Hey guys, I wondered if anyone would be interested in discussing the idea of Boss Edge as a mechanic - I’m not sure whether I like the idea or not but am interested in hearing other peoples’ thoughts on the topic.
So let me try and break down my criticisms of this mechanic, first of all I just want to say that I haven’t actually ran a game yet - when this is implemented it might work brilliantly but just reading through the rules there are a few things that jump out at me.
For no other reason than having ‘boss’ in brackets next to their name, an NPC is given not only a huge advantage in combat, but an advantage that the players can never unlock themselves. This is important to consider. When a player encounters a boss do you want them to think “Oh, this NPC has a ton of actions, they must be a boss” or do you want them to simply think (2-3 turns into combat) “Holy crap this guy is strong”?
It seems intrinsically unfair to me to grant an NPC abilities and powers that are off-limits to players. Not including things that might be story or context driven such as a kraken that can attack with multiple limbs in a single turn or a troll that has amped up regeneration powers - these things make sense contextually, unless your players are also trolls they won’t feel cheated.
Ok so that’s my gripe, but why is this important? Well there are a few reasons.
1 - Your players might feel cheated. “This enemy is strong because it has so many actions, I can’t have that many actions no matter how strong I get, that sucks.”
2 - It’s an artificial difficultly spike. Anyone with that many actions will have a huge advantage, it doesn’t need to be a well designed boss, it will be a challenge simply because of this mechanic - but challenging doesn’t always mean interesting.
3 - It breaks immersion. As soon as you go for that second attack, any player who is familiar with the rules will know they’re fighting a boss rather than staying in the moment and learning through the process of the battle that this isn’t an ordinary NPC.
So those are my three main issues with this mechanic. I hope I haven’t sounded overly negative. As I said, I haven’t run the game yet so it might go down really well but this was my initial reaction when reading through the rules.
So how do I think it could be improved?
I’ve come over from Runequest 6/Mythras and that also has a number of actions per turn, with strong enemies often having more actions. But the number of actions a character had was determined by their attributes so a character with identical attributes would have an equal number of actions per turn. Of course these attributes did have limits based on race and physiology but that was a realistic limitation so nobody minded that the troll had better regeneration than the humans or that the race with four arms had an extra action.
I know this would mean adding another aspect to character creation but I think this is much fairer and means that you can design your bosses to be slow and lumbering, powerful but with not many actions or fast and precise, rather than them all being strong simply because of the ‘boss edge’ mechanic.
If you’ve stuck with me through this mini-essay then you honestly deserve a medal, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic and the only reason I’m being so hard on this is because of how much I adore the other concepts in OL, I can’t wait to introduce my players to this system - but this mechanic sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise excellent game.
TL;DR - Here’s for those of you that are lazy (or busy) - Boss Edge provides NPCs with an unfair advantage that the players can never access, a story reason isn’t required for this advantage, they just have it by virtue of being a boss. It means all your bosses will function in fundamentally the same way and will be strong for the same reason (multiple actions). It will break immersion because any NPC with multiple major actions will be instantly identified as a boss by your players in the first turn. This can be fixed by tying action points to attributes - bosses can have higher attributes and therefore access to more actions without it (technically) being unreachable by the players, unless the boss has a higher attribute cap due to physiology.