My musings about Channels and Flashbacks

Hi all BoB fans

1/ I’ve been thinking about Channels and for me, this Special action and the way it works make the Officer a somewhat unbalanced (disadvantaged) Specialist.

What doe Channels bring ? It allows the Officer to make a Flashback about an Asset, without using Stress.

Very good so far. But… the quality of the Asset is not certain. If the result of Sway roll is not enough, then the quantity, quality or reliability of the Asset will not be enough, or the Officer has to spend another Channels.
So for example, if the Officer with 2 Sway wants to make a Channel to say the squad has brought a Siege Weapon (Fine quality), he/she must get a 6 on the roll and that’s less than 1 chance out of three with 2 dice.
Compare this with the Flashback example on page 221 where any PC can get a Siege Weapon on a Flashback with 2 Stress.

Second problem : IOT to use Channels, the Officer has 2 Sway right from the beginning, which means no dots in Marshal (strange for an officer…), or no dots at all in any combat-useful action (Skirmish, Shoot, Maneuver, Wreck…), unlike any other Specialist, even the Medic ! Meaning the officer has to spend its 4 supplementary dots just to get to the bare minimum efficiency, if he wants to fight. So… very strange fictionally for people who have been either promoted from the ranks or come out of a military academy… what did they learn there?

Conclusion: the way Channels is designed, it gives the officer an ability which, on balance, doesn’t seem really better than a good old Flashback, or in some cases is worse, and prevents them from being efficient in fields where he should “fictionally” be (ordering around and fighting).

Well… of course I know that part of the answers to that are:

  • The special abilities from the Officer make him useful in a (group) fight even without Marshal or individual fighting talent.
  • It is a way to have at least some characters with good Sway, since I guess it is feared that most players would neglect to put a lot of points in this Action (so a direct design choice here?).

But on the whole, for me this is quite unbalanced and makes this specialist the least interesting to play (anyway, as a GM, it is not my choice to play them or not!)

Have you had the same feeling, or is it something that doesn’t bother you ?

2/ The third example of Flashback on page 221 is also a Flashback about an item, in this exemple more Ammo. It’s a bit of a problem for me, because here it means the PC would have exceeded his Load, which should have had mechanical effects (on speed, overall quietness, so on position and effect on some actions) prior to the time when he does the Flashback. So a contradiction here with the initial choice of Load.

  1. Channel costs nothing and I think that you’re not giving that its appropriate weight considering how limited Stress is in BoB.
  2. Channel applies to the squad as a whole, not just one person. (p.301) Instead of spending 1 Stress to get ammo for 1 squad member, the Officer can Channel extra ammo for the whole squad.
  3. In the examples for Flashbacks, the Flashbacks are for objects that the Legion already possesses, like a siege weapon that’s on the quartermaster sheet. In the examples for Channels on p 301, the Channel is for Owlsight Oil which the Alchemist is creating on the spot. This is much more generous than I’d allow for even a 2-stress flashback.

Very interesting, and thanks.

  1. “Channels costs nothing”. It costs… one Channels use, or maybe more. But it’s true that Stress is rarer in BoB as in BitD.

  2. “Channel applies to the squad as a whole” : excellent remark and that is indeed a big difference from Flashbacks. Thanks for reminding me. However, when the Flashback can get you a big-scale asset (lik a siege weapon, as in the exemple I cited), the difference is not so evident.

  3. “In the examples for Channels on p 301, the Channel is for Owlsight Oil which the Alchemist is creating on the spot.”
    So you mean that Channels can get the squad some equipment that the Quartemaster DOES NOT have. If it’s in the rules, I had not understood that. I am not sure you’re right… could a Channels use have a Siege Weapon appear (with a Fine result) ? I would like to believe. And indeed THAT would be a very big difference indeed from a normal Flashback, and the most interesting difference.
    I would love to be sure of that, and I would love to play it like this !

BUT… wouldn’t that diminish the importance of some Long Terme Project, of of the work of the Alchemist ? For example, my players have had the chemist work to produce Chembalm and Owlsight Oil. If the Officer can acquire them on the fly, was that useful ?

AND… can the “acquired asset through Channels use” be brought back tow amp and used in the next missions (if not spent during the mission?).

Very interesting points which give me a lot of food for thoughts.

Thanks again!

Also, if those answers clearly lay out the advantages of Channels in a way I had not perceived, there is still the second point: the 2 SWAY points directly allocated to the Officer. Not only does it eat some dots that would “fictionaly” be more Logical in Marshal and some Fighting techniques, but it also kind of “railroads” the Officer into being the archetype of the “smooth-Talking officer”, and anybody who has spent time in the services (or watched war movies) know that only a minority of real-life officers fall into this category.

There is an easy house rule around that: having the use of Channels linked not a Fortune roll with he action Sway, but to a Fortune roll with the Attribute Resolve. So that the Players can choose the kind of officers they want to be.

Of course the danger is that nobody would put a lot of points in Sway…

I would agree that channels can get you access to equipment that the legion doesn’t have, as long as there is a conceivable way to get this done. If you’re in a place with a high asset rating, that perhaps you found a way to borrow a siege weapon for a single mission, but if you’re on the long road then I’m afraid there is just no way your officer’s connections are going to make a siege weapon appear. Anything small they can carry on their person they can make appear at will though, they must have acquired earlier and have been saving it for just such an occasion. But they have to be a one mission use thing by their nature (either they’re expendable or you just borrowed it). It doesn’t invalidate a long term project to provide alchemicals to the legion, because then anyone can equip it and you don’t have to bring the officer.

I say all this as someone running a game with an officer with 4 channels and 4 sway, it comes up a lot. And they need not be played as charming, there are plenty of ways to get what you want without being charming. I do agree not having a single rank is marshal is a weird oversight though.

For the asset through Channels thing: yes, since the answer to my first qquestions about it, more play and more rereading of the rules, that’s how we’ve been playing the Officer. And you’re right that it does not invalidate the LTPs.

“there are plenty of ways to get what you want without being charming”, well, maybe, but when you have 2/3 dots in Sway and none in Consort/Marshall/Discipline, it’s bound to be less efficent, at least without putting more ressources into it. Which is the point, I guess. That said, you’re right, “sway” is not limited to be charming and smooth-talking.

About the Marshall thing: it’s also a fictional oddity, since the most useful abilities for the officer (Tactician and Lead from the front) are difficult to explain without a good Marshalling aptitude.