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I am building a custom setting that is medieval fantasy (technology level is almost steam engine) where some pieces of ancient technology (ours) can be found.

Players' weaponry is based off the Monster Hunter weaponry : Long sword, Short sword, Large sword, Lance, Dual-wielding sword, Gunlance, Bow, Bow-gun, Hammer.

One of my player (call him P1) really really really wants some sort of mecha/exo-suit and I said I'd consider it.

The plot context

My idea is that during the main quest (Retrieve a kidnapped Judge and bring him back to the main city) this P1's goal will be to befriend the inquisitor that travels with him (hopefully another PC but I can't force someone to be an inquisitor) as the mafia asked P1 in order to extend their reach. On their way they'll stumble on that exo-suit that P1 will be able to pilot because of reasons.

When they bring back the Judge and the attempt to befriend the inquisitor has failed (or worked but doesn't get P1 the influence the mafia wanted) he tries to rely on force and take over the city using the suit. The rest of the party teams up with one side or the other and they fight over the control of the city. End of the 1st arc.

The problem

There will be some time between the moment P1 gets the suit and my PCs start fighting each other so I am afraid that the others will just feel bad/left out.

The suit uses DNA recognition so only P1 can use it. Its abilities would physical enhancement (so a huge buff in Force and Agility. How huge is still uncertain as I don't want P1 to be impossible to beat). Kind of like Batman's suit in Batman v Superman but without the other gadgets.

Only P1 is yet aware that I intend to make him a traitor and give him an exo-suit. The others don't know yet about it and I'd rather they didn't but if it is what it takes for them to not feel bad about not having a suit for themselves then I could talk it out with them.

How do I grant this exo-suit to P1 without having my other PCs feeling left out or making the suit basically so bad it is a non-factor?

I do not want my other PCs to be left out, first and foremost. Having only one of them in an exo-suit while the others are fighting with primitive weapons feels unfair. I want the whole "P1 was working for the mafia all along" to be an actual plot-twist. Therefore, my other PCs would not be aware that the reason I give P1 the suit is because they will have to outnumber and fight him.

Background: how my homebrew game's combat works

My game system is custom but it is mostly based off Pathfinder. You roll a d20 and if it's higher than your opponent dodge/parry score then you get a hit. Stats are the same from Pathfinder except dexterity is called agility and defines your chances at dodging.

A successful dodge results in no damage taken and a replacement of your character. A failed one adds a 20% bonus damage on your enemy hit (a heavy blow is around 5hp and PCs have (8+Const.modifier) HP)

Dodge score is equal to 8 + Agility modifier (if a PC can predict the opponent's next move he gets a bonus to dodge but if he guessed wrong he gets a malus)

A successful parry results in half of the damage being taken as Stamina damage (12+Const.modifier) and half of them as HP damage reduced by your shield size (from 1 to 4)

Parry score is equal to 8 + Force modifier + shield size (A short sword and targe is size 1. A Broad sword is size 2. A Lancer's shield is size 4)

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It can work provided that the rest of the players are able to push the plot forward and not just be punching bags for P1.

After the plot are you going to have the mafia mole die and make a new character? I don't see how you can keep all of them together as the same characters.

The first thing I would do with that mech is to give it a handicap or limitation so that you can take it away once it has gone too far.

Maybe it needs a particular kind of fuel only one guy in the city makes. So part of the plot is the party trying to destroy that guy's fuel depot and make the mecha literally run out of steam. That way by the end the mecha gets put on the side until you have someone else make the fuel.

Drop the DNA thing and just have it be a key, or start up sequence. Then it becomes a game of can the rogue steal the key and someone else gets the sequence from him. If you just cut it off with DNA then you limit the rest of the players in how they can interact with it. I have to assume that it is as powerful as the rest of the party combined or it wouldn't be much of a fight. So you may want to give the players a chance to hit him from another direction. Don't try to make it perfect. Those little interactions end up making things interesting.

You could give the mech it's how HP so once it hits 0 it is destroyed. It costs X gp per HP to repair meaning that he will have to rob banks or otherwise go after obvious targets that the rest of players can get in front of.

Maybe it put out a big cloud of steam or smoke so in doors it quickly becomes blind or damages the pilot. That would naturally guide him to fight in big areas against the big monsters and have him leave it on the side while they all go into the dungeon or break into a keep. No need to cripple it at the end of the mission. This would allow him to have fun and you can put big monsters for him to smash in the big cave while the rest of the players tackle the smaller stuff. (smaller doesn't mean weaker)

Make it heavy so it crashes through the floor indoors or make it too big to fit through a door. Smashing through the side of the tavern is fun but if he makes a habit of it then have him crash through into the basement and blind himself with the steam coming out of the thing every once in a while.

One thing to keep in mind is that most solo bad guys are destroyed pretty quick in D20 systems simply because they are taking 4x the damage from the party. So keep this in mind when designing it as it is very likely that the party may come up with something that trumps the strength of the mech like getting it to chase them over a bridge and blow it up. Sinking the mech. Or something as simple as heat metal where the driver sits...Ouch!!

As long as there are ways for both sides to fight back on their own terms you won't have a problem.

I played in a game where we had a player playing a mole in the party that turned out to be the BBEG. It was a lot of fun even with him leading us into the BBEG's lair only to reveal he was actually the BBEG. Of course, it gave him a bunch of henchmen to help him out.

Oh, don't have a mech because of reasons. Have the mafia give it to him in order to get rid of those pesky players that are getting in their way. Make everything part of the plot you got going on and use the plot for why it can get taken away or have another mech show up to be a bad guy etc.

That way if it becomes a problem later on the player will recognize the mafia henchmen and his pack of rust monsters as they rush him.

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tl;dr

  • system doesn't matter, the answer is the same for the core issue - pacing
  • ensure a single session encompasses gaining the suit/jealousy enduing item and the outing of the player as an antagonist
  • if it can't be in a single session end the session(s) with the existence of the suit as an ongoing thing as being completely in question... if you are dealing with it being 2 session you have many options, if it is going to be multiple sessions, you will want it to be something that doesn't feel forced... needs to be recharged and the way to accomplish that is very rare - the players aren't even sure if they will even be able to get the recharge - meanwhile the mafia can make this easier for P1 so your plot doesn't get completely derailed.

Much longer version:

First, let me say, I love the possibilities of this scenario.

It sounds like you are concerned more about making the concept work in general without needing to worry that feelings will be hurt and less on the mechanics? (based on the things you emphasized in your post) Assuming that is accurate...

You mention that you are worried about the players feeling left out because they won't be as powerful. That's understandable but I think it only matters here if you would feel the same way if they came up against an NPC with the same level of power. If not, then don't sweat that for now.

P1 knows that he gets the suit, so he is already working with you on parts of the plot which is all you really need to make this work in a way that won't hurt player feelings. Well, actually, that and pacing - but P1 can help with the pacing since, at some point, he is running an antagonist. (I didn't see an answer to the question about whether the players can pick sides - I'm going to assume they are, if they aren't just ignore/adjust the bits that aren't relevant and possibly consider that they should be able to do that if it something the group would get a kick out of.) The part that I love about this scenario is the possibility that some of the players side with him, the non-mafia characters lose and the plot goes that way. Or some side with him, "P1 and friends" lose and the plot continues the other way. There are some neat possibilities here.

So, assuming this spans multiple sessions, you need to ensure that a single session will cover the time from P1 getting the suit to P1 being outed - if at all possible. To do that:

  1. End a session right before he gets the suit. This will make it easier than ending it right after - less tempting for P1 to discuss it out of game if he has already been keeping the secret and the seal isn't broken yet. ;-)

  2. Let P1 know that the key objective in the session where he gets the suit is for him is to make it to the point where they find out that he was working for the mafia. (force it if you have to - stay aware of pace for this part in particular) This minimizes the time between the new toy and the outing of P1 as the other players' antagonist.

    2a. If you hadn't planned on allowing players to pick sides and are considering it, take a break right after the outing and present it as a possibility for them to think about, with the likely outcome that some will die. Even straight up tell them you hadn't considered it originally, and so that is why you are asking. Losing characters in PVP can get personal. Definitely refer to John Grabanski's reference to the Same Page Tool - question 2 is the 6th bold heading down in order to head off issues with that. (this is actually something you should do regardless if you are worried at all about it being an issue)

    2b. If you hadn't considered it and the game is going against them, maybe P1 switches sides again but loses the suit in the process or sooner rather than later.

  3. If there is a possibility of P1 living with the suit in the long run, talk to P1 and explain that you will be very likely be getting rid of it/nerfing it eventually - it is part of the story arc now but is unbalancing in the long run. Then, if you start to get the sense that players are feeling left out, work with P1 on coming up with a cool way to get rid of the suit and/or nerf it. P1 will feel less like it was taken away if they get input into that part. You may even want to put that out to the group as a whole if it goes that way.

  4. If the long term existence of P1 and the suit is possible, is P1 also good with dying? ie: What happens if all the other players just treat him as a any other bad guy and side against him like they would probably do if he was just another disposable NPC antagonist? If they do this, the suit issue is solved if you pace it so that he gets it and becomes the bad guy all in one session. It isn't even necessarily a bad thing. It wouldn't be much different than a GM losing a long running NPC because it was for the enjoyment of all.

  5. Finally, at some point, see if other players are interested in cool new toys. Give them risk in proportional to the value and unbalancing and jealousy(?) inducing of the toy... P1 potentially has to fight everyone and likely die if no-one sides with P1 in order to keep this. If someone wants something less unbalancing and less jealousy inducing the risk should be less - but it should be there.

Some ways to get rid of it / nerf it when the story arc is done - or during the arc. Again, not all will apply if there isn't a possibility of P1 having this when the story arc is over:

  • Someone tags P1 with a retro virus and his DNA is re-sequenced enough that it doesn't match any longer - maybe that happens during this part of the story arc and he loses it part way into the fray if the players are split in groups - the retrovirus might have been intended for something else...
  • or P1 picks up a disease and goes to a doc, the doc explains a retrovirus is needed to cure it by re-sequencing his DNA... it will change P1 DNA so the suit won't work... do you want to die with the suit or live without it P1?
  • It doesn't regenerate... right? So, after each battle it has damage that might not affect it's functionality but might also be the death of a thousand cuts over time. At least until the repeated, expensive repairs are completed.
  • Parts aren't cheap - potentially not even readily available. Certain functionality could go offline in a fight that makes the suit less useful but still better than not having it - effectively nerfing it a bit until other players also get cool toys.
  • Power sources like in Fallout4 ... they run out and need replacing and aren't easy to come by or aren't easy to modify to work with the suit or something.
  • If the suit exists still after the story arc, come up with a plot device along the lines of "If you use this ability of the suit, it destroys the suit but it is way more powerful for a while" so that if needed the player can sacrifice it to save a friend... or make it available during the arc if they all end up sided with P1 - I wouldn't give it a massive ability if they are sided against P1 that could allow him to one shot one of the others.

Suit power - since you added in the stuff about combat system so you are also wondering about this:

Make the suit the same way you would if it was a disposable NPC wearing it. Now nerf it 25%. Players come up with ways of squeezing extra power out of things that we don't anticipate. You can always up the power later if you need to. You'll figure that out during the part where P1 is still an ally.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "It sounds like you are concerned more about making the concept work in general" Pretty much it yes. P1's victory will decide who will control the city and therefore whether the city will go to war in the next arc or try to retrieve powerful artifacts for the mafia that now runs the city. The part about Fallout and the virus gave me a great idea. This suit is nuclear powered but it's been there for such a long time that the radiation protection has weakened, altering P1's DNA and making him unable to use the suit anymore. \$\endgroup\$ – Liquid Same Jul 20 '17 at 21:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ He could then choose between using the suit and dying of cancer, not use it and have the mafia abandon him so he turns on them or maybe just leaves. I like it ! \$\endgroup\$ – Liquid Same Jul 20 '17 at 21:01
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The short answer is, give the suit enough disadvantages so that having it is practically a wash for your confederate. At least it should seem that way to the other players.

Maybe the suit looks like an ordinary set of armor. Its extra abilities would only become apparent over time, especially if the character is actively hiding those abilities.

Maybe the mafia have a remote kill switch. If the user went after the wrong person, say the capo, someone could turn off the power in the suit. Take it a step further and they could control the power level, the features available, or the navigation, and override the user at any time. This happens often enough, for little or no reason, that using the suit is a calculated risk.

Maybe the suit is a prototype. It needs a lot of maintenance and tends to break down when it's pushed hard or needed most. Or it works in fits and starts.

And of course, when the suit isn't working, the owner has the problem of carting it along to the next destination.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My world has forgotten how technology works, let alone those exo-suits. The suit will break after fights though and is impossible to repair with their current knowledge but I don't want it to hang around for so long. \$\endgroup\$ – Liquid Same Jul 20 '17 at 21:03

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