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How Can We Make it More Challenging?

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  • How Can We Make it More Challenging?

    My best friend who's a Storyteller is having trouble figuring out how to make antagonists more challenging for his plots. We want something like in Pathfinder/DnD where they have Challenging Ratings (CR) for each creatures and something like in the SaS (Storytelling Adventure System) with certain attributes that characters can meet to be able to overcome obstacles and enemies. Also, for MtA, we are wondering how we can make it challenging for Magic since I was able to bypass many things with magic. For example, we were doing a story where my Moros Mage character was trapped in a coffin, but he got out of it using Death magic instead of digging his way out of the dirt. My Storyteller was surprised and amused by this. The rest of my party were trapped in coffins and when my character got out to check around, he encountered an angry ghost and killed him easily. He was supposed to open the coffins to let the party out so they can help him fight him. This is an issue my Storyteller is having a concern with. In another scene, he was fighting a ghost, but instead of trying to kill him, he turned him into a ghostly sword and carried him with him all the way to the end and my Storyteller was expecting him to fight him over and over again and again until something happens at the end of it. So how can we make it more challenging? Even so, we enjoyed the story a lot!

  • #2
    God, I feel like I just answered this question a week ago. Hang on, I'll try to dig up my answer. Yeah, here we go:

    The problem most STs have with Mage is that they try to run it like other games. They try to make problems that are fairly straight-forward with obvious objectives because in most other games the characters lack the power to simply will the solution into existence.

    There are a lot of of ways to slow Mages down. Do not give them a lot of time. Give them problems that are made up of multiple parts split across time, space and invisible worlds. Give them problems with more than one active piece in play at a time. Give them more than one problem at a time. Let them lead themselves into thinking they're dealing with one kind of problem that is actually a different kind of problem. Create problems with multiple solutions, each with different payoffs and sacrifices. Make use of their various antagonists and social pressures.

    None of this makes a Mage less powerful, but it does make it possible run a game with Mages in it. If you're using a Mage as an antagonist, then the players should be made aware that they need to attack the Mage as on as many fronts in as varied a way as possible if they want an easier time of it. Although, if the Mage is working alone then just having the numbers advantage may be enough. If the Mage is one player character in a group of player characters then eventually as the Mage grows you are probably going to need Mage level problems.

    It basically boils down to your ST needing to reconsider what he thinks a challenge is.
    Last edited by Mrmdubois; 08-06-2018, 01:24 PM.


    • #3
      As Mrmdubois said, you need to factor in the PCs' capabilities when building difficulties. A chasm won't stop a Wizard with Flight or Levitation prepared, a simple lock is no real obstacle to a Rogue, and an unleveled Kobold isn't a recurring threat.

      Make it so the Ghost was the guardian of something worse, and by swordifying them, that horror can now break free. Insty of asking *if* the Mages can eliminate the mob of foes that ambush them, consider the consequences of said mob just being killed. Maybe some were pressured or mislead into the attack, and now the Mages need to deal with their dependents.

      In short, give Mages enough rope to hang themselves with if they act incautiously. Hubris, and the consequences of it, are part of MtA's themes.

      Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
      Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."


      • #4
        Just wanted to point out that if you enjoyed it a lot then the ST didn't fail, that is the goal after all.
        When it comes to combat in these games (and that includes good old D&D) numbers are often the key to making it challenging. A hoard of weak foes who fall with each swing of the sword are often a tougher fight than one hulked up opponent. Your ghost example for instance, if there had been several ghosts, enough that your Mage couldn't take them all out with one spell, then at the least it would have taken him several turns to deal with them.
        In CofD your defense is also penalized when up against multiple opponents, I've had four weak opponents do more damage to a PC then the most overpowered single opponent. Mostly because PCs can take advantage of numbers to.


        • #5
          Its not so much a question of "can the mages do this ?" because most of the time the answer is yes , a sufficiently creative party can accomplish just about anything. The real question is "what happens if they do this ? And with this method ?".

          As an example of how to apply what Mrmduboid said, lets say the ghost was trying to bury them because those were the coffins of the last victims of a dullahan. But this particular dullahan needs one drop of blood from every descendant of the city founders (but they are not his only victims). If he manages to get them, he will be given the magical authority (read that Seers working for the Psychopomp have their hands in this pie) to pull the city wholesale into the Underworld. Those were the coffins of the last inhabitants of Roanoke, and being buried in them for a bit would summon a bell that only rings when a descendant is nearby. But now the supernal spells have made the energies for the summoning ritual all muddled up, so now they are going to have to go physically get it. And you can pivot from there, you have a threat that is already active and building a pattern, the Seers working to aid this thing, a ghost whose goals are dubious at best and a trip to some dangerous place to get the bell. So now you have a race against time, with many possible layers of deception to work through, yet they need to step lightly or risk drawing more dangers to them than they can handle.
          Last edited by KaiserAfini; 08-06-2018, 05:54 PM.

          New experiences are the font of creativity, when seeking inspiration, break your routine.

          The Agathos Kai Sophos, an Acanthus Legacy of strategists


          • #6
            Yeah, I hope I didn’t come across as too critical in my post. If you guys had fun that’s the important thing. If you want to up the challenge though I stand by what I said.


            • #7
              Mages do seem powerful, but I would imagine 3 things keep them in check

              1/ Mages are addicted to mysteries which means that they are sticking their noses where they don't belong
              2/ Mages can to everything, which means that they may not do one thing really well
              3/ Their enemies are really powerful

              The first one means that Mages are always exploring the World of Darkness, which means that they will encounter enemies that they may not be equipped to counter. A Mage who can summon spirits may meet a ghost he is powerless against. A Mage who is an expert in mental domination may meet a Spirit who is immune to his powers. Since they are constantly exploring there is a good chance that they will meet someone or something that would expose a blind spot for a mage

              ...this leads to the second idea. Mages usually can do a lot of things and cover a lot of reality manipulation, but because of that they cannot focus on one particular area. For example, lets say that you have a group of 5 mages that have one type of mage each and then you throw, say, a ghost or a spirit at them. In this case either the Moros or the Thyris mage will deal with it. However, the group will probably not be as equipped to deal with it as a group of Sin eaters or Werewolves would. So imagine that you took an antagonist from one of the other game lines and threw it at the Cabal. How would a single Spirit mage deal with a threat that can challenge a whole pack of werewolves? I am curious if this would help put them in their place.

              Finally...the third part is that the enemies of the Mages are extremely powerful. The Exarchs are basically Wizard god kings that are extremely powerful and Mages are unable to do more than offer a subtle resistance. Because the Exarchs are the masters of the world, have them use their influence in subtle (or overt) ways to bedevil the mages. I am sure that a Mage cabal that attracts the unwelcome attention of an Exarch might find their lives getting very difficult very quickly.


              • #8
                Originally posted by OvercastGhost View Post
                He was supposed to open the coffins to let the party out so they can help him fight him. This is an issue my Storyteller is having a concern with.
                Your storyteller should get a better grip on what mages are capable of. Read the spells section. After that, a look at the character sheets for anyone with more than Death 2 would have alerted them that this was not going to be the challenge they thought it was.

                Mage isn't really a hack and slash. You can certainly have warrior mages, but you're going to have to do more than throw monsters at them, which the book and posters above have gotten into. Layers can help, having an antagonist not just stand there waiting for you to beat them but working through multiple degrees of separation (for instance, the ghost could easily have been put there by another mage, though another mage would likely also know the capabilities of the cabal).
                Last edited by nofather; 09-02-2018, 06:06 PM.


                • #9
                  What wasn't mentioned is that you can make it challenging in the traditional D&D sense but you have to bump up the finesse and power of the things you throw at your players. A ghost and being trapped in a coffin is a challenge for mortals not mages. Trapped in a Wending (archmasters abbandonned chantry) or a Kerberoi trying to kill you? That's problematic.

                  You can also tailor threats to fit the Arcana the players don't have. Don't worry, Mages can totally be able to deal with stuff they theoretically can't deal with. So if your party doesn't have Spirit, throw some spirits at them and see what they come up with.
                  Last edited by Menace; 09-04-2018, 02:16 AM.