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View Full Version : Thoughts on RPG/fix design: Options vs. involvement



Yitzi
2013-07-01, 09:55 AM
I've been thinking about matters, and have come up with a theory on why it's so hard to make a good system (or system fix). Basically, it's because an RPG should ideally contain three factors:

1. It should be flexible enough to include all fantasy (or sci-fi or whatever) character archetypes. In particular, it should be able to handle things like the expert fighter who's at best worthless in diplomacy, or the scholar who's useless in a fight.
This is also important by fostering interdependence, though not strictly necessary for such,
2. It should be flexible enough to include all situations the band might find themselves in. So it should involve not just combat, but also diplomacy, puzzles, etc.
3. As a game, it's best if everyone is always involved.

The problem, of course, is that these three are mutually incompatible. If you play a scholar who doesn't fight, you're not going to be involved in combat. If you play the barbarian with no social skills, you're essentially going to sit the diplomatic scenes out. So far, there seem to be four main approaches to dealing with this:

1. Ditch #1. Have everyone relevant to every type of encounter. (This is essentially what's driving tier 1-3 design, and it leaves out some archetypes people might want to play plus makes the party less interdependent.)

2. Ditch #2. Have a pure combat game, or pure intrigue, or whatever. (This tends to make for fairly simplistic RPGs.)

3. Fit the adventures to the party. So in a party with a pure fighter, all the encounters are combat. In a party with a pure scholar, there's no combat. (Obviously you can't have both in the same party.)

4. Accept that not everyone will be relevant to every encounter, and just make sure that over the course of an adventure everyone has an equal role to play.

So...which of these do you think is best, or do you have another approach?

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-01, 10:50 AM
I think it's possible to have situations where everyone can contribute, but those who specialize can do it best. 4e or SWSE edition's skill math, for example, means that you never drop completely off the RNG. It's a designer challenge, I admit, but a fun one-- "how do I make <archetype x> function in <situation y> without compromising what makes it <archetype x>?"

The "scholar" class, for example, could have abilities that grant allies bonuses through knowledge checks ("aim for the left armpit! The scales are weaker there! -> 2d6 bonus damage. "Watch out for the fire breath-- it tends to be densest near the edges! -> +5 Reflex save).

(Combat tends to be more mechanically important from the designer's point of view because it can't be fudged with roleplaying, and needs a diverse set of options to be satisfying.)

I'm not entirely opposed to players ruling themselves out of certain situations, but it has to be a choice. It shouldn't be something you can do accidentally, and it should be something you can change your mind about later.

erikun
2013-07-01, 11:37 AM
Are you talking about design for a generic RPG system, or for any RPG system? Because I can think of systems where you don't have the freedom to create any character you'd like, and that is kind of the point. (Paranoia comes to mind.)

For #1, the system should allow players to create any character that is thematically appropriate for the system. That is, if the game is about ninja fighting monks in a tournament, then a stay-at-home computer geek wouldn't really be appropriate and the system would be fine if it didn't support them. If the game is about modern-day mundane people not doing anything fantastic, then the stay-at-home computer geek would be appropriate while the ninja fighting monk would not need to be modeled.

For #2, the game should have satisfying rules for situations that you expect to come up often, and at least guidelines on how to handle other situations. (This doesn't necessarily mean rules, but at least how the GM is expected to respond to them.) Combat is a big one in most systems, and is why you want to make it interesting enough to keep player's attention. For another example, our ninja fighting monks may need to locate a scroll in a library, but that doesn't mean we need dedicated scroll-locating rules. Simply having the GM say "You locate the scroll after several hours of searching" will work just fine. Conversely, a game about computer geeks over the internet would probably want fairly robust mechanics for searching and sorting information, as it would probably be quite relevant.

For #3, this is generally a good idea unless the game theme requires them not to be. One good example is characters getting focus on their backstory or on their character's motivation. Another would be a game like Fiasco, where two players pair off to run a scene and the others are observers (and it cycles around to who are the observers).

Needless to say, I would say "another approach" because I'm not sure what kind of RPG you're thinking of fixing/designing. The advice won't be that helpful without knowing that.

Rephath
2013-07-01, 01:25 PM
I've been thinking about matters, and have come up with a theory on why it's so hard to make a good system (or system fix). Basically, it's because an RPG should ideally contain three factors:

1. It should be flexible enough to include all fantasy (or sci-fi or whatever) character archetypes. In particular, it should be able to handle things like the expert fighter who's at best worthless in diplomacy, or the scholar who's useless in a fight.
This is also important by fostering interdependence, though not strictly necessary for such,
2. It should be flexible enough to include all situations the band might find themselves in. So it should involve not just combat, but also diplomacy, puzzles, etc.
3. As a game, it's best if everyone is always involved.

The problem, of course, is that these three are mutually incompatible. If you play a scholar who doesn't fight, you're not going to be involved in combat. If you play the barbarian with no social skills, you're essentially going to sit the diplomatic scenes out. So far, there seem to be four main approaches to dealing with this:

1. Ditch #1. Have everyone relevant to every type of encounter. (This is essentially what's driving tier 1-3 design, and it leaves out some archetypes people might want to play plus makes the party less interdependent.)

2. Ditch #2. Have a pure combat game, or pure intrigue, or whatever. (This tends to make for fairly simplistic RPGs.)

3. Fit the adventures to the party. So in a party with a pure fighter, all the encounters are combat. In a party with a pure scholar, there's no combat. (Obviously you can't have both in the same party.)

4. Accept that not everyone will be relevant to every encounter, and just make sure that over the course of an adventure everyone has an equal role to play.

So...which of these do you think is best, or do you have another approach?
I build games, so I'll answer half from a game master's perspective and half from a game designer's perspective.

I generally find that balance is important to games. One of these is a balance of challenges. You'll never want to put two of the same type of scenes next to each other. Try doing combat, then social, then puzzle, then combat, then mystery. Change things up. For example, in a dungeon full of combat and puzzles in a Zelda RPG I was running, I threw in one of those fairies that heals people. She was trapped in there and people were bored with all the fighting and puzzling so they had a ton of fun talking with her.

There also needs to be a balance of players. No player should be dominating throughout the game. Generally having characters that excel in some scenes and fail in others helps with this. Since players generally create characters that are good at the things the players want to do, the social player will have the character who acts the most during the social scene. This ends up with players having more influence over the scenes they want the most influence over, and less over what they want less influence over.

No game should consist mostly of one type of scene EVEN IF ALL THE PLAYERS PREFER THAT TYPE. No character type should dominate every scene. For instance, the magic users that excels at unravelling mysteries with his wisdom and knowledge skills plus can secretly cast mind-altering spells for social scenes and then dominate combat with powerful magic. Bores everyone else and the magic user also gets bored.

That said, everyone should be able to contribute usefully to any scene, though some are better than others. Give the fighter a feat that allows him to use his STR bonus instead of CHA for intimidation when his strength would be more of an advantage (against a merchant but not a dragon). Give the mediator some way to use social skills in combat more effectively. If everyone has something to do no one feels left out. And people who feel left out either eventually drop out of the game, mentally check out by doing some other task, or find some way to amuse themselves in-game to the derailment of the story.

To take an example from Shadowrun, there's a way to use ritual magic in a scene to do some amazing stuff. But you can only participate in the ritual if you are a mage of the same tradition as the other mages who know the same spell. So if your party has two shamans who know invisibility, one shaman who knows illusion but not invisibility, one hermetic mage who knows invisibility, a hacker, and a gunman you have two people who are active in the scene where a big invisibility spell is being cast.

I also like systems with flexible, adaptable rules, like FATE. Any decent game will have rules for the most common situations, but if your system is flexible you can adapt it easily to any situation.


TL;DR Summary: Everyone should be relevant to every scene, but some scenes rely more on some characters than others. And campaigns need to have a variety of scenes to keep things interesting. People get bored of doing any one type of thing too often.

Yitzi
2013-07-01, 03:25 PM
I think it's possible to have situations where everyone can contribute, but those who specialize can do it best. 4e or SWSE edition's skill math, for example, means that you never drop completely off the RNG. It's a designer challenge, I admit, but a fun one-- "how do I make <archetype x> function in <situation y> without compromising what makes it <archetype x>?"

The "scholar" class, for example, could have abilities that grant allies bonuses through knowledge checks ("aim for the left armpit! The scales are weaker there! -> 2d6 bonus damage. "Watch out for the fire breath-- it tends to be densest near the edges! -> +5 Reflex save).

That could do it for that archetype, as it does fit in with the archetype as it exists. More of a question would be how the fighter character* could be useful in diplomatic situations. (Intimidate might work sometimes, but what about when that's not the best approach?)

*Say, Sergeant Schlock from Schlock Mercenary, if you're familiar with that. Including him in negotiations generally doesn't work out well.


(Combat tends to be more mechanically important from the designer's point of view because it can't be fudged with roleplaying, and needs a diverse set of options to be satisfying.)

Not necessarily. A good system will use mechanics to enhance the roleplaying of negotiations, and that really enhances the game.


I'm not entirely opposed to players ruling themselves out of certain situations, but it has to be a choice. It shouldn't be something you can do accidentally, and it should be something you can change your mind about later.

Hmm...so maybe the best approach to deal with this would be a more modular system than D&D, so that someone can decide whether to pick up something for each situation.


Are you talking about design for a generic RPG system, or for any RPG system? Because I can think of systems where you don't have the freedom to create any character you'd like, and that is kind of the point. (Paranoia comes to mind.)

I'm thinking mainly of a D&D-style thing; niche systems would affect things.


For #1, the system should allow players to create any character that is thematically appropriate for the system. That is, if the game is about ninja fighting monks in a tournament, then a stay-at-home computer geek wouldn't really be appropriate and the system would be fine if it didn't support them. If the game is about modern-day mundane people not doing anything fantastic, then the stay-at-home computer geek would be appropriate while the ninja fighting monk would not need to be modeled.

True. I'm thinking of d20-sort RPGs.


Needless to say, I would say "another approach" because I'm not sure what kind of RPG you're thinking of fixing/designing. The advice won't be that helpful without knowing that.

Basically, assume it's meant to run the same sort of games as D&D (but without D&D's flaws), and let's see if something can be done there.


I generally find that balance is important to games. One of these is a balance of challenges. You'll never want to put two of the same type of scenes next to each other. Try doing combat, then social, then puzzle, then combat, then mystery. Change things up. For example, in a dungeon full of combat and puzzles in a Zelda RPG I was running, I threw in one of those fairies that heals people. She was trapped in there and people were bored with all the fighting and puzzling so they had a ton of fun talking with her.

That's basically a benefit of goal #2.


That said, everyone should be able to contribute usefully to any scene, though some are better than others. Give the fighter a feat that allows him to use his STR bonus instead of CHA for intimidation when his strength would be more of an advantage (against a merchant but not a dragon).

That's good for social scenes where intimidation is advisable, but what about social scenes where trying to intimidate the other guy is a bad move? How can the fighter contribute usefully there?

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-01, 04:13 PM
That could do it for that archetype, as it does fit in with the archetype as it exists. More of a question would be how the fighter character* could be useful in diplomatic situations. (Intimidate might work sometimes, but what about when that's not the best approach?)

*Say, Sergeant Schlock from Schlock Mercenary, if you're familiar with that. Including him in negotiations generally doesn't work out well.
The obvious first step is to make all skills available to all classes. Thus, if a fighter wants to be able to talk, he can invest in his persuasion skills. The second step is to make sure that it's not possible to fall too far off the RNG scale-- I like the 4e/SWSE method of adding half your level.

Let's look at 3 characters, all at ~10th level. Let's also assume that a reasonable DC at this level is 20-- 10+level.

Sergeant Schlock doesn't particularly care about negotiations, although he has an excellent Intimidate skill. When forced (at gunpoint, probably) to talk, his modifier to Persuade might be, oh, +5. That's enough that he has a shot at making the DC, especially if there are action points or something in play.

Commander Kevyn does care about negotiations, and he's picked up some training in Persuade. His modifier might be, say, +10-- enough to give him a reasonable chance of success.

Admiral Berya loves negotiations. Her Persuade modifier might only be a few points higher than Roy's, but she'll have a set of special abilities that apply to the situation. She has a reasonable chance of hitting the DC, but she also has the ability to change the scenario.

Looking at another area-- crafting-- Berya may have a low modifier (doesn't care), Schlock might have the +10 (capable), and Kevyn will have special abilities.

In a third area, Schlock has special combat abilities, Berya is capable, and Kevyn is outclassed but able to contribute.


Not necessarily. A good system will use mechanics to enhance the roleplaying of negotiations, and that really enhances the game.
Of course


Hmm...so maybe the best approach to deal with this would be a more modular system than D&D, so that someone can decide whether to pick up something for each situation.
Modular, perhaps. I think the most important thing is for there to be a default of "some investment."

Say you get 4 trained skills advancing at 1 rank/level, and all others advancing at 1 rank/2 levels. You can choose to downgrade a skill to no advancement in order to pick another trained skill. Thus, the paladin can choose not to be stealthy, but the fighter doesn't have to completely abandon diplomacy if he doesn't want it.

Yitzi
2013-07-01, 05:39 PM
The obvious first step is to make all skills available to all classes. Thus, if a fighter wants to be able to talk, he can invest in his persuasion skills.

Though there probably should be bonuses of various sorts; a con man will be better at persuasion than a fighter, but if you want to play a fighter you can.


The second step is to make sure that it's not possible to fall too far off the RNG scale-- I like the 4e/SWSE method of adding half your level.

So there should be a nontrivial chance of success even when doing something you're not that good at? That could help things...

I don't like the idea of adding half your level, though...what you really want, to avoid falling off the RNG scale, is that the difference in probability between a specialist, a semi-specialist, and a nonspecialist should not increase substantially as you level.

Now, that can be done by giving everyone the same amount depending on level, and then a bonus depending on specialization, but I don't really like that idea. However, having specialization allow rerolls (taking the best), and untrained-ness require rerolls (taking the worst) might work well.


Sergeant Schlock doesn't particularly care about negotiations, although he has an excellent Intimidate skill. When forced (at gunpoint, probably) to talk, his modifier to Persuade might be, oh, +5. That's enough that he has a shot at making the DC, especially if there are action points or something in play.

Commander Kevyn does care about negotiations, and he's picked up some training in Persuade. His modifier might be, say, +10-- enough to give him a reasonable chance of success.

Admiral Berya loves negotiations. Her Persuade modifier might only be a few points higher than Roy's, but she'll have a set of special abilities that apply to the situation. She has a reasonable chance of hitting the DC, but she also has the ability to change the scenario.

The question then is, if Breya is present, why would Schlock be involved at all? Why can't his player just sit the scene out?


Modular, perhaps. I think the most important thing is for there to be a default of "some investment."

Or at least advancement even without investment.

I'm thinking having each skill or ability be at one of five levels: Inept means you roll three times and take the worst. Untrained (the default) means you roll twice and take the worse. Trained means you roll once and that's your result. Specialist means you roll twice and take the best, and expert means you roll three times and take the best. If you switch in the middle, you'd end up with different modifiers on the rolls (for the above-trained ones) or picking which method to use after you roll (for the below-trained ones.)

Durazno
2013-07-01, 06:01 PM
There are a few different ways that socially unskilled characters could be useful in social situations.

1) Intimidation, either actively or just by being there and looming.

2) Particular knowledge in their area of interest. However charming your party face might be, a grizzled fighter explaining why the town can't possibly stand against the advancing army of orcs is probably a lot more convincing. (It depends on how pragmatic the person you're trying to convince is, I suppose.)

3) Being unpolished could make people either trust them (they don't seem "fake") or latch on to them as potential targets for manipulation - a real mistake when the rest of the party around.

4) Being a social wrecking ball, which includes screwing things up in fortuitous ways, provoking manipulators into tipping their hands, making a scene that distracts everyone from another character's faux pas, et cetera.

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-01, 06:35 PM
Though there probably should be bonuses of various sorts; a con man will be better at persuasion than a fighter, but if you want to play a fighter you can.
I'm suggesting that the difference come from class/feat abilities. More interesting than bigger numbers, and helps keep RNG in line.


Now, that can be done by giving everyone the same amount depending on level, and then a bonus depending on specialization, but I don't really like that idea. However, having specialization allow rerolls (taking the best), and untrained-ness require rerolls (taking the worst) might work well.
Maybe. That's how skill training works in my (non-d20) homebrew system. Can't really judge it in isolation of the math.


The question then is, if Breya is present, why would Schlock be involved at all? Why can't his player just sit the scene out?
That's a function of your social conflict system. If the mechanics allow it (as, say, D&D does), the character with the highest modifier will do all the talking, whatever the difference is. Outside of some kind of social conflict system with a turn order, the biggest reason he'd be involved is that the player has some ideas for what to say and/or doesn't want to just sit there.

Yitzi
2013-07-01, 07:38 PM
There are a few different ways that socially unskilled characters could be useful in social situations.

1) Intimidation, either actively or just by being there and looming.

2) Particular knowledge in their area of interest. However charming your party face might be, a grizzled fighter explaining why the town can't possibly stand against the advancing army of orcs is probably a lot more convincing. (It depends on how pragmatic the person you're trying to convince is, I suppose.)

3) Being unpolished could make people either trust them (they don't seem "fake") or latch on to them as potential targets for manipulation - a real mistake when the rest of the party around.

4) Being a social wrecking ball, which includes screwing things up in fortuitous ways, provoking manipulators into tipping their hands, making a scene that distracts everyone from another character's faux pas, et cetera.

All of those are potential roles at times, and good ideas for those times. But often, none of them will be relevant.


I'm suggesting that the difference come from class/feat abilities. More interesting than bigger numbers, and helps keep RNG in line.

Whereas I feel that the class/feat abilities should be what you get for actually investing in an ability, and synergies should be primarily numeric, plus maybe a discount on the bigger abilities.


Maybe. That's how skill training works in my (non-d20) homebrew system.

That might be where I got the idea from. I was thinking it'd work nicely with a 3d6 system.


That's a function of your social conflict system. If the mechanics allow it (as, say, D&D does), the character with the highest modifier will do all the talking, whatever the difference is. Outside of some kind of social conflict system with a turn order, the biggest reason he'd be involved is that the player has some ideas for what to say and/or doesn't want to just sit there.

Which raises the question...if he doesn't want to just sit there, but doesn't have any ideas that fit with the character, how can he be involved? Or should he be involved in that case?

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-01, 07:59 PM
Whereas I feel that the class/feat abilities should be what you get for actually investing in an ability, and synergies should be primarily numeric, plus maybe a discount on the bigger abilities.
So you see:
*Low numbers (no investment)
*Low numbers and abilities (investment)
*High numbers and abilities (investment and class abilities)?


That might be where I got the idea from. I was thinking it'd work nicely with a 3d6 system.
With a 3d6... yeah, being able to reroll individual dice from that pool would be cool.


Which raises the question...if he doesn't want to just sit there, but doesn't have any ideas that fit with the character, how can he be involved? Or should he be involved in that case?
If you want to do something but can't think of anything your character would be doing? Sounds like a non-system-related problem.

Yitzi
2013-07-01, 11:31 PM
So you see:
*Low numbers (no investment)
*Low numbers and abilities (investment)
*High numbers and abilities (investment and class abilities)?


Actually, I'm thinking a better approach might be to have each ability be theoretically available to everyone, but it comes with a penalty (the stronger the ability, the bigger the penalty) that becomes prohibitive if it's not offset/reduced by more specialization. After all, there's no reason the average guy can never get lucky and manage what normally would be a specialist's feat, it's just not very likely to work.

The idea would be that there'd be two factors: Your chance of success on a particular roll, which would be determined by the general difficulty as compared to your level (as a bell curve), with a small bonus if you specialized in a related area, and the number of tries you get (or number of successes you need), which depends on your specialization and how fancy what you're trying to do is.


With a 3d6... yeah, being able to reroll individual dice from that pool would be cool.

I was thinking rerolling the whole thing. Rerolling individual dice might be too much, and would be harder to scale for someone who doesn't take the same amount every level.


If you want to do something but can't think of anything your character would be doing? Sounds like a non-system-related problem.

I suppose that makes sense. Combat's fairly easy to find something for people to do, and roleplaying-heavy stuff or puzzles there's always "give ideas, either normally or via the party wizard's telepathy."

erikun
2013-07-01, 11:51 PM
I'm thinking mainly of a D&D-style thing; niche systems would affect things.
One thing I should point out is that, in older versions of D&D (2nd edition and before), there was assumed to be a shift in focus around 10th character level or so. At that point, PCs began acquiring followers for their class, not to mention the change from rolling dice for HP gain over to a flat HP bonus each level. It was somewhat assumed that PCs would build castles and temples (at least assumed by the books) and have a base of operations to work from. Several higher level spells were no doubt made with this idea in mind.

D&D 3rd edition and beyond seemed to have forgotten this part, and as such, you'll run into legacy stuff (especially spells) that seem very odd for a wandering adventurer to have and prepare.

If you're going to be making a system like D&D, you'd probably want to consider if you want it to be the always-adventuring D&D that 3rd/4th edition tries to invoke, or the adventuring forth from home bases that AD&D and some games like RuneQuest occasionally uses. Heck, if you're aware of the difference, you can intentionally create different sets of "adventuring" options and "fortification" options for players to use, whichever they prefer.


An example: Does an adventuring spellcaster make much use out of Consecrate (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/consecrate.htm) or Bless Water (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/blessWater.htm) or Phantom Trap (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/phantomTrap.htm)? No, probably not, because it isn't much use against a wandering monster. You'd get wizards and clerics who use such spells, but only when at home and when swapping out their entire spell list to prepare them - a feature that just leaves out sorcerers and favored souls.

However, if Consecrate was something that anyone with the appropriate preparation and divine knowledge could carry out, and if Phantom Trap was something that anyone with the arcane know-how could put together, then you wouldn't have to worry about sorcerers falling behind for not memorizing such spells. Heck, you wouldn't have to leave non-casters like fighters out of the whole house-protection system, and you might encourage said fighters to beef up their intelligence/knowledge checks with it.

Other thoughts to come at a later date.

the_david
2013-07-02, 12:20 AM
Get rid of everything. You don't need classes, feats, levels, races, skills and spells. The only things you do need is 1 or 2 physical stats, 1 mental stat, and a way to determine HP.

Less is more, check out X-treme Dungeon Mastery or Microlite20.

Yitzi
2013-07-02, 07:03 AM
One thing I should point out is that, in older versions of D&D (2nd edition and before), there was assumed to be a shift in focus around 10th character level or so. At that point, PCs began acquiring followers for their class, not to mention the change from rolling dice for HP gain over to a flat HP bonus each level. It was somewhat assumed that PCs would build castles and temples (at least assumed by the books) and have a base of operations to work from. Several higher level spells were no doubt made with this idea in mind.

And that's worth restoring, definitely. Conan became a king, Tarma and Kethry started their school...it's got precedent in the stories, and makes for better gameplay as well.
But I don't see what it has to do with my question, which applies just as much in earlier levels and isn't really affected by there being a bunch of followers.


If you're going to be making a system like D&D, you'd probably want to consider if you want it to be the always-adventuring D&D that 3rd/4th edition tries to invoke, or the adventuring forth from home bases that AD&D and some games like RuneQuest occasionally uses. Heck, if you're aware of the difference, you can intentionally create different sets of "adventuring" options and "fortification" options for players to use, whichever they prefer.

Again, great ideas, but not really what this thread is looking for help with.


Get rid of everything. You don't need classes, feats, levels, races, skills and spells. The only things you do need is 1 or 2 physical stats, 1 mental stat, and a way to determine HP.

Less is more, check out X-treme Dungeon Mastery or Microlite20.

So according to your suggestion, how do you distinguish between a socially savvy character and an absent-minded professor, for instance? How do you track the fact that people grow in skill? How do you record what things they've specialized in?

What you describe is probably sufficient for a combat game, but an RPG is not a combat game.

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-02, 08:20 AM
Actually, I'm thinking a better approach might be to have each ability be theoretically available to everyone, but it comes with a penalty (the stronger the ability, the bigger the penalty) that becomes prohibitive if it's not offset/reduced by more specialization. After all, there's no reason the average guy can never get lucky and manage what normally would be a specialist's feat, it's just not very likely to work.

The idea would be that there'd be two factors: Your chance of success on a particular roll, which would be determined by the general difficulty as compared to your level (as a bell curve), with a small bonus if you specialized in a related area, and the number of tries you get (or number of successes you need), which depends on your specialization and how fancy what you're trying to do is.
I'm afraid I'm not seeing it...


Get rid of everything. You don't need classes, feats, levels, races, skills and spells. The only things you do need is 1 or 2 physical stats, 1 mental stat, and a way to determine HP.

Less is more, check out X-treme Dungeon Mastery or Microlite20.
You can always get lighter, but that doesn't mean you want to. Rules-light and rule-heavy systems have different roles and scratch different itches. When looking at a rules-heavy thing like d20 systems usually are, saying "turn it into a rules-light thing" isn't very useful. (Especially since you gave no ideas on the issue of specialization and role).

Grinner
2013-07-02, 09:01 AM
I feel that the discussion so far fails to address the actual problem.

In-game, people ultimately want to be successful, and that's hard to do when you're sidelined. From what I've seen, the discussion has turned to enabling characters to do everything but less proficiently than characters specialized in the given task. The problem is that being able to do something ineffectually is practically the same as being unable to do it, particularly when the rules discourage failure. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=235790)

Instead of asking ourselves "How can this character contribute?", I think we should ask ourselves "How can this character turn his particular talents or qualities into an advantage here?".

FATE has already answered this question, I'm afraid, but narrative systems aren't everyone's cup of tea. I've been thinking though, and perhaps a minigame-based approach would work better than a skill check-based approach? If you think about it, combat in many RPGs is a complex minigame, but out-of-combat actions are relegated to simple dice rolls. In other words, the former is a series of player decisions modified by dice rolls, but the latter is a series of dice rolls modified by player decisions.

Let's take our antisocial swordsman as an example. He may not be charming, but persuasion and negotiation aren't about how silver your tongue is. They're about what you have to trade. Social acumen might help you sell it or just outright lie about it, but they don't change the fact that you have to have something to offer. (I would recommend taking a look at Rule of Cool's Legend, for it has a very good persuasion mechanic.) The good thing is that the offer doesn't necessarily need to be tangible. Plenty of people will make trades for promises, services, and good feelings.

On the other hand, not every act of persuasion is about trade. Sometimes, it's about convincing someone that a particular course of action is the only correct course of action. This becomes more difficult if they have no motivation for doing so, and even more difficult if their fundamental values are in opposition to this, naturally. Take Charles Manson, for instance...

Certain actions can't be turned into a minigame. Lockpicking for instance is a definite skill. You can't sweet-talk your way past it. The same goes for writing computer programs or pretty much anything else that requires specific technical knowledge. But anything that can be viewed as a large procedure (or a series of skill checks) can be turned into a minigame. Car chases, infiltration, etc.

Yitzi
2013-07-02, 09:53 AM
I'm afraid I'm not seeing it...

Actually, I've reconsidered and think opposed dice pools, with the ability to use more general skills with an extra penalty roll might be a better idea.

It gets a bit fancy (and with a fair amount of rolling; you'll want more than one die like most dice-pool systems), but the math should work out well.


In-game, people ultimately want to be successful, and that's hard to do when you're sidelined. From what I've seen, the discussion has turned to enabling characters to do everything but less proficiently than characters specialized in the given task. The problem is that being able to do something ineffectually is practically the same as being unable to do it, particularly when the rules discourage failure. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=235790)

Exactly. Enabling characters to do things less proficiently than specialists is a good idea because it increases party options, but it doesn't really deal with the base problem in the OP.


Instead of asking ourselves "How can this character contribute?", I think we should ask ourselves "How can this character turn his particular talents or qualities into an advantage here?".

Ideally yes...the problem is making that work for all sets of talents/qualities and all situations seems impossible.


FATE has already answered this question

Please elaborate. It might have some worthwhile ideas that are usable in a non-narrative system.


I've been thinking though, and perhaps a minigame-based approach would work better than a skill check-based approach?

It would help; even something as simply as having one skill to persuade the guy that what you say is right, another to get a friendly relationship, another to figure out what he wants, and another to actually try to get him to do what you want would be a big help.

But while it would help, it still means that someone with none of the relevant abilities won't be able to contribute in a way that makes use of their character build.


Let's take our antisocial swordsman as an example. He may not be charming, but persuasion and negotiation aren't about how silver your tongue is. They're about what you have to trade.

Not fully true, but to some extent. He certainly can make a deal on his own because he has something to offer. But what if he's in the party with an expert negotiator? Now the negotiator has the same thing to offer (as it's the whole party that's offering it) plus a silver tongue, so he's a better choice to negotiate, and what's the swordsman going to contribute?

If not for the "find the weakness" and "morale bonuses" ideas, there'd be the same problems for the scholar and negotiator in combat, and that is a minigame. So making it a minigame will mitigate the problem, but not remove it.

Grinner
2013-07-02, 12:08 PM
Please elaborate. It might have some worthwhile ideas that are usable in a non-narrative system.

Essentially, if you can describe it, you can make it happen. In FATE Core, there's a number of skills, and every skill has four usages: Overcome, Create Advantage, Attack, and Defend. If you can say how a given skill can apply to a given situation, you can roll on it. You never need a specifically worded skill usage to do something.

There's also Aspects, which are descriptions of certain qualities about your character. These can factor into skills, giving either bonuses or penalties depending on the circumstances.

Say your character gets into a fight and is stabbed in the leg. Now bleeding profusely and having gained an Aspect to match, any action that involves athletics would now reasonably be rolled at a penalty, but efforts to invoke pity could be rolled at a bonus.


It would help; even something as simply as having one skill to persuade the guy that what you say is right, another to get a friendly relationship, another to figure out what he wants, and another to actually try to get him to do what you want would be a big help.

But while it would help, it still means that someone with none of the relevant abilities won't be able to contribute in a way that makes use of their character build.


Not fully true, but to some extent. He certainly can make a deal on his own because he has something to offer. But what if he's in the party with an expert negotiator? Now the negotiator has the same thing to offer (as it's the whole party that's offering it) plus a silver tongue, so he's a better choice to negotiate, and what's the swordsman going to contribute?

If not for the "find the weakness" and "morale bonuses" ideas, there'd be the same problems for the scholar and negotiator in combat, and that is a minigame. So making it a minigame will mitigate the problem, but not remove it.

Good points. Darn. I thought I was onto something there.

Just to Browse
2013-07-02, 12:23 PM
Ditch #1. Always ditch #1.

Yitzi
2013-07-02, 12:24 PM
Essentially, if you can describe it, you can make it happen. In FATE Core, there's a number of skills, and every skill has four usages: Overcome, Create Advantage, Attack, and Defend. If you can say how a given skill can apply to a given situation, you can roll on it. You never need a specifically worded skill usage to do something.

There's also Aspects, which are descriptions of certain qualities about your character. These can factor into skills, giving either bonuses or penalties depending on the circumstances.

Say your character gets into a fight and is stabbed in the leg. Now bleeding profusely and having gained an Aspect to match, any action that involves athletics would now reasonably be rolled at a penalty, but efforts to invoke pity could be rolled at a bonus.

Even with that, how can a character be useful in a situation where none of his skills are relevant?

Grinner
2013-07-02, 12:42 PM
Even with that, how can a character be useful in a situation where none of his skills are relevant?

Create an aspect. You get ten different skills (admittedly at different ratings) out of a total of eighteen. You should have something to contribute, even if you don't get to be the star of the show.

Yitzi
2013-07-02, 02:32 PM
Create an aspect. You get ten different skills (admittedly at different ratings) out of a total of eighteen. You should have something to contribute, even if you don't get to be the star of the show.

The problem is that then you run into the problem you mentioned earlier: Being able to do something ineffectually is practically the same as being unable to do it.

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-02, 02:45 PM
The problem is that then you run into the problem you mentioned earlier: Being able to do something ineffectually is practically the same as being unable to do it.
Any system which allows specialization will discourage non-specialist involvement, unless the task needs multiple people but is rare enough that you can't fit multiple specialists in the party.

Yitzi
2013-07-02, 02:50 PM
Any system which allows specialization will discourage non-specialist involvement, unless the task needs multiple people but is rare enough that you can't fit multiple specialists in the party.

Yeah, so the question is whether to go that route, or make sure to have everyone relevant to every task (or if there's a way to eat your cake and have it too). Just to Browse seems to be saying to have everyone relevant to every task, whereas the rest of you seem to be saying that's not worth the cost of not having real specialization.

Grinner
2013-07-02, 03:47 PM
The problem is that then you run into the problem you mentioned earlier: Being able to do something ineffectually is practically the same as being unable to do it.

You're still thinking from a D&D background. The one with the most applicable skills will be taking lead, yes, but the others can give him a lift through their own skills.

The core book probably explains it better than I. (http://www.rpgnow.com/product/114903/Fate-Core-System)

Anyway, the one flaw in making everyone directly relevant is that it makes everyone similar. The differences that separate each character mechanically are brought low, stripping them of their uniqueness. For some games, this works. Generally, those are the ones which are extremely narrow in their focus. Others place higher priority on those essential differences.

Arcane_Snowman
2013-07-02, 03:52 PM
Yeah, so the question is whether to go that route, or make sure to have everyone relevant to every task (or if there's a way to eat your cake and have it too). Just to Browse seems to be saying to have everyone relevant to every task, whereas the rest of you seem to be saying that's not worth the cost of not having real specialization.
I personally think that having everyone be able to succeed at any given task isn't a bad idea, but having everyone able to be roughly equally successful is a horrible decision, people should be rewarded for deciding to focus on a given task. One way in which to reward more skills is to make a more granular success curve, see Dark Heresy's Degrees of success as an example.

As an aside changing the dice rolling process could also assist in making everything closer in terms numbers, making it possible to attain the same numbers, but giving the specialist something extra. Take Legend of the Five Rings for example, where you roll a dice for every point in your skill + attribute and keep a number of dice equal to your attribute, with a high skill it's possible to roll many dice, but only utilize a few, giving you a more reliable outcome rather than a necessarily better one.

All of this was written in haste, will expand more on my thoughts when I get back from work.

Yitzi
2013-07-02, 04:47 PM
You're still thinking from a D&D background. The one with the most applicable skills will be taking lead, yes, but the others can give him a lift through their own skills.

Ah, sort of like "aid another" in D&D, but probably somewhat better.

The question is: Will there be cases such as diplomacy where such a "lift" wouldn't make sense in terms of the roleplay?


I personally think that having everyone be able to succeed at any given task isn't a bad idea, but having everyone able to be roughly equally successful is a horrible decision

The problem is, for tasks that only one person can do (just because that's the nature of the task roleplaying-wise), they're pretty much the same.

Even if it's made into a minigame like combat, there's only so many relevant skills. For instance:

The party needs to convince the king to deploy his navy to fight pirates. So the cleric has the highest Diplomacy score, so he presents the case to the king. The rogue uses Sense Motive to figure out how things are progressing, and the wizard uses his Telepathy spell to let the rogue inform the cleric of what he discovers, plus suggest some ideas of his own (being fairly bright). The fighter ???


As an aside changing the dice rolling process could also assist in making everything closer in terms numbers, making it possible to attain the same numbers, but giving the specialist something extra.

Yeah, the dice rolling I can probably find something to suit what's needed. But even assuming dice rolling to match the probabilities I want, it's still problematic.

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-02, 05:06 PM
Ah, sort of like "aid another" in D&D, but probably somewhat better.

The question is: Will there be cases such as diplomacy where such a "lift" wouldn't make sense in terms of the roleplay?
As a game designer, "won't make sense in terms of the roleplay" isn't your problem, so long as the issue doesn't stem from the fluff you wrote. If a player wants to play big-stupid-fighter-who-doesn't-talk-good, he's going to play that character regardless of what you do to make him viable in a diplomacy situation.

That being said, good aid another rules and a RNG that never leaves too much difference between progressions will take you a long way towards ensuring that everyone can contribute.


As a side note, Fate Accelerated edition has a much more interesting (and more narrative) way of handling skills than Fate, which is honestly pretty straightforwards skill-wise. It uses approaches instead of specific skills, so instead of having "Good (+3) Presence," you'd have "Good (+3) Forceful." But you can do anything forcefully, as long as you can justify it-- bulling past a swordsman's guard and dominating the conversation world both be Forceful actions.

Grinner
2013-07-02, 05:15 PM
Ah, sort of like "aid another" in D&D, but probably somewhat better.

The question is: Will there be cases such as diplomacy where such a "lift" wouldn't make sense in terms of the roleplay?

Maybe? I don't know, really. It would be highly specific, since there's a bunch of social skills plus one for bribery. Then there's also indirectly applicable skills which could be used to create advantageous Aspects, depending on the circumstances. I'd need an example.


As a side note, Fate Accelerated edition has a much more interesting (and more narrative) way of handling skills than Fate, which is honestly pretty straightforwards skill-wise. It uses approaches instead of specific skills, so instead of having "Good (+3) Presence," you'd have "Good (+3) Forceful." But you can do anything forcefully, as long as you can justify it-- bulling past a swordsman's guard and dominating the conversation world both be Forceful actions.

That's a good point. You know, I once saw a system whose base attributes were personality traits...

erikun
2013-07-02, 05:21 PM
Ah, sort of like "aid another" in D&D, but probably somewhat better.

The question is: Will there be cases such as diplomacy where such a "lift" wouldn't make sense in terms of the roleplay?
There will be times when a particular skill is not appropriate for a situation, and it is up to the GM to determine when that is. I can't think of a situation where no other skills are appropriate for the situation.

Or rather, I can, but they are only the "roll Use Rope to see how well you tied the rope" situations. You'd want to see if those situations you really want to keep in the game.


The problem is, for tasks that only one person can do (just because that's the nature of the task roleplaying-wise), they're pretty much the same.

Even if it's made into a minigame like combat, there's only so many relevant skills. For instance:

The party needs to convince the king to deploy his navy to fight pirates. So the cleric has the highest Diplomacy score, so he presents the case to the king. The rogue uses Sense Motive to figure out how things are progressing, and the wizard uses his Telepathy spell to let the rogue inform the cleric of what he discovers, plus suggest some ideas of his own (being fairly bright). The fighter ???
The fighter is knowledgeable about martial tactics and warface, not to mention familiarity with bandits and so possibilities of where their hideout might be located or how to tail them effectively.

Of course, this relies on characters having varied skills. D&D has a bad habit of "Guy who can swing weapons and do nothing else, Guy who can use magic and do nothing else, Guy who can roll of skills and do nothing else" that you'd likely want to avoid. Part of using levels is, at least, to ensure that a character improves what they need to when leveling up. Make sure that the Fighter can be good at things beyond hitting things with a sword, just as your Wizard is good at things other than Fireball and your Rogue is good at things besides Move Silently and Disable Device.

Yitzi
2013-07-02, 08:22 PM
As a game designer, "won't make sense in terms of the roleplay" isn't your problem, so long as the issue doesn't stem from the fluff you wrote. If a player wants to play big-stupid-fighter-who-doesn't-talk-good, he's going to play that character regardless of what you do to make him viable in a diplomacy situation.

Maybe I wasn't clear...my concern is that certain skills don't really make sense to having aid another work. How would you aid another with diplomacy, for instance?


Maybe? I don't know, really. It would be highly specific, since there's a bunch of social skills plus one for bribery. Then there's also indirectly applicable skills which could be used to create advantageous Aspects, depending on the circumstances. I'd need an example.

Oh, you mean they'd give a lift via skills other than the one he's using. That could work, if there are enough such skills, which don't have to be done by the same person. Let's see how many we can think of.

-Persuade (action): Persuade someone to do something.
-Diplomacy: Make people like you. Really needs to be the same person doing persuade (action), as being friendly with someone won't have a lot of effect when his friend tries to get you to do something.
-Persuade (fact): Persuade someone that something is true. Includes bluff.
-Intimidate: Get someone to be cooperative out of fear rather than friendship or self-interest. Not compatible with most of the others.

And that's all I can think of. You have any ideas for other relevant skills?


There will be times when a particular skill is not appropriate for a situation, and it is up to the GM to determine when that is. I can't think of a situation where no other skills are appropriate for the situation.

True that there will always be several skills relevant to the situation, but if the number is less than the number of players and people can't help each other with the same skill, you're going to run into a problem.


The fighter is knowledgeable about martial tactics and warface, not to mention familiarity with bandits and so possibilities of where their hideout might be located or how to tail them effectively.

That's why I used "persuade him to deploy troops" and not "persuade him how to beat the pirates"; I'm looking at cases where the fighter's (or whoever's) knowledge will not be particularly relevant.

Corwin Icewolf
2013-07-02, 08:47 PM
How would you aid another with diplomacy?

Simple:

Guy 1: good sir, I do not believe this half rotting bag lunch is quite worth 7, 000, 000, 000, 000 gp. I will instead offer you the sum of 2 cp.

Guy 2: I agree, a half rotting paper bag lunch is not worth enough gold for a Great Wyrm to rest its head upon. 2 cp is a much more reasonable price, though I for one would be loathe to offer more than one cp.

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-02, 08:48 PM
Maybe I wasn't clear...my concern is that certain skills don't really make sense to having aid another work. How would you aid another with diplomacy, for instance?
My bad. OK, to answer your actual question... well, it depends on how good your rationalizing skills are. Aid Another on a persuasive skill could be:


A simple gesture of agreement.
Refute one of the target's points.
Make a emotional plea to completment a more rational line (or vice-versa)
Deliver your own speech along the lines of the first guy's-- a team check type deal.

Yitzi
2013-07-02, 10:39 PM
Simple:

Guy 1: good sir, I do not believe this half rotting bag lunch is quite worth 7, 000, 000, 000, 000 gp. I will instead offer you the sum of 2 cp.

Guy 2: I agree, a half rotting paper bag lunch is not worth enough gold for a Great Wyrm to rest its head upon. 2 cp is a much more reasonable price, though I for one would be loathe to offer more than one cp.

And if they're all clearly working together, the second guy will be pretty much ignored; of course he's going to agree with his fellow party member.


My bad. OK, to answer your actual question... well, it depends on how good your rationalizing skills are. Aid Another on a persuasive skill could be:


A simple gesture of agreement.
Refute one of the target's points.
Make a emotional plea to completment a more rational line (or vice-versa)
Deliver your own speech along the lines of the first guy's-- a team check type deal.


#1 isn't going to accomplish anything if they're clearly working together. #4 will likewise not be very effective in such a case.
#2 and #3 are both relevant options; however, that's really only a role for two characters: Rational/logic/fact-based, and emotional/friendship-based. Assuming the traditional size of 4, you could probably add in one or two more who's taking a non-frontal role...which is fine when that "one or two" is two, but still leaves someone out when there's only room for one non-frontal role, or when you get overlap.

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-02, 10:47 PM
And if they're all clearly working together, the second guy will be pretty much ignored; of course he's going to agree with his fellow party member.
...
#1 isn't going to accomplish anything if they're clearly working together. #4 will likewise not be very effective in such a case.
#2 and #3 are both relevant options; however, that's really only a role for two characters: Rational/logic/fact-based, and emotional/friendship-based. Assuming the traditional size of 4, you could probably add in one or two more who's taking a non-frontal role...which is fine when that "one or two" is two, but still leaves someone out when there's only room for one non-frontal role, or when you get overlap.
You asked for examples of how "aid another" could work with diplomacy, I gave you a few. Don't over-think it and get bogged down in the details. (Unless you're moving on to designing a social combat system)

Also... just because they're "working together" (and it's not necessarily going to be obvious in all situations) doesn't mean that anything the second person said is going to be ignored. It might not have as much impact, but that's why it's a check to provide a bonus, not the two check results added together.

Think of it this way: which is harder to disagree with, one guy making an argument, or five guys saying making the same argument?

Yitzi
2013-07-03, 07:14 AM
Think of it this way: which is harder to disagree with, one guy making an argument, or five guys saying making the same argument?

If the five guys are one guy making an argument and his four cronies echoing him, they're probably easier to disagree with, as then you can label him as "a guy who uses yes-men", who is of course less likely to be right.

If they use slightly different arguments, then they're harder to disagree with, but there are only so many arguments for a given thing.

Likewise if they're not obviously working together, but that's not a situation they'll always be in, so there will be some situations where some characters don't get a role. Question is: Is that a problem, and if so how can it be fixed?

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-03, 07:57 AM
If the five guys are one guy making an argument and his four cronies echoing him, they're probably easier to disagree with, as then you can label him as "a guy who uses yes-men", who is of course less likely to be right.

If they use slightly different arguments, then they're harder to disagree with, but there are only so many arguments for a given thing.

Likewise if they're not obviously working together, but that's not a situation they'll always be in, so there will be some situations where some characters don't get a role. Question is: Is that a problem, and if so how can it be fixed?
If they're just standing there saying "uh-huh," that's a bad Diplomacy check, and they don't grant the Aid Another bonus. If they make a persuasive argument that complements the original, that's a successful check. Don't fall in the trap of requiring your players to have good talk-y skills to contribute to talk-y encounters.

So, no, it's not a problem, in my opinion.

Grinner
2013-07-03, 08:07 AM
Oh, you mean they'd give a lift via skills other than the one he's using. That could work, if there are enough such skills, which don't have to be done by the same person. Let's see how many we can think of.

-Persuade (action): Persuade someone to do something.
-Diplomacy: Make people like you. Really needs to be the same person doing persuade (action), as being friendly with someone won't have a lot of effect when his friend tries to get you to do something.
-Persuade (fact): Persuade someone that something is true. Includes bluff.
-Intimidate: Get someone to be cooperative out of fear rather than friendship or self-interest. Not compatible with most of the others.

And that's all I can think of. You have any ideas for other relevant skills?

Are we still talking FATE? Resources can be used for bribery. Stealth + Shooting can be used to move into an advantageous position and take aim ("You see that line of trees over there? Yeah, my friend's in there, ready to put an arrow through your gullet. I think it's best that you just let us on through.") Empathy can be used to get a read on the person. Stealth + Burglary could be used to snatch things out of a person's hands. Again, it's highly circumstantial.

Yitzi
2013-07-03, 09:04 AM
If they're just standing there saying "uh-huh," that's a bad Diplomacy check, and they don't grant the Aid Another bonus. If they make a persuasive argument that complements the original, that's a successful check. Don't fall in the trap of requiring your players to have good talk-y skills to contribute to talk-y encounters.

Ok, I suppose that makes sense. A complementary argument of the same sort (rational/emotional) could be a good Aid Another usage.

Question: If using a dice pool mechanic (which is fairly close to the idea I'm toying with currently), how would you implement Aid Another to give a bonus but not too large a bonus?

The Rose Dragon
2013-07-03, 09:19 AM
Depends on the specifics of the dice pool mechanic. The way new World of Darkness does it, every helper adds one die to the primary actor's dice pool per success rolled on their own. Each action has a maximum number of possible helpers, decided by the ST. If the helper has a dramatic failure (which only happens when the helper is reduced to 1 die, in which case they should probably not try to help in the first place), it gives a penalty of four dice.

On the other hand, in Weapons of the Gods, it just gives a +5 bonus if aid can be meaningfully rendered, which is useful if the task is relatively easy, you can roll well, or you have a good River stocked up, not so useful if those things aren't true.

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-03, 09:37 AM
Question: If using a dice pool mechanic (which is fairly close to the idea I'm toying with currently), how would you implement Aid Another to give a bonus but not too large a bonus?
As the Rose Dragon said, it entirely depends on the specifics of the dice pool. Are you counting successes? Adding all rolls? How many dice are in a typical pool? What's a typical DC?

M&M's Aid/Team Check mechanics involve the helpers rolling against DC 10 to grant a +2 bonus; +5 if they hit a DC 20. So that's a 10-25% boost. D&D only ever lets you grant a +2 (10%). Same for SWSE, if I remember correctly. I have no idea how to translate those percentages into dice pool mechanics, though.

Yitzi
2013-07-03, 12:32 PM
As the Rose Dragon said, it entirely depends on the specifics of the dice pool. Are you counting successes? Adding all rolls? How many dice are in a typical pool? What's a typical DC?

What I was thinking of was: Roll a number of dice equal to your skill level plus the DC; you need a number of successes equal to the DC. A success is usually 4 or above, but that can be modified (increased by supporting abilities, or decreased by things like fatigue). For opposed rolls, each rolls a number equal to the skill level, and count successes.


M&M's Aid/Team Check mechanics involve the helpers rolling against DC 10 to grant a +2 bonus; +5 if they hit a DC 20. So that's a 10-25% boost. D&D only ever lets you grant a +2 (10%). Same for SWSE, if I remember correctly. I have no idea how to translate those percentages into dice pool mechanics, though.

I don't think they're a good approach anyway, though, as they don't scale well. Perhaps a better approach would be that you roll dice equal to your skill level; for every success (5 or 6 in this case), the person actually doing it gets an extra die to roll. (So Aid Another would generally give a bonus equal to around 1/3 your skill level.)

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-03, 03:50 PM
What I was thinking of was: Roll a number of dice equal to your skill level plus the DC; you need a number of successes equal to the DC. A success is usually 4 or above, but that can be modified (increased by supporting abilities, or decreased by things like fatigue). For opposed rolls, each rolls a number equal to the skill level, and count successes.
Skill level + DC? Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't that make it equally easy to hit any DC?


I don't think they're a good approach anyway, though, as they don't scale well. Perhaps a better approach would be that you roll dice equal to your skill level; for every success (5 or 6 in this case), the person actually doing it gets an extra die to roll. (So Aid Another would generally give a bonus equal to around 1/3 your skill level.)
How 'bout the Aider rolls dice equal to their skill level, and for every 2 successes they get the Aid-ee adds one additional success? That way you can speed things up and do all the rolling at the same time.

Yitzi
2013-07-03, 10:08 PM
Skill level + DC? Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't that make it equally easy to hit any DC?

No, as +2 to DC means +2 to the number of successes you need but only +1 average successes (assuming success is 4-6).

In most cases (i.e. any except where some modifier affects all die rolls, or at least more rolls than the character's skill), it can equally be seen as an opposed roll against the DM, where the DM's "skill" is the DC.


How 'bout the Aider rolls dice equal to their skill level, and for every 2 successes they get the Aid-ee adds one additional success? That way you can speed things up and do all the rolling at the same time.

I don't really like that, as that really feels more like "doing it together, weighted" than "aid another". Basically, "aid another" feels that it should modify the aid-ee's roll, rather than simply be another roll that combines effects. Your idea might work when it's really two people doing it together, but when one is clearly primary, I'd want something different.

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-03, 10:15 PM
No, as +2 to DC means +2 to the number of successes you need but only +1 average successes (assuming success is 4-6).
In that case, wouldn't it be simpler to have the DC be the number of successes required? That seems a lot more intuitive than adding dice for harder DCs. Also, what you have now seems like it gives you DC inflation, since half the DC cancels itself out.


I don't really like that, as that really feels more like "doing it together, weighted" than "aid another". Basically, "aid another" feels that it should modify the aid-ee's roll, rather than simply be another roll that combines effects. Your idea might work when it's really two people doing it together, but when one is clearly primary, I'd want something different.
I don't really see how they're different. Mathematically, they work out about the same, assuming that each die has a 50-50 chance of getting a success.

EDIT: Also, I just noticed: it's probably a bad idea to use different success targets in different dice pools. Likely to get confusing that way.

Yitzi
2013-07-03, 10:25 PM
In that case, wouldn't it be simpler to have the DC be the number of successes required? That seems a lot more intuitive than adding dice for harder DCs. Also, what you have now seems like it gives you DC inflation, since half the DC cancels itself out.

You mean roll dice=skill against the DC? Yes, that would be simpler, but it has the unfortunate consequence that while you can fail a check no matter how high your skill and how low the DC (just if you get horrible rolls), there is a point where you cannot succeed no matter how well you roll. I dislike that imbalance, hence this approach.


I don't really see how they're different. Mathematically, they work out about the same, assuming that each die has a 50-50 chance of getting a success.

One way does have more variation than the other.


EDIT: Also, I just noticed: it's probably a bad idea to use different success targets in different dice pools. Likely to get confusing that way.

You mean success targets as in 4-6 as opposed to 5-6 or 3-6? You're right in the case of aid another, probably needs to be changed somehow, but I figure that if buffs/debuffs/fatigue/abilities modify the success target, that should be ok, as the rule will be simply "4 plus modifiers". Unless you think it'd be better to just make it into bonuses/penalties to the die rolls themselves?

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-03, 10:31 PM
You mean roll dice=skill against the DC? Yes, that would be simpler, but it has the unfortunate consequence that while you can fail a check no matter how high your skill and how low the DC (just if you get horrible rolls), there is a point where you cannot succeed no matter how well you roll. I dislike that imbalance, hence this approach.
Botching is always an issue in dice pool games; there's not much you can do about it unless you have skills or something that simply add X successes. You can still roll no successes even if you have added dice from a DC. Take me with a grain of salt-- dunno, I'm mostly going by gut feeling. The only dice pool system I've played was Exalted, which makes D&D look sleek mechanically, and which I never entirely mastered.

The "avoiding a point where you cannot succeed" thing is a style thing, I guess-- an everything-is-possible kind of approach.


One way does have more variation than the other.
Right, but how does that make one way "assistance" and the other way a group check? And is that difference enough that people ought to be remembering two different rules?


You mean success targets as in 4-6 as opposed to 5-6 or 3-6? You're right in the case of aid another, probably needs to be changed somehow, but I figure that if buffs/debuffs/fatigue/abilities modify the success target, that should be ok, as the rule will be simply "4 plus modifiers". Unless you think it'd be better to just make it into bonuses/penalties to the die rolls themselves?
I do think it'd be better to apply modifiers directly to the die pool-- it'll greatly speed up the time spent counting die if you don't have to remember "no, wait, bard song means that 3s are successes..." At the very least, make the initial target consistent.


NOTE: I'm assuming a White Wolf-style "roll a fistful of dice based on your skill and count successes" approach when you say dice pool. That may not be what you had in mind?

Yitzi
2013-07-03, 10:35 PM
Botching is always an issue in dice pool games; there's not much you can do about it unless you have skills or something that simply add X successes. You can still roll no successes even if you have added dice from a DC.

Oh, I understand that, and consider it desirable: There should always be that small chance that everything goes horribly wrong. My goal is that it should go the other way as well, that there's always that small chance that everything goes right. That's the purpose of the added dice: So that the maximum number of successes is always at least as much as the needed number of successes.


Right, but how does that make one way "assistance" and the other way a group check?

The idea was more it being a two-stage thing is what makes it "assistance" rather than a group check.


And is that difference enough that people ought to be remembering two different rules?

On that, you're right; the 5-6 threshold for the aid another is a mistake, and I'm dropping it. Not sure what to use instead, though.

Grod_The_Giant
2013-07-03, 10:54 PM
Oh, I understand that, and consider it desirable: There should always be that small chance that everything goes horribly wrong. My goal is that it should go the other way as well, that there's always that small chance that everything goes right. That's the purpose of the added dice: So that the maximum number of successes is always at least as much as the needed number of successes.
Fair enough. The probabilities should be low enough that you won't get too many commoners hurdling the Grand Canyon.


The idea was more it being a two-stage thing is what makes it "assistance" rather than a group check.
What's the difference between an assisted check and a group check? Does there need to be one, mechanically speaking? Is the game improved if it has both? (I'm not passing judgement, just trying to ask the right questions)


On that, you're right; the 5-6 threshold for the aid another is a mistake, and I'm dropping it. Not sure what to use instead, though.
Some variation of "roll to grant a bonus?"

Yitzi
2013-07-03, 11:58 PM
Fair enough. The probabilities should be low enough that you won't get too many commoners hurdling the Grand Canyon.

Yeah; the chance of success actually goes down roughly exponentially with the difference between your level and the DC, so it'd be very rare.


What's the difference between an assisted check and a group check?

An assisted check is where one person is doing it, while the others are making his job easier, whereas a group check is where they're doing it together. Attacking the problem directly alongside someone else as opposed to giving them a boost.


Does there need to be one, mechanically speaking? Is the game improved if it has both? (I'm not passing judgement, just trying to ask the right questions)

I think it would make it richer.


Some variation of "roll to grant a bonus?"

Probably. Maybe each success lets the primary user add 1 to a die, picked before they roll (with a maximum of +1 per die from Aid Another, and a natural 1 is always a failure no matter how many bonuses you have).