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dm_s_guide_chapter_3

Chapter 3: Running Scenarios

Prev: Chapter 2: Adventure Structure

This chapter will guide you through the DM's role in running scenarios. You should have a good understanding of how scenarios function; for more information on that, check the Player's Guide.

As the DM, you'll control each of the enemies the PCs will face. In some cases you may also have to make rulings on how a given event plays out, but in most cases scenarios will play out using the standard set of game rules.

Types of Enemies

Each type of scenario has a different name for the types of enemies the PCs will face. In combat, enemies are known as Adversaries. In exploration scenarios, enemies are called Challenges. Finally, in interaction scenarios, enemies are known as Opponents.

Each of these classifications are further divided into roles, which describe how the entity functions and behaves, and ranks, which describe how difficult a given entity will be. Since ranks are largely the same across all scenarios, we'll begin with those.

Ranks

Enemy cards have one of four ranks: mook, regular, mini-boss, and boss. You use these ranks to determine how many enemies you should put into a scenario, as well as handling special rules like extra Actions or hands of cards. Let's go through each of them to explain.

Mooks

Mooks represent minions, sidekicks, and minor challenges. They are typically defeated quickly and have a small set of options to use within scenarios. You can use these to have greater numbers of enemies for the players to face without the scenario becoming too difficult to win.

Mooks do not draw cards; unless otherwise noted, they can only use options printed on their card.

Regulars

Regulars represent a typical enemy to overcome. Regulars are tougher than mooks and generally dish out more damage. Sometimes they have an expanded set of options as well, but many regulars are as simple as mooks so the DM's job doesn't become unwieldy.

Regulars do not draw cards; unless otherwise noted, they can only use options printed on their card.

Mini-bosses

Mini-bosses represent notable difficulties to be overcome. They could be ranking officers of the primary villain, particularly tough beasts, or sometimes could even be used as the primary villain itself. Mini-bosses are substantially more complex to run than mooks or regulars, but their presence means a fewer number of enemies for the PCs to face.

Mini-bosses begin each battle with a hand of three cards. They have a maximum hand size of five and must discard at the end of their turn if they have more cards in hand than this. They draw one card at the start of each turn as normal.

Sometimes mini-bosses can take two Actions in a single Action Phase. If your mini-boss has an Action entry on its card, you can play that Action as well as an Action card from your hand in a single Action phase. You must be able to play an Action from your hand to do this; if your mini-boss has two Action entries on its card, you must choose between them rather than playing them both. If you have no Action card in hand, you can only use a single Action entry on the mini-boss's card.

Note that there are no mini-bosses in exploration scenarios.

Bosses

Bosses represent climactic challenges best used at the end of your adventure. Bosses often make use of unique abilities to create unusual or thematic challenges for players to overcome. Because of this, they require some additional preparation on the DM's part to understand the boss and put together a proper scenario.

A boss entity should roll its Initiative value three times, taking a full turn on each of these initiative results. That means drawing cards three times in a round, having three Strategy Phases in a round, three Action Phases in a round, and so forth. Because of this, bosses do not have the ability to play two Actions in a single Action Phase in the same manner as mini-bosses (unless otherwise noted).

Bosses begin a scenario by drawing five cards. They have a maximum hand size of five and must discard at the end of each turn if they have more cards in hand than this.

Bosses can only Move during one of their three turns each round. Otherwise, most bosses would be able to simply run away from the PCs, pelting them endlessly from a safe distance!

Note that there are no bosses in exploration scenarios.

Roles

The role entry serves three purposes. First, it (along with level) defines the dice used by the entity's Actions and Reactions. Second, some abilities function differently depending on the entity's role; it is common in exploration scenarios, for instance, for players to have cards that only function against certain enemy roles. Third, roles tell the DM how the entity is intended to function, helping you to create an interesting scenario and to use proper tactics.

Each type of scenario contains its own set of roles, so we'll go through each scenario one at a time.

Combat Roles

Available combat roles include Artillery, Blaster, Brawler, Defender, and Support.

The Artillery role focuses primarily on single-target damage at range. These Adversaries are generally in trouble if a PC is able to get close to them in battle. As such, Artillery must be protected by Defenders or given terrain advantages that makes it difficult for PCs to close in.

The Blaster role typically offers multi-target damage, most commonly by targeting an entire section instead of individual entities. Most Blasters must be protected like Artillery, but some are capable of closing in and taking on groups of PCs at close range.

The Brawler role concentrates on close-range damage. They have fairly good survivability on their own, but they're even more dangerous when paired with a Defender. Since Brawlers must close in to deal damage, they should generally begin battle fairly close to the PCs (perhaps as a result of an ambush) unless they have good movement abilities on their cards.

The Defender role serves to protect the other Adversaries from the PCs. They either force PCs to target them or punish PCs that choose not to target them. Defenders generally don't offer much offensive power and thus should typically be grouped with other roles to form a balanced approach. If you're running a scenario without any Defenders, you'll probably have to rely on terrain advantages or particularly potent Support abilities to make up for it.

The Support role offers boosts to other Adversaries, penalties to PCs, and often healing and other expanded tactical options. Weaker mook and regular Support types generally need to be protected, but a mini-boss Support often functions as a leader and may not need any protection at all. Be sure to study each Support's card entries to see how to use them in battle.

Exploration Roles

Available exploration roles include Creatures, Environs, Obstacles, Traps, and Seekers. Most of these roles have special rules for how they operate in a scenario. These rules are described in detail in the Player's Guide. Here, we will focus on how the DM should portray and play these roles.

The Creature role can represent swarms of insects or vermin, stealthy villains operating from the shadows, or dangerous mobile threats that are particularly difficult to fight. They are generally self-sufficient challenges that fit well in any scenario. Remember that exploration scenarios are distinct from combat scenarios; Creatures should be interpreted as nuisances that bother the PCs but are rarely life-threatening or easy to engage in battle. Creature EP reduction is not necessarily representative of killing the entity; more broadly, it models the PCs figuring out some way to neutralize the threat. This could be anything from locking a beast or swarm inside a room, scaring or luring it away, or finding a path that causes the Creature to lose the PCs and wander off.

The Environ role represents weather conditions, toxic surroundings, magical effects, and the like. Some Environs may occupy multiple regions, though in other cases the same Environ entry can be used to represent multiple distinct entities within a scenario. The distinction is primarily one of whether conditions and other imposed effects apply across the map or just to one region.

The Obstacle role represents an obstruction or series of obstructions that PCs must overcome to be able to cross a region exit. PCs cannot cross an exit blocked by an Obstacle until the Obstacle is defeated. This is most commonly done by reducing its EP to 0, though some Obstacles may be defeated through other means, such as picking a lock, finding a key, or activating some mechanism within the scenario. Interpreting what EP loss means for an Obstacle is very situational. Sometimes it might represent a PC making direct forward progress, particularly in the case of persisting Obstacles. However, remember that a PC is not actually required to move through an area containing an Obstacle they have defeated. It can be more generally useful to interpret the reduction as progress toward solving a problem, whether that's finding the right way to go or figuring out the best way to safely cross a hazard.

The Trap role generally makes surprise attacks against PCs in response to some activity, such as movement, playing Actions, or Searching. Most Traps can be sprung repeatedly, while some are removed from play after a single Action. Many Traps can be avoided through the use of certain Actions or by Searching to discover them beforehand and avoiding their Interrupt's Trigger.

Sometimes Traps may have specific additional countermeasures built into the scenario. Often they don't, however, and this is one area where it may be beneficial to your game to allow PCs to come up with clever solutions a bit outside of the normal mechanics. For instance, if a Trap can be sprung repeatedly, it might be reasonable to allow a PC to perform a fairly simple activity to prevent their allies from blundering in and springing the same Trap, like standing in front of a pressure plate and pointing out where another PC shouldn't step. If you find that this weakens one of your Traps too much, you can of course render this activity ineffective by interpreting the Trap as having multiple potential activation plates, so new arrivals are simply finding new ways to endanger everyone.

Finally, the Seeker role is used exclusively in stealth scenarios and represents any entity that's capable of discovering the sneaking PCs. While Seekers typically have a strictly-defined and regular patrol route at the start of the scenario, Alerted Seekers are entirely at your disposal to control. Alerted Seekers should smartly investigate areas where PCs have flubbed things and behave in a reasonable and intelligent manner. However, a Seeker doesn't know precisely where the PCs are just because they've been Alerted (this only occurs when the scenario ends in failure from loss of Stealth Tokens). As such, it may not be fair to have a Seeker follow the hidden PCs around perfectly unless the PCs continue to make noise or otherwise err.

Loss of Stealth Tokens should be interpreted as Seekers becoming suspicious rather than them seeing the PCs. Remember that as long as the PCs have a single Stealth Token remaining at the end of the scenario, they are victorious, concluding their activities with none the wiser. Seekers might realize that something is up, particularly if they come across the bodies of other defeated Seekers, but they won't be able to identify the PCs or engage them in battle until the PCs have completely given away their presence through loss of all Stealth Tokens.

Interaction Roles

There are four available roles for Opponents in interaction scenarios: Antagonists, Debaters, Leaders, and Tricksters.

Antagonists focus on dealing damage to player WP. Many don't interact with the Debate Axis at all, or if they do, it's in a fairly unreliable manner.

Debaters focus on manipulating the Debate Axis. Many don't deal damage at all, or if they do, it's often a fairly small amount.

Leaders take on a defensive role by limiting PC movement, forcing PCs to target them, or jumping in if the PCs target an ally.

Tricksters impose conditions, buff other Opponents, and penalize the PCs. They often don't interact with the Debate Axis or inflict as much damage as some other roles.

Some interaction scenarios are set up in a balanced manner, offering a variety of roles to oppose the PCs. Others are weighted heavily toward victory by damage or victory by counter movement. Pay close attention to the set of Opponents to get a sense of what tactics to use.

When roleplaying an Opponent, the role can be a guideline to give you a sense of how you might portray the Opponent's dialogue and communication style. However, remember that each is an individual, and adding some unique personality quirks can help make your interaction scenarios memorable and entertaining.

Tactics

Generally speaking, your available tactics are informed by the entity's role and card entries. Simply using the provided abilities whenever possible is usually enough to run a scenario as intended. For new DMs, it's generally best to start with scenarios consisting entirely of regulars and mooks; this reduces the number of decisions to make and prevents you from having to deal with the added complication of a hand of cards.

By running numerous scenarios, you'll acquire a sense of how things tend to play out, how various enemy cards function, and so on. Then you can move on to running more complex scenarios using mini-bosses, special rules, and even bosses.

Targeting

It's usually best to avoid piling all of your damage onto a single PC. This might be the most tactically sound decision to make in many cases; in fact, your players are likely to do this to their enemies whenever they can get away with it. However, focusing fire on a single player can create frustration and boredom. If the PC is knocked out early as a result of this, they may wind up sitting through the rest of the scenario without being able to meaningfully contribute! Plus, the other players don't get to play Reactions, which means they're rolling fewer dice and using fewer cool abilities.

The game provides some natural mitigation of this behavior; for instance, in combat, the Defender role (and equivalent PC abilities) and good use of terrain can encourage spreading out and targeting different foes. Interaction scenes are similar with the Leader role (and equivalent PC abilities). When running with a smaller number of players, however, don't assume that the players have these roles filled. If they don't, simply spread your attacks around even if this isn't the most tactically optimal choice. This way you avoid picking on any one player within a scene, which can damage that player's enjoyment of the game.

As player levels rise, however, so do their array of options. It's more feasible to focus fire on individual players at high levels whenever a tactical error permits such plays. This can also serve as an additional method of increasing the game's difficulty at higher levels, which is generally advised.

Next: Chapter 4: Building Scenarios

dm_s_guide_chapter_3.txt · Last modified: 2018/06/28 07:23 by triptycho