Let's start with a bit of explanation. I run a RPG based on a lot of medieval fantasy worlds. Basically it borrows rules from various other rpgs, so for the past 5 years me and my players have been tweaking with it, trying to make it more balanced. This time i'm running a game with 6 players (the most i had was 4 some time ago) and because of that there's a large amount of flanking and backstabbing on fights, since after they deal with trash mobs the boss is alone and because they are low lvl there's not many mechanics that i've been using to preventing this kind of battle aproach.

The thing is, i was using a system wich gives the flanker a 25% bonus to attack chance, and the backstabber a 50% bonus (for example if someone has an 11 attack chance, and is backstabbing, he goes to 17, and against an enemy with 10 defence that would result in a 80% chance of hitting the target. For every 1 point of attack higher than the enemy's defence, you get a 5% increased chance) . That was fine and all, they were sweeping the floor with my enemies, but they built good characters, so whatever, it's early game. Then, i had the wonderful idea of nerfing these bonuses, because i thought: "what if a powerful enemy backstabs one of them(not the tanker)?". And through some calculations i reached the conclusion that the player would probably die, or stay heavily injured and out of the battle. Their characters are powerful, but 3 of them are very fragile.

So i sugested that the flanker should get 1 attack point bonus, and the backstabber 2 fixed points. If the enemy was unaware of the player presence, these bonus would be multiplied by 2. It may not seem good, but think of a higher lvl player or mob, with 20 chance of attacking and receiving a 50% plus bonus. And to be honest i thought of myself in this one too, because later on i would have to design intricate mechanics for every boss, or create mobs with large, LARGE, health pools, or the 6 players would destroy them in 2/3 turns. The other option is to make fights with more mobs, but 6 players vs 6 mobs is very tedious and the group seems to lose focus.

And, oh boy. They backlashed to this idea, almost as if i had robbed them of their free will. I was criticized a lot, and they told me to simply never create a mob that would backstab them, problem solved. There was a lot of discussion and no point made. It was pretty much me vs 4 veteran players (the other 2 are new and did not partake in this jolly experience).

Sorry for the long text guys, but i have my hands tied. My game is a mix of battle and talks with npc's, trying to solve a problem or mysterie, and i don't really want to back off the battles. So here i am asking if you guys have any ideas for flanking and backstabing bonuses that might make our RPG more balanced? I know it is hard to suggest something to a homebrew system you are not familiar with, but maybe you can throw some ideas and i'll see if they fit in.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @indigo It's a homebrewed system, as indicated in the question. I'm not sure how to tag for that; perhaps just [homebrew]… but that tag was never meant for whole systems. Hm. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 5:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've edited the title of your question because it sounds like the issue you have is more about handling the refusal of the players to accept your rules change rather than the actual details of the change itself. Feel free to roll back the change if you don't agree with it \$\endgroup\$
    – Wibbs
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 7:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let me summarise to be sure. You noticed the backstab mecanic meant that the squishier party members could get 1shoted if they made a mistake (tanks are hurt but ok). So you designed a change for the mechanic that your player were usong a lot. When you came to apply the change (changing it without their input), the backlashed. And now you want ideas for the next step. \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 10:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your explanation of the combat mechanics and the change you did to it are very much on the "barely understand what you did there" side. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 10:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ regarding tags: could this be tagged game-design? \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 10:21

1 Answer 1


I might just not be totally familiar with whatever system(s) you're running, but I don't really know what you mean by backstabbing? Do you mean that as in attacking while the enemy's back is turned? Either way, I think you're creating problems for yourself by trying to control for everything that could possibly happen. Your players' opinions are important, and you shouldn't ignore them altogether, but if the current bonuses are too overpowered then that's just how it is.

Would they be more open to just reducing the % by which the chance to hit is increased? Like, maybe the backstabbing bonus is only 30%, and the flanking bonus is only 15%? Something like that?

Other than that, you need to talk to your players and explain to them that they can't ask you to "just not have a mob backstab them" - tell them either that remains a possibility, and maybe someday in the future an encounter goes really badly, or they let you nerf the bonuses. Ultimately, you're doing a lot of work so they can have fun playing this RPG. They should respect you enough to at least listen to you.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, backstabbing would be when the enemy's back is turned, and flanking would be any positions that aren't in the field of vision of the enemy and not exactly in the back. You're right, maybe i've been trying too hard to balance everything and that's why there was such a backlash from the players. I'll let the steam settle down a bit and make other suggestions. 15 and 30% already helps a lot. For now we will keep thing as it is and maybe they will realise the downsides of these over the top bonuses as we play. Thank you for your insight! \$\endgroup\$
    – user41281
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 12:35