Handling PC Diversity

One of the best things about the Vaxian system is the near-limitless variety available to our players. Unlike some other systems, characters don't have set kits or classes. Any skill a player can dream up, if it's within the boundaries for broadness and power, it goes.

In addition, most sessions are open-call, meaning you don't often know which characters will be showing up. As a result, SHs have to be on their toes to account for a wide variety of character abilities when it comes to planning and Running Sessions We can't rely on specific characters or skills being available at any given time, so you have to be sure to include a number of different ways to solve the challenges you plan to present to the players.

With all that potential variety, you can't account for every skill out there, but the good news is, you don't have to. Making a conscious effort to include more than one way for PCs to contribute to the session is all you need to do. Players whose characters have very obscure or less combat-applicable skills can meet you halfway if you've at least given them something to go on other than "I hit the ogre with my stick."

There are a handful of skills you should typically keep in mind when planning your session and its challenges:

  • Combat skills (melee, Ranged and combat magics can be planned for roughly the same)
  • Scouting and stealth
  • Social influence (CHA-based skills for persuasion, inspiration or negotiation)

If you cover those three areas in any given session, you'll already have given most characters something to do. On a similar note, many players specifically build characters with at least one of the abilities above, so it's a nice compromise.

Typically the most troubling situation is trying to combine the elements of combat and social influence in the same scene. By the time the swords or guns come out, most people are done talking. That's why it can also help to have a number of different elements within the same scene, so that you're not trying to pack it all into one place.

For instance, if you have a pack of bandits that those with a combat skill are fighting, having a crowd in danger that the charismatic characters can influence (into helping, or staying clear, or a little of both) helps them both contribute in the ways they're most comfortable. Likewise, letting one character scout the palace while the others talk with the baron lets them both be active, even if they're not in the same exact place.

Remembering to provide a variety of ways to contribute is something the players in your sessions will greatly appreciate, especially if they aren't playing combat-focused characters.

Handling Redundant 'Roles'
Making sure there's something for everyone doesn't always mean diversifying your challenges, it can also mean making sure there's a way for more than one person to 'team up' on any given challenge, even if they go about it the same way.

Count on some players doubling up on what they can do. We often expect to have more than one character with a combat ability, be it magic or physical, which means having more bad guys (or making your one bad-guy bigger, if you go that route).

Make sure you do the same for non-combat challenges. Have multiple people from whom charismatic PCs can gain information, and give no one NPC all of it so that they have to divide and conquer. When dealing with hackers, give them a system complex enough to require a multi-pronged approach, or several systems that can all be accessed at once ("you get the doors, I'll get the cameras," etc).

Let PCs know that there's more than one target along the same lines. We list three common skill types above - they're common for a reason, so count on more than one of a given type showing up to your session, and make sure you have enough for at least a couple of them to do.

Abilities to Be Prepared For
In addition, be prepared for some of the rarer abilities which can be problematic in a session environment:

  • Teleportation and portal magic (which can circumvent physical obstacles in a hurry)
  • Mind-reading and divination (which can unmask clues before you're ready)
  • Mind-control (which can derail just about any villain who isn't prepared to resist)

"Being prepared" here doesn't necessarily mean "find ways to negate them," it just means have a backup plan in case a character with the skill shows up, and they make the roll to make it work in a way that could potentially unravel the session you'd originally designed. Have a Plan B, or an additional, optional challenge that you can trigger if the players happen to bypass a major element of the session.

For more ideas on accounting for potentially session-breaking skills, see the Flying Dungeon section under Tips & Tricks.

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