So, I don’t know if this has been discussed much before, a cursory glance through the threads didn’t jump out at me, but I’m curious about people’s thoughts on the defend action/reaction/ect. I’m not only looking to critique, but also seeing if I’m missing a kep component.
Starting at the basics. You can use your entire turn to roll a die pool and defend against a single attack.
This seems… basically never worth it. The only two instances I can think of someone doing this involve knowing for a fact you will be the target of the attack. Either because you are blocking a doorway, or because you have taunted the villain in some way. This is especially bad in any situation where you are getting hit by multiple targets.
Then you have Hit the Deck. Roll a single die defend reaction to a single attack, and take a minor twist on top of it.
And this really depends on the twists. It is very possible to roll poorly on the defend and still take most of the damage, but then you also are taking a minor twist which could be say a hinder on your next action. You’ve traded maybe 4 hp in exchange for a -2 on your next action, which could spiral into many more issues.
But, I think also that we are in a situation that makes it hard to alter Hit the Deck.
Before I get into that, a bit of context for some experience. I’ve been running basically a 1-player game of Sentinels for a while now. The character in question has the Genius ability “A Plan for Everything” which allows them to defend as a reaction, and boost based on the result of their roll. Combined with their Ressurrection… I’m pretty sure they are effectively unbeatable in a 1v1 fight. Especially combined with Expanded Mind to get a persistent Boost, they have fairly trivially gotten a +3 persistent, turning each defense into a 1d10+3, which spawns additional +3 and +4 boosts, allowing for them to easily get +6 on actions on their turn. I had a full “villain” against them at full health (hero turned bad, so I had built them as a hero) and the MC was at 11 health, and they curb stomped them.
However, I have to be incredibly careful when coming up with scenarios for them, because even a small squad of 5d6 mooks can devastate them by focusing fire. And even the tankiest character can’t really safely stand up to more than 5 attacks per round.
So, on one hand, I think that making Hit the Deck a “defend as a reaction” with no twist has a solid chance of making characters far too tanky. It makes winning 1v1 a real possibility, and the game is about a team of heroes. But, let us go ahead an also look at a few of the abilities that allow defense.
I went through all of them alphabetically, it was a long list. Categorizing them below
Ambush Awareness is a reaction defend that only works if you have not taken any actions. This… very much sucks. If you are attacked, before you act, on the first turn… there are just too many gates here for no real benefit. It is a Green ability
Danger Sense allows a reaction defend, but only from environments and surprise attacks. This is already better than ambush awareness, but still pretty limited in scope. It is a yellow ability, but it is okay if the environment is a consistent concern.
Misdirection gets interesting. Yellow ability, reaction defend if someone else is getting attacked and they are yellow or red. Defend that damage, then redirect any remaining to a minion of your choice. This is… really good. Completely cancels an attack against an ally, with a chance of taking out a minion. Less good if there are no minions around, but still, this is good.
Mystic Redirection is less good, but still potentially good. Yellow ability that allows you to cancel an attack against a yellow or red ally, but you defend against the damage and take any spillover. Taking a hit for an ally can be really good, taking the hit yourself is situational, in my opinion.
Magical Shield is a good defend, but you can’t use it to defend yourself, only an ally in Yellow or Red. I guess it is comparable to Redirection, in that you are defending an ally, but they can still take damage, even if you take no damage. I guess it feels better to me because I’ve seen to many people take blows for others and drop, leaving the team high and dry, so taking damage yourself is something I’m much more leery of. Yellow.
Reach through The Veil is Magical shield, plus you can move the Ally to somewhere else in the scene. This is huge I think. Because you can move them out of range of further attacks, or towards something they need to get to. This is real good. Yellow
Halt is defend an attack from close range. Nothing really fancy here, but limited in terms of it having to be a close range thing attacking you. Yellow
A Plan for Everything I’ve already mentioned, it is bonkers good. (1)R
Extrasensory Awareness is odd. Green ability, defend any attack… but only if you would change zones if you took the damage.
Always on the Move is an attack, plus defend with min, Green. There are a few abilities like this, I’ll try and keep a count (1)
Shadowy Figure is the exact same thing, with a single improvement. The Defend is against all attacks. Green (3)
Diversion is just a straight defend. Yellow
Defensive Strike is the opposite of Always on the move. Defend, then attack with Min. Green.
Living Bulwark is almost Always on the Move, but defends another character.
Barrel Roll is a green defend that only applies while flying.
Energy Conversion is a max die defend, with a min die boost. Green
Adaptive Programming is a mid die defend, with a min die boost. Green.
Illusory Double is Diversion, but with a pre-defined power. Yellow.
Minuscule form is a green defend, max die, and removes all penalties.
Scout is overcome, max die defend, and move in the scene.
Bombardment is a defend, with a max attack. Yellow.
Regeneration is defend max, heal min. Yellow.
Stalwart is defending yourself and all nearby allies against all attacks. (Finally, I was wondering if this even existed)
Shield is a red defend, and if you reduce the damage to 0 you hinder the source.
Impenetrable Defense is a red defend of all attacks for Max+Mid. This is an Action.
Intercession is red, when multiple people are attacked you can take all that damage, rolling a defense of power+die
Defensive Deflection is basically Misdirection, but with much looser targeting restrictions.
Reactive Defense allows you to become the target and defend. This is a red ability. (1)
Okay, so what am I seeing? A whole lot of very hard to categorize things, but I can do my best.
There are five reaction defends with limits. Some of the limits are easy (must be flying) some are much harder. Then there are two just standard defend reactions, one sort of has a limit in that is can only be used with a specific power, but that is trivial I thing.
We also have a red defend that if you reduce the damage to 0, you hinder. This is basically the same as the standard defends, with a small rider. There is also a red defend with Max+Mid, but is an action.
- Call this 9 abilities that are either defend with limits or pure defend
There are then three abilities (a yellow and two reds) that allow you to take a hit for an ally, and defend against that hit.
I also want to make special mention of Intercession, which allows you to take a lot of hits for a lot of people, and defend against it. Depending on how this is supposed to work… this is literally a sacrifice play. Taking four instances of 8 is 32 damage, and you have to be in Red to do this.
- Call this 4 abilities that let you take the hit
Magical Shield and Reach through the Veil allow you to defend an ally, but they might take spillover. Reach through also allows you to move the ally somewhere else, making it very powerful.
Misdirection and Defensive Deflection (Red) do the same thing, but redirect the spillover to a different target, generally an enemy. Making these potentially the strongest defend reactions.
- Call this 4 abilities to defend an ally, increasing in power.
Of course there is plan for everything and a red ability that allow you to defend and boost yourself as a reaction.
Now we start getting into actions though, and we find some odd things.
There are 5 abilities that allow you to attack and defend, some in different orders, but only single attacks.
4 other abilities are attack and defend against all attacks. And a couple of these were green.
Then we get 2 boost actions that include defends.
Modular has a lot of options as actions, but they have some weirder things. A defend that removes hinders, a defend that moves you, a defend that heals. and Finally the only place where you can get a defend against all attacks that also defends your nearby allies. It is an action, but I wondered if this even existed.
Trying to pull this even tighter into a bow, because ~24 abilities is a lot. Most defends are reactions or riders. Riders actually cover 14 of them. Only 5 abilities out of the ~24 allow you to defend against all attacks, only 1 of those isn’t a rider. There are more defends that are limited in scope or dangerous to use than that. There are only four defend reactions that have a guaranteed positive for you, and two of them are Red. And finally, 8/24 of the abilities allow you to defend an ally, either taking the blow, shielding them, or redirecting.
So, what kind of changes am I thinking of?
Well, I think the most obvious thing is that the basic Defend Action and any ability that is focused on just being a defend action (maybe the defend + min heal) should be a defend against all attacks. Yes, this could allow you to cancel multiple enemy turns by canceling their damage, but this can also be achieved with AOE attacks or Hinders.
In a situation against 6d6 minions, an AOE of 4 damage potentially kills all of them. A mass hinder of -2 reduces all damage they can deal by 2 to every target, and makes them less efficient at any given action. And these are not uncommon things for a hero to be able to do. Meanwhile, a defend may prevent them from killing you, but it doesn’t hinder their ability to boost, overcome or hinder you, and it leave them all alive while the clock ticks down.
I also think we need way more abilities that allow for a hero to defend all of their allies. The fact that it is left to a single modular ability is bizarre to me. And the only other ability that allows for a mass defend has a high chance of killing the person doing it.
But… do we change Hit the Deck? I don’t know. Some of the defend reactions like Reach Through the Veil or Plan for Everything would still be amazing even with hit the Deck not causing a twist, others would be rendered entirely useless. I don’t think the defends as riders would be affected, because there are a lot of good reactions in the game.
But I also think a lot of these defend options that would be made useless… are already really bad. Like Ambush Awareness or Danger Sense, these abilities just don’t seem good to me anyways, because of how limited they are.
So, thoughts? I know I rambled a lot, I’m not used to trying to analyze this game and the sure number of nearly identical abilities with minor tweaks makes it really hard to try and pin down what works and what the baseline should be.