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TOPIC: Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore

Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore 3 months 1 week ago #1

I had a fantastic time at True Dungeon this year, and it was mostly due to stepping down the difficulty of the dungeon that we played.

The volunteers all did a great job, and the posting of the monologues on the walls in some rooms was very welcome--especially when there was an audio issue.

My favorite change was the request for feedback from the ACs at the end of each dungeon.
To me, that showed a lot of caring from TD that the players had an enjoyable time.
The personal touch of asking for feedback in person (instead of online or in a form later) made it very clear that TD is listening and cares about making the game fit the player.

The fact that our TD runs were so good was a welcome relief after a lot of work for me to correct past years when we had difficulty finding if we needed to play Normal or Hardcore.

I would like to suggest that a new difficulty level needs to be created between Normal and Hardcore.
My group falls into this weird space where Normal is very easy, but Hardcore has several deaths (mainly new players).
I mentioned this feedback during our TD runs, but I didn't have an answer at that time. I think a new difficulty level may help.

Our group is a set of four TD veterans (playing 14 years), a group of three players who are two year veterans (who have several URs each), and three new players who have been loaned some TEs and 5th level bump items.
Other than that, the new players have mostly Rares with a few transmutes (like the Whetstone and Canteen).

Because of this mix, the new players die in room five or six when we play on the Hardcore difficulty.
We bring them back with Death's Door (or equivalent), but they don't feel they are contributing to the party.
This leads to a very unsatisfying time for them, and this is a concern for me.
I'd like to show them the best time that TD can be.

If we play on Normal, the experienced players don't feel challenged.
We kill the monsters in combat in one or two rounds.
Many DMs question why we are playing on Normal, and it's because we want the new players to have a good time.

For instance, a couple of the veterans hit on a slide of a 2-6 on Normal.
Some of new players would have to slide a 19-20 to hit on Hardcore.

Our group has been trying to be good stewards of TD so that we can show it to new players and get them excited to play the game.
We usually leave a few open slots in our runs, and recruit players who haven't played TD before.
I already have 3-4 new players lined up for next year, as the word has gotten out among our friends.

There must be other groups similar to ours that are having a similar issue.
There is also the fact that TD is going to many other cons now (PAX West, PAX South, GameHole Con) that consist of more casual players.

The Hardcore difficulty used to be defined as a level that can be played with the party outfitted with Reds.
This has not been the case for several years.
For the past few years, I've been trying one Hardcore run, and then stepping the difficulty down after the new players (with more than all Reds) were killed--and had a bad time at it.

I like the idea of a difficulty level that would be a challenge to a group that has a mixture of Rares and URs, but doesn't frustrate or kill the new players that have full Rare token builds like what TD Tavern and Bob's Bargain Barn sell.

These Rare token builds are perfect for the new players at the new conventions that TD is going to, but these players may not enjoy the game if they aren't challenged at the Normal difficulty.

I feel there needs to be a stepping stone for the players who have started playing TD in the past year or so, but haven't started outfitting the entire party with URs, Relics, and above.

Thanks!

--Steven

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Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore 3 months 1 week ago #2

I am firmly in the camp that HC should be playable with just reds (the wording in the player's handbook actually suggests a significantly lower equipment threshold than that). It saddens me that the module calibrations are still missing the mark, and hopefully TPTB will get HC back to where it should be soon.

But I also have a new (as far as I know) idea: what if the party was permitted to lower (not raise) the difficulty level during the dungeon, by unanimous consent?

Option 1: this may be done at the beginning of any room.
Option 2: this may be done at the beginning of any round (when it's the party's turn to act). If that means the monster suddenly keels over because it's already taken enough damage to exceed its new HP total, so be it!

With this, a group like yours could start out on HC in the hopes that maybe TPTB got the balance right this year, and then drop back to Normal if it seems like the monsters are still hitting way too hard once you get in there. Players would of course get credit for the final (lowered) difficulty level, having actually played something that was "in between" but which was created dynamically without adding any complexity to the design of the modules.

I don't see any downside to offering this. I anticipate that to some people it might initially feel like cheating, but is it really? Anyone who chooses to avail themselves of this option could have just as easily played it safe by choosing the lower difficulty in the first place, but instead they did this and hopefully increased their overall fun, at no cost to anyone (aside from sadists who enjoy watching others suffer from taking risks, and I don't think TD exists to serve those people). Anyone who dislikes it can still choose not to do it.

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Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore 3 months 1 week ago #3

First of all LOM,
Thanks for the Shout Out!

As far as mobile difficulty, I suggested the following in a different thread but it didn’t see any discussion.
There are 3 boxes on the party card that as far as I know aren’t used. I believe they were used for treasure stamps but could be repurposed to be a signal for the next DM.
In each combat room after combat, the DM puts a plus or minus in that box. In the next combat room the DM either increases/decreases (respectively) halfway up/down.
Part of the reason I like this solution is that if the party just got lucky in the first combat and gets their backsides handed to them in the second either due to luck or increased difficulty, the next DM can back it down again.
So the boxes would look like:
+ -
Please visit my fledgling token store.
truedungeon.com/forum?view=topic&catid=583&id=247486

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Last edit: by Bob Chasan.

Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore 3 months 1 week ago #4

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I have heard the party cards are going to get a redesign soon, there is a lot of dead space around those 3 boxes that could be better utilized so I'm looking forward to it.
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Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore 3 months 1 week ago #5

The difference between normal and hardcore today is roughly:

+4 to monster to-hit
+3 to monster AC
+2 to save difficulty

Maybe 33% more monster damage, and 50% more monster hitpoints.

There is not much room in between those for a new level.

I would suggest instead that TBTP decide what sorts of gear should be sufficient for hardcore, announce it, and set stats accordingly, is it:

A. A few token 10 packs per player?
B. Rare weapons and armor for each player?
C. An optimized UC/Rare build with tokens in each slot?

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Last edit: by Matthew Hayward.

Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore 3 months 1 week ago #6

Have the less new players slide with their offhand.

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Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore 3 months 1 week ago #7

My recommendation is to have the most kitted vets play classes in roughly this order, if they are not already taken:

1) Bard
2) Cleric
3) Rogue (Clues and Flanking)
4) Paladin
5) Druid (focus on healing)

Between the Bard and Cleric, you can buff everyone for +5 hit and +4 damage (ish). From reading past modules, this fully covers the AC gap between Normal and Hardcore with room to spare. With a little coordination with linked shirts of healing, those two can also keep the party alive pretty well.

If you have more than 2 kitted players, IMO pickup Rogue next and hand out clues and flank to help everyone hit that 20. Then add a Paladin to help by guarding whoever has the lowest AC and act as a secondary healer with Lay on Hands. Finally, if you still have kitted players, have a Druid with the Charm of Spell Swapping - the other half of the group should never fall below 10 HP.

If you end up with half or more of the run fully kitted, I also suggest giving the boosters to the new players. 5 or 6 boosters worth of 2018 commons and uncommons will go a long way to building out a brand new character.

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Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore 3 months 1 week ago #8

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Matthew Hayward wrote: The difference between normal and hardcore today is roughly:

+4 to monster to-hit
+3 to monster AC
+2 to save difficulty

Maybe 33% more monster damage, and 50% more monster hitpoints.

There is not much room in between those for a new level.

I would suggest instead that TBTP decide what sorts of gear should be sufficient for hardcore, announce it, and set stats accordingly, is it:

A. A few token 10 packs per player?
B. Rare weapons and armor for each player?
C. An optimized UC/Rare build with tokens in each slot?


I think the problem may be at least in part that token levels do not take into account player skill. Some of the "required" to hit number for higher difficulties I see people throwing around seem excessive to me, but I get it if you are say not the best slider. By the same token I ran with 1 group this gencon that required almost no healing because they rocked all the puzzles and took no push, I ran with another that had a significantly harder time of the same difficulty & gear level due to push.
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Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore 3 months 1 week ago #9

Thanks for all the replies! I really appreciate being listened to.

Regarding changing the difficulty mid-dungeon:
I like this idea, but it's hard to judge the new players level of enjoyment in the heat of an adventure.
I think I'd get this wrong, and I wouldn't be able to see that there is a problem.
I normally poll the group between adventures to see how the run went for them, so my first chance to get feedback is normally after the first adventure is over.

Regarding recording the combat results on the party card:
I think this could work. However, I would favor a solution that didn't put any extra tasks on room DMs.
They have a hard enough job as it is. :)

One of the AC's suggested that marking new players as non-lethal on the party card could also help.
I agree, but that would only solve about half the issue.
Maybe I'm too focused when I mention the deaths of new players, but I've had a few of the players also mention that they were not effective during the fight.

For instance, they could only hit on an 18 or above, so they didn't feel they were contributing to fights.
Puzzles are different, as the party works together, and there isn't a token power difference here (except for rogue clues and the like).

Just to mention, our veteran players are a Bard, Rogue, Ranger, and Barbarian.
The year or two old players are Cleric (pretty well set up), Paladin (great at defending), and Druid (great).
The players all have shirts of linked healing, and the Cleric did a good job of keeping everyone topped of on HP with Lenses of Divine Sight.

The first year that there was an issue (2017) with the new players, we were down a couple of the veterans, so I thought that was the issue.
I kept the group at Hardcore for the next year.

The second year (2018), the group had the Lenses of Divine Sight, so healing wasn't a problem.
The issue may have been pick up group dynamics, but we've had players that didn't mesh in the past.
The game became frustrating for new players (and some veteran) alike.

Playing at the incorrect level is a subtle thing that is hard to observe because there are so many other possibilities (group dynamics, no adjustment for the dungeons last year, being down a veteran character, etc.).

I see this year that switching to Normal was a consistently better experience for the new players, and the veteran players only commented that it was too easy.
They quickly agreed when I suggested that it was better than the new players having a poor time. :)

I want to be clear, in previous years, I have Rare token builds all classes, and the group can bring many of them up to 5th level (presently all but one class).
At minimum, four of the players were more than half purple (or better) in their builds, and, in most cases, it was six players at the more than half purple token build level.

Playing hardcore with half the party at half purples and the other half all reds or better is not a good experience for new players. The PHB indicates that:
"Hardcore: This is for people who have some TD experience and at least three bags of tokens."

This is definitely not the case, and this is out of date.
This is why I suggest a new difficulty level.
Normal is for people with mostly Red builds.
Hardcore is for people with all Purple builds and beyond.

Regarding player skill, this could be a part of it, but I question if it is intended that Hardcore--as defined (3 bags of tokens)--should require a paladin/cleric class to slide an 18 or better to hit the monster.

There are people who can slide an 18 consistently, but it isn't normally a new player sliding for the first time.

Thanks.

--Steven

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Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore 3 months 1 week ago #10

Lord of Mistakes wrote: I want to be clear, in previous years, I have Rare token builds all classes, and the group can bring many of them up to 5th level (presently all but one class).
At minimum, four of the players were more than half purple (or better) in their builds, and, in most cases, it was six players at the more than half purple token build level.

Playing hardcore with half the party at half purples and the other half all reds or better is not a good experience for new players. The PHB indicates that:
"Hardcore: This is for people who have some TD experience and at least three bags of tokens."

This is definitely not the case, and this is0 out of date.
This is why I suggest a new difficulty level.
Normal is for people with mostly Red builds.
Hardcore is for people with all Purple builds and beyond.

Regarding player skill, this could be a part of it, but I question if it is intended that Hardcore--as defined (3 bags of tokens)--should require a paladin/cleric class to slide an 18 or better to hit the monster.

There are people who can slide an 18 consistently, but it isn't normally a new player sliding for the first time.

Thanks.

--Steven


Hi Steven,

I've trimmed down your quote a bit, because some of what you're saying isn't meshing with my experience at Gen Con this year. My group is 5 to 6 people depending on the run, all at level 5, and that is mostly due to penalty inducing level items - 2 ring of fateful heroism, 1 medallion of heroism, 1 charming set, 1 ring of heroism, 1 charm of heroism. I'm the only one using more than 1 UR that isn't a treasure enhancers or +level item (I play cleric, 1/2 purple, kilt, relic baton). We absolutely rocked hardcore and figured we probably should have run nightmare on E2 when we have a group that was teetering on the edge of running it.

Half red / Half unconmmon builds can push +10 to hit and +10 damage. When you add in a Bard singing for +2 / +4 damage (or +3 / +3 with lute of fury or lute of free fury), Prayer and Bless, you're looking at around +15 to hit. That means you should be hitting even the boss monsters on 13 (or less!).

A couple sample builds to show what I mean:
+11 hit / +17 damage barbarian: truedungeon.com/forum?view=topic&catid=561&id=248798#342040
+10 hit / +10 damage fighter: truedungeon.com/forum?view=topic&catid=565&id=248766#349012

The biggest problem with running half red and the other half under is saves and HP, but it sounds like you've got the HP part covered with a LoDS Cleric and a 5th level Bard (soothe wounds is awesome).

Give our success this year, I'm thinking that I would suggest:
Normal - 3 to 5 (ish) boosters with a little trading. I'm pretty sure a coordinated group could kill all the monsters on E1 and E2 with this level. Not sure E3's final room could be completed though.

Hardcore - Half rare to all rare optimized builds. Several key classes should be 5th level (Bard and Cleric for sure). Good group coordination is key, such as Cleric restores spell surge and applicable damage spell, bard passes lore checks and group uses discovered weakness.

Nightmare - Speculation based on my group's results this year - All 5th level, multiple good 4* transmutes, a few strategic purples, and a relic on key classes (Lute of Free Fury, +3 Baton of Focus) along with good group coordination.

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Last edit: by Endgame.

Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore 3 months 1 week ago #11

I don’t agree that there should be a difficulty between Normal and Hardcore or any of the other existing ones.

I feel it’s meant to be compared against the party as a whole not individually. All together I assume your party’s strength was enough to win the run, right?

I feel asking the DM to adjust the dungeon per room per person is additional work they shouldn’t need to do.

Perhaps the Hardcore difficulty needs to be tweaked....I can understand that. It definitely sounds like the handbook needs to be updated.

But, even if the Hardcore is adjusted and the handbook is updated to say for those with all rares and better it’s likely meant to be interpreted that it can be done if a party is outfitted as so, but not that everyone will survive.

I did a normal run at GenCon as wizard (non-main). I had maybe +3 dmg to spells and lvl 5, so nothing that would indicate I was carrying the random pugs I was with. But, one of the newbies (10 token bag) commented at the end that it was too easy. He looked bored the whole time. And I agree it was very easy.

It’s finding that level of difficulty per setting where you want everyone to barely survive or incur a few deaths. I feel that is the sweet spot whether others would agree or not.

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Last edit: by Krym.

Request for new difficulty level between Normal and Hardcore 3 months 1 week ago #12

Another challenge between normal and hardcore is party composition.

A bard can grant between +0 to hit and +3 to hit with ur tokens.

A cleric can give +1 or +2 to hit with bless or prayer.

So the party can be anywhere between +0 and +5 to hit depending on bards/cleric/level/gear

Similarly with healing - huge differences between 0, 1, or 2 of Cleric and Druid.

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