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Adventure ranks

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No Cards!

Joined: 19 Mar 2009
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:46 pm    Post subject: Adventure ranks Reply with quote

I know this has probably come up before and it pertains to the Savage Worlds as a whole, although it came to my attention when I read The Lair of the Vermin Lord, so I'll focus my question on that setting. The adventure states that it was written for 4 characters of Novice rank. In some earlier threads, people attempted the adventure with less than 4 and found it difficult. There was even a few replies by Paul Wiggy himself that he wrote these adventures to be purposely difficult (not his exact words). So, here's my question:

How do you write exactly an adventure for a certain rank and a certain number of characters? I use the word "exactly" because the adventure clearly states as being written for FOUR Novice characters, not three or two, or even four Seasoned characters, but 4 Novice).

Some people will say that in Savage Worlds you can't quite predict how a certain opponent will fare against specific groups with all the possible combinations of Edges, and this is probably the source of my confusion. Opinions are contradictory. In one hand, some will say you have to use your intuition, on the other hand, these adventures are written for a specific number of characters of a specific rank. Can anyone share their thoughts about this? It would probably be best if you used specific examples from The Lair of the Vermin Lord (to keep it Hellfrost) and talk to me as if I'm a 5-year old. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 6:29 am    Post subject: Re: Adventure ranks Reply with quote

Dwarinpt wrote:
How do you write exactly an adventure for a certain rank and a certain number of characters?

There is NO "exact", only maybe, could be, eventually and other approximations. When you wrote a certain number of adventures for a certain system, you know what you can expect from a certain number of characters at a certain experience level. You know what kind of spells, edges, skills etc are available at Novice, for instance.

Why not "exact"?

Because NO author could fanthom the ingeniosity of the players, especially those you don't know. That's why a "good" GM and author should always (test-)play an adventure with totally different groups. Expect the unexpected! For instance, some player found a certain skill/edge/power combo (and use thereof) that becomes very hard to counter, when caught off-guard. Catching EVERY eventually, especially in high rank adventures, becomes almost an impossibility.

That's why every GM should always study an adventure beforehand, and modifiy it to his groups needs and expectations. An author could only describe generalities and a certain (obvious) number of possibilities.

Another point is the "uncertainty" of the Savage Worlds system. Not only are any kind of skill sets (edges, traits, and powers) possible on any given rank. They even rise exponentially with the ranks. That's why it is so hard to write a good and thrilling Legendary adventure for any group and character constellation out there. You can't cover every angle.

Secondly, SW has it's very special mechanisms of Bennies, Wild Die and Exploding Dice. These mechanisms introduce a noticable part of "uncertatainty" into any kind of game. Insufficient bennies, a botched wild die or an exploding die beyond the 30+ barrier could tip a whole scene. As an experienced GM and author i expect such extremes, but again, i can't cover every angle.

Back to experience. From GM experience i "know" how many Wild cards and extras i could throw at my group - or a typical group for that matter. I know the number of supporters (extras and WCs) in a scene on the players side, any emergency exits (if the players noticed them is a whole different matter), about any reserves and unexpected third-parties that may enter it (to the rescue or to spell their doom has to seen). I also know from practical gaming how this number has to be raised or lowered to fit an encouter to different number of players or ranks - and to make a scene a bit "harder" or "softer" then usual. Thats why Wiggy wrote how many rats have to be added for seasoned ranked characters.

Here comes the number of players into play.

Why the ominous 4?

Because that's the typical number of regular players in most groups! A typical group out there has typically between 3 and say half a dozen people regulary. So 4 is a good number to base any encouter upon.
Secondly, a group of 4 covers most of any settings typical "skill sets" an author could count upon. In Fantasy it's typically your iconic group of Fighter, Cleric, Thief and Magic User. This group may vary in archetypes, but thats a very typical in ANY setting - and ANY genre, if you analyze your group in other settings. Smaller groups may and must lack certain kind of skills for a scene, while greater groups may have them in abundance (or rare skills as alternatives). So you add or subtract a certain number of opponents, or even exchange them for a weaker or stronger version. For instance, if you know that your group typically has no problem in handling a wild card orc and 2 extra orcs per person and rank, you may raise the number (add an extra) or you exchange your Orc lieutenant WC to a Orc Berserker WC. Scaling down a scene works the same way.

Designing a "thrilling encounter" is based a lot on your experiece as a GM (especially with completely different groups and people), your knowledge of a given rule system (especially the extremes) and the setting. A lot is gut feeling and hand waving, but when analyzing a scene, you may notice that they follow certain rules despite the uncertainties and - more or less - regardless of setting. Such a "rule of thumb" could be found in the Savage Worls core rules in the chapter about Gamemastering. In the currend Deluxe rules they introduced an instrument called Combat Rating, where any novice could balance an encounter very easily. Older GMs internalized this rule of thumb thru simple practice over the years.
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TAG Wiggy

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Joined: 11 Jun 2008
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you're writing adventures for your group, then the Combat Rating rules in SW Deluxe are a great place to start. When writing for publication, they go out the window -- the author as no idea about the abilities of your group of feisty heroes. He can make certain assumptions, but they still won't come close to covering every group. He can playtest it with 50 different groups, but if 10 find it too easier and 10 suffer a TPK, how does he adjust it to suit both?

Short answer: he can't. GMs have a responsibility to their players to read adventures beforehand and alter them as needed to fit their exact group.

One of the main reasons scenarios need party size and Rank ratings is the big bad, the Wild Card behind the fell deed. He needs a set of stats and abilities, and the author needs something to judge them against. Based on my experience, four is a good average. Plenty of groups with more or fewer players out there, but an author needs a starting point.

Assuming it was possible to design a generic, perfectly-balanced scenario for every group, we get to Bennies, Wild Die and Exploding Dice. Enno mentioned these, but he forgot one other variable -- Jokers. Combined, they make every encounter unpredictable in how it plays out.

Added to that is the group's tactics. I think the "deliberately challenging" comments you refer to were likely "if you don't think tactically, you'll have a hard time." Good use of tactics always helps. Smile

To summarize this rather long post:
An author can't create a perfectly balanced scenario for every possible group. All he can do is design something that he hopes is pretty balanced (and fun). Then he hands it over to the GM to tweak to exact specifications.
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