The Challenge Level of the Game


Recently we have discussed the topic of the inevitable "level creep" and how more and more characters are advancing in level and skill and thus raising the APL of weekends at various chapters.

Typically the challenge rating of a module, wave battle, weekend crunchies is determined by the APL of the weekend. I know that there are exceptions to this but typically this is what I have found.

Sometimes marshals will allow you to increase the challenge rating of a module for the glory of a harder module and greater rewards. This is fantastic for players who really like a skill/combat challenge.

But what about the players who don't like increasing combat challenges? Okay I know this is going to sound bad so please keep an open mind. I believe that every chapter has a handful of role-play based characters. These characters hang in the tavern, mix it up with the populace, and enjoy figuring things out IG. Some of these characters may have fancy costumes that they don't like walking around outside in. Some of them may have problems seeing at night and prefer not to be involved in night battles. Some of these individuals may just not have the body that physically can handle walking all over a site (especially those with hills). For those of you that run games, I am sure you can think of a few people that fall into this description.

Combat is so important to our game so even though these characters may be primarily RP characters; they still want to feel cool and effective in a fight. Or if they go on a module, they want to be able to make an impact. When you have increasingly high APL events and the combats get more and more difficult--these individuals often times feel out of place and ineffective.

Now you could label them all sorts of things IG or OOG. But they are a segment of our player base and I think that the concern they raise is valid. And though I know that we cannot please everyone, perhaps there are small things that plot committees can do to make the game more fun for these players.

For example:
- RP only modules where combat is not required
- Ability to lower the challenge rating for a module instead of just increase it (i.e. lvl 20 artisan comes with the group but instead of spiking the mod group, the challenge rating is based on resources vs. level)
- Challenge rating wave battles (or more commonly known as the split wave battle by lvl)

I know this is a never ending pain in the rear end for chapters to deal with, especially with monster desk and plot committees. And I HATE to hear that the solution is to perm characters or have them half build so the game goes back down in APL. I think that is a very unrealistic view of things and in an ideal world maybe people would do that--but we are not living in that world.

So I am curious to know how different chapters handle this and/or what players who prefer the lower combat challenges would suggest?

Though combat is important, our game is also a role-play game and I love when I see RP stuff come out. I love to see RP heavy encounters/modules too. Are there examples or stories that we can share at how these type of RP heavy encounters were pulled off successfully?

Thank you for those who join in on the conversation... please no bashing of the style that players choose to play; let's just creatively brainstorm ways to make the game better without changing the rules; just maybe modifying how we implement plot and combat.
*gets ready to duck*

I know my character is a lower APL then he actuaqly is
I have reading and 3 Craftsman skills and Blacksmith (fighter with read)
that accounts for almsot 25% of my character so im level 5 who is more like a level 3
I have battled with the big boys (kinda have too) and was only able to survive becouse I got the most powerfull healer in my backpack

the only sugestion I have is to add a new stat a PSL to the mix Player Skill Level and in this you can take into account injuries how new a player you are handycaps number of non combat skills ect...


> - RP only modules where combat is not required

These are generally my favorite encounters/modules to write. Especially since it allows the best use of special effects and can be run with anyone.

Of course, any encounter, even one designed for role-playing only, can turn to combat; and it can be challenging getting players who don't wish for combat to be brought into the mod. If a farmer comes into the Inn asking for help to find his wife, who should have been back hours before, PCs may envision combat where there will be none. The poor farmer would have to single out those "no combat for me, thanks" people and try to convince 'em. :)

I've also NPC'd mods where they scaled the power back based on which PCs were coming on the mod. It can work well.

More role-playing is always a Good Thing<tm>!



Frank Wiccan said:
*gets ready to duck*

I know my character is a lower APL then he actuaqly is
I have reading and 3 Craftsman skills and Blacksmith (fighter with read)
that accounts for almsot 25% of my character so im level 5 who is more like a level 3
I have battled with the big boys (kinda have too) and was only able to survive becouse I got the most powerfull healer in my backpack

the only sugestion I have is to add a new stat a PSL to the mix Player Skill Level and in this you can take into account injuries how new a player you are handycaps number of non combat skills ect...
A lot of what you mentioned should always be looked at by the plot committee but OOG skills in combat do increase with time and practice playing the game even as a casual player. No one off the bat new to Alliance Larping will be the best fighter in general OOG unless they've been larping in other games but even then they still have to get adjusted to a new system. If your injured OOG you have to ask yourself if it's wise to continue playing with your injury and will my injury effect you and your group if you play with one. Again I say that both monster desk and the plot committee should always be talking with one another about the state of the town and it's players based on the current weekend mods/wave battles that have gone out for the event weekends.


One of my most favorite "opening" encounters was in NJ. There was a split wave battle. The one wave battle was for the "brawn" and they had to fight non stop waves of creatures attacking. The other wave battle was for the "brain" and we had to decipher messages and piece it together and then solve the puzzle. Both of these battles were going on at the same. The contest of whether might or mind would prevail was based on how fast the brawn team fought and killed or how fast the brain team thought and figured things out. I am happy to say that the brains won. Go Geeks! And we got ritual scrolls as our reward.

It was awesome. THAT I would love to see happen more often. I think those who prefer not to be in combat would really feel important and that their actions do have a direct impact on the lives of the people around them.

So sexy!

Robb G

The Scholar mod at HQ last season when Faust was in town.

Templars and scholars head to a crypt where we have to decipher a crazy arcane lock while all the while we are being attacked by rising undead. probably one of my most fav mods ever.


HQ Staff
As a plot team we strive to have as many different kinds of encounters as possible. I personally love encounters where, if the group does it right, they can walk out without having any combat at all. Stealthy encounters, riddle mods, split waves... love em all. Sometimes plain ol combat is fun too. I'd say about 75% of the modules we run at HQ are scaled to the group.

Sometimes it can be hard to use some of these devices without it seeming very contrived. I think we did a decent job of it last event with the two tunnels of trolls for the high lv and low lv characters. We did a three-way split two years ago with the PCs breaking into some troll "fortresses." There was a force of fighters that went to the front, and a force of stealthy types that used a grappling hook to enter through the back - this was how we solved the rogues-get-hosed-in-doorfights issue. But those things don't work for everything.

We are all about hearing new and intersting ideas to vary modules and wave battles, and how to put forth a challenge by using more than just stats. :)
I was in Ohio where a A farie lord had an item we needed (a piece of our world ) and we needed it back
he had a half dozen people with him and it didnt look good
I parlayed with him went up to get the piece he was willingly giving us
well he charmed me told me "take ti and go" I walked past our lines and toward the safty of our tavern when my fellow adventures figured somthing wasnt right and attacked me and the Farie lord!

well I was down in seconds (I heard walay 50) it was fun but we wouldnt haev had to fight at all except the PC"s started it :)

my only complaint about the combats is too many fears and verdigo's (and other your out spells) one hit and the battle is over for you
even freshly baked pastrys throw spells and nothing is worse then not being able to swing once becouse you got taken out by a spell



Carrier attacks and take out spells definitely add to the challenge rating of any combat. However, the use of those spells and carriers requires us to work together with our scholars and artisans that make restorative potions/spells. So in that sense, I feel it is good to have those things in combat from time to time.

I have been in battles where it is all straight fighting; no spells, no packet attacks, no carriers and it was hard--but they swung more damage, had thresholds or called reduced and it felt like you had hit them 20 times before they went down.

Combat is just going to be a challenge--as it should be. What if we did a survey or had a sign-up sheet where players who preferred non-combat or lower-challenge combat could indicate who they were? That isn't to say they are now promised RP only or low combat stuff; but it would give plot and monster camp an idea of who to target for those activities.

Just a thought.. not sure how feasible it is though or how wanted it would be.
I agree it is fun to sometimes have mods that don't require combat to see who "wins" the encounter. I have also been on many mods like some described where one group is trying to finish a puzzle or do a ritual or some such thing while waves of stuff are coming in and the rest of us handle that end. Win-win mod there. On the other side, even in combat mods there's tons of non-combat things to be done that one or two people who aren't fighters or even have combat spells can do to make the adventure run better:
-loot/KB fallen bad guys. I don't wanna have to break my rhythm when I'm swinging pipe to go through pockets for loose change.
-help drag anyone who fell on the fron line back to get fixed/refitted/back in the action.
-do quick checks on loot to see if something can be useful right off the bat. If you can ID potions and alchemy, do it! We might could use those antidotes or poison shields we just got off the last mob.
-face man. This is the guy who does the up front talking until it looks like it's gonna turn ugly, then he snaps his fingers and the knee-breakers kick in. Every party should have one, and it doesn't have to be "the healer".
-the fall-back guy. This is the guy who has legerdemain and carries 3-4 traps to set up strategic fall back positions, especially important when fighting into a cave or building. While the front lines are moving in, set a trap or two at the door with a pull-trigger in case they need to fall back through the door, as soon as the bad guys start to follow them out, *snap*, all of em in the doorway take something. Can really break momentum of a charge.

The first couple of things can even be done when you've taken that dreaded "incap effect" that makes it so you can't use IG skills for ten minutes or so, but you can still contribute, even without magic items!


my only complaint about the combats is too many fears and verdigo's (and other your out spells) one hit and the battle is over for you
even freshly baked pastrys throw spells and nothing is worse then not being able to swing once becouse you got taken out by a spell

But this always been the game mechanic. I think a lot of people forget to take into effect too, that as jess said there are ways around those; be they resists, or someone who has potions/restoratives. In turn? One silence and unless that caster has a spellshield or resists, that finishes it off quickly.

Personally, I don't feel like the game is imbalanced as far as combat versus roleplay overall. Looking back to when I first started (99), I think its progressed impressively to a place that holds both equally, as I remember far more fights and a lot less roleplaying from back then.



I think another key thing to consider is what makes a player feel that their character is effective, useful and successful in the game. I know that personally all of my characters have small goals to accomplish during the course of the event/season. This is how I measure my progress and success.

Playing a fighter, I feel that I need to do a good job killing the baddies. I feel that I need to stay up more than down, I need to take out lots of stuff, and well generally have safe combat (I hate it when I hit people in the head by accident--so sorry!). If I have a bad weekend, where I am not on par or I feel like I have no OOG skillz, I admit I can get bummed out.

Playing a support character, I feel that I need to do a good job keeping people alive. I feel that I need to make sure they are protected and armed to kick ***. If I can't keep up with the fighters because the fray of monsters is so rough that one hit I am down and thus a liability--I can see myself getting bummed out there too.

Playing a rogue, it is all about the spinal cord and loot. If I am not bringing in loot, I feel shame.

The way we set the challenge level of the game, battles, encounters, etc. can have a direct impact on how players leave the game feeling satisfied with the effectiveness of their characters. This is why I brought up this topic because I think it is good to be reminded of these issues so that we keep it in mind as we play the game.

As a fighter -- is there a way that I can make it more fun for a scholar that is going to go down in 1-2 hits? Maybe I am not the one in the front line in that battle trying to sack the QB, but instead I am there keeping the scholars alive so they can be their bad *** helpful self.

As players we can be self-centered or we can try to make the game the best it can be. This goes for NPCs and plot but it also goes for us PCs too.

Heh... I am so bored at work right now and utterly exhausted from being ill and not getting any sleep. It has put me in a very introspective mood. I do appreciate those of you who are joining in the conversation and helping to make very good suggestions.


HQ Staff
I have a life philosophy - and this doesn't just apply to the game. If you don't like what's going on, suggest an alternative. Hell I even use this when deciding with a group of people where go to and eat. Here's the usual exchange:

"I want X for dinner"
"I don't want x"
"Then what do you want?"
"I don't know"
"Then until you come up with an answer, we're having X"

If you don't like the way something is done, suggest alternatives. I'm not saying we can't improve the game - there isn't a single event, campaign, etc that couldn't have something done better. But just saying "I don't like X" is very negative, and not very helpful. How about telling us what you DO like so we can do more of it?

Here's the long and short of it:

The game as a whole is not going to get easier over time. The APL will fluctuate and some games will be more difficult than others, but we are not going to make the game easy so everybody can win all the time. That's not what the game is about. The idea of using an APL is so that as the players rise in level, the game rises to meet them and provide a challenge. A "game" implies that there is a goal, challenge or other objective to be met or lost. If there was no chance to lose this would be staged combat like Medieval Times or Ren Faire. That's not the type of organization we run.

And yes sometimes it's hard for low level characters, but you aren't low level for long. It's VERY easy to get to lv 10 inside of one season, especially if you chapter hop and play only one character. It's even faster if you donate props or time and can get monthly blankets.

We don't aim to make anybody's character unplayable or ruin your fun. One day you will be on the upper end of the level scale. Just give it time. We do run low level events, but even a low level event isn't a gimme - it's a low level challenge. Not an "easy" event. Even a low level event will have spells thrown and the occasional slay or two on the NPCs.

If an event has 50 people, that means that there are 50 different ideas of the "ideal" event floating around out there.


Having just had this conversation yesterday.....

I think the challenge level of the game has changed in a great part due to the escalation of warfare ( bigger swings, more heavy spells) and the implementation of higher levels of tactics on both sides. These two facets have lead to two very powerful, very matched forces in the field, and the side that makes a tactical blunder will suddenly find themselves at a TERRIBLE disadvantage. Basically, one tactical error made by a single player/NPC will normally result in 3 people being down- generally them, and the next two people left/right or in line behind them. One such mistake can be countered, albeit with some difficulty. If two or more people are caught flatfooted at the same time, that can easily spell 6 people (or about 10% of your force) out of the combat. Now what was a carefully balanced force a minute ago has a great advantage. Heavens forbid three mistakes are made at about the same time, then it's a rout.

In many cases, it's not even about the life spells anymore: there's generally enough to go around. It's about the supporting healing underneath of that. Johnny Swordsman takes a Pin/Death- a fairly simple and common combo in a high level wave battle. Johnny gets Life'd, but now he needs 50-some body and a spell shield to go back into the fight: That's 10 levels of spell attacks (1st and 9th) that require as much as 22 levels of spells to recover from... and two of them being 8th (meaning the Morts are getting tapped out before the Lifes, meaning the healing reserve depletes quickly or people go into fights with less than full health, needing healing faster...).

I feel confident in saying that all Plot members I know of in all chapters try their level best to provide a game which is enjoyable for all parties. This means coming up with many different types and levels of challenges. Do we always succeed? No, of course not. But I think in the ever-changing landscape that is writing and scaling events, we succeed more often than we fail, and do everything we can to address player concerns and needs.


Alliance Logistics
Aven said:
Recently we have discussed the topic of the inevitable "level creep" and how more and more characters are advancing in level and skill and thus raising the APL of weekends at various chapters.

Typically the challenge rating of a module.
I know you were able to do this at the BKLN mod site, but pcs should be allowed to go on a mod at higher or lower levels if they chose and adjust the reward accordingly. Why not? That APL 10 group can brag that they played it at APL 15, or the higher level guys that don't have a magic weapon can go at APL 20 instead of 25, fearing that if they are magic to hit they are screwed.
To me this works both ways, for the players that are not fighter heavy but still want to go on mods and feel cool and have a story to tell and the high level guys that are a bit tapped but still want to go.

I am not saying that all mods can be attempted at a lower level. Of course if some are extreemly important like saving the King of something, but if they wanted to attempted it at a higher level, let em, most people like a challenge.


Public Relations Committee
Inkeeping with then subject of the thread... I think the game is getting more challenging with each event. The APL SLOWLY increases over time and in order to throw out a challenge for the big guys they throw out BIG TIME OMG challenges for the low level guys.

I, however, don't think this is a problem per se. It put weight on plot teams/monster desk desk. BUT, it also put pressure on high level players and large teams to make sure that they take newer players under their wing and make sure they are equipped to take on the ever increasing challenge level.

I have some VERY low level characters on my team, and I have one guy who I would typically classify as roleplay character. I make it a POINT to go over rules with these guys and make sure they know whats going on. OOG skills and Knowledge of the rules can help make up for a LOT in regards to build. And you can have that after 1-2 events.

As far as the whole "adequate variety of encounters" discussion... I DEFINITELY think that the mix has gotten better since I started playing (which was about 5 years ago) Im usually excluded from the roleplay/diplomacy stuff because my character is "not very diplomatic"... but I know that they exist and it makes me happy.