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"Intensity" game mechanic

Been dming a bit with friends and added a mechanic that i think helps combat that I call intensity for a few reasons:
-combat can continue on for a while despite their being a clear winner
-people can't help but do their best in combat and only rp action when it's a non-risk
-having to wait for one side to crit or misplay slows combat down alot
-using basic attacks over and over just to reduce health numbers gets boring

the mechanic works like this:
-have a scale of intensity for an encounter. example: a goblin ambush may only have an intensity of 3-4
-mark this intensity for each player (this mechanic may be difficult for larger parties)
-adjust the intensity as combat goes on

In my play testing I adjusted as follows:
-everytime a player or major npc deathrolls increase their intensity by 1 unless they crit succeed it
-everytime a major ally or player dies increase intensity for all allies by 1 until end of combat
- everytime a major enemy dies reduce intensity by 1 for all allies
- for every adjacent ally -1 intensity
- for every adjacent in danger ally +1 intensity
- lose a intensity on a crit success
-gain an intensity on crit fail
- gain or lose intensity on rp moments example: someone died and they were your bestest friend would be bonus intensity but a paladin healing a follower of light might lessen intensity (this is mainly a tool to make combat more personified and feel more in character)
if a character is at 0 intensity give them the effect of critical success on 18/19/20
if a character is at 10 intensity give them the effect of crit fail on 1/2/3

the nerf/buff at high and low intensity is so that combat goes way smoother and so you don't get the moment where you crit someone multiple times and they still have 1000 health so you end up having to wait a several more turns until they slowly die all the while they spam rolls hoping for a crit success of their own. this way if you are clearly in a good position to fight for rp reasons, crit them mutiple times and wipe half the enemies you most likely wont have to spend 30 minutes to end combat and if you get your ass kicked and half your party is down you don't sit their for several turns waiting for an excuse to lose.

overall this change just shortens combat and makes rp moments alot more involved. its obviously not for everyone and you may not find it balanced but i think it helps and wanted to share it incase it helps other people who are not getting through combats within an hour. (TBH most of my problems with combat could just down to rng, my party being slow or ineffective combat strats and may be completely pointless.)


  • should probably tone it down to crit on 19/20 and 1/2 for more balanced combat but i prefer the more underdog until critical success scenarios.
  • But the reason combat goes on when there is a clear winner is because of rng the fight most likely will end with the clear winners winning but the die/dice can change everything and giving people with a low intensity makes it so they have a larger chance of losing than they already do. I personally do not like this system but if it works it works.
  • The main issue is you have almost as many rules for intensity as there are for the actual game. But as a GM of several games at this point, I can't really say I notice any of those points at the start being relevant.

    Of course most combat scenarios will have a clear winner. If the first few encounters were that difficult the players would get exhausted quickly and not want to see the campaign through to the end, if they even survive.

    I find players will actually start to use RP actions more as the stakes get higher. It's when the party is losing a battle that they will start to try alternative methods to victory, rather than fight to the death.

    Misplays have at least a 25% chance to occur every time the dice is rolled, that's not that slow in my opinion

    I don't think I've ever seen a player use an entire action to basic attack. Basic attack damage is almost always used with special abilities that have other fun effects, or as no-roll bonus actions that come off of other abilities. And even then, unless you starve your players of gold they will have so many spells and items and abilities that there really isn't any need to basic attack at all.

    If you want my advice, the trick is to use RP actions against the players which will encourage the players to retaliate with either clever uses of their abilities, or RP actions of their own. For example, did a character just take 50 damage and roll a three on their basic attack? Don't just say "you missed". Say something like. "You're all shaky from that much damage and you drop your sword which slides down the stairs". This invites the affected player to use an anytime to blink down the stairs and get the sword, or perhaps use harsh winds to blow it back up. Or perhaps another player will use an anytime to catch it as an RP action.

    Those are my thoughts, anyway
  • Remember: Low rolls can be almost as punishing as a 1 if you like, because a Crit fail's true power comes from the player's inability to use actions afterward
  • edited October 2017
    I think if you can manage this and your players can grasp it without being overwhelmed all the more to you, but there's already so much to track when GMing and I'll be honest, in a scenario with a lot of NPCs this sounds like a nightmare to manage. The basic idea has a lot of merit, but personally I'd be unable to implement this into one of my games.
  • It sounds like you're using the blunt of an axe to hammer in a nail. The tool's effective to solve the problem, but it'd be easier just to use a hammer.

    If you're finding that the tone of a campaign means that the boss should die after three crits, and they aren't dying after three crits, then you're probably cranking their stamina up too far for the story you're trying to tell. A lot of what's described sounds a lot like your stamina:damage ratio is just kinda off. Remember that stamina that suit one GM's style don't always suit another, and stamina that suits one story doesn't always suit another.
    Also, don't forget that, if one side is obviously losing, they can always surrender, or try to run. You can do this as the GM, or you can encourage your players to make that decision, if they're on the back foot.
  • edited October 2017
    Having not actually played the game myself, you might not see this as useful. Ultimately I think it's too complicated to make a general rule, however a buff/debuff mechanic specific to individual fights may well work. For example, if facing a group of foes and say half of them are defeated then the remaining half's max stamina could be cut in two. This makes sense too if you think about it, if they are on the losing side then they are likely taking more of a beating and so are more tired, their comrades are falling around them leaving them demoralised, and it's likely to become every man for himself (depending on the enemy) meaning any teamwork or organisation is out the window. But you could also do something else, you could say that the players melee attacks which deal more than 20 damage (above average damage, tbh I don't know what's typical) apply a stunned status effect. Or the next time the enemy would death roll they instead surrender or try run away. Surrender or retreat is a very viable option for a losing enemy anyway if combat is dragging on. I think these tactics would work better with larger enemy groups than with singular enemies or bosses, perhaps making sure to give players good descriptions of the enemy, even pre-written ones, which allude to their weaknesses. e.g. their are two boss characters, one can't attack character adjacent to it while the other can only do that; if it's a robot, give it a power source which takes double damage or applies a status effect when hit; or a humanoid character could be given an injury which when attacked, stops them from moving or using a certain attack themselves. Don't make it too easy to see it though, or only make it apparent at a certain point of the fight or when a player does something. Hell! Do you even need a rule for the fight at all? You could make it up on the fly as thing unfold, if you think an attack should be deadly then give out a death role even if they still had stamina, along as you're being fair about it. Really just play the game as you like, if something works, great, keep it, if it doesn't then change it, who cares if you have to fudge things a little. I would personally avoid altering crit chances too much or for a prolonged amount of time and giving absolute buffs (i.e. +5 to damage) mid-way through game because a) it may feel artificial b) people are likely in the swing of things and any alteration may grow them off. Anyhow, good luck with your games, I hope these points are somewhat helpful even if they don't come from experience but rather observation of this game and others like it!
  • Rob
    edited November 2017
    Cool idea, but this is just one more thing you have to track for every Character. Just seems to make things complicated without really adding a whole lot.

    -people can't help but do their best in combat and only rp action when it's a non-risk
    That's a player/gamemaster problem, not a game problem. You can't force people to RP. You as the gamemaster need to start making your players make hard choices about their character and then telling them they can't do certain things in combat unless it would make sense for their character to do so. Combat drags on because it's combat. If you have 4 players and they each do 5 things, you have done 20 separate actions. If it takes 1.5 minute to describe and roll for each action, you already have spent half an hour in combat. The game for most people IS COMBAT. If people think combat drags on too much thats because they aren't roleplaying at all lol. You can roleplay in combat, I been doing it all season for example.

    In general, if you have combats that go more then 5-7 rounds, you have made a mistake or want this to be a long combat. You have too many Foes that are too difficult to kill, but too weak to pressure players legitimately. You also can end combat anytime you want via roleplay yourself as a gamemaster by having foes surrender, attempt diplomacy with players, or retreat. 
  • @Rob Typical Rawb, assuming the Gamemaster is always the one in need of retreating. KILL SOME DAMNED PLAYER CHARACTERS, RAWB!!! WE WANT BLOOD!!! =P
  • @TheMadLibrarian He tries... he tries so hard but somehow they just refuse to.
  • @TheMadLibrarian I don't need to you goof. As long as the threat of death is there, i don't need to constantly overpush and wipe groups. That's stupid and the people who think they want to see that have no clue what makes this show good. A full party wipe just means a shorter show where you don't get to experience what I have written and crafted and instead just get to giggle for 5 minutes and then go "wait that's it?" when the realization that wiping on first combat just means the shows over.

    And it is a player/gamemaster problem. I mean if you have player who acts like a low intelligence ogre character, but then in combat he's a tactical genius, you as the gamemaster have to say and ask your player "Is your character really smart enough to do that?" if you don't treat combat as an extension to roleplay then you get season 1 campaigns. The biggest shift we made this year was really pushing RP into combat.
  • Yeah, I've participated in a party wipe from a player's perspective. (To be fair it was an RP wipe, I'll explain)
    One of our characters, the tank, failed a deathroll, which isn't that bad, then one of the DPS stole the other's donkey and rode off out of the town we were defending from a siege, triggering the boss fight and dieing. That was followed by the combat we were currently in going south and the other DPS dieing, so basically my character, the healer, ran off through a hole in the town wall with all the backup characters and left all the civilians in the town to die.

    It was fun, at the time, but then I realized I had cleared my schedule for a whole day to play what turned out to be a 90 minute campaign. I had written a one-page backstory for that character, and realized that I was never going to get to build on her. It sucked once I thought about it, and looking back it was all caused because of a massive onslaught of deathrolls, (like seriously, there was three to four a round) and the combats lasted 5-7 rounds, if you think that's fun then I don't know what to say, but I know I disagree.
  • @Rob Shhhhh! You're breaking the illusion! Now when you go "man, I didn't think you guys were gonna beat that" we're gonna know, Rawb! We're gonna know that you're lying, and were just GMing well the whole time! =P

    Seriously, though, I completely agree. Player deaths are only impactful if they're rare, and caused by the player's own hubris.
  • exmple being  
  • damn it i wanted that to be a 1
  • edited November 2017
    @helperbot0613 can't you just :roll1: ? Or does that only work in the stream chat?

    Edit: Guess it's just stream chat, carry on.
  • @KaeawynShifter ; "It's the thought that counts."
  • @helperbot0613 huh, I was always told 'It's the Tax that Gets ya!', but I guess your saying works too.
  • @KaeawynShifter ;   "It is the tax that gets you and it gets me a waifu every time."
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