Something other than Actual Play: “Balance”

Demon: The Descent, Open Development

I feel like I owe you all something beyond playtest reports, although those have been generating some good responses.

OK, so, we all know that demons have demonic forms, and those forms have power associated with them. You’ve seen demons using Wings, Clairvoyant Sight, Teleportation, and so forth; these are all form powers.

Demons also have powers called Embeds. Knockout Punch is one example that’s popped up a couple of times, and then over on the non-combat side of things, we have powers like Ellipses.

And then there’s a third classification of powers that I apparently haven’t spoiled the name of yet, but for right now, let’s just say that they’re more overt and more dramatic than Embeds. Play on Words and Addictive Presence are examples.

So. One of the things that the playtesters have said, and that the readers of the playtest reports have inquired about, is: Are these things too powerful? Should there be some kind of resistance roll? Are they, indeed, unbalanced?

I have a funny relationship with “game balance” as a concept. More specifically, it makes me twitch. Now, I’m well aware that the powers in a game have to make sense and they have to balance against the game itself. If a power within the context of a game is so useful that you’re dumb if you don’t take it, then that’s not balanced (but should be excluded? I’d argue that, most of the time, it should come standard, which is why you don’t need a special power or Merit to access the Hedge in Changeling: The Lost). But a lot of times, when people talk about “game balance,” they’re talking about one of two things. One is combat – can a power be “twinked” to provide a massive combat advantage? Or is it, in fact, already so badass that (again) you’re dumb if you don’t use it?

The other is, does the power somehow “wreck the game?” Let’s take an example.

There’s an Embed called Cause & Effect. The thinking behind it is that it plays on the “Butterfly Effect.” That is, by taking one action, no matter what it is, I can effect change in another area. In game terms, the way it works is that you take one action, and apply the successes of that action against another action. Here, have a look at the text from the book (first draft, unedited, disclaimer, certain restrictions apply, blah blah):

Success: The player states what the demon is doing and what the demon hopes to accomplish. The two actions don’t have to be related in any way, but the action that the demon hopes to accomplish must be something that she could actually do, given the right circumstances (having the right expertise is not relevant). The player then rolls for the Embed, using whatever Skill is most appropriate to the action the demon is taking. The successes apply to the action the demon hopes to accomplish.

For example, a demon wishes to hack a website, but lacks easy access to a good computer and has very little in the way of hacking ability (only a single dot in Computer). She uses the Cause and Effect Embed, and states that she will open the gas cap of a random car in a parking lot. The Storyteller has her roll Wits + Larceny, and the player rolls four successes. Those successes are applied to hacking the website; by a series of strange coincidences and unrelated events, all stemming from the open gas cap, the character will get the knowledge she needs.

This Embed doesn’t necessarily make things happen quickly, though. Cause and Effect can take up to a month to yield a result, and the more distance in physical proximity and concept between the cause and the effect, the longer it takes.

Now, this particular Embed got a lot of response from playtesters, mostly of the “holy shit, so you could assassinate the President by throwing a cheeseburger wrapper on the ground?” (Please note, in case the Secret Service or the FBI is still tracking me after Immortals: It’s just an example. I would never actually advocate assassination, particularly not via cheeseburger.) “Game wrecker!”

I see the point, I just don’t think it’s a problem. Here’s why.

First of all, note the last line of the Embed. “…the more distance in physical proximity and concept between the cause and the effect, the longer it takes.” So, yes, theoretically I could do something extremely grandiose with a very small and unassuming action, but is it going to happen fast enough to have any kind of meaningful effect on the chronicle? Maybe the dude I assassinate is the President eight years from now (I know it says “up to a month,” but that’s something I’m likely to change in revision; like I said, first draft). But even if it happens tomorrow, what effect is that going to have on the game? Why is that a “game wrecker?” Or, let’s say it does have an effect. The effect is probably bringing down lots and lots of God-Machine fueled scrutiny on the characters. The player who did this has just made everything more tense, dramatic and dangerous. As the Storyteller, I’m…kind of OK with that.

But this all goes back to a larger problem, and it applies to powers that are “too” effective in combat, as well. If you have a player who takes a power and immediately wants to use it to screw everything up, rather than as it’s intended, then I’d argue the problem is the player, not the power. Yes, Cause & Effect can be used in weird and highly effective and esoteric ways. It’s intended to give the players a way to compensate for a low Skill in one area, if they have some time on their hands. Yes, Merciless Gunman lets you kill a whole bunch of people in one roll. It’s intended to give demons an effective way of taking out non-important henchman quickly (see also: Down & Dirty Combat, in the God-Machine Chronicle Rules Update, available now for free!).

The idea here is to think about how the powers work with relation to the game and the story, not to try and find ways to apply their literal wording in weird and “game-breaking” ways. I, personally, like powers that give some narrative control to the players. I also know that there are players that are going to abuse that.

If you have a player who abuses it, y’know, tell them to stop. That’s jerk behavior. Don’t play with jerks (actually, it might be less “jerk” and more “differing expectations about how the game should go,” but that’s a whole different topic). But if you’ve got players that are really concerned with how the powers work, my advice is to consider what the power does in the context of the game, and figure out whether it benefits from a limiter. And some of that is going to depend on the situation.

As a final example, let’s consider Ellipses. Basically, it imposes lost time: the target just gets caught up in whatever they’re doing:

Success: The target becomes engrossed in something — reading, writing a letter, surfing the internet, even just daydreaming — and loses the time. Any Perception rolls for the character during this time are reduced to a chance die. If someone actively engages the character, the effect is lost, but this Embed is a superb way to keep someone distracted. The effects last for a scene.

So, does that power need a limiter? Should it subtract a character’s Resolve or Wits or something? And if so, why? (I would argue that the limiter is unnecessary, but I’m interested in your thoughts.)

  30 comments for “Something other than Actual Play: “Balance”

  1. Peter Boddy
    May 8, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I am glad you folks look at game balance very objectively, and that you’re giving the Storyteller lots of leeway to be a little loosey goosey.

    Demon is shaping up to be quite an interesting game.

    • blackhatmatt
      May 8, 2013 at 9:56 am

      Really, it’s less about loosey-goosey and more about just looking at intent rather than numbers. I don’t mean – I never mean – to imply that the rules shouldn’t be used, because actually the NWoD system works better when you do roll dice. I just think that where powers are concerned, you’re better off looking at what kinds of challenges a power gets you around than trying to find ways to shove square pegs into round holes.

      (I’m also being really careful to avoid writing powers that only work for my style of GMing, because I’m bad like that.)

  2. Sean Mattox
    May 8, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I’m all for “powerful” effects, particularly so if they require oblique approaches or entail complications to employ. Cause and Effect, as described, seems to do both. This sort of stuff *adds* all sorts of plot hooks when you use it in your game, and as that’s what brings us here, sounds like a win to me.

    With respect to resistance, such as for Ellipses, my personal preference as a forever-Storyteller would be to include mention of the power might be resisted (such as subtracting Resolve or what have you), but emphasize clearly for all Demon powers that such resistances are only to be factored in if it would be interesting or important to do so. I hate the narrative awkwardness of “oh, the mook rolled four 10s in a row to resist your mental compulsion, don’t you feel mighty you supernatural being you?”, but there are times and places where it might be more appropriate.

  3. May 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I used to really play up human resistance to supernatural powers, especially in Vampire games as part of a larger theme. At the time I wanted to stress the idea of horror as helplessness and that the plot is what happens to the characters during game, not what I had planned. So, if someone lost control and killed a guard or insulted the Bishop of the city, that wasn’t a barrier to overcome to get to the plot; that became the plot.

    I still use that style of play but have transitioned it to other systems were helplessness is a larger part of the experience (Call of Cthulhu specifically). With my current World of Darkness games I encourage more narrative use of abilities, only rolling when the chance of failure is interesting and doesn’t completely stop the players cold.

    So far, based on the playtest notes descriptions of how powers are used, I like the way Demon is forming up. I think the God Machine option of giving players a beat for upgrading to a dramatic failure will help to preserve the tradition of epic mistakes causing conflict but in a more controlled (and hopefully enjoyable) manner than the random one I used to use.

  4. WuseMajor
    May 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    When considering power balance, I think that, in addition to looking at how a given power is supposed to be used by the players, you need to look at what situations happen if the power is used /on/ the players.

    For Ellipsis in particular, I think it’s ok, since, if the PCs are in a time critical situation, getting them into a position where the power can be legitimately used on them is probably going to be tricky anyway.

    But it still bears considering. Also worth considering are games where the PCs are one or more Humans/Hunters dealing with Demons/Angels. Admittedly, that is more of a Horror game set up and it’s not the default premise for Demon the Roanoke Colony, but it’s still something that should be looked at in the context of adding on resistance rolls and such things.

    • blackhatmatt
      May 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      This is a good point, and is actually the argument that made me decide to add resistance conditions/traits.

      I do think, though, that if you’re using a behavior-control power on a PC, it needs to have a specific game effect rather than a purely behavior-controlling one. Ellipses does, for instance.

      I’ve had bad experiences telling players “your character feels this way.” Sometimes players run with it, other times they go “nuh-UH” and then things get awkward.

      • TheLoneGunman
        May 9, 2013 at 1:41 am

        I don’t have a problem with the effect Ellipses imparts, and the stated limitations of the power seem reasonable enough. I do agree with WuseMajor that giving an option or some guidelines on where and how to resist, should the ST find it appropriate for the situation, seems like a fair enough option. Maybe it could be just a sidebar at the beginning of the powers section that goes over this topic briefly?

        Otherwise, I am loving the way the powers and Demon in general are looking. Cause and Effect alone seems like an awesome enough power that I can see myself building an entire character around it, which is never a bad thing.

  5. Fallen Seraph
    May 8, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    So far powers like Cause and Effect, Play on Words, Synthesis, etc. I absolutely adore they are not just powers but story hooks and way to move a narrative forward in interesting ways. I find to that these kind of powers are not ones where I concern myself with game balance either as a GM or player.

  6. Aiden
    May 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Can we get more like this?

    This made me salivate in anticipation even more than I already was.

  7. Mechalith
    May 9, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    This sounds awesome so far.

    My philosophy with character powers has always been to try to apply them in a way that makes sense with what I think the writer intended. People trying to Pun-Pun their way into ultimate power get a glaring at for the most part.

    I think that one of the things people are likely to flail about is the power gap between a new Demon character and (for instance) a Sin-Eater. It’s sounding like the Demon character will probably have a decent fistful of tools and powers that dwarf his counterpart, but I don’t see that as being a problem, just the way things are.

  8. MugaSofer
    May 10, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Hmm. To be honest, I just came out of an argument over some rules I thought were broken (not these ones) so maybe I’m pattern matching. However…

    Just because the ST can, in theory, fix any rules abuse doesn’t mean abuseable rules aren’t a problem. Not all Storytellers are able or willing to patch the rules.Some of them are overworked as it is controlling every NPC, orchestrating the plot and dealing with unanticipated player actions, and want to be able to simply play the game as written without houseruling it. Others aren’t game designers, or so I hear, and can be genuinely unsure if a player is munchkining to high heaven; they want to be able to trust the experts to balance things ahead of time, rather than guessing wrong and rendering a power useless or necessary by allowing too much or too little.

    I tend toward the simulationist side of game design, and play for that matter, but sometimes even genre-appropriate things don’t work in the context of an RPG. In this case, Demon is part of a shared setting; mortal players and other splats are going to be on the receiving end of these abilities, if nothing else. For example, ellipses; what happens if you call the phone of someone in this state? What happens if you shake their arm? What happens if they set an alarm clock? What happens if the building explodes? NPCs using these tactics might seem irritating, but players are going to want to defend against these.

    Should a Demon be on an equal footing with, say, a Changeling? People will look at, say, dot ratings and expect them to balance. Some people will, inevitably, try to treat them as balanced against each other, and they will come away disgruntled at Demon’s (perceived) poor design. It’s stupid, but … if it would be so terrible to have a starting demon not be vastly powerful, maybe start them at a higher power level, instead of making each power level more, well, powerful. Mummy is balanced not because you’re equal in power to the other splats, but because people can see how powerful you are in game terms, and balance their other characters against that with the existing mechanics.

    Phew, that was long. Sure hope I’m not ranting at nothing, here, and sorry if I seem rude or anything. Just trying to be helpful and so on and so forth.

    Oh, finally, my opinion of Cause and Effect. Honestly, I quite like it. Maybe change it to something a person with an equivalent dice pool could do? The wording is a bit vague. In theory, I could assassinate the president archangels, if I had the requisite knowledge; I could steal a bunch of nukes and, if not win the War in Heaven, at least do more damage than most Demons do in a lifetime. I don’t have that expertise; because acquiring it would need a heck of a lot of XP and time and such. Not to mention, y’know, getting rich and powerful for free. This may be where the disconnect is coming from regarding how balanced it is – that could be interpreted a few different ways.

    • blackhatmatt
      May 10, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      No, it’s cool. I totally see the points you’re raising.

      There comes a point in any game where you have to say “I will give this much guidance, and folks need to figure it out from there.” One of the things about most (I think all, but definitely most) of the Embeds that I like is that they all have a mechanical effect. So Ellipses, does a phone call snap them out of it? Well, the ST could say “yes, because that changes the scenario enough that they snap out of it” or “no, the power makes the subject ignore it” or “maybe, roll that chance die for a Perception roll.” All viable options.

      But as a game designer, I’m uncomfortable saying “do it this way” because I know that, as an ST, when I see “do it this way” I tend to think, “What, would it not work if I did it another way?” I’d rather make the options clear up front.

      And as far as “balance” with other splats, I’m sorry, but that’s never been a concern for me at all. I’ve run games with werewolves and mages, mages and changelings, changelings and Sin-Eaters, Prometheans and mages, Prometheans and changelings, hunters and mages, and probably other permutations that I’m forgetting. It works just fine…if your players do it right.

      • MugaSofer
        May 14, 2013 at 6:55 am

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying balance with other splats is actually needed to make it fun and playable; just noting that people will tend to assume things with similar ratings and functions and costs and so on have been balanced and treat them like they are. If you make a splat that’s more powerful than any other splat, that’s awesome, seriously, and I look forward to playing it. But maybe a disclaimer or something.

        As for the options thing … I’m a big fan of “optional rules” in the corebook; but sometimes it’s nice to have a “default” rule for stuff. Even if it’s only so you can see what balance thingy you might be fiddling with when you choose.

        In this case, it would be great to know A Thing That Works even if you note other things that probably work pretty well too. If only because playtesting.

  9. Eolirin
    May 13, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Bit late to the party, but I think that any discussion of game balance needs to separate mechanical from narrative effect. It’s one thing for Cause and Effect to potentially have wide reaching effects, and a discussion of whether the ability to affect sweeping narrative changes like that make sense for a given power level, and another for the mechanics to actually function in a sane way. Cause and Effect, mechanically, allows you to swap one dice pool for another, at the cost of having the action be circuitous and slow, it doesn’t let you automatically succeed at an action. You can’t take out the president using it as a power any more easily than a skilled sniper with a sniper rifle could. There’s no question that it’s not too strong.

    But you also have to look out for things being too weak; examples of areas where this has crept in to past work are the options for exceptional successes in extended actions in GMC, where it’s almost always superior to take the extra successes over the 25% time reduction and the option to take 9 again instead of three extra dice when risking willpower in Hunter. Taking those options is not just making a suboptimal choice, it’s making a suboptimal choice that increases your odds of failure.

    • blackhatmatt
      May 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm

      You’re right about 9-again in Hunter, it’s only worthwhile if you’ve got a really big dice pool to start with (something like 12 dice before having 9-again makes a real difference). But how does taking the time reduction hurt you in extended actions? It just makes any given roll go faster.

      Unless you mean that you’re giving up money in the bank (as it were), in which case, yeah, I see what you’re saying.

  10. Eolirin
    May 13, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Yeah, basically that, but it’s made worse by the roll limit. If you give up the successes to take the time reduction, you increase the number of successes you need, but the number of rolls you have remaining is exactly the same; that increases your odds of failing. You’ve even got weird odds for the time reduction actually reducing the amount of time it takes. The automatic successes potentially mean you hit your target in fewer rolls, and that’s a bigger time savings. So it’s a really risky trade off with minimal upside benefit and a huge opportunity cost.

    Granted, it’s more useful if you have a time limit rather than a roll limit, because then at least it’d let you take more rolls to hit your target number, but even that would depend on how high your skill is relative to your dice pool.

  11. Theliel
    May 14, 2013 at 10:02 am

    The main issue with ‘balance’ and effects is when the setting doesn’t match the implications of the powers.

    Example – Ellipses is pretty much an “I Win” (in any meaningful sense) against someone who isn’t actively paranoid – you reduce them to a chance die to notice something and they’re locked into whatever it is they’re doing as a rote action.

    The very first thing I thought of was “Man, this is a great CC power.” – It’s the perfect setup power as you’ve pretty much caused the subject lost time that’s easily exploited to frame them for a crime. Hell just poison someone and then send them into an rote action coma while they while away the antidote period.

    It’s pretty much a perfect Save or Suck from 3.x – It doesn’t kill you in one roll, but it effectively does the minute the power works.

    Which is great for the PCs and for the ST for starting stories in Media Res. It starts to suck when the Players wonder why the Bad Guys were smart enough to use it to set them up the first time but don’t basically cause a group wipe by continuing to use the power effectively or the PCs do suffer a TPK because it’s pretty much a Perfect Combo.

    I suppose if other effects at the same cost are just as ‘powerful’ it’s ‘balanced’ with the other powers but at some point you start heading down the Exalted 2nd path where there are 3 viable Perfect Combos and if you haven’t picked up some sort of defense against them the system punishes the player with a mocking “You really didn’t come to play did you?”

    • blackhatmatt
      May 14, 2013 at 10:14 am

      See, but this isn’t D&D or Exalted, and if you approach like a minis game, it doesn’t work as well.

      And as for poisoning someone and then hitting them with Ellipses until they die…um, sure, do that. Why is that a problem? If the conflict in the game is one that is legitimately solved by killing someone by poison (and hey, it’s a spy-influenced game, that’s very much in genre), then that’s a clever use of the power.

      But see, if the players are thinking, “why don’t our enemies use this on us?” (presuming they know their enemies have access to the same powers they do), then you’re looking at the game like it’s a minis game or a board game. It’s not. The enemies have their own motivations, which might not be served by thinking like the PCs. And those motivations aren’t necessarily represented by the rules (too many possibilities), but they certainly should be represented by what the ST does.

      • Theliel
        May 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm

        and

        Y’know I prolly took that the wrong way but…”Anything we think up will be done against us” and “Anything I can do someone else can be done to me” is a core tenant of Tradecraft.

        It’s explicitly a plot point in a number of spy themed media. I don’t understand why applying basic conflict game theory on a..well existential conflict (my continued existence) is somehow related to miniatures or board games?

        Analyzing the capabilities of The Opposition and taking Measures to counter them seems perfectly in genre. The Spy Game is thought of as a Game, or a Dance with moves and counter moves.

        Can you elaborate on the D&D/Exalted/Mini’s/Board game bit because I find it a bit of a non sequitur.

        • blackhatmatt
          May 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm

          Sure. In a minis game (and my experience with D&D, as well as the design philosophy behind it, is that it’s a minis game interspersed with roleplaying scenes), you have a top-down view of the battlefield. You know, for the most part, what the other side is doing, there’s generally plenty of room for table talk and strategy out of character, and there’s a prevalent view that the GM is the adversary (again, this is my experience and my read, and I’m by no means suggesting that any of this is wrong or inferior).

          WoD, on the other hand, especially with the GMC updates, is more focused on the narrative, and more specifically, NPCs don’t play by the same rules as PCs. For each character that isn’t controlled by a player, the first question should be, “what is this character’s role in the story?” So the focus here isn’t on “make powers that function exactly as well for NPCs as for PCs,” it’s “make powers that are fun for PCs to use and evoke the themes and moods we want for the game.”

          That said: You’re absolutely right about that core tenet of tradecraft, and that’s something that gets addressed in Demon.

  12. The Kings Raven
    May 16, 2013 at 11:54 am

    This is very late, but on the whole those powers look cool, spy-themed and balanced.

    One thing though, maybe the dice pool for cause and effect should be Intelligence + Investigation. Not to make it less flexible, but just. Given the description of how the power works it seems like the Demon’s ability to read probability and possibility is far more important to getting the result than his skill at physically removing a gascap.

    It might also help increase options by allowing you to do things that are hard to assign a diceroll for. E.G. Leaving the tap on in your apartment before you go to work.

    • blackhatmatt
      May 16, 2013 at 11:57 am

      Dice pools for Embeds always use Finesse Attributes, but beyond that, I see your point. The point of the power, though, is to offer some flexibility – you do something to do something else. That kind of interchangeability is pretty frequently found among Embeds, so I’m pretty happy with the way the system works here (I’ve made some modifications since this post went up, though).

      I love all the feedback, though. It’s been really helpful in nailing all this down.

      • May 16, 2013 at 5:21 pm

        So, if Embeds always use Finesse does that mean that Demon Form abilities use Power Attributes?

        • blackhatmatt
          May 16, 2013 at 8:13 pm

          Forms powers don’t, but the other things do.

  13. AegonTargaryen
    May 17, 2013 at 5:22 am

    How to phrase my disappointment without becoming somewhat rude ? Guess there is no way, so I just say what’s on my mind. At least, that is what you also do, don’t you ?

    „If you have a player who abuses it, y’know, tell them to stop. That’s jerk behavior. Don’t play with jerks (actually, it might be less “jerk” and more “differing expectations about how the game should go,” but that’s a whole different topic). But if you’ve got players that are really concerned with how the powers work, my advice is to consider what the power does in the context of the game, and figure out whether it benefits from a limiter. And some of that is going to depend on the situation.“

    So I hand out this „rulebook“ (starting to question whether this actually is a “rule”-book, for rules seem to annoy you) to my players. They pick a power, read what it does and use it.

    To kill the Vampire Prince of the city, for example by throwing a random apple over a random fence somewhere using strength and athletics. But who cares about attribute and skill point distribution anymore ? In the end, it’s all just Cause & Effect, do whatever you like with whatever attribute and skill on your character sheet. But blackhatmatt doesn’t care for game balance, Vampire princes, or, with having to come up with real creative ideas to solve a problem, does he ? You had a random thought about the Butterfly Effect, sounds cool, let’s make a power of it, can do anything, who cares ?

    To all the Vampire players out there, sorry guys, all these carefully worked out, flavorful powers of yours, forget them, now there is Demon: the Dowhateveryoulike, and the only way to stop a Demon player from killing your fancy Prince, or locating the tomb of Dracula, or just nuking the entire city by throwing an apple over a random fence is for the Storyteller to start a long discussion with the player and in the end call him a jerk.

    For that is blackhatmatts advise, isn’t it ? To call my friends with whom I would play this game „jerks“ if they „abuse“ these all-too-easily abusable, ill conceived powers provided here. Instead of blackhatmatt doing HIS homework as a game designer and provide some rules which make sense and keep some balance in the context of the World of Darkness we all know and love, everybody who doesn’t see things your way and plays the game as you do is a jerk.

    I could go on and on with my rant.

    Sorry, but after reading all of this, I almost have lost any interest in Demon: the Dowhateveryoulike, and I know I am not the only one. Why then do I even write this ? Out of frustration. Due to shattered hopes. Man, I LOVED what Suleiman and the others did with Mummy and had high hopes for the next gameline to come out. But now I have to assume the background provided by Demon will be as flippant as the game rules sketched out so far.

    • blackhatmatt
      May 17, 2013 at 9:01 am

      You’re making this really personal, and I’m not sure I appreciate that. But, to address your larger concern:

      Would you, as Storyteller, really let a player nuke a city with an apple? Or would you say, “no, that’s dumb, that’s obviously not remotely what the power intends, and you’re just doing that to be funny.”? Because when I say that’s something a jerk would do, I mean exactly that. I don’t go into a Vampire game, run out into the street and flip cars over with Potence (or Vigor, depending on which Vampire we’re playing) or Dominate the mayor to start slapping people with fish on national TV. I could do that, though. There’s no in-system prohibition for it (there are, however, in-settting prohibitions on it – the same is true of Demon).

      Something else I said in the initial post is that a player that tries to do something beyond the scope of a given power might not be a jerk, so much as not having the same expectations about the limits of the power, or the tone of the game, as the ST or the other players. I can’t control for that in rules. Other games have tried, and IMO, what you wind up with is a lot of arbitrary rules laid down in the name of “game balance” that just place restrictions that people don’t really need.

      So: Hopefully you’ll given Demon a look, or at least keep an eye on the blog for further details, so that you can get a sense of how the whole game looks in context.

    • Arcane
      May 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      Given the way the power works, here’s what I’m reading:

      CONGRATULATIONS! You have now made it easier to kill the Vampire Prince!

      Now you still have to find out where you’re killing the Prince, what the obstacles in that place and at that time will be, contend with any ghouls, gargoyles, blood servitors, mundane human security, and vampires that may be involved at these points, struggle against the systems and occult defenses of a place, and must actually assassinate one of the most cunning, vicious, and probably obscenely powerful vampires in your city. If you fail, that’s okay! You can still try killing him in open combat! Man those extra successes are gonna make that a synch!

      Just what part of the plan are you applying Cause and Effect to again?

      And even if you make the argument of constantly using Cause and Effect to affect every part of the plan, which is obscenely meticulous and if someone is willing to Cause and Effect every little possible variant that could happen they deserve everything benefit they get because damn that’s a lot of power to be throwing around and a lot of work still, you still have to do it.

      It may be easier, but good luck doing it with Cause and Effect alone. I’ll be over here watching the bloodbath.

      • blackhatmatt
        May 22, 2013 at 10:36 am

        Not to mention that repeated use of Cause & Effect causes compromise rolls, which means you’ll be repeatedly risking your Cover, gaining Conditions or glitches, and probably calling down angelic heat.

  14. May 22, 2013 at 11:18 am

    By my reading what Cause & Effect essentially does is let you use one die pool instead of another at the expense of time (and Aether and risking Cover and other general power use ‘costs’). In the above example of throwing an apple over a fence to kill the Vampire Prince the player would apply the rolled successes to a theoretical skill roll to achieve the desired task. But “kill the Prince” is outside the purview of a single skill. One could “attack the Prince” using Brawl or Weaponry as the eventual skill or “spread a rumor about the Prince” using Socialize. Since I wouldn’t let a player in an actual Vampire game “roll to kill the Prince” I don’t see why that should apply here.

    Farther, the above discussion as brought up a question in my mind: can you use Cause & Effect for Extended Actions? I’m inclinded towards a “no” because you don’t actually have control over how an event unfolds and Extended Actions are designed around completing a specific work in a time frame assigned by the Storyteller. Or, to follow the common GM advise of “yes, but…”, one could use it for an Extended Action only if each roll was considered a seperate use of the power.

    • blackhatmatt
      May 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      No, your read on it is correct. You can’t use Cause & Effect on extended actions (that was something I clarified for the final version).

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