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Baconjurer

Lethality of BRP for a single character

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I want to run a single player through a BRP system for the first time but I'm unsure of how lethal it will be. The setting is a standard high fantasy affair, magic, swords, mythic beasts, and I want them to go explore the lands and quest for gold and glory. My concern is if I should buff the character at the outset, and if so, how much? 

I lean a bit more to the simulationist side of things when I game, so I don't like to pull punches or design unrealistic encounters, like caves with a single guard. I like to see how things would work out, as opposed to letting things work out as I foresee. Of course I also want for the player to be a hero. Advice?

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Set them up for high fantasy. Give them equipment and abilities. Make sure they have some very high skills (100%+, they should be dicing for criticals). Set you average NPCs at about 30% for their combat skill. Go wild!

Remind the player that combat isn't always the best option and that death waits around every corner.

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"Heroic" level definitely starts in the 95%-and-over range!  Better still is over-100% for skill-splitting goodness at need...

Have them get captured, and their PC "struggle uselessly in chains" while the player (whose only viable PC actions are "struggle uselessly" and "scream empty threats") runs an 75%-peak-skill NPC or two through gladatorial combat, to see how deadly it is...

 

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Posted (edited)

A couple of fair-to-middlin' NPC companions might help soften the "...pull no punches..." standard. They can model in a couple of 'close calls' that 1.) negotiation, 2.) a planned ambush,  3.) bribery, or 4.) running the hell away are sometimes better options than death-before-dishonor. 

Oh, and my personal GM favorite: the principle of Maximum Game Fun (MGF) trumps rules and simulation.

Good luck on making a convert!

Edited by Sunwolfe
grammar

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It can work out just fine. Back in the old days, Chaosium used to release SOLOQuest adventures for a single character. 

 

To make things work out though you will want to make sure the PC has a significant skill edge, and not run too many double or triple teams against him. If you must outnumber the PC, (a narrow passageway where the baddies have to approach single file works best.

You should probably consider using Hero Points, too, since no matter how good a PC may be, or how bad his opponent is, he can still get killed by a critical or fumble. Just ask Rurirk!

 

 

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You need Hero/Luck/Fate/Whatever Points to reroll nasty rolls.

Also, try to stock up on healing spells, healing potions, healing salves and healing pills. If those are not enough, get a healing matrix and a bound spirit that can cast Healing.

Seriously, when solo roleplaying, good healing is a must, as you can become functionally incapacitated without being killed, but without healing you will be captured or killed very quickly without anyone to help.

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1 hour ago, soltakss said:

...and a bound spirit that can cast Healing.

Something like an aliied spirit or some sort of friendly NPC also helps. Basically they (and Hero Points) act as safety net for when the dice inevitably turn against the player. 

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Take a look at the Minion rules from Gods of Law. I swear by them.

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Since she's the star of the story, you can make a chosen one type of character. You can give her the regeneration power from the super powers rules and make that part of the plot. Who is she , why does she not die, will she live forever. What other powers does she have that may like dormant inside. 

With one player there's no reason for the world not to revolve around her.

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13 hours ago, Vexthug said:

... give her the regeneration power from the super powers rules and make that part of the plot. Who is she , why does she not die, will she live forever... 

It has the advantage of teaching lethality "the hard way" (i.e. she may regenerate... but whatever the battle, she fell! and (barring some sort of a double-kill) she lost that fight) without actually killing the PC... 

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I would definitely give him above-average characteristics, especially CON (so that he's tough) and POW (so that he can cast many spells).

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What do you think about using POW as hero points? I know there's an optional rule in bgb for using MP as fate points, but I think I may make it permanent and slightly more powerful, like escaping death.

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31 minutes ago, Baconjurer said:

What do you think about using POW as hero points? I know there's an optional rule in bgb for using MP as fate points, but I think I may make it permanent and slightly more powerful, like escaping death.

Well, RQ6/Mythras has Luck Points which serve that purpose (spend one to reroll any die affecting the character, or to downgrade a potentially-fatal wound to potentially-incapacitating, or to get an extra action in combat) and the number of Luck Points you get each session is POW/6, rounded up.  So there's at least precedent for doing something similar to what you're thinking.  Personally, I'd prefer to make them a per-session resource instead of a permanent POW loss, but YMMV.  (Note that Mythras omits POW gain from routine play.  If you're allowing POW gain on a regular basis, then burning POW permanently for Luck would probably work.)

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What nDervish said (practically took the thought right out from under my finger tips :-). A lot depends on your Hero Point mechanism and how you want to play. I know you're trying to insure things are survivable for your young padawan, and that's cool, but I think by giving him so many hero points, you're setting a precedent that could come around and bite you in future if your charge decides they like the game, want to play more, and you readjust Hero Points to more judicious levels. IMHO, too many HP allow the player to avoid playing the game as it was intended, especially in combat, with a healthy dose of caution and an understanding that it's not DnD--you do not just go waltzing into a tomb figuring, "I can pick on anybody in this here bar and take their stuff." Due-diligence and role-playing are the rule of the day...not slaughter and "I've got 12 more Hero POW Points to get my ass out of trouble." Now, I'm not necessarily saying your game will go that way; I'm just saying human nature is human nature. My players (I play a house ruled BPR variant) are only given 2...at most 3...HP per session. They do not accrue they renew and there are only a few--LOL that could be the verse to a song.

On the other hand, it's your game. You and you player decided what the principal of Maximum Fun means. Enjoy yourselves.

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Posted (edited)

I like the advice @Sunwolfe & @nDervish give; I personally don't care for adding lots of hero/fate/luck points, as they become a dominant factor in the mechanics.

I think having a "survive the mechanically-unsurvivable" mechanism (for solo-play in a notoriously-deadly mechanic like BRP) is probably wise, but I don't think this is a case where "more is better."

I'll add that I think making POW into a routinely-depletable resource risks the newbie-player not understanding some of the other values of POW in non-hero-point contexts.  Chronically low-to-mediocre POW's, for example, can become much less fun to play (IMHO) leaving the PC subject to hostile magic, etc...

I see you want them to be potent in use, but costly to use.  I'd think rarity (rather than spending-down the POW stat) is a better mechanism for conveying to the player that they are rare-and-valuable.

 

Edited by g33k
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2 hours ago, g33k said:

I like the advice @Sunwolfe & @nDervish give; I personally don't care for adding lots of hero/fate/luck points, as they become a dominant factor in the mechanics.

I think they key thing here is how many the player gets and how easy they are to replenish. One thing that I liked about the James Bond RPG was that Hero Points weren't just given to the players, but earned through die rolls (basically you had to roll a critical, and there were some limits on skills that get used a lot, like combat skills). When a player spent a Hero Point, it was gone, and didn't get replenished at the end of the adventure. The PC could earn more, but once spent the points were gone. 

In play, this meant that the players never felt like they had enough, and  spent them sparingly. Since HPs were used to bump Success levels, a player would occasionally spend a few here and there to pull off something cool, or to be "bondlike" for a round or two, but that didn't last for long.

2 hours ago, g33k said:

I think having a "survive the mechanically-unsurvivable" mechanism (for solo-play in a notoriously-deadly mechanic like BRP) is probably wise, but I don't think this is a case where "more is better."

You cuold swipe ASPs from CORPS/Timelords. Basically, a player can spend one to redo/avoid/cancel some really bad thing, including bad die rolls, but also (with GM permission) recklessness/bad judgment. Since they are only useful for defense and are too useful to be wasted on minor rolls, they might be just what you want for a "survive the mechanically-unsurvivable" mechanism.

Originally ASPs were now renewable, but for BRP, I'd consider letting a player get more. Personally I think some sort of way to earn more is better than just a simple refresh, since it keeps them rare, and discourages impervious spending. 

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3 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

I think they key thing here is how many the player gets and how easy they are to replenish. One thing that I liked about the James Bond RPG was that Hero Points weren't just given to the players, but earned through die rolls (basically you had to roll a critical, and there were some limits on skills that get used a lot, like combat skills). When a player spent a Hero Point, it was gone, and didn't get replenished at the end of the adventure.

I rather like the feature of having them be a reward in-game, rather then an auto/mechanically renewing resource.  For this case, I like less it being a reward for luck-of-the-dice; I'd rather see it for RP sorts of things:  "I don't WANT to charge that Demon Prince on his Hellsteed... but I couldn't live with myself if I didn't TRY to rescue his captives!"

I could see ONE "freebie" point per-session, in the event the PC hadn't earned any.

3 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

... When a player spent a Hero Point, it was gone, and didn't get replenished at the end of the adventure. The PC could earn more, but once spent the points were gone. 

In play, this meant that the players never felt like they had enough, and  spent them sparingly... 

Yes, this is exactly the kind of rarity that will make them valued... but (unlike POW-spend / spell-fuel MagicPoints / etc) not have knock-on side effects.

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15 hours ago, g33k said:

I rather like the feature of having them be a reward in-game, rather then an auto/mechanically renewing resource.  For this case, I like less it being a reward for luck-of-the-dice; I'd rather see it for RP sorts of things:  "I don't WANT to charge that Demon Prince on his Hellsteed... but I couldn't live with myself if I didn't TRY to rescue his captives!"

I know what you mean, there was an alterate method for rewarding HPs based on character action, but I missed that particular issue of HEROES magazine. Still, tying the results to the die rolls did allow PCs to go on the occasional hot streak, and helped them to deal with the inevitable times when the dice betrayed them. I still remember the time that I managed to sneak up behind a guard and missed hitting him, thrice. Two 99s and a 00. 

15 hours ago, g33k said:

I could see ONE "freebie" point per-session, in the event the PC hadn't earned any.

Yes, this is exactly the kind of rarity that will make them valued... but (unlike POW-spend / spell-fuel MagicPoints / etc) not have knock-on side effects.

One of the things that helped to keep hero points in check in Bond was that the game had 4 "Quality Ratings" (read Success Levels), and a HP bumped the result one level. You could spend more than one hero point at a time to shift multiple QRs, but that ate up points faster. You could even turn a failure into a QR1 (like when you really had to succeed, fate or the world sort of thing), by spending 4 HPs, or vice versa (like when somebody nails you with a critical head shot and you'd rather not roll up another character). 

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Mooks! Lots and lots of Mooks!  I think I would try a a simple Resistance roll  when a faceless Mook get's hit: their CON vs. the rolled damage. They fail the roll, they go down. They make the round, they're still standing for another round.

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Posted (edited)

Before my troupe converted our campaign to Pulp Cthulhu 7E, I used to run a 1920s pulp adventure game using a mix of BGB and CoC 6E. We played a few random sessions before settling into the Masks of Nylarthotep campaign, albeit with a much less serious tone than originally written.

To keep the action quite pulpy we used a version of the Fate Points option from the BGB. Power Points were essentially 'Luck Fuel' if used in this manner, and we did things a little differently, using the BGB Fate rules as a guideline. 

Our 'Pulp Fate' rules was as follows:

  1. Wild Luck: The first use was for random Luck rolls. If asked to make a random Luck Roll then the PCs rolled Luck as usual. However if the player initiated the roll, it cost 1PP.  In this setting I also gave the option of Special and Critical Success Luck rolls having the capability for quite pulpy or cinematic outcomes in many cases. If they PC wanted to have the benefit of that success, more PP was required - 2PP for a Special Success and 3PP for a Critical Success - otherwise the effect was just 'better', rather than 'cinematic' or implausible. Lots of fun if the rolls occurred, and depending upon the situation, it was up to the PC to narrate how good the outcome was, according to success level, and I would judge whether extra PP were required to have that outcome. Lots of fun when it occurred!
  2. Second Chances: The second use was for second chances. For 1PP the PC could request to re-roll of any skill, although they needed to describe a narrative reason for it as well.
  3. Stunts: The third use was for Stunts/Feats. Every character had a few defining traits which allowed them to do better in particular situations. For 1D4 PP they could make a relevant skill roll at Easy chance (double %) or cause an opponent to be at Difficult chance (half %). Generally I wouldn't recommend a Feats/Stunts/Advantage system for a BRP game, however for Pulp Adventure it did work really well.
  4. Soaking: The fourth role was for damage mitigation, which allowed the character to ignore damage at the rate of 1 damage point per 2PP spent. This also required a narrative rationale to explain why, which further led to some enjoyable explanations

Refresh: Power Points were refreshed slowly by default, basically when I thought they should have a complete refresh, usually after a significant interim between campaigns. However if the characters achieved milestones, morale boosts, or roleplayed personality traits well then they received minor boosts along the way (ie 1 -3pts). At the end of each episode any SAN rewards were granted as PP Awards, which could be used for either SAN of Power Point recharge. So they were recharged at a reasonable rate, as characters kept portraying their characters well in order to keep getting minor recharges. 

So all this added up to minimise the classic BRP lethality, and to keep the game pulpy and cinematic, and it did the job well.

My group is now using the Pulp Cthulhu 7E rules instead, although we all think that these rules covered the same territory without the need for another tally of points (ie CoC 7E's Luck Pts). However I won't be converting back, but I can vouch that tweaking the Fate option from BGB works quite well for certain settings

PS: And yes, add in Mook rules :D

PPS: Just getting back to Baconjuror (the OP), the rules above are designed to capture a pulpy cinematic flavour. If you want a more serious tone, then just use BRP as written, perhaps including the Hit Locations options. You will certainly get a lethal game at times, which is a strength of the system, and definitely reminds you that you are no longer playing D&D!

Edited by Mankcam
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Lots of great ideas here. Anyone familiar with Scarlet Heroes? It's a system that's designed to let one player run through old dungeons and dragons modules. It accomplishes this by tweaking how damage works and setting monster HD = HP. I might look into doing something along those lines. 

With regards to using raw POW as fate, I was thinking that here was an individual, for which the gods had bigger plans for. In essence POW reflects the characters standing with the gods. So if the the character died, the gods would bring them back, but their favor would deteriorate (-1 permanent POW). If you accomplished some feat that the gods foresaw for you, you'd gain a POW. Does that make sense?

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Use Pulp Cthulhu! I'm running Masks for only one player using Pulp rules and works perfectly. 

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