So how did the Bloodletter work in my Rogue Trader game?

As regular readers of the blog may know, my Rogue Trader FATE game recently featured a Bloodletter daemon of Khorne (the blog entry where I discuss statting this bad boy is available here for anyone who is interested); so, now that the weekend has finished and the week has settled in like an unwelcome lump of concrete and I reflect on the game session, how did the Bloodletter work?
Overall I think it worked quite well, given that this is the first real hand to hand combat that I have run in the game since switching to FATE it ran quickly and relatively smoothly being resolved in a few minutes rather than the hours that combat can take with some systems; you don’t really get the same level of ‘crunch’ that you get with more detailed systems (although I have instituted weapon rules (as defined in my Rogue Trader hack) in my game) but i’ll quite happily sacrifice crunch for a game that doesn’t become needlessly bogged down in the minutiae of combat. There were, however, a couple of minor issues that cropped up with the Bloodletter that I think are worth bearing in mind for future combats and that I thought i’d share in this blog post.
  • More Stress levels required
The initial three stress levels that I apportioned for the Bloodletter were nowhere near enough and would have resulted in the daemon being overcome in the very first round (without getting to land a blow); I think this is because of the increased ‘damage’ caused by the players weapons. During the game I had to add another three stress levels onto the antagonists total in order to make it any sort of challenge.
Another thing that I have started doing with these NPCs (mainly because they do not have any consequence boxes that can be used to soak stress) is ignoring the rule (for NPCs only) that only a single stress box can be used to soak damage; i’m not sure whether or not this was supposed to apply to nameless NPCs but originally I had been using that rule. I’m considering now making each stress box worth a single stress level and increase the amount of boxes possessed by each NPC, this would make it far easier during a combat to just tick off a number of boxes equal to the damage taken.
  • Opponents being overwhelmed by odds

Although the mob rules work really well and are great for representing the mobs of soldiers, tech-priests, fighter pilots and other generic ships crew that the players in my game (rightfully) tend to tool about with, it does create a situation where any single antagonist is liable to be overwhelmed by mobs of nameless NPCs (lead by a much more capable player character) in short order. Part of the reason for this is that i’ve been having mobs directly add their teamwork bonus to the players score and thus it can result in some quite high final tallies (even on a mediocre to poor roll); this wasn’t really a problem in the Bloodletter encounter since it was just a single opponent against a whole ship of crew.
In future I think that i’ll adopt a couple of tactics in order to lessen the impact of mobs:
  • Using terrain to restrict their use: If only a certain number of people can assist a roll then the bonuses are limited.
  • Having area effects or psychological effects that affect nameless NPC mobs but that the PCs are proof against: Some sort of ‘fear’ effect may be appropriate for creatures like daemons, perhaps some sort of test being required to initiate an attack or even just a stunt that means for the first round of a combat nameless NPCs cannot attack.
  • Having mobs roll seperately rather than adding their bonus to a player character: This would result in two reasonable rolls rather than one really high roll.

6 thoughts on “So how did the Bloodletter work in my Rogue Trader game?”

  1. Suggestions made by Julius Muller on G+ (posted here as an aide memoire):

    "If you make your stress boxes 1 shift each then you have basically hit points.

    If you want to make it tougher give it some more stress boxes.

    Or you could use a mob of them.

    Or treat it as a supporting npc and give it a physique of 5 which would give them also a mild consequence.

    Or if you want it to be a single tough opponent then make their skill cap 2 higher then the PCs."

  2. I think part of the problem was the issue you will always get of 1 vs. many of action economy even with his 2 actions a turn we had twice the number of actions between the player party. I think we should take in to account space around the creature I know melee is a moving flowing thing but if you have 1 player with a mob of 6 mates either he shouldn’t get the benefit of them or others shouldn’t be able to engage in melee combat with it. Yes we tool around with minions but they are not a working bonus they are a group of people and should take up that space. The rest of its stats from what I can see where good it was a threat to us as both people it got a chance to hit had stress boxes ticked.

    1. Completely agree John, as I say in the blog entry, I think the encounter worked pretty well overall (although I did have to add a couple of stress boxes to my initial stats, but a few friendly people on G+ have suggested some alternatives to this); couldn't agree more on your comments about minions and that is certainly something (along with a maximum number of people who can attack a single foe in a round) that I will police more closely in future.

  3. Advice by Robert Hanz on G+ (placed here as an aide memoire):

    "Sounds like this was a solo critter, yes? If so, the 'nameless NPC' rules aren't really the way to go. While the bloodletter may not have a name (and isn't "the Bloodletter" a name of sorts?), he definitely represents a unique, significant opponent.

    That's not what "nameless opposition" rules are for. They're for cannon fodder. They're for the Stormtroopers. And a "Good" mook may be good for a mook, but they're not a tough, single opponent. They're not meant to be. Good for a mook is pretty crappy by other standards. A good mook, by himself, is not a challenge for a group of PCs in any way.

    The purpose of a Good Nameless NPC in Fate Core is: "Provide a decent stumbling block (in numbers) on the way to a more significant encounter."

    A significant solo encounter is almost certainly built as a full NPC, if you want it to be a reasonable challenge. Think about it – to challenge a group of PCs, the solo has to be stronger than any of the PCs individually, and that's just to start.

    Peak skill should probably be at least the PC's peak skill +2. I've found that in that case, a single combatant vs. a group of 3 PCs will still go down quickly, maybe pulling off a single Consequence in the process.

    I don't really recommend turning stress into hp. If you want a more resilient critter, Consequences and higher stress are the way to go.

    Consequences especially for significant opponents make sense – stress is really just pacing. Consequences are where the interesting things happen. That's the part in the story where you slice his chest open, and he looks down at the wound and then glares at you.

    For the mobs of crew, I think there's a few things you can do:

    1) Recognize they'll be there, and stat the opposition appropriately.
    2) Reduce the gang-up bonus from 1 for 1 to 1 for 2 or 3.
    3) Require justification for what the assistants are doing.
    4) As you've pointed out, have them act on their own.
    5) Sure, they're there, but they're running around or doing other crew stuff like fixing the ship rather than jumping in on the firefight in any significant capacity.

    If there's not narrative justification for the mobs helping, it certainly makes sense to have them act on their own. Fiction first, right?"

  4. Great conversation! I started playing 40k at the end of 1987. It always needed a good RPG treatment. FFG finally did something worthy, but I think FATE is an excellent way to get into 40K. I'd love to see what your final write up of the Bloodletter is after all this discussion.

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