Ways to Modify the Difficulty of Your Tales of Xadia Sessions

Hello and welcome to another article aimed to help you make your home game of Tales of Xadia as fun as possible! When it comes to the entertainment medium of games, every player finds enjoyment in a variety of experiences. 

One of which is the difficulty of the adventure. Some players love harrowing situations where they feel the threat of loss looming around every corner. Others are more fulfilled by the story and don’t ever want to be stressed out by difficult encounters. 

Today we’ll be reviewing ways to modify the difficulty to suit the desires of your players. 

Step up or Down Dice 

As the Narrator, you will inevitably place tests, contests, or challenges in your adventure to see if the players are able to succeed or fail in their ambitions. To do that you’ll take two dice and roll them to announce what number the heroes must achieve or surpass to succeed. When it comes to manipulating the difficulty of an encounter you’ll want to focus on what kind of dice you’ll be using. 

For example, if a player wishes to participate in a simple test of trying to spot a specific shop they are near to, you’ll want to use 2d4. That way the total can be no higher than 8 which is relatively easy for players to beat when they use their dice pool. 

If that same character attempted to steal the most expensive item in a store while the staff is looking around, you’ll probably use 2d10 or even 2d12. This will ensure a much more difficult time for players to beat since the potential maximum is 20 or 24. 

However, if you are looking to provide a moderate challenge then 2d8 is the way to go. 

Provide or Temporarily Remove Assets

When times get tough, equipment can be a significant help to turn the tide. If you find that your players are struggling during a specific scene and it doesn’t seem like the remaining adventure will get organically easier, you can provide them an ‘Asset’. 

Assets represent an object or creature that provides an extra 1d6 to players to help improve their results when facing off against the Narrator in a scene. Whether it be a rope, spear, or even an Owl companion, anything that reasonably would be of assistance to the current situation. 

On the other hand, if you feel like things are a bit too easy for the players, you can instead temporarily remove an asset. An animal companion gets sick and is unable to help until they recover or a weapon breaks during combat. Many assets have an emotional connection to characters so I advise against completely taking them away unless it is a major story moment.

Choose when to use Plot Points

One of the most unique game mechanics in Tales of Xadia are the Plot Points. These are a premium game currency that allows players to improve their chances of success. Both Narrators and Players can acquire and activate Plot Points. When one of them uses them, the other gets awarded one to ensure balance.

For a Narrator, they wait until a player scores a Hitch, which is when they roll a natural 1, and then activates that ‘Opportunity.’ When this happens, the player’s character would step up a stress die of the Narrator’s choice. This is one of the major ways players can be negatively affected. 

However, the Narrator does not have to activate the opportunity. They can instead choose to let it go for a variety of reasons. This can range from not wanting to provide the players additional resources or simply not harming the character. The latter is what you’ll want to consider when it comes to balancing the difficulty of the adventure. 

If your players are succeeding in a majority of their scenes and you need to add a bit of conflict, then you can activate those opportunities every chance you get. If they are failing quite often and their stress builds quickly, you can instead choose to hold off and allow them a chance to recover. 

In the end, you’ll want to sit down and communicate with your players to better understand what they are looking to get out of their sessions. If they enjoy a challenge to showcase their wit and tenacity then you can help provide that difficulty. If they just want a roleplay experience without too much hardship then you can help to provide a safer space for their characters to thrive. 

Do not forget to also inform them of what you’d enjoy in a session as well! When it comes to tabletop roleplaying games, everyone having fun is the true way to play!

Inspiration for Your Table

Dive deep into the gaming system called Cortex! Join us over at the Tales of Xadia newsletter, and our YouTube channels feature fun playthroughs of our tales!

Stories in the Outer Reaches and Off The Beaten Path

Everyone understands the value of playing a role-playing game in a familiar setting. The streets are filled with recognizable characters and fruit carts, and who doesn’t want to know the apple they’re buying is top notch, even if it’s a pretend apple?

But it’s not just Skywing elves who have wanderlust. All elves and humans (Xadian and Earthling) know that wild adventure comes with unexplored areas, and some gorgeous official maps of Xadia exist with thousands of miles of uncharted territory. 

Narrators, let’s huddle up and talk about how to take players into those mysterious places!  

Your Secret’s Safe

Feeling authentic to the show gets tricky! It can feel weird when you invent a city and then while watching a future, hypothetical episode of The Dragon Prince Rayla refers to the area as a desolate wasteland stretching for miles.

Luckily, there are limitless forests, oceans, mountains, and tundras to choose from, each full of unlabeled ambiguity. Want a biome you don’t see? Just get a little vague about where it is on the map, or call it a magic plane. Or do what I did in The Tale of the Lost Oasis and have the town float above the map!

By making the location a great unknown, you can also have fun with the way PCs find out about it. It could be the whispers of a thief or the translation of ancient runes. There’s a reason it’s not on the map! Perhaps it even contains and individual who has worked hard to keep it that way.

Filling The Blank

Just don’t be intimidated by lore. That’s what is key. Lore is to be “respected” rather than feared, so to speak. Use it when you can, but don’t let it ruin your day! Because it’s only there to be loved and enjoyed– this is your big chance to feel empowered by a contribution to this rich world.

Examples of locations you could place on blank map spots could include–

  • A steamy beach where lava runs into the Gulf of Tenebris
  • A tiny, hard to see island in the Independant Isles
  • A town hidden deep in the Evenerean jungle swamp
  • A magical Neolandian city that only appears in close proximity, like a reverse mirage
  • Underwater ruins under the sea amongst the Shiverglades

None of those places is canon, not at all. I made them up just for you while looking at the official Xadian map available on thedragonprince.com. I’m sure you can magic up something yourself with an illustration that rich!

Inspiration for Your Table

Cortex can tell virtually any story! Get into the  Tales of Xadia newsletter, and our YouTube channels feature fun playthroughs of our tales!

Creating a Creature Quest Tale

As the author of three published tales for Tales of Xadia, there are few things I love more than when I hear fans dreamt up some tales of their own. While I’m obviously honored to have people play the ones I came up with, my heart is invested in the continuation of this game into your imagination. Hence why I’ve focused so much on tale inspo lately! I hope that what I share today gives you a sense of how even the seemingly minor characters can shape an entire story.

Small But Mighty

A personal and fan favorite Narrator Character that I have cooked up is Wiggy the Chicken. A mere background decoration for some folks’ iterations of my first tale, The Lost Oasis, she could easily be upgraded to an asset. For April Fool’s Day of 2021, I even upgraded her to a full-on catalyst character in the Tales of Xadia newsletter. She was all personality and could dominate through sheer pluck and sass, even without the power of speech.

Plucky, sassy, independent, loyal, brave, outgoing, silly. These are some of the words I like to ascribe to Wiggy. So though she may not speak, one can imagine all the choices she would make in reaction to a variety of improvised player choices. A player character with Wiggy roosting on their shoulder draws their sword? Perhaps Wiggy would pluck out a feather and wield it in a similar, if inadequate fashion. (No “pluck/plucky” pun intended.)

So, while flipping through the Tales of Xadia Game Handbook, pause on a section like the one we dedicated to creatures. Maybe one of them reminds you of a personal pet based simply on their illustration, or another has a broader kind of personal resonance. For me, I immediately look at the zogmoppet and think, wow, if that weird walking eel was real I can imagine it getting up to some serious mischief.

From Ambler To Zogmoppet

So let’s invent a zogmoppet NC! And yes, let’s go with the obvious name of Ziggy.

Here are some traits you could imagine Ziggy has, two of which you’d select, then get a trait die:

  • Mischievous
  • Snarky
  • Greedy
  • Selfish
  • Wiggly
  • Dancer
  • Stealthy Slitherer

Let’s say you decide on “Wiggly” and “Selfish.” A fun start, right? But with all those spare traits, story ideas might come flowing out of you as you imagine these traits being ascribed to other aspects of your tale! Here are some tale details you can jot down once you decide what you’d like:

  • In the native land of zogmoppets, Evenere, there are many other mischievous swamp creatures.
  • Hiding in this human kingdom is a snarky Moonshadow Elf.
  • Another nearby person is a greedy dark mage.
  • The dark mage and Moonshadow elf hate each other, like many elves and humans do, but their stories collide at a local Evenerean seasonal dance.

See how the unused traits inspired these ideas? They all came from the brainstorming of that one little zogmoppet, adding some tone and flavor to your clean slate. Hopefully getting you eager to create even more details!

For more on these adorable zogmoppets, get yourself a copy of the Tales of Xadia Game Handbook!

Inspiration for Your Table

There’s so much more to Cortex! If you subscribe to the Tales of Xadia newsletter you can learn all about it, or watch our YouTube and Twitch channels for some playthroughs of our tales!