VladGenX's Avatar
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    Re: Encounter Design for FAGE?

    To be fair, i never really "Design" an encounter. i pick what i want to happen, but i let the players guide the game. if certain things have to happen to move the plot along by my hand, then so be it, but i try to let them figure things out.

    this means that if i have to prevent a really awesome player moment to move the story along because their action will stop the bad guy in the first round, then i have to.

    For example, just last week, one of my players (we are playing Star Wars at this time) had rolled a critical hit on the main bad guy. but, i needed him to move the plot along so the baddie dodged and put him into a Force Hold (Like what Kylo Ren did to Rey in Force Awakens).

    I write down a few plot points i really need to happen but for the most part, the players guide my story. their actions or inaction will cause some things and how they react to what is given is key.

    Picking a creature(s) to fight is tough especially when you select one with a Major or Legendary threat and they beat it in just 2 combat rounds. the number of players also comes into play. typically if they are fighting bandits, i have one per player plus one or two extra and they have a decent time. tougher enemies might be surrounded by weaker ones to wear the players down.

    2 weeks ago, i ran a TitansGrave one-shot and they faced only 2 vampire thralls (Bestiary page 117). it took them 8 combat rounds and i has 4 players. they had an advantage of literally 2 to 1 and they still had a hard time.

    It can be tough to design an encounter but try to keep it fun. if they are having a hard time, make something happen that saves them, like a powerful mage shows up and causes the earth to open up and swallow the bandits, saving the heroes. now the questions are asked. who is this mage? why did he save us?

    i have never been one to kill off my players (well, unless they decide to fire an arrow into a room filled with sleeping tigers for target practice when no one has yet crossed to the other side safely) (that did actually happen BTW). Encounters are supposed to be fun but still challenge your players. making a tough enemy appear will test your players ability to think and use tactics.

    anyway, this is getting long so i'm just going to leave it at that. have a great day and never stop rolling the dice

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    Re: Encounter Design for FAGE?

    Quote Originally Posted by VladGenX View Post
    To be fair, i never really "Design" an encounter. i pick what i want to happen, but i let the players guide the game. if certain things have to happen to move the plot along by my hand, then so be it, but i try to let them figure things out.

    this means that if i have to prevent a really awesome player moment to move the story along because their action will stop the bad guy in the first round, then i have to.

    For example, just last week, one of my players (we are playing Star Wars at this time) had rolled a critical hit on the main bad guy. but, i needed him to move the plot along so the baddie dodged and put him into a Force Hold (Like what Kylo Ren did to Rey in Force Awakens).

    It can be tough to design an encounter but try to keep it fun. if they are having a hard time, make something happen that saves them, like a powerful mage shows up and causes the earth to open up and swallow the bandits, saving the heroes. now the questions are asked. who is this mage? why did he save us?
    I would have to disagree with these two points. If a player makes an awesome critical roll that would down your bad guy, then I feel that should happen. IMO if you are negating their dice rolls, then why have them roll dice? I know personally as a player if my character made an awesome critical attack to a main bad guy and my gamemaster said "oh he dodges it and puts your character in a Force Hold." I would be like WTF! Why am I even rolling dice if you are going to blatantly change the results of my roll. I won't claim to be any expert, but IMO that is not letting the players guide the game. That is letting them play in your sandbox until their actions adversely impact your story. If players took out my main baddie within the first round of a combat, then guess what, that guy is no longer my main baddie. It would turn out that who they thought was in charge all along was really just another flunkie for a yet unseen villain. They might not find that out right away, but they would when they realize that the plot they thought they had thwarted was still in play and moving forward.

    I don't agree with having a really powerful NPC show up to save their bacon either. If you use that trick too many times, then the players will feel underpowered and start to question why they are even doing anything if this NPC can just show up at any moment and save them. I would suggest making encounters engaging, but ensure that you have a backup plan for if things are going too easy or too hard.

    Are the players mowing down a group of bandits in a round or two? Maybe have some buddies show up who heard the fighting. Or maybe the bandits surrender and you can move on to the next plot point or scenario. Are the players having a hard time with those same bandits? Maybe their leader appears and gives the players a chance to surrender so they could be ransomed. Maybe an unexpected environmental event occurs that prevents the fight from continuing. Maybe some innocents show up and accidently get in the way. Do the players rescue them or continue to fight the villains? Encounters don't have to be balanced. They just need to be entertaining and adapt to what the players do. Nothing will ever go according to plan once players are added to the mix. I think playing in more deadly systems like Dungeon Crawl Classics or original D&D can help players learn to be more cautious and realize before weapons are drawn whether a fight is worth it or not. It can also provide opportunities for more critical thinking. Is there a way the players can use the environment to remove the obstacle these bandits provide? Is there a weakness that the players can use to exploit this enemy? Is their a weakness the enemies can exploit to overcome the players without killing them? These are the things I look for when working through encounter design.

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    Re: Encounter Design for FAGE?

    Quote Originally Posted by VladGenX View Post
    For example, just last week, one of my players (we are playing Star Wars at this time) had rolled a critical hit on the main bad guy. but, i needed him to move the plot along so the baddie dodged and put him into a Force Hold (Like what Kylo Ren did to Rey in Force Awakens).
    This is what a gamemaster shouldn't do IMHO: move a plot along.

    That is writing a novel. In a roleplaying game, the plot changes (and should change) according to player character actions and the outcome of rolls.

    When gamemastering, I handle it the other way around: I don't write plots - I write a conflict, develop the participants and their stakes in the conflict and then confront the player characters with it. The plot then devolops out of this confrontation.

    So, when the adventurers beat an opponent, they beat him, and that's it.

    This can lead to interesting developments I never had thought about before. My current campaign was centered around the conflict between the kingdom and a very, very powerful dragon. What happened is, the player characters managed to intimidate the dragon to such a degree, that he simply changed his ambitions. He became so afraid that he sought an understanding with the kingdom and has now been appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in exchange for taking military pressure away from the kingdom. And he is in the process of founding a bank and has even made propositions for alleviating the high inflation rate which followed out of the long war. He is going to try and introduce a new currency, of which the queen is quite in favor.

    So, currently I have to redesign the campaign and develop a new conflict for the characters. They just arrived at level nine and still have a way to go.

  8. #8
    OPA Belta Otog's Avatar
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    Re: Encounter Design for FAGE?

    Quote Originally Posted by gabeprime View Post
    When I started with FAGE, Iíve had difficulty in setting up combat encounters that werenít too easy nor too difficult. I just realised what couldíve helped me (and a lot of other new FAGE GMs) was the Encounter Design section in the Dragon Age RPG books!

    Now that Iíve read it, I wish that short section was in the FAGE basic rule book.

    Anyway, for those who want to read that section, you can see it in the Dragon Age RPG core rulebook (p.219-225) or the Dragon Age RPG Set 2ís Game Masters Guide (p.14-21).

    Unfortunately, the core book will cost you $29.95 just to get to that section and Set 2 will cost you $19.95.

    Iím hoping this will be in the upcoming FAGE campaign book but I wish Green Ronin had released that section as a $2.95 FAGE module pdf so that FAGE-only GMs could benefit from its advice officially already.

    Is a similar advice described in the Encounter Design section available elsewhere on the internet?
    AGE has some interesting quirks that do not come out until play. I had noticed this post for a while and had thought I had addressed this previously elsewhere, so if you want, I will give a couple of my observations here.

    For starters: AGE is a beautifully elegant system with fewer hang-ups than others I have experienced. I have run games in AD&D, 3.5, Pathfinder, 4E Cypher System and 5E since launch; and AGE still remains my preferred system to introduce new players to tabletop roleplaying (especially with season 8 of GoT coming up and I'm using a new hack to run a game for that). The math is simple, it's easy to pick up, and not a ton of crunch, which is why I think the Star Wars hack has worked so well. That being stated, here are three of the things I have noticed that can trip folks up running games...

    Defense 14: 14 seems to be the magic number for being nearly untouchable at lower levels. Those goblins at the back of the Basic Rulebook? Forget about it, they have put up MUCH bigger of a fight than I think they were ever intended. The problem is focuses. A dwarf who starts with Fighting (Axes) has no problem hitting them AND is using an axe is solid, but everyone else had better be prepared! That completely changes at level 2, where you are almost obligated to take a focus in the attack of your choice whether you use heavy blades, light blades, arcane lance or whatever. After that, everyone without a heavy shield may as well be walking around in his/her birthday suit, because you will have very little problem hitting.

    AR >8: AR is beautiful, I love that it is much easier to HIT something than to do DAMAGE to something in AGE. That aside, especially levels 1-8 I find that AR 8 is almost impossible to overcome. As a player, I remember going into the final bout in the last Dragon Age adventure with a fully spec'd out warrior with duel wielding. If I am so vague on the details it is because to this day I refuse to look at the stat block/adventure for that boss. Anyway, unless I stunted, I did no damage and I felt completely neutralized. It was so frustrating to have this character who I have spent a couple years with be non-effective in combat, which is what he was supposed to do best. I have noticed this even with lower level play with Star Wars; Stormtroopers with AR 6 pose a MUCH greater threat than they should. 4E gets a lot of hate, but one thing I really appreciate are minions. Mooks are not meant to stand up to multiple hits, and if I could go back, I would make Stormtroopers (or mooks) much more easy to dispense with while still providing a challenge.

    >5 enemies: This is where I feel stunt mechanics really break down. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy that you can CRIT on something more than a nat 20, but deciding what to do after you stunt takes time and often times, consideration. Multiply that out over so many foes and it felt like the GM (me) was rolling dice among himself in the least fun way. It was much more fun to me to see what players would do with HIS/HER stunts, rather than mine. I had created a hack to the a system where PCs would roll not only attack but also AVOID being attacked but have never tested it. My overall opinion though is that combat should include never more than 5 enemies, as it seems to really slow down at this point.

    All this not withstanding, I am still a BIG fan of AGE. Every system has its quirks and its only by playing that you really realize where the pitfalls lie. I run two games in 5E right now and it I'm coming across similar quirks (like having a magic weapon <6th level to get around weapon damage resistance).

    My big thing is Gabeprime, is that you don't need a book to tell you what is the right way and wrong way; you'll figure that out yourself and with your players. I just gave a few suggestions but chances are you'll notice a few things too; and it is whatever works best for you and your players. I didn't get the DMG to 5E until this past holiday season and I still don't regret it. Any advice that comes from GM supplements like that seem to be written like someone hasn't played the game before, like some kind of arcane math formula is going to spit out the perfectly balanced encounter, and it is not from experience and observation. Mine are not hard and fast rules, but they have been where I have found my and my players' experience breaks down. Happy gaming to you and hope this was helpful.
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    OPA Belta gabeprime's Avatar
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    Re: Encounter Design for FAGE?

    Quote Originally Posted by Otog View Post
    AGE has some interesting quirks that do not come out until play. I had noticed this post for a while and had thought I had addressed this previously elsewhere, so if you want, I will give a couple of my observations here.

    :
    :

    My big thing is Gabeprime, is that you don't need a book to tell you what is the right way and wrong way; you'll figure that out yourself and with your players. I just gave a few suggestions but chances are you'll notice a few things too; and it is whatever works best for you and your players. I didn't get the DMG to 5E until this past holiday season and I still don't regret it. Any advice that comes from GM supplements like that seem to be written like someone hasn't played the game before, like some kind of arcane math formula is going to spit out the perfectly balanced encounter, and it is not from experience and observation. Mine are not hard and fast rules, but they have been where I have found my and my players' experience breaks down. Happy gaming to you and hope this was helpful.
    Thanks for the suggestions. I have learnt a few of those lessons along the way.

    I just posted this originally because Iíve noticed several posts by new FAGE GMs asking about how to set up encounters in this forum and in others since it came out. Then I just realised that there is advice in the DAGE books from before that couldíve been included in the core FAGE book or in an official supplement that couldíve helped first time GMs get started.

    Thankfully thereís the internet though and those GMs could always get advice they need here.

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