Some of these DCs in SFS are getting out of hand


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Here's something I'd like to see -

Skill checks, Everyone at the table gets one check and you have to have so many success.

For ever 5 you beat the DC by you get to add +2 to someone else in the party. These +2 can stack.
Gives the specialists a incentive to be 'specialists'.

Example: DC 25. Specialists gets a 42 on skill check. Which gives the specialists three +2 to pass out to help out his fellow party members. Can pass out three +2, a +2 and a +4, or a +6.

This way the specialists can 'help' pull the table up into completing that task.

5/5 5/55/55/5

Stat checks are also something that are harder than they look.

A DC 15 sounds easy. But at first level that's a 50 50 failure rate for the strongest vesk around. A DC 20 has a 75% chance of failure and is infinitely impossible for some characters.

They also don't scale well.

At level 1 the best skill around is at a +12 1 rank 4 stat 2 racial 3 trained 3 skill focus

At level 10 the bonus could be + 24 (10 ranks +6 stat +2 racial +3 trained +3 skill focus)

double the DC or add 10 between the levels on a skill check and you've still got a reasonably close approximation on keeping the failure rate constant. Do that with a stat check and you're excluding a non specialist from the roll at all and pushing even the person who's best at the check to a 90% failure rate or higher. (Some of the DC's to kick down doors are just in the "no" range)

5/5 5/55/55/5

Thurston Hillman wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Multiple checks don't miss any: in PFS1 this was something that made me wonder if the writers failed statistics or just hate players. If there's any chance of missing a check requiring multiple checks dramatically increases the chance of failure.

Please avoid attacking our writers for their perceived competency or dubious morals.

My bad, thats a fair bit harsher than I intended.

Dark Archive 5/5 5/55/5 Venture-Captain, Germany—Rhein Main South aka schattenstern

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BigNorseWolf wrote:
Thurston Hillman wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Multiple checks don't miss any: in PFS1 this was something that made me wonder if the writers failed statistics or just hate players. If there's any chance of missing a check requiring multiple checks dramatically increases the chance of failure.

Please avoid attacking our writers for their perceived competency or dubious morals.

My bad, thats a fair bit harsher than I intended.

While this is formulated harshly the statistical truth still stands, if you have to make three consecutive checks to achieve something, even if you can make the check on a 5 you still have nearly a 50% (0.8*0.8*0.8=.512=51,2% success chance).

NOT STARFINDER: There were some very, very bad cases with this in Pathfinder 1, especially if you encountered multiple enemies with a passive AOE-effect like Auras that made the encounter exponentially more difficult. For example in the lowtier the enemies were 3 mummies (3 DC 16 Will Saves to not be paralyzed) while in the hightier there were 8 (which lead to a lot of very nasty situations)
This example shows that repeating (or a lot/everyone must succeed) checks are statistically far more difficult even if the bar is set very low. Additionally these situations might work somewhat in lv 1-4 scenarios where untrained characters can roll but in higher level scenarios you can get an auto fail if you require everyone to roll (for example the party has 1 specialist).

I recently got a LOT of complaints from some of my players that computers is very harshly penalized in this way, as you have to do the same computers DC (except the few “here is the keycard/password reminder”) than the engineering check for the same result in a lot of cases, but for computers you often need to do 2 to 3 checks to get the same result you would have gotten with one engineering check.

Lau Bannenberg wrote:
Matt2VK wrote:
What's scary is pull up a pregen and try to make some of those DCs.

When I helped playtest scenarios, we used L1 pregen parties to see if they could at least survive and succeed at the primary success condition.

But I don't believe, really don't believe, that this is being done with higher level scenarios.

I think this is the most important part, if the pregens cannot succeed with a reasonable chance of success we will alienate players. Especially if you have weekly/biweekly tables even the newer players will play everything and will play pregens in the high subtiers, so they should not feel like dead weight.

A solution for this would be to balance the success rate (for primary/secondary mission relevant checks) for characters with average attributes (in the 12-14 range for 1-4, 14-16 in 5-9 and 16-18 in 10+) with full skill ranks (and maybe the Class skill bonus but not the Bonus you get from your class (as not everyone gets it) or skill focus (this should make you better and not be needed to keep up))
This is especially important as you can not guarantee everyone plays a class that gets a class bonus at all (soldier) or in the skills that are relevant for the mission.

If the check is just for flavor/background/foreshadowing/reducing avoiding (reasonable) damage you can do something that challenges the specialists to reward them.

5/5 5/55/5

Magical Mu wrote:
Our party failed at Siege of Civility. We just could not make all the checks, and this made us unhappy. It's my fault for playing in it, actually. Although I could make my checks, my presence made it so half the party was playing up. Had I brought another character, we might have been able to make it through the lower tier checks.

I'll also suggest Siege got a bit silly - those DC's were right off.

Scarab Sages 4/5 5/5

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Thurston Hillman wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Multiple checks don't miss any: in PFS1 this was something that made me wonder if the writers failed statistics or just hate players. If there's any chance of missing a check requiring multiple checks dramatically increases the chance of failure.

Please avoid attacking our writers for their perceived competency or dubious morals.

Look, DCs can be a tricky thing. Everyone has different experiences and it's obvious that those can translate in a bunch of different ways into a published scenario. As evidenced by this thread, there's clearly a community concern with DCs, especially in higher tier scenarios (where we've just really started digging into).

As I mentioned briefly above: I've heard the feedback and I'll do my best to be cognizant of it when developing in the future.

Thank you Thurston, I know I, for one, am glad to see that my feedback is being taken seriously. Honestly, I can count on one hand the number of times my feedback has actually caught someone's attention with ANY game, and I really do appreciate the PAIZO team listening to their clientele in a real way. I know that the DCs can be hard to calibrate. In fact, I just GMed and then played a few scenarios in the past two days. In the first the DCs were 18-25 in the 8-9 subtier it was hilariously easy, and then today there was a series of skill checks that the entire party failed (even my high wisdom character with full ranks in sense motive, who rolled above average failed.)

For what it's worth, I know I'm not a scenario writer (yet), but I really think sticking to the formula you have presented in the books is the best option. DC 10+(1.5 level) for easy checks, DC 15+(1.5) level for somewhat difficult checks, and DC 20+(1.5) level for very difficult checks. Sure, there are going to some hyperspecialized characters that will blow those checks out of the water and autosucceed, but A) Those aren't guaranteed to be at every table, B) Even if there is a hyperspecialized character at the table, there is no guarantee that their skill will match the chosen skill, and C) A task should be trival for a hyperspecialized character. They designed their character to be good at that one thing, it should be theirs to own.

I'm not going to attack the writers (I know several personally), but I will say that I like the idea of Tiers in skill checks. DC 15+(1.5xlevel) gets you the plot thing, whereas DC 20+(1.5xlevel) nets you some bonus or extra bit of information. That way Hyperspecialized characters get rewarded for their design, but parties without these hyperspecialized characters still have the capability to pass the mission.

A few other options I like are:
-"The ability to use four or five different skills to accomplish this task"
-"Earning X number of successes before accruing Y number of failures (where Y is not 1)" So, like, earn five successes before getting 3 failures.
-"Multiple lower DC checks of different skills, where PCs can choose to aid another OR spread out to accrue more successes (This was done in 1-36 "Enter the Ashen Asteroid" to Great effect.) This promotes teamwork and also lets the people with lower levels of skills still participate.

The Exchange 5/5 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

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Shifty wrote:
Magical Mu wrote:
Our party failed at Siege of Civility. We just could not make all the checks, and this made us unhappy. It's my fault for playing in it, actually. Although I could make my checks, my presence made it so half the party was playing up. Had I brought another character, we might have been able to make it through the lower tier checks.
I'll also suggest Siege got a bit silly - those DC's were right off.

The math actually works, but...

Spoilers for The First Mandate and Siege of Civility:
The math isn't obvious.  There are a variety of skills, room for failures, and you don't necessarily need to influence every NPC. Any class that has max ranked in a skill will be able to help.  Unfortunately, in order to contribute the players need to work out somewhat complex optimization problems.  Problems where you don't have complete information, and GMs can't really get it to the players without breaking out of the role-playing that is the main point of these encounters.

If there is one NPC you can influence with Survival, you need to make sure the soldier with maxed Survival ranks makes that check.  Even if the operative has a better bonus and better chance to succeed at survival, the soldier probably won't be nearly as good at influencing someone with Bluff.  Say the soldier has +10 Survival, +4 Bluff and the operative has +15 Survival, +15 Bluff. Your best bet for total successes is to have the soldier start by trying survival and the operative handling the bluff.

But what often happens is that as soon as the group realizes that Survival is an option they analyze and realize the operative has the best bonus. Before they realize there is a Bluff check to be made.  And they either run out of attempts or are left with nothing for the soldier to do. Any group can succeed but the group needs to work out their optimum path for most total successes.

If I was writing one of these scenarios I would make an easy "Sense Motive round" separate from the "Influence" rounds.  With alternate skills for players that don't have good Sense Motive.  After that the players can work out their plan of attack. And make it clear that there isn't enough time for the "best" PCs to handle all the checks.

Authors and Developers need to find better ways to let the players know how the mechanics of skill checks encounters will work so all classes can feel like they can participate.


Another issue is the players don't always know which check will be best in those types of situations.

Been a couple tables I've played at where we had to convince a number of NPC certain things in a limited amount of time. Checks we thought would work with them didn't always turn out to be the checks we needed to do. So we ended up doing our best and praying for high dice rolls.

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsbo) 5/5 5/55/5 Venture-Lieutenant, North Carolina—Charlotte aka eddv

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Just want to weigh in saying, having played Colossus Heist today, the DCs were completely out of hand. Not even feasibly accomplishable with a full investment on a non-specialized character - we had the Envoy pregen who has full ranks but not a high int rolling computers for the table and they just COULD NOT, even on a nat 20, make many of the rolls INCLUDING a super vital roll toward the end.

I am all for rewarding investment but this is getting to feel like punishing doing anything less than hypermaximizing.

Sovereign Court 4/5 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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I've been told one of the design goals for the pregens is to hold back a bit so that even beginning players should be able to make their own PCs better.

But what's the point of having pregens that can't do the scenarios? Might as well tell people not to play.

Now you could scale up the pregens (and I still think we should). But not to the point where people get told "play the pregen instead of your character, because it's better".

If the pregens can't play the scenarios, the pregens shouldn't exist, or the scenarios should be scaled down so the pregens can play them.

Dark Archive 4/5

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This thread reminds me of how final part of Doomsday Dawn went for my party. They tried to do the ritual to banish Big Bad, but kept failing once "increase dcs by 2" kicked in and they needed to roll 16 or better to succeed.(for the character specialized in skills for ritual I mean)

Losing because DCs feel unfair is most frustrating thing to players and it left everyone feeling really bad and had low opinion on adventure despite enjoying the final part up to the tpk.

The Exchange 5/5 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

Douglas Edwards wrote:

Just want to weigh in saying, having played Colossus Heist today, the DCs were completely out of hand. Not even feasibly accomplishable with a full investment on a non-specialized character - we had the Envoy pregen who has full ranks but not a high int rolling computers for the table and they just COULD NOT, even on a nat 20, make many of the rolls INCLUDING a super vital roll toward the end.

I am all for rewarding investment but this is getting to feel like punishing doing anything less than hypermaximizing.

I’m not sure which check you are referring to; I don’t see any Computers check I would call “super vital.”

Serious spoilers for Colossus Heist:

Every critical computers check has some kind of backup way of succeeding.

-Your contact will activate the lifepulse beacon if you can’t make the check.
-You don’t have to use the central terminal at all, it just makes some areas easier. The escape doors open on their own after you complete the mission. (In fact, you once the doors close after that, you can’t reopen them even using the terminal.)
-The secondary success condition relies on a check that has no lockout and that Iseph, Navasi, Quig, and Raia can all eventually make.


Having said that, there are multiple potential Computers checks in that scenario that are at or above the level the CRB refers to as “prohibitively high” (DC 25 + 1-1/2 APL). Including one not even Raia can make unaided at the high tier. That wouldn’t be a problem if
Colossus Heist again:

It was just for the central terminal/opening doors. It’s the heart of the beast, it should be extremely difficult.

Making the lifepulse beacon checks so high, though, is annoying. With a Deus Ex Machina waiting in the wings and no penalties or bonuses for the check, why make something the players are so likely to fail? This should be a much lower check.


Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

So basically what SFS Organized Play is saying is, "If you do not have full ranks in a check, you should not be attempting a roll. You should be assisting. My wife has a full rank Mechanic, and she would have to roll consistent 17+ to complete all of the 2-12 rolls.

This is what happens when one class breaks a system. The writers have to adjust a Scenario, making other classes obsolete.

Dark Archive 5/5 5/55/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Upper Midwest aka Silbeg

I would like to chime in that I also like the group checks... (I would say 1/2 party size, rounded up, but that's just me). When these have been in scenarios, it does make me feel like all players have a chance.

I also like the 1 roll per character per phase kind of thing. Especially when there are things that all characters can do. PFS2 1-00 had a great example of how that can go.

This is especially true when there are varying levels of success, and various skills that can be used.

The ideas around computer checks, for example, could be...

1. Multiple computer checks to get past security, etc.
2. Sense motive on the person you're trying to hack, to guess what they might use as a password.
3. Perception to notice the sticky note under their keyboard

Or something like that.
The checks for 2 & 3 above might be higher DCs than the Computers, but could have bonuses (Sense motive gets bonus if you can interact and make a bluff check -- social engineering)

Also, I feel that very high DCs are a negative incentive to characters being built with moderate skills. If you think that only uber-high skill checks matter, you will focus on other things.

5/5 5/55/55/5

Fake shells are functionally roll the computer check twice and succeed both times or fail

Dataphiles 4/5 5/55/5

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Maybe it is just me but this is beginning to feel like it is moving towards offended hostility.

I would like to put in there that this system is 3ish years old. Maybe ease up a little. Many of ya'll have been chomping at the bit (as have I) for higher level content. Now that your getting it your coming on a little strong on the critiques. If I were the SFS staff I'd be considering laying off on the attempts at higher level content because of this.

I'm not saying that anyone has been particularly toxic yet, the constructive stuff is great. Just that it feels like it's heading there and I for one would not like the SFS writers and folk dissuaded from delving more into the higher level content. I absolutely love the story that is being told in SFS, keep it up!

Again, for those who may take personal offense to this post. I am not saying you've gone too far. I agree, some of the DCs are a little high. Just maybe double check the tone of your post before it is posted. The writers are people too and are trying hard and doing a great job.

Paizo Employee Starfinder Society Developer

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I would like to reiterate that I agree there's looking that needs to happen with some of the higher level scenario math. We're really just starting to break into this level of play and get a sense of what is needed for Organized Play. It's clear that we need to tailor these check DCs down a bit, and/or look at other options for greater group interaction. That's my takeaway from this.

While I appreciate the ongoing feedback here, continuing to "beat this horse to death" in terms of why it's bad isn't particularly productive for me to read. I think I've got all the valid feedback I can expect from this thread. If people want to continue venting about the difficulty of existing content, which I agree has some potential issues, that is fine. However, I'm going to focus my attention away from this thread now that I've got the feedback I feel appropriate to act on.

Scarab Sages 4/5 5/5

Thurston Hillman wrote:

I would like to reiterate that I agree there's looking that needs to happen with some of the higher level scenario math. We're really just starting to break into this level of play and get a sense of what is needed for Organized Play. It's clear that we need to tailor these check DCs down a bit, and/or look at other options for greater group interaction. That's my takeaway from this.

While I appreciate the ongoing feedback here, continuing to "beat this horse to death" in terms of why it's bad isn't particularly productive for me to read. I think I've got all the valid feedback I can expect from this thread. If people want to continue venting about the difficulty of existing content, which I agree has some potential issues, that is fine. However, I'm going to focus my attention away from this thread now that I've got the feedback I feel appropriate to act on.

Thanks again Thurston! Again, I'm just . . . over the moon that you are looking into this stuff and i hope you work it out. I'm myself and the others here could bring something to your attention that helps you make SFS more fun!

Grand Lodge 5/5 5/55/55/5 Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

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Thank you, Thurston.

I do want to say that I've been reading this thread not so much for horse beating, but to develop my own ideas on how to better balance skill challenges for a non-Paizo Starfinder adventure that I am currently revising. As someone new to adventure writing, I want to write skill challenges that are fun for the players and this thread has really been helpful to me all the way through.

The theories about different ways to construct a skill challenge gave me lots to think about, and was really timely for my revisions.

Hmm

Sovereign Court 4/5 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:

Thank you, Thurston.

I do want to say that I've been reading this thread not so much for horse beating, but to develop my own ideas on how to better balance skill challenges for a non-Paizo Starfinder adventure that I am currently revising. As someone new to adventure writing, I want to write skill challenges that are fun for the players and this thread has really been helpful to me all the way through.

The theories about different ways to construct a skill challenge gave me lots to think about, and was really timely for my revisions.

Hmm

I remember first hearing the term "skill challenge" in D&D4 where it was done rather "nakedly", just push buttons and hope you get enough successes before you get too many failures. There wasn't much justification of which skills should be used or why those were the target numbers. It was rather yucky.

But since then, the concept of "skill challenge" has taken hold and it's really enriched PFS1 when they became a more significant standard part of scenarios (say, starting season 5).

What hasn't really been formalized however is a good shared theory of how to build skill challenges. There's a lot of ways to do it, many of which are appropriate to very specific story-situations. And you need a decent understanding of probability theory, "what makes a game fun" theory and knowledge of what are the expected optimization levels of characters in the game for which you're writing. Writing it like that, it's actually a pretty tall order!

So yeah, I'm personally also rather interested in the theory of skill challenges.

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsbo) 5/5 5/55/5 Venture-Lieutenant, North Carolina—Charlotte aka eddv

Kevin Willis wrote:


I’m not sure which check you are referring to; I don’t see any Computers check I would call “super vital.”

Its the one related to the secondary success and I did neglect to mention that it was level 8 Navasi playing up. Its just that with the level of frustration the table was venting AT ME.

I regret chiming in after Thursty already began to address the issue though.


The “playing up” part sounds rather pertinent.

Scarab Sages 4/5 5/5

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Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
The “playing up” part sounds rather pertinent.

Playing up shouldn’t mean ‘can’t succeed’ though. I mean, playing up is, at most, a 4 point swing for a skill check (lvl x 1.5). So if a lvl 10 needs a 10 on the die to succeed, a level 7 playing up should need a 14. We are just saying a level 10 shouldn’t have to roll a 17 on the die to succeed, (making a level 7 impossible). That’s the basic gist of this entire thread.


It does clearly affect the results and play experience, 4 points is a bit, and if complaints are because of being lower level against higher level challenges then that’s rather telling.

Note, not claiming all cases were because of “playing up”, but “this higher level challenge was too hard” and “this on level challenge was too hard” are two very different things.

Silver Crusade 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh aka Terminalmancer

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I ran a Starfinder table this weekend. The game was Heart of the Foe, a 3-6, and we had a 3-player table with levels 4/5/6. We added a level 4 pregen. The table was forced to play up with the 4-player adjustment, and although the three "real" PCs could rock at one or two skill checks each, that still left them unable to successfully complete many of the skill checks. It made me think of this thread.

It's nice to say that you should always try to play in-subtier, but we're a small lodge. Sometimes you either have people play out of subtier or you don't play.

The problem's not super consistent though. There were no operatives in the party, for example.

Thursty: thank you for looking into it!

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsbo) 5/5 5/55/5 Venture-Lieutenant, North Carolina—Charlotte aka eddv

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Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:

It does clearly affect the results and play experience, 4 points is a bit, and if complaints are because of being lower level against higher level challenges then that’s rather telling.

Note, not claiming all cases were because of “playing up”, but “this higher level challenge was too hard” and “this on level challenge was too hard” are two very different things.

A level 8 playing in tier 9-10 is a difference of one point.

The margin by which they could not make even the 'normal' checks was much greater than 1.


Douglas Edwards wrote:
Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:

It does clearly affect the results and play experience, 4 points is a bit, and if complaints are because of being lower level against higher level challenges then that’s rather telling.

Note, not claiming all cases were because of “playing up”, but “this higher level challenge was too hard” and “this on level challenge was too hard” are two very different things.

A level 8 playing in tier 9-10 is a difference of one point.

The margin by which they could not make even the 'normal' checks was much greater than 1.

If you only look at the level boost alone, and not any feats or class abilities gained.

Liberty's Edge 1/5

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Is there a meaningful shift between 8 and 9 typically Feats/Class abilities?


Possibly.

Though at level 9 you gain a Feat and 10 you get your ability boosts.


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This is more of a editing issue but there's been a number of scenarios where the party can get a bonus to those DC buried in a single sentence 7 paragraphs away from the actually check DC. Some place where the GM can easily miss those modifiers.

Anything that can modify these high DC checks really should be included right after the DC. Making it easier for the GM to know and keep track of those modifiers.

4/5

NightTrace wrote:
Is there a meaningful shift between 8 and 9 typically Feats/Class abilities?

There is a shift in the level of equipment you can access, which may influence certain checks. There is also a shift in available cash, leading to better equipment overall, including upgrades which can also influence skill checks.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
The “playing up” part sounds rather pertinent.

As part of that group, there were a number of frustrating factors with Colossus Heist (though I didn't think our frustration was aimed at you, Doug, so much as at the weirdness and some bad luck - like a full health soldier walking around a corner and getting one-shot without a response).

At first I thought chief among them was that our usual technomancer couldn't make it, but having read the scenario now...

Spoiler for Colossus Heist:
... even a L9, 22 INT technomancer with max levels and Techlore+3 requires an 18+ on the die to make a DC 40 check.

If a scenario ends with "have a certain specialized character with a certain max skill and roll an 18+ OR spend 8 Fame and fail the primary objective OR permadie, that's not a satisfying conclusion to me.

Yes, there can be assists and a few other very specialized boosts, but that's still not a great solution.

Oh, and while you can re-try several times, if you fail once by 5+, your choices are fame/fail or permadeath. Assuming 2 assisting players with the maxed out technomancer, that's still a 45% chance you're locked out on try 1.

I'd much rather see alternate paths or perhaps the skill check being failed makes the path out more difficult. IMO, a character - let alone the party - should never die based solely on a single skill check.

And, yes, it's probably a bad idea to bring just 4 soldiers and a pregen playing up to any adventure L8+. But that's how Society works out some times.


How many assists/specialized boosts can you acquire in the adventure?

The Exchange 5/5 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

Jeff, I still don’t see what this horrendous check you are talking about in Colossus Heist is.

Spoilers for Colossus Heist:
It sounds like you are talking about the DC 38 computers check to hack open the doors from the inside. But that isn’t a required check at all. Once you find the last relic the doors automatically open and you have one minute to escape.

If you don’t get out in that one minute timeframe, you can’t get out. The computers check that would have opened the door earlier in the scenario ceases to function. Then you have to spend 8 Fame or be permanently dead.

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