I’d really like to hear what players and GMs have experienced when characters attain target numbers of 20 and 21. Does that “break” the game? Is it simply the just reward for characters that specialize in certain fields? Are the advantages balanced by the disadvantages? Because I get that: a target number of 20 still runs the risk of generating complications. And to achieve success at higher difficulties one still has to buy additional dice (or risk not rolling under their focus).
But I’m a little afraid that it might make things boring if success is guaranteed most of the time. On the other hand I think that a character that invested heavily in some attribute and appropiate skill should get rewarded by succeeding in tasks that appear difficult to more untrained people. And the Infinity RPG is a cinematic game after all. Heck, I’m really undecided in that matter. (To offer some context: My group will begin an Infinity campaign in late April, starting with character creation on monday. So I’ve thought about that subject for some time now.)
Another question that came to my mind is if there’s a difference if a character has such a high target number at the start of the game or if they acquire it during the game (by expending xp).
Ouch! That’s quite an achievement in character generation! Maxing out skills at expertise 5, and getting the relevant attribute to 15 or 16 as well? That’s some lucky rolls. That said, it’s achievable with experience spends, so it’s a good question to ask, and one I’d not thought of!
I’d suspect that a newly generated character with TNs of 20/21 would be pretty specialised, so might find other tasks something of a challenge, requiring the support of other characters for those things …
Mechanically, it’s not a huge problem, as attribute + expertise is essentially an efficiency rating (how well can you turn dice into successes?), and getting multiple successes still depends on your roll, your Focus rating, and how many dice you buy. Plus, as you note, it doesn’t stop you suffering complications, and that’s still a reasonable amount of risk.
But it can get dull to be that predictably successful, so it’s something we’ve tried to design away from in subsequent games. John Carter of Mars combines two attributes of 4-8 for a Target Number (so you get a range of 8-16, with your Focus being the lower of the two attribute scores), while Star Trek and Achtung Cthulhu have PC attributes limited to 6-12 and skills of 0-5, so they max out at 17.
In my Infinity game we started with someone who has a TN of 17 in Ballistics, and after some experience spends and an implant, we have someone who very shortly will have a TN of 20 in hacking. So it’s very possible in Infinity.
So far my experience is that the real risk of these characters is that they become huge momentum generating machines for the group. Every time their turn comes up, they will likely gain several points of momentum, and every time they spend momentum for extra dice, they’re almost guaranteed to earn that momentum back, making momentum spends trivial.
Nathan, that’s an interesting idea maxing PC attributes at 12 and Expertise at 5.
I already had to ban a character from purchasing a Silk implant after character creation (They started the game very rich) because it was very obvious that after buying it the character would have been head and shoulders better than all the other characters at everything.
Other than that it is a waste of resources / XP to attain a TN of over 19 in a system, where a natural 20 always will result in a Complication, I don’t mind having players maxing out their character in such a way.
That always means that those characters are weak, often VERY weak in other aspects - which I as a GM will target to challenge them.
What I find a bit more - well, not actually “disturbing”, but something to think about: Characters with Talents that give 3 Bonus Momentum (usually you take those Talents 3 times, each rank giving 1 Bonus Momentum).
Such a character with a high probability to succeed AND 3 Bonus Momentum fills up the group Momentum pool in no time at all.
In Infinity I found especially the Observation Talent “Acute Senses”, which is one of those with up to 3 Bonus Momentum, a bit of a problem. A player in one of my Infinity games has Observation TN 19 - yes, that is his maxed-out skill.
On any success using his senses, he gets +3 Bonus Momentum on top of all dice that didn’t come up as a complication.
And if such equipment as his Multispectral Visor 2 applies, that makes a total of 5 Bonus Momentum - on top of the Momentum he might generate by the actual dice roll.
I can raise the Difficulty for a lot of Observation tests, yes. But even at a D5 Difficulty, if he uses 3 Momentum from the everful group Momentum pool to buy 3 additional d20, he most often will make the D5 easily - and his re-roll Talent for Observation skill rolls usually takes care of the first Complication rolled.
Having him roll for a usually challenging D3 Observation test now usually results in him buying additional dice to ensure the success, then generating 3, 5 or more Momentum on the roll to fill up the group Momentum pool again.
That, I find a bit harder to handle than a TN of 19 (or beyond).
It’s a hard rule in later versions of 2d20, but it’s a useful houserule here: bonus Momentum (any extra Momentum granted by talents, gear, or similar things) cannot be saved into the group pool: you use it, or you lose it.
Thank you all very much for your contributions - I’ll keep them in mind. Keeping Bonus Momentum out of the pool is a good idea and I also think I’ll ask the players not to max out attributes during character creation. With maximum attributes of 15 it would still be possible to get automatic successes on tests with your signature skills (if they’re maxed out at 5). That might be a good way to further specialize characters and give their players spotlight.
I had negative experiences as a GM with the 2d20 system, both players and I were 2d20 virgins. And after running 2 one shot adventures which I had a hell of a time to balance, I decided that no player could have a TN higher than 15 and advised them to take at least one combat skill in order to reduce the power difference between the stronger and the weaker character in combat, it helped a lot. However after some time I realized that it’s not necessary, I was in my opinion running the game wrong. Infinity isn’t conan, and running combat encounter upon combat encounter can be frustrating for a group with diverse skill sets. Infinity’s World is after all quite similar to ours and high intensity fights are quite rare outside of combat zone. Altering between social, action, hacking and investigation scenes constantly really hit the spot for my group. If one group member is a figurative TAG in a meat suit and mowing through dozen adversaries at a time while the other wriggle their gun doing nothing it’s fine, this way he shine in a badass way during a scene and will leave the spotlights to others in following scenes.
That makes sense! If the players want to play a warzone game, they should really all be playing combat characters. If it’s more of a ‘thriller’/‘espionage’ approach they want, then the combat team member’s job is to get involved if things go wrong. “Get to the transport, I’ll cover you!” Sounds like you hit the right balance for your players. Nice.