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Subject: Creature Abilities that are Futile? rss

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Chris Alton
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Rules as written state that a creature with an activated ability (Death Gaze for example) will make a PR to check if they use that ability instead of their normal attack.

Will they still do this if that ability cannot possibly damage the avatar they are engaged with? such as an immunity to the color of that ability?

I've been playing it as though it does, but in my game a couple of nights ago the creature used the same ability three times without having any chance of it working, and it gave me a real leg-up in that fight. Since shadows and guardians will actively try and avoid futile combat, is there a similar mechanism for avoiding futile abilities?

Thematically it would make sense for the creature to try its ability once, see it was ineffective and so never opt to use it again (against that particular avatar), but that could be hard to keep track of.

I wondered what other people's thoughts were on this
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Greg
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I was actually thinking about the whole "futile" combat rule the other day and for the life of me, I could not think of a situation where this would happen for a monster.

Maybe your example is the exact case that the rule was trying to cover?
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Chris Alton
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There are certainly times, though rare when combat for a creature is futile because of the equipment you are carrying, or fate cards.

Say for example your equipment gives you immunity to all fire damage, and you encounter a creature who draws an ability that means ALL its attacks are fire based. That creature would try and withdraw every round (by making a PR check). If the creature was a shadow or a guardian, it would regenerate after a successful PR check instead, and try to gain new abilities that can cause damage.

It's never happened to me, as it is rare that ALL avatars in a band are immune, but here's where it gets a little hazy. Is the combat deemed a futile after randomly determining which avatar the creature will attack?
Is it only futile if it cannot damage ANY avatar in a band?

I've always played it as though the creature will remain in combat as long as it can damage at least one avatar, but thinking about it now this makes the game easier, as you can draw aggro to the immune avatar and fight with relative safety as long as you have a healthy stock of white soulshards
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Greg
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Aha! That makes sense.

I hope Jim has time to comment on this one.
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Jim Felli
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This is a great thread, thank you so much for starting it! So, let's talk about futile combat.

From an avatar's position it is pretty clear when combat is futile: if the avatar cannot hit or wound its opponent, the avatar will naturally withdraw.

It can become a little less clear from a creature's perspective. The first thing I always do is start with the story:

Story: if my story casts the creature as a mindless attacker (e.g., a mindless protean, a mindless arboran), then it will never withdraw because it has insufficient consciousness to understand the concept of futility.

Now, assuming my story gives the creature some level of cunning, cleverness, mindfulness (e.g., a wolf, a sentient terrovan, a bug with a hive mind), here are the guidelines that I use. For combat to be futile from a creature's perspective, Single Combat Futility A must hold true for all the creature's abilities and one of Single Combat Futility B or Single Combat Futility C must also hold true.

Single Combat Futility A: if the creature cannot affect the avatar with an activated ability, it will stop attempting to use that ability and rely on other abilities or normal combat. How does the creature determine this? Every time the creature successfully uses the activated ability on the avatar and the avatar suffers no effect, the creature gets a PR (the creature will be aware whether or not its ability has an effect even if the effect is not visible). If that roll is successful, the creature assumes that the ability will have no effect on the avatar and will stop using the ability. This forces the creature to rely on other abilities (check this rule again for other activated abilities) or normal physical combat (check Single Combat B and C).

Single Combat Futility B: (failing the use of activated abilities) if the creature cannot hit the avatar, it will flee. This is mathematically evident before combat begins. But how does the creature figure it out? After the first phase of combat, give the creature a PR. If that roll is successful, the creature assumes that it cannot hit the avatar and flees; if that roll is unsuccessful, the creature engages in another phase of combat. The creature gets a new PR to figure this out after each phase of combat.

Single Combat Futility C: (failing the use of activated abilities) if the creature cannot wound the avatar, it will flee. How does the creature determine this? Every time the creature strikes the avatar successfully and the avatar suffers no wounds, the creature gets a PR. If that roll is successful, the creature assumes that it cannot penetrate the avatar's defenses and flees; otherwise, it continues in combat.

Now, this is all well and good for single combat – combat between a single avatar and a single creature – but what if there are multiple avatars involved?

Joint Combat Futility: The considerations here are the same as the Single Combat considerations (above); however, once the creature determines an attack to be futile against a specific avatar, it will no longer use that attack on that avatar. For example suppose avatars A, B, and C are engaged in joint combat against a creature, and further suppose that avatar A is immune to the creature's activated ability and that both avatars B and C have sufficient defenses to prevent the creature from wounding them. Once the creature figures these things out (via its PRs), it will not attempt to activate its ability whenever it targets avatar A and will automatically attempt to activate its ability when targeting avatars B and C.

In the combat flow chart (files section), the order of events was designed to make the players choice of invoking colorless shards to draw a creature's attack come before the creature's choice of using an ability.

I hope this helps clarify things.
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Chris Alton
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Thanks for your thorough response Jim.
I like the idea of the story element, using your own interpretations of whether or not a creature would have the awareness to make a withdrawal is excellent.

So you're talking about an AI that learns on the go. The extension of the creature AI by using a pr check to 'learn' how effective it's combat efforts are is an interesting discussion in itself. On paper it sounds great, and further adds character to what are already some of the most unique monsters in any game I've ever played.
On the downside, it's more dice rolling and book keeping which may be a little too much for some, but I definitely intend to try it out.

Whatever the result, I think it's better than my own method of playing reported above, as I think I may have been artificially easing the difficulty of the game.
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Jim Felli
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The Painted Goblin wrote:
On the downside, it's more dice rolling and book keeping which may be a little too much for some, but I definitely intend to try it out.

The issue of record keeping always looms like a dark cloud over intricacy and nuance. My own experience has been that the die rolling offers exciting tension points and that formal record keeping has proven unnecessary this far, as everyone has easily remembered all the whos-and-whats in any given battle.
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Greg
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What I take from what Jim said is always do what is in the best interest of the creature, generally. The PR's determine if the monster is smart enough to notice it is being ineffective.
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Chris Alton
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jcfelli wrote:

The issue of record keeping always looms like a dark cloud over intricacy and nuance. My own experience has been that the die rolling offers exciting tension points and that formal record keeping has proven unnecessary this far, as everyone has easily remembered all the whos-and-whats in any given battle.


Yeah, sorry if my post came across negatively - it was my knee jerk reaction while typing on my phone and wasn't really meant that way. I was just musing out loud.
One of the things I love about this game is how much diversity is created in the creatures by so few game components. I'm excited to try out this advanced AI that learns as it fights.
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Jim Felli
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No worries, Chris! It didn't seem negative at all. You simply called out a potential issue that really needs to stay present in the minds of all players and designers. That's a service, my friend! And it's that kind of service on that part of players that helps improve the quality of game play in new titles.
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John
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What signifies and activated ability? Thanks.
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Jim Felli
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whiskemuscles wrote:
What signifies and activated ability?

One that requires a PR (Power Roll).
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