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non-combat PCs vs. combat oriented NPCs

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  • non-combat PCs vs. combat oriented NPCs

    Most vampire chronicles focus on social and political aspects, and I really don't mind that, but every now and then I'd like to throw a more combat-oriented challenge at my group, like say a pack of werewolves, or a gang of belial's brood, or a group of well-equipped and highly-trained hunters, etc. I'm just not sure how to do this without it instantly resulting in a tpk. How would an average group of neonate vampires who aren't very combat focused deal with a group of dangerous enemies?

  • #2
    All the powers are pretty easy to weaponize. Even Auspex can let you know secrets about a person you can use to target them.

    But if the coterie is -entirely- non-combat focused, they may have chosen to make their characters that way because they don't want to deal with combat.

    Either way, you're probably better off not making an antagonist group of entirely combat-focused enemies, as they'll readily trounce the players. But not every team of baddies has to be full of brutes, and they can have social and mental-focused characters who are antagonistic. This can give players a way to play up their strengths in overcoming them. There's probably a lot of stories you can take ideas from. While Batman has folks like Bane among his rogues gallery, most of his enemies are just particularly smart (Joker, Riddler), have developed powers that require thought to get around (Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze), or are capable of convincing others to work against him (Penguin, Hugo Strange). Similarly something like the A-Team shows a common team setup, with a Mastermind, Muscle, a Face, and a Wild Card.

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    • #3
      1) Don't set death as the goalpost. Even hunters can have good cause to use defeat as a stage for bigger or different goals, and aiming NPC's at the achievements and power bases of the PC's or other such things is just as threatening.

      2) Encourage your players to think creatively and dirty. Call for Int+Wits rolls if it seems like they don't have good ideas on how they can capitalize the game in their favor, and give them pointers for successes. Get them to look at the environment, even contributing details to it. Utilitze teamwork and reward plans. Get them to try social tactics, emotional and psychological warfare. Make sure there's something that allows them a tipping point, or at least an escape route. You can produce satisfying "wins" against aggressors while still establishing that they are in danger, because these things were one-time bits of luck. When they get back to circles they are comfortable with, they can take action to draw the wagon circles around, and call on/ create characters in the setting who can take over if you ever need a more even brawl for actual gameplay.

      3) Know the balance. Kicking the asses of non-combat PC's with combat NPC's, or having them edge a victory out through cleverness once in a while is definitely satisfying to watch and help facilitate, but if a character doesn't have anything in Brawl, Firearms, Weaponry, or Athletics, then either a) someone didn't understand what those skills do, b) they didn't understand the premise of your game in particular, or c) they didn't want to build a character geared toward combat. The third one is the big one, and if someone's character isn't inclined to engage in fisticuffs or feral fights, too much trying to answer the original question for them just begins to make them think they should have built something different, which basically reads as you punishing them for playing the character they wanted to. An occasional scene reminding them of their vulnerability can be fun and tense (as well as a great chance for them to demonstrate how their decisions might allow them to triumph against such scenarios anyways!), but too much makes the game a drag.

      If you need a TL;DR, encourage your PC's to play dirty and take advantage of every opportunity they can imagine out of anything they can grab-that'll solve a lot of the actual problems, because players are bloody clever and devious-but you also need to think about how and why you set up these things in the first place and see if there aren't more entertaining longer reasons, conseqeunces, and sequences you can do.

      And seriously, don't set death as the goal post. Death is cheap. Aim for where it really hurts.


      Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
      The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
      Male/neutral pronouns accepted, female pronouns enjoyed.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Shadowdragon View Post
        Most vampire chronicles focus on social and political aspects, and I really don't mind that, but every now and then I'd like to throw a more combat-oriented challenge at my group, like say a pack of werewolves, or a gang of belial's brood, or a group of well-equipped and highly-trained hunters, etc. I'm just not sure how to do this without it instantly resulting in a tpk. How would an average group of neonate vampires who aren't very combat focused deal with a group of dangerous enemies?

        First of all I don't see why non-combatant PG should inevitably be at disadvantage. I mean, the would'n't have high Resilence or Vigor but they would have high mental disciplines.
        A vampire with Vigor 5 and Resilence 5 can be turned on his on mates as easily as any other character using Majesty / Dominate or Animalism 4, letting him fight for you while eating pop-corn. If they are in Frenzy the story changes but that's something just about vampires, other creature can't become completely immune to mental disciplines. Furthermore, even on a frenzied target, you can still use discipline to move his focus on another subject (even a mate of him actually) and with Animalism 4 you can litterally control his frenzy.
        And again, social character would probably have tons of allies who fight on their side.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Shadowdragon View Post
          How would an average group of neonate vampires who aren't very combat focused deal with a group of dangerous enemies?
          Ideally, by running away at initial confrontation then coming at them indirectly later. Belial's Brood? Track down their Haven and have a Ghoul/Mind-controlled individual burn it down. Hunters? Get mortal law enforcement to arrest them or run them out of town. Werewolves? Probably getting some supernatural help from allied vampires or other creatures.

          Vampires are one of the best splats for coming at a problem non-violently. If they need to take down skilled combatants, let them use their particular strengths to do so. A vampire should never engage an enemy where that enemy is strong. Only where they are weak.

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          • #6
            If they manage to survive the initial encounter (retreat should always be an option) then they can play dirty.
            Find and cut off their funding(investigate), ruin their investments(allies)(contacts),
            tip off the cops(honesty), fabricate evidence that they're narcs and give it to the mob(streetwise)(subterfuge),
            mysterious building fire and all the doors/windows have been blocked(crafts), Poison gas their hideout(science), sabotage their vehicles(crafts)
            random gang violence(allies)(persuasion),
            sow dissent by planting false emails/text messages in a group members device(computer)(subterfuge), Sneakily Blood Bond one of them or their support team,
            Pick off their support team(allies)(blood buff), ,
            Expose them to/in the media(expression),
            Random motor vehicle "accident"
            And that's all without Disciplines.
            .

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            • #7
              First, make sure there are things that the highly-developed non-combat skills of the PCs can and will pick up on. We're assuming there is a domain at play here, even if small or borrowed, so they have an investment in the area and understand it and its people. When individuals who do not belong--or even spiritual influences that do not belong--get involved then there are subtle and overt notices of that involvement. The PCs should be able to pick up on these, or pick up on their side-effect on the people of the domain.

              This is called "fair warning". Use a rule of three to show the incoming danger and set up your climax scenes/scenario; this is generally enough to demonstrate that something wicked is coming.

              The PCs, if they think violence is going to happen, should have the ability to go out and *buy* violence of their own. Vampires are notorious for being surrounded by flunkies who are there primarily to absorb unrequested violence. Let the PCs swap deals and line up their own bruisers to hide behind.

              Ensure the antagonists have a clear objective. "Kill everyone" is not an objective, it's a means and a messy one at that. The antagonists should be open to achieving their objective through other means and capable of being talked to. If they come to end the PCs it should be because whatever perfunctory diplomacy has failed (probably in part due to a lack of apparent muscle--weakness is an excuse).

              Make sure there is a way out. The PCs may not escape even diplomacy with their stuff (read: domain) intact. That's ok, so long as it's possible to imagine a future solution. That solution might be "well this old church is better than the condemned theatre anyway!" Or it could be "I'm calling my cousin--he knows this guy in Blackwater." If the antagonist is so overwhelming that it basically represents the end of the world, that's no fun.

              Do keep in mind that if the PCs are working to solve problems non-violently they are doing it right. They are protecting their humanity and masquerade and worthy of a certain measure of respect within the vampiric community as well as the mortal side (for whatever of that slops over). Even werewolves will cut them some slack for attempting non-wasteful resolutions, as fights often result in negative resonances. And if you're dealing with a real mad dog? Maybe you have allies simply because they want it put down clean to serve their own status-quo interests, eh?

              --Khanwulf

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              • #8
                Your players are vampires, right?

                In that case, I wouldn't feel bad throwing a combat coterie at your party. Even if you play a Social or Mental primary vampire, it's dumb to not be prepared for physical combat. Sooner or later, any vampire is going to be in a physical combat, especially neonates, that's just unavoidable. If the player characters in your game are not prepared for that, teach them the error of their ways.

                Because they are vampires, they won't die easily. They will drop into torpor before actually dying. So if you want teach them the valuable lesson of always being prepared for combat, go ahead, drop them all into torpor and have one of their sires or allies save their asses, and then lecture them on their stupidity. Or drop them into torpor and have the enemy coterie capture them. Interesting horror plots and stories start that way!

                Good luck!

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