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Balancing Advice
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BentonGrey
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2018 5:33 pm    Post subject: Balancing Advice Reply with quote

Howdy guys! I'm getting ready to start my first campaign, and I was looking for some resources or just some advice on how to balance the threats my players face. I'll have 3 starting characters with a nice variety of abilities, and all with decent combat stats. Any advice on deciding how many bounty hunters, troopers, or what have you to throw at them in a given encounter?

I can see just from the numbers that throwing 20 stormtroopers at 3 players would be a bad idea, but I could use some finer grained guidance. Thanks!
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Naaman
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2018 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Balance is a tricky thing when theorizing about it.

You'll find that it comes down to how cunning and resourceful your PLAYERS are as opposed to their characters' actual ststs or equipment.

For example, 20 storm troopers can't fight a rock slide or an avalanche triggered by the players as they attempt their escape. Setting off fire alarms may work, too. Or crashing a stolen imperial ship into the storm trooper barracks.

The experience will be quite organic. You'll have to use plenty of trial and error to learn how smart and crafty your players are (or aren't) in order to know how challenge them in a meaningful way.
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garhkal
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2018 2:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I often find starting smaller, say 5 troops or 3 experienced hunters, then adding on. As to ME its easier to ADD to the difficulty, then to take from it.

That said, there's NOTHING that says you HAVE to balance every encounter to the characters. If say they rumbled a full imperial facility that has say 30 troopers stationed there, sending 15 of those troops after the party is easily within reason for what the empire would do.
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Zarn
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2018 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To specifically address your original question, I find that the action economy tends to favor the players when the opposition is slightly less skilled (between -2D to -1D or so below the player characters) and the opposition is somewhere between as many up to less than double the amount of player characters.

This means that using something like 3 - 6 army troopers is something that your beginning characters and their players should be able to handle, and that a "stock" light freighter should be able to handle a couple of TIE fighters without too much hassle.

If you're unsure what your players and their characters can handle, you might want to start in a more Outer Rim / Unknown Regions style, where the opposition are less Empire and more pirates, slavers, smugglers and so on - because it allows you more leeway when choosing the level of the equipment your player characters are facing.

Goons armed with sporting blasters or even slugthrower rifles can keep the damage dice down. Most armor also gives more protection against physical attacks, which means that a slugthrower rifle doing 4D damage is less dangerous than a sporting blaster doing 4D damage. Using Z-95 Headhunters or Uglies or other underperforming starfighters can help with keeping the maneuverability dice and hull codes down, while still providing more than enough thrills.

The Empire tends to use very good equipment and almost always outnumber the player characters, so throwing full-on stormtroopers at player characters when they're wearing blast vests and wielding blaster pistols can be problematic for the player characters. Going up against Storm Commandos will be a showstopper for sure for most players with new characters.

---

You're really edging into GM style and player dynamics here, though. Most of the people posting on this board agree that Star Wars is a cinematic, larger than life type game, but disagree about what that exactly means.

I tend to be characterized as "tough but fair" by my players, and I think I'm comfortable with that. In some systems, I tended to be characterized as a "killer GM" previously - and I didn't want that, so I moved slightly away from that playstyle to find something that I could be comfortable in.

Ultimately, your mileage on my advice may vary, and you need to 'dial in' your own sense of what's fair as you play.
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Pel
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2018 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To echo the previous comments, it's better to start small and work your way up. Unless the players are specifically looking for massive trouble, they'll probably only encounter a squad of stormtroopers at most or perhaps one or two TIEs if they're in space. These are Imperials who are just patrolling around and not necessary responding to a specfiic threat. They are pickets, to use the old infantry term. Now if the players engage and are giving the pickets a good fight, the Imperials will call for backup, unless the players can eliminate them quickly and quietly.

Mostly, it depends on where you, as GM, want to steer them. If your objective is to have them infiltrate a facility, then stealth and/or misdirection is probably a good option. If you want them in a full-scale battle, that's easy too. I find it's often easier to start with the goal or objective and work my way backward, creating scenes and options for the players to reach that goal.

It's also a great idea to have contingencies in place for when your players decide to color outside the lines. I'm big on players having free will and encourage them to make their own decisions. That makes my job a bit harder, but everyone has more fun.

If the players want to infiltrate an outpost, for example, I put in place a description of the facility including a few outer guards, droids, and sensors that they can see or detect from afar. Then I charge the players with determining how they want to accomplish their goal, using their character skills and personal imaginations to discover ways into (and out of!) the outpost. They work their contacts and knowledge of the OPFOR to work out a plan. This helps me greatly and gives them a great sense of accomplishment.

Basically, establish an environment of mutual trust and respect and your players will happily help you help them in building a fantastic world you can all enjoy.
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garhkal
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2018 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pel wrote:
To echo the previous comments, it's better to start small and work your way up. Unless the players are specifically looking for massive trouble, they'll probably only encounter a squad of stormtroopers at most or perhaps one or two TIEs if they're in space. These are Imperials who are just patrolling around and not necessary responding to a specfiic threat.


That brings up a related point. Waves of enemies..

A full squadron of Tie fighters vs the 3 players on 1 freighter is imo easier for them to handle, if they say, come at the players in waves of 1 flight (4) fighters, separated by say 4-5 rounds between them.
Or for a ground battle, they encounter half a squad of stormies on patrol, the other half's around the other side of the building, but after the first round of fire, get alerted so start moving to where the rebels fight is, showing up 4-5 rounds into the battle.. with more reinforcements coming say 9-12 rounds latr..
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BentonGrey
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2018 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the excellent responses, guys! I realize that this is a system that doesn't lend itself to balancing in the same way as more 'point cost' driven systems, like BASH, do (which is where most of my previous experience GMing lies). Still, I think y'all have given me a sense for how to arrange things.

I think the idea of splitting up opposing forces is a particularly helpful one. Then you can have 'realistic' responses if the players screw up or pick a fight above their weight class and yet not overwhelm them immediately.

I'm pretty flexible with my players, but because of our play style, using extant maps and artwork for our hybrid setup (a SMART board with Roll20 and players in the room) that takes a lot of prep-work on my end. Having an idea about how much to prep is helpful.

I usually try to prepare for a number of different player approaches to major scenes, including a 'quiet' and 'loud' option. And then my players usually come up with something completely different that I never anticipated! Razz Ha, it makes for great and memorable games.

Thanks guys!
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Benton Grey
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