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Battlefield Perception (Observation Talent) - Does anyone actually use it?

I am reluctant to list up faults (as I perceive them) in a game that I generally like very much.
But sometimes things are a bit “problematic”, so in this case I will do, what @Maxspire encouraged me to do.

Battlefield Perception, the Observation Talent, is in my view absolutely USELESS.

For 400 XP you get no actual advantage.

Battlefield Perception allows you to make a D1 Observation test as a Minor Action - a test with the risk to fail or roll Complications or both. And it takes a Minor Action, you cannot use for anything else.

If that test is successful, you get some information about one designated target (usually a NPC):

  • The current value of Stress remaining (not the maximum value).
  • How many Harms the target NPC is suffering from at the moment.

For each Momentum spend after the success, you get this information about another NPC.

I assume, that Stress and Harm includes both types, so the current Vigor and Resolve values and the current number of Wounds and Trauma the NPC suffers currently from.

Why do I think this is a useless Talent?

It gives the character for an action information, that should be obvious to everyone involved.

If an NPC has currently 3 Wounds, that should be obvious. Trauma might be not that obvious, but does it? The PC starts muttering incoherently, does not know where he is, has problems concentrating, is showing visible signs of mental breakdown. So, well, obvious I’d say.

If an NPC has lost some points of Vigor or Resolve, that could be obvious, too. The character is winded, breathing hard, has some, some more, quite many scratches and bruises, not enough to cause a Wound, but still. Or the character is looking frightened, less self confident, even not confident at all, looking for ways out, showing distress in facial expressions and body language.

As a GM you can prolong combat scene resolution by indulging in detailed description of such Stress point losses, which still are of minor impact until an actual Harm is caused. But that would be overdoing the description part to the detriment of the thrill and pace of an action oriented combat scene. I cannot recommend that (as Conan combat resolution is not the speediest one in the first place - no need to slow it down any further).

I play Conan in games at home, where I use colored poker chips to mark Wounds and Trauma for characters and NPCs, and I use colored glass beads for PC’s Vigor and Resolve, so you can see that immediately by looking at the table.
I do not bother to do that for NPCs, as they are not important - even Nemesis NPCs are there to be overcome. But I give the players the impact of their actions right away.
Usually, players are able to do simple mathematical operations. Rolling 6 damage, not spending for Piercing, that should result in a Wound. if it does not, then the NPC has 2 or more Armor. That is a thing players do automatically all the time - I do it too in the Conan games where I am the player. You know the triggering conditions for causing Harm, you know how much damage you have dealt, there is no real secret about the Vigor or Resolve of an NPC then.

I run and play in a lot of online games using different VTT platforms. In most of those platforms, you see a Vigor bar, a Resolve bar, Wound markers, Trauma markers. They are obvious, so not even the basic mathematics are needed for a player to figure out the current state of an NPC.

I cannot see the way the developers of Battlefield Perception must have had in their mind how GMs are supposed to deal with their NPCs getting hit, damaged, stressed, harmed.
There is no real secret in that. And it is not desirable to make it secret.

The maximum number of Stress of a certain type I do see that PCs might not be aware of in simply looking at that NPC. After the first hit, though, you see whether you have a 4 Vigor Minion or a 17 Vigor Toughened or Nemesis NPC in front of you (the difference between Minion and Toughened/Nemesis becomes apparent as soon as they spend Doom to make a Reaction - the GM might choose a more worthy type of NPC not to make a Reaction, but as soon as the Reaction is announced, all the players know for sure that this is not a Minion).

So what does the - with 400 XP quite expensive(!) - Talent of Battlefield Perception give the PC in regard of an advantage?

It costs 400 XP, used up a Minor Action which could be used for other, more “fruitful” things, and as such it needs a successful test to even give the information, which mostly if not completely is already obvious.

Does any group out there use this Talent in their games?

As a player, I see it only as additional 400 XP costs to qualify for the actually useful Talent up the tree “Crippling Blow”, which costs an additional 600 XP.
So to get to use the effects of Crippling Blow you need to invest 1000 XP, by buying an “empty” Talent Battlefield Perception.

The Battlefield Perception Talent does not offer any comparable advantage if you look at the other Observation Talent of the same XP cost tier, “Spy”. That one is reasonably powerful, allowing you to ransack a room (as per the Ransack Talent) without leaving any traces that you did search everything in this room. Anyone who is suspicious in the first place, that this room might have been searched, engages in a Struggle where the ransacking character gets their Observation Focus as Bonus Momentum.
(Although, here is another weakness in the Talent description: what kind of Struggle is not stated. One could assume it is the Observation of the suspicious character vs. the Observation of the ransacking character. That is probably the intention of the developers, hence the Observation Focus as Bonus Momentum to win the Struggle. But to conceal that anything had been searched could be a case for the Stealth skill, too, so the suspicious character would test Observation versus Stealth of the ransacking character. The Talent description lacks a clear statement which skill is set versus which other skill in the Struggle.)

Personally, I find Battlefield Perception disappointingly expensive and useless.

Again, do you use it in your Conan games?
And, HOW do you use it in your games?

I’m quite curious, so please enlighten me. Maybe I don’t see the great use one could draw out of this Talent?

On the 2d20 Gaming Discord there had been some fruitful discussions about how to make this very lame Talent worth it’s cost in XP and requisite abilities.

Idea 1: Battlefield Perception allows the character to make a D1 Observation test as a Minor Action, mostly to generate more Momentum, not as an Exploit Action or such. (To me that seems a bit weak for a 400 XP 2nd tier Talent.)
An alternative was, making it a D0 Observation test as a Minor Action just to generate Momentum for personal use, not being able to store it in the Group Momentum Pool. (That “personal Momentum pool” I find unnecessarily complicated.)
Another variant for this original D1 Observation test as Minor Action was, to use it for other applications of Talents like “Ransack” which allows to search everything within Reach as a D1 Observation test. (That seemed a bit awkward regarding the time such a thorough search might take - the original Ransack Talent is a Standard Action which already is quite unplausible quick in unveiling all (really: ALL) clues to be found within Reach.)

Idea 2: Battlefield Perception allows the character to perform a D1 Observation test as a Minor Action as an Exploit Action, activating Unforgiving, Piercing 2 and allowing to buy additional dice while also adding more damage dice. (To me that seems a bit too powerful for this 2nd tier Talent.)

Idea 3: Battlefield Perception allows you to perform an Exploit Action within Reach of an Opponent (but still as a Standard Action) without them getting a Retaliate Reaction (which normally would be triggered by a non-attack action within Reach).

Idea 4: Battlefield Perception requires the GM to spend 1 extra Doom for every 4 Doom (or fraction of that) spent to introduce additional opponents into the current combat scene. (That seems not only very GM-targeted, while most Talents are character-oriented, but it is quite a weak effect for a 2nd tier Talent.)
An alternative of that idea was, whenever additional combatants are introduced into a scene via a Doom spend, the character may immediately make a D0 Observation test. Each Momentum spent adds +2 Doom to the cost of introducing those combatants. (Similar GM-targeted effect.)

Idea 5: Battlefield Perception allows you to make a D0 Observation test as a Reaction to any enemy action. This Reaction costs 1 less Doom than it normally would. (This effect of making a Reaction adds to the number of Reactions taken during the round, thus raising the total number for “any enemy action” by 1. That is quite an awkward way of handling things, and raises the number of Reactions for this character significantly, thus generating a lot more Doom than would be sensible.)

Idea 6: Battlefield Perception allows you as per the original version to make a D1 Observation test, but in addition to ask about rather obvious or less interesting current stat values, it allows to ask questions to find out the weakness of an opponent, like weakest attribute and field of expertise or special abilities and Doom spends. (That is a more interesting information, especially when going against some monstrous creatures, where special abilities and Doom spends might be good to know, too. - Though, Doom spends, the PCs see anyway when they happen - at least their effects and that I have spent a certain amount of Doom before the effect came to be.)

Idea 7: Battlefield Perception allows you to make a D3 Observation test as an Exploit Action for a Minor Action. This Talent now can be bought three times, for three ranks in it. At the first rank, it is a D3 Observation test, at second rank a D2 Observation test, and at third rank a D1 Observation test. (That makes the Exploit Action as a Minor Action useful, but not a sure thing, unless you are willing to spend multiple times 400 XP. - Maxing it out would mean spending 1200 XP on this Talent, and that is a considerable investment and as such it is justifiably powerful.)

The last one, idea 7, with the Battlefield Perception Talent being able to be bought in three ranks, and allowing an Exploit Action as a Minor Action at higher Difficulty is my current favorite for a house rule to remedy the uselessness of the Battlefield Perception Talent.

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Really interesting stuff, @FrankF. I think i will houserule with Idea 6 (knowing Special Abilities and Doom Spends) because it might be imperative to gain insight into an enemy Before the fight begins so the baddie’s abilities might be evaded by the party (assuming the info is shared) during combat the first time occurring, rather than the second time around, especially if the party is already wounded.

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