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Author Topic: How many minions? How much Strife?  (Read 2717 times)
Valamir
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« on: August 20, 2006, 08:29:24 AM »

Lets assume 4 players, at least one of whom has the divine blood d8 Name die. 
The maximum Strife for a single NPC would be 20.  The maximum number of minions of up to 10 Strife strength is also 20.

Whats a good rule of thumb for NPC strife and number of minions to throw at the hero band if:

1) I want a good solid battle, but one the band should reliably win.

2) I want a tough battle, where there's a chance the band might be defeated.

3) I want a climactic battle that's tough enough the player's are really sweating it, but not so tough as to be unbeatable.


This assumes the heroes are uninjured / unimpaired.  About how many wound levels and impairments can a heroes soak up before they would not longer be able to compete at each of the above three battles if they were designed for an uninjured party?


I don't expect a mathematical formula here, just a good gage so I don't overwhelm the players (or let them skate through) out of the gate until I've played enough to get a feel for it via experience.

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John Harper
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« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2006, 12:51:13 PM »

Good questions, Ralph. My answer may seem like a dodge, but it really gets at the heart of Agon play.

The very short version is: The Antagonist is not competing with the players. It's not your job to create challenges that are "just right" in difficulty. This may seem rather odd, especially if you have lots of GM experience in doing just that. But Agon doesn't work that way. Nowhere does the book tell the Antagonist to pre-determine the likely outcomes of challenges and then try to build them to fit those outcomes. The Antagonist's job is to spend the Strife budget wisely to put as much adversity in the heroes' path as possible.

You can't kill the heroes. So you don't have to worry about overdoing it. If you make a challenge that will smash all the heroes and defeat them, great! The only question is whether or not you left yourself enough Strife to provide adversity for the rest of the quest.

Based on my play experience, here's how Agon play goes:

  • When the Antagonist makes a challenge that is "too easy," the heroes are more free to compete with each other. Since the Glory is easily had, each hero has to push and shove the other heroes out of the way to get it first. You get a very fun encounter that is almost all PvP driven.
  • When the Antagonist makes a challenge that is "too hard" the heroes have to work together more to deal with the problem, and PvP maneuvers generally only come late in the challenge. Even if you defeat all the heroes, they can recover, reasses, and come back at the problem later (assuming the defeat was not a quest-completing challenge).

So... my answer is, just wing it. Try out different Strife expenditures for challenges and see how they go. Learning how to spend budget well is a key Antagonist skill and (to me, anyway) a very fun part of the game. And you can't really screw it up! So go nuts. Experiment. But always *try* to put the hurt on the heroes as much as you can. That's your main job.

Never "hold their hands" and set up challenges that are easier just for the sake of pacing or whatever. You don't have to do that in Agon. The very first challenge can be an impossibly tough battle that kicks the heroes' butts, if you are willing to spend the Strife to go for it. Being the Antagonist is like playing "Name that Tune." "I can defeat the heroes by spending... 50 Strife. Next, I'll try to defeat them with only 40 Strife. Could I do it with 30?" like that. It's a little game for the Antagonist, but she's not competing with the heroes, she's competing with herself in managing her budget.

So... forget possible outcomes. Forget "just right" difficulty levels. And forget competition with the PCs.
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2006, 03:42:45 PM »

You can't kill the heroes. So you don't have to worry about overdoing it.

Although you can cause them to burn through Fate very quickly, especially with the new Divine Favor rule.
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John Harper
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« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2006, 03:58:30 PM »

Yeah, you can put *pressure* on the heroes to do that, but you can't *make* them do it. Heroes can try to flee from battles they are losing. And they don't have to use Fate to get DF. But the pressure is key. Put the heroes in situations where they can choose to burn out quickly, if they care to.
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Valamir
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« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2006, 04:57:02 PM »

Yeah, you can put *pressure* on the heroes to do that, but you can't *make* them do it. Heroes can try to flee from battles they are losing. And they don't have to use Fate to get DF. But the pressure is key. Put the heroes in situations where they can choose to burn out quickly, if they care to.

Understood, and fully embraced.  I guess the question I was really trying to ask is:  until I have a few sessions of play under my belt and get a feel for it myself, help me gauge the level of "pressure" that strikes a good balance between "situations where they can choose to burn out quickly" vs. foolishing burning through my Strife budget early. 

Is a single Strife 18 NPC a challenge for 4 starting heroes?  Or is that a waste of time with no pressure?
If I throw in 5 minions does that make a difference...or are 5 minions a total walk over and I need to be thinking in terms of 10-20 minions.
Or is an 18 Strife NPC backed by 15 minions pretty much guarenteed defeat and I'd be better off saving some Strife for later.

I'm sure I'll get the hang of it from play, but a first time Antagonist tip sheet would be helpful.


Other NPC / minion related questions

1) can you have more than one NPC in a single battle, or is it always 1 "boss" and a bunch of minions?
2) can you introduce minions in waves or are they all part of the initial battle set up?
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Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2006, 05:41:14 PM »

forgot one
3) is it ok to have allied minions fighting on the side of the heroes?  If so do they use one of the Heroes Name dice or the Name die of the NPC they technically serve?
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2006, 10:30:37 PM »

When I do my first three quests, I'm planning on using the first Quest mainly to find out the answers to these questions. I won't be too concerned in piling the pressure on in that quest, just using thew strife to build a series of battles in that quest to test out some different combos.
I already know, though, that letting 4-6 minions team up on character is going to inflict heavy blows (barring lots of divine favor, maybe) for the first few attacks, until those minions are broken up.

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rafial
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« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2006, 10:53:57 PM »

We're all figuring this stuff out together I think, but here's a few thoughts.  I threw 12 seven point minions at 4 heros, and they went though them like butter, albeit at the cost of a significant chunk of divine favor (they were using the extra attack option to kill 2 minions a round in most cases).   They took a sacrifice interlude, after which I then followed up with a 20 point monster (strictly speaking it was 16 points, amped to 20 by buying it extra divine favor), and again they took it down without much trouble (a few wounds on the hero, and again divine favor burned, mostly because they needed divine weapons, not knowing its weakness).
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John Harper
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« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2006, 11:01:31 PM »

OH. Sorry, Ralph. That was a somewhat uncharitable reading on my part. Can you tell I've been ranting about Agon play style lately? :)

Answers!
1) Yes, you can have more than 1 NPC in a battle. I highly recommend it, in fact.
2) I haven't tried the "waves" of minions, but it seems like it's possible. For starters I'd stick to having everyone on the battlefield at the beginning, though.
3) Hmmm. Allied minions. While it seems possible in theory, I'm not crazy about the idea. Let the heroes do their own dirty work. I'd be tempted to represent allied minions as advantage dice instead.

A single 18 Strife NPC will give the PCs a workout, but they'll definitely beat it in short order. Throw in a couple of 9 Strife NPCs and maybe some minions (10?) and then you have a tougher fight. Multi-strike and Swift can help make a solo NPC a lot tougher to deal with, though.

A good guideline is that a single PC is worth about 7 Strife. So four heroes are 28 Strife worth of ass-kicking. I had a 14 Strife gorgon fighting two d6 name PCs for my GenCon demos, and while it was a tough fight, the gorgon was never going to win. I would drop at least 13 Strife per hero if I really wanted to try and kick their butts.
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2006, 11:04:33 PM »

That's useful information, rafial and John.
Rafial, how did you use your Minions? Did you gang up in big groups against a small number of heroes, or did you divide them fairly equally?
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rafial
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« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2006, 09:38:38 AM »

I had big groups gang ups of about 4.  That may have been overkill.  Next time I'm going to try attacking in groups of two, and see how the greater number of attacks plays out.
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Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2006, 05:15:49 PM »

How does the Reflect Damage power work with Minions, since Minions have no armor?  Can it not be used for Minions?
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rafial
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« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2006, 08:48:08 PM »

Certainly it can't be used as written.  Alternatives might be to use some variant of Fiery Form, or if you really wanted the reflection, you could try assigning the minions a d4 armor die (that can't be raised or impaired) for purposes of using the power.  The trick with minions of course is to avoid anything that would impose recording keeping on the antagonist.
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2006, 01:00:07 AM »

Also, Minions might well be a foe for whom Reflect Damage is an inappropriate power to have, just like the way they don't get armour.
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Valamir
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« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2006, 06:08:06 PM »

Certainly it can't be used as written.  Alternatives might be to use some variant of Fiery Form, or if you really wanted the reflection, you could try assigning the minions a d4 armor die (that can't be raised or impaired) for purposes of using the power.  The trick with minions of course is to avoid anything that would impose recording keeping on the antagonist.

Try this one on for size.

When struck for damage roll 1d6 for each Victory.  If all d6s roll 4+ the damage is reflected.  If any 1 does not, it is not. 
So basically a 50% change to reflect a single Victory hit, 25% to reflect a 2 Victory hit, 12.5% a 3 Victory hit and so on.
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