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Just wondering how many people found this article helpful.
Play-tested it in Rifts gaming using GM Discretion and found it was essentially helpful as-is. 11%  11%  [ 1 ]
Play-tested it in Rifts gaming using GM Discretion and found that most of it was helpful. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Play-tested it in Rifts gaming using GM Discretion and found that only some of it was helpful. 11%  11%  [ 1 ]
Play-tested it in Rifts gaming using GM Discretion and found that it didn't quite fit in with your GM and/or Player play-style. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Did not play-test it since it did not seem like it could fit into your Rifts GM Gaming Style. 11%  11%  [ 1 ]
As a Rifts Player I found some of the information helpful in some way. 11%  11%  [ 1 ]
As a Rifts GM I found some of the information helpful in some way. 22%  22%  [ 2 ]
As a RPG Gamer I found some of this information helpful in some way. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Funny in a good way at times but not otherwise useful. 11%  11%  [ 1 ]
Missing some aspect that is not normally covered by simple GM innovation and play style. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Even with the simplified summary and example tables was unable to understand it. 22%  22%  [ 2 ]
Any Trollspeak from wayward wandering trolls. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Any other response. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Total votes : 9
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Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:00 pm
  

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Dungeon Crawler

Joined: Tue May 20, 2008 7:41 pm
Posts: 296
Location: Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada.
Comment: Just an old dude Gamer (GM and Player) who had the honor of gaming with several great groups of folks over the years.
CREATING BALANCED YET CHALLENGING COMBAT ENCOUNTERS:

Written and posted by random_username (AKA Munchkin Clown) on the Palladium Books Forums.
"http://palladium-megaverse.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=129640"

Version: 1.0
Final Revision: 364 (clarified content, personal abbreviations, and minor formatting).
Currently: Finished.

Spoiler Note: Spoilers are mainly used to streamline the appearance of this system by containing examples, and so forth within them. Any Example Details are only quick relevant approximations, not absolute values.


TRANSITIONING FROM VETERAN PLAYER TO GAME MASTER: ... The expected minimum to fully benefit from all of the following.

Know Your Enemy and Know Yourself
"It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle." {Sun Tzu, The Art of War}

Creating an appropriately challenging Rifts campaign to deal with an extremely diverse group of player characters can be difficult.

Maintaining a balance between the GM's Campaign Challenge Level versus the mix of Players' Rifts Tactical Gaming Experience is often one of the main ways of doing so. For ease of use Player's Rifts Tactical Gaming Experience is simplified to Player Competence.

This system only intends to make the components of these basic factors easier to recognize, detail, express, and make use of.

This is achieved by primarily focusing on the combative aspects of characters and campaigns. Each of these Competence levels require an increasing degree of cohesive use of character abilities and player tactics. Thus this is not simply the raw power of a character it is also how tactically well it uses those abilities. Achieving this requires a more thorough exploration of the game system which tends to increase the individual's appreciation for quality, comprehensive gaming.

Ultimately players and GMs struggling with the many problems that arise from a lack of game balance should benefit most from this basic process. Experienced players and GMs who have played and Game Mastered at all such levels up through Epic will probably have their own ways of approaching this concept but may still find it interesting.

BASIC USAGE PROCESS: Step-by-Step walk-through.
Spoiler:
PRE-CAMPAIGN:
1. Determine Players' Gaming Experience.
2. GM determines Campaign Challenge Level (for opponent ratio and tactics usage).
3. Players make characters.
4. GM makes Quick Combat Encounter Sheet (with vital combat stat ranges and special combat abilities).
5. Play test the characters and verify Campaign Challenge Level is still correct.

CAMPAIGN DESIGN:
6. GM uses the Quick Combat Encounter Sheet which contains the player's vital information, the Average Similarly Powerful Opponent stats (average stats and abilities, and combined totals) combined with the Campaign Challenge Level (opponent ratio and tactics use) for designing balanced and challenging combat encounters.
7. The QCES information functions as an opponent guide that simplifies and speeds up the creation of combat encounters. These combat encounters remain balanced regardless of whether using one extremely powerful opponent, an equal number of opponents, or many less powerful opponents. Creating mixed power levels of opponents is also covered.
8. GM can custom make his unique, and often recurring villain NPCs using the maximum combined opponent stat totals as a guide.
9. GM can design numerous balanced and challenging Generic Combat Encounters of any type (tech, creature, magic, psi) and use them as a list of Preset Encounters or Random Encounters. Since these are designed to fit into a focused appropriate range these remain relevant until truly extreme changes in the player characters abilities occur. Example: an entirely tech-based group loses all of their gear for whatever reason. When this occurs, re-calculating average stats and abilities then applying them is quick and simple.

IN-GAME:
10. GM can combine the Extended Combat Difficulty Range or Random Power Levels Options with the Preset Encounters or Random Encounter Tables to maintain variety in combat encounters.
11. GM can improvise balanced and challenging generic combat encounters of any type quickly and effectively in-game using the QCES as a guide.
12. If fewer players show up to a gaming session then just reduce the number of opponents for calculating encounters (see end of Part Three).

USAGE:
* Players are expected to play their characters as close as possible to their full potential, which is based on their current level of understanding and application of the game.
* Probably requires personally play-testing one or more times in order to adequately understand this system.
* Otherwise a very quick, simple and effective system for creating combat encounters.
* Should be simple enough not to clash with any existing GM gaming styles.
* Most effective for generic combat encounters regardless of type (tech, monster, magic, psi).
* Custom, one-of-a-kind opponent NPCs (leaders, recurring villains, and so forth) can still benefit from the combined upper stat limits for a single creature encounter for the group.
* Beyond that it should make campaigns more enjoyable for players via a greater variety of balanced encounters through a simple process. For the GM it is an extremely easy to use system that simplifies combat preparation efforts.
* Friendly game of Baseball metaphor: Any Pitcher can throw a fast ball aiming for the exact center of the strike zone every time. For a GM this would be his best guess for an encounter that is essentially always predictably easy for his Players. This system aims for balanced yet challenging combat encounters. For the pitcher that would be knowing the exact shape of the strike zone as well as the essential capabilities of the batters. Then working that zone with every type of good pitch available: curve ball, knuckle-ball, and so forth without any wild pitches. Thus challenging the batters to their full limits.
* And just as my forum signature says: If something makes the RPG experience better that's great. If not don't use it.
* So have fun, be well, and hopefully this system makes gaming better for all participants.

PURPOSE:
* For the GM: Provide two basic ratings each comprised of two basic measurements that are used to easily gauge encounter possibilities:
-- Campaign Challenge Level: This covers the base number of proportional opponents and their degree of tactical competence.
-- Average Similarly Powerful Opponent: This is simply the Average Player Character stats for a standardized raw power comparison. The stats are the maximum MD per single action attack using the main weapon and the maximum relevant MDC.
* For the Players: Encourage players to improve the quality of their gaming.
-- Realize that everyone at the higher levels had to progress through the lower levels to get there. Thus there is no dishonor in doing so.

QUICK REFERENCE SUMMARY TABLE:
This entire article may have a lot of information but once the system is understood all people really need is the following table (if anything) plus their own GM Quick Combat Encounter sheet as well as possibly one or more lists of Simplified Opponent Stats that can also be used for Random Encounters. Beyond this is simply the GM's gaming skills (innovation, preparation, research, and so forth). Printing Table Tips: Windows Accessories "Snipping Tool" + "Paint". For slightly misaligned columns but with a white background go to upper right corner of this forum page has "Topic Options" button, switch it to "Print View".
Spoiler:
QUICK REFERENCE SUMMARY TABLE:
RANK_________RANK NUMBER___COMPETENCE______OPPONENT RATIO______OTHER
Beginner________1_______________New to game_______0% 1-on-1._____________In Beginner CCL introductory campaigns use 10% to 25% 1-on-1 and GM Discretion.
Novice__________2_______________Rules_____________50% 1-on-1.____________Average for BNI mixed group. Complex introductory gaming level.
Intermediate_____3_______________Tactics____________100% 1-on-1.___________Standard Veteran Campaigns. Minimum CCL for Advanced Player Characters.
Advanced________4_______________A Previous GM______2-to-1 to 10-to-1.________Elite Veteran Campaigns. Previously an ideally Intermediate GM.
Epic____________5_______________Game Breaking______Empires. GM Discretion.___Epic Players Characters are only appropriate in Epic Campaigns.

CAMPAIGN CHALLENGE LEVEL (CCL) = Add all the Players' Competence Rank Numbers numbers together and DIVIDE BY the number of players (Round Up). This average is used to determine Opponent Ratio and for the Opponent tactical skill level.

ONE SIMILARLY POWERFUL OPPONENT STATs:
Basic Stat Range: up to 25% less than maximum when selecting specific opponents. Simplifying uneven numbers by rounding up; typically by up to 5%.
* Maximum MD Per Attack = Add each players' primary single action attack Maximum MD together and DIVIDE BY the number of players.
* Maximum MDC = Add each players' Maximum Standard MDC together and DIVIDE BY the number of players. Spells and Psi-Abilities presume half maximum PPE or ISP usage for this defense.

NUMBER OF SIMILARLY POWERFUL OPPONENTS:
* Opponent Ratio MULTIPLIED BY Number of Player Characters.

TOTAL OF ALL OPPONENT STATS:
Instead allows GMs to use either one big opponent or divided between many lesser opponents.
* Maximum MD Per Attack Stat MULTIPLIED by CCL Opponent Ratio MULTIPLIED by Number of Player Characters.
* Maximum MDC Stat MULTIPLIED by CCL Opponent Ratio MULTIPLIED by Number of Player Characters.

EXTENDED ENCOUNTER DIFFICULTY RANGE:
* Easier: reduce either the number of opponents by 50% OR reduce one, possibly both of the two average Similarly Powerful Opponent stats by 50%. Can also balance against overly powerful NPC special abilities.
* Harder: increase either the number of opponents by 50% OR increase one, possibly both of the two average Similarly Powerful Opponent stats by 50%.
* Overkill: +100% number of opponents, and/or +100% one or both SPO stats.

RANDOM POWER LEVELS:
* Total of Opponent Ratio MULTIPLIED by Number of Players. Roll a die who's middle numbers include this total. 4 = 1D6 (3,4) or 1D8 (4,5) at GMs discretion.
* Advanced CCL Exception: Ratio is already from 2-to-1 to 10-to-1. Roll 1D10 for random ratio: 1 = 1-to-1; 2 = 2-to-1; ... 10 = 10-to-1. For lower challenges use 1D4, 1D6, or 1D8 at GM's discretion.

TYPICAL GM QUICK COMBAT ENCOUNTER INFO:
Based on Example 2 used in most of Part Two. A GM's actual version of this will probably be simplified further.
Spoiler:
GM QUICK COMBAT ENCOUNTER INFO:

CAMPAIGN CHALLENGE LEVEL:
* Intermediate.
* 1-on-1 ratio of Players versus Average Similarly Powerful Opponents.
* Average Player and thus Average Opponent Competence: Use of Tactics.

AVERAGE SIMILARLY POWERFUL OPPONENT:
* 1 per player (due to 1-on-1 ratio).
* Basic stat range: up to 25% less than listed stat. Simplifying uneven numbers by rounding up; typically by up to 5%.
* 80 MD = 1D6x10 to 2D4x10 MD primary single action attack.
* 450 MDC = 350 to 450 MDC is fine. (445 rounded up to 450 MDC for simplicity)

TOTAL OF ALL OPPONENTS:
* With 4 players.
* 320 MD = either 1 opponent doing 4D6x10 to 5D6x10+20 MD or any number of opponents with roughly the same total maximum MD output per single attack action.
* 1800 MDC = either 1 opponent with 1800 MDC or any number of opponents with roughly the same effective total maximum MDC. (1780 rounded up to 1800 MDC for simplicity)

EXTENDED COMBAT DIFFICULTY RANGE:
* Harder or Easier: Increase or decrease by 50% either the Opponent Ratio or one, possibly both of the MD and MDC stats.
* Overkill: +100% number of opponents, and/or +100% one or both SPO stats.

SPECIFIC PLAYER STATS:
For confirming over the course of the campaign that the stats haven't changed. Due to different gear, increased level for level based stats, etc. Should include a minimized list of relevant special combat abilities such as similar to those on the Epic abilities list. Can also include more information similar to that for Specific Opponent Stats in Part Three.
Player 1______Player 2__________Player 3___________Player 4
+8 to-hit_______+8 to-hit___________auto hit / dodge 18+___+12 to-hit melee (mostly P.P.)
180 MD________60 MD_____________30 MD______________48 MD
10,000-feet_____5,000-feet_________1,000-feet___________Melee_____________________(Attack Ranges)
770 MDC_______220 MDC___________60x10 MDC__________190 MDC
30 mph Ground__300 mph Flight______120 mph Ground______450 mph Flight:Jet Pack
7 a/r__________6 a/r______________4 a/r________________5 a/r
1/2 Lasers_____+6 Autododge_______Imp.Energy (spell)_____+8 Autododge vs tech (all P.P.)
______________4D6x10 MD from_____Invisibility (spell)______Adhesive Boots
______________4-missiles (2 uses)___Teleport (spell)_______Talisman: of Teleport Superior (LOS, 3 uses before recharge by caster)
___________________________________________________Melee+Flight+Adhesive Boots+and/or optional teleport

PART ONE: KNOW YOUR PLAYERS AND KNOW YOUR GM.

INITIAL APPLICATION:
* Players can rate their expected play style level (Beginner, Novice, etc) by simply answering a few key questions:
-- Have you played Rifts before? ... No = Beginner. ... In one or two campaigns = Possibly Beginner but probably Novice. ... Three or more campaigns = Usually Intermediate or better.
-- If yes have you also been a GM for Rifts? ... No = Usually Intermediate or less. ... Yes = Usually Intermediate or better.
-- What are your favorite combat maneuvers or tactics? ... Unaware of tactics = Beginner or Novice. ... Any tactics such as ambushing opponents and so forth = Intermediate or better.
-- What are some of the best player build combos that you have played? ... An unmodified power armor or robot vehicle plus big gun = Probably Intermediate or less. ... Who also used his +10 or more autododge bonuses while piloting it = Probably Intermediate or Advanced. ... Who then used customized ammo and comprehensive tactics to be able to solo kill The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from WB4:Africa = Probably upper range Advanced and Possibly Epic.
* GM then determines the appropriate corresponding Campaign Challenge Level and whether that level is higher than his GM abilities. Typical campaigns for experienced players are often either of Intermediate CCL that aspire to being Advanced, or Advanced CCL that aspire to being Epic.
* Knowing the expected Campaign Challenge Level the players can then actually make characters. This allows less comprehensive players to realize the difficulties they may be facing and strive to improve their game play. This also deters the more comprehensive players from creating overpowered characters for lower level campaigns.
* Once the actual characters are made the Average Player Character stats can be calculated. The characters can then be re-evaluated and possibly play tested to verify that the Campaign Challenge Level is still correct.

RATINGS COMPATIBILITY:
* BNI: Ultimately any combination of players and GM's campaign that are of Beginner, Novice, and Intermediate can usually result in a fun game session.
* A: Having any Advanced players usually requires that the GM's campaign be of either Intermediate or Advanced competence as well.
* E: The Epic level generally requires calm, patient, and mature participants or it can easily degenerate into frustration for any or all participants at any moment. Advanced characters seem more like Beginner characters if played at this level of campaign. Epic characters only play in Epic Campaigns. Special Case: upper range Advanced Campaigns may be intentionally designed by the GM to transition the characters and the campaign into being Epic.

DIFFICULTY RATINGS:

BEGINNER (B):
Basically people start off with their best guess for building a character who ends up being completely obliterated in a remarkably spectacular or equally as likely remarkably unspectacular way. No real understanding of the basic game mechanics. It may take several characters before overcoming this. This generally only occurs during first and possibly second campaign played in. Playing the game is like running through a minefield while blindfolded. Will be slaughtered in 1-on-1 combat versus similarly powerful opponents. Beginners are essentially in the process of transitioning into Novices. This is an introductory gaming level.
Play Style Example - Common Sense: Unarmored SDC player starts a fist fight with an apparent human who is actually a metamorphosed dragon. This is one of the more common - "Welcome to the mega-damage system" intros. This example may have even appeared in canon (possibly a story in the original RMB), etc.

NOVICE (N):
Has played several characters over time, usually in several campaigns and possibly with various GMs. Good grasp of the basic and essential game mechanics. Has about a 50% chance of surviving 1-on-1 combat versus similarly powerful opponents. Novices are essentially in the process of transitioning into Veterans. This is a slightly more complicated introductory gaming level.
Play Style Example - Common Sense: Usually knows better than to insult the Glitterboy with the boom gun already pointed at him.

INTERMEDIATE (I) - VETERAN:
"Veteran" of numerous campaigns, may have been a GM for some. Comprehensively builds characters utilizing essential combinations of skills, abilities, equipment, and tactics. Almost always competently wins and finishes his appropriate 1-on-1 portion of combat then moves on to aid other players, etc. This is essentially the standard competent player status. Veteran Players who are not interested in also being a GM are often fine with just being Veteran Players.
Play Style Example - Tactics Possibility: Uses a jump, flip, or other maneuver or movement to get around the opponent to gain that auto-critical from behind attack (RUE HTH Basic and Expert), etc.
Spoiler:
A basic BNI Player Group could be:
* 1 Beginner Glitterboy Pilot, 1 Novice Juicer, and 1 Intermediate Stealth Demolitions Expert (medium body armor with no penalties).
* The GM could then appropriately run a Novice challenge level campaign. A Beginner campaign would be slightly low for the Novice and Intermediate players. An Intermediate campaign would be extremely challenging for the Beginner and Novice players.
* In this group the Intermediate player could very well end up being the one that keeps the rest of the group alive via his well developed Play Style (Common Sense and Tactics).
* In terms of expectations from this group:
-- The Beginner Glitterboy Pilot: is probably as much of a danger to his group as to any opponents (firing the boom gun while standing next to the other party members..., etc). However hopefully the armor will keep him alive long enough for the other players to intervene. Either way this player is not expected to be able to win against another basic Glitterboy on his own. This is due to not understanding the game's rules or the various tactical possibilities (essential called shots vs sensors, ammo feeds, etc).
-- The Novice Juicer: is able to rely upon autododge versus most attackers, combined with whatever MDC he has, etc. While he might not be able to take out a basic Glitterboy he can probably avoid being killed by simply autododge running for cover. From there may be able to come up with a very basic plan to destroy it or simply get completely away from it.
-- The Intermediate Character is an Expert in both Stealth and Demolitions: As such he probably hasn't been detected by the Glitterboy. He then manages to use additional cover and concealment to quietly sneak around behind the Glitterboy while it searches for targets. If careful he may be able to place a heavy fusion block with a remote control detonator on the ammo line feed to the boom gun without being noticed. Sneaking away he detonates it from range eliminating the firing capability of the Boom Gun. At that point the remaining party members generally carefully eliminate the opponent. Alternatively he may have to destroy the ammo line with a called shot from concealment using whatever heavy MD rifle he's using, etc.

ADVANCED (A) - ELITE:
Elite Veteran of even more campaigns, has almost always been a GM for at least one (usually an Intermediate CCL campaign). Uses at least one truly exceptional, moderately obscure, combination of skills, abilities, equipment, and tactics. Able to competently regularly eliminate at least 2-to-1, as many as 5-to-1, or even 10-to-1 apparently similarly powerful opponents. These reflect the three sub-levels of: Lower Advanced (2, 3 or 4:-to-1), Medium Advanced (5, 6 or 7:-to-1), and Upper Advanced (8, 9, or 10:-to-1) which are essentially simply at the GMs discretion. Maintaining interesting and challenging combat situations (without reverting to extreme overkill) can begin to become a challenge for the GM. This is the "Elite" level to which most players eventually aim to achieve with their characters. This is NOT a slaughterfest, the players are genuinely challenging their characters and wits to maintain this level of competence. The player's characters are still easy enough to understand that the GM can simply put in more powerful or higher level equivalent versions of them to keep things challenging if nothing else.
Play Style Example - Character Design Possibility: Autododges 90% to 95% of attacks (excluding missile volleys of 4+).
Spoiler:
A simple, cohesive teamwork-based party of this type might be:
* A Phaeton Juicer (original vehicle operating juicer) or possibly any type of autododging pilot as of RUE. The autododge bonus should ideally be +10 or more. A Physical Prowess of 30 or more is usually fairly easy for the autododging classes. Especially for those with access to physical skills that provide a bonus to Physical Prowess. The P.P. of 30 or more provides almost all of that bonus. Combining this with the class bonus for at least a few more points to the bonus should enable it to easily reach +10 or more. An unrelated secondary character aspect includes having some limited psionics (random minor or major, etc) which can help backup the TW activations (see below).
* Operating a heavily modified Glitterboy Transport (WB22:FQ): maximized speed, extra MDC - especially force fields, Techno-Wizard additions - instantly renewable max MDC force fields, immunity to energy, possible stealth via invisibility options, etc. Is able to autododge for the entire group due to it effectively being a single vehicle. It can easily be further modified to function as a mobile GB repair base, ammo loading and storage facility (due to its huge troop and thus storage capacity). The small Reloader Hover Vehicle in WB22:FQ repairs and reloads GBs via minimal space making it a good basis for the repair base comparison.
* Most of the remaining party members operate glitterboys locked-in via feet anchors acting as turrets (4 or 6 maximum?). This turret portion is standard usage by design for this vehicle.
* At least one caster and/or possibly psionic character co-pilots, while activating and reactivating TW abilities on the transport. The primary effect is refreshing the maxed out MDC magic force field 150+ MDC each time it is depleted or nearly depleted. This enables the 150 MDC field to be replaced each time caster and/or psionic character has an attack. Around 200+ PPE and/or ISP is ideal (both if possible) for several melees of constant MDC field refreshing. Careful use of the TW mods of Impervious to Energy, Invisibility (Superior), and so forth are also helpful.
* Boom Gun Ammo Note: Custom MD silver or MD wood boom gun flechette rounds for anti-supernatural capabilities and other custom ammo expand the usefulness of this weaponry. There are several methods for making these. MD wood is very easy via various magics (finding a MDC forest, using Ironwood spell, etc). MD silver is a bit more challenging to obtain and to make since it requires advanced science or magic (Mystic Kuznya from WB18:MR, Rogue Scientist, etc; various forum postings address this topic). Boom Gun Ammo is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective ammo to build customized versions of. It uses single shot, flechette rounds. This ammo is slightly larger than a grenade yet smaller than a mini-missile. Each is a capsule filled with jagged slivers and shards of MDC material. The electromagnetism of the rail gun propels the capsule and thus it contents at combative speeds. This means as long as the internal slivers are razor sharp and MDC then any material is fine for full standard boom gun damage. ANY degree of Weapon Engineer or equivalent (Field Armorer, etc) can build standard boom gun ammo out of battlefield scrap metal. This simple ammo can easily be built utilizing a simple weapon engineering tool kit (laser torch/scalpel) and possibly a simple workspace such as a bench/desk surface in a vehicle, a flat level tree stump or the battlefield remains of a vehicle/robot vehicle. Add in a simple custom mold or two to precisely bend the metal for the outer casing around completes and radically speeds up the process. With materials properly arranged should be able to conservatively hand-make about 1 round per minute (60/hour). A properly programmed labor-bot could probably build these 24 hours a day if need be (1440/day at same rate, or more with GM approval). Very few rounds are typically used for each combat encounter so always having enough is easy to maintain by building them while traveling or during downtime. Even buying Boom Gun Ammo from ammo suppliers is dirt cheap (<150 credits each, possibly as low as 1 or 2 credits each; RUE?). Players can also build or obtain the special materials elsewhere then bring them to a NPC weapon-smith to combine them into functioning ammo.
* No doubt many other possibilities or add-ons could be included as well, these are just some of the basics.
* Team Summary: So presuming 4 GB as turrets on the party transport, +1 autododging pilot, +1 caster/psi this group should be able to take out 12 to 60 stationary organized GB opponents. This is primarily due to the benefit of the transport pilot's autododge further protected by the caster's instantly renewable 150+ MDC force shield absorbing up to that amount for each of the caster's attacks. Anti-missile defense system(s) are also essential for shooting down incoming volleys of 4+ missiles (can't autododge them). This ideally requires the standard and possibly additional mini missile launchers (common availability, least expensive missiles, mini missiles require minimal storage space). Countering missile attacks could possibly be achieve by using: the pilot's actual attacks and/or requiring another party member as a designated gunner/missile shooter. A labor robot with combat programs might make a decent substitute for this. Further, the Impervious to Energy eliminates roughly half of the hi-tech weapons and missiles from being able to do damage. Of the remaining physical damage weapons most are rail guns (burst weapons with low attack bonuses), the less powerful missile types (fragmentation, armor piercing), or melee weapons. Additional tactics could include the use of a TW invisibility (superior) addition for: infiltration, safely traveling long distances, or stealthy quick exits from overwhelming combat, etc.
* Combat Note 1: Statistically at 20 or more opponents means at least one of them is rolling a natural 20 each round which can only be autododged on a natural 20.
* Combat Note 2: Ironically the GBs as "turrets" should require a basic called shot to be hit.
* GB Transport's various built-in weapon systems allow non-GB party members to have other combat options available to them.
* Individually: When unable to utilize the GB Transport (indoors, underground, etc) each member of that team should still be able to function in at least lower end of the Advanced category. As listed above the characters' key basic gear is fairly straightforward. Only the very basic elements of the characters are listed: 1 autododging pilot (possibly with limited psionics), 1 caster (with high PPE and possibly ISP as well), 4 GB pilots (many class possibilities), +1 missile countermeasures gunner (most likely a combat programmed labor robot), plus room for several more crew/party members.
* Combined Output: As the GB Transport combat team they are functioning as 6 medium to upper end Advanced characters. As a team via this combo they might be able to take on 1 lesser Epic character.
* TW Modification Note: TW Mods in RUE can basically be used to build or modify virtually anything in any way. The original Rifts Main Book had a limited selection of specific TW Mods (RMB p93). The above mods essentially just use the original mods for simplicity. The comprehensive "anything TW" RUE building system further enables TW Mods, TW Items, or TW Variations that are not on that list. Using the RMB list for inspiration and the anything's possible under the RUE TW system could just simplify it to: Armor of Ithan for the MDC by just doubling or tripling the RMB Power Armor PPE creation costs and credit/BMI cost per 10 MDC. Aim for a level 15 Techno-Wizard to initially build the modifications. Various possibilities allow for higher than level 15 beings: Ancient Dragons, Sea Titans (WB7: Underseas), quite possibly any XP class that uses the dragon XP table, exceptional beings that exceed level 15 (main doctor in WB13: Lone Star, etc), etc. A higher MDC per level spell effect might be possible as well.
* CS Note: This is probably a good example of why the CS doesn't like people running around with GB gear (hehe).
* Overall Basic Crew Nicknames: Prosek's Bane, Prosek's Headache, CS Hunters, @#%@#ing Autododging Flying Glitterboys, Air-to-Air GBs, GB Jets, etc.
* This Rather Lengthy Example: was intended to illustrate the level of dedication and detail needed to function at this level. Even then only the basic combination of key combat gear and their modifications are covered. Only the individual crew members key statistics were covered leaving innumerable ways of building such a group.

EPIC (E):
The combinations of species (or subspecies), abilities, skills, tactics, and/or equipment have reached brutal levels of effectiveness. Huge portions of core material opponents are completely ineffective vs the characters. Being able to appropriately challenge one character without slaughtering the rest of the group can become difficult. This rating can perhaps cover the widest range of abilities since it technically lacks an upper limit (a few basic exceptions exist, see below).
The majority of an Epic character's abilities are brutally effective combinations of:
* Immunities: Physical, Energy, Magic, Psionic, etc.
* 1000s or even 10000s of easily renewable MDC.
* Inflict 100s or 1000s of MDC from a single attack: which has nearly unlimited use including via excessive ammo, PPE, ISP, etc and is their main combat attack.
* Ridiculous personal mobility: mach speeds, teleporting, phasing (intangibility, etc), nearly undetectable stealth, autododge with huge bonus, etc.
* Various other epic and nearly game-breaking abilities: building rune weapons (customized greatest then paired weapons), and so forth.
* A character that reaches the point of being either Immune to all forms of attack or able to automatically eliminate any target will probably be unplayable. This would be a GM level of power not an epic level of power (hehe).
Ideal Usage:
* A campaign specifically designed to function for this power level of characters.
* Running such a campaign should not be more than a mild to medium challenge for the GM. Epic GM is best, Advanced GM may be possible, Intermediate GM very unlikely.
* An appropriate canon setting might be open warfare in Atlantis that appropriately humbles the characters into more subtle tactics. Those player characters that are immune to magic should be still be overwhelmed. Even if further combined with immunity to physical and energy, such characters will still be blasted with psi-attacks for damage and other effects.
* Custom empires, creatures, and so forth may also be necessary.
* Epic Characters tend to develop Epic Enemies in offended empires and organizations. As such they are usually known in the upper ranks of enemy empires: Splugorth, various pantheons, etc. While this is not usually the leaders of such empires it may quite possibly include their head of security or military.
* The various Lore skills may end up including details about epic characters just as for any famous powerful being (Lore:Magic, etc).
Play Style Example - Combined Abilities Effectiveness: Able to either completely destroy or completely bypass all opponents from a particular empire. The CS with its limited psionics and limited independent vanguard magic ends up having gaps in its defenses. Combinations of ridiculous mobility abilities are ideal for this particular incursion. Immunities are also helpful and finally damage is necessary. Could literally travel unimpeded through enemy lines, kill Prosek, and then back out again.
Spoiler:
An Expanded Version of this is:
* Immunity to energy and/or physical: invulnerability major superpower, werebeasts, vampires, well built evil shaman converted human-like being (Spirit West or New West), or other sources.
* Have thousands of easily renewable MDC: possibly instantly and ideally full MDC recovery in less than 1 hour. Less than 10 minutes is better while less than 1 day may still be feasible. These sources are typically: force fields via major superpower, magic tattoos + high level, or other magic source. Is also possible via huge SDC to MDC conversion using Japanese Mystic Martial Arts powers + Sixth Sense to always activate in time + easy SDC healing. Other methods also exist.
* Huge MD attacks inflicting sustainable hundreds or even thousands of MD per hit requiring only one attack for each such damage:
-- Custom built TW Annihilator weapons: 100s of MD per hit, auto-hit if 30 feet or less range includes NO dodge or autododge at that range, total disintegration if target reduced to zero MDC/SDC/HP - includes vampires, etc.
-- Master Psychic Cyber-Knight (extra MD: 1D6 CWC, fairly sure its +4D6 as of RUE) dual wielding Psi-Swords + Gene-splicer x2 (= +100% base) one psi-power damage + psyscape training x2 (= +100% base) one psi-power damage + high level. Yields dual wielding two 21D6 psi-swords CWC CyberKnights (30D6 RUE?) with no ISP cost or duration limits. If multi-arm/limb effect is allowed use 4-arm being, plus autocrit x3 attacking from behind (HTH Expert + medium level character), etc. = 30D6 x 4 arms x 3 autocrit = 360D6 or 4D6x90 or 1D6x360 MD each round total. Even if limited to 2 arms could still inflict 180D6 MD or 18D6x10 or 2D6x90 or 1D6x180 MD. For a few more minor MD add in South America psi-sword augmenting device.
* Ridiculous mobility: faster than any opponents, constant teleporting, phasing (intangibility superpower or ability; full astral travel not just projection - extremely rare possibly unique ability - source?; etc), nearly undetectable stealth, huge autododge (natural 20 to be hit for 90%+ of opponents), etc.
* Various other abilities, contacts, etc: rune weapon building (paired weapons of: customized versions incorporating obscure greatest with nearly double boom gun damage each combined with brutal special abilities on hit; CB2:Pantheons? for base damage; WB2: Atlantis? for instant kill; = 10D6x10 MD plus autocrit x3 attacking from behind (HTH Expert + medium level character) = 30D6x10 MD or 2D6x150 MD or 1D6x300 MD per round + virtually unresistable instant kill/damage multiplier, etc.), etc.

COMMON INDIVIDUAL PLAYER STATS:
Beginner: GM discretion.
Novice: GM discretion.
Intermediate: 60 to 180 MD. 600 to 1000 MDC. Up to 3000 MDC Group Vehicle.
Advanced: 180 MD to 360 MD. 1000 to 3000 MDC. Up to 9000 MDC Group Vehicle.
Epic: 360 to 3000+ MD. 3000 to 20000+ MDC.


PART TWO: CREATING BALANCED YET CHALLENGING COMBAT ENCOUNTERS.

PLAYER COMBAT ENCOUNTER SURVIVABILITY:
Each player rating has a basic ratio for dealing with 1-on-1 versus similarly powered opponents.
Beginner (1): Unable to survive 1-on-1.
Novice (2): 50% survivability 1-on-1.
Intermediate (3): should win 1-on-1.
Advanced (4): should win 2-to-1, 5-to-1, or even 10-to-1.
Epic (5): is more of "me versus that entire empire over there." The ratio for any epic encounter is entirely at the discretion of the GM. Note: for each group of 20 opponents one of them is statistically rolling a natural 20 on each attack. This is rendered irrelevant if the character is immune to the effects.

Special: Beginners in Beginner Campaign Challenge Level campaigns have a 10% to 25% survivability 1-on-1 or whatever the GM prefers. In any other CCL it is treated as 0%. Beginners may be in "introduction to the gaming system campaigns" of Beginner CCL. Alternatively they may be in higher level campaigns where they have difficulty effectively contributing in combat even if heavily armed and armored.

CAMPAIGN COMBAT ENCOUNTER DIFFICULTY:
The campaign uses the Campaign Challenge Level which is essentially a kind of average of all the Player Competence Levels.
* Each player level has a rank number from 1 to 5. Add together all of the ranks from all from all of the players. Then divide this by the number of players and round up if .5 or more. This will give the closest appropriate Campaign Challenge Level.
* This Campaign Challenge Level is then applied as if it were the Player Competence Level of all players when utilizing the various 1-on-1 ratios.
* Having any Advanced Player Characters means the minimum Campaign Challenge Level should be Intermediate.
* Epic Player Characters should really only play in Epic Challenge Level Campaigns.

Example 1: One player each of: Beginner (1x1), Novice(1x2), and Intermediate (1x3). The appropriate basic Campaign Challenge Level is Novice [(1+2+3)/3 = 2 = Novice]. This means they each treated as if having a 50% survivability in 1-on-1 versus similarly powered opponents. Presuming all three player characters were Glitterboys then an appropriate challenge for the group would be versus 1.5 Glitterboys (50% x 3). Thus an appropriate challenge for the group would be 1 Glitterboy, or 1 GB + 1 medium power armor unit, or 1 GB + 2 heavy body armor infantry units. For a quick comparison by using the individual player competence levels instead the amount would still be 1.5 Glitterboys (1x0 Beginner, 1x0.5 Novice, 1x1.0 Intermediate).

Example 2: One player each of: Beginner (1x1), Novice (1x2), Intermediate (1x3), and Advanced (1x4). The appropriate basic Campaign Challenge Level is Intermediate [(1+2+3+4)/4 = 2.5 = 3 = Intermediate]. On average each should be able to win 1-on-1 versus similarly powered opponents. All four are Glitterboys so the resulting appropriate challenge for the group would be 4 Glitterboys (1 x 4). For a quick comparison by using the individual player competence levels instead the amount would be 3.5 Glitterboys (1x0 Beginner, 1x0.5 Novice,1x1.0 Intermediate, 2x1.0 Advanced).

DETERMINING AVERAGE PLAYER COMBAT STATS:
Players are unlikely to all be using the same primary gear and to always be fighting opponents using identical gear. Therefore a quick average of primary stats: maximum MD per primary single action attack and maximum MDC are used for a more effective reference to design encounters. Critical hits are not included in these maximums.

MD Per Attack: Determine the maximum amount of damage each character does with their primary single action attack. Add those together and divide by the number of players.
Example: 1 player using boom gun with 180 maximum MD, 1 with a 60 maximum MD heavy rifle, 1 caster with single action most efficient and preferred combat spell doing 30 maximum MD, 1 master psionic cyber knight dual wielding psi-swords with a total maximum of 48 MD. The average maximum MD per party member is then 80 (79.5): [(180+60+30+48)/4 = 318/4 = 79.5 = rounded up for simplicity to 80].

MDC Per Group Member: Determine the maximum MDC each party member normally has. Add those together and divide by the number of players.
Example: 1 player using super heavy power armor with 770 MDC, 1 in light power armor with 220 MDC, 1 caster with 1 action recastable personal MDC field of 60 cast-able roughly 10 times via half his PPE (presumes the other half is for offense) = 600 MDC, 1 cyberknight who lacks the bonded armor instead relies upon a tech-based custom-built heavy personal force field providing 190 MDC that replenishes itself every hour. The above group has a total of 1780 MDC, with an average of 445 MDC per party member [(770+220+600+190)/4 = 1780/4 = 445] this is then rounded up to 1800 MDC total and 450 MDC average.

AVERAGE "SIMILARLY POWERFUL OPPONENT":
Use the average player combat stats as an equivalent. Based upon how the group actually performs the stats can be adjusted accordingly. A good basic range for these is up to 25% less than the average stat. Simplifying uneven numbers by rounding up; typically by up to 5%. If the number of opponents ends in .5 simply use half of the standard maximums to determine what that .5 can apply to.
Example: For the mixed party above the stats are: 80 MD max per attack, and 450 MDC. This means the average 1-on-1 opponent base for this group would be roughly equal to a heavy power armor combatant with close to 450 MDC using a 2D4x10 MD main weapon. Power Armor, Robot Vehicles, Monsters, and other opponents in the 350 to 450 MDC range should be fine and a main weapon (or attack) in the 1D6x10 to 2D4x10 MD range should also be fine.

EQUIVALENT OF ONE AVERAGE SIMILARLY POWERFUL OPPONENT (SPO) VIA MULTIPLE OPPONENTS:
Simply try to keep the maximum MD output and maximum MDC totals of the lesser ones roughly the same as for a single regular one.
Continuing Example:
80 MD max per attack and 450 MDC.
One Opponent: 2D4x10 MD and 450 MDC.
Two Opponents: 1D4x10 MD and 220 MDC each. This is also a good reference for determining a single "0.5" similarly powerful opponent.
Three Opponents: 4D6+2 MD and 150 MDC each.
Four Opponents: 3D6+2 MD and 110 MDC each.
Five Opponents: 2D6+4 MD and 90 MDC each. 2D8 MD attacks would also be appropriate if they exist. Scaling it up to a flat 3D6 MD should also be fine.
Six Opponents: 2D6+1 MD and 75 MDC each.
And so forth...

FEWER BUT MORE POWERFUL OPPONENTS:
Simply multiply the maximum MD per attack and maximum MDC by the appropriate total actual 1-on-1 ratio of Similarly Powerful Opponents for the group.
Continuing Example: the above group of four characters is in an Intermediate Challenge Campaign yielding 4.0 SPOs (4x1). Their average SPO stats are: 80 MD per attack and 450 MDC. As such they could face any mix of opponents who's total combat stats are:
320 MD per attack maximum, and 1800 MDC. From 80 x 4 = 320 MD, and 445 x 4 = 1780 MDC = rounding up from 1780 to 1800 MDC is fine.
One Opponent: 5D6x10+20 MD and 1800 MDC.
Two Opponents: 2D6x10+40 MD and 900 MDC. 2D8x10 MD or 3D6x10 MD attacks would also be appropriate.
Three Opponents: 2D4x10+30 MD and 600 MDC. 2D6x10 MD would also be appropriate.

MIXED: COMBINATIONS OF THE THREE BASIC TYPES:
Basically the same as for "Fewer but more powerful opponents" except expanded to include average Similarly Powerful Opponents and Lesser opponents. The combined total of all units is still limited to the standard same combined total MD and MDC. This will probably be the most common way of creating encounters since it allows any combinations of any power level within the limits of the maximum MD and MDC for any encounter.
Continuing Example:
320 MD per attack maximum, and 1800 MDC for maximum combined totals.
Mixed Opponent Group 1: 1 "More Powerful" unit 2D6x10+40 MD with 900 MDC, 1 "average SPO" unit with 2D4x10 MD with 450 MDC, and 2 "Lesser" units of 1D4x10 MD with 220 MDC each. With combined totals of 320 MD and 1790 MDC.
Mixed Opponent Group 2: 3 "Average Similarly Powerful Opponent" units with 2D4x10 MD with 450 MDC each, and 2 "Lesser" units of 1D4x10 MD with 220 MDC each. With combined totals of 320 MD and 1790 MDC.
Mixed Opponent Group 3: 7 "Lesser" units of 1D4x10 MD with 220 MDC, 2 "Lesser" units of 3D6+2 MD with 110 MDC each. With combined totals of 320 MD and 1760 MDC.

EXTENDED COMBAT ENCOUNTER DIFFICULTY RANGE:
Expanding the encounter difficulty range is easy enough. Typically simply adjust either the number of opponents OR one, possibly both of the two similarly powerful opponent stats by 50%. This encounter range adjustment can be used to more appropriately balance the encounters to reflect the player's current capabilities. Alternatively it can simply provide a greater variety of appropriate power levels for combat encounters.
Easier: reduce either the number of opponents by 50% OR reduce one, possibly both of the two average Similarly Powerful Opponent stats by 50%.
Harder: increase either the number of opponents by 50% OR increase one, possibly both of the two average Similarly Powerful Opponent stats by 50%.
Overkill: +100% number of opponents, and/or +100% one or both SPO stats.

OTHER KEY FACTORS:
Each GM will have to determine which other key abilities need to be included in any given encounter. All opponents should be able to have one or two special abilities regardless of the player characters design. Also, if any of these special abilities would make the NPC too powerful then simply apply some of the reductions for "Easier" combat encounters to balance it out: -50% MD, MDC, or number of opponents. Epic opponents simply have as many as the GM deems appropriate.
Number of attacks:
-- Same amount or more opponents than player characters: Opponents can have between 50% to 100% of the amount of attacks that the player with the most attacks has. Example: If 8 attacks per melee is the most any player has, then the opponents could have 4 to 8 attacks per melee.
-- Less opponents than player characters: Opponents can have up to +50% or even +100% of the best player actions per melee if the players outnumber them by design. All at GM's discretion.
Special Abilities:
* Flight for combat: If the majority of players have flight then there is no problem including similarly flying opponents.
* Autododge: Any degree of autododge can make the players work a little harder for their victory. However this does mean more dice rolling for the GM though.
* Immunities:
-- Immunity to Energy is extremely easy to obtain due to magic and TW modifications. This means tech weaponry is then limited to physical damage types versus the target. Except for single-shot, high MD physical projectile weaponry, most physical attacks are lesser attacks: burst fire for rail guns (lower to-hit bonuses), lower MD for missiles, melee attacks, etc. Combined with autododge this is quite an easy and effective defensive combo.
-- Immunity to physical is usually limited to superhuman powers, werebeasts, vampires, and so forth.
-- Immunity to magic is quite rare (the humanoid bird-man from WB2: Atlantis), and often only available in limited ways: certain magic types only; a class that uses ISP to counter PPE expenditure; possibly a superpower, extremely high saves versus magic can help somewhat but successful saves often simply reduce the effects (see Carpet of Adhesion), power armor/vehicles, and so forth.
-- Immunity to psionics tends to be even rarer, also tending to be available in limited ways: save versus psionics on natural 1 or greater due to extremely low base save (master psychic or psi-stalker) and high save bonus; a class that uses ISP to counter ISP expenditure; possibly a superpower, heavy power armor/vehicles, and so forth.
* Limited use attacks: Volleys of missiles, and so forth. Useful opening attack weaponry for NPCs who are destroyed fairly quickly.
* Various Other Special Abilities: Faster than fastest player speeds, teleporting, nearly undetectable stealth, phasing (intangibility, etc), and so forth. All at GM discretion.

SUMMARY:
Check the "Quick Reference Summary Table" and the "Typical GM Quick Combat Encounter Info" in the introduction section that is prior to Part One.


PART THREE: ACTUAL OPPONENTS.

PREDETERMINED AND IMPROVISED ENCOUNTERS:
The GM now has a quick reference of basic stats used to determine encounter difficulty. This means he can now predetermine any number of generic or specific Non-Player Characters and determine how they easily fit into the encounter stat ranges. Generally the MD per attack stat is the primary stat for determining balanced encounters, while MDC is secondary. These NPCs will no doubt be anything the GM deems appropriate for his campaign and for which has or can create stats for. This can also make it easier to improvise an encounter quickly.

SIMPLIFIED SPECIFIC OPPONENT STATS:
Simple opponent designs allow the GM to keep track of fewer key relevant stats:
* Initiative Bonus (if any).
* Main ranged and melee attack: attack bonus, parry bonus, damage, damage type (physical, energy, magic, psionic, etc), attack type (single shots, bursts only, etc), range, ammo clip size, number of ammo clips.
* Attack actions per melee.
* Main body MDC, primary called shot area and MDC.
* Ground speed, other speeds.
* Special abilities.
* Preferred Tactics.
* Tougher Variations: possible additional special abilities to increase difficulty and provide variety.
* Various Other Stats: Included if GM deems them appropriate.
-- Aimed Shot Bonus: As of RUE this requires multiple attack actions to use.
-- Dodge bonus: This means NPCs are expected to trade attacks for the possibility of dodging.
-- Roll with fall/impact/explosion: This is often +0 and usually less than +5.
-- Vulnerabilities or Weakness: If any, may include less obvious tactics.
-- And so forth: All at GM's discretion.

Example:
Encounter 1: 1 unit per SPO: [80 MD, 450 MD]
A simple generic medium power armor based opponent could be listed as: +0 Initiative, +8 to hit with the 2D4x10 MD energy weapon (single shots only, rifle-style built-in arm weapon, 4000 foot range, unlimited shots), or +6 to-hit or parry with 4D6 MD punch, 6 actions per melee, 450 MDC main body with 110 MDC helmet, and 40 mph ground or 200 mph flying. Tactics: ambush, sniping, hit-and-run. For tougher variations can include: a +6 autododge, TW Impervious to Energy modification plus minor or major psionics (duration per use, number of uses), and so forth. [80 MD, 450 MDC]

RANDOM ENCOUNTERS:
GMs that enjoy random encounters can also assign a number to each of these encounter possibilities on a quick summary list. Then simply roll the most appropriate die type that covers them all; ignoring or re-rolling results without an actual corresponding encounter. These can be further refined into lists just for specific settings such as: all cities, one specific city, all wilderness, one specific wilderness (Coalition States Wilderness Territory, Federation of Magic Wilderness Territory, etc), all underwater, etc.

Some of the most common lists will probably include:
* CS Wilderness Territory Encounters: With combinations of many completely different types of CS Patrols such as mixes of Air and Ground capabilities, infantry, AI robots, power armors, robot vehicles, aircraft, tanks and APCs.

Example:
Encounter 2: Mixed Opponents: 1 APC with 3 gunners, +2 Flying Light Armors, +3 AI Robots: [320 MD, 1660 MDC]
-- 1 APC with 3 gunners: +0 initiative, +5 to-hit with 1D4x10 MD laser turret (3 turrets, single-shots, 5000-foot range, unlimited ammo), or +3 to hit with 1D4x10 MD Ramming and Running Over attack, 5 actions per melee x3 gunners, 600 MDC plus 100 MDC side hatch, 120 mph ground, 2 volleys of 4-missiles doing 4D6x10 MD with 2 mile range. Tactics: Ambush, hit-and-run. Tougher Variation: missile capacity increased to 3 to 5 volleys. [120 MD, 600 MDC].
---- Each of the crew of 3 gunners also has mostly irrelevant gear of: +0 initiative, +3 to-hit with 3D6 laser pistol (single shots, 500-foot range, 20 shots), or +3 to-hit or parry with 1D6 MD melee knife, 5 actions per melee, 70 MDC body armor with 40 MDC helmet. The laser turrets are their primary attack so this pistol is not included in the overall stats. Since the armor will eventually be relevant in actual combat (due to being boarded or via last stand) it is included in the overall stats. [zero MD, 210 MDC]
-- 2 Flying Light Armors each has: +4 initiative, +6 to-hit with 1D4x10 MD rail gun burst (bursts, 4000-foot range, 100 bursts), or +5 to-hit or parry with 3D6 MD punch, 7 actions per melee, 200 MDC plus 70 MDC helmet, 350 mph flight or 60 mph ground, 2 volleys of 2-missiles 2D6x10 MD with 1 mile range. Tactics: Ambush, snipe, hit-and-run, scouting. Tougher Variation: +4 Autododge. [80 MD, 400 MDC]
-- 3 AI Robots each has: +6 initiative, +8 to-hit with 1D4x10 MD particle beam weapon (single-shots, 3000-foot range, unlimited ammo), or +7 to-hit or parry with 4D6 MD retractable MD sword in arm, 6 actions per melee, 150 MDC plus 80 MDC head, 160 mph ground. Tactics: flushing ground targets out from hiding then either falling back to APC, or luring them into open, or leading them away if far too powerful. Tougher Variation: +6 Autododge. [120 MD, 450 MDC]

Could further break it down into having: one CS Patrol Encounter Sheet, one Creature Encounter Sheet, one Mercenary or Bounty Hunter Encounter Sheet, etc. Then randomly choose between those (roll a 1D6, 1-2 CS, 3-4 Creature, 5-6 Merc) when an encounter occurs in the CS Wilderness. Later when the players are in an unclaimed wilderness could simply roll between the Creature and Merc encounters. Later they wander into Federation of Magic Wilderness Territory and roll between FoM, Creature, and Merc encounters.

Although most likely unnecessary these can be further broken down into lists of only: average similarly powerful opponents, OR single powerful opponents, OR mixes of different power levels whose totals are the equivalent of one single powerful opponent.

RANDOM POWER LEVELS:
Those that enjoy a random power level of encounters as well can also randomize the number of Similarly Powerful Opponents. Simply use the Campaign Challenge Level Opponent Ratio MULTIPLIED by the number of actual players. Use that resulting number. Find a die type where that number is one of the middle numbers on that die. Then just roll that die and use those results. Note: A single die is used since it provides equal chances of each result.

Example: CCL Intermediate has 1-on-1 ratio and there are four players yielding a total of four SPO. Both a 1D6 and a 1D8 have "4" as one of their middle numbers (3,4 on 1D6; 4,5 on 1D8). The GM can simply then use whichever die type seems appropriate: 1D6 easier challenge, 1D8 tougher challenge. The Extended Combat Encounter Difficulty Range is also precisely covered for a base 4 SPO group when using a 1D6: -50% = 2; +50% = 6. The extension to that range is a possible "1" result. It does however also add in the possibility of a 3 or 5 result.

Variation Example: Advanced CCL: CCL Advanced is a special case since it already has a range of opponent ratios from 2-on-1 to 10-on-1. As such rather than randomize the number of SPO simply randomize the ratio. Roll 1D10 and use the result as the opponent ratio. 1 = 1-on-1, 2 = 2-on-1, and so forth up to 10 = 10-on-1. However using a narrower range is also fine. Lower Advanced groups could use a 1D4 or 1D6. Medium Advanced groups could use a 1D6 or 1D8. These ratios are at the GMs Discretion.

Example: Random Power Level for Encounter 1 versus the Continuing Player Example (see Quick Combat Encounter Sheet):
CCL Intermediate 1-on-1, with 4 players = 4x1 = 4 SPO. So use a 1D6 (for easy to hard) or 1D8 (for easy to overkill) for random power level. SPO rated at 80 MD and 450 MDC. The solitary opponent type in this encounter is an Average Similarly Powerful Opponent. The randomly rolled number of SPO for this encounter is then simply the number of units of this type.
1D8 Rolled (Overkill range) = Adjusted number of units.
1 = 1 Generic Medium Power Armor unit.
2 = 2 Generic Medium Power Armor units.
3 = 3 Generic Medium Power Armor units. Standard 3 player Encounter for this group, if one was absent from the current gaming session.
4 = 4 Generic Medium Power Armor units. Standard 4 player Encounter for this group.
5 = 5 Generic Medium Power Armor units.
6 = 6 Generic Medium Power Armor units.
7 = 7 Generic Medium Power Armor units.
8 = 8 Generic Medium Power Armor units.

Example: Random Power Level for Encounter 2 versus the Continuing Player Example (see Quick Combat Encounter Sheet):
CCL Intermediate 1-on-1, with 4 players = 4x1 = 4 SPO. So use a 1D6 (3,4 middle numbers: for easy to hard) or 1D8 (4,5 middle numbers: for easy to overkill) for random power level. SPO rated at 80 MD and 450 MDC. This is a mixed unit encounter based on the total sum of all SPO stats which is then divided however the GM prefers. The randomly rolled number is simply used as a multiple of the SPO stats. The differing totals allow the GM to determine which combination of units can be used for this encounter.
1D8 Rolled (Overkill range) = Adjusted number of units.
1 = 80 MD, 450 MDC. = Reduced to just 2 Flyers.
2 = 160 MD, 900 MDC. = APC, 1 Flyer.
3 = 240 MD, 1350 MDC. = APC, 1 Flyer, 2 Robots. Standard 3 player Encounter for this group, if one was absent from the current gaming session.
4 = 320 MD, 1800 MDC. = APC, 2 Flyers, 3 Robots. Standard 4 player Encounter for this group.
5 = 400 MD, 2250 MDC. = APC, 3 Flyers, 4 Robots.
6 = 480 MD, 2700 MDC. = APC, 4 Flyers, 5 Robots.
7 = 560 MD, 3150 MDC. = APC, 5 Flyers, 6 Robots.
8 = 640 MD, 3600 MDC. = 2 APCs, 4 Flyers, 6 Robots.

ABSENT PLAYERS:
When running a campaign with 4 or more players occasionally one or more of those players will be absent from the current gaming session. In that case just reduce the number of players used to calculate the number of Similarly Powerful Opponents. Generally there is no need to recalculate the average Similarly Powerful Opponent stats (MD and MDC) though it can be done if the GM prefers.

Example: For both Encounter 1 or Encounter 2:
CCL Intermediate 1-on-1, normally has 4 players = 4x1 = 4 SPO. However only 3 players are able to play in the current game session = 3x1 = 3 SPO. When rolling for the Random Power Level of Encounters simply roll a 1D4 (with 2,3 middle numbers) or 1D6 (with 3,4 middle numbers). If simply using it as a Preset Power Level encounter then simply treat it as a set Random Power Level Encounter of a die roll of 3, instead of the usual 4.

EXAMPLE RANDOM ENCOUNTER SHEET:
Spoiler:
EXAMPLE RANDOM ENCOUNTER SHEET:

Random Encounters:
* Roll the lowest die type that includes the highest Encounter number. In this example that is a 1D4 for highest Encounter number of 3. Re-roll any results without a corresponding Encounter number.

Random Power Levels:
* Determine the number of Similarly Powerful Opponents (Current Number of Players MULTIPLIED by Campaign Challenge Level Opponent Ratio).
* Choose a die type where that resulting number is one of its middle numbers. 2 SPO = 1D4 (2,3); 3 SPO = 1D4 (2,3) or 1D6 (3,4); 4 SPO = 1D6 (3,4) or 1D8 (4,5).
* When multiple die types can be used then the lower die type is typically for Easier to Harder encounters. The higher die type is for Easier to Overkill encounters.

01 Encounter: 1 unit per SPO Generic Medium Power Armor: [80 MD, 450 MD]
1 SPO Generic Medium Power Armor based opponent could be listed as: +0 Initiative, +8 to hit with the 2D4x10 MD energy weapon (single shots only, rifle-style built-in arm weapon, 4000 foot range, unlimited shots), or +6 to-hit or parry with 4D6 MD punch, 6 actions per melee, 450 MDC main body with 110 MDC helmet, and 40 mph ground or 200 mph flying. Tactics: ambush, sniping, hit-and-run. For tougher variations can include: a +6 autododge, TW Impervious to Energy modification plus minor or major psionics (duration per use, number of uses), and so forth. [80 MD, 450 MDC]
-- Random Power Level (die roll): Die roll = number of units.

02 Encounter: Mixed Opponents: 1 APC with 3 gunners, +2 Flying Light Armors, +3 AI Robots: [320 MD, 1660 MDC]
-- 1 APC with 3 gunners: +0 initiative, +5 to-hit with 1D4x10 MD laser turret (3 turrets, single-shots, 5000-foot range, unlimited ammo), or +3 to hit with 1D4x10 MD Ramming and Running Over attack, 5 actions per melee x3 gunners, 600 MDC plus 100 MDC side hatch, 120 mph ground, 2 volleys of 4-missiles doing 4D6x10 MD with 2 mile range. Tactics: Ambush, hit-and-run. Tougher Variation: missile capacity increased to 3 to 5 volleys. [120 MD, 600 MDC].
---- Each of the crew of 3 gunners also has mostly irrelevant gear of: +0 initiative, +3 to-hit with 3D6 laser pistol (single shots, 500-foot range, 20 shots), or +3 to-hit or parry with 1D6 MD melee knife, 5 actions per melee, 70 MDC body armor with 40 MDC helmet. The laser turrets are their primary attack so this pistol is not included in the overall stats. Since the armor will eventually be relevant in actual combat (due to being boarded or via last stand) it is included in the overall stats. [zero MD, 210 MDC]
-- 2 Flying Light Armors each has: +4 initiative, +6 to-hit with 1D4x10 MD rail gun burst (bursts, 4000-foot range, 100 bursts), or +5 to-hit or parry with 3D6 MD punch, 7 actions per melee, 200 MDC plus 70 MDC helmet, 350 mph flight or 60 mph ground, 2 volleys of 2-missiles 2D6x10 MD with 1 mile range. Tactics: Ambush, snipe, hit-and-run, scouting. Tougher Variation: +4 Autododge. [80 MD, 400 MDC]
-- 3 AI Robots each has: +6 initiative, +8 to-hit with 1D4x10 MD particle beam weapon (single-shots, 3000-foot range, unlimited ammo), or +7 to-hit or parry with 4D6 MD retractable MD sword in arm, 6 actions per melee, 150 MDC plus 80 MDC head, 160 mph ground. Tactics: flushing ground targets out from hiding then either falling back to APC, or luring them into open, or leading them away if far too powerful. Tougher Variation: +6 Autododge. [120 MD, 450 MDC]
-- Random Power Level (die roll):
---- 1 = 2 Flyers.________________ [80 MD, 450 MDC]
---- 2 = APC, 1 Flyer.____________ [160 MD, 900 MDC]
---- 3 = APC, 1 Flyer, 2 Robots.____ [240 MD, 1350 MDC]
---- 4 = APC, 2 Flyers, 3 Robots.___ [320 MD, 1800 MDC]
---- 5 = APC, 3 Flyers, 4 Robots.___ [400 MD, 2250 MDC]
---- 6 = APC, 4 Flyers, 5 Robots.___ [480 MD, 2700 MDC]
---- 7 = APC, 5 Flyers, 6 Robots.___ [560 MD, 3150 MDC]
---- 8 = 2 APCs, 4 Flyers, 6 Robots. [640 MD, 3600 MDC]

03 Encounter: More Poweful Opponent: 1 Monster from a Rift: [320 MD, 1800 MDC]
-- Abyssal-Shadow Land-Squid: A headless centaur-shaped creature, with six grasshopper-like legs, four octopus-like tentacle arms ending in razor-sharp talons, a snake-like tail whose tip is covered in small jagged spikes. Its upper body ends at the shoulders since it has no neck or head. It does have some kind of mouth with razor sharp teeth in the middle of its chest though. Its upper body fully rotates at the base so it can lay perfectly flat. It is pitch black in color, not reflecting any light, seeming more like a walking shadow. +8 Initiative, +15 to-hit and parry with 1D4x80 MD from all four tentacles attacking at once (4D4x20 MD if GM preference, 40-foot reach, instantly regrow before the next action if destroyed, reminiscent of a single strike roll with WP Paired Weapons applied to all tentacles, high animal-intelligence ambush hunter), or +25 to-hit with 1D4x40 MD from Psi-Blasts that simultaneously shoot out of the end of the tips of all of the four tentacles (10 mile range, unlimited usage, only used if tentacles ineffective OR if target perceived as rival predator), 16 actions per melee, 1800 MDC Main Body and 200 MDC per tentacle, 200 mph ground or 500 mph running leap gliding or can hover in place by unknown means (anti-gravity capabilities) or True Flight ONLY while in space 50000 miles per hour, Naturally Impervious to Energy, 75% Prowl in low-light conditions if stationary or gliding, heals 100 MDC per hour at ley lines and large energy sources (volcanoes, power stations, the radiation in outer space, etc) otherwise 10 MDC per hour, can leap unlimited heights (even into space where it can survive), and navigates via a 360-degree sense functions like a 3D X-Ray version of Sonar (10 mile range, however in the radiation-soaked emptiness of outer space this increases to a solar system wide range limited to locating 30-storey building sized or larger objects - like a spider in its web, this sense cannot be disrupted or fouled by any known means). This carnivorous creature is also essentially a giant energy sponge with nearly unlimited energy storage. Tactics: Ambush, retreat at 20% or less MDC, and hit-and-run (versus other predators only). Tougher Variations: +6 Autododge. Vulnerabilities: The Panic Button (hehe) = Huge volleys of Armor Piercing or Fragmentation missiles (see Coalition APC, etc).
-- Random Power Level (die roll): = Adjusted MD from 4-tentacle strike (half MD for psi-blasts), and creature MDC
---- 1 = 1D4x20 MD, 450 MDC.
---- 2 = 1D4x40 MD, 900 MDC.
---- 3 = 1D4x60 MD, 1350 MDC.
---- 4 = 1D4x80 MD, 1800 MDC.
---- 5 = 1D4x100 MD, 2250 MDC.
---- 6 = 1D4x120 MD, 2700 MDC.
---- 7 = 1D4x140 MD, 3150 MDC.
---- 8 = 1D4x160 MD, 3600 MDC.

PART FOUR: FULL RECOVERY TIME BETWEEN COMBAT ENCOUNTERS:
Recovery time between encounters generally varies based upon the individual Player's Competence Level.
* Beginner: Whatever the GM tells him.
* Novice: Whatever the books say for standard HP, SDC, MDC (innate or repairs), PPE, and ISP recovery times. Includes medical treatments, access to ley lines, MDC Vehicle Repair Shop, and so forth.
* Intermediate: Each Veteran player usually has one or two ongoing methods for speeding up his recovery time, which primarily means replenishing MDC.
-- A Typical Veteran: might have a collection of Naruni Super Heavy Personal Force Fields (Rifts Mercenaries). He begins by wearing a full or 90% full MDC one which then suffers about 75% to 100% MDC loss in a battle, thankfully with the overkill absorption rule. Between combat encounters he then has time to switch it out for a replacement full MDC one. In the meantime the other force field belts are regenerating MDC via recharging energy or whatever. He wears the force field over his Super Heavy or Heavy Body Armor for which he has backups which are stored in the group's vehicle, nearby safe-houses, or a Temporal Wizardry portable dimensional pocket.
---- Note 1: The player may only need to have one Naruni Super Heavy Force Field and then simply have to replace the energy pack when the MDC is depleted. This is only if the GM allows it. However doing so could easily result in an essentially unlimited amount of IN-COMBAT MDC. Being able to easily replace the force field's naruni e-clip ten times per combat encounter would be a huge amount of MDC. He could also then simply store dozens or even hundreds of additional naruni e-clips in the same way as with other excess gear above. Such an option is more likely to be allowed in an Advanced or Epic campaign. This is otherwise a very basic and mostly self-sufficient method.
---- Note 2: A TW modification may allow essentially the same option except its powered by PPE or double ISP meaning it inherently has a very limited number of uses.
-- Other Gear Options: Using tactics to constantly capture vehicles, robot vehicles, power armor, and body armor whenever such opponents are encountered. These backups are then stored in the group vehicle, nearby safe-houses, or wherever. Having a group innate ability teleporter (unlimited once per melee or minute is ideal) can help for storing and retrieving the lighter items from longer distances.
-- PPE: Casters who can cast the Talisman spell can make their own PPE storage containers.
-- Innate MDC: Players that rely upon their innate MDC need to have a good, constant method of healing MDC. This can be a high bio-regeneration that can fully heal the player in 1 hour or less, or ideally 10 minutes or less.
-- Other Options: Many more options exist.
* Advanced: Even more methods than Intermediate.
* Epic: Similar principles to Intermediate and Advanced except it now applies to 1000s or even 10000s of MDC, and tends to include Invulnerabilties, and so forth.


PART FIVE: OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER.

PREGAME TACTICS VS IN-GAME TACTICS:
Pregame tactics are mainly the increasingly effective combinations of abilities, skills, gear, and so forth used in the character design. These can also increase the availability of various maneuvers and tactics in-game. Applies to both PCs and NPCs.

In-game tactics are either individual or coordinated team-work efforts ranging from simple to complex actions and strategies:
* Distracting opponents.
* Ambushing opponents.
* Complex infiltration plans.
* Quick exit strategies.
* Efficiently capturing and transporting gear (loot).
* While in combat in a flat open field: firing a missile volley at the nearby ground to instantly create an elongated crater, using it as a foxhole and trench for cover and concealment while sniping medium to long range opponents, hopefully still having enough room to be evasive.
* And so forth.

GM TACTICS VS PLAYER TACTICS:
The GM typically has many NPCs to play. Out of necessity GMs will often rely slightly more on raw power for the NPCs and slightly less on in-game tactics. Most NPCs are essentially targets to be destroyed by the players so GMs don't have excess time to explore all the tactical possibilities for each.

Comparatively each player only has one character to play. The higher the quality of the playing of each character the longer it is likely to survive.
This means the player group is typically comprised of several people each of whom is developing increasing sophisticated tactics for the characters. They are also effectively a team of people who can coordinate their efforts. This also means the GM is always outnumbered in terms of actual participants. Making this all the more challenging by the GM having to divide his tactical efforts between multiple NPCs. Ultimately it is this inherent imbalance that is essentially the basis for this system.

Example: An Intermediate CCL, with 5 Intermediate and thus Tactical Players versus the solitary Intermediate GM who is outnumbered 5-to-1 in terms of actual tactical participants. Using a 1-on-1 ratio the GM sends 5 SPO NPCs to attack the players. While he does have the benefit of coordinating their efforts he is still dividing his tactical efforts between 5 NPCs. Effectively the GM is now outnumbered tactically 25-to-1. Now obviously it isn't generally quite this extreme since GMs will use many methods to offset this inherent imbalance. Ultimately using this system and GM-know-how most GMs should be able to reduce this effect to be able to effectively use the opponent ratios listed for each rank of CCL.

Comparison Example: Compare to a race between 5 experts each using their own radio-controlled car versus 1 expert having to simultaneously control five radio-controlled cars. Even if the solitary expert had the ultimate, custom built, hand-held controller just for this purpose he'd still have a heck of a challenge running them.

FURTHER RELEVANCE OF TACTICS:
This system is essentially based on the appropriate expectations of the players in terms of quality, tactical playing.

WITHOUT factoring in the tactical aspects:
* 4 Intermediate players versus 4 Intermediate Similarly Powerful Opponents should statistically only have a 50/50 chance of success.
* This by the way is the success rate of Novices who by definition do not use Tactics.

The practical side of accounting for players using their full potential of combat tactics should actually yield almost constant success for the players.

So the basic range is this:
* If the players do not play up to their full appropriate potential then they are essentially walking targets with about a 50% chance of survival.
* If they do play up to their full potential in appropriate character design (pre-game tactics), personal in-game tactics, and team-work coordinated in-game tactics then that 50% chance jumps to a fairly constant 100% winning chance.
* If the players use mild to moderate levels of their inherent tactical potential they probably have roughly a 75% chance of winning.

There are also several included ways of making encounters easier, harder, or even an overkill rating. All of these have the intention of keeping up an appropriate range of combat difficulties to keep things interesting and fun.

Standard Balanced Yet Challenging Combat Encounters Yielding an Expected 100% Player Winning Rate:
4 Beginner Players versus 1 Beginner Similarly Powerful Opponent. A basic introductory campaign level.
4 Novice Players versus 2 Novice Similarly Powerful Opponents. A more complicated introductory campaign level.
4 Intermediate Players versus 4 Intermediate Similarly Powerful Opponents. 50% of the success rate is based on comprehensive tactical gaming.
4 Advanced Players versus 8 to 40 Advanced Similarly Powerful Opponents. 50% of the success rate is based on comprehensive tactical gaming.
-- Lower Advanced vs 8 to 16 SPO; Medium Advanced vs 20 to 28 SPO; Upper Advanced 32 to 40 SPO. Subcategories of Advanced at GM's Discretion. Ratios: Lower (2, 3 or 4:-to-1), Medium (5, 6 or 7:-to-1), and Upper (8, 9, or 10:-to-1).
4 Epic Players given any encounter via GM discretion. Pre-game tactics (character design) and In-Game tactics tend to reflect the "us versus that entire empire" notion.

GAMING SKILL PROGRESSION:
This is typically any progress pattern of Beginner Player, Beginner GM, Novice Player, Novice GM, that then reaches Intermediate Player. From there the individual will ideally progress in order through: Intermediate GM, Advanced Player, Advanced GM, Epic Player, Epic GM. The main reason: the player becomes an expert at controlling one character at a certain level of skill. Building upon that the GM of the same level has to be an expert at controlling many characters often simultaneously as well as so much more. Some players may be able to seem to skip the GM side of things but will have missed out on sooo many aspects of quality gaming. These often include a lack of: humility from self-respect and knowing your true capabilities, respect for the GM and GM process, comprehensive appreciation for the game and quality gaming, and so forth. A perhaps slightly odd but essentially appropriate out-of-game comparison would be similar to the difference between a Special Forces Soldier (non-GM) and a Special Forces Leader / Instructor (GM). Martial Arts Masters who are students of a Martial Arts Master Instructor would also be similar.

EFFECTIVENESS:
Hopefully this system leads to more appropriately balanced gaming and perhaps aspirations to explore higher challenge levels.

COMPARABLE SITUATION:
In a way this is like having a group of car drivers: an Indy race car driver, a stock car driver, a smash-up-derby driver, a taxi driver, a civilian driver, and someone who just obtained their driver's license. Then deciding what race they should all drive in.
Spoiler:
Answer: Quite possibly a semi-professional, off-road, several hundred miles long desert race. Alternatively a semi-professional high speed Go-Kart race hehe.

ORIGIN:
My earliest versions of this were simply addressing the question of "What is Power Gaming" in a round-about-way by first establishing a relevant context for the issue.
http://palladium-megaverse.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=128159&start=50#p2504796
This summary and comparison system addressed more than just that issue. Since it might be of use to both players and GMs in general it seemed appropriate to move it to its own posting subject. The overall effect of the system reminded me of the Sun Tzu quote so it seemed like a good opening for this.
For anyone interested in what the current version revision number is simply use the "edited" number of "times in total" on the last line of this forum posting.

QUESTIONS:
Generally if I've written this well enough there really should not need to be any questions. Context + Process + Actual Play Testing = Part 1 + Parts 2 to 5 + Actual Play Testing = should be understandable. Depending upon GM experience it may take several play testing uses to work through the system.
If however I have left out any key piece of information or issue then by all means ask away.

_________________
If something makes the RPG experience better that's great. If not don't use it.

If not overly informative hopefully it was at least mildly amusing. Munchkin Clown Away! <fwoosh... honk, honk>


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Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2012 6:16 pm
  

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Knight

Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2011 7:05 pm
Posts: 6266
Location: Memphis, TN
It seems like the difference between Intermediate and the levels above that has more to do with character design than the actual skill with which the character is played. Is that accurate or have I missed something subtle?

--flatline


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Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2012 6:39 pm
  

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Dungeon Crawler

Joined: Tue May 20, 2008 7:41 pm
Posts: 296
Location: Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada.
Comment: Just an old dude Gamer (GM and Player) who had the honor of gaming with several great groups of folks over the years.
flatline wrote:
It seems like the difference between Intermediate and the levels above that has more to do with character design than the actual skill with which the character is played. Is that accurate or have I missed something subtle?

--flatline


Good question. I did have the following listed earlier in the posting:

"Although it focuses primarily on combative aspects it is intended to address the overall nature of the characters and campaigns."

Which I have since expanded upon to include:

"The amount of effort required to achieve the higher levels can be significantly more than the lower levels. Therefore hopefully these higher levels reflect the character's overall dedication to all aspects of playing that character."

Also, as listed an Intermediate or lesser players "may" have been a GM for one or more campaigns. However, the Advanced players have "almost always" been a GM for at least one or more campaigns. People that have chosen to GM usually have more insight into the gaming system, a greater appreciation for the quality of the gaming, and so forth.

----

Note: later clarification revisions of the original post have streamlined this further.

_________________
If something makes the RPG experience better that's great. If not don't use it.

If not overly informative hopefully it was at least mildly amusing. Munchkin Clown Away! <fwoosh... honk, honk>


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Unread postPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 10:47 am
  

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Knight

Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2011 7:05 pm
Posts: 6266
Location: Memphis, TN
So once you've identified the capability of each player, how do you then tailor the campaign difficulty level?

We've always used the old-school way of throwing a couple easy encounters at the party to determine about the level of difficulty that the party can expect to win 75% of the time when fully rested and equipped. Once established, the GM can adjust the general difficulty of the campaign by controlling how much of a chance the party has to recover after each encounter. Any encounter more difficult than this level should either be avoidable, escapable, or the result of the party's actions, not GM fiat. Some players will actively seek out more dangerous encounters, and that's awesome, but if the GM forces them on the party without means to avoid or escape them, then everyone gets mad at the GM for being a "player killer".

--flatline


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Unread postPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 1:31 pm
  

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Dungeon Crawler

Joined: Tue May 20, 2008 7:41 pm
Posts: 296
Location: Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada.
Comment: Just an old dude Gamer (GM and Player) who had the honor of gaming with several great groups of folks over the years.
flatline wrote:
So once you've identified the capability of each player, how do you then tailor the campaign difficulty level?


Identifying the basic competence range of the players allows a GM to better apply his own GM skills by appropriately adjusting his range of expectations from the players.

Much of it will have to do with the complexity of innovative tactics, common sense, information gathering skills usage (especially Streetwise, etc) and so forth that the players are likely to use.

It also has to do with how well combatively they are expected to do 1-on-1 versus similarly powered opponents.
Beginner player characters are not expected to be able to destroy similarly powerful opponents 1-on-1.
Novice should have about a 50% chance of surviving a 1-on-1 versus similarly powerful opponents.
Intermediate should win 1-on-1 versus similarly powerful opponents.
Advanced should win 2-to-1, 5-to-1, or even 10-to-1 versus similarly powerful opponents.
Epic is more of "us versus that annoying empire over there."

Having a radically mixed quality of players can make the corresponding appropriate GM campaign challenge level somewhat difficult to determine.

The BNI Player Group: is a good basic example.
* 1 Beginner Glitterboy Pilot, 1 Novice Juicer, and 1 Intermediate Stealth Demolitions Expert (medium body armor with no penalties).
* The GM could then appropriately run a Novice challenge level campaign. A Beginner campaign would be slightly low for the Novice & Intermediate players. An Intermediate campaign would be extremely challenging for the Beginner and Novice players.
* In this group the Intermediate player could very well end up being the one that keeps the rest of the group alive via his well developed Play Style (Common Sense and Tactics).
* In terms of expectations from this group:
-- The Beginner Glitterboy Pilot: is probably as much of a danger to his group as to any opponents (firing the boom gun while standing next to the other party members..., etc). However hopefully the armor will keep him alive long enough for the other players to intervene. Either way this player is not expected to be able to win against another basic Glitterboy on his own due to lack of tactics and common sense (essential called shots vs sensors, ammo feeds, etc).
-- The Novice Juicer: is able to rely upon autododge versus most attackers, combined with whatever MDC he has, etc. While he might not be able to take out a basic Glitterboy he can probably avoid being killed by simply autododge running for cover. From there may be able to come up with a very basic plan to destroy it or simply get completely away from it.
-- The Intermediate Stealth Demolitions Expert: probably hasn't been detected by the Glitterboy. Then manages to use cover and concealment to quietly sneak around behind the Glitterboy while it searches for targets. If careful he may be able to place a remote detonated heavy fusion block on the ammo line feed to the boom gun without being noticed. Sneaking away he detonates it from range eliminating the firing capability of the Boom Gun. At that point the remaining party members generally carefully eliminate the opponent. Alternatively he may have to destroy the ammo line with a called shot from concealment using whatever heavy MD rifle he's using, etc.

As a result the GM could expect this group to successfully eliminate a single Glitterboy opponent. Adding in one light power armor opponent, or one perhaps two heavy body armor opponents to the encounter might also be appropriate.

flatline wrote:
We've always used the old-school way of throwing a couple easy encounters at the party to determine about the level of difficulty that the party can expect to win 75% of the time when fully rested and equipped. Once established, the GM can adjust the general difficulty of the campaign by controlling how much of a chance the party has to recover after each encounter. Any encounter more difficult than this level should either be avoidable, escapable, or the result of the party's actions, not GM fiat.


Nice. This is a good and quite common way of verifying the players overall capabilities.

However for a quick comparison, encounters with a statistically 75% chance of winning via my system would be:

4 Beginner Players given one standard combat encounter versus 1 Beginner Similarly Powerful Opponent.

4 Novice Players given a "Harder" combat encounter versus 3 Novice Similarly Powerful Opponent, instead of their standard 2 for a balanced encounter.

4 Intermediate Players given a "Harder" combat encounter versus 5 or 6 Intermediate Similarly Powerful Opponents, instead of their standard 4 for a balanced encounter.

4 Advanced Players given a "Harder" combat encounter versus 11 to 53 Advanced Similarly Powerful Opponents, instead of their standard 8 to 40 for a balanced encounter.

4 Epic Players given any encounter via GM discretion.

Perhaps the interesting aspect is the expectations from the players in terms of quality, tactical playing.

NOT factoring in the tactical aspects, 4 Intermediate players versus 4 Intermediate Similarly Powerful Opponents should statistically only have a 50/50 chance of success. This by the way is the success rate I give to Novices who by definition do not use Tactics.

However, the practical side of accounting for players using their full potential of combat tactics should actually yield almost constant success for the players.
So the basic range is this: if the players do not play up to their full appropriate potential then they are essentially walking targets with about a 50% chance of survival.
If they do play up to their full potential in appropriate character design (pre-game tactics), personal in-game tactics, and team-work coordinated in-game tactics then that 50% chance jumps to a fairly constant 100% chance.

Ironically if the players use mild to moderate levels of their inherent tactical potential they probably have roughly a 75% chance of winning.

There are also several included ways of making encounters easier, harder, or even an overkill rating. All of these have the intention of keeping up an appropriate range of combat difficulties to keep things interesting and fun.


flatline wrote:
Some players will actively seek out more dangerous encounters, and that's awesome, but if the GM forces them on the party without means to avoid or escape them, then everyone gets mad at the GM for being a "player killer".--flatline


Balancing player capabilities to combat encounter difficulty is essentially what this system focuses on.

As a side note: Players seeking out radically more dangerous encounters is generally an indication to the GM that his encounters are not challenging enough. As such he may begin making his encounters significantly more difficult in order to appease the players.

The subtler part of this system is to inadvertently encourage the more competent players to use appropriate characters in appropriate challenge level campaigns.

It also helps less competent players recognize why the campaign is appropriately set to a slightly higher challenge level.

In this way if players are using less powerful characters than the campaign's general challenge level then at least they are aware of it before the campaign begins. As such they are hopefully doing so with the intent of still overcoming those challenges but doing so with less gear and more advanced tactics.

The wider the range of player character competence the tougher it is to determine the appropriately campaign challenge level.
For Example: if there was also an Advanced Character added to the BNI group it would mean the challenge level would have to be increased to Intermediate expectations.
This type of extreme range is tougher to balance. The Advanced Character may even be expecting to aspire to Epic greatness via character development over the course of the campaign.

Hopefully that answers your question.

----

Note: later clarification revisions of the original post have been streamlined and expanded so that hopefully it eliminated the need for these particular questions.

_________________
If something makes the RPG experience better that's great. If not don't use it.

If not overly informative hopefully it was at least mildly amusing. Munchkin Clown Away! <fwoosh... honk, honk>


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Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:55 pm
  

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Dungeon Crawler

Joined: Tue May 20, 2008 7:41 pm
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Comment: Just an old dude Gamer (GM and Player) who had the honor of gaming with several great groups of folks over the years.
Follow Up:

I actually managed to hit the 80,000 keyboard characters maximum on that posting which is part of why I had to finish it off (hehe).

It really is a very quick and simple basic combat design guideline system. It just happened to take a lot to explain it.

Any dedicated GM who is genuinely open to external concepts for improving the quality of their GM capabilities will probably find at least some of it helpful. If not open to such things then it really wouldn't matter what was written there.

Obviously even if the system is used "as-is" by anyone they will still only be adapting it to be part of their overall play style.


Ratio Clarification - Advanced Players (former Rifts GMs) Playing Less Than Advanced Power Level Characters:
- Such players are typically so innovative that they overcome any minor limitations. As such treating them as the very minimum level of Advanced Ratios is appropriate.
- Just such an advanced player (Player #4) was included as one of the main examples for the calculations above.

Usage Tip:

Random Encounter Lists are probably best if typed up and saved on a computer. That way they can be easily formatted, re-adjusted, and reprinted as need be.


Optional Add-on: More Challenging Encounters

While the system should be able to function "as-is" there is a chance that the encounters might still not be challenging enough. This is most commonly caused by the challenges that a GM faces that result in playing NPCs In-Game tactically lower than they should be. Effectively using combat NPCs more as a Rules-only (Novice) with occasional Tactical Use (Intermediate or higher). However, pregame tactics (character design) are usually completely fine for whatever the Campaign Challenge Level is since this what most gamers tend to be best at. If this occurs and the encounters end up not being challenging enough a simple fix is just increase the difficulty of the encounters. A simple way is to treat the base encounters as "Harder" (+50% number of SPO or +50% both stats). Then the more difficult encounters are increased to the "Overkill" rating (+100% number of SPO or +100% both stats). This probably won't be necessary but it is a suitable quick fix.

For Random Power Levels rolls: Just use the increased die size to reflect the higher difficulty levels (harder and overkill).

Alternatively the GM can eliminate the lower difficulties of random encounters. Simply reduce the die size used to 1D4 and add a bonus that would bring the maximum total result up to double the standard encounter SPO amount. If the normal die size is already 1D4 then can simply change it to 1D4+2 or 1D4+4. Example: The normal die is 1D6 which is changed to 1D4+4. On a 1D6 the standard number is generally 4 meaning it covers easier -50% = 2, standard = 4, to harder +50% = 6. Changed to 1D4+4 it now covers slightly harder +25% = 5, to overkill +100% (of the base 4) = 8.

Examples: Advanced Levels are normally: Lower 1D4, Medium 1D6 or 1D8, Upper 1D10. Could easily be changed to: Lower 1D4+2; Medium 1D4+2 or 1D4+4; Upper 1D4+6. All except the lowest resulting in the same upper limits (6, 8, or 10) but with all the results limited to just the highest possibilities.


Other Stuff: MDC Healing:

MDC healing usually requires a constant, innate, high MDC bio-regeneration ability to be effective since specific activated healing abilities are usually ISP or PPE powered. To enhance this some innovative use of the Increased Healing minor psychic ability should in theory double the innate bio-regeneration of any innate MDC being while active. MDC healing integration in the system is still often otherwise very limited beyond innate bio-regeneration abilities which not all innate MDC beings have. With GM approval the various HP and SDC healing psionics could also heal the target for the same amount of MDC if its an innate MDC target. All of these would still be far less powerful than the primary canon psychic MDC healing ability: Touch of Health (or Death) of the Achilles Neo-Human (WB9:SA2). For overall MDC healing integration this would actually be the more appropriate universal Super-Psionic healing ability (instead of Bio-Regeneration Super) which could be possible with GM approval. Ultimately these adjustments would simply more fully integrate psionics into the innate HP, SDC, and MDC environment of Rifts.

For those interested in exploring an Epic Character type a good place to start is the:
* Raw magic energy version of the evil shaman forbidden conversion of a human-ish being (New West or Spirit West). Human-ish basically means anything that can pass (genetically) for being a human (RUE) or human mutant: [Species = Usually minor overall SDC/MDC factor]:
-- Ogre which can breed with humans. Effectively an 'unusually large', possibly mutant human as far as qualifying for this process goes. (CB1: Revised)
-- Psi-stalker (RUE).
-- Super powered human mutant (DB4:Skraypers, and possibly other books).
-- Might need to be modified to appear more human, but otherwise one of the Psi-X (Roswell style) "aliens" (genetically altered humans) from WB13:Lone Star or WB30:D-Bees. Might require using multiple OCCs.
-- Humans from other dimensions.
-- Depending upon interpretation, a full genetic doppelganger species might work as well. WB30: D-Bees and possibly CB1: Conversions.
-- The genetically modified long-lived psionic human (Neo-human? WB9:South America 2) from one of the South America books might be possible as well. Might require using multiple OCCs.
-- And so forth.
* Start with a great OCC or RCC (fully modded RUE Master Psychic Cyber-Knight as listed in the Epic Examples might be appropriate) [Usually effectively minor overall SDC/MDC].
* Then include as many extra effects and mods as possible, particularly those that boost SDC. Fairly sure the conversion process changes SDC to MDC 1-for-1:
-- Any Special SDC boosting training: [Some SDC/MDC] Coalition Officer Training (WB11:CWC), CS Psi-Battalion Training (one of WB12:Psycape or WB11:CWC), Mercenary Training (Merc Adventure Sourcebook). Probably Psycape Astral City Training as well (WB12:Psyscape). Various Physical skills. Possibly specific empire citizen training, though none as of yet list any with SDC bonuses (WB5:Triax lists NGR citizen bonus skills, etc).
-- Magic Tattoos [Some SDC/MDC] - add SDC and PPE (limit of 6? more causes class conversion and side effects) should be able to double the bonuses via the "lesser" magic tattoos that only count as half a tattoo each for maximums but still provide full SDC and PPE bonuses each or just get 6 really good magic tattoos (WB2:Atlantis primary reference, WB21:Splynn, WB6: South America). Though may essentially be ineligible if a Master Psychic or actual Mutant.
-- Gene-splicers (SB3:Mindwerks) [Key SDC/MDC #1] (quite possibly best if done as 2nd last increase to SDC, followed by Azlum mod) adding in innate juicer or juicer variant equivalent abilities - particularly the variant with around 1000+ SDC (WB10:Juicer Uprising, Titan Juicer?) and preferably without burn-out like the various "natural" juicer races (jaguar-like humanoids, WB12:Psycape? Lanotaur Hunter?). Would also be closer to the way Super Powered Mutants gain autododge and autododge bonuses (DB4:Skraypers; Extraordinary P.P., and so forth) both in nature and lack of side-effects.
---- While Gene-splicers may have a tendency to make monstrous-looking creatures they are apt to recognize that a super-human (regardless of alignment) is likely to kill more creatures and cause more mayhem if it remains human looking. The reason: basically every creature except their immediate allies (and any contacts) tend to dislike them (either immediately or eventually).
------ Human civilizations tend to regard superhuman beings as threats or creatures to be unpleasantly scientifically studied once those powers are recognized (CS and NGR in particular). A 'human' with super-powers without the very obvious corresponding Juicer Harness, Crazie cybernetics, and so forth is therefor a non-standard being and thus a creature of interest. As such is likely to be regarded as an unknown type of infiltrator: supernatural, shapeshifter, cloaked in magic, alien, d-bee, even possibly a vampire, and so forth. Even in civilizations where these types of beings are accepted and common (Federation of Magic, etc) an "unknown" creature type is likely to attract attention. Scholars, mad scientists, information peddlers (Streetwise related beings), local authorities, local power hungry organizations (mage guilds) and so forth will likely go out of their way to investigate any "unknown" type of creature.
------ Monsters simply attack everything or may even prefer to torment humanoids especially captured Coalition State soldiers (see WB2: Atlantis).
------ Finally mercenaries tend to prey on anyone that isn't on their currently relevant team. Mercenaries a primarily interested in getting paid for being soldiers and usually don't care who or what they work with in order to achieve that. However, when not on a mission they tend to revert to being bandits, highwaymen, and other roguish tendencies. Any creature that has any significant obvious value (power armor, magic items, bounty on the individual or species, and so forth) is a probable target.
------ So leaving a human-ish being looking completely normal IS about the worst "deformity" they can impose on them (hehe). Ultimately this side note was just a long way of saying: gene-splicer mods don't have to include deformities.
---- There may be a further gene-splicer mod that doubles current total SDC [Key SDC/MDC #2]. Including the doubling of all current SDC mod would mean it may be better to have this Gene-splicer phase after the other specific SDC bonuses since it would then affect them also.
---- Including an enhanced healing rate from the Gene-Splicers is probably necessary as well, 100 SDC per minute would be okay. 100 SDC per melee (400 / min) possibly rounded up to 500 SDC per minute (particularly by the dragon hide mod below) would actually be better. Later when the shaman conversion process occurs it will also effectively change any innate HP and SDC healing rates into MDC healing rates at the same 1-to-1 ratio (or 1-to-1.X ratio if dragon hide option is used). Otherwise the being would effectively immediately begin to die and all damage would be permanent without external healing abilities. So 100 SDC per minute (or melee) will become 100 MDC per minute (or melee). A total of 3000 MDC = 30 min at 100/min (the under 1 hour Epic full healing rate) or 6 min at 500/min (the under 10 minutes Epic full healing rate). GMs may wish to limit the initial base healing rate to 99 SDC per melee so that it is not also technically initially a MDC healing rate. Then once converted with the crystal dragon hide mod bonus the adjust rate would be a little over 500 MDC per minute (well over 100 MDC per melee). Note this enhancement is technically an original one which is simply a lesser version of bio-regeneration being applied to a huge SDC being and being initially set to 99 SDC per melee so that it is a pure SDC healing rate. The 100 SDC per melee or minute in the examples above were just easier to illustrate the basic point.
---- Fairly sure there is also a double ISP mod available. Unfortunately Azlum the Asylum mod needs to be after Gene-Splicers to achieve maximum SDC so won't apply to the bonus ISP from Azlum. Alternatively could inexplicably allow a second, separate gene-splice event to occur after Azlum mod but that is excessive even for Epic (hehe). Such an occurrence would probably mean that the Gene-Splicers had "electronically tagged" (or similar) the individual with the intent of recapturing, readjusting, and re-releasing the individual as part of an ongoing experiment.
-- Azlum the Asylum psi-boost (WB2:Atlantis) [Key SDC/MDC #3] solid percentage SDC boost (thus ideal if occurs after massive SDC gene-splicing but before SDC to MDC conversion), plus big ISP boost, as well as several side effects.
---- If the psych side-effects compromise the character too much can make a quick infiltration trip to the correct Australian Tech City (WB19:Australia). There the character can get caught (with mutant city citizenship papers) doing a minor act of vandalism or such (spray painting a wall, and so forth). Resulting in a 'readjustment' penalty which subjects the individual to rehabilitation that eliminates one insanity and shifts the alignment one step further towards good. Depending upon the background story it may be better to save this Australian mod until after the final, evil shaman conversion process.
-- Due to the gene-splicing the character is effectively an advanced version of their species. As such they should be able to significantly benefit from Special Human Traits & Abilities (WB13: Lore Star, pages 96-98). Lenient GM ruling allowing them roll on the "mutant" column of that table for number of Special Human Traits & Abilities.
-- Whatever other mods people can come up with. Depending upon preferences the World Tree mod from CB2:Pantheons might be appropriate. The Sea Inquisitor mod (WB7: Underseas) is interesting but has significant restrictions on its use (limited OCCs, etc).
-- [Key SDC/MDC #4] Might actually be possible to include effects from using a small piece of the hide of a Zaayr Crystal Dragon (WB12:Psyscape) as part of the evil shaman Spirit Man-Monster conversion process (WB15: Spirit West). Presumably by grinding it down into a powder and sprinkling it over the human being converted (or whatever). Essentially a minor variant on the primary magics normally affected by it (Bio-Wizardry and Alchemical creations, as well as Techno-Wizardry). If permitted it would be a significant boost (+X%) to all aspects of the conversion process. Boosting the SDC to MDC conversion rate from 1-to-1 to 1-to-1.X. Boosting all stat bonuses and so forth by +X%.
---- There is a potential drawback/limitation to this conversion process: That could conceivably be resolved by creating a unique TW Gizmoteer Device utilizing a combination of Mind Bond and Total Recall as thematic component elements rather than literal aspects. The end result being a TW Gizmoteer Memory Backup Device. 100 ISP to activate and completely backup an individual's memory (similar to a perfect full level mental Doppelganger; see Spell of Legend, CB1?), perfectly storing it for 30 days unless drained before then. After 30 days the information simply dissipates thus emptying the device of all content. Any time before then the same individual (will not function for anyone else) can perfectly restore their memory by expending 100 ISP. The restoration drains the device which can then be reloaded again by the same process by anyone. This fully restores / heals the individual of all missing or otherwise destroyed memories, experience, levels, spell knowledge, magic knowledge, psi-abilities, special training, and so forth. This is mainly a protection versus various mind drain effects: Mind Bleeder skill drain powers, evil shaman Man-Monster conversion processes side effects, Mind Wipe, and so forth. The Spirit Man-Monster conversion process full mental restoration could have an additional limitation that it will only function if performed at a ley line nexus while also shapechanged into its human form. This could further lock it into this human form (now unlimited duration and simply natural form) as its base form without hindering its other shapechange forms (mostly a story element side effect of essentially partially restoring their humanity). To avoid ruining a character the device will simply not function for restoration attempts on a Spirit Man-Monster until: nexus + shapechange human + activation occurs. Thus preventing accidental erasure of the stored information.
* Ultimately should end up being a low-end, very well rounded Epic Character. Both primary invulnerabilities (Physical and Energy), innate ridiculous mobilities, limited selection of ANY magic spells of ANY TYPE from ANYWHERE in the universe PLUS possible all standard magic spells via World Tree mod, 3000 to 4000+ MDC, fully heals ALL MDC in 6 to 8 minutes (500+ MDC regen per minute), basic unlimited use dual psionic backstab melee attack total of roughly 2D6x90 MD (see Part One, Epic, Spoiler in original posting), and so forth. [Might be considered lenient in regards to the psi-swords.]
* Backstory: The precise order of events and travels that led to this combination of effects should always be included whenever these types of mods are used as part of Character Creation. As such they provide the GM with a probable list of sources of enemies that are likely to accompany any such pre-campaign adventures. Examples: an Azlum escapee might become a priority target if he became a noticed menace on Atlantis, and so forth.
-- Important note for multiple continent access: Besides random rifting or whatever, Atlantis minions and their affiliates travel to all of the continents. So being captured by either, transported to Atlantis, then escaping from there (possibly by stowing away on exiting vessel) is often the most canon plausible way of doing so. Atlantis even intentionally lets captured beings "escape" into a designated hunting area (The Preserves?) for the purposes of hunting them down.
* Comprehensive Build vs Easy Build: Basically this seemed like a good example because it was a comprehensive build that covered a significant list of factors. Thus any easier Epic Build designs should be easier to make minor adjustments to in order to fill in any missing epic character build components.
* Summary of Rifts Books listed in this example:
-- Species: RUE, WB9:South America 2, WB13:Lone Star (or WB30:D-Bees), CB1: Revised.
-- Mods: WB2:Atlantis, WB5:Triax, WB6: South America, WB7: Underseas, WB10:Juicer Uprising, WB11:CWC, WB12:Psycape, WB15: Spirit West, WB21:Splynn, Merc Adventure Sourcebook, SB3:Mindwerks, CB2:Pantheons.
-- Other: DB4:Skraypers.
-- Note: ideal minimum essential books for the above example are underlined.


The Irony Of Writing Anything Whatsoever.

Everyone out of necessity has their own way of doing things. Further everyone tends to believe their stuff is awesome. There's nothing wrong with either of that. So writing anything whatsoever is basically a shot-in-the-dark at best for the likelihood of being useful to other folks. Anyway it was an interesting challenge to write all of that stuff up from scratch. It really is just a simplified summary of GM know-how of techniques that were obvious to me but that I did not have a need to attempt to explain to anyone else before. My actual gaming days are long gone but I still have the occasional moment of nostalgia where I challenge myself to see if I could perhaps be some degree of writer for the subject. Since I'm not currently a published gaming writer I'm essentially a Gaming Coach. Enjoy the gaming while it lasts folks. Be well.


Related Side Note (Don't Ask):
April 30, 2012. :D

_________________
If something makes the RPG experience better that's great. If not don't use it.

If not overly informative hopefully it was at least mildly amusing. Munchkin Clown Away! <fwoosh... honk, honk>


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