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Descent: Journeys in the Dark» Forums » Variants

Subject: I bet you've never seen a post about scaling rss

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Evan Champie
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I just had an idea folks, and I feel it needs some brainstorming.

So, as written, the scaling in Descent is that monsters get basically +1 hp per hero, and a few gain a die of damage. The only houserule I prefer is that I draw cards equal to heroes minus one every turn. But it doesn't seem to be enough.

I've been playing this game awhile, almost always as the Overlord, and this is what I've seen. In the early game, I dominate. When I go all out, I will kill them and discourage them from playing the game again. Sometimes they make it past room 2. Mostley not. The new Treachery cards in the expansion do NOT help here in the least. They feel cheated. I feel bad. We put the game away, components damp with tears.

If I hold back, trip myself as it were just for the sake of the game, they survive long enough to get a few treasures, and we play a game. I go all out, holding nothing back. Ogres spawn. Stun tokens are doled out. Monsters fire and retreat, block treasures and portals, and shut doors to take cover. And it's good! Progress is earned by teamwork and tactics!

And then we get to the end. The game is over. My hordes are as tissue paper to the atomic blast of their powers. Rooms are cleared before a monster moves. The top teir monsters MIGHT survive a hit. MIGHT. Probobly not. I read the flavor text for the final room all good and ominous; they 2-hit the boss and do a group high-five. Yaaaay!

---

So this is the problem I see: the scaling problem for us isn't the number of players. It's the quality of the items, and when the heroes get them. I really don't like handicapping myself. And my buddies REALLY don't like knowing that they only won "because I let them." Booooo to that!

The heroes start out with chicken scratch for items. Shop items are just barely better than fighting with fists. Copper treasures let them survive. Silver treasures cut a swathe through my minions, and gold treasures flat out end the game. Not to mention any training tokens or additional skill cards purchased! The more progress the heroes acheive, the more powerful they get.

But I'm drawing from the same deck all game. Those cards don't get better or worse as we go. The only difference is what monsters were in the room when they opened the door! Aside from amassing Threat, the only real way to advance as the Overlord is to play Power cards, which are expensive but sometimes satisfactory.

---

I will say, in my opinion, that this game peaks at silver treasures. Store/Copper is too weak. Gold is too strong. Silver is a fine balance. As far as I've seen, the Overlord is generally tailored to combat heroes with silver treasures. Copper he destroys, and gold destroys him. What if we could institute it across the board?

The RPG'er in me likes to put an imaginary flavor text to match given rules. Sorry in advance.

Aaaaaaaaaaaanyway. So the Overlord will start the game with a real handicap. The dungeon hasn't been alerted. Beastmen are chillin, gnawing on bones, you know. Razorwings are asleep on the ceiling. Bane spiders are sucking the vital juices from halflings. Doors are shut. Monsters are making dinner and doing laundry. Nobody even knows that just a few rooms down, a plucky group of adventurers are mugging their friends.

To step the overlord down, I'd play it like the heroes are still under the OL's radar as it were. Some possibilities:
-Drawing fewer cards
-Limited discards for threat
-Limited spawning (every other turn maybe)
-No powerful monster spawns yet
-The OL relies on traps for defense in his outermost areas
-Threat collection penalty (every turn and discarding)

Once the heroes open a silver chest, the overlord gears back up to normal strength. The dungeon is lumbering to life. Some of the inhabitants remain oblivious. Localized alarms and/or wards are sounding. The heroes have the attention of the OL now, and are entering more populated and/or gaurded areas.

Opening a gold chest could have a variety of effects, here's some ideas. Keep in mind I'm talking about maybe one or two of these, not all of em. I want to be competitive here!
-Playing two spawn cards per turn
-Drawing additional cards per turn
-Taking a turn BETWEEN the heroes? This would be really hard to balance.
-Statistical bonuses to all monsters
-Monsters may spawn from any unactivated glyphs, regardless of line of sight (I like this alot)
-Threat collection bonus (every turn and discarding)

I guess the heroes could make the active decision to ignore silver/gold chests for the entire game. But I'd bet that it wouldn't be worth it once they started fighting some harder critters that were waiting in the next rooms.

I wrote alot more than I planned. Lemme hear you! I had to edit this to be more specific of what scaling I mean :o
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Alexander B.
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My feeling is that you are putting a lot of emphasis on things like treasures and not enough of the player skill and the scenario. The last time we played, we fixed the game after getting killed by a good OL several times by letting a less good OL play that role and we crushed him. So, just let one of your friend OL: problem solved.

You could also give the players tips if they are getting nailed too much and certainly don't use the tough scenarios unless you and them are equal in skill.

The items vary a ton: some are much better than others, so trying to fix it by assuming that them having a few random silver items will balance the game seems a bit like wishful thinking.

In any case, I like close games, so it isn't hard for me to choose a scenario that is appropriate to both the number of players and the difference in skill.

Besides, if I take a challenge of trying to win by only drawing one card a turn because the players are all newbies, then the win counts just as much as far as I'm concerned: I took the challenge and if they beat me they get full credit for that.

So, I personally focus on scenario selection for balance when possible, the fall back on a more severe tweak like drawing less cards if needed: no big deal.
 
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Evan Champie
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diamondspider wrote:
The last time we played, we fixed the game after getting killed by a good OL several times by letting a less good OL play that role and we crushed him. So, just let one of your friend OL: problem solved.

This is what I would do if I wanted to win every single time. I'm sorry, but this doesn't seem like the problems solved. You're saying if John plays overlord in your group, he'll beat all of you, but if you put Jerry in the overlord seat, you'll crush him. So you're going to know who wins as soon as everyone sits down? soblue

We like to play games where we compete. Where you win or lose because of strategy, tactics, skill, that kind of stuff. We're not totally married to the idea; we play lots of games that have dice and card drawing all over them. But if they sense that I'm "going easy" on them, it's almost like I'm insulting their ability to compete in this game. Put it this way; we'd rather have a heated game end prematuraly as opposed to enacting a casual fairy tale victory. That's just how it boils down with these guys.

diamondspider wrote:
The items vary a ton: some are much better than others, so trying to fix it by assuming that them having a few random silver items will balance the game seems a bit like wishful thinking.

What's the difference between a party struggling against skeletons and beastmen, and the same party killing the named boss monster in 2 hits before it activates once? I doubt many people will say "skill cards and training tokens!"

It really is all the items; how many games have been won because of purchased skill cards, compared to chests? In fact, I'd like to run a test next time I get some free time; a party of 3 heroes start the game with 2 randomly drawn silver items each. Trading is allowed. From then on, they do not draw treasure from chests. Gold is still accumulated and spent on potions, training, etc. I wonder how that'd play out? Humm.

Personally, I've noticed the game breaks down into phases based on the quality of items in play. I want to make this game competitive for my group, where both sides can really go full bore, cutthrought, and play smart, and the outcome isn't determined by prewritten rules.

If we play competitive, I try to end the game early in the Store/Copper phase and I win. They feel jilted. If they survive to a silver chest, they have a chance. If they touch a gold chest, I've usually lost (so I try not to let that happen).

These aren't absolutes, but for us they're pretty damn consistent. There have been games where mistakes were made, or rolls went one way or another, and they kicked the snot out of me with Store/Copper items. They got silver items and plowed straight for the gold and the win. But I'm saying that the game ends early almost 80% of the time, and that's no fun for us.

Please understand that it's not the length of the game that is fun for us; it's the idea that the heroes should be able to win without feeling patronized, and the overlord should win without feeling like the rules did all the work for him.

I really am eager to hear other ideas, too!
 
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Evan Champie
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Man I am typey tonight. This is a totally weird item-related balance idea I just had, but it seems simpler. The idea is to establish an early game handicap, followed by an end-game boost. This is running with my idea that the overlord is bringing his 'Silver treasure' game to the table from the start.

At the start of the game, the overlord chooses his Malevolence(we'll work on the name) card from a small selection and puts it in front of him. Whenever a hero opens a chest, the overlord gains Spite tokens to put on this card. Copper chests give 1 Spite, silver 2, gold ~3, work on the exact ammounts later. Having 4 spite tokens won't give you abilities 0-2 or 3. Just the one you meet exactly, thankyou! Example Malevolence cards: Ummmm

Black Blood
"Monsters' wounds are adjusted by the ammount of Spite on this card."
0-2: -2
3: +0
4: +2
5: +3
6+: +4

Their Master's Whip
"Monsters' damage rolls are adjusted by etc etc"
0-2: -2
3: +0
4: +1
5: +2
6+: +4

Maddening Utterances
"Monsters are gain the following abilities based on Spite"
0-2: Monsters must expend 2 Surges per attack or else miss
3: Monsters must expend 1 Surge per attack or else miss
4: All monsters gain Fear 1 (stacking with printed abilites)
5: All monsters gain Fear 3
6+: All monsters gain Fear 4

I bet that last card would get some fatigue turned into power dice! I think you guys can get the idea. Early game, a nerf. Once they get a few upgrades, it's game time. And once they should be mutilating you, you still can provide a challenge. Couple more Malevolence ideas before I sign off (finally):

Eldritch Awakening
"When the overlord collects (free)threat on his turn, it's adjusted..."
Scavanging the Weak
"The Overlord's threat income from discarding cards is adjusted..."
Tome Library
"Card draws adjusted as you organize the library for quick reference(lol)"
Frenzied Masses
"Spawn Cards Will Be Tricky"
0-2: Every other turn only (tracked with wound marker on/off the card)
3: Regular
4: Option to play more spawn cards on a turn for 5 additional threat each
5: Allowed to play up to 3 spawn cards per turn
6+: Double figures from your spawn cards.
Ancient Gatekey
0-2: Monsters cannot walk through friendly targets; -2 to monster dmg
3: Normal
4: At the start of your turn, you may spend ~8 threat to de-activate an active glyph.
5+: You can still pay to shut glyphs off; now you may spawn monsters on de-activated glyphs, ignoring LoS from heroes

The cards could be re-themed into patronage from ancient gods. Yes. Yes.

yawn
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Luca Iennaco
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Scuzball wrote:
At the start of the game, the overlord chooses his Malevolence (we'll work on the name) card from a small selection and puts it in front of him. Whenever a hero opens a chest, the overlord gains Spite tokens to put on this card. Copper chests give 1 Spite, silver 2, gold ~3, work on the exact ammounts later.

I like the idea, but (looking at your examples) I'm afraid that the heroes could simply avoid the chests at all, apart maybe a single gold one. They won't get any items, but you'll be afflicted by your own "Malevolence" (with zero Spite) for all the game. Be sure to make Malevolence cards so that this "tactic" isn't a viable one.
 
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Jim Brooks
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Evan,

When a hero opens a chest, are you playing that all the heroes get a treasure, or just the hero that opened the chest?

Do the players get to choose their hero character or are they randomly drawn?

Jim
 
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Evan Champie
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Quote:
I like the idea, but (looking at your examples) I'm afraid that the heroes could simply avoid the chests at all, apart maybe a single gold one. They won't get any items, but you'll be afflicted by your own "Malevolence" (with zero Spite) for all the game. Be sure to make Malevolence cards so that this "tactic" isn't a viable one.


I thought about that for awhile. I'm not certain that it would be worth it for the heroes, though. Shop items going against ogres, naga, gaints? I'm pretty sure the heroes will keep opening chests. Maybe they'd skip out on later ones. It could make opening a chest a decision rather than a given, I guess.

These are rough examples, mind you, but it could be solved by making gold chests give out 4 spite instead of 3 perhaps.

Editto: We play that everyone gets a treasure, and sometimes we pick heroes and sometimes not. I never noticed earlier that the offical rules offer the option to choose heroes! Always thought that was a house rule we used.
 
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Ian Summerfield
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One solution can be seen when comparing doom and descent. In doom the invader almost always has the advantage, in descent the heroes can easily take advantage of the overlord once silver or gold treasures are found. I would say using the doom based damage system, allowing monsters and heroes to last longer. However in descent there are heroes and monsters that have 0 armor while the doom system requires at least 1 armor for the system to work. a suggestion would be to treat characters and monsters who have 0 armor "as if" they had 1 armor, to even things. This would make the monsters and heroes tougher and the heroes can only become extremely invincible once they've collected 5 armor and the overlord can still be a threat as well. and as for piercing, it acts the same except at least 1 armor prevents it having a 0 armor effect.

If that doesn't help, it's because I don't actually own descent, but I have read the rules.
 
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Jim Brooks
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I think that it's more balanced when you only get one treasure per chest opened. It takes longer for the heroes to get the good equipment.
 
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Neil Sorenson
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The one point overlooked in citing treasures as the main culprit in the game imbalance is that there still remains a HUGE problem in scaling with the number of hero players.

Forgetting the treasure angle for a moment, the game is too easy for 4 heroes and too damned difficult for 2. Changing the treasure rules won't do anything to help in the 2-hero games (and the suggestion that the players should each play 2 characters in that instance is acceptable but weak).

I was wondering if things couldn't be approached from the conquest token angle. Like awarding conquest tokens on a sliding scale, say 5 points for a 2-player game, 3 points for a 3-player game and only 1 point in 4-player games for each activated glyph.

I haven't tried this yet but I'm wondering if it might help bring a little balance to The Force.
 
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Fred Methot
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Neontek wrote:
quote = Ogres spawn

?? you can spawn ogres!!?

If you don't like the scaling, make quests without treasure


With the Well of darkness expansion you can
 
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Bobb Beauchamp
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Just something to consider when coming up with houserules: They are based on games you've already played, and thus limited to the experiences you have with those quests only. You'll be applying them in the future: If that's to replay the same quests, probably not big deal. But if it's applied to a later quest, you might find that the changes you made have no created new issues of balance.

One thing I see repeated often by complaints about Descent (or efforts to make it "better") are that they are based on playing the first few quests. Or only playing a few times. The early quests are designed to be less challenging, so changes you implement to make them harder will, when you get to the actual hard quests, make those quests seem impossible.
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