My groups experience of the shattered playtest.

koeran

New Member
Shattered Core Backer
#1
а My group and I played through the sample campaign: Dead End, as provided in the playtest document.

Our overall opinion is best summarized by aаstatement provided by one of my newest players (they only started playing tabletop RPGs last year).

а "It seems like a great system for a computer game, where everything would be calculated automatically in the background."

а

The rules definitely lean more to the side of detailed simulation rather than narrative flow.

When playing I felt like the gameplay didn't flow, it was a constant situation of roll, look up a table, apply the results. аRoll, look up a table, apply the results. аEtc. аGranted that's hyperbole, but emotional reactions tend towards such things. аIn all honesty though, I don't think it's inaccurate to say we were looking up tables to find the results of actions at least 50% of the time. аWhich is far too much for fast flowing gameplay. аGranted some of those tables will eventually be memorized (or provided on a GM screen), but that's a lot to ask, especially on top of the sheer number of floating modifiers.

I'll admit we got the rules wrong. аI completely forgot to add the critical fail effects to fear reactions. аAlmost always forgot to add the Alerted status to monsters in combat, and I'm sure there are other things I missed that I'm not even aware of.

а

аDEAD END

Session 1.

We found that the campaign; Dead End, was horribly unbalanced for starting characters. аIt could only result in one of two things, a TPK or retreat. аSo we fudged our way though it, for the sake of testing the rules at least, as playtesting is more about the rules than about the module.

The first combat encounter with 8-10 Necrites is completely unbalanced for a group of starting characters. аNecrotizing Amputation (their special attack) is bad. аIt results in a save or die mechanic (which as I've mentioned elsewhere is the worst thing you can do). аWith a total ballistic attack rating of 9, they'll easily overcome the defenses of starting characters. аWith two attacks per round for each Necrite (16 - 20 attacks total), that's split up as at least 4 attacks per round, per character to defend against. аMost of those will hit. аIf the PC fails to save against the physical resolve check they're turned into a Necrite Hulk and killed. аIf they pass they lose 2 AP for 1d2 rounds. аIf they pass multiple tests, they're basically stun locked to be put into the exact same situation the next round. аEach Necrite can make 9 such attacks before they're too damaged to throw any more pieces of themselves (72 - 90 for the group).

I fail to see how that encounter could result in anything other than a TPK for a group of starting characters (Or even more advanced ones). аEven if the group wins initiative they'll be lucky to kill one or two Necrites before the rest stun lock them or convert them into hulks.

Even by fudging the encounter to have only 2 Necrites it still resulted in two of the characters being converted to Hulks before we gave up on the encounter completely and just moved onto the next one like it didn't happen.

Given the sewers are full of corpses, it begs the question, why are there any Necrites at all, wouldn't they have already converted the corpses into Hulks? аThough I'll also add an encounter against 8 - 10 Necrite Hulks would also result in a TPK for starting characters.

Session 2.

Finding the Map, my players then proceeded to the Abandoned Refinery.

My players all enjoyed the narrative and description of the area, and the intrigue with the experiments on the ReKindled. аHowever they found the encounter with the two Necrite Hulks to be tedious and boring.

That may be partially my fault, as I set the starting range for the encounter as 30аYards. а2 of my PCs didn't have ranged weapons.

In the end they discovered that the best tactic was to have the scariest party member (A Wretched Martial Artist) constantly trying to intimidate the enemies, to essentially stun lock them with fear effects (reducing their AP as much as possible). аAnd the other two ranged weapon specialists (Shade & Drone) to keep hiding and shooting them from the shadows. аWhich left our Alypse Necromancer-Martial Artist as cannon fodder. аGiven their speeds, the two Martial Artist characters couldn't close with the Necrite Hulks quickly, which meant they were subjected to several ranged attacks, and the Alypse was reduced to 0HP before the encounter was over.

Not seeing any rules that mentioned otherwise, I applied the critical damage effects to the Hulks also. аSo the PCs had to take them to negative 25 HP to kill them. аI also ruled that the surprise attacks the Ranged PCs were making while hidden were automatic critical hits, as any result they'd roll would be higher than the 0 the Hulks had as they couldn't react. аAs mentioned previously, I failed to add in the Alerted +6 to perception tests against their stealth rolls, so they shouldn't have achieved nearly as many ranged surprise attacks. аI also forgot to apply the Physical Resolve test for critical damage.

The Necromancer found that with only 2 ranks in the Necromancer Talent they couldn't apply any particularly effective curses once they did get close enough. аThey also thought the range for their spells was very limiting. аWith an Int of 4 (max for a starting character) they only have a range of 8 yards. аWith 2 ranks in the talent, they can only apply very weak curses, with a max casting limit of Spell Power 2, before risking overcasting. аThey also found that Stitches were useless as they had such low Agility Values they couldn't move fast enough in combat to actually get into melee range (they tried to use a Slither Construct). аWe also found the Stitch Creation Rules to be unclear. аApplying Constructs seems to be the best way to build a stitch, as Bolstering is too hard to do, and doesn't last very long anyway. аBut even then constructs have such low stats, particularly agility, that they're too slow to be useful. аAt least for starting characters.

We also couldn't see where there were instructions on how Stitches are controlled. аAre they directed by the Necromancer using their own AP, or do they have their own pool of AP, and act independently?

In the end while the Alypse Necromancer-Martial Artist was one of the coolest character concepts, they were also the most impotent, which just isn't fun. аConsidering one of the main selling points for the system was the capability to create such characters, it's disappointing that it doesn't work that way in reality. аGranted the character would be more effective after some advancement.

Session 3.

We then moved onto the encounter in the sewers towards the vaults, with the 2 Gatling Beetles and the 2 Horror tanks.

By this time I had a better grasp of the monster rules and noticed that the horror tanks were listed as aggressive, and the beetles as wary, so I had the horror tanks charge once combat began. аWhich is what I should've done with the NecroHulks previously.

I also set the starting distance as 15 yards, instead of 30, knowing how problematicаthat was in the last encounter.

The initial fear test for initiative resulted in only one of the Beetles passing their fear test. аAll other PCs and enemies failed to various degrees. аThe enemies went first, as they were the only group to have any members capable of rolling initiative.

The beetles and Horror Tanks opened fire on the Wretched Martial artist, as he was in the lead of the group.

The initial rounds were slow as almost all the characters were suffering from one fear effect or another. аIn the end, they couldn't apply their previous tactic, as the Horror Tanks engaged the Wretched, the Alypse being so damaged from the previous encounter retreated around the corner, jumping out to surprise the attack the Horror Tanks once they ventured close enough. аThe party managed to kill the two Horror Tanks, though the Wretched was sufficiently damaged to be taken to critical health where he lost a leg and was subsequently decapitated. аWith the Wretched dead, and the Alypse in critical health, and seeing that the two Gatling beetles were untouched with better stats and attacks than the Horror tanks we decided to call it.

а

а Final Thoughts

I've played in dark settings before. аI've played with lethal rules before. аBut I've never played with a system that felt hostile. аMaybe it was just that the Module was unbalanced. аMaybe it was that my players didn't optimize their characters enough. аMaybe I wasn't familiar enough with the system and made too many incorrect assumptions. аBut honestly running the Dead End module felt like the game/system was actively trying to kill the PCs. аAnd it simply wasn't fun. аFor me or my players.

My players and I really like the setting. аWe like the artwork. аWe like the concept of the freeform character creation system and the core system of the MDS, Stat + Skill = Total Rank, roll appropriateаdie. аI personally LOVE the ReKindled, they're one of the most unique concepts I've seen in any RPG ever. аBut the reality is the rules let us down. аHARD.
 

Tex

Lore Master
Staff member
INDE Staff
#2
Zip will be able to comment more, but I will say that we looked into rewriting the pre-combat actions (Initiative, Fear) and have agreed to remove Fear from the beginning of combat except where viable.

Stitches: we will look into clarifying the rules, but they should have their own action pool. But you're right, but it looks like we forgot to add that in :(

Let me say that hearing that the rules let you down and that you didn't have fun hurts. I can personally say that I'm terribly embarrassed that yall didn't have much fun. We will definitely look into your critiques and make sure everything is ironed out. Again, my apologies.
 

NKdotzip

Administrator
Staff member
INDE Staff
#3
First off, I will say that I did not balance the module at all. Or rather the monsters I plugged in were not balanced to the module. And I do apologize for that. I will also agree that Shattered lends itself more towards crunch than narrative.

In the end they discovered that the best tactic was to have the scariest party member (A Wretched Martial Artist) constantly trying to intimidate the enemies, to essentially stun lock them with fear effects (reducing their AP as much as possible). аAnd the other two ranged weapon specialists (Shade & Drone) to keep hiding and shooting them from the shadows. аWhich left our Alypse Necromancer-Martial Artist as cannon fodder. аGiven their speeds, the two Martial Artist characters couldn't close with the Necrite Hulks quickly, which meant they were subjected to several ranged attacks, and the Alypse was reduced to 0HP before the encounter was over.
I do want to hand it to your players for finding a way to deal with them. It may have been far from a preferable situation, but player ingenuity is something we love hearing about.

Tex was right on Stitches. The intent is that they have their own action pool, but if we missed it, then you have my apologies. But you also have my thanks for catching it and asking about it.

In regards to the combat that you guys ran through, you have definitely nailed home the point that the fear check at the start of combat was far too much. So for what its worth, thank you for that. As such, we have removed fear from the pre-combat rules for the time being. We are currently looking into allowing enemies that actually deserve a fear check (some Lords, Remnants and possibly the Mastermind) to impose them after initiative takes place. I wouldn't ask you to put your group through that experience again, but I have to imaging things would play out differently with the fear check removed.

I do want to offer my condolences to the Wretched player. Even though we fully intended for Player Characters to die, it is never easy to lose a character that you've invested time into.

а

So, all that said, the larger points that I am getting from your experience(please feel free to correct me or add to it) are as follows:

  • The playtest wasn't balanced. This one is entirely on me, I chose monsters and kept their base stats that we wrote up without consideration for the level the PC's would be at. That said, I think it sounded like they handled the difficult situations very well.а
  • Fear checks in precombat are flat out disastrous. You have established that very well here and in other posts, and it is something that we are taking action to address. More than anything I think this was the biggest culprit behind the hardship you guys went through. With this out of the picture, I hope that the game will feel less outright hostile.
  • We just screwed up and missed actions for Stitches, which is something we'll address.
Thanks again for all your input and sorry for the trouble,

zip
 
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