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Do we need Soak/Hardness distinction?

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  • Do we need Soak/Hardness distinction?

    I must admit that Hardness is for me one of most quirky aspects of the mechanic. In theory, this seems like a good idea. Hardness 20 granted by a charm is a considerable advantage. However, for the most part it seems to me essentially useless:
    - most effects that grant hardness, sets it in the range 2-5,
    - it doesn't stack, so at the end of the day, it's 10 or less,
    - attacks rarely take place when Initiative scores are so low.

    I mean, it has some uses. There are many sources of extra decisive damage, so if you can add 5, then maybe it sometimes makes sense to make many low-initiative attacks instead of worrying about gathering initiative. Or maybe your opponent can make multiple attacks and could divide that Initiative between them. Hardness does prevent those strategies, but they are admittedly niche.

    What is even more confusing is that it seems to be rather a central thing in the mechanics. There are quite a few effects that grant you 4 hardness or let you subtract 3 from enemy's hardness. And yet, it almost never seems like a really necessary thing to have.

    I hardness stacked or if it worked just like soak for decisive damage (with the numbers adjusted across the board), then the distinction would be very understandable. Currently, it occupies so much space compared to its relevance that I'm willing to think that I'm missing something fundamental about ow fight is supposed to play out. So, do you find it more useful? Have you maybe found out, that low-initiative attack are generally much better than it seems so hardness is worth having after all?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Lanic View Post
    - attacks rarely take place when Initiative scores are so low.
    Isn't that itself because of Hardness?

    Originally posted by Lanic
    Hardness does prevent those strategies, but they are admittedly niche.
    What are you basing that on?


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    • #3
      Consider the Dawn Brawl-Supernal. Heaven Thunder Hammer can give a bonus Initiative after a decisive attack (going from 3 to 4), and the Dawn Caste Anima can add half Essence to the base Initiative (so another 1-3). Adamantine Fists of Battle can grant decisive double 10's, with exploding 10's. These Dawn Brawlers can Join Battle and drop -1, -2 wound penalties on every action (and sometimes *not* on their action, with Solar Cross-Counter), or just straight kill things each punch. Heck, a high-Essence Dawn Brawler can conceivably *gain* Initiative with a decisive attack, if they've taken a withering shot that doesn't crash them but drops them below their base Initiative.

      Hardness is the Anime scene twist to this carnage. Some bigger bad in heavy armor doesn't budge when clocked by this Dawn Brawler. The whole table takes stock. Goes 'this guy means business'. Then it is *on*!

      Anyway, that's how I've hoped to experience Hardness at my table. My players usually forget that decisive attacks are even a thing until I gently remind them at 25 or so Initiative. But my players (besides one) aren't really rules-literate.


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      • #4
        Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
        Isn't that itself because of Hardness?
        It doesn't really seem so, but it's exactly the kind of insight I'm looking for. It doesn't seem so, because avoiding low-initiative attacks seems to be the case also when fighting opponents with low hardness..

        I mean, if your experience is different and if Hardness is an important factor in the fights in your games, that would be precisely the kind of insight I'd like to see.

        Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
        What are you basing that on?
        Well, damage addition to the point where it really allows you to ignore gathering Initiative is not very common. Multiple attacks are still rarer. This makes strategies based on these feature niche. Admittedly, this heavily depends on what you typically fight in combats.

        If in your games, access to these effects is broader, and Hardness more useful for that precise reason, it would also be a nice insight. Your question seems to imply that this is your answer. Am I right?

        Tikor I see your point and I understand that this was a part of the design decision, but I still count this as a niche application. While heavy armor indeed has some impact on combats, it seems really uncommon to land decisives each turn, even if you can do that (mostly out of the fear of being crashed, it seems). However, what is really baffling is the abundance of effects granting you hardness 5 or less. What are these needed for?

        Ideally, I would like to hear about your actual play experience or, even better, about the playtesting history, if it ever came up there.
        Last edited by Lanic; 02-02-2020, 09:33 PM.

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        • #5
          Oh, low Hardness is good for avoiding Anima Flux from Dragon-Blooded (a very common effect in most Creation-based games).


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          • #6
            Niche application, but the assassins are surprisingly against standup fights that would enable building up a good chunk of initiative.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
              Isn't that itself because of Hardness?
              Not in my experience either.

              In general, I've seen people building up initiative for bigger attacks rather than trying to spam smaller ones. The biggest reason I've seen is putting opponents in Initiative Crash to deny them as many defensive boosts as possible to boost the odds of landing the Decisive. Pulling off Gambits also means saving up for enough for those which reinforces the habit of gathering Init high before going Decisive.

              Most players also don't have builds where they want to drop themselves to low Initiative regularly, meaning they like to build up Initiative so they don't get crashed/etc.

              Even in purely mortal play without Hardness even being available to anyone, my experience is players build Init high enough that the current Hardness values don't seem calibrated properly.

              -------

              I do think there's value to Hardness in the system. But I have to agree that I find it highly overvalued by the current mechanics for the impact it has.

              Edit:

              Originally posted by nalak42 View Post
              Niche application, but the assassins are surprisingly against standup fights that would enable building up a good chunk of initiative.
              Again, IME, assassin builds focus on high Join Battle rolls so they can start with a big Decisive attack that's designed for at least one-shot kills on mortals, which is enough to get past most Hardness as well. If it's not enough make the rest of the fight one-sided in the assassin's favor, they either have a tankier friend, or they run.
              Last edited by Heavy Arms; 02-02-2020, 10:38 PM.

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              • #8
                The fundamental problem is that one-hit-win is too tempting and being low on Initiative too scary. We talked a bunch about this in... Was it the AQGA thread or the What Breaks If thread? But there's a definite psychological block common to players where any Decisive not likely to instagib isn't considered as a possibility.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                  Again, IME, assassin builds focus on high Join Battle rolls so they can start with a big Decisive attack that's designed for at least one-shot kills on mortals, which is enough to get past most Hardness as well. If it's not enough make the rest of the fight one-sided in the assassin's favor, they either have a tankier friend, or they run.
                  I was refering to the idea that an assassin would likely bail out of a fight if their target didn't die or there were a bunch of other enemies that would be a problem. In other words not that assassins don't stick around to build up a lot initiative and more that they won't stick around to let other people build up a high initiative to use against them.

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                  • #10
                    I've changed my attacking strategies a bit as an ST and I think hardness will matter a bit more in light of that. One of the things I'm trying to do now is have any foe who isn't crashed just launch a decisive attack turn 1. They aren't penalized for it in any way for accuracy, and if they have a chance to do some health level damage before they die that's got more interesting consequences. Also depending on the foe, it's more realistic. Ambush predators are known for one-and-done attack strategies.

                    On the player side, it can be somewhat useful. A lot of the time enemies can have like, a lot of health levels. Claw Striders have 9 health levels, which without other magic enhancing with double 10s or whatever takes on average 23i to kill. If you launch a decisive with 20 you've only got a 40% chance of killing them outright. What you'd probably want to do at that point is not build up another 20i to finish one off, you'd way rather just launch a decisive and peg off that last health level to put them into incap or -4s, which is hard when they've got 4 Hardness.

                    That's less common though because there just aren't that many antagonists with hardness. The ones that do have it also have high soak though, which is good because it makes you have to engage with their big soak, you can't just get around it by adding a few damage to your decisive attack and never withering.



                    It also matters less the more powerful the things are. Mortals it definitely matters a LOT for. If my mortal PCs could have gotten their hands on Hardness 4-5 that would have saved them a ton of pain in the far North campaign. On the other hand I'm not sure my last Solar game would have noticed at all if we didn't have Hardness.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by nalak42 View Post
                      I was refering to the idea that an assassin would likely bail out of a fight...
                      Ah, sorry.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post

                        Ah, sorry.
                        No problem, didn't occur to me I might need to specify that I was speaking from an antagonist stand point as opposed to a PC standpoint.

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                        • #13
                          Hardness is useful for things with legendary size. Since you likely can't kill it in one blow, it makes little sense to horde lots of initiative against it. General rule of thumb we have is once you can breach its hardness you make a decisive due to capped damage. In fact in a recent game my brawl dawn crashed a river dragon that everyone was having trouble damaging, and the next few turns was everyone going for low initiative attacks with charms that added some extra dice to damage. Given the cap on it, when the attack only did 2 or 3 HLs it didn't matter. Better to chip away while it lacked its hardness buffer. The only reason I built up a big chunk of initiative was because i ended a grapple with a suplex (ST ruled hammer on iron/other decisive flurries don't work in a grapple which is fine with me). The withering roll was hilariously high so next round I hammer on ironed it at 9 dice per damage roll.

                          Just my two cents from a recent game.

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                          • #14
                            Must admit Hardness never proved really useful. I have mainly 2 stories about Hardness and defensive questions

                            1) A player was saved because he had the 1st or 2nd Charm of Resistance that allowed him to resist a low Initiative attack when he had like 2 hp left. It's nice but it was like once in 3 years of playing Exalted.

                            2) A player wandered how come he had build so much defensive abilities but still lost hp so fast at the beginning of the fight. That's when I realized that the actual Initiative system with Join Battle totally ignores your defensive abilities, and let everyone be super agressive. (Except maybe some rare cases ?)


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                            • #15
                              If hardness didn't exist then the best play would almost always be spam low initiative decisives to put your opponents into a dice penalty and keep them in a death spiral. it's cool to build that 25 initiative attack but you could have already dealt out 3-4 health levels of damage by then and stuck your foe at -2. This makes Archery Kiting an almost unstoppable battle tactic as well, because the archer has no need to worry about Initiative reset and can just deal out death of a thousand cuts from extreme range and disengage. It would change the whole combat meta.


                              Originally posted by vwllss trnt prncss View Post
                              The fundamental problem is that one-hit-win is too tempting and being low on Initiative too scary. We talked a bunch about this in... Was it the AQGA thread or the What Breaks If thread? But there's a definite psychological block common to players where any Decisive not likely to instagib isn't considered as a possibility.
                              So I play a super cheesy assassin Ebon Shadow/Tiger Stealth build and this is my entire fight strategy, because I want to build up a huge Initiative pile and instagib trouble targets. However, after the first kill is nova'd out of existence on the first turn, it's not as easy to get that massive death-pile back. If I could just spam 2 damage decisives I'd never even attempt to assassinate after the first shot and instead Dodge/Disengage and use Thrown to harass people while the heavies on my team steamrolled them. I wouldn't want to build back up to a big Initiative when its just easier to trap people in the death spiral.

                              Edit: Ninja'd

                              Originally posted by Chausse View Post

                              2) A player wandered how come he had build so much defensive abilities but still lost hp so fast at the beginning of the fight. That's when I realized that the actual Initiative system with Join Battle totally ignores your defensive abilities, and let everyone be super agressive. (Except maybe some rare cases ?)
                              I'm not sure what youre getting at here- you mean the ability to start with a lot of Initiative ignores the purpose of armor, which is to keep you from losing (and keep your enemies from gaining) Initiative? It's not hard to build for a giant opening pool of Initiative, but it is hard to regain it. Its pretty good design that everyone starts off more or less on the level of "could Decisive but probably won't". It gives people options, in my experience. If we all just started at 3i then we'd have a slog through the first couple rounds and everyone would be crashed all the time.

                              What is you player like that they take a lot of damage all the time?
                              Last edited by Sorcerous Overlord; 02-03-2020, 05:11 AM.


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