Named characters...

...are boring to fight against.

Do you have any arguments against that? It's like playing tennis like RuneQuest battles where you hit a person, then he hits you, you hit him, he hits you.... and so on.

Mooks are fun, because then it's more a tactical game - "Should I shoot one or two" - and it's clear when you end a mook because your reward will be to describe how. You don't have that benefit with the named character. Sure, you can describe it, but what's the point if you have to hit that one over and over and over again? The imagination lacks after a while.

I want named characters to be a challenge, but not a boring one. I've just played a session where they blew up half a roll-on-roll-off ship and stole a car from the ship with a lifting crane. While the car was lifted from the cargo deck, one character was fighting the captain (named character) on the car that was lifted. The setting was cool, the place where the fight occured was cool, but the fight itself was boring.

One player suggested afterwards that named characters can only be taken out if the player does something cool, like dropping the car while hanging in the chain that lifted the car. I liked that idea, but how should the rules support that? To be honest, I'm thinking of having named characters to work as mooks, only that they have a higher AV. Fortune points would be a pain though. I have to think about it.

I also had an experiment where imparement adds to AV instead of reducing it, making it more dramatic. Like in Rocky or Cliffhanger where the hero gets beaten up and then makes one move to turn the battle around and finish his opponent. It worked ... ok, but it needs more testing.

And I also played with bundle up mooks, where 5 mooks that attack one character only roll one time, but gets +5 on that roll. That really speed up the game, and it also didn't make them useless when the characters got positive bonus from imparement.

I've noticed this as well. I frequently fudge how many wound points a gmc has. I would most definately allow that dropped car to remove the named gmc no many how many wound points it had. Mind you if they dropped the car on an 9' tall mass of demonic muscle I might be more inclined to remember how many points it had left.
I try to gage these things by table feel. Is it the right time for a long fight? Do the players want the satisfaction of smashing the-freakin-thing-all-the-way-down. Or is it time for dramatic closure. That's why I allways use a screen for Feng Shui. As a gm I am not constrained by dice, rules, or the fact that that the car only did 30 wound points.

For what it's worth.

I have to disagree. The GMC's that I have used against my players are elusive when I need to keep the story-line alive, taunting when I need to teach my characters (not players) a lesson in kicking butt, and flawed when I need my players to finish a plot thread. I don't need to jimmy dice or put on other kid-gloves. I make it all-out war. What makes it exciting for my players is that GMC's can take a PC out too. There have been sessions where the players were so worried about a GMC they -almost- didn't go after him. The battle was epic and I enjoyed it as much as the players.

Try looking at the Super Soldier from Seed of the New Flesh - it's all laid out how it needs to be done. They made it a Unique Schtick - but if you're jimmying the rules for your own fun it shouldn't stop you.

I find the opposite. Named characters can have interesting schtick combos, unique abilities, or other trimmings to them a unique and memorable encounter. There can be a tendency to lapse into a 'I hit him, he hits me' mentality, but should shake it up with a few stunts (preferably ones that leverage your schticks) to keep it fresh.

If the fights with named character turn out that way, it's time for the NPCs to start doing fantastic stunts to shame the PCs into better action.

I guess all we can do is to agree on that we disagree. :slight_smile: What you wrote didn't really answer the problematic that it's just a "I hit you, you hit me" situation.

What I really should think of is a backup plan. The named ones should give up and flee the battle after a while, so that I can use them as reoccuring GMC's. Perhaps the battle should take only two sequences top something happens.

The bad thing with this fight was that I wanted it to be a duel, where only one PC fought the named one and focusing on that. Therefor I waited on that duel, after the other ones fought their mooks. In my head it sounded like a good idea, but it left the rest of my players doing nothing but wait while we rolled dices indiscriminately.

Yeah, but that will only help me describe in a fresh way only for a few actions, but then it will be same o, same o. This is a flaw that all (traditional) roleplaying games has - the longer the battle, the less describing (and more focus on dice rolling). Good tip with the mooks, though. I should really plan the battles more (I improvised the scenario), so that the players and their oppoents use the setting more.

The players still talk about one big bruiser (that for me was just rolling every two times), that they thought was really exciting. They ran him over with a car but he took it. The big brute tried to hit one of them through the car window, but the player said that it was bulletproof glas. In respons the bad guy ripped that door away and the players got so scared that they fled the scene.

It's always more creative if you have the environment to use.

I find reusing GMC's increases the tension as well. In my most recent campaign, the players fought against an Ex-Special Ops - to a draw. They came back and befriended him later in the plot. He then takes a stand for the players and gets blown up for his troubles. At which point he became a reconstructed Cyborg.

The players were torn about fighting an old ally, and couldn't bring themselves to take him out. This made for tension and excitement.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is that as a GM it is sometimes more exciting to play by different rules. The Goal of a fight should not be to take out all GMC's, but instead to forward the plot that you have in mind.

I will use Big Bad Evil Guys (BBEG) to my advantage. I will exploit their BBEvilness to leverage the players into action. After that it is a matter of showing the players that they aren't ready for the BBEG even though he's ready for them. It works to add tension that they don't know what new trick is coming out, and how they were going to get around the last big trick they had to overcome.

When it comes down to you hit me/I hit you - keep your plot goals in mind, and if you need the GMC later, keep him alive. It should change the battle if you're looking for exits, and they start closing them so you're stuck.

Change the goal of battles, and they should be more exciting.

I recommend the 'boredom penalty'. If things are getting down to dull-as-dishwater "You hit me, I hit you" blather, then it's time to impose an AV penalty (note--I'm pretty sure this is even mentioned in the rules). Not every shot has to have a huge dramatic description, but if you're not pumping up the interest with some flavor text or banter at least once a round, then it's time to tell the players it's going to cost them a -2 penalty. Let it re-set if they take corrective action.

Note: Like all major play-style shifts, this should be talked over out-of-session with the players. If you go this route, I would recommend letting them have the option of calling you on it, as well--if they correctly point out that you've fallen into the rut, then impose that penalty on the GMCs for the remainder of the round, while you dig through your brain for something better than, "He hits you in the face."

Also encourage dramatic descriptions of the bland Wound Points by the person who has been hit, particularly during the big "no penalty" buffer, when it's easy to just kind of lose track of the fact that those numbers mean something. Note that they don't really HAVE to represent direct physical damage.

FREX: "As he shoots, I duck at the last second, but feel the heat of the bullet pass my cheek; as the bullet strikes the post I'm standing next to, a splinter fragments off, clipping my ear--4 Wounds after Toughness." WP's just mark how well you're doing in the fight--maybe you're getting winded, lightly bruised, or your luck is running out, each shot getting closer to inflicting some real damage.

On recurring villains, there's nothing more aggravating--or satisfying to the PCs once they beat it--than the Serial Immortality routine. This is a form of "Will Not Die" from Thorns of the Lotus, in which the body of the villain is simply a vessel for the spirit, easily replaced, so long as they have access to the supernatural resource allowing them to be able to form a new one. This works very well for both Lotus types (in which case, there may be a garden of body-pods, or a blood-filled cauldron that the new body climbs out of) and the Architects of the Flesh (Arcanotech Clone Tanks, away!).

Of course, a less-supernatural version might take the form of a high-ranking Lodge member who has access to 'mundane' clones. While the clones have some of the previous version's memories, they only go back to the most recent 'update' (ala Sixth Day). If the fight where the previous version died was taped/broadcast/whatever, then the clone will know who killed him, even if he doesn't personally remember the fight. Alternately, the party could end up encountering the same operative over and over again, and he never has any memory of who they are.

Tying this sort of thing to a Feng Shui site makes for a nice synergy with the game's setting; it also gives the players a reason to burn (rather than try to take control of) the site in question. I used this set-up for an arc called The Zombie King of Hong Kong (the ZK had the ability to command other undead, and was immortal so long as the site which he gained his powers from was still active--he was simply birthed anew from the fleshy mass that powered the site).

I like the serial immortality!! This is a bit like the crucible used by Mr. Mane, (sp?) the ghost/pulp hero member of the old Dragons no? Or even the Agents in the Matrix. Bit hard on the bystanders though.

 The boredom penalty is a great idea. As of now it is a part of every game I run. Thanks.

I'm not sure I've run into this problem.

From a mechanical standpoint, the difference between mooks and named GMCs generally boils down to keeping track of damage and AVs.

Schticks and stunts that modify or rely on damage are meaningless against mooks. Poison, Fire Strike, Flying Windmill Kick... not worth it on a mook unless you're trying to describe something with more flavor. The low AVs of mooks mean the PCs are more likely to try more daring or multiple-target stunts. When I'm running the mooks, I generally get so frustrated at their abominably low AVs that I bunch them together and apply +1 AV per group member (I specifically added Group Attack in Glimpse as an auxillary schtick so others might use this tactic).

For named GMCs, they usually have more and better schticks, and I try to design them to specifically counter some advantage the PCs might have. For example, if I want to make sure the PC Sorcerer has a tough fight, then I make sure a named supernatural creature has Damage Immunity: Blast or Conditional Escalation. Or a Cyborg with the... uh... Wave Scanner? The arcanowave thingie that causes Backlash. If I'm making life tough for the Old Master, then Damage Immunity: Fu or Absorption. Or another Old Master with a Path that opposes or counters the PC's. Also, with higher AVs, when a named GMC tries a stunt, it's much more likely to succeed.

As far as interesting things for them to do... I look at the Cool Things That Could Happen, or make my own list, and if the players don't think of it, then I'll make sure the bad guys try it. Whenever I put together a fight scene, I make sure there are enough items, furniture, and scenery around to inspire creative stunts.

One problem I do notice with named GMCs, particularly if the AVs are high and the PCs figure out what they need to roll... sometimes the PCs will decide not to try a flashy but riskier stunt to avoid getting hit with a penalty. I try to avoid this by giving out bonuses for creative stunts and handwave some of the penalties.

Sure, but that's not really helping me. Both me and my players describe the actions (I do it because I want to be a good role model). But the imagination lacks after 6-7 actions. It's not that fun to describe the action if we feel that the only thing that really is happening is taking turns rolling some dices and comparing the result and sometimes one or two weak hits are noted down. And like I told you, the imagination lacks after a while, both for me and the players.

The mechanics aren't really helping, except perhaps when the bad crooks has exceptional schticks, but that's just another way of describing the action - it becomes boring too after a while. What I really is searching for is a mechanic (or a way of thinking) that doesn't really involves the dice rolling.

The ideal, at least for me, is when the players are competing to out-do one another's stunts on a metagame level above what may be going on with the rules or the dice. When the players really get into the right frame of mind, the rules and dice disappear, and they're just describing this amazingly cool action movie going on in their head. As we go around the table, they either try to out-do whoever just acted before them, or they may riff off or embellish an idea someone else came up with.

This, to me, is how Feng Shui should be played. But not every action is going to be a jaw-dropping stunt, and not everybody is going to try and out-do everyone else on every single action.

The best way I've found to encourage this type of play is to give out bonuses based on how cool or creative the stunt is:

+1: Mentioned in the "Cool Things That Could Happen" or a popular cliche.

+2: Not mentioned in the "Cool Things That Could Happen", but just as good or even more creative. Causes a positive reaction from other players at the table.

+3: Something that even I didn't think of. Extremely clever, and has everyone at the table laughing or cheering.

Essentially, this creates a new type of rule mechanic at the metagame level: Every turn, the player has to think of a creative stunt that the GM will reward with a bonus. And yes, there are some drawbacks. As you said, it can be difficult to think of anything interesting to do after 6-7 actions.

Yesss, now we're talking. :slight_smile: This is exactly what happens when we're fighting mooks. The players have the freedom to do whatever they want if they roll high enough and the awesomeness level is rising steadily through out the fight. I even tell my players that they can roll in advance (I trust my players) so they have longer time to think out the description.

Hmm, I don't usually like these kinds of bonuses because they tend to be so subjective. It's like a dog show where a judge (GM) is walking around and judging the poodles (players). But these are not poodle rules because you involve the players in the judgement at some level. Hmm, I should perhaps add one thing from Supercrew (a swedish narrative game) where you can get +1 if you continue from what another player describes.

I'm also consider of combining this with the Wushu thinking as well, that gives +1 for every thing that is added to the description, exceeds how you attack. "I'm grabbing that telephone, spins it above my head to increase velocity while holding the telephone wire and then smash it against that sorcerer still holding the wire" (+2). But as you said, this really doesn't solve the problem, but it gives a little more inspiration in how you can describe things. Everything that helps the players (and me) to "think outside the box" is appriciated.

Swede: Then may I put forward a different suggestion--go diceless. White Wolf used to recommend 'narrative combat' for scenes where the story was more important than the mechanics.

Not for every combat, mind you. But it could work fairly nicely for 'first appearances' of the main villains for the current story arc. Ask your players if they would be comfortable with, in essence, a group exercise in telling a story. Establish some ground rules, but then let the players--and yourself--go a little nuts. The freedom to get creative without immediately having to come up with rulings on stunt difficulty modifiers and so on might also help stir the creative juices for the final fight scene when you drop back into dice-rolling.

Some typical ground rules:

1: It's In the Script: No named characters (PC or GMC) can die in narrative combat, UNLESS it's a GMC whose death is part of the 'script', meant to provide some sort of motivation or mood;

2: Maximum Effectiveness: As a general rule, players should regard the appropriate skill +5 as the upper tier of what they could accomplish outside of direct attacks, or +11 if they are willing to burn a Fortune Die. In other words, if one of the PCs wants to leap across an alleyway, take a quick check of the jumping rules, and then decide if he can make it or not based on his 'theoretical high roll'.

3: Karmic Balance: If a player describes a particularly dramatic or amusing Fumble, they regain one Fortune Die; this can only be done once per narrative combat scene.

4: Action Is All: Instead of tracking damage, the GM should keep track of 'cool moves'. Any time a character does something really neat (note: in the context of a madcap fight scene, "I calmly pull out my gun, and shoot the mook in the face" can, indeed, be quite cool), make a little tick-mark on a sheet. At some point, you should try to drop some hint to the PCs about the Named GMC's powers, plans or allies for each tick. Thus, the better the players are at their narration, the better equipped they'll be to deal with the rest of the adventure.

5: Time Is Arbitrary: Instead of tracking shot-costs, you've got rapid, standard and extended actions. Let characters do two rapid actions, one standard action, or part of an extended action as you go around the table.

6: Blood Is Cheap: All injuries from narrative combat fade after the scene is over.

7: For Whom the Bell Tolls: If your intent is for a Named GMC villain is to die (say, a lieutenant of the Big Bad), you should award the 'killing blow' to whoever scored the most ticks with their descriptions.

8: Ka-Ka Happens: If there is some long-term Bad Thing that needs to happen in the scene (a PC is cursed, possessed, captured, disfigured, struck with a poison ala DOA or Crank, etc), make a deck of cards, one for each player. Include the Ace of Spades, and shuffle and deal. Whoever gets the Ace gets the 'Bad Thing'. As a benefit, they get an extra XP for the session, and the option to have Bad Thing Immunity the next time you do this, if they want. Other cards might have other effects, as well--Queen of Hearts rescues the girl and she falls for you, Jack of Diamonds gets knocked into a pile of money, the Joker loses some or all of his clothing; get cute, if you're so inclined and it matches your play style.

9: The Rule of Lame (Use only with mature players): If a percentage of players at the table agree that a particular description is... lacking, then the action fumbles. This does NOT get the Fortune die.

10: It's Over When It's Over: When the GM feels that everything has been milked from the scene, and all key events that needed to happen have happened, he can call the scene, clearing out whoever needs to be cleared out, and having the villain escape as needed.

Hmm, a little bit like Fate?

Can you give some examples on different actions?

I'm sort of already playing with this. :slight_smile: I guess this is what all games are going to evolve to (if I can say that word without color it too much with subjective opinions). I guess (the crunchy) D&D4 is going to have this rule as well.

I'm going to try out some of these rules. Thanks alot for your effort. I know how long it can take to make these kind of posts. :slight_smile:


...and thanks everyone who contributed to this thread.

Pretty much. If the player is willing to entertain the rest of the group with a bit of embarassment or a humiliating defeat for their own character, I see no reason to not reward them. A gun jam wouldn't make the grade, here--not dramatic enough. Shooting your own foot, or an innocent bystander, or falling into something unpleasant? That's better. Your character gets KO'ed by a mook who 'got lucky' with a boot to the head? Definitely worth the Fortune Point.


Rapid Actions: Opening a door, grabbing a weapon, moving to a better position, engaging in snappy patter. Really, anything that you could do without a roll in normal gameplay should fall into this category, as should any action your character can do for 0 or 1 shot under the normal rules.

Standard Actions: Anything that would take roughly 2-4 shots in the normal game, including just about all attacks. If a character has a 0-shot action (like someone with enough schticks in Lightning Reload), you can let them combine one with the attack, if it makes narrative sense.

Extended Actions: Anything that would take 5 or more shots. So shooting a rocket launcher, for instance, is two rounds--one to load the rocket, one to shoot. Beyond that, this is mostly for cases where one of the characters is doing something like trying to disarm a bomb or break a security code on a vault door while a combat rages on around them.

So I've heard. And yeah, unless I run back-to-back combats, I usually tell my players to 'heal up' between fights. It's more action-movie-y to be walking around completely normally 10 minutes after you were coughing up your lung because of a bullet-wound, you know? I've also used a rule that says that any character who is knocked unconscious, and wakes up from being splashed by a bucket of water to find himself bound and in the enemy's clutches, is instantly healed of all damage prior to that point. :stuck_out_tongue:

I do have my players carry wounds over between fights, but there's always time for a quick round of Heal or Medicine. If someone was really beaten up, I think it's still within action film rules that they start the next night a little bruised. Of course, with significant healing at the table up to 15 wound points can be made to go away without too much difficulty.

Heh. My group has one modern medical person, one ancient medicine person who also has the Healing Sorcery schtick, and one person with Healthy Tiger Path. They can get someone from death's door to up-and-running in three minutes flat, less if they all work at the same time.

Which goes to part of the reason I don't bother with any carry-over unless the combats are literally back-to-back.

You remember that they're allowed one lot of healing, maximum, between fights, yes?

hmmmm. I don't have my book here but I thought it was one use of each type of healing between fights. So 1 use of med skill, 1 use of heal spell, 1 healing fu and 1 slap patch. But I am probably wrong. If this is the rule then tracking wounds between fights is largely pointless.