Skip to main content

Power of the Set Bonus


One popular thing in digital games, particularly in RPGs where items abound, are set bonuses. I have fond memories of playing Heroes of Might and Magic II as the undead, seeking out the Amulet of the Undertaker, Dead Man’s Boots, and Vampire’s Cowl to form them all together into the Cloak of the Undead King. My armies may fall, but now 30% would rise as skeletons to do my bidding! Who would rise to stop me?!?!? The power of the set bonuses isn’t strictly limited to fantasy games either. You’ll see set bonuses in games like Mega Man and Ratchet & Clank. As long as you’re including equipable items (or even just items) in your games, set bonuses can be included, no matter the genre. Why don’t we see that same thing in our tabletop games very often? This week, let's ponder that question and discuss the good, the bad, and the stupid of Set Bonuses.

Strategy

It's no secret that a lot of what has to do with tabletop games today is rooted in the history of strategy games. Incorporating set bonuses just adds another level of strategy to your existing tabletop game. Just like in video games, players would need to consider not only the bonuses given by individual pieces of equipment, but bonuses that come from making complete sets. Sure, those Boots of Expeditious Retreat sound great, but are they going to take away a poison immunity from wearing three of the poison reduction items? That same set may be important to a character's theme as well. Wizards that focus on fire magic may want to compliment their specialty with a set of items that provides a bonus to that damage type when they're all included. Sneakier folks like rogues and rangers might go for building a set to assist them in stealth. A Jedi might focus on equipment that provides a set bonus to Mind Trick. Focuses could rely on social skills, combat, or any other mechanic featured in your tabletop game. This provides depth and focus to those characters might not otherwise be available. There are some downsides though…

To the Max!

On the other hand, there's a potential dreaded drawback when it comes to including this concept in your games: set bonuses offer a boon to Min-Maxers, those players focused completely on maximizing specific status. If you want to play that way, there really isn’t anything wrong with that. However, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and could be off-putting to some of their fellow players. It's good to keep that kind of play in check if not everyone in your game is into min-maxing. If you’re all into it, though, have at! Another limitation of adding set bonuses to your games are the limits it provides on customization and choice. A wizard might be reluctant to give up the wand focus that adds a set bonus to Magic Missile, even if that would give them a shiny new bonus to all of their spell attacks. While that's a decision strategists might enjoy, it can be very limiting for some players. They could end up feeling pigeonholed or forced to stick with the equipment they have rather than branching out. We don't want to see this kind of discouragement in our games. If you're going to include set bonuses, make sure to provide ample opportunity to try new things without too many repercussions.

Alternative set

Trying to find a balance between strategic item set bonuses provide and the issues of min-maxing and forced decision making is difficult. You might consider allowing the sets to be upgradable to curtail some of those issues, though min-maxing would still be a concern. Another way to implement sets  might be to distribute them throughout your gaming party. Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Heart…anyone? Having sets split among players, but still providing some sort of bonus (perhaps limited by proximity or reduced by being split between allies) is another way to include the concept while reducing the pitfalls. Again, make sure players aren’t feeling to pigeonholed, though, or they might be afraid of handicapping their allies if they want to choose a different direction. Maybe keep sets split between only 2-3 players, so there's some opportunity to change out which team members are involved.

Should set bonuses be included in our table-top games? It's absolutely something worth pondering. They certainly seem to work well within the confines of video games. For a certain type of player/game, it might be a great mechanic to involve. After all, you get to add some great strategy and deep focus to these characters. While min-maxing may occur, it may be just fine... depending upon the kind of game you’re playing. However, if those at your table have trouble making decisions, or get discouraged when they are unable to approach their character the way they want to, it might be best to leave sets to the digital world and play your analog games with more standard equipment bonuses. Like with so many other things we can attempt to port from tabletop’s distant cousins, your mileage may vary. Until next week folks, enjoy your tables and your matching dice sets that give a bonus to rolling through dice towers made by LittlEmpire dice.  

Send questions, comments, and ideas that get more powerful when arranged in groups of three to neversaydice20@gmail.com or Tweet us @nevesaydice2


 

 

Popular posts from this blog

Devouring "Roll for Sandwich"

Good timezone to Never Say Dice fans, adventures in Aardia, TikTok and beyond. No, I’m not the Roll for Sandwich guy (neither of us is), but if you haven’t heard of him already (or especially if you have), this week I wanted to talk about the TikTok/YouTube show Roll for Sandwich hosted by Jacob Pauwels. The premise is exactly what it sounds like: every episode, the host rolls dice to determine the various items that comprise a sandwich (except when the episode is about s’mores). He assembles the sandwich, then actually eats and critiques his random creation. If it sounds pretty niche to you... it is. You should  probably be both a bit of a foodie and a TTRPG fan in order to truly appreciate both the strange layered creations and the roleplaying references. My eldest son has been so interested in the web series that he decided he wanted to try doing it for himself. So, for the last week of summer this year, we took stock of our cupboards, made our own charts, and proceeded to consume

Be a Grinch! (in a Tabletop RPG)

The Holidays may be almost over (for a while), and we hope you’ve all enjoyed your seasonal music and movies/specials. We here at Never Say Dice have covered the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special and the new LEGO edition a few posts ago. A common thing many of us into tabletop RPGS like to do is incorporate media into our games. After all, many of us have grown up with the blending of media and the holidays as a given. It provides us a framework to build on and a common touchpoint to the people at our tables, virtual or otherwise. One classic character featured in holiday specials and commemorated in his own song is the Grinch, the avocado-green villain with strange cardiac growth problems apparently linked to his personality. The Grinch, villain though he may be, has a slew of characteristics that would make the character an excellent one at the gaming table. Those of you not familiar with Suess-lore may really only know the Grinch from the How the Grinch Stole Christmas animated

An Introduction to Risus

While roaming the internet in the late nineties/early noughties, I came across a TTRPG that was rules-lite and called itself “the anything RPG.” Want to play a high school cheerleader/samurai-in-training part-time goth enthusiast fast food cashier? The hot pink stick figure art glared back at me. Nah, not interested. But I was wrong. The stick figures were actually purple, and Risus is a surprisingly versatile, handy and down right fun TTRPG. I wouldn’t figure that out though till I discovered it again several years later. Even though it was written as a comedy system (and somewhat lighthearted response to GURPS) you really can use it for just about anything: space opera, high fantasy, pulp, vampires,western, any movie setting you could think of...seriously anything. You can read a far more detailed and interesting history in a number of other places should it strike your fancy. It is time for your Risus indoctrination introduction. Risus really is versatile and fairly easy to learn

Willy Wonka - Cartoonish Supervillian or Time Lord?

Every spring, in at least some of the religions practiced in the States, brings yet another holiday full of varied confections: Easter. For some reason, perhaps it’s the candy content or the garish colors associated with the holiday here, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory seems to be the movie that most often comes to my mind. While there are other pieces of media that are more “classically Easter” entries, Willy Wonka just seems to belong here. Perhaps there’s something to those giant eggs, as well. Whatever the reason, it’s in our common consciousness around this time of year, and that has had me thinking about a couple of common internet theories. One common thought is that the titular character Willy Wonka is an incarnation of Doctor Who ’s (only semi-titular) protagonist, the Doctor. The other would have you believe that Willy Wonka is a cartoonish supervillian originating in the DC universe, most likely one of Batman’s adversaries. For this post, let’s go over the arg