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Modiphius > Mutant: Year Zero (Free League Publishing)

Shake it Off possibly unbalanced?

posted Oct 14, 2016 14:46:59 by MicheleGarbuggio
Hello everybody,
I'm starting a new campaign and I'm a bit concerned about Slave's Shake it Off Skill.
It essentially grants a permanent, non-encumbrant, non-degradable armor against EVERY kind of trauma. With much higher value than any scrap armor. Isn't that a bit too much?
Moreover, it isn't just "armor" since it seems to stop also dehydration and starving trauma, becoming a substitute for grub and water.

As an experiment, I tried to pit an Enforcer vs a Slave, with mirror stats, one on one against each other in melee combat. The Slave invariably wins EVERY TIME, without a scratch! The same against less combat-oriented classes. Then I put him against a Boss and 3 Enforcers... again, he won against the whole team!
He seems like an invulnerable, unfazeable juggernaut that can only be wounded by huge Zone monsters like Devourers or Razorbacks.

What's your experience? Was this issue ever bene addressed? Are these any Errata, or at least house rules?

Thanks for any kind answer!
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7 replies
Fenhorn said Oct 14, 2016 17:43:01
Slave (and Boss) are NPC roles in my campaign. Boss because I think the role is better suited to be an NPC. Slave because of the social status (hard to play) and the OP skill. In my current campaign (I have played several) I asked the player before we started if the Ark was going to have Slaves or not, they voted no. Slaves are still present in my campaign but in other Arks.

The Chronicler also has a skill that very easily can be OP. What I have done there is that instead of giving successes, it gives bonus dice (e.g. if you got two 6s with you Chronicler, the inspired character doesn't get two successes, he gets two bonus dice instead).
War, war never changes
MicheleGarbuggio said Oct 14, 2016 17:59:52
In The Ark of my campaign there is slavery, and one of the players wants to roleplay a Slave. It seems unfair to me to ban the role entirely, but the specialist skill is evidently unbalanced, to the point that it actually surprises me that it made its way to the final printing of such a well written game.
What can be done? Would it make sense to maybe houserule it and roll just the skill rank instead of (Strength + skill rank)? It would still be a great trauma-soaking ability, but with more reasonable resulta... Any suggestion?
Unslain said Oct 15, 2016 01:43:35
I played a slave in our first game of Year Zero and while he was one of two PCs to survive the entire campaign, I wouldn't say he actually outshone any of the others. Shake is a glorious skill to have, no doubt but I found it balanced out the fact that most other roles have a far easier time getting bullets and gear. The social difficulties of being a Slave in the Ark also serve to give other PCs a major advantage - yes the Slave can survive better than any other but in some ways, that's all they can do. A Slave with the Bodyguard talent and plenty of points in Move also becomes very popular with the group as they soak up damage aimed at others.

There were also several occasions in which I was rolling 9+ dice to Shake it Off without a single success and actually made things worse for myself. So my suggestion is to let your player run a Slave, see how you all find it and discuss house-rule options if your group finds Shake it Off to be a problem.
TomasFriaLigan said Oct 15, 2016 09:18:32

Shake It Off is a very powerful skill, no doubt about that, even though I'd say "invulnerable" is a little too strong. Even with the maximum Strength 5 and skill level 3 in Shake It Off, the Slave gets 8 "armor dice" to roll. While one success is very likely on eight dice, two or more successes is not.

However, the main offset of the Slave's powerful skill is, like Unslain mentions, the role's very low social status in the Ark. How that balances out in actual play can of course vary a lot, depending in events in the campaign and the general play style of the group.

If you feel that the Slave's skill is too powerful for your game, a simple houserule could be to limit the trauma-reducing effect to a maximum of 1 point per roll.
MicheleGarbuggio said Oct 15, 2016 10:56:03
Thanks, I've read some very good advice!

I see how the Slave's "weakness" can be exploited through roleplay, but still such a powerful ability should logically lead to rising to some role of dominance instead of submission, since a Slave could so easily take on an Enforcer or two and beat them without getting Intimidated or hurt (playtested this as I wrote before and a PC Enforcer was no match for the Slave in melee combat, and he can quite easily shrug off any Doubt trauma from Intimidate).
So threatening a Slave to punish him is like getting in check a bear with a knife... once the bear realizes that your knife can barely hurt him, you're in some serious trouble!

Plus, a high Shake it Off skill allows a Slave to easily go without food, water and rest, in hot or freezing weather, for nearly as long as he wants (as it was said, one success is relatively easy to achieve)... eventually he will fail the roll, but in the meantime he would have had a huge saving of grub, water and backpack space.

I'll try and see how the game goes without houserules, but I'll probably go with the "1 trauma only" limitation if the player outshines the others too much.
MonsterZero said Oct 18, 2016 05:03:43
Another way to use the skill is instead of it being strength + skill would be the attribute being affected + skill. This should bring a little more balance, especially if a pc tanked out their slave and neglected their other stats.
"And what rough beast,
It's hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? "
MicheleGarbuggio said Oct 18, 2016 14:14:55
This sounds like a great way to tweak the skill without changing the system too much, since the Slave will be vulnerable in those attributes he neglected.
It also makes more sense: why should a Slave resist doubt or confusion with Strength? That was kinda odd.

Thanks MonsterZero for the very nice suggestion!
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