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[Design] Be the best you can be VS. player concept - actions in downtime

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Fiddling with a homebrew system, one that has ability scores, but they have less constant importance than D&D and are more all-generally-useful-for-all-characters instead of being more focused by class like D&D. In D&D terms, these are not informal gatekeepers to class - you can be good (though different) no matter how these are arranged. They also are not intended to increase as character advancement.

I was considering a downtime/freetime system where part of it was if you are spending significant time doing something that works out any of the ability scores, you have bonuses to that score that last until you change around your downtime activities and (potentialy) gain bonuses elsewhere. Work out, eat well, get more fit as long as you keep it up. That sort of thing.

For instance, a character who spends a lot of their downtime researching, studying, or attending classes might have a +3 bonus to KNOWLEDGE as long as that's true, while someone else who is doing physical labor or working out might have +3 to FITNESS, and someone who is working as an electrician might have a +1 to KNOW, +1 FIT, as well as income and possibly an excuse to increase a related skill,but that's outside the scope of this discussion. Players are free to change these whenever they have downtime, to change their concept over time. (Again, there is no Attack/Casting ability score like in D&D - you can modify your conept over time without falling into a hole.)

The problem is that I don't picture all downtime spent giving the maximum bonus. Part of me worries that there are many players who would always go for maximum bonuses because it helped them at the table, and the converse - players who follow their concept but because of this are "penalized" (by not having as big a bonus) and resent the rule.

What's your thought on the psychological aspect of it?
 

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John Dallman

Adventurer
You seem to be viewing this as "The thing I'm currently in practice with"? That's a perfectly reasonable concept, but I want to make sure I've understood it.

To limit minimaxing, limit the amount of downtime that can be spent getting these bonuses, and give downtime some competing uses. An obvious possibility is recovery from the stress of active adventuring, via rest and relaxation.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Assuming that this is being designed for a table that will have minmaxers present, that is a concern that should be accounted for.

That said, as long as the options as presented are balanced against each other, there shouldn't be an issue.

One possibility would be to offer a larger overall bonus for the more diverse option. The guy working out might get +3 FIT, while the electrician could get +2 FIT & +2 KNOW. Or maybe electrician gets +1 FIT & +2 KNOW & +1 WEALTH (substitute whatever you prefer for WEALTH). Those options are less obvious from the standpoint of the minmaxer, since the first option offers the largest single bonus in exchange for specialization, where as the latter options offer the largest combined bonus. This way, there's no clear cut best option, although certain archetypes may gravitate to certain options.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Assuming that this is being designed for a table that will have minmaxers present, that is a concern that should be accounted for.

That said, as long as the options as presented are balanced against each other, there shouldn't be an issue.

Part of the issue is the player concept - some charactes may want a life of leisure or vice while not adventuring, and their concept will have them end up penalized against people mix-maxed, or just have personal goals that are more focused toward adventuring tasks. Some activities, like gambling, I can have them contribute towards some. But there are plenty of things you can do during your downtime that are less "strenuous" (for whatever ability) then working out or whatever so wouldn't contribute as much in those ways.

That's the worry - that this becomes a place where game mechanics are at odds with being true to character concept.

Mind you, those other downtime tasks may help in other ways, such as long term stress removal (already thinking along those lines a la Blades in the Dark).
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Assuming that this is being designed for a table that will have minmaxers present, that is a concern that should be accounted for.

That said, as long as the options as presented are balanced against each other, there shouldn't be an issue.

One possibility would be to offer a larger overall bonus for the more diverse option. The guy working out might get +3 FIT, while the electrician could get +2 FIT & +2 KNOW. Or maybe electrician gets +1 FIT & +2 KNOW & +1 WEALTH (substitute whatever you prefer for WEALTH). Those options are less obvious from the standpoint of the minmaxer, since the first option offers the largest single bonus in exchange for specialization, where as the latter options offer the largest combined bonus. This way, there's no clear cut best option, although certain archetypes may gravitate to certain options.

I think it needs to have alternative use. For example you can clear a lingering injury from melee combat, or you can "ripped bruh!" But not both, thus characters inclined to engage in say melee have to choose healing versus more effective attacks.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I would just try to balance the activities to a reasonable degree. Activities that can be equivalent should be. (Don't have +1 FIT and +3 FIT competing in the same space.) Aim for rough equivalence with activities that grant disparate bonuses.

If the system has any real level of complexity or choice (which is what it sounds like you're aiming for), there is virtually no way to balance it perfectly. I mean, how many points of stress is a temporary +3 bonus to FIT worth? The answer is subjective.

If things aren't lining up, find a filler bonus. Maybe grant one or more Inspiration for activities that carry lower benefits otherwise.

When I first joined my gaming group years ago (2e) their tradition was that they would award individual XP bonuses at the end of each session for good role play. The upside was that it encouraged people to role play. I'm a very quiet person in general, but once I took note of the fact that I could level faster by speaking up, I did! The downside was that receiving the low reward could spoil someone's night, and it also encouraged spotlight hogging.

There was a particular character that a friend of mine played who didn't speak. He gesticulated and made faces, but he never spoke. As a result, the DM at the time awarded him very little XP for role play, which made him visibly upset. The DM simply responded that he hadn't role played much. I'm not certain whether it was because the DM was looking at his notes and therefore didn't see the gestures, or if he simply didn't consider it to be role playing. Personally, I thought he was doing a fine job role playing his concept, and would have probably awarded him extra XP had I been the one behind the screen. He retired the character after that, and brought in a more standard concept that I've long since forgotten the details of.

That event is one of the reasons I ended up changing the rule in my games to group XP. Good role playing gets noted in a pool. At the end of the night, the pool is tallied up and everyone receives the same reward. Good role playing still contributes to leveling faster, but it now does so for the entire group.

My point being that I think your concern valid. It does happen. If some activities are significantly weaker than others, role players may feel punished for taking the weaker option. Worst case scenario, you could discourage role play based decisions or players might even decide to bring in characters whose interests align with the more beneficial activities. As such, I recommend not having weak options (insofar as you can manage). Direct equivalence isn't necessary, but if you step into a player's mindset and compare two options and one of them outright sucks, it should probably be improved.
 

MoutonRustique

Explorer
My 2cp

A very good counter to min-max abuses is to have a system of diminishing returns.

Min-maxing thrives on going all-in and pumping a useful number outside reasonable and expected values. If you have your "Get Ripped Brah!" option offer a bonus of +2 per "unit" if you have less than 14, +1 per "unit" if you have less than 20, +1/ two(2) "units" if you have 20+, you have a system where it will be advantageous to branch out.

We tend to not like these approaches now because they don't fit into simple linear formulas, but using tables as references isn't evil and it makes these kinds of approaches easy and, most importantly, efficient.

Everything regarding "not pumping a stat" can be given a significant advantage where the question doesn't become: "how can I max out my stats?" and more of an "So my character's doing X, what is he getting?"

Gambling: building contacts! If you don't want to have specific NPCs or such, a bonus on social roles or gathering info - the good ol' "I know a guy..."

Resting/nothing: you get THP (they are diminishing on every extended rest)

etc.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
One point about balance - we're aren't looking at a pre-made list, just guidance for the GM. Two characters coming back from an adventure could have one goingf "I spend all my time at the dojo" while the other one is "I get pampered all day, eat lavishly and drink heavily because who knows if I am to die on the morrow."

How do we not penalize the second player for RPing their character? Going to @Fanaelialae 's idea that there will be long-stress built up the second would shed it quicker. But if the stay is extended for weeks or months, longer then any stress needs to be shed? What if the first player's character was raised such that working out in a dojo is how they shed stress. I know working out is a useful way for me to do so. Perhaps the pampered characters will build up some sort of emotional reserves.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I suggest using some generic bonus, such as one-use rerolls.

Ultimately though, if workout guy is working out for months he still only gets the +3 FIT buff (I presume), so it doesn't outshine drinking guy's stress elimination. But if you do allow the FIT buff to grow without limit (which I wouldn't recommend) you can simply have drinking guy accumulate rerolls after his stress reaches zero.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Regarding the generic bonus, you can file off the serial numbers by personalizing it.

For example, drinking guy might get "99 bottles of ale on the wall' points, that allow him a reroll as long as he can somehow link it to his time spent drinking and gambling.

Ragnar thinks back to bar, and how one of his drinking buddies told him this story of he tricked the guards this one time. Reroll that deception check?

The guy who spends time with his wife and kids might get "happy wife, happy life" points that grant rerolls he can somehow associate with the time spent with his family.

As he's fading in and out, Throm thinks back to his family's beautiful faces. He refuses to die and leave his wife a widow, his children without a father. Reroll that death save?

Obviously, you can get as detailed with it (or not) as you prefer.
 

Blue said:
The problem is that I don't picture all downtime spent giving the maximum bonus. Part of me worries that there are many players who would always go for maximum bonuses because it helped them at the table, and the converse - players who follow their concept but because of this are "penalized" (by not having as big a bonus) and resent the rule.

What's your thought on the psychological aspect of it?
I think that worry is well-founded - if the players are acclimated to that style of play by experiences with D&D &c.

You could give each downtime activity both a bonus & drawback.
Or, you could have diminishing returns for doing the same activity repeatedly.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Thanks all. From the feedback, it looks like I will need to formalize it more to make it balanced.

Spitballing off the top of my head:
Each week of downtime will provide two "slots" of activities. You can not pick the same activity twice, though there are some 2 slot versions. Temporary changes to an ability score happen at the rate of +/-1 per week - so if you skip a week it will drop down.

Fit these as best as possible to your narrative. For example, two weeks gambling in the local watering hole might be De-Stress & Risky Make Money the first week, and Make Local Contacts & Risky Make Money the second week.

1 Slot activities
Make local contacts / improve local reputation. (Help out, schmooze, etc.)
Stable Make money: Temporary +1 to an appropriate ability score, +XX coin based on skill level. (Work, etc.)
Risky Make money: Temporary +1 to an appropriate ability score, skill test for -XX to 3*XX (gamble, pickpocket, etc.)
Train: Temporary +2 or +1/+1 to appropriate ability score(s).
Learn: Bank 2 rerolls for a particular skill, or +1 reroll if you already have some banked for that skill. Max [KNOWLEDGE] rerolls banked for any character. (research, get mentored, teach)
Research: Chance to learn XX.
De-stress: Spend XX add'l. Recover "d4+1" boxes of long term stress. (d4+1 isn't a real thing, just to show the ratio for the 2 slot.) (follow vice, meditate, etc.)
Prepare: Gain a preparation point for setting up flashbacks or "having the right thing".

2 Slot activities
Work Hard: Temporary +1 to an appropriate ability score, +3 * XX coin based on skill level.
Train Hard: Temporary +3 or +2/+1 to appropriate ability score(s).
Play Hard: Spend 2 * XX add'l. Recover "d6+2" boxes of long term stress. (d6+2 isn't a real thing, just to show the ratio for the 1 slot.)

(This is off the top of my head, not meant to be exhaustive.)
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
The problem is that I don't picture all downtime spent giving the maximum bonus. Part of me worries that there are many players who would always go for maximum bonuses because it helped them at the table, and the converse - players who follow their concept but because of this are "penalized" (by not having as big a bonus) and resent the rule.

What's your thought on the psychological aspect of it?
It's a valid concern, as long as bonuses don't equate with spotlight. I don't give a rat's asset if Conan across the table gets +10 on his combat rolls, as long as I get to be awesome during the basket-weaving scene. And if I don't die during Conan's big fight.

Thanks all. From the feedback, it looks like I will need to formalize it more to make it balanced. . .

1 Slot activities
Make local contacts / improve local reputation. (Help out, schmooze, etc.)
Stable Make money: Temporary +1 to an appropriate ability score, +XX coin based on skill level. (Work, etc.)
Risky Make money: Temporary +1 to an appropriate ability score, skill test for -XX to 3*XX (gamble, pickpocket, etc.)
Train: Temporary +2 or +1/+1 to appropriate ability score(s).
Learn: Bank 2 rerolls for a particular skill, or +1 reroll if you already have some banked for that skill. Max [KNOWLEDGE] rerolls banked for any character. (research, get mentored, teach)
Research: Chance to learn XX.
De-stress: Spend XX add'l. Recover "d4+1" boxes of long term stress. (d4+1 isn't a real thing, just to show the ratio for the 2 slot.) (follow vice, meditate, etc.)
Prepare: Gain a preparation point for setting up flashbacks or "having the right thing".
This could go (at least) two different ways. The more complex it gets, the greater the opportunity for min-maxing. Which was my first impression here.

The second way is that each option/activity presents a cool, but not significant, benefit. The lack of significance means there's no potential for maxing, and the coolness means players enjoy the addition of more rules to the game.

I was thinking you should take the downtime activities in a Fate-aspects direction. They apply in any situation that you can justify, players can pick whatever they want, and their value is useful but limited.
 

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