Fallacious Follies: Oberoni, Stormwind, and Fallacies OH MY!

Thomas Shey

Legend
I'd say in Traveller it amounts to whatever fiat the group agrees on over choice of which characters they go on to play. The rules offer slightly contradictory notions about that. In one place it says


but immediately goes on to suggest that


This idea of "so poor as to be beyond help" is a nod toward prioritising optimisation. I think a position that robustly upheld that the two are never incompatible would have ended the paragraph at the earlier sentence.

In our Gamma World days, we had a term for that: "swordbushing", as in, a character throwing themselves on a swordbush when they were just awful (since as I recall the very first edition of GW had the roll-straight-up method, and at least could end up saddling a mutant character with weak benefits and strong deficits.

However, returning to Traveller, its still doesn't change the fact its exceedingly difficult to optimize toward, well, anything in it because there's so much randomness in it. If you go in trying to build a technician, you could end up with a medic instead--might even be a pretty good medic, but that wasn't that much help in trying to optimize toward an electronics-baseds repair and security specialist. The only way to do that is either to ignore the random elements in generation, or to roll characters repeatedly until you get what you want (and if you're genuinely trying to optimize, rather than just get a character who is suitable for a particular purpose, that would have to be a lot of rolls).
 

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Thomas Shey

Legend
I think one can validly deny that optimising has any meaning, but the SF was authored on the old WotC CharOp boards (before they closed their forum) and that does tie it to games where concrete choices made for characters have a palpable impact on play. (I wouldn't narrow those to just combat, often enough some of the most powerful abilities are non-combat. Mind control is an example, which can be used to get what PCs want while avoiding combat altogether.)

Information gathering, too. Some of the most problematic characters I've ever seen were set-up primarily around sensory and information abilities. The fact they're often somewhat ancillary doesn't make them less cases of optimization.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I'm not sure it's as impossible to optimize as you suggest, but some of this depended on which edition you were playing. You could certainly make choices designed to improve your chances of having a starship by being a scout or merchant and staying in as long as you could. You could improve your chances of being combat capable by joining the army or marines. None of these were as foolproof as having full control over your character development choices, true, so it was a "softer" but still present form of optimization.

In my earlier post I'd very carefully mentioned "the earliest editions of Traveller". I agree as the system evolved you had a little more control, but to be able to do really heavy-duty optimization I think you needed something like Cepheus Deluxe which has very little randomness.

In the earliest ones, the problem was there was no particular assurance even doing the things you mention would get a particularly optimized output. I think there's a difference between optimization and "I'll at least get some kind of a combatant" which was the best you could count on with them (and even whether that you could always end up with the guy who's only real combat skill was Cutless-1)
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
In the general sense that’s a rather easy notion to dispel - there’s a whole category of characters someone shouldn’t play even if that’s what they like - ones that grief other players and/or the dm.

I believe I gave an exception for that in my post.

In the more specific case I find the psychology that pushes one to make optimized master tacticians to also suck a lot of the fun out of the game and that by letting that go the game becomes much more enjoyable. Maybe not 100% of people that only make optimized master tacticians have this psychology but it does seem prevalent enough and the benefits for them great enough that the aim should be to get them to consider changing that psychology instead of simply justifying its existence.

I think, however, this is basically another case of "Try it, you'll like it!" As a suggestion, that's fine. As forcing the issue, again, not someone else's business to be doing.

Psychologically I don’t think this is correct. People are irrational and often like things that are actually destructive to their own stated desires. It also completely elides the fact that people throughout their lives like new things - often more than some of the similar things they like.

On the other hand, assuming you know what is good for people better than they do is not exactly something that has a particularly good history of positive results, either.
 


Pedantic

Legend
if I may - what’s changed isn’t whether one is trying to win the game but what game one is playing.

Consider 1v1 basketball between friends where an obviously bad player is spotted 15 points. Is the person spotting them not trying to win the game? No! They are creating a new similar game that he tries to win. This could get even more related to gameplay than spotting points as well - ex: the better player can’t shoot 3’s or drive to your right or it’s a turnover. Etc. All those variations are still basketball but also not quite the same game.
Three thoughts:

One, you're describing an unusual process of play that's outside the normal rules of gameplay, and it's more or less normative in different environments. It's rarer (and harder to do) in board games and things like video games. Variant rules can be interesting (and obviously serve a greater role in TTRPGs than other kinds of games) but can't be held up as a basic part of a design without compromising the design in the first place. You can't write rules with the assumption they won't be used.

Secondly, I don't actually think that follows in a cooperative game the same way it does in a competitive one. You're more likely to see accommodations there with things like character difficulty ratings, or being pointed to established, known strategies whilst one gets familiar with the mechanics. Sometimes you even see cooperative games themselves suggested as a solution for divergent player skill, to avoid the negative experiences competition can bring. Cooperative play has its own problems (i.e. "quarterbacking" where a more experienced player effectively makes choices for a less experienced player), but I don't think this kind of variant is common in play when everyone is driving at a shared goal.

And finally the thing you're describing is contrary to the goal of play of many environments. What you're describing would be better understood as a training exercise than the experience of gameplay; the goal of the game is to win under a known set of conditions, the players are actively trying to get better at playing under those conditions. You might set a handicap to test a scenario, to practice a specific skill and so on, but ultimately the goal is to deploy those skills in a live gameplay environment.*

*While it's not necessarily relevant, I don't want my point to be construed to suggest that games shouldn't offer accommodations to allow more people to play them in general. Accessibility is a different question, and a change to gameplay that doesn't alter the shared goal of play but allows someone who would otherwise not be able to effectively participate should always be lauded.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
In my earlier post I'd very carefully mentioned "the earliest editions of Traveller". I agree as the system evolved you had a little more control, but to be able to do really heavy-duty optimization I think you needed something like Cepheus Deluxe which has very little randomness.

In the earliest ones, the problem was there was no particular assurance even doing the things you mention would get a particularly optimized output. I think there's a difference between optimization and "I'll at least get some kind of a combatant" which was the best you could count on with them (and even whether that you could always end up with the guy who's only real combat skill was Cutless-1)
Oh, I was definitely thinking about the early editions too. If you joined the army back in classic Traveller (which was also VERY easy to enlist in), you got the automatic service skill Rifle-1. So any and all army vets had at least that skill as a combat skill (and yeah, marines got Cutlass-1 if they never got commissioned). And if you wanted to be a pilot, you joined the scouts because they all got Pilot-1.
You definitely had things you could angle for even if you didn't have full control.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Oh, I was definitely thinking about the early editions too. If you joined the army back in classic Traveller (which was also VERY easy to enlist in), you got the automatic service skill Rifle-1. So any and all army vets had at least that skill as a combat skill (and yeah, marines got Cutlass-1 if they never got commissioned). And if you wanted to be a pilot, you joined the scouts because they all got Pilot-1.
You definitely had things you could angle for even if you didn't have full control.
Pretty much this. I think folks get hung up on the fact that they want to maximize that rifle/cutlass/pilot skill and cant specifically do that beyond joining the career path that gets them basic training.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Oh, I was definitely thinking about the early editions too. If you joined the army back in classic Traveller (which was also VERY easy to enlist in), you got the automatic service skill Rifle-1. So any and all army vets had at least that skill as a combat skill (and yeah, marines got Cutlass-1 if they never got commissioned). And if you wanted to be a pilot, you joined the scouts because they all got Pilot-1.
You definitely had things you could angle for even if you didn't have full control.

Fair enough, I couldn't remember how early some of the more useful automatic skills landed (the Army one is a pretty good generally useful skill for a combatant; the Marine one--less so).

But of course even "easy to enlist in" isn't automatic. If you failed the Army enlistment, by the book the best you could do is aim at one of the other ones with a fair combat focus (Marines, or later on, something like Law Enforcement) and hope it worked out. And unless I'm misremembering, you only got a couple shots before it just put you in a random service.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Pretty much this. I think folks get hung up on the fact that they want to maximize that rifle/cutlass/pilot skill and cant specifically do that beyond joining the career path that gets them basic training.

That's the point though; I think when talking about optimizing, "I can join the service that gives you at least the most basic thing" is kind of a low bar. As I said, by that standard "Playing a fighter" is optimizing, which, well...
 

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