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This is the last game I will have with my current play group before moving 10k+ Km. So the characters they will create won't be useful in the future.

I want my players to play a short story (about 20h-30h) where combat could not be present. The story is simple: on the last day of summer a farwest kid wishes that the day will last for ever. The wish is granted and the town is now trapped in a time loop. The loop is there for more than 120 years, and time has eaten away at the resident's sanity. Even though they are repeating a wonderful day again and again, they are more than a little psycho.

A full town of chaotic neutral cowboys with sanity close to 0. What could go wrong?

Here combat optimization is a bad idea, even you wanted to fight, going up against a whole town on the edge of self destruction in a game where guns kill is suicidal.

How can I advise my players to not try to over optimize their character for combat, without giving too much of a hint that this will be a role-play heavy scenario?

The party will come to this town on their quest to retrieve a MacGuffin.

The story is based on the Stone Cold Dead supplement for numerous encounters in the town. And the town is based on the French "Hundred Miles and Years" Deadland Reloaded scenario.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does "Hard combat game" have any special meaning here, or are you simply referring to a combat-heavy game system? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 6 '18 at 19:56
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You never hint, ever. You tell it like it is.

Your chosen system does not fit the story you are trying to tell. As such, it is no big deal: you can run any game with any system. That said, a system will colour both how the players interact with the story and what they expect of the story. If I play D&D, I expect a fantasy magical land, not XII century Castile. If I player Metal Gear Solid, I expect to play Solid Snake, not some child soldier… In the same way, a combat heavy system leads to an expectation of lots of heavy combat. There is nothing wrong with subverting this but a word of warning to the players is essential.

Obligatory link to the same page tool which you could use as a session zero to avoid expectation problems. Another way is to state that you are subverting the system and combat might not always be either advisable nor necessary.

In your particular story, since the town is in a time loop, let the PCs shoot their way in and die. They wake up the next day. How long they keep that up before they realise it is not working is linked to how insane they are: doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Well the story is largly inspired by 2 scenari build for Deadland Reloaded. So they were build for the system. they are Cowboy/Horror, thats deadlands too. The scenari is just build to play with the deadliness of Deadlands. You can fight every one in the town for a day before everything get reset. You can even die, if you are whilling to take the stress. \$\endgroup\$ – Drag and Drop Jun 6 '18 at 14:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ but the last part is the key I think. \$\endgroup\$ – Drag and Drop Jun 6 '18 at 14:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 purely for "If I player Metal Gear Solid, I expect to play Solid Snake, not some child soldier…" \$\endgroup\$ – Jamie Brace Jun 6 '18 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JamieBrace Though later games in the series did have child soldiers, so. \$\endgroup\$ – JAB Jun 6 '18 at 18:24
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I write with the presumption that the game system and previous games has already communicated to you player base that they should min/max their characters to be as effective at killing things as possible. I also expect that what they're looking forward to is a hack-and-slash adventure and that they might be disappointed. Moreover, the "min" part of "min/max" might mean that they're all stuck in the roles of gibbering buffoons for 30 hours.

I think that the signal that you're looking to send is not that they should instead min/max for some other scenario - but instead that they think about the attributes that they'd enjoy bringing to life over the course of a ~30 hour game.

A few ideas:

  • Use standard character generation rules and have your players randomly generate stats and attributes
  • Pre-meet with each character to build a back-story on a "stock" character, adding gear or traits as appropriate to their narrative
  • Try playing without character sheets at all. I could imagine either that you'd hold a character sheet for each based on their description or that you'd just use the rules as a guideline

Net, I think you're trying something novel and potentially exciting for your group - so long as they don't type-cast themselves as a bunch of rapacious psychopaths.

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