Character Contributions

After the last game session I’ve been thinking over party’s needs in combat. It seems that most of the time, our needs boil down to one of the following:

  • “Take that guy down” – usually called out against the biggest threat or nuisance on the table.
  • “Keep this guy in the game” – called out when an ally deep in bloodied territory
  • “Get me out of this” – called out when an ally is in a bad situation
  • “Just die already” – called out when progress is slow, such as when an enemy is hard to hit or has a ton of hit points

Character Services

This in turn makes me think there a few types of key services each character can contribute to the party:

  • Threat Elimination (Offense) takes enemies out of play.
  • Damage Control (Defense) keeps the party running at full strength by eliminating negative effects.
  • Difficulty Reduction (Support) makes the encounter easier for the party, usually by either making allies more effective or making enemies less effective.

These specialties form more of a continuum than being strict categories. They also tend to feed of each other. For example, removing a threat also makes the rest of the battle easier and reduces the damage allies take. By the same token, damage control makes the fight easier by keeping allies at full capacity which in turn makes enemies drop faster.

There are also some effects bridge these categories nicely. For example:

  • Suppression effects provide damage control by temporarily taking a threat out of play.
  • Disruption effects make enemies less effective at their favored tactics. If this reduces their offensive ability, that provides nice damage control. If it reduces their defensive ability, it’s a good case of difficulty reduction.

Another important thing each character can contribute is tactics and coordination with allies. By coordinating their actions, a party can make the group as a whole much more effective. The most classic example of this is focused fire. While tactics are managed by the players, there are some character abilities that make coordinating actions easier. These generally fall under difficulty reduction, though they may push into the other categories.

Service Priority

In combat, threat elimination gains top priority since you generally can’t win without it.

Damage control also tends to have high priority. You can do without it, but doing so risks a death spiral as party members start dropping.

Difficulty reduction has the most variable priority. It may not be needed in every conflict, but when it is needed it can make a big difference.

Generalizing Services

This three point model could be extended to other types of challenges and conflicts beyond combat. You’d just need to generalize them into something like this.

  • Threat Elimination can be generalized as a direct push toward the challenges victory conditions.
  • Damage Control can be generalized as safeguarding your progress and ability to keep making progress.
  • Difficulty Reduction works fairly well as is for most challenges.
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Published in: on January 4, 2011 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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