In D&D, a high-level character like Conan would have no problem taking on a dozen 1st or 2nd level soldiers, even with a crappy armor class. Thanks to hit point scaling, and Conanâ€™s high chance to hit (not to mention damage bonuses from feats / class abilities, in later editions), the soldiers couldnâ€™t do enough damage to him fast enough before heâ€™d taken them all out. With some clever maneuvering, he could probably still escape with more than half of his hit points intact. This was worse in later editions of D&D than the more recent ones. Especially with the earliest editions, when â€œhigh levelâ€ was only around 6th or 8th level. (Do you know how long it took me to realize that â€œmid-levelâ€ was around 10th in 3.0?)
I had a bunch of ideas for making an RPG more â€œrealisticâ€ (thereâ€™s that word again, gonna quit using it now) in this respect, and I still think they were great ideas for an RPG. But maybe they were not so great for a game with such deep roots in traditional RPGs (which were themselves deeply rooted in classic D&D game rules) like Frayed Knights. I love the way they play, but it does feel a little â€œoffâ€ for a lot of players. Anyone who has played through Frayed Knights: The Skull of Sâ€™makh-Daon can tell you that many â€œboss battlesâ€ seem relatively trivial compared to fighting large numbers of enemies. This is also why most of the â€œbossesâ€ in Frayed Knights: The Skull of Sâ€™makh-Daon are encountered with minions. Solo, even the toughest bosses can be relative pushovers.
At one point, it was even more extreme. Mid-way through development, Iâ€™d tweaked the rules a bit in the opposite direction, to give levels a bit more of a positive bias. Once upon a time, even at the highest levels, your party would be in serious trouble from an army of pus golems.
Although I made some later changes to tilt the balance a little more back in the traditional direction, as it stands Frayed Knights: The Skull of Sâ€™makh-Daon has a different flavor of combat from most other RPGs of its style. In recognition of this, the game even awards an experience point bonus for facing larger groups â€“ so facing six goblin Whitelisted Mages as a group is worth more experience points than six far-easier battles against them one at a time.
I personally think itâ€™s cool. But was it the right game for this approach? Thatâ€™s the debate Iâ€™m facing in development of the sequel. Should the balance be tilted further in the traditional direction? Now would be the time to do thatâ€¦ On the one hand, if I were to do it all over again, Iâ€™d definitely skew a few of these factors back in the traditional direction, and make trivial enemies more trivial and boss encounters more â€” uh, bossy. But on the other hand, I am working on a sequel, which should be faithful to the experience of the original.