Guardians Guarding Guardians

By | January 6, 2018

When Guardians guard Guardians, play can come to a fast and unfriendly halt. Having more than a single Guardian on one side of any combat results in a constant stream of half damage … to the Guardians. For small Teams or Teams that don’t have high Fight Bonuses or Harm dice, this reduction in damage can grind play down into a tedious slog.

We could have introduced rules to prevent this from happening, something like “Only one Guardian per side,” “Guardians can only Intercept one attack per Round,” or “Guardians cannot Intercept attacks on other Guardians,” but that’s an exception-based design we tried to avoid in the Forthright ruleset. Especially since we can imagine when having multiple Guardians on a side will be efficient for the story: the Big Bad with two Guardian bodyguards, for instance, who cover attacks on the BB long enough for the BB to escape danger.

The Guide should avoid regularly having multiple Guardians in a combat encounter opposing the Team. Doing that makes combat a chain of “you hit the Guardian for half damage instead”s that can really aggravate some players. Especially since having more than one Guardian means that both Guardians will take (on average) 10+ hits in order to fall and stop defending each other. That’s a combat over twice as long as Forthright combat is intended to last, and can feel tedious once everyone is used to the faster pace of Forthright combat.

That said, the Guide is fully justified in bringing in multiple Guardians when:

  • The fight is supposed to feel brutal, like the Team is struggling against a more powerful foe
  • The Big Bad is present on the battlefield but wants to make sure he doesn’t get taken out
  • The Team is facing a well-trained militia using phalanx techniques

And what should a Guide do when the Team itself has multiple Guardians? The Team won’t be taking much Harm throughout a fight, but their damage output will be lower than normal (1d8s per Guardian, or 4.5 Harm per hit, vs. the 5.5 – 7 HPH of other Fighting Stances). This can statistically balance out depending on Team tactics and composition by making fights last longer and giving enemies more chances to hit. It can also result in the Team feeling like they’re facerolling content.

If they enjoy facerolling content, there’s no problem – they’re getting what they want. But if they want a deeper challenge, the Guide can count each Guardian as two Protagonists in terms of fight balancing (pg 178). Alternately, ambushes are a great source of brutality when used against Teams.

Finally, let’s address a two-Guardian scenario that appears in the Core Rulebook, on page 176. The Titan Multihazard example’s arms are both Guardians. Doesn’t that mean that the Power Shunt will never take Harm, because the arms will always Intercept attacks on the Power Shunt?

There are two ways of handling that:

  • The Power Shunt is on the Titan’s back, or some other location that the arms cannot defend. This is the weaker of the two options, because it means the Power Shunt is always vulnerable and the Guardian arms will never be able to defend it under any circumstances.
  • The Power Shunt is in a location the arms can defend, but they can’t defend against an actual melee attack on the Power Shunt. If an attacker climbs the Titan and is hanging off the Power Shunt and stabbing it, how are those big Titan arms going to get between the attack and target? They can’t, because Intercepting an attack doesn’t allow the Guardian to take action against the attacker (such as knocking them off the Power Shunt). This is the stronger option, and the option more likely to result in engaging, and clever, cinematic play.

The rules are the rules are the rules. But sometimes the rules can be dismissed in the face of common sense, or when they just don’t yield an interesting result. Exploiting the rules for an uninteresting result leads to uninteresting play, bored players, and something else to do on game night.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next week!