balancing boss fights for two players

So here's the deal : I've got 2 players for Feng Shui. Not one, not four, two. I may hope to have three, but right now the point of this Feng Shui campaign is to have something to do when the third player isn't available (I'd love for my FS2 campaign to become the main game but that's not the point).

I'm three sessions in so far, and simple fight scenes with a few mooks and two Named Characters have already been the length, and difficulty, of what I imagine a boss fight should be (based on my memories of my days as a player ten years ago in FS1).

I don't even know if I can send them three named characters and hope they survive... Let alone one boss ! But I'd really like to pit them against a boss once in a while (in saturday's game, I wanted to make them meet a eunuch sorcerer for the first time, as a boss ; they've only met named-characters for now). How do you think I can do that with so few PCs ? Is it a lost hope, or would you have some suggestions ? What stats could prove adequate ?

I think you just need to play with changing the enemies' stats by a point or two here and there.

I went through a phase recently where I tried to make my fights tougher for our heroes, and I ended up in a similar situation to what you're describing--long, repetitive fights where the heroes were just battering away at the enemies until they died.

Maybe try reducing your enemies' Defense and/or Toughness stats by 1 or 2 points, see if that helps. If the heroes are having trouble hitting the enemies, drop the Defense down a point or two. If they're hitting the boss but just not doing enough damage, drop the Toughness by a couple of points.

I do think the Boss who can take 50 Wound Points with the recommended stats from the book is probably balanced against a party of 3-5 heroes, so another option would be to just give your Boss a 'threshold' of 35 Wound Points instead of 50.

Finally, keep in mind the value of environmental challenges--if the heroes can catch your Boss standing on top of a rickety bridge, or directly beneath a giant Buddha statue, or between some electrical transformers... then it might just take a Stunt to finish off the boss.

Have you discussed each of them playing two PCs? It could round out the party's skills, make it easier for you to design adventures, and allow each of them to do a bunch of different things. There are a lot of archetypes to explore in FS2, lots of different power sets. Double the characters means you get to access and explore two different types of powers in the same game. What could be better than fist in the face? Following it up with pulling a bazooka from your bag!

Then when you get an extra player or two, they can pick the one they like the best to keep playing. The other can become a true NPC, retire,' or go out in a first-class blaze of glory. :slight_smile:

Hey guys thanks for all the thoughs and advice.
Saturday went great even if there was still the same problem. I had an unexpected third player (whom I wish will become a regular) so I decided not to change anything about the stats, just try without a named foe, and with one.

First fight was 15 mooks, the length was acceptable (the last mook got taken out at segment 2 of the first sequence).

I had a bout of madness, thinking it would be alright to put a named foe for the next fight (also 15 mooks, +1 named foe). When the first sequence was over, it had taken twice as long, there were still 9 mooks active, and the lieutenant still had 5HP. I ended the combat by making them surrender (they weren't baddies, just regular imperial guards doing their jobs) because it was terribly late in the day.

My decision came too late though and we couldn't finish the scenario, we had to stop just before they stormed the pagoda and fought the enuch boss. It was just the final, short act, so I'm annoyed, I'll need to add tons of stuff for next time to make it worthwhile.

Anyway, it proved that I need to adjust stats like Isaac said, even if there are 3 players now. It's an Everyday Hero, a Karate Cop and a Spy : none of them are mooks-eradicators like the killer or the masked avenger would be, and I need to adapt.

Maybe removing one defense point (even from the mooks) so that they're easier to hit. a 13 Defense, with this group, makes it hard to kill mooks three at a time or even, more reasonably, two at a time.

They failed their attacks so much that I started describing how they had hit the mooks but they got up, not entirely out yet (saying they had missed would have sucked, because it happened a lot when they tried to hit two of them)

Or maybe I should tweak the rules and say you have -1 for each mook BEYOND THE FIRST ONE you try to hit ? What do you think ? Would it make some schticks useless ? I find a -2 pretty harsh for just one mook more.

Wee, I feel your pain!

One option is mentioned somewhere in the core rulebook, where it suggests giving a hero Carnival of Carnage if it's one PC up against multiple mooks on their own. You could consider just granting your PCs Carnival of Carnage I or II, which would give them a +1 or +2 vs Mooks. That'd be functionally equivalent to lowering their Defenses.

Hello Isaac, yeah you're right, I remember that option now. I'm probably going to do that and hide behind the rule if someone tries to rule-lawyer me about it (but let's get real, who would even think of rule-lawyering in FENG SHUI ? :wink: )

Another option is to give them an Advancement every session for a couple of sessions and let them decide for themselves how best to take out the mooks. Because who doesn't like advancements?
Everyday Hero: scattering fire, drunken stance, fire stance, blur of rage, backslash, unyielding tiger stance, crane stance
Karate Cop: most of the same, plus Carnival of Carnage
Spy: gun schticks as above

What do you mean by that exactly, Easl ? that each session I should give them these advancement specifically ? Make them choose or pick them myself in sequence ?

You could do it in a few ways:

  • set up some adventures to help increase their odds of Advancement
  • come up with an in-game reason to grant them an Advancement specifically.
  • just grant them Advancements and don't worry about rolling for it

You could set up adventures and make sure they can burn a feng shui site and maybe even attune to one in the same session. This will boost their chances.

Or you could give them an in-game reason, like they do a big favor for the Guiding Hand or something and get offered to take part in a special meditation which grants them an Advancement. Or they could find a magical artifact which grants them one.

Finally, you could just say "Hey gang, this session you gain an Advancement!"

Thanks guys. Yeah, you know, they've been (jokingly) complaining because advancement doesn't work through XP points like other games, so 3 sessions in they still didn't get any. So I'm just going to say "ok guys, you win, here's an advancement for you, but I get to pick it" and that'll be that :smiley:.
What would be the best equivalent of carnival of carnage for a contact-only everyday hero ? Xiao doesn't like guns, he's scared of them, they're too loud. He much prefers taking down mooks with leeks and mops.

I meant Isaac's "hey gang, this session you get an advancement!" approach, and let them pick their own advancements as per the regular rules. The list was intended as an FYI to you and your players - these are the advancements open to them that would improve their ability to handle armies of mooks. I would generally not recommend telling players what advancement they get, its not as fun for them.

Oh yeah I get that, it's just that for these "free" advancements I was thinking of giving specifically these ones,to solve the problem. Then for regular advancements, let them choose as usual. Bad idea ?

Depends on your play group but I would let them pick their own advancements, and just suggest that these may be good ones to take if they want to address the problem they're having with mooks. If they choose not to take mook-managing advancements then you can always alter their encounters to fit where they seem to be going (i.e., if they seem ultra focused on preparing for boss fights, then in each fight have less mooks show up and more named characters).

I agree with easl, I would give them complete freedom to choose, make it an Advancement just like if they'd succeeded in rolling the die.

Just make some suggestions about which ones might help against mooks. Your players will be so much happier if they get to choose!