Could They Do This at Level One? : A Min/Max-ing Story
This is an obnoxiously long an overly verbose fictional scenario where a party do something crazy to illustrate some of the weaknesses I think I see in this system. I put this up for people to read and maybe give their thoughts. But I want to make it clear that I am not owed anything, by Modiphius or anyone else. This is more of an exploration than a complaint. I love Modiphius products and I love the vast majority of the Fallout 2d20 core book, but I’ve noticed some stuff I will change in my home game.
…A brand new party of 6 characters meet at Power Noodles in Diamond City. After some chit-chat, they get to introductions. But first, a player interjects.
“Hey, is there a Mirelurk Queen around here? I’d really like to see one.”
“Sure,” the GM laughs. “There’s a Mirelurk Queen just north of here, but nobody’s crazy enough to go up that way,” they say, with no idea of what will come.
The PCs introduce themselves:
- Supermutant: A Super Mutant with 8 AGI, 12 END, 8 LUCK, the Quick Hands Perk and Big Guns & Survival Tagged at Rank 3
- Ghoul Face: A Ghoul with 10 CHA, the Cap Collector Perk and Barter & Speech Tagged at Rank 3
- Repair Tech: A Vault Dweller with 10 INT, with Repair and Science Tagged at Rank 3
- Gambler: A Survivor with 10 Luck and the Inspirational Perk
- NurseBot: A Nurse Handy with 10 INT, the Healer Perk, a Diagnostic Mod, and Medicine Tagged at Rank 3
- And a nondescript Brotherhood of Steel Initiate
The greetings finished, the GM begins to describe their first plot hook, but is interrupted by a player.
“Hey, can we go to the shops first? I’m not super happy with my starting equipment.”
The GM thinks and says, “Well, you are in Diamond City. There are tons of vendors. Okay.”
The Ghoul Face easily makes a CHA+Barter Diff 1 Test to get a 10% bonus to the party’s sales and invokes the Cap Collector Perk for an additional 10%. The players hand the GM a list of the starting equipment they would like to sell.
The GM looks at it quizzically, “This is a lot of your most important gear. The six of you are all selling 95 Caps worth of equipment each? And after the 1/4 sale price and your bonuses it comes to exactly 175 Caps?” The players affirm the case and the game continues.
“And can we make an Availability roll?” the players ask. The GM agrees, looking to grant the party one piece of cool gear.
The Gambler Rolls 10 CD for their 10 Luck and gets Rarity 5, making the GM go, “Whoa, I don’t think you can have anything Rarity 5, if you could even afford it.”
“How about this?” a player says, sliding a note to the GM:
18 18 x Common Materials
30 10 x Uncommon Materials
30 30 x Flamer Fuel
215 Total * 90% Barter * 90% Cap Collector = 175 Caps
“Um, this is a weird list. And very specific,” the GM says. “Also, I don’t think I’m supposed to sell you Materials.”
“We just like Flamers,” one of the players says dismissively. “If you like, we can roll Availability for each item and pay someone in town to scrap Junk. If you want to take all the time to do that.” And the GM dismisses this, wanting to get on with the game. The party are granted their list and the story starts again… and is interrupted again.
“Hey, there are public Workbenches in Diamond City, right? I can just use them like the game?” Repair Tech asks, and the GM confirms that this is so. Repair Tech continues, “I’d like to take 4 hours to modify the Flamer with Napalm Fuel, a Long Barrel, a Huge Tank and a Vaporization Nozzle.”
“What!?” says the GM, having not spent much time with the crafting rules.
The Repair Tech goes on, “I have Repair at 3 and a Multi-Tool that lowers the Difficulty of Repair Tests by 1, so I think you’ll find that all 4 Mods are INT+Repair Tests at Difficulty 0, costing a total of exactly 18 Common and 10 Uncommon Materials.”
“Oh, I see,” the GM groans. “Fine. If you care so much about this plan, go ahead.”
Repair Tech decides to roll all 4 Crafting Tests, just to bring the party up to full Action Points (7, due to the Inspirational Perk.) The GM begins the initial plot hook again, and is again disrupted.
“Yeah, we’re going after that Mirelurk Queen. You said there was one and that we knew where it was. We go there.”
“Oh, FFS,” the GM mutters…
Approaching the Mirelurk Queen with stealth, the GM makes each member of the party roll a contested AGI+Sneak versus the Queen’s Mind+Other. The Queen rolls first, rolling 1 Success. Each member of the party matches the 1 Success with their Sneak Test, some using Luck Points to reroll Complications. The GM draws out a simple map, with the players at extreme range from the Mirelurk Queen.
The Queen goes first at Initiative 18. Unaware of the players, she calls 4 Mirelurk Hatchlings to her side, costing the GM 4 AP. The GM then spends 2 additional AP to give her another Major Action, choosing to Ready an attack on anyone she detects entering her Zone.
The Gambler, eager to live an interesting story, spends their Minor Action to move into Long Range of the Mirelurk Queen and their Major Action to move into Close Range. The Queen’s Ready Action takes effect and she rolls a Pincers Attack at TN 17, easily hitting the Gambler’s Defense of 1, plus 1 difficulty for the additional Action. She rolls 12CD, getting a reasonable 4 Effects and 5 other Damage. Having sold their armor, the Gambler is hit for all 9 Damage + 4 Vicious, leaving them with an Injury and 2 HP left.
NurseBot goes next. She uses her Minor and Major Actions to rush to the Gambler’s side. She spends 2 AP for an additional Major Action to First Aid the Gambler’s HP (3 Medicine + 1 Healer, bringing the Gambler to 6 HP), choosing to roll the Difficulty 0 Test (1 Injury - 1 Diagnostic Mod) and banking 2 AP to bring the party back up to their full 7.
Supermutant finally gets their turn. They use their Minor and Major Actions to move to the Zone with the Mirelurk Queen. Then they spend 2 AP to take an extra Major Action, in this case an Attack on the Mirelurk Queen’s Face with the modified Flamer. The Difficulty is 4 (2 Defense + 1 Choose Hit Location + 1 Extra Action), so Supermutant spends 3 AP to add 2d20 to the Attack Roll.
4d20 TN 15*3 (END 12 + Big Guns 3 Tagged) with 4 Luck Point rerolls will roll 4 Successes the majority of the time, and in this case, the Supermutant gets the 4 Successes and hits the Queen’s Face.
Vaporizing Max Capacity Long Napalmer Flamer (Big Guns, Dmg 5, Burst, Persistent, Spread, Vicious, Energy Damage, Fire Rate 6, Range C, Debilitating, Two-Handed, Wt 31, Cost 305)
Supermutant uses their last 2 AP to invoke Quick Hands and double the weapon’s Fire Rate to 12. They use the weapon’s entire doubled Fire Rate (spending 12 additional Flamer Fuel) to boost their Damage, bringing it to a total of 17 dice. They roll a perfectly reasonable 5 Effects and 8 additional Damage.
The main attack hits the Queen’s Face for 11 Damage (13 Damage + 5 Vicious - 7 Energy DR). The Queen takes an Injury to the face. She loses her normal Actions for the next Turn and all vision-related Tests are at Diff +2.
The ungodly Flamer’s Spread hurts her for another 10 Damage. (All of her Hit Locations have Energy DR 7 and none of the Spreads are Critical Hits, so it doesn’t matter where they hit.) The giant enemy is down to 29 HP (50 Max HP - 11 main attack - 10 Spread).
5 Spreads * [(13 Damage + 5 Vicious)/2 rounded down - 7 DR]
= 5 * (9-7)
Persistent Damage, set to burn for the next 5 Rounds, starts on the Queen’s body.
With 5 Effects, Supermutant can choose up to 5 Targets to hit with Burst, and so they choose all 4 Mirelurk Hatchlings, spending yet another 4 Flamer Fuel. All the Hatchlings die (13 Damage + 5 Vicious - 0 Energy DR vs. 5 HP).
The other players take Rally Actions, banking 3 AP.
The Mirelurk Queen begins the next Turn. Because of her Injury, she cannot take any normal actions, and the GM has only 1 AP to buy additional actions (they spent their initial 6 on the first Round, and got +1 AP from the Queen’s Aggressive Ability.) The GM takes no action. Her Turn over, the Queen takes 11 Persistent Damage (13 Damage + 5 Vicious - 7 Energy DR). She’s at 18 HP.
The rest is a forgone conclusion. Gambler and NurseBot take Rally Actions, banking another 2 AP (up to 5 total.) Supermutant takes an Aim Minor Action and then does an untargeted attack on the Queen, Difficulty 1. They spend 3 AP to add 2d20 to the attack and 2 AP to use Quick Hands again. The Queen takes another 21 damage and expires. This second shot uses up another 13 Flamer Fuel.
The GM exhales. “Okay. We did that. Back to Diamond City?”
The party agrees. “Yeah, now that were Level 2, we need to go back to the Vendors and Workbenches.”
“What?” the GM gulps.
“Yeah,” the Repair Tech says, “Now that I have the Gun Nut 1 Perk, I can make a Combat Shotgun that does an average 35 Damage each Attack to anything with a physical DR of 4 or less. Our nondescript Brotherhood Initiate has Shotgun Surgeon and now has Quick Hands.”
“C’mon, folks!” the Ghoul Face announces, “We’re level two; we got Deatclaws to one-shot!”
My conclusions, for me, and how I will run my game:
1 - I think this game plays beautifully with off the shelf, stock equipment. Modded gear, not so much.
2 - I will always try to keep the players’ minds on the story and away from numbers.
3 - I will not let my players buy Junk or Materials. I will not let them scrap their gear into Materials. 36 Junk = 12 Materials = Advanced Receiver. I will try to keep that conversion at a slow pace.
4 - I will never allow Availability rolls. I will trickle out equipment at a rate I can control.
5 - I will hide Workbenches behind enemies, traps, hazards, obstacles and puzzles.
6 - I don’t think Crafting Difficulty should be reduced by Repair Rating. Complexity should be Complexity.
7 - I think all of the Flamer Mods should have Perk prerequisites, as should some other Mods like the Calibrated Receiver or the Splitter Barrel.
8 - Granting starting characters with gear that lowers Difficulty in an unlimited way (Multi-Tool, Diagnostic Mod) is bonkers. These should have a limited number of uses, or be enormous quest items.
9 - As the GM, I should never spend all of my AP on the first Turn of combat.
10 - I will be giving certain epic boss monsters additional Actions, on top of those bought with AP.
11 - Quick Hands is broken. Instead of doubling Fire Rate, it should add +2 Fire Rate. (the first +1 because a Perk usually gets you +1 Dmg, then up to +2 because you still have to spend rare ammo.)
12 - Neither Piercing nor Vicious should apply to either Burst or Spread. That seems harsh at low Damages, but as more dice (and more Effects) are rolled, it gets very important.
13 - I don’t think a Face Injury on a Mirelurk Queen works like a Head Injury on a human, even by book rules. I just wrote that to illustrate the problem with Head Injuries. A sniper reliably doing 7 Damage to something’s head every Round should not keep that thing in perpetual Stun. Perhaps only the first Head Injury Stuns? Or perhaps there should be a roll between the Critical Hit and a potential Injury?
14 - As I think is implied in the rules, GMs should be careful of when they allow a Rally Action. Players should not get to turn their characters into AP farms.
15 - Almost totally unrelated, but a character with a Luck score of 10 might as well have all their Attributes at 10. Being able to roll anything in the game at minimum 10, 10 times per quest (more with a Trinket) is too much. Especially in a larger group, a player only makes a handful of decisive rolls per quest. I have capped Luck at 8, allowing Luck 9 and 10 Perks to be purchased at 8.
16 - I wrote way too much. Sorry about that. Anyway, thank you for reading.