Against the Inevitable: Threat Pools

First off, I’m using “Against the Inevitable” as a temporary name for my upcoming game project. If you have any suggestions for the final name, let me know.

Last week I looked at how the interplay between leads and obstacles can help drive the plot. Today I’d like to look at possible mechanics to handle those obstacles.

I want the enemy forces to seem nebulous but powerful at the start of play. This leaves the heroes with the job of both learning about the opposition and working to overcome any obstacles that arise.

To represent this, I’m considering using point pool mechanic, preferably represented by a stack or bowl of tokens. Having physical pieces for each point should help reinforce the “overwhelming opposition” theme, especially if heroes start with few to no resource points of their own. This can also provide a greater sense of progress as they will actually see that pool being depleted during play.

This threat pool should be primarily used to throw obstacles at the players. In effect, the first threat point should let the nemesis players say “this is something you have to deal with before you can finish the adventure”. Additional points can then be invested in an obstacle to make it more dangerous or harder to overcome. These points should be spendable on the fly. For example, nemesis players should spend points to add a trait the first time they want to use the trait. If the heroes never try to best a warlord in combat, no threat should be spent on its combat skills.

Note that challenges should be built so if the heroes fail they can retreat and try again from a different angle. This may actually lead to “feint” tactics, where the heroes attack a strong point to get their enemies to spend threat, then attack from another angle where they’ve got more of an advantage to finish the obstacle. Given that the “heroic comeback” is a common genre convention, I’m comfortable with players making use of this tactic.

Once the pool has been depleted, the heroes should be able to advance to the final confrontation with minimal opposition. However, once they get there the threat pool may be refreshed to represent the final obstacle. One nice thing about this final refresh is it makes it easier to tailor the final obstacle’s power to the number of heroic characters brought into the conflict. It also creates a nice feel of an opening (pool depleted) and a villainous resurgence (pool refreshed).

That gives us a good rough outline of the nemesis mechanics. Next time I’ll take a look at leads and how the heroic side deals with these obstacles.

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Published in: on November 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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