Friday, April 28, 2017

Encounter Difficulty


Over at +The Wild Die Podcast  we released a bonus episode in which we answered a question from +Pure Mongrel concerning encounter difficulty. This is a recurring question in the community. Savage Worlds Deluxe addresses that in the chapter Running the Game. This provides a baseline but as is the case with many Savage Worlds mechanics, this is more art than science. The nature of open-ended die rolls makes it difficult to balance the opposition against a group of player-characters without knowing all of the parameters. I started with Savage Worlds before Deluxe edition where Combat Ratings were introduced. I've never used those so I can't comment on their accuracy. All I can say is that after D&D 3.5, I have no desire to start playing accountant.
Throughout the years, I've had encounters where I thought the players would mop the floor but it ended being a drawn out affair. I've ran encounters where I thought it would be a climatic battle but my carefully "difficult" opposition was defeated in two rounds or less without the player-characters breaking a sweat. Over time, I've come to embrace that. After all, if I wanted predictable outcomes, why would I even bother rolling dice?
+Manuel Sambs suggestion to use the player-character's competence as a baseline for the opposition is great. The guys over at the Savage GM Podcast have tackled this topic many times over. +Richard Woolcock has blogged about it. These are all good advices. I will not expand on that.
With that said, one point from Bonus Episode - Good Vibrations I want to expand on here is the use of GM Bennies.
I have a confession to make. When it comes to GM Bennies, I cheat. Yes. One Benny per Wild Card character plus each GM Wild Card character has two Bennies? Pfff. Players earn Bennies during the course of a session. Along with the Wild Die, this is a distinct advantage player-characters have over the GM.
Your experience may vary. You may have nailed balance down to a science. For me, the best tool at my disposal to control how deadly an encounter is without making combat encounters last too long has been the way I use my Bennies. Again, there's no real science to this but allow me to share some guidelines.

  • If I want an encounter to be more difficult, I assign it a pool of GM Bennies, usually between 1-3.
  • For a final battle or climatic scene I refresh my pool of GM Bennies.