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EpicureanDM

Looking for practical combat tactics for GMs

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20 hours ago, Crel said:

Even two fellas in the back with POW 13/14 shooting Disrupt at the same target a couple rounds will be a huge problem for a party averaging POW 11. Disparity in the POW stat, IMO, is really important.

Yes, this is especially true because the resistance is POW vs POW now, not anymore MP vs MP.

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12 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

Again, that's valuable perspective. You're suggesting this as if it's a sensible option, but most modern audiences and GMs wouldn't think that the GM rolling 45 separate attacks while the players look on to be exciting play. But if RQG's written to assume that's a sensible tactic (or its proponents think that it is), then it helps me triangulate on what might need to be done to compensate.

Oh, it's dull as anything.

We used to have someone who did exactly this in RQ3 and his ally would cast 3 Multimissile 6 spells per round, so he'd roll 21 rolls. The GM would let him roll away and count the criticals or impales, as the real arrow can impale, while the rest of combat happened, rather than waiting for the roll/damage, in fact the GM would say "It has got 20 points of armour", or whatever, beforehand, just to avoid the chance of rolling maximum damage. The player concerned could not just roll d100 and record the result, no, he had to pick up the d100, blow on it, do a fake roll, stop, laugh, then roll it, EACH AND EVERY TIME.

12 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

I have access to RQ3. What's the page reference there?

I am not sure about RQ3, but the reference is on p214 of RQG "Shooting at Moving Targets
Movement of a target directly toward or away from a missile weapon-using attacker has no effect on the probability of hitting it.
. A target moving at an angle from the archer reduces the archer’s chance of hitting by 1/2.
. A target specified to be evading as it moves reduces the archer’s probability by 1/2.
. An evading target may only move half their normal movement and may do nothing else but move and evade.
These effects are cumulative.
".

 

12 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

I have a question about the last bullet point. What does that fight look like for the first few rounds? Assuming neither side had a chance to prepare in advance, you write that the players are casting Bladesharp while the other side are casting offensive spirit magic, three or four times. Is that meant to suggest that combat could "start", but no one advances for the first two rounds while protective and buffing magic is cast? That would seem strange in the context of the game world. It would be like armies fighting with unloaded muskets. The signal to begin battle is given and they both sort of gesture to each other: "Wait, wait, hold on, let me get ready before we start trying to kill each other."

What normally happens is that two groups of people size each other up a bit, then decide to go into combat. Sometimes casting spells is done in the sizing up part, sometimes when combat starts, it is not unknown for the casting of spells to cause combat.

If the parties have Allied Spirits, then the allied spirits could cast spells in secret, so the people could go into combat tooled up. Otherwise, you typically cast 2 spells per round, if you have time, so you might take out a sword and shield (2 actions, 1 round), cast Bladesharp and Protection (2 actions, 1 round) then close to combat. Sometimes, you cast the spells while closing to combat. Sometimes, if you have an ambush situation, you can cast your spells and then attack an unprepared group of NPCs.

In a duel, you normally cast all spells before the duel starts.

12 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

Are you assuming that the players are casting Bladesharp and/or Protection as they're rushing their opponents? You assume that there's a couple of rounds worth of distance to close before melee? In the meantime, the enemy's trying to stop the PCs with Befuddle or Disrupt? I know it's situational, but do you imagine that sometimes the party's facing opponents who can all cast Befuddle or Disrupt, and they all just unleash instead of shooting arrows?

Yes, that can happen. We have had situations where a party of NPCs have cast Befuddle and Demoralise and have all succeeded, which devastates the PCs. Tactics vary between "All cast spells at the big guy" to "cast spells at everyone and see if they overcome". If one side has numerical advantage and has attack spells, then they can cast multiple spells at one or more PCs as well as targeting everyone. A party with Allied Spirits can normally cast multiple spells at one or more PCs.

12 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

I read this a lot, but no one cashes it out with numbers. What does it look like to be a "Rune level" opponent in RQG? I can look at CR in 5e (even if the system's not very helpful) and at least get a general sense about what constitutes a high AC or lots of hit points relative to other opponents. Can it be described abstractly but in relation to a group of PCs, e.g. a "Rune level" opponent has Rune points equal to the highest PC in the group plus four? 

RQG is slightly different to previous versions of RQ, as everyone who is an initiate gets a Rune Pool. In previous versions, Rune Priests had an advantage as they could use powerful reusable Runemagic spells. in RQG, everyone has access to reusable Runemagic, so the benefit is reduced. In previous versions of RQ, Rune Lords could increase their skills beyond 100%, but in RQG anyone can.

So, in RQG, being a Rune Level is not as important a benefit as in previous versions.

However, Rune Levels are Rune Lords or Rune Priests, maybe including Shamans as well. They get benefits that help in combat, so Rune Lords get access to Rune Metals, often Iron,  which tend to be better in combat. They also get access to Allied Spirits, which increases the spells they can cast. A Rune Level with an Allied Spirit who knows Healing or Heal Wound is at an advantage compared with an opponent who does not, as they can be healed when unconscious.

 

12 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

If I asked you to give me a stat block for a "Rune level" opponent in RQG, what would it look like?

Have a look at Runemasters, they have some excellent examples of Rune Level characters for RQ2 that could be used for RQG very easily.

12 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

How do they do this? If you were going to create stats for a Rune level opponent for your group of PCs, what would they be? Walk me through the way that the stats and rules would put the party in real danger.

Now, that is far too general a question.

A Rune Level NPC would have good equipment, good spells, an Allied Spirit and probably some kind of magic items, healing potions and Magic Point Storage. The variation is in the cults followed. So, a Rune Lord of Orlanth would be good with weapons, a Rune Lord of Humakt would be good with swords, a Rune Lord of Zorak Zoran would have clubs and might go Berserk, a Rune Lord of Krarcht would be sneaky, a Rune Lord of Cacodemon might be able to Vomit Acid over you and a Rune Lord of Thanatar might have access to spells from other cults.

Rune Lords have high skills and probably iron weapons. Rune Priests have access to specialised Runespells. Both have access to Allied Spirits and have large Rune Pools. Both probably have a lot of Spirit Magic spells. If they have high CHA, they might also have Bound Spirits, so can cast more spells. 

 

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23 minutes ago, EpicureanDM said:

Great stuff, especially the part about using DI to raise allies from the dead mid-battle. You mention that he can't do it, but that implies that others might (and will). That's not something that most people outside of RQG would think about, especially if every PC is a Rune Lord or Priest. In D&D terms, that would mean that everyone has raise dead regardless of their class. That's a peculiar mindset for D&D players, right? 😉

DI is more a desperation measure than a tactic. It's not reliable unless you're a Rune Lord (specifically), and it's potentially very costly. I'm sure other RQ-2/3 players have stories of the successful DI that mostly crippled a character because of the low remaining POW...

Another difference between previous RQs and RQG is the duration of Spirit Magic. It's dropped from 5 minutes (25 or 30 rounds) to 2 (10 rounds), which makes the long buff sequence and pre-combat maneuver RHW describes for Korgo and his chums impracticable.

Something that I think is a key difference between most other games and RQG is that, while magic is available (and to some extent expected) for everyone to cast, it isn't 100% reliable. And it takes time. I'd be very wary of handwaving this away, either for PCs or NPCs. It's part of the 'tactical environment' that sometimes your 'go-to buff' needs a couple of goes to get cast, and low-POW creatures like Trollkin are inherently worse at Spirit Magic than your average human.

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2 hours ago, soltakss said:

it is not unknown for the casting of spells to cause combat.

To emphasize, in my experience as a player the moment someone I didn't know started casting a spell in a hostile environment, I tried to kill them. Very much an automatic reflex for that character.

2 hours ago, soltakss said:

So, a Rune Lord of Orlanth would be good with weapons, a Rune Lord of Humakt would be good with swords, a Rune Lord of Zorak Zoran would have clubs and might go Berserk, a Rune Lord of Krarcht would be sneaky, a Rune Lord of Cacodemon might be able to Vomit Acid over you and a Rune Lord of Thanatar might have access to spells from other cults.

And a Rune Priest of Eurmal might just eat a PC!

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22 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

You mention two opponents lobbing Disrupt at average POW PCs and how dangerous that is. But why? Close the loop on that bit of advice. Is it because if a PC takes 4 x 1D3 damage to general hit points over two rounds, they might be one glancing blow (maybe 2hp of damage to a location after armor) away from zero hp and death? 

What does your party look like in the general strokes that you felt comfortable unleashing two Large Dehori and a six-trollkin slingers squad (among others, including a powerful troll Rune Priestess, I presume) against them? The Bestiary says that elementals have one hit location and no armor. There's also no mention of combat skills, so they presumably can't Parry or Dodge. They can be hit and damaged by ordinary weapons. It sounds like as long as a PC doesn't fumble the attack, they just need to succeed on an attack then roll damage. This makes elementals feel like "semi-intelligent terrain effects" to me, which obviously require a priest around to control them. Is that a fair way at looking at them? 

What sort of impact did you expect the Dehori to have in the battle? What was their intended effect? Were there some strengths or weaknesses in your party that you wanted to connect with?

 

The big danger of Disrupt is that it ignores armor. This is quickly blocked by two points of Countermagic, a point of Shield, etc., but a round or two of Disrupt fire is a reliable way to take out heavy-duty melee warriors with a pretty low resource cost. On a related note, the effectiveness or lack thereof of certain tactics, spells, will depend on how your group grows and responds. I believe that RQ games basically end up with a group "meta" like in competitive games. Sort of a rock-paper-scissors interaction. My games  mostly dealt with direct damage spells and melee attacks, so Protection was way more valuable than Countermagic. If opponents start using Befuddle, suddenly Countermagic 3 becomes really good. If every opponent uses 2MP on Befuddle instead of Bladesharp near the start of combat, players will stop casting Protection 3--in which case Bladesharp becomes good again. The way the MP and time economies interact can create a constant shift in what good magic tactics consists of.

Honestly, looking back, using that combat was probably a bad example. It was this giant clusterfuck of a fight between a huge troll raid (caused because the adventurers found their hideout, and the trolls wanted to remain secretive and so destroy any who knew) on the village the adventurers were defending. The whole sides were something like:

Players: Five starting adventurers (one currently MIA), 8-ish Orlanthi farmers, a one-leggged duck initiate of Humakt, a God-talker of Ernalda, and some nebulous assistance promised by a local nymph, daughter of Zola Fel (who a PC worshiped).

Enemies: A troll priestess of Kyger Litor, initiate of Zorak Zoran warleader, and something like a dozen trollkin (TBH I just put down all my minis and don't remember exact numbers), with a mix of slings and spears. Then a flanking force of four Dark Troll warriors on the other end of the village.

The shades, summoned by the priestess, were instructed to just fearshock and move on, targeting anything that wasn't troll, aiming for mass casualties. At one point a Herder adventurer got the village sheep to stampede through the trollkin. At another point the MIA adventurer returned with reinforcements from the enemy trolls' blood-feuding clan on the back of giant dragonflies. So no, nothing at all about this combat was built to be balanced or normal. It was an attempt by the trolls to slaughter the village so the feuding clan wouldn't find their hideaway.

The shades were meant to pressure the adventurers into heroism, by knocking out a large number in a short time. Plus, let the priestess act without getting into melee. I used shades because trolls=Darkness. Elementals do honestly feel a bit like "semi-intelligent terrain" to me too. But a simple command (mess up everyone who isn't a troll) can do a lot of work, and leave the caster to do other stuff. Also, keep in mind that an uncontrolled elemental, AFAIK, can still be super useful. Elementals summoned with Rune magic come from the god, and by default won't turn around and assault the caster when uncontrolled. I play them as generally benevolent provided the caster is on good terms with their god.

One of the things I did notice is that while elementals don't really have defenses, they absolutely can have enough HP to require three or four hits to kill.

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10 hours ago, womble said:

Another difference between previous RQs and RQG is the duration of Spirit Magic. It's dropped from 5 minutes (25 or 30 rounds) to 2 (10 rounds), which makes the long buff sequence and pre-combat maneuver RHW describes for Korgo and his chums impracticable.

Something that I think is a key difference between most other games and RQG is that, while magic is available (and to some extent expected) for everyone to cast, it isn't 100% reliable. And it takes time. I'd be very wary of handwaving this away, either for PCs or NPCs. It's part of the 'tactical environment' that sometimes your 'go-to buff' needs a couple of goes to get cast, and low-POW creatures like Trollkin are inherently worse at Spirit Magic than your average human.

I noted that difference between the duration of RQ3 and RQG spirit magic. It does create translation problems for old tactics as you mention. And, as you say, opponents with average POW might need a few rounds of rolling to get their entire suite of expected spells into play. 

But I get the sense that most RQ GMs handwave those rolls, at least some of them. Maybe you roll for the Rune Lords, but the cannon fodder (the squads of trollkin) might need to have that magic in place just so that they're a proper challenge for the PCs. So the GM skips that part of the process to keep the game moving and interesting.

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7 hours ago, Crel said:

The big danger of Disrupt is that it ignores armor. This is quickly blocked by two points of Countermagic, a point of Shield, etc., but a round or two of Disrupt fire is a reliable way to take out heavy-duty melee warriors with a pretty low resource cost. On a related note, the effectiveness or lack thereof of certain tactics, spells, will depend on how your group grows and responds. I believe that RQ games basically end up with a group "meta" like in competitive games. Sort of a rock-paper-scissors interaction. My games  mostly dealt with direct damage spells and melee attacks, so Protection was way more valuable than Countermagic. If opponents start using Befuddle, suddenly Countermagic 3 becomes really good. If every opponent uses 2MP on Befuddle instead of Bladesharp near the start of combat, players will stop casting Protection 3--in which case Bladesharp becomes good again. The way the MP and time economies interact can create a constant shift in what good magic tactics consists of.

I like this. It's familiar enough if you've been playing RPGs for a little while, but it reframes it in particular RQG terms.

I see what you're saying about that example. It's helpful to see, though, since it helps chart the landscape.

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Just a quick message to say this thread is amazingly useful to a new Runequest GM like myself.

Great stuff, please keep it going.

 

Rgds

Dean

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6 hours ago, EpicureanDM said:

But I get the sense that most RQ GMs handwave those rolls, at least some of them. Maybe you roll for the Rune Lords, but the cannon fodder (the squads of trollkin) might need to have that magic in place just so that they're a proper challenge for the PCs. So the GM skips that part of the process to keep the game moving and interesting.

I think you could more handily ignore the Rune Masters rolling-to-cast most of the time, since their magic is going to tend to be the more reliable. For mooks, it would be less of a deviation to 'assume average' (so of 10 7-POW Trollkin slinger shots, 3-4 will have Speedart on them for example). But I don't think the PCs should ever be 'let off' rolling casting chances, so I'm back to encouraging rolls for the Big Bads too. :)

One useful skill as a GM is to be able to roll dice to resolve 'incidental' things while you're describing what's going on anyway, and then to seamlessly weave the result of that/those rolls into your narration of events that transpire. Helps to have easily-legible dice... :)

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22 hours ago, womble said:

Another difference between previous RQs and RQG is the duration of Spirit Magic. It's dropped from 5 minutes (25 or 30 rounds) to 2 (10 rounds), which makes the long buff sequence and pre-combat maneuver RHW describes for Korgo and his chums impracticable.

It was 10 rounds in RQ2 and we buffed up anyway. If it takes 3 rounds to buff up, then some spells will last for 7 rounds of combat, more than enough, normally, to get the benefit.

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19 hours ago, Crel said:

The big danger of Disrupt is that it ignores armor.

The big danger of Disrupt is that Multispell allows it to do more damage to a single location, so Disrupt with Multispell 4 does 5D3 damage, enough to shatter most limbs.

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49 minutes ago, soltakss said:

The big danger of Disrupt is that Multispell allows it to do more damage to a single location, so Disrupt with Multispell 4 does 5D3 damage, enough to shatter most limbs.

And this inadvertently highlights another great point--how and why particular things are dangerous changes a lot. I never played a game high "level" enough to worry about Multispell 4, so that much Disrupt wasn't something in my mind!

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1 minute ago, Crel said:

And this inadvertently highlights another great point--how and why particular things are dangerous changes a lot. I never played a game high "level" enough to worry about Multispell 4, so that much Disrupt wasn't something in my mind!

It is possible (with RQIII as with RQG) to perform the disruption shotgun effect with an enchant and a link, but each of the attacks have their locations rolled separately. It is nonetheless very efficient because 4 simultaneous disruptions are more interesting than 1 disruption boosted by 3 MP, use the same number of MP and take the same time to cast. The way I read RQG multispell (but I may be wrong), 4 disruptions linked by multispell count as 1 MP for overcoming countermagic (but I may be wrong), but all the damages are rolled on the same location, rapidly removing said location.

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6 minutes ago, Crel said:

And this inadvertently highlights another great point--how and why particular things are dangerous changes a lot. I never played a game high "level" enough to worry about Multispell 4, so that much Disrupt wasn't something in my mind!

Given that d3 average 2 per die, and 6 points is most human locations taken out, you need to worry about Multispell-2, which is within the reach of all starting characters, and any Initiate NPC with 2 Rune Points or more.

Of course, Countermagic-3 or Shield-1 will stop an un-boosted volley and be there to interfere with the next one.

1 hour ago, soltakss said:

It was 10 rounds in RQ2 and we buffed up anyway. If it takes 3 rounds to buff up, then some spells will last for 7 rounds of combat, more than enough, normally, to get the benefit.

The buff sequence for Korgo was at least 7 rounds of casting in RHW's post. But sure, most actual fights don't last 7 rounds. You aren't going to be doing much 'buff-then-sneak' maneuvering in those few moments, though.

2 minutes ago, Kloster said:

It is possible (with RQIII as with RQG) to perform the disruption shotgun effect with an enchant and a link, but each of the attacks have their locations rolled separately. It is nonetheless very efficient because 4 simultaneous disruptions are more interesting than 1 disruption boosted by 3 MP, use the same number of MP and take the same time to cast. The way I read RQG multispell (but I may be wrong), 4 disruptions linked by multispell count as 1 MP for overcoming countermagic (but I may be wrong), but all the damages are rolled on the same location, rapidly removing said location.

That's how I read RQG's multispell, too. I wouldn't consider the spells so simultaneous that a Countermagic-1 would stop them all, though. The first one would be stopped by it and blow it down for succeeding Disruptions. Also, I'd say each Disruption would be a separate wound for First Aid purposes.

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1 hour ago, womble said:

That's how I read RQG's multispell, too. I wouldn't consider the spells so simultaneous that a Countermagic-1 would stop them all, though. The first one would be stopped by it and blow it down for succeeding Disruptions. Also, I'd say each Disruption would be a separate wound for First Aid purposes.

The link spell condition on enchantment specifically creates 1 big complex spell (RQG p251, RQIII magic book p56), this is why I understand that 4 linked would count as a 4 MP spell. I agree with you for the wound count (and thus for healing and first aid).

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1 hour ago, womble said:

Given that d3 average 2 per die, and 6 points is most human locations taken out, you need to worry about Multispell-2, which is within the reach of all starting characters, and any Initiate NPC with 2 Rune Points or more.

Of course, Countermagic-3 or Shield-1 will stop an un-boosted volley and be there to interfere with the next one.

Completely true. This is a perfectly legit and effective tactic, even with starting characters.

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28 minutes ago, Kloster said:

The link spell condition on enchantment specifically creates 1 big complex spell (RQG p251, RQIII magic book p56), this is why I understand that 4 linked would count as a 4 MP spell. I agree with you for the wound count (and thus for healing and first aid).

On an Enchantment, yes I think it should be read that way. But Multispells are not an Enchantment. Nor are their 'payloads'.

As I remember RQ3's Multispell, it specifically treated Disruption as separate spells with separate rolls for location affected, which makes the difference explicitly stated in RQG that multispelled Disruptions stack their damage into one location a significant one.

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3 hours ago, Crel said:

And this inadvertently highlights another great point--how and why particular things are dangerous changes a lot. I never played a game high "level" enough to worry about Multispell 4, so that much Disrupt wasn't something in my mind!

Soltak Stormspear was blown apart many a time by Multispell III Disrupt barrages, normally by two or 3 Priests targeting him at the same time.  RQG makes Multispell a stackable spell, which makes sense, so you can have higher Multispell than 3.

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42 minutes ago, womble said:

As I remember RQ3's Multispell, it specifically treated Disruption as separate spells with separate rolls for location affected, which makes the difference explicitly stated in RQG that multispelled Disruptions stack their damage into one location a significant one.

RQ3 did not have RQ2's Multispell, instead it was a sorcery skill. RQ3 did not have an equivalent of RQ2 Multispell.

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3 hours ago, womble said:

As I remember RQ3's Multispell, it specifically treated Disruption as separate spells with separate rolls for location affected, which makes the difference explicitly stated in RQG that multispelled Disruptions stack their damage into one location a significant one.

RQIII multispell was for Sorcery only, so couldn't affect Disruption, but otherwise, you're right on the way it works: each of the multispelled spell count as a separate one. This is why we used it with enchant and link spell condition. The rule on that point is exactly the same in RQG.

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2 hours ago, soltakss said:

RQ3 did not have RQ2's Multispell, instead it was a sorcery skill. RQ3 did not have an equivalent of RQ2 Multispell.

Ah. It was RQ2 that had Multispell as a Divine spell, and that was what I was remembering: the only way to combine Spirit Magic casts 'on the fly'.

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16 hours ago, Djday45 said:

Just a quick message to say this thread is amazingly useful to a new Runequest GM like myself.

Great stuff, please keep it going.

 

Rgds

Dean

That's a big reason why I started it. 😉

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Yes, this illustrate very well how I felt trying to start a RQG game from scratch (with no prior RQ experience), and having mostly older scenarios that were made for a different difficulty level. I've put aside trying for now, waiting for more updated/new scenarios and for the GM's guide, but this thread is very interesting.

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8 hours ago, soltakss said:

RQ3 did not have RQ2's Multispell, instead it was a sorcery skill. RQ3 did not have an equivalent of RQ2 Multispell.

Or that's the reason, maybe, why it didn't come to mind. Our game's core engine was RQ3; I've never touched RQ2.

Yayyy versions nonsense!

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another thing to note is that with other systems unions can be represented by half a dozen or less factors which makes easier to roll out the nameless canon fodder. You can do this with RQ but you are missing out on one of it's key advantages, the uniqueness of individuals. With a little planning an encounter with 6x trolls can become quite memorable by selecting interesting spells, allied spirits (which have personalities too), terrain, equipment and goals. Give all of your NPC's a little motivation, then act accordingly.

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