When do heroes become too powerful?

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When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby Slloyd14 » Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:14 am

So, here's a question: How many XP does a hero need before they become too powerful for any reasonable threat? It takes 180xp to take a 2 point skill to a 6 point skill (about 4 adventure's worth), so if this is a weapon skill, an adventurer can have an effective combat skill of 13 in relatively short time (skill 7 + weaponskill 6). I know there are plenty of ways to deal with that (magic, social situations, making them lose their weapon), but when does a Director have to start making convoluted reasons to bring characters down in power?

An elf wizard with maximum magic (8) and 2 points in wizardry can choose 20 points worth of spells, have 20 magic points and can use 5 lightning blasts a day. 180xp can increase magic by 1 or it can increase wizardry to 6 so that if the elf has the natural mage talent (and what wizard doesn't) then they can automatically succeed at lightning blasts. They also have 16 points worth of spells that can deal with almost any situation. However, this also means that they have 10 stamina points at most or 5 skill points, so it's probably easy to take them out.

So how many XP does it take to make them unstoppable? 500? 1000?
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby darksoul » Wed Oct 29, 2014 6:27 am

I'm not so sure that you can make them unstoppable.
Going thru some of the game books I've discovered that there are a tonne of things that can make you lose SKILL points. One of the worst was always having your sword arm wounded which causes a -3 to your SKILL.
In the new addition, losing SKILL points is pretty brutal. My players Panic.
Anyways, that's if you want to limit your players ability.

Also, there are plenty of battles in the books that can just take a player apart even with high skill. In Chasms of Malice, the Griffins killed you automatically with their fire breath if you rolled a double 1. There are plenty of other monsters that do have an extra effect

Alternately, not everything is solved by combat in the game books. There are things that will and can kill the players in a single action. Also there are things that they players simply cannot fight. On top of that, some situations were not resolved by combat. Resolving them by combat actually meant they missed a clue or something.

Just as brutal in the books was fighting a very tough enemy, or multiple enemies early on in the story. Your character would get painfully whittled down in stamina and enter the mid way part of the story pretty damaged. I was reading "Temple of Terror" today and saw the encounter with the Sandworm before you enter Vatos. That thing has Skill:10. fighting that and entering Vatos would have been brutal.

I always put my players in compromising situations. I just had an adventure where the players had to climb down a cliff to get to the bottom. Along the way they had some encounters. One of the players decided he would try to climb in chain armour, with no climb skill. He actually put the party at risk, demanding he keep the armour on. The fact is, the players are adventurers, they need to go thru a variety of environments and situations. Fighting in a forest or caves can reduce effectiveness of long and big weapons, other situations can actually not penalize those weapons but penalize other weapons.

If that isn't enough, then you can always try the "Anime" approach. In anime, the characters are already some of the most powerful in the entire world.
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby Bronn » Wed Oct 29, 2014 10:23 am

Slloyd14 wrote:So, here's a question: How many XP does a hero need before they become too powerful for any reasonable threat?


To my view, pretty quickly. I've posted house rules addressing this in a separate thread. :)
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby Nuvole! » Mon Nov 24, 2014 6:57 pm

In general, you typically become almost a juggernaut when you have 3 SKILL points (including relevant special skill) above your enemies. Clearly, your absolute points are not so important, as long a sthe enemies somehow stay within that range.
The other obvious option is designing adventures where using your brain is more important than having high scores.
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby SkinnyOrc » Thu Jun 02, 2016 1:14 pm

I’ve been doing some work on a system for scaling AFF scenarios against the experience of the party and have come to some fairly startling conclusions. The reason for the thread necromancy here is that when I went searching the old posts some of it’s been said before.

Hullalla wrote:you typically become almost a juggernaut when you have 3 SKILL points (including relevant special skill) above your enemies. Clearly, your absolute points are not so important, as long as the enemies somehow stay within that range.
This is spot on, what matters is your attack strength (SKILL plus weapon special skill plus modifiers) relative to your opponents. Outnumbering is part of that because it adds a modifier to AS. Other things such as damage, armour and STAMINA make some difference but are more likely to affect how long the fight takes than change the end result.

These are the odds of winning each round at various AS differences, you can see how one sided it gets once the difference is 3 or more. Of course this is ignoring special abilities and the sort of smart GMing darksoul was suggesting, but it’s a good guideline to how a fight will go.

AS Diff____-5______-4_______-3_______-2_______-1_______0________1________2________3________4________5___
Win %____5.40%___9.72%___15.89%___23.91%___33.56%___44.36%___55.63%___66.43%___76.08%___84.10%___90.27%

Slloyd14 wrote:It takes 180xp to take a 2 point skill to a 6 point skill (about 4 adventure's worth), so if this is a weapon skill, an adventurer can have an effective combat skill of 13 in relatively short time (skill 7 + weaponskill 6).
So a typical starting warrior character has an AS of 9 and after only 4 adventures will have an AS of 13 with their usual weapon.

Seeing as its relative AS that matters I’ve been looking through Out of the Pit and Beyond the Pit. The average SKILL of the creatures in both is a bit above 8. There are only 19 creatures in OotP and 14 in BtP with a SKILL of 13 or more, out of over 500. What’s more none of those 13+ SKILL creatures have a number appearing (NA) of more than 1, meaning they’ll never get an outnumbering bonus and may get one against them, although many do have multiple attacks to at least avoid that. Looking at SKILL 12 and 11 creatures, OotP has 27 and BtP 18, with three quarters having NA 1. There’s a gradual increase in creatures with a NA of more than 1 as SKILL goes down, but you have to get to 8 before more than half do.

My guess is that because the creatures came mainly from FF gamebooks their SKILL scores and numbers appearing are set to challenge a lone hero with a SKILL of up to 12 or maybe a little more counting items. Obviously an entire group of adventurers with AS 13 (some less than that but with magic) are a lot more powerful.

I don’t believe you can rebalance this from the monster side. The 16-18 SKILL creatures are things like Dragons and greater Demons that should rightly be at the top of the tree and met rarely. More 13-15 SKILL creatures would be helpful but again you don’t want to overuse them. Beyond the Pit says you can change listed SKILL by up to 2 in either direction, but you can’t have all the creatures being champions of their type just because the party have become powerful.

On the character side some ideas have already been brought up, like starting the adventurers with less points to spend. That’s a great option for adding variety to your campaign but as far as rebalancing the game goes it only delays the problem a little. Another suggestion is limiting Special Skill advances to half SKILL or MAGIC as appropriate. This definitely works but I don’t think it goes far enough and seems a bit of an artificial restriction on player choice.

If we need at least some encounters against creatures with AS within two or three points of the parties, and the bulk of creatures are in the 7-10 SKILL range, it means the longer the adventurer’s AS stays below 13 or so the better. This is after outnumbering and other modifiers so creatures that appear alone count lower unless they have a lot of attacks.

The problem is caused by the weapon Special Skills being worth up to 6 points and also relatively cheap. Against a 12 point scale for SKILL +6 is too much. The idea of weapon special skills allowing players to choose which weapons their characters are particularly practised with is great but I think you can get that without adding such a big bonus to the AS.

This is my suggestion on how in a quote box so it stands out :)
If a character is using any weapon they don’t have the Special Skill for they attack at -2. Having the appropriate weapon skill at 1 avoids this penalty but does not add to AS. They get a +1 to AS per every 2 ranks in the Special Skill, so at 2 it’s +1, 4 is +2 and 6 is +3.

This limits starting characters to an AS of 8 (SKILL 7 + WSS 1). But more important is that then maxing out the special skill for their weapon of choice only takes them to AS 10, still well within the sweet spot for AFF creatures. From there increases to AS mean expensive SKILL advances. For comparison getting to AS 13 takes a minimum of 15 adventures at 50xp each compared to 4 before. If they accumulate the enormous amount needed to go all the way to SKILL 12 they have an AS of 15, high but more manageable than the 18 it was before. It’s also more in line with the limits of the heroes from the FF gamebooks.

My other suggestion is to take the number appearing ratings in the creature books with a grain of salt. I’m wondering how often it’s based on the number that appeared in the FF gamebook it was from and that on the need to not overwhelm the lone hero. Director judgement needs applying but in a lot of cases it makes sense the number can be increased. Also powerful enemies might be encountered with a bodyguard of another type of creature, there’s no reason not to mix and match if it seems like they could work together.
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby Slloyd14 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 7:47 pm

That's a great in depth post there. It's got me thinking.

To go really crazy, we could adopt something that Tunnels and Trolls do and have special skills in weapons not contribute to being able to hit an opponent. Instead, they contribute to being able to do some manouvere in combat.

Or you could limit all skills to a maximum of 3 points, players start with 6 skills at 1 point plus thier racial skills and skills cost twice as much xp to gain (40xp to go from 0-1, 40xp to go from 1-2 and 60xp to go from 2-3).

Also, crazily, what about maximum skill and magic being 9? Combinng with having 3 points in a skill, the maximum possible attack strength is 12?

To completely mess with the starting system, how about this? Change Magic to Lore. Every knowledge and magic skill rolls from lore. The others roll from skill. Starting stats are skill 4, stamina 8, luck 8, lore 4. You have 7 points to distribute. Max skill 6, max stamina 14, max luck 11, max lore 6. 6 skills with 1 point + racial skills. If you have magic - wizardry, you start with magic points = to 2 x lore + 2 x magic - wizardry.

XP costs stay the same except skills cost double. The maximum skill and lore you can have is 9. Other maximums are normal (stamina 24, luck 12).

This way, attack strength could get to 9 quite quickly (in about 3 adventures), but then stall for a bit as teh character then needs 140xp to go to a skill of 7, then 160 to go to a skill of 8, then 180xp to go to a skill of 9.

Another thing to do is something that Tunnels and Trolls does and I do in my TnT solos is that after normal attack strengths are calculated, the player or their opponent could try some kind a manouvere against their opponent. This could involve anything from flinging sand in their face, attempting to disarm them, kicking them in the nuts, looking for a chink in their armour, backflipping over them to get a better hit, knocking a candlebra into their face (like Bronn vs that knight) etc. These could require a variety of rolls and have a variety of effects but it also lets the players use skills that might not necessarily be used in combat and get some kind of attack strenght bonus against stronger opponents or weaken their armour etc.. One example from mythology is the tale of Siegfried who killed the invincible dragon by filling its mouth with wood so its firey breath set it on fire and burnt the dragon. Stuff like that. If you think about it, this happens ad hoc with some creatures (vampires trying to bite people, heroes having to burn hydra's necks to stop them regrowing etc.) This would not reduce the problem, but it would make combat more interesting and give the underdog a fighting chance.
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby Nuvole! » Thu Jun 02, 2016 8:34 pm

SkinnyOrc wrote: These are the odds of winning each round at various AS differences, [...]
AS Diff____-5______-4_______-3_______-2_______-1_______0________1________2________3________4________5___
Win %____5.40%___9.72%___15.89%___23.91%___33.56%___44.36%___55.63%___66.43%___76.08%___84.10%___90.27%

While in general I'm OK with your post, I think that you did something wrong with your maths, as I find it difficult to understand how you calculated that, when AS difference is 0, the chance to win is still 44,36%... it should be a 50-50 fight, isn't it?
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby SkinnyOrc » Thu Jun 02, 2016 10:38 pm

Hullalla wrote:it should be a 50-50 fight, isn't it?
It's because there's a small chance of a draw too. I better give credit where it's due there, the odds are based on this http://anydice.com/program/c89. My maths is mediocre but I have mad skills at Googlejitsu ;)
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby SkinnyOrc » Fri Jun 03, 2016 3:29 pm

Slloyd14 wrote:we could adopt something that Tunnels and Trolls do and have special skills in weapons not contribute to being able to hit an opponent. Instead, they contribute to being able to do some manouvere in combat.
I did consider no AS bonus at all from weapon special skills but the problem was I couldn't come up with anything else they can get from them to make it worthwhile putting experience into. I was trying to mess with as little of the existing rules as possible to get the result and that included the weapon skills still having 6 ranks and the XP values not changing. But there's no doubt there's several ways you could fix this.

Slloyd14 wrote:could try some kind a manouvere against their opponent. This could involve anything from flinging sand in their face, attempting to disarm them, kicking them in the nuts, looking for a chink in their armour, backflipping over them to get a better hit, knocking a candlebra into their face.
I think you suggested this in the making combat more interesting thread and I still haven't figured out a mechanic for it! I've allowed this sort of thing before on the fly but I can see it would get used more if it was a combat manoeuvre like fighting defensively is. But if they pick up on something that was described, like the captain of the watch has a breastplate on but no armour below the waist, or there's a candelabra hanging from the ceiling at a useful height, then they should definitely get a bonus to succeeding.
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby Nuvole! » Fri Jun 03, 2016 7:00 pm

SkinnyOrc wrote:
Hullalla wrote:it should be a 50-50 fight, isn't it?
It's because there's a small chance of a draw too. I better give credit where it's due there, the odds are based on this http://anydice.com/program/c89. My maths is mediocre but I have mad skills at Googlejitsu ;)

I see. This means that you weren't looking at the chances of winning a fight against an opponent with the same level of STAMINA, but about winning a round.
If you add to the frame the fact that you will have to repeat this scheme over and over until either you or the opponent die, you will see that a difference of 3 points of AS is a reasonable assurance to win any fight, unless you are really extremely short in STAMINA from the very beginning of the fight.
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby Slloyd14 » Fri Jun 03, 2016 7:41 pm

SkinnyOrc wrote:
Slloyd14 wrote:we could adopt something that Tunnels and Trolls do and have special skills in weapons not contribute to being able to hit an opponent. Instead, they contribute to being able to do some manouvere in combat.
I did consider no AS bonus at all from weapon special skills but the problem was I couldn't come up with anything else they can get from them to make it worthwhile putting experience into. I was trying to mess with as little of the existing rules as possible to get the result and that included the weapon skills still having 6 ranks and the XP values not changing. But there's no doubt there's several ways you could fix this.


Maybe the number of points you have in a weapon skill could be distributed in either increasing the damage roll you make with a weapon or reducing the damage roll of the opponent's weapon (so you can split it between attack and defence). YOu have to decide what to do at the beginning of the round. So if you have 2 points in swords, you could put 1 into increasing damage rolls and 1 into decreasing an opponent's damage rolls.

SkinnyOrc wrote:
Slloyd14 wrote:could try some kind a manouvere against their opponent. This could involve anything from flinging sand in their face, attempting to disarm them, kicking them in the nuts, looking for a chink in their armour, backflipping over them to get a better hit, knocking a candlebra into their face.
I think you suggested this in the making combat more interesting thread and I still haven't figured out a mechanic for it! I've allowed this sort of thing before on the fly but I can see it would get used more if it was a combat manoeuvre like fighting defensively is. But if they pick up on something that was described, like the captain of the watch has a breastplate on but no armour below the waist, or there's a candelabra hanging from the ceiling at a useful height, then they should definitely get a bonus to succeeding.


One way of doing it in game terms is that the weaponskill bonus is only added for the manouver, but if they lose, then they take more damage? If they win, tehy inflict more damage (equal to a bonus to the damage die equal to the number of points they have in that weapon skill)
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby SkinnyOrc » Tue Jun 07, 2016 3:09 pm

Okay I've now got benefits for each rank of weapon special skill but with total AS bonus being only +2. The +1 to AS comes in at WSS 2 rather than 3 because that means starting characters under this can have an AS of 8, only one point lower than before. If the max starting AS were 7 it might make them too weak for published scenarios.
Weapon Special Skill 1 – Does not suffer the -2 penalty for fighting without the relevant Weapon Special Skill when using these weapons
Weapon Special Skill 2 – +1 to Attack Strength when using these weapons
Weapon Special Skill 3 – +1 to Attack Strength and +1 to Damage Rolls when using these weapons
Weapon Special Skill 4 – +2 to Attack Strength and +1 to Damage Rolls when using these weapons
Weapon Special Skill 5 – +2 to Attack Strength and +2 to Damage Rolls when using these weapons
Weapon Special Skill 6 – +2 to Attack Strength, +2 to Damage Rolls and a Critical on a roll of 11 or 12 when using these weapons

The ideas there came from this thread and the bit in the rulebook describing magic swords. Also occurred to me that with WSS pluses limited to +2 instead of +6 there's room for more powerful magic weapons. So +2 or maybe even +3 to the damage roll or AS, and maybe with a combination of abilities. I like the idea of permanent magic weapons being more powerful so that on the rare occasions they're found it's a big deal. It's hard to get excited about a +1 to AS sword if you can get +6 from 6 adventures worth of experience! But if WSS can only take you to +2 and it's a +2 AS sword...

Hullalla wrote:you weren't looking at the chances of winning a fight against an opponent with the same level of STAMINA, but about winning a round.
Exactly. It'd be much more complicated to calculate the final result of an encounter, you need to include all the details like STAMINA, armour and damage. But I'm not sure the end result would tell you that much more about how characters balance against creatures. Those other stats are more about how much damage the higher SKILL combatant takes before they win rather than if they win.

Hullalla wrote:a difference of 3 points of AS is a reasonable assurance to win any fight, unless you are really extremely short in STAMINA from the very beginning of the fight.
Yep you need a lot of STAMINA to overcome even a two point AS deficiency against your opponent. Anyone who’s played the FF gamebooks probably had the experience at some point of rolling a low SKILL but high STAMINA character. Even a half decent monster beats them, it just takes a while.

Slloyd14 wrote:Maybe the number of points you have in a weapon skill could be distributed in either increasing the damage roll you make with a weapon or reducing the damage roll of the opponent's weapon (so you can split it between attack and defence).
Interesting idea. Now that I have +1 and +2 damage roll bonuses as weapon skill benefits they could have the option of using those defensively like this.

Slloyd14 wrote:One way of doing it in game terms is that the weaponskill bonus is only added for the manouver, but if they lose, then they take more damage? If they win, tehy inflict more damage (equal to a bonus to the damage die equal to the number of points they have in that weapon skill)
I'm not sure it makes sense to tie stunts into weapon special skills as most of the ones we were talking about didn't involve using a weapon. It seemed like they'd be based more on SKILL and other special skills (Strength, Acrobatics, etc. depending on the stunt). The above might be good for a combat option like feint though.

By the way, it sounds like I really need to look into those Tunnels and Trolls game mechanics :)
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby SkinnyOrc » Fri Jun 17, 2016 12:51 pm

Slloyd14 wrote:you could limit all skills to a maximum of 3 points
This one had me thinking, there is a nice simplicity to how special skills in AFF work the same way with all types of tests. Reducing all skills to a maximum of 3 points could be a way to keep that and still stop character attack strengths from being too high. So I figured it was worth checking if there were side effects to stop you doing that.

What I believe it comes down to is this. How much difference do you want special skills to make to tests compared to SKILL? With SKILL going up to 12, if special skills only go to 3 then you can't be really good at something without being good at everything (high SKILL). For me that limits the options to design specialist characters that are really good at certain things without being that experienced as adventurers, and I want that. So it was worth looking at but my opinion is it's best to leave special skills as they are and just make an exception for the weapon ones so combat ability stays in the range of the creatures we have in the books.

It turned out not to matter to the question, but I worked out some odds for tests and they might be useful to Directors for getting an idea of what to set modifiers to.

The odds with an unopposed test look like this:
Target____2______3______4_______5_______6_______7_______8______9_______10______11__
Success__2.77%__8.32%__16.65%__27.76%__41.64%__58.30%__72.18%__83.29%__91.62%__97.17%

Here's some examples of unopposed tests at various SKILL, special skill and difficulty levels. The target number tops out at 11 of course because a double six always fails. First up with no difficulty modifier:
SKILL___SpSk____Mod____Target___Success
7_______+0_______0_______7______58.3%
7_______+3_______0______10______91.62%
7_______+6_______0______11______97.17%
9_______+0_______0_______9______83.29%
9_______+3_______0______11______97.17%
12______+0_______0______11______97.17%

With a -3 difficulty modifier:
SKILL___SpSk____Mod____Target___Success
7_______+0______-3_______4______16.65%
7_______+3______-3_______7______58.30%
7_______+6______-3______10______91.62%
9_______+0______-3_______6______41.64%
9_______+3______-3_______9______83.29%
9_______+6______-3______11______97.17%
12______+0______-3_______9______83.29%
12______+3______-3______11______97.17%

With a whopping -6 difficulty modifier:
SKILL___SpSk____Mod____Target___Success
7_______+0______-6_______1______2.77%
7_______+3______-6_______4______16.65%
7_______+6______-6_______7______58.30%
9_______+0______-6_______3______8.32%
9_______+3______-6_______6______41.64%
9_______+6______-6_______9______83.29%
12______+0______-6_______6______41.64%
12______+3______-6_______9______83.29%
12______+6______-6______11______97.17%

Clearly you don't need to be shy with penalties for experienced adventurers on unopposed tests if you have a 6 point special skill scale. A -6 penalty is fine for anything truly difficult, they still have a good chance of success if it's something they're skilled at (high relevant special skill) or are very experienced (high SKILL). So again it works fine with either a 3 point or 6 point special skill scale, you just need to adjust the size of the difficulty modifiers you use.
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby SkinnyOrc » Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:27 am

I've been working on a summary of AFF2 encounter difficulty that can be used by Directors trying to scale their adventures to the size and experience of the party.

AFF2 Encounters
Image

AFF2 Encounters, Opponents With 2 Attacks
Image

It needs a bit of explanation. Numbers C to M is how many characters there are to how many monsters. So 2 to 1 means twice as many characters as monsters. SKILL difference is the monsters SKILL minus the characters typical attack strength (so including weapon skills). If the characters have AS 9 and the monsters are SKILL 6 that's -3. The characters probably don't all have the same AS but it'll be close enough if you just use the AS most of them have. Wizards often have a lot less AS than the others but with their powerful spells it evens out.

You read it like this:
VE (dark green) - Very Easy - Characters will be unlucky to break a sweat
E (light green - Easy - Not likely to get more than a scratch or two
N (orange) - Normal - Where a typical fight for these characters should be
D (light red) - Dangerous - Characters will be seriously hurt and may die if already injured
VD (dark red) - Very Dangerous - Likely to be a TPK unless powerful magic is used

You can also summarise the tables as:
Against monsters with 3 to 4 more SKILL the characters want to outnumber by 3 to 1, or 5 to 1 if the monsters have multiple attacks
Against monsters with equal up to 2 more SKILL the characters want to outnumber by 2 to 1, or 3 to 1 if the monsters have multiple attacks
Against monsters with 1 to 2 SKILL less equal numbers are fine
Against monsters with 3 to 4 SKILL less the characters need to be outnumbered 2 to 1
If the characters are outnumbered 3 to 1 even very weak monsters are dangerous

I've assumed that monsters with -2 SKILL or worse relative to the characters have only light armour (light monster armour isn't much different to having none) and monsters with 2 or more better SKILL have higher damage.
Last edited by SkinnyOrc on Sat Apr 22, 2017 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: When do heroes become too powerful?

Postby shintokamikaze » Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:55 am

Very interesting

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