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  • Big Paradox Backlash

    How often in your games do you actually witness big paradox backlashes?

    The way I usually do paradox is like this.

    The accumulation is M20, so 1 point for every vulgar effect, add another every 10 successes (if not performing a ritual). If it's vulgar with whitnesses, this changes to sphere rating worth of paradox (because I can't let Revised go).
    Botches give sphere, sphere +1 or sphere + 1 doubled as appropriate. +1 for every extra arete roll made.

    I usually let my mages accumulate paradox and let it build up. Gaining additional paradox when above 10 points is usually when I start doing paradox rolls.

    So, if a mage as 10 points, and they do a single vulgar spell for 1 more point, I roll 11 dice and determine how many backlashed (then roll damage and determine effect).

    Here's the rub. statistically, the more dice you roll, the more likely it is you'll get a number of successes close to half the dice rolled.
    Rolling 11 is more likely to give you roughly 5 points of backlash, though 7 or 8 is not unheard off.
    When you start to roll 20, however, you'll be lucky to get above 11 or 12.
    What compounds this is botches. Every 1 you get cancels out a success, so lower numbers are favoured.
    Just testing it out rolling 20 dice over and over, I managed to get 12 successes once, mostly got 9 or 8, and on three occasions got as low as 4.

    This means that the vast majority of paradox effects felt in game would be trivial or minor, sometimes leaping into the moderate. Though Severe flaws are very rare, and drastic ones almost unseen.

    In order to get a good chance at seeing a drastic flaw, you'd have to roll upwards of 50 points of paradox!

    Is this about right or have I misinterpreted something? Have you ever seen BIG bouts of paradox backlash resulting in severe or drastic flaws?
    If you do it this way, do you do anything to try tilt the numbers to make big backlashes happen?

    One thing I usually do is, if the mage has, let's say, 17 points, and only 1-5 of them backlash, I won't make another backlash occur until they've exceeded 17 points again.


    Keepers of the Wyck: A Chronicle I'm running Chapter 37: The Shadow Coven

  • #2
    If you want bigger paradox backlash, maybe remove the "1s cancel successes" rule and/or lower the difficulty of the paradox roll after exceeding a certain threshold.


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    • #3
      I have a friend who calculated the probabilities of getting different numbers of successes (1-10) at different difficulties (2-10) with different numbers of dice (1-20) using brute force computer simulation of thousands of dice rolls. The simulations included 1's taking away successes. So I have very precise answers to your questions.

      I have to refer to 2E when determining what a severe outcome would be, because I'm a deadbeat and don't have M20. In 2E (I've finally come to understand) you don't roll for Flaws. If you get less than 6 points of Paradox at once from a botch and it does not bring your total over 10, those points are immediately expelled and applied as Flaws, ranging in badness from 1-5 corresponding to the number of Paradox points. In 2E when you roll for a Backlash it often means damage. Aggravated damage, to your face. That's what you get when you gain 6 or more Paradox at once or over 10 total, and the ST doesn't have a Realm or Spirit prepared.

      Given that we are talking about Aggravated damage, "severe" is a bit of a matter of perception--until it reaches 7, at which point it is more academic. Let's say that most people would consider 4 Agg to be severe. To get at least a 50% chance rolling 4 or more successes at difficulty 6, you need 9 dice. At least 50% chance of 5 or more successes would require 12 dice. Even odds for 6+ damage would mean 14 dice, and for 7+ damage would be 16 dice. Fortunately Backlash as damage caps at 15 dice. There is still an uncomfortably high probability of Paradox erasing you from existence. With 10 dice, the likelihood of rolling 7+ damage is 11.3%. 6+ damage, which means (at least) spending over half a year of game time healing, is a 24.3% probability with 10 Paradox dice rolled.

      With 20 dice, There is about a 70% chance of getting 7+ successes and an 80% chance of getting 6+ successes. 57.6% chance of 8+, 44.3% chance of 9+, 31.4% chance of 10+, 20.2% chance of 11+--etc.

      I'd say your intuition and experience is correct--it's pretty hard to roll really high numbers of successes. But depending on the success thresholds, Paradox could still fuck up a character really badly.
      Last edited by Faradn; 02-10-2017, 02:31 AM.

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      • #4
        In my opinion, Revised had a better Paradox system. With 17 points of Paradox, you would suffer from 7 dice of unsoakable lethal damage and an incapacitating Paradox Flaw (anything from having you skin turned to wood until you shed the skin cells to taking aggravated damage from sunlight like one of the Kindred for the next month).

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        • #5
          Eh, I think both are fine. I tend to prefer 2E in most things probably in large part because it was the first version I was exposed to.

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          • #6
            I like the MtSC mechanic.
            Backlash is at 20% probability, Boon or Bane.
            If a Backlash occurs, it takes all of the pool...


            So, this Zen Master walks up to a hot dog stand and says: "Make me one with everything!"

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Caladriu View Post
              If you want bigger paradox backlash, maybe remove the "1s cancel successes" rule and/or lower the difficulty of the paradox roll after exceeding a certain threshold.
              That could work.

              Perhaps the difficulty can be reduced by one for every 5 points above 20 the mage has.

              So 1-20 diff 6
              21-25 diff 5
              26-30 diff 4
              31+ diff 3

              I'll keep the rule of 1s since otherwise high successes are too guaranteed at diff 4 or 3

              What do people think of this?


              Keepers of the Wyck: A Chronicle I'm running Chapter 37: The Shadow Coven

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              • #8
                You can have more than 20 Paradox?

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                • #9
                  Well, you can, but you really have to be doing some major magic. In Revised, you started suffering automatic levels of unsoakable aggravated damage at Paradox 21+.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Faradn View Post
                    You can have more than 20 Paradox?
                    "And up and up and up"

                    Originally posted by Aya Tari View Post
                    Well, you can, but you really have to be doing some major magic. In Revised, you started suffering automatic levels of unsoakable aggravated damage at Paradox 21+.
                    Revised had you lose all your paradox imidiately whenever you get higher than 5 points unless you chose to roll for backlash, then you'd be subject to the same probibility limit of about half.

                    So even if you had 22 points somehow, if you rolled 4 backlash, only 4 backlashes and you get 4 dice of bashing

                    You then have a paradox wheel with 17 points all over it though, so that would be a problem.
                    Last edited by Saikou; 02-10-2017, 01:04 PM.


                    Keepers of the Wyck: A Chronicle I'm running Chapter 37: The Shadow Coven

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                    • #11
                      No, that it not how it worked in Revised. You Paradox burned off by taking damage and flaws unless you spent one point of temporary Willpower to delay Paradox for a scene, in which the Paradox kept on building until the end of scene. You never rolled Paradox in Revised except as dice of damage, and Backlash was determined by your amount of Paradox, not the amount of successes rolled on a Paradox roll (Revised, pp. 194-197). The following table sums up the effects from Revised, p. 195:

                      1-5 Paradox Accumulated: Roll Paradox and suffer one health level of soakable bashing damage per success and suffer one minor Paradox Flaw for one turn.

                      6-10 Paradox Accumulated: Roll Paradox and suffer one health level of soakable bashing damage per success and suffer one moderate Paradox Flaw for one turn per point of Paradox accumulated.

                      11-15 Paradox Accumulated: Roll (Paradox-10) and suffer one health level of unsoakable lethal damage per success and suffer one severe Paradox Flaw for as long as the ST desires.

                      16-20 Paradox Accumulated: Roll (Paradox-10) and suffer one health level of unsoakable lethal damage per success and suffer one dramatic Paradox Flaw for as long as the ST desires.

                      21+ Paradox Accumulated: Take (Paradox-20) health levels of unsoakable aggravated damage. If the Mage survives, the Mage suffers one permanent Paradox Flaw chosen by the ST, gains as many points of permanent Paradox as the ST sees fit, and the ST is encouraged to make the Mage suffer for as long as the ST desires in custom Paradox Realms.

                      In Revised, you do not want to mess around with Paradox, and you do not want to allow Paradox to accumulate (Immediate Backlash is your friend, Delayed Backlash is your enemy). Of course, you suffer one point of Paradox per level when casting vulgar effects (plus one in front of witnesses) and one point of Paradox per level when botching coincidental effects (plus one if vulgar, doubled plus two if vulgar in from of witnesses). A botch on a Level 5 vulgar spell in front of witnesses would generate 12 points of Paradox. God help you if you decide to delay the Paradox for a scene.

                      In my Revised games, the most Paradox that a PC accumulated in one scene was around 60 points of Paradox during an epic fight at the end of the campaign. The PC decided to delay accepting ten points of Paradox from a botched level 4 vulgar effect in front of witnesses and it just kept getting worse. Instead of killing him, I had him transform into a Quiet 6 Marauder who became a favored NPC in another campaign (he believed that he lived in the world of 'My Little Pony' and his Quiet transformed everything around him to fit his narrative).
                      Last edited by Aya Tari; 02-10-2017, 02:54 PM.

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                      • #12
                        in Revised, paradox is more harmless. More anoying in an Everyday's-a-day-for-Paradox-Rolls sort of way, but more harmless because of the very same reason.

                        M20 has almost the exact same table, just roll-sucess based than total based, yes. However unlike Revised, Paradox does not immediately discharge if it goes above 5. It does in Revised.
                        In M20, Paradox does accumulate. And grows. And grows. And when you are at 20 Paradox from many little things you have done over time and roll a botch, you are in serious damn trouble. You cannot avoid a potential huge backlash down the line by just sticking to small things.
                        Under Revised it's not possible to nuke yourself from the result of several little effects, because you already discharge once those small effects accumulate to a low Paradox level.
                        Huge effects failing have the same potential for disaster in both systems.
                        Last edited by Ambrosia; 02-10-2017, 03:08 PM.


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                        • #13
                          Aya Tari Nice and comprehensive there, Never had a chance to play it that way though. I hope you didn't miss the "unless you chose to roll for backlash" bit I wrote above. I'm acknowledging that It's an optional rule, one which is described in Storyteller's Handbook. This is how my first ST did our Revised games, Magic would accumulated past five, he'd roll and we'd keep what remained until the next vulgar effect. It made doing vulgar magic pretty terrifying.

                          Ambrosia For me, the problem with not having it set off at 10 points is that it makes holding on to quintessence almost impossible. I know M20 changed a bunch of things to make quintessence less necessary, but still.
                          I added in the "stable until 10" as a way of having backlashes occur a bit more often, but not all the time for trivial things as in Revised.


                          Keepers of the Wyck: A Chronicle I'm running Chapter 37: The Shadow Coven

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