Todd Crapper of Broken Ruler Games sends in a voicemail on Descriptions on Demand
Tom comments on Easy Wins
I think that if easy wins happen too often, then the GM is misjudging the difficulty level of the encounters. If it happens occasionally, that’s good and provides an ego-boost to the group.
I think that even if an easy win happens against the Big Bad, it can be a good thing if it’s due to excellent planning on the part of the group, an exceptionally good roll, or a fortuitous combination of attacks on the part of the group. A spell is cast that works particularly well in combination with another attack, for instance.
That being said…if this was the actual end of the campaign and meant to be the real capstone fight of the whole game…then such an easy win shouldn’t be possible. But it’s up to the GM to make sure the Big Bad can’t be taken down easily, even by good rolls and strategy. It’s the GMs job to design the Big Bad to be the Big Bad, which means he won’t be easy to take down. Exactly how the GM does this will vary from system to system. If they take him down easily…then the GM messed up. I don’t have a good answer for what to do if this happens. You have to give the group something here…as long as you don’t pull what I describe in my next paragraph.
What I’ve hated with a passion as a player is when we hit the Big Bad with a really effective combination of attacks with excellent rolls…only to have the GM says that he escapes anyway. We immediately followed, only to be told, “No, he’s gone.” When we pressed for how the only answer was “It’s a genre thing. He escapes.” Oh, how I hate that excuse.
Bingo continues with Easy Wins
Sometimes people don’t just want to know their characters can kick some ass, they want to experience it.
As characters gain in level, players rightfully want to feel that their characters are becoming more effective. This cannot be expressed solely through fighting more powerful creatures – while you can get a certain amount of satisfaction from knowing your party just defeated a foe they couldn’t possibly defeat 6 months before, that satisfaction is very abstract. After all, the amount of stress and effort that went into that fight was the same amount that went into fights against weaker foes a few months before – so while the players know their characters are more powerful based on the foe, the experience is the same as it was before.
That’s why it’s important to have easy wins – especially (but not exclusively) against old foes.
Getting the opportunity to fight old foes at new, higher levels can be so much more satisfying because you have those old fights as a frame of reference. Facing 3 ogres and just trouncing them is really satisfying when you remember that 6 months ago the same challenge almost resulted in a TPK. It’s also just fun to tear through large numbers of weak foes. It gives players a sense of progress, and of course it tickles that thrill of power!
Easy wins can’t be granted all the time or players will get bored. But they have a place. Even better is facing weaker foes with some twist that makes it feel more challenging without actually being that much more challenging – so again, setting up an easy win that looks harder than it is.
I know as a player that I’ve always found it frustrating to get characters more and more powerful, but every single encounter is just as tough as always. You need the easy wins, sometimes!
Laramie comments on Easy Wins
Lot of good stuff, both in the episode and above.
I feel “easy wins” dove tail into one of what I consider the most underrated elements in RPGs, and what was mentioned on the show after the demi-lich was wiped out. Morale. If the BBG, or A BBG gets taken down, that’s a game changed. I had a “level boss” in a dungeon get taken out in the surprise round (sneak back attacks, prepped spells and ranged attacks). As soon as the room full of mooks knew the group was there, it was because the boss man was dead, and the party was standing at the ready for the slaughter. The whole cavern just set down their weapons.
And in my games, that’s a successful encounter. Full XP.