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Infinite Momentum/Determination Combo?

posted Mar 16, 2018 05:23:49 by Deadmanwalking
So, I just realized my group may accidentally have an infinite supply of Momentum/Determination (at least under some circumstances).

See, the Captain is a Human Veteran, with the Veteran Talent and Spirit of Discovery. We now also have a dedicated Executive Officer (whose stats are not relevant beyond his existence).

So...the Captain can spend 1 Determination to add 3 Momentum. He then gets the Determination back 1/3 of the time. If he doesn't, the XO spends 3 Momentum to give it back to him. He repeats this process until he gets 3 Momentum free of charge. Then he does it all again to total 6 Momentum in the pool. This may require 3 Momentum (or +3 Threat to the GM) to jump start depending on whether the Momentum gained by Spirit of Discovery can be immediately used to regain the Determination, but that's a pretty easy bar to hit.

That's also as much Momentum as anyone can accumulate...but he can then do the same to give everyone on the ship bunches of bonus Determination (fueled by the infinite Momentum thing).

I'm not sure this is actually a problem, as he can only pull it off when a Value applies since Spirit of Discovery requires the same justification as most other Determination spends (though the Commanding Officer thing to give others Determination does not), and it thus only happens when the Captain is properly motivated...but it remains an infinite resource combination under those circumstances. Unless I'm missing something.
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15 replies
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Nathan.Dowdell said Mar 16, 2018 13:26:19
To quote the rulebook: "Whenever a character is attempting a Task for which one of their Values would be advantageous, they may spend one point of Determination."

The key part there is "one point of Determination": both the Veteran Talent and the XO role ability allow a character to regain a spent Determination, but they don't allow that regained Determination to be spent again immediately on the same thing. Each situation that allows Determination to be spent allows one Determination to be spent, and even if something refunds that point, you can't go back and spend it again without some new situation that allows Determination to be spent.
Game Development - 2D20 System
System Design - Star Trek Adventures

Rules questions and playtest feedback to nathan@modiphius.com
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Deadmanwalking said Mar 16, 2018 14:25:32
The issue with that is sorta...what Task is it to use Spirit of Discovery? It doesn't seem to be something that is even an active in-game-world action, beyond maybe saying something inspirational (which is super repeatable). And that just flat-out converts Determination to Momentum, and while it does specify that this requires the standard justification, I'm having a hard time seeing how a Captain with, say, an 'Anything For My Crew' Value can't just start spending for Momentum as soon as the situation gets bad and the crew need help. Yeah, it's probably only once a turn in combat, but outside of combat it seems hard to shut this tactic down by the rules even if it is an action of some sort.

And the Commanding Officer ability doesn't require the standard Value usage, so that's definitely no obstacle.

For the record, I'm really quite happy if this doesn't work, I'm just a little unclear on how it doesn't.
[Last edited Mar 16, 2018 14:26:22]
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Shran said Mar 16, 2018 15:54:29
I would argue that the Value 'Anything For My Crew' does not apply outside of combat (i.e. in a non-critical situation). Because if it is just smooth sailing, there is no reason for this Value to kick in.

Also, even purely mechanical things like "the captain gives a Determination to a crew" should be explained narratively. The captain can't just hand out Determination, even if it is mechanically possible. As a GM I would want a compelling narrative reason why the caption hands out Determination (e.g. an inspirational speech, which the players should role play). The same reasoning applies to the XO. The XO does not just magically convert Momentum into Determination. The XO assists the Determination-spending character in some way, maybe gives a pep talk. These narrative actions are all implied, but you have to ask yourself: How inspirational can a caption or an XO really be? Because if you role-play your infinite combo, think about what is happening narratively. Then it gets ridiculous. No Starfleet character would act this way. Only players would. And at that point, the GM is well in their rights to shut this down.
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PatricHenson said Mar 16, 2018 19:28:35
Because if you role-play your infinite combo, think about what is happening narratively. Then it gets ridiculous. No Starfleet character would act this way. Only players would. And at that point, the GM is well in their rights to shut this down.

This exactly! Rules are a framework, but if it doesn't make sense narratively, shut it down.
"Lease and pong life. Prosp long and liver."
—Varek of Sulkin'
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Deadmanwalking said Mar 16, 2018 22:30:46
Okay, assume a Value like "Be Prepared For Anything". That definitely lets you spend Determination (potentially lots of Determination) on pre-conflict prep. Both narratively and mechanically. Really, thematically, a Captain with contingency plans for everything ala Batman is super reasonable, and could make use of this combo to be super effective while being very appropriate and reasonable in-universe (the in-universe stuff would be going over their contingency plans, making sure everyone is confident in those plans, etc.).

And yeah, I'm pretty sure most GMs (including mine) are gonna shut this down, even with such a justification, but in terms of rules I'm trying to find something that keeps it from working and not really finding it.
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TonyPi said Mar 16, 2018 22:58:23
What about the line that says ‘In either case, only one Value can be applied to a given Task or situation at once, except when that Value is challenged.’? Take the ‘situation’ reading and say they can’t use it again in the same situation.
Contributor to Continuing Mission at continuingmissionsta.wordpress.com. F&SF author.
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Deadmanwalking said Mar 16, 2018 23:09:16
Um...how is the above applying more than one Value at once? It's applying one Value multiple times over the course of a scene or many scenes.
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Shran said Mar 17, 2018 20:38:26
This is what happens:

1.
Mechanic: Captain uses the Talent "Spirit of Discovery" and uses the Value "Be Prepared for Anything" to spend 1 Determination to add 3 Momentum. The captain rolls and gets the Determination back 1/3 of the time. Let's say this time the captain did not get the Determination back.
Narrative: The ship is about to cross into an unknown region of space and the captain prepares the crew for it by giving a speech or something.
2.
Mechanic: First officer triggers and prevents the Determination from being spent.
Narrative: The first officer supports the captain and helps preparing the ship.
3.
Mechanic: Captain uses the Talent "Spirit of Discovery" and uses the Value "Be Prepared for Anything" to spend 1 Determination to add 3 Momentum.
Narrative: So what is the narrative here? The captain double-prepares the ship? Then the first officer double-agrees? It doesn't make any sense. And if something does not make sense for the characters, the GM should disallow that.

Maybe there has to be an additional ruling that a particular Value can only be used once per character per situation/Task. Because you are right, the current limitation is "only one Value can be applied to a given Task or situation at once." This does technically not break the combo.
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Deadmanwalking said Mar 17, 2018 21:56:58
The issue is that, frankly, #3 actually makes a fair bit of story sense. Preparing for a variety of different types of situation is pretty in-theme for someone with that kind of Value, and each being mechanically distinct is doable unless actively forbidden by the GM.

Any GM can shut this down, and often should, but they have to do it because it's mechanically overpowered, not really because it inherently breaks story logic. And that's a little bit of an issue.
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TobinQai said Mar 18, 2018 03:45:17
Frankly, #3 doesn't make much sense because at this point it opens the door to an endless cycle of generating unlimited momentum to spend on creating advantages, implying that the crew has an unlimited amount of time to, I doubt know, construct a whole fleet of AI ships to support them on their mission or something. (A bit of exaggeration, I know, but with unlimited time, why not?) I would treat #1 as a simple task and say there's only time to perform it once before moving on.

It seems to me that a player group that is trying to leverage this mechanical loophole is also distracted from the narrative.
Isn't that the real issue? That rules that are meant to aid storytelling are being applied in a way that hinders it? It is clearly contrary to the spirit of the game, if not the letter of the law.
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Deadmanwalking said Mar 18, 2018 07:01:49
Depends on the group and the kind of narrative. Also, frankly, I've never found 'only people who are playing the game wrong would use this loophole' to actually be a good solution to mechanical loopholes. One of the major points of having rules is to make things fair and equitable even when someone is going against the grain like that.

But really, it just seemed like a weird and abusable rules loophole that thus seemed worth talking about and examining whether it even worked by the rules as written. Which it seems to.

As for whether #3 makes sense...it certainly doesn't make sense to do an infinite number of times, but it does seem like the thematics would allow it several times (I can probably justify three or four pretty casually, and more with effort). Which remains a bit of an issue, IMO, since it's mechanically troublesome if used too often.

Besides, I can't be the only one here who finds weird rules minutiae interesting, right? Right?

*sound of crickets*
[Last edited Mar 18, 2018 09:56:33]
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TonyPi said Mar 18, 2018 11:51:32
It explains why there are so many Human captains in Starfleet - always looking for that Spirit of Discovery loophole! :)
Contributor to Continuing Mission at continuingmissionsta.wordpress.com. F&SF author.
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Nathan.Dowdell said Mar 19, 2018 12:45:41
The issue with that is sorta...what Task is it to use Spirit of Discovery? It doesn't seem to be something that is even an active in-game-world action, beyond maybe saying something inspirational (which is super repeatable). And that just flat-out converts Determination to Momentum, and while it does specify that this requires the standard justification, I'm having a hard time seeing how a Captain with, say, an 'Anything For My Crew' Value can't just start spending for Momentum as soon as the situation gets bad and the crew need help. Yeah, it's probably only once a turn in combat, but outside of combat it seems hard to shut this tactic down by the rules even if it is an action of some sort.

I think you're looking at this backwards.

Using Determination requires that the character be attempting a Task for which one of their Values (or one of the mission's Directives) would be a benefit.

That restriction doesn't care what benefit you gain from that use of Determination, it only sets the conditions for spending that Determination in the first place. Whether you're buying an extra die, or re-rolling your dice pool, or taking an extra action in combat, or getting those extra Momentum if you've got the Spirit of Discovery talent, that benefit doesn't factor into things until after you've fulfilled the condition to spend any Determination at all.

Once you've decided on the effect you're getting, then that instance of Determination use is over. Any further use of Determination is a distinct instance, which must be justified separately, even if you've used Veteran and/or the XO role ability to recover that Determination point spent.

And, well, the GM is encouraged not to lean on "do this thing over and over until you eventually get the result you want" - if you're "preparing for the situation at hand", that's one activity, determined by one roll of the dice, not as many attempts as the players want until they get the desired outcome. If players start trying to game the system like that, this is an opportunity for the GM to apply a "screwing about rather than getting things done" penalty: each successive attempt adds to Threat, and the amount added to Threat goes up each time (I use this when players argue over the order they want to act in combat, and other situations where they're being indecisive or wasting time), or to apply time pressure (I use time pressure more often than not during games - adventures rarely happen on a schedule of the PCs choosing, and things will always get worse the more time they spend deliberating or faffing around).

If it's a real problem, then limit player characters to spending no more than one Determination per scene.
Game Development - 2D20 System
System Design - Star Trek Adventures

Rules questions and playtest feedback to nathan@modiphius.com
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Deadmanwalking said Mar 19, 2018 13:07:40
Fair enough, though does that mean you always spend for Spirit of Discovery as part of another Task? That's not something that seemed especially clear to me from the text.
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Nathan.Dowdell said Mar 20, 2018 22:28:36
Fair enough, though does that mean you always spend for Spirit of Discovery as part of another Task? That's not something that seemed especially clear to me from the text.

Yes; it's a normal part of using a point of Determination, and Spirit of Discovery isn't exempt from that.
Game Development - 2D20 System
System Design - Star Trek Adventures

Rules questions and playtest feedback to nathan@modiphius.com
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