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Spending character generation currency on complexity

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
Starting from the premise that when you play a roleplaying game, you want to spend time doing things in that game that appeal to you.

Some people want to say "I hit it with my sword" each round and not be penalised. Others want to move to square B, ready a 2-square move-and-attack on monster C when player E steps into a flank and then spend a minor action applying Class Z poison to their weapon.

Some people want to have a furious back-and-forth negotiation with the baron that's every bit as involved and tactical as current 4e, while others want to say "yeah, yeah, 500G for your daughter back safe and sound, lets go kill stuff".

Current methods of building a character don't actually accomodate these on a basic level: you spend resources to be good at your chosen area, but being good at the area doesn't mean you'll get to see more of it - typically hte opposite is true: in the extremes, your optimized-to-the-hilt combat character will clear a battlefield in 2 rounds of combat, or your diplomat simply cannot fail to convince the baron of... anything he pleases. No speech necessary, no back and forth. A simple roll.

This leads to the mandate that combat and non-combat resources must be siloed seperately - if you have inadequate levels of one or the other, you'll simply be a drag to the party, while still being required to spend the same amount of time engaging in it.

So why not make "time spent doing stuff you find fun" be what you pick when you build a character?

How would such a system look? Well, basically the entire game would be a bunch of modules where once you take one, you get a penalty to the default scenario and a bonus once a specific mechanic kicks in.

We'll start with something simple, just to describe vaguely how it might work: a d20 game. Roll a d20, and if you beat the target number, you succeed (at hitting a foe, convincing someone of something etc). We'll have hitpoints and damage rolls too. As a default, everyone does d6 damage, no matter what they describe themselves as wielding. As a default, there's no such thing as modifiers, different defenses, armor, skills etc etc. We have somewhere a list of appropriate target numbers for things.

From this point, every character will get to spend their character creation and advancement currency on a bunch of rule modules. In D&D terms, they're pretty much feats. Things like:
"if you flank, you gain a +2 to hit"

Previously there was no benefit to positioning (possibly apart from how many monsters could reach you), but now, because YOU chose to focus on combat, there is. You want to get that +2.

or
Intimidate
"you gain a +3 to attempts to use fear to convince people"

previously you could just say "I convince him" and roll. Now you have to think up a plausible threat to grab your bonus.

or
Fireball
"you may attack any number of targets within 2 squares of a central point for d3 damage each"

These options are all positives, which isn't really what I was going for. The idea should be that you manage to somehow make each option generally power neutral, and then you can make a group decision on how many options each person gets, based on how much time you want to spend on game mechanics. At the same time, since overall power level hasn't changed, the same adventures that were good for the "everyone gets 1 option" group are still good for the "everyone gets 46 options" group.
 

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Saeviomagy

Adventurer
I suppose the flipside is that you could spend resources to buy off complexity, instead of buying it in.

If the base game has combat advantage, a feat that says "you never get or grant combat advantage and noone ever gets combat advantage against you". Or "instead of rolling damage dice and adding modifiers, you do 4 points of damage each round".

In a game with the full array of social feats, a feat that says "Pick any one social skill. That skill now functions as though it is the most beneficial skill to use in any given social situation".

any of these options reduce your interaction in the given mode of play: your combat is now "I stand wherever and then hit him with power X" and social interaction is "I convince him with my social skill".
 

I don't really see how this idea remedies the issue the mentioned...which was that players who are really good at something tend to do less of the thing they are good at.

I mean, if I take a bunch of combat abilities...I'm still good at combat, and I'll still end combat quicker than someone who doesn't have all of those abilities.
 

[OMENRPG]Ben

First Post
This is a very interesting concept, although the problem then still becomes economy of actions, relevance to the encounter or obstacle, and the amount of involvement of that obstacle. If everybody is incredibly varied in their scope as well as iterative focus in different areas, the GM will tailor specific encounters to the specific skillsets that the characters possess. This works great if everyone picks a combat heavy, role-play light scenario, but that is still doable given the current situation.

A system that provides elegance as well as speed to any situation will allow for everyone to keep engaged, even if it is something as simple as "I swing my sword." Even though 4e isn't perfect, there are ample examples where this kind of scenario crop up. For instance, I'm currently playing a 4e Knight in one of my friend's games, which is an Essentials class, and basically all he can do is a couple of different stance changes and do a basic melee attack.

Compare this to my Wizard buddy or my TWF Ranger friend, and the amount of complexity that they have to choose from is far greater than what the Knight presents, although my character is consistently valuable to the group and I still have fun playing it.

I think the real problem is that if one player hates complex combat, and "opts out" of all of the combat tactics, but the rest of the group "opts in", then that player still has to sit there for twenty minutes while the table goes around deciding all of the tactics of the battle, while he basically contributes nothing to the interesting discussion at hand and just swings his sword.

This is basically very similar to what happens in 3.x/PF d20 games, the spellcasters after about 6th level get all of the fun stuff while the martial characters are essentially one or two trick ponies (I know this is less true in PF, but still is true, sadly). This might not be intentional, or it might be, but what it still creates is a dichotomy in certain circumstances, and instead of trying to flatten it out, actually accentuates it.

Otherwise, I think the idea is something worth pursuing, and I think is accomplished already in decent form in a few systems.
 

S'mon

Legend
your diplomat simply cannot fail to convince the baron of... anything he pleases. No speech necessary, no back and forth. A simple roll.
Not in my games! Just like the combat twink still has to describe his combat actions, the diplomat needs to say what he's saying, preferably IC. Bad diplomacy tactics are just as harmful as bad combat tactics, and both remain dependent on the player, not the die mod.
 

Davachido

First Post
Not in my games! Just like the combat twink still has to describe his combat actions, the diplomat needs to say what he's saying, preferably IC. Bad diplomacy tactics are just as harmful as bad combat tactics, and both remain dependent on the player, not the die mod.
In a similar way in my games diplomacy rolls usually don't end the argument in your favour. What I do is good diplomacy rolls can get you hints to questions you can ask, pick up on things that are of interest to the party you are talking to. Maybe in terms of a merchant what a good haggling number is good to start at for an item you are buying/selling. Good rolls can also go to showing your character is confident/charismatic in the situation to better convince the person your talking to through your body language. That way you still have an IC conversation and people with better tools for diplomacy will be better equipped to deal with the situation but not entirely leave people without good diplomacy scores out of the conversation completely.
 

I don't really see how this idea remedies the issue the mentioned...which was that players who are really good at something tend to do less of the thing they are good at.

I mean, if I take a bunch of combat abilities...I'm still good at combat, and I'll still end combat quicker than someone who doesn't have all of those abilities.
Sure, but the high complexity character's "quicker" would be slower than the low complexity character because of more tactical decisions and things to keep track of.

Also, even if the actual game time devoted to a combat is the same for the whole group (i.e. each player's turn is same length), the 2 players are both going to enjoy themselves more if they engage with that combat at their desired complexity level. Sure, the low complexity guy might get a little eager to see it resolved sooner than later, but at least he doesn't had to worry about all the tactical aspects of play, thus freeing him up to try out improvised ideas narratively.

Overall, I really appreciate what the OP is suggesting - hardwiring into the game rules what areas are "zoomed" in according to the player types at the table. And I agree this could be done on a much wider level than it is currently.
 

AeroDm

First Post
In a similar way in my games diplomacy rolls usually don't end the argument in your favour. What I do is good diplomacy rolls can get you hints to questions you can ask, pick up on things that are of interest to the party you are talking to. Maybe in terms of a merchant what a good haggling number is good to start at for an item you are buying/selling. Good rolls can also go to showing your character is confident/charismatic in the situation to better convince the person your talking to through your body language. That way you still have an IC conversation and people with better tools for diplomacy will be better equipped to deal with the situation but not entirely leave people without good diplomacy scores out of the conversation completely.
If I were to interpret this into a general principle I might say something like, "Proficiency in an area of the game results in more tools to overcome the challenge instead of making the challenge easier." Even more succinct could be, "Proficiency breeds breadth, not depth, of ability."

In my experience, this is the key because it allows more people to interact in the same challenge and have a reasonable chance to participate but still allows people to be better or worse. Using your post as an example, I read that to mean that a diplomacy challenge is won when the party has made a convincing argument. Anyone *could* make a convincing argument, but the character with the highest diplomacy can pick up on stuff to get there more efficiently with less resources potentially lost. In this way, the super-diplo-bard gets to really enjoy the encounter, picking up clues left and right, but no one else is forced to just sit there idly.
 

Agamon

Adventurer
This patchwork quilt idea looks a lot like 2e Skills and Powers. And that didn't go so well.
 

A

amerigoV

Guest
For instance, I'm currently playing a 4e Knight in one of my friend's games, which is an Essentials class, and basically all he can do is a couple of different stance changes and do a basic melee attack.

Compare this to my Wizard buddy or my TWF Ranger friend, and the amount of complexity that they have to choose from is far greater than what the Knight presents, although my character is consistently valuable to the group and I still have fun playing it.

I think the real problem is that if one player hates complex combat, and "opts out" of all of the combat tactics, but the rest of the group "opts in", then that player still has to sit there for twenty minutes while the table goes around deciding all of the tactics of the battle, while he basically contributes nothing to the interesting discussion at hand and just swings his sword.
I am out of the 4e loop, but what little I played 4e struck me as very team - oriented. So the Defender locked someone down, the Controller funneled the enemy where the group wanted them, the Leader buffed/debuffed, and the Striker did massive damage to the key target. Lots of little things between the defender, controller, and leader to make things hum.

Has Essentials changed that any, or are those roles intact and the Essentials characters just do their job with more streamlined mechanics?

The reason I ask ties back to the complexity issue. )pting for less tactical options seems like it would hurt the playstyle (its like one of the roles is not doing its "job"). Pre-4e had less reliance on teamwork - those that integrated tactics did better, but groups could survive with less tactical integration so long as you did not have a killer DM. I could see a "Featless" fighter or a fixed skilled rogue (kinda like 1e) in 3e. I am not sure 4e's engine works that way given how well the DM's tools are integrated (the monster rolls, extras vs. regular, vs. elite, vs. solo, more use of terrain, etc) - the opposition is a step up!
 

Crazy Jerome

First Post
I think the real problem is that if one player hates complex combat, and "opts out" of all of the combat tactics, but the rest of the group "opts in", then that player still has to sit there for twenty minutes while the table goes around deciding all of the tactics of the battle, while he basically contributes nothing to the interesting discussion at hand and just swings his sword.
One way to handle that would be to handle the "slow deciding" players slightly differently. Instead of all or nothing, which tends to not get enforced because of that "nothing" part, go with reduced effect for delays. That is, instead of, "take too long, you delay this round," have something like -1 to hit and damange for every 20 seconds spent past the first.

Breadth instead of depth of complexity would dovetail with that, as well. The guy that likes complexity wants to pick the level of complexity that satisfies his desire to have options, but not so much that he can't decide quickly and get one with it. Otherwise, he loses effectiveness.

For a more positive presentation of the same idea, present it as a nice bonus to hit and damage for those that act quickly, which you progressively lose pieces of as you delay.
 

[OMENRPG]Ben

First Post
[MENTION=54877]Crazy Jerome[/MENTION] that sounds nice, but that is a hack job solution (or needs to be incorporated and enforceable in the system) which is already tacked on to 4e and other d20 systems. It is more like a DM tool than a system design which naturally creates fast combat that still applies the complexity some player's want.

For example, in the design of OMEN RPG, the majority of combat takes place with relatively lethal attacks, and there are numerous bonuses that anyone can gain from various tactical decisions (such as flanking, number of people attacking the same target, cover, so forth) which all naturally flow as part of moving and attacking.

That doesn't mean the sniper who sits in the back, skulking behind cover, waiting for two rounds to unleash a single, well-placed, killing blow has to become involved in the tactics of the up close and personal guys. But, if he wants to, he doesn't have to build himself to be efficient that way.

I think to achieve the result that the OP is looking for, that is, more focus on the elements of play that each individual player finds enjoyable, the system must be flexible and dynamic with varied character creation. In OMEN, it is possible to make a character who is skilled at movement (athletics, acrobatics, tactical), and who is good at ranged combat, melee combat, and influencing others' opinion.

This allows characters to optimize if they want, while still offering enough options for them to "opt in" to various components of play. The issue in D&D is that there really is only two or three major activity groups, but two out of the three can be solved with a few rolls or pure role-playing (DM and player's choice) and the most prominent mechanical component, combat, is what the majority of players build their character's to excel at. This engenders the majority of gameplay to focus on what most of the players are forced to do by the class structure.

A system that would use the opt-in/opt-out feature would be very difficult to balance without some of the characters feeling left out or underpowered. I still like the idea, and I think some systems sort of do this without spelling it out, but I think it will break immersion, break the amount of involvement for characters, and overall add circumstances that leave egos wounded.
 

The intentions behind this idea are good but implementation-wise I see heads smashing against walls because of an unavoidable truth:

Social issues cannot be solved through game design.

Long ago, before there were builds or any customization and you rolled your stats, picked a class, bought equipment and started playing, there were still players who favored some aspects of the game over others.

Some people loved combat, others exploration, npc interaction, etc. There wasn't anything particularly to choose beyond class that added meaningfully to the aspect of the game one enjoyed the most.

A well balanced campaign offered opportunities for everyone to enjoy thier favorite things in the game. No one had anything "invested" in any particular aspect save for a preference in activity type. In other words, a player didn't spend hours building the most awesome combat monster ever then get sidelined by having an entire session take place at a royal ball where the action was purely social.

I think too much specialization/ resource allocation in the game mechanics contributes toward a shift in player self-centeredness.

Everyone at the table should be having fun while actively helping others to do likewise. This means that when a big fight breaks out, your smooth talker should do his/her best to participate and help the bloodthirsty player have fun and the combat player should do likewise for the diplomat.

Game mechanics won't ever make "me" focused players, not a problem. It all boils down to the game experience being better for everyone if we can find enjoyment in our fellow players' pursuit of fun as much as our own.
 

Celebrim

Legend
The intentions behind this idea are good but implementation-wise I see heads smashing against walls because of an unavoidable truth:

Social issues cannot be solved through game design.
Indeed.

The corrollary of that is, "Almost all game issues are social issues." The proof of the corrollary is that not everyone who plays a given system has the same issues with it, even if they use the same rules. This is actual a product of Celebrim's Second Law of RPG's(tm), "How you think about playing a system is more important than the rules system itself."

The meta-rules are more important than the rules themselves. This applies both to spoken and unspoken rules about how players will interact, and to what sort of game the GM prepares to play, and to what sort of game the players intend to play. None of these things are usually covered by the system rules. Most games for example tell you very little explicitly about how to create an adventure except in broad and vague terms. Regardless of the system, if you prepare a D&D style adventure for it, it will play alot like 'D&D' is presumed to usually play. I say presume, because there are groups that prepare and think about the game entirely differently, and even if they have the same proposition resolution rules, they are playing a different game.

The system doesn't really define the game. At best it can influence it.

Everyone at the table should be having fun while actively helping others to do likewise. This means that when a big fight breaks out, your smooth talker should do his/her best to participate and help the bloodthirsty player have fun and the combat player should do likewise for the diplomat.
Amen. One of the things I really hate about Forge Theory is that there is this assumption that a single game system can only create one kind of game, and that if it isn't played in that way then there is a type of badwrongfun going on (indeed, Ron Edwards often writes as if he's the only one that has ever had real fun gaming). I flatly deny the fundamental thesis of Forge Theory, namely: "A good system is one which knows its outlook and doesn't waste any mechanics on the other two outlooks." Not only does it fail to notice that mechanics are of only secondary importance compared to the meta-mechanics, all the best gaming I've ever had are associated with games that supported everyones interest and could rapidly and seamlessly switch between them into subgames of various sorts. A single focus system might be great for 4-8 hours of play, but most RPGs encourage literally 100's of hours of play. If they aren't supporting diverse gaming tastes and habits, why in the heck would you want to keep playing them.

Heck, look at the current video gaming market. Games are increasingly much less pure in their outlook. A game like Mass Effect or Assassin's Creed may be losing some appeal to a purist, but by combining element's of an action game, with an exploration sandbox, and a narrative focused RPG, you are getting broadly appealing games. They wouldn't necessarily become better games by removing the subgames, as without those changes in tone and focus they'd far more quickly bore with repetition.

Game mechanics won't ever make "me" focused players, not a problem. It all boils down to the game experience being better for everyone if we can find enjoyment in our fellow players' pursuit of fun as much as our own.
Amen. Good post.
 

[OMENRPG]Ben

First Post
Celebrim, I've xp'd you too recently, but excellent post. The system is really more of an influential suggestion, but I think the perception of the meta-system is very important, both in the way the system itself is presented, as well as the setting that the system takes place in.

If anyone can xp Celebrim for me, appreciated.
 

[MENTION=5890]Saeviomagy[/MENTION] I think you've identified something really interesting, but your examples don't do it justice. Basically the character sheet is a menu, like one of those "fill in the type of sushi you want" places, and informs the DM about what that player would like to see in the game. It's convenient shorthand for more explicit conversations about game preferences that are rare (I already know what my friends like & one-shots the focus is more on dungeon survival and joking around).

A system that provides elegance as well as speed to any situation will allow for everyone to keep engaged, even if it is something as simple as "I swing my sword." Even though 4e isn't perfect, there are ample examples where this kind of scenario crop up. For instance, I'm currently playing a 4e Knight in one of my friend's games, which is an Essentials class, and basically all he can do is a couple of different stance changes and do a basic melee attack.

Compare this to my Wizard buddy or my TWF Ranger friend, and the amount of complexity that they have to choose from is far greater than what the Knight presents, although my character is consistently valuable to the group and I still have fun playing it.

I think the real problem is that if one player hates complex combat, and "opts out" of all of the combat tactics, but the rest of the group "opts in", then that player still has to sit there for twenty minutes while the table goes around deciding all of the tactics of the battle, while he basically contributes nothing to the interesting discussion at hand and just swings his sword.
Well, a knight should be making lots of opportunity attacks, so to be fair you might be spending just as much game time rolling dice as the other players, only divided throughout the whole round not just your turn.

So, bad example, but your point still stands (eg. Slayer).

To which I would say: well, what does the tactics-hating player enjoy and how can that be introduced into the conflict at hand? I'm not just speaking about the DM's encounter design, but about rules bought into during character creation like the OP posits.

Otherwise, I think the idea is something worth pursuing, and I think is accomplished already in decent form in a few systems.
Out of curiosity, how does this work in OMEN?

This is actual a product of Celebrim's Second Law of RPG's(tm), "How you think about playing a system is more important than the rules system itself."
Good one. What's your first law?

One of the things I really hate about Forge Theory is that there is this assumption that a single game system can only create one kind of game, and that if it isn't played in that way then there is a type of badwrongfun going on (indeed, Ron Edwards often writes as if he's the only one that has ever had real fun gaming). I flatly deny the fundamental thesis of Forge Theory, namely: "A good system is one which knows its outlook and doesn't waste any mechanics on the other two outlooks." Not only does it fail to notice that mechanics are of only secondary importance compared to the meta-mechanics, all the best gaming I've ever had are associated with games that supported everyones interest and could rapidly and seamlessly switch between them into subgames of various sorts. A single focus system might be great for 4-8 hours of play, but most RPGs encourage literally 100's of hours of play. If they aren't supporting diverse gaming tastes and habits, why in the heck would you want to keep playing them.
While I am in total agreement with you about the flawed thesis of the Forge (and I'm glad to hear you say it so succinctly!)... what bearing does that have to Saeviomagy's idea? It seems to me, if anything, having character creation include different complexity dials supports diverse play styles.
 
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Celebrim

Legend
Not that I don't mind the XP, but you really should be XPing ExploderWizard. I'm just elaborating in my usual longwinded way on his points.
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
[MENTION=5890]Saeviomagy[/MENTION] I think you've identified something really interesting, but your examples don't do it justice.
Yes, I agree - The thought was just one which struck me that day, and the examples were the best I could come up with in limited time. I think that in order to have strong examples, one would need to design the entire system from the ground up, or it's very hard to add complexity without adding power due to the granularity of the d20 system.

[MENTION=5889]Stalker0[/MENTION]
The idea is not to take abilities that make you good at combat: the idea is that you take abilities which make you good at combat if and only if you implement solid tactical play. Sure having a +2 to hit when you have CA is going to make combat shorter, but ONLY if you have CA. And you only have CA if you consider carefully where you move to and where your allies move to, and that takes more time and thought than just rolling the dice and applying damage.

Contrast the abilities in my first post with those in my second: the ones in the second post make the players better at the area that they apply to, while simultaeneously reducing the complexity of that area.

[MENTION=4937]Celebrim[/MENTION]
I'd agree that most gaming issues are social ones, and that with a sufficiently good social environment, any system could be used to play any game. But a game system does serve as a useful aid to fun. That's part of the goal of this idea: to design a game system as an aid to fun rather than as a world simulator.

[MENTION=6677983][OMENRPG]Ben[/MENTION]
On the subject of heavily mixed playstyles: part of the original idea is that since character currency is spent on complexity, one can have an overall less complex game simply by giving everyone less currency, which will narrow the gulf between the combat-heavy and combat-light (or social-heavy and social-light) characters.

But ultimately as celebrim said, no system can force everyone to have fun, and some groups will simply have a mix too disparate for there to be a resolution.
 
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