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Author Topic: Some balance issues with pewter  (Read 1252 times)
zthumser
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« on: April 10, 2012, 12:37:57 PM »

I already looked at the "problems with pewter" thread, this isn't about availability or burn duration.
I seem to be having a bit of a balance issue in my game, and was hoping to gain some new perspective.  The situation seems to be coming from pewter's mechanic of adding to physique instead of being rolled as a separate rating, as in the case of all the other basic metals.  Let's leave electrum and Atium out of this, for now, electrum is generally unknown, and Atium is supposed to be overpowered, plus it's too rare/expensive for general use.

I recently had a problem in my game where a typical Mistborn was up against a typical Thug, and while the Mistborn was doing okay, the fight felt way, way too evenly matched.  It seems to me that a Mistborn ought to be able to be pretty darned confident against any single Misting, even a Thug, but because of the mechanics of pewter he felt "locked in" to a melee fight.  Pewter-enhanced-physique vs Pewter-enhanced-physique made them almost perfectly evenly matched, and while the Mistborn had lots of other options for things he could do, the strict limit on 1 action/turn meant that any turn when he was NOT directly engaged in a physique vs physique contest of some sort, the Thug would destroy him on initiative, get to attack with a larger attack pool, and still plenty of dice left to defend.  The Mistborn could withdraw and fire coins, But 4-5 action dice vs the Thug's 10+ dice meant the thug could quite successfully dodge and still have dice left to pursue and/or attack.  Even maintaining distance, a thug throwing rocks is way, WAY better than a Mistborn firing coins: same health, similar attack, no steel/iron reactions, and the Thug has roughly twice as many action dice.  So while the Mistborn had lots of options other than pewter, they all seemed like bad options.  If using your other metals will only result in a lousy pool of action dice, then a Mistborn essentially becomes a poor Thug, in combat.

As far as I can tell, this problem really only exists when the Mistborn is trying to take on a Thug.  Against, say, a coinshot, you've got steel/iron to defend, just like they do, but you can attack with a fantastic physique pool, but against a Thug it seems like your options are tie or lose.
So what am I missing?  Am I supposed to see this as a feature?  Am I missing something that should really let a Mistborn clean a Thug's clock?  (other than Atium, Atium is awesome, as it should be, precisely because it adds dice to existing pools, just like pewter)  Can you use iron/steel defensive reactions "indirectly" to help with non-metal attacks?  It seems to boil down to: if you only get one action per turn, then pewter's rating+physique is always much better than anything else's rating alone.

Thanks for the help.
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Skywalker
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2012, 03:17:07 PM »

First, I don't have an issue with a Thug being equal to a Mistborn in straight melee combat, and a Mistborn needing to use their other talents to get an edge. This is the case in the books and I like how the RPG doesn't treat Mistborns as being superior to Mistings for the reasons explained by Kelsier in Book 1. IMO a Mistborn shouldn't be able to clean a Thug's clock.

The main edge a Mistborn has in a physical confrontation is Steel and/or Iron. A rock has a shorter range than a coin and both metals allow for enhanced speed. So, a Mistborn with room to move should be able to maintain range, keep up attacks and effectively neuter the Thug's attack potential completely.

The other edge is pewter's fast burn rate. A Mistborn can outlast a Thug by utilising other metals, saving their own Pewter for a more opportune time. Remember that a Mistborn has Pewter too, so if the Pewter ratings are equal, the Thug has no advantage there.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2012, 03:21:09 PM by Skywalker » Logged
zthumser
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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2012, 03:57:17 PM »

I agree with your first point 100%, that a Mistborn shouldn't be any better of a brawler than a Thug, and should probably be a bit worse.  And that works out well.  The problem is that, for all the Mistborn's options, they're all ultimately pitting ~4 dice vs ~10 dice, and things are gonna go badly.

The main edge a Mistborn has in a physical confrontation is Steel and/or Iron. A rock has a shorter range than a coin and both metals allow for enhanced speed. So, a Mistborn with room to move should be able to maintain range, keep up attacks and effectively neuter the Thug's attack potential completely.
I agree that this is how it should be.  That's how it is in the books and that's how the in-game combat should run.  My problem is, when the dice hit the table, this isn't the outcome I'm getting.  The Mistborn is theoretically capable of great speed, if he disengages from combat, but if he is fighting he's bound by the same rules, +/-1 range category as a negative circumstance, or if you want to let him use steel to gain great distance, the turn goes:
Thug declares pummeling, 10+ action dice.  Mistborn declares escaping with Steel, 4 dice.  Thug obviously goes first, 10 dice to pummel, Mistborn has few to no dice to defend, gets pummeled.  Mistborn goes second, badly bruised and beaten, escapes, establishing range.  Good, fine, he got away at great cost.
Round 2: Now they're good and far apart, as far as you care to let the Mistborn go with a single round, but it's a stalemate.  The Thug is going to be making physique tests to catch up, and the Mistborn is either continuing to run and not making attacks, or moving 1 "step" away and making an attack with 4 dice, which the Thug has plenty of dice to dodge.  Yes, the Mistborn can get the occasional coinshot off, but it's extremely unlikely to hit or do any real damage.  Range notwithstanding, the Mistborn in question would be better off throwing the coin than steelpushing it, because he would get so many more dice for the round.  It seems like, at best, the range system can be sufficiently manipulated for the Mistborn to "kite" the Thug, continuously running away and flinging coins behind himself, undoubtedly to the tune of Yakety Sax.  Yes, a Thug should be a better brawler than a Mistborn, but a Mistborn shouldn't be that afraid of a single Thug, either, y'know?

As for duration, sure, it burns relatively quickly, but in combat it's really tough not to be using your pewter.  If you've taken a hit, stopping burning is usually off the table, and even if not it's extremely risky.  Yeah, the Mistborn can potentially not burn pewter in a fight with a thug (RISKY) but odds are the Thug is walking around with at least 3 times as much pewter in him (misting vials and all that) and while I can certainly see wearing them down, I don't really like the idea that it takes fifteen minutes to beat a Thug, either.

I suspect maybe I'm missing something in the combat/range system, maybe?
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Skywalker
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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2012, 04:40:50 PM »

Yes, a Mistborn should be afraid of a single Thug. Everyone should be afraid of a single Thug. They are, aside from Koloss and Mistborn, the best fighters in the setting and for good reason. They are never treated lightly in the books either.

You may not like the idea of a protracted fight against a Thug but given how scary they are, that is what it takes. FWIW Mistborn AG has fluid rounds so you can tailor the time to the action easily.

I agree with your first point 100%, that a Mistborn shouldn't be any better of a brawler than a Thug, and should probably be a bit worse.  And that works out well.  The problem is that, for all the Mistborn's options, they're all ultimately pitting ~4 dice vs ~10 dice, and things are gonna go badly.

A Mistborn should be pitting ~10 dice vs ~10 dice or ~4 dice vs ~10 dice only where the ~10 dice have no chance of hurting them. That's not a bad set of choices against something as scary as a Thug.

Thug declares pummeling, 10+ action dice.  Mistborn declares escaping with Steel, 4 dice.  Thug obviously goes first, 10 dice to pummel, Mistborn has few to no dice to defend, gets pummeled.  Mistborn goes second, badly bruised and beaten, escapes, establishing range.  Good, fine, he got away at great cost.

Its been a while since I have run Mistborn but here goes:

1. Why is the Mistborn using Steel here?  Running away is not an action in and of itself. I would say that it would be Physique, even if assisted by Steel. So, that would be 10+ action dice vs 10+ action dice.

2. The Mistborn uses Ironslide or Steel Running to place themselves 2 steps away from the Thug. Thug now has the following options, move two steps to engage the Mistborn in melee but have no Action dice (so the Mistborn will just run away again after punching the Thug in the face no doubt) or moving 1 step forward and throwing a rock at a penalty for adverse condition (probably the most effective). If the rock attack happens the Mistborn is likely to want to continue to defend this round, but can no move themselves two more steps away (for a total of three steps). If the Thug continues to moves toward them, the Mistborn gets free attacks at them at range.

It is worth noting that a Thug can get Extreme Speed to increase their speed too, but given that it has no aerial capacity. Elevated terrain has no explicit mechanical effect but that doesn't mean it has no mechanical effect.

Also, I agree coinshots are tough to make, but:

1. you can burn Steel longer than Pewter.
2. coinshots have better range than rock or coin throwing (and against Thugs its all about range).
3. the nature of the dice rolling system (capping at 10 dice and looking for matches) is such that a lower dice pool still has a decent chance at hitting. With ranged combat, this is without risk of being hit yourself.
4. coinshots do more base damage than rocks and can be enhanced by Iron and Steel Stunts to improve that damage and range. Thugs don't really get anything else that they can enhance their fight with.

No combat with a Thug is going to be easy. They should be amongst the toughest opponents that you can field in a game. The Mistborn's biggest advanatage is that they can engage them and run away if things go bad. No one else, not even a Thug, has that luxury.

Overall, the Thug has no advantage the Mistborn can't have. The Mistborn must work hard to make the other tricks work (there is no freebie insta-win), but they can work. And even if they don't, they fall back on everything being equal or Atium Smiley
« Last Edit: April 10, 2012, 06:48:51 PM by Skywalker » Logged
zthumser
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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2012, 07:07:39 PM »

Thanks for the help, I appreciate it.
1. Why is the Mistborn using Steel here?  Running away is not an action in and of itself. I would say that it would be Physique, even if assisted by Steel. So, that would be 10+ action dice vs 10+ action dice.
Well, I'm not sure.  Clearly, there's something key to the combat system I'm misunderstanding.  You just said it isn't an action, therefore he gets physique.  Which is it, is it a physique action, or not an action?  If he's using standard combat movement, then he's just moving 2 "steps" away, and he doesn't get an action, right?  So that's 0 action dice, maybe some defense, depending on what the Thug is doing.  In any case, it also works just as well whether or not he has steel and/or pewter, any regular dude can do that equally well, so that can't be right.  If he's using steelpushing to gain distance, (as you initially suggested) I sort of assumed that that would require using steel for his action.  If running away (even steel-assisted) is physique, then what's the point of even having steel?  Does he get to go further?  An extra step?  To put it another way, I assumed he had to roll steel, because you suggested using steel/iron to maintain distance.  If he can do it with standard "steps" and/or pewter, then he might as well do the exact same thing without steel.

Quote
2. The Mistborn uses Ironslide or Steel Running to place themselves 2 steps away from the Thug. Thug now has the following options, move two steps to engage the Mistborn in melee but have no Action dice (so the Mistborn will just run away again after punching the Thug in the face no doubt) or moving 1 step forward and throwing a rock at a penalty for adverse condition (probably the most effective). If the rock attack happens the Mistborn is likely to want to continue to defend this round, but can no move themselves two more steps away (for a total of three steps). If the Thug continues to moves toward them, the Mistborn gets free attacks at them at range.
Good point, ironslide and/or steel running pretty much completely solves this problem, allowing the Mistborn to easily maintain distance while simultaneously attacking.  Unfortunately, my game's Mistborn doesn't have those stunts yet, because he just made his character, so they're no help.  Maybe that's the solution, but it really makes those stunts almost mandatory.  Unless you can use Iron/Steel to get 1 free step or something without the stunt, and I'm missing something.  That would really change the situation.  But as far as I know, that isn't an option.

In the books, a Mistborn can own because, while attacking with physique, they can also be steel jumping and pulling on iron hinges, and these things help them fight.  As I'm reading things, a Mistborn can't actually do any of that, because they either fight with pewter/physique, or they take a round off from earnestly fighting to use a small iron/steel dice pool and get pummeled for their trouble due to electing a metal which yields a tiny action pool.
If you could use iron/steel reactively to, say, push/pull off environmental metal to defend yourself against nonmetal attacks, that really solves the problem.  I think that's my favorite solution, but it doesn't seem to be true.  Alternately, if the presence of other useful burning metals act as positive "traits", each adding an extra +1 die to your physique-based pool for combat, that also solves the problem because your final dice pool is considerably boosted.  But as far as I can tell, those aren't the case.

I know I'm being a little bit difficult, but I also know I'm going to get it twice as bad from my players.  I appreciate the help.
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Skywalker
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« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2012, 07:28:09 PM »

Well, I'm not sure.  Clearly, there's something key to the combat system I'm misunderstanding.  You just said it isn't an action, therefore he gets physique.  Which is it, is it a physique action, or not an action?  

You can combine 1 step of movement with any other action (it imposes an adverse condition). If you want to run away, then your action is dodging and weaving, which is a Physique action. The movement, whether natural or Steel enhanced, is combined with it.

In any case, it also works just as well whether or not he has steel and/or pewter, any regular dude can do that equally well, so that can't be right.

Not correct IMO. A normal person can move 1 step as a part of their action at a -1d penalty or move 2 steps and get no dice. With Extreme Speed, Ironslide or Steel Running these are increased by 1. So you can move 2 steps as a part of their action at a -1d penalty or move 3 steps and get no dice. I don't see anything to suggest that these improvements to movement turn the action from being a Physique action to a Pewter, Steel or Iron one.  You wouldn't have the Thug make a Pewter roll to run, after all.  

Think of it in d20 terms. Your standard action is the attack or dodge. Your movement action remains fundamentally unchanged even if enhanced.

The point of Steel as a seperate trait is that you need it when pushing metal is the primary part of your action such as pushing metal for attacks. It is also used for Reactions.

In the books, a Mistborn can own because, while attacking with physique, they can also be steel jumping and pulling on iron hinges, and these things help them fight.  As I'm reading things, a Mistborn can't actually do any of that, because they either fight with pewter/physique, or they take a round off from earnestly fighting to use a small iron/steel dice pool and get pummeled for their trouble due to electing a metal which yields a tiny action pool.
If you could use iron/steel reactively to, say, push/pull off environmental metal to defend yourself against nonmetal attacks, that really solves the problem.  I think that's my favorite solution, but it doesn't seem to be true.  Alternately, if the presence of other useful burning metals act as positive "traits", each adding an extra +1 die to your physique-based pool for combat, that also solves the problem because your final dice pool is considerably boosted.  But as far as I can tell, those aren't the case.

Remember that Mistborn has a loose narrative system. You get one dice action, but the narration for it can include lots of other things and actions. So, the base pool maybe Physique. However, a PC can get extra dice from Traits, Tools and other Circumstances. Using Steel and Iron to supplement attacks would definitely be worth an extra dice for Circumstances (or two with the right Trait) in many instances. It also wouldn’t fundamentally change the dice action to a Steel or Iron one, but instead enhance the Physique one.

So, in that sense, your alternative solution is actually correct under the RAW Smiley.

In addition:

- as for your Mistborn PC player, tell him that its not unreasonable to expect a Mistborn to become skilled in the one area that Mistborn have advantage over Thugs if he expects to be able to beat them more easily. Smiley Honestly Ironslide or Steelrunning would be the first Stunt I would get.
- in terms of Mistborn in the books, they don't own when it comes to Thugs. They always present a difficult fight.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2012, 07:45:12 PM by Skywalker » Logged
xyzzyllyzzyx
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2012, 04:18:42 PM »

Really, once the mistborn lets the pewterarm get close enough to start physical combat, he has lost the upper hand.  And when the pewter misting lets the mistborn get to ranged, then the mistborn has clearly gained the upper hand. 

Put in another way...if I were a mistborn, and a thug was beating on me, I'd turn to flee.  Better yet, I would attack the thug with mental allomancy in a crowd before he didn't even see me there if I could.  And if I were a pewter misting who was having coins pelted at him by a mistborn at range, I would either close the distance and engage him in melee, or else run for cover.

The mistborn is good at everything, but great at "nothing."  The equally experienced misting is great at one thing, but not really good at anything else.  If you want to win, pit your strength against their weakness.  And when the tables are turned, retreat until you can change the method of conflict...
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« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2012, 02:08:00 AM »

I thought that Steel/Iron are slightly broken, too (see here), but as I have not yet played the game, I can't say for sure.

Regarding the situation you (the OP) propose, I don't see any problem per se. I vaguely remember than Min was always very aware that fighting with Thugs was no good idea, both because of their superior Pewter use and usually superior fighting skills. That Min keeps kicking all kinds of asses later on is more related to her (exceptional) skill, not raw power.

Have your player be beaten up by a Thug once so he can ask himself:
  • Why was I even in close combat?
  • Why was I fighting the guy alone?
  • What other skills can balance my disadvantage? What do I have to train (towards stunts)?

In general, pitching Steel rating for coin attacks against Physique defense makes sense. Shooting coins against non-Steel users should gain you some extra dice, but then you have to hit. Somebody good at dodging will be able to do so; but then you can steer him, or use your coins as supression fire until your Thug moves in.

Mistborn probably requires you to employ more tactics than other RPGs -- like it!
« Last Edit: April 17, 2012, 05:29:01 PM by Akerbos » Logged
zthumser
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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2012, 10:06:00 AM »

You can combine 1 step of movement with any other action (it imposes an adverse condition). If you want to run away, then your action is dodging and weaving, which is a Physique action. The movement, whether natural or Steel enhanced, is combined with it.

I'm still confused.  You can take 1 step and another action, you can take 2 steps (with no action) or you can "run away" (above), dodging and weaving, which is a physique action, but how many steps does that take you?  What is the penalty for failing?  Do you not move?  Just 1 step?  How, exactly, does this physique action increase the combat range?
Also, supplemental question:  When you change range, that range change occurs whenever your action actually comes up, right?  Or is it at the beginning of the round or the end?  This is obviously a fantastically important issue, as it is crucial to who can be attacked by whom, but even after reading the examples I'm a little fuzzy.

Quote
Not correct IMO. A normal person can ...
I was talking about moving 2 steps instead of taking an action, which as I understand it anyone can do, and they can do it equally well whether they're a Mistborn (barring certain stunts) or a drunken fat man, equally well.  I see what you're saying about ironslide, etc, and I agree.  Right?  You can move 2 steps without an action, there's no test there, as far as I can tell.  I'm starting to think that most of my problems are coming from range details.

Alright, well I certainly have some things to think about.  I'm not trying to avoid replying to everybody else, xyzzyllyzzyx, Akerbos, don't feel ignored, but you're all telling me the same thing: If my Mistborn is toe-to-toe with a Thug he's already made mistakes, and he shouldn't expect to be able to outfight him.  Message received, this is just the sort of perspective-adjustment I was looking for, thanks.

I still have questions about range, though, above.

p.s. I remember that coin thread, Akerbos, but I'm going to go reread it.

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Skywalker
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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2012, 03:07:11 PM »

...or you can "run away" (above), dodging and weaving, which is a physique action, but how many steps does that take you?

What is the penalty for failing?  Do you not move?  Just 1 step?  How, exactly, does this physique action increase the combat range?

Let's try and simplify this. Running away is effectively choosing to take Active Defence i.e. you form a Defence Pool like an Action Pool and apply it only to Defence. Given you are running away and dodging, I would say this is Physique and give an extra dice for the use of Iron and Steel (Circumstance bonus). The penalty of failing the rolls is being hit, like normal.

The movement per beat of 1 step is automatic and distinct.

Also, supplemental question:  When you change range, that range change occurs whenever your action actually comes up, right?  Or is it at the beginning of the round or the end?  This is obviously a fantastically important issue, as it is crucial to who can be attacked by whom, but even after reading the examples I'm a little fuzzy.

Yes.

I was talking about moving 2 steps instead of taking an action, which as I understand it anyone can do, and they can do it equally well whether they're a Mistborn (barring certain stunts) or a drunken fat man, equally well.  I see what you're saying about ironslide, etc, and I agree.  Right?  You can move 2 steps without an action, there's no test there, as far as I can tell.  I'm starting to think that most of my problems are coming from range details.

Right.
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« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2012, 06:34:37 AM »

I see what you are getting at:
I had a player wanting to play a coin shot that, wore metal gauntlets, that he steal pushed into his opponants.
He got to roll a dice pool of 4. with damage 3 (Weapon =2 +1)
He was no where near as effective as the 2 pewter arms in the group.
(Who in turn were completely out shined by the steel compounder who was tapping 30 charges of speed each round for an automatic 24 nudges (I realise now that he miscalculated his number of charges, he should have had 90, but he though he had 180), give that he couldn't have actually pulled that off for some many turns.)
The thing we learn from this is that Pewter arms are good, really good, at hurting people.
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ancientcampus
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« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2012, 07:33:08 PM »

Great discussion here!

Quote
Using Steel and Iron to supplement attacks would definitely be worth an extra dice for Circumstances (or two with the right Trait) in many instances.
I think this is the big kicker here. I'm still trying to figure out when it's appropriate to add Circumstances. So, it IS appropriate for a mistborn to get +1 Circumstance to defending, running away, OR fighting, by saying "I use Iron/Steel to pull off some fancy acrobatics while doing that"?
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« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2012, 08:55:18 AM »

Off topic, but I forgot where I was for a moment and assumed "Balance issues with Pewter" was someone complaining about their minis falling over....
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