Devil's Own Luck—too strong?

I’m running a Band of Blades game for the first time and my players are enthusiastically pouring over the book to learn the rules and lore of the game. As they did, one of them pointed out that Devil’s Own Luck is such a good rookie ability that it would be unwise to every choose a different ability when you were creating a rookie. Looking it over, I tended to agree with the player so I made the following revisions. What do you think?

Devil’s Own Luck

The first time you make an Insight, Prowess, and Resolve resistance roll on a mission you gain +1d. On subsequent resistance rolls in the same mission, you can take 1 stress to gain +1d.

Every Inch A…

As in the book.

Hard Knocks

As in the book.

Just A Kid

When someone suffers harm when protecting you, you and that character mark xp. When you promote, choose a second special ability from your new playbook to replace this one. This ability cannot be taken as a Veteran advance.

Gotta Make It Out Alive

As in the book.

Home Cooking

You carry a cooking kit and fresh food as part of taking a light load. Once per mission, you can feed your fellow legionnaires deployed on the same mission. You can do this at the start of a mission, the end of a mission, or when the mission gives you the opportunity to cook for your squad. When you do, roll a d6. On a 1-3, each legionnaire loses 1 stress. On a 4-5, each legionnaire loses 2 stress. On a 6, each legionnaire loses 2 stress and 1 corruption.

Jack of All Trades

When you make an action roll for a skill you have zero or one rank in, you can gain 1 stress to gain +1d.

Not A Rookie Anymore

As in the book.

Hi Benjamin, welcome.

The first answer is that it’s your game, so if you and your players agree on this, go for it.

The second answer is… that I think you should try to play with the abilities as written. You say Devil’s own luck is too strong and that beginning Rookies would always take it. But you end up weakening not only D’sOL, but also Jack of all trades. That’s a slight contradiction.

You’re right that D’sOL is a bit “better” than other abilities, but that’s by design and acknowledged in the rules. It’s the default choice.

But in play over two campaigns, what I have seen is that Jack is very often preferred to D’sOL, and that some players take other capabilities just for flavour. Band of Blades is not a game where you’re always supposed to do the wisest choice.

Also, from a pure mechanical perspective, you need to realise that stress, for Rookies, is an extremely rare and precious ressource. So changing Rookies abilities by forcing PCs to spend stress to activate them is not a good idea imho.

As for the change in Home Cooking: this will make this ability much more powerful. Beware of unbalancing: compare it to Moral support from the Medic playbook.

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I’m normally the type to run the game as written first but our Marshall pointed this out to the other players and they all agreed there was never a reason to take anything but Devil’s Own Luck. I don’t really like the idea that the Rookie playbook is really just one single ability mixed in with trap choices, you know? The game encourages strategy so much I’m not sure my players would willingly choose mechanically worse options for story’s sake.

I will refresh my memory on how stress works differently for rookies as well as comparing what I’ve done with Home Cooking to the Medic playbook.

Hi @Benjamin_Wenham! That’s really interesting your group feels that way. In our game, Every Inch A… is considered the best ability for a Rookie to take, though DOL is certainly also nice.

But there are no real “trap” choices on that sheet, IMO. It all just depends on your game.

Gotta Make it Out Alive? This helps your Rookie survive and is super useful because of the Stress economy (I was so careful about spending Stress with my Rookie because that first Trauma kills a Rookie). Just a Kid? That’s two special abilities of your choice when you advance. Home Cooking? This is like the Doctor’s ability, except used for Stress (and affects everyone, not just one patient). Etc.

Remember, that +1d to Resist anything you get from DOL isn’t any kind of useful if you’re out of Stress, or if making a Resistance check might still kill you anyways (because every Resistance roll adds Stress unless you get a 6 or a crit).

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Hard disagree.

Having an extra die to resist is good, but it’s only a marginally better chance of spending less stress. The other abilities help you succeed at actions, advance faster, help others, and a host of other things from heritages.

Also, spending stress for an extra resist die is a bad deal. Spending stress to avoid spending stress is rarely worth it.

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Also Home Cooking already rocks. No way it needs amendment.

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Stress does not “work differently” for Rookies - it is just much rarer, except if you take Gotta Make it Out Alive as greyorm said.

I think the feeling of your Marshall and players just comes from the fact that they haven’t played the game enough yet.

Also, watergoesred is right when he says that “spending stress for an extra resist die is a bad deal. Spending stress to avoid spending stress is rarely worth it.” A little bit of maths:

  • If you have 2 dice in resist, your mean result will be 4,47; that means you will spend a mean of 1,5 stress in your resist. If you spend 1 stress to go up to 3 dice, your mean result will go up from 4,47 to 4,95. It means you will have spent 1 stress to avoid spending 0,5 stress, in average.
  • If you have only 1 die in resist, your mean result is 3,5; if you spend 1 stress to go up to 2 dice, you go up to 4,47. Meaning, in average, you spend 1 stress to avoid spending just a little bit less than 1 stress in average.
  • Even if you have 0 die and go up to 1 die, it’s not worth it (you go up from 2,52 to 3,5).