Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself

Crime and Punishment
Author Keith Baker
Series Campaign Style
Publisher Atlas Games
Publish date 2003

The role of the hunter is quite different from that of the typical dungeon crawler. You don’t need to kick the door in without knowing what you’re going to find, and if you’re wise you never will. If you’re dealing with an enemy who is stronger than you are – either through natural power or because you need to restrain yourself – you need every advantage you can get, and knowledge truly is power.

If you have been sent on a job, the odds are that you know something about your targets. Try to find out as much as you can before you leave. Name and appearance are vital for finding the target, but what about behavior?

Knowing a target’s alignment can help you to predict his movements and how he will react to situations and proposals. It also helps with spell selection – do you want protection from chaos or protection from law? Will detect evil let you spot your enemy? Will your holy sword inflict extra damage, or should you stick with the staff of thought disrupting?

If your enemy is a spellcaster, what are his favourite spells? Aside from knowing what to expect, this can also help you set up magical defenses like mystical opposition or protection from energy. Pay attention to saving throws – if you’re going up against an enchanter, you want the monk with the high Will save to take point; keep the barbarian with 6 Wisdom out of the way until you’re sure he won’t get charmed. If the target is a fighter, what are his preferred tactics? If he’s an expert archer, you’ll want to make sure you catch him face to face. If he’s a terror in melee, sniping may be a better alternative.

Does he use any magic items?If so, is there any way for you to counter these items? Can you steal them or catch your victim when he is separated from them?

Try to anticipate other weaknesses he may possess. If you can determine his class and guess at his statistics (Is he frail? Robust? Clumsy? Quick?), you can get a good sense of what his saves may be. If he’s a fighter, ranger, or barbarian, Fortitude will be high but he will be vulnerable on other fronts; consider using mind-altering magic. Effects like Hold Person also have the advantage of bypassing a fighter’s high hit points. A wizard or sorcerer will easily resist your enchantments, but will be vulnerable to poisons, thunderstones, and other physical effects. By planning in advance, you can make sure to hit your target with the attacks that will cause maximum damage.

If your employer can’t provide you with this information, you will have to turn to other sources. If the target is well-known in a particular area, you may be able to obtain useful data from Gather Information, Knowledge (local), or even Bardic Lore. detect magical residue can provide some sense of a target’s skills and power. And if it comes to it, there is always personal observation. The bounty hunter usually has the advantage that she knows her target’s face – but he doesn’t know hers. Once you’ve located your enemy, don’t be in a rush to attack him; observe him, see what you can find out about his patterns and behavior. Get into a conversation – can you get him to tell you anything by using Gather Information? Do you have access to detect thoughts? An investigator with the Read Character ability? Can you Spot anything interesting? This isn’t just limited to human opponents ‘ you never know if that dragon you’re after might have a chink in his armor.

It’s equally important to know your own abilities and those of your allies. If you’re facing multiple opponents, try to pick opponents ahead of time – maximize your strengths and hide your weaknesses. So the barbarian shouldn’t take on the enchanter – who would he be best suited to fight? If you set him against the rogue, who is his secondary target once the rogue has been defeated?

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