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Offline vbwyrde  
#1 Posted : Thursday, July 31, 2014 4:50:50 PM(UTC)
vbwyrde

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Mario has given some feedback on the Zones of Control Rule so I want to post them here for public consumption:

Mario says:

Quote:
The risk/reward vs every roll you make in order to earn xp also could use some tweaking. I don’t know if the entire xp system needs an overhaul, but as it stands, it’s a little clunky


I'd be happy to listen to alternatives! The rational for the concept is that combat should not be the only thing that awards experience. For fighters it should, as combat is the primary objective and what their class trains for (hence Combat Skills are Primary to Fighters). Thieves on the other hand - their Primary Skills are theiving skills. So they should get as much experience for thieving as Fighters do for fighting. Then there's Elective Skills like basket weaving. These should allow for minor accumulation of experience, but not enough to make it practical to use them for leveling purposes. They're more for flavor, but do award experience. The very patient character who lives an adventureless life as a basket weaver should eventually achieve mastery at that, and by the time their 70 or so be accounted as a Master Basket Weaver (6th Level). What we don't want is characters that do basket weaving in order to up levels as a fighter. That's the concept. Now to make it work as a game mechanic. :)

By the way, my theory as to why going up in levels adds to your skill level even in skills your character doesn't frequently use (this is big bone of contention among Gamers that I know)... the way I envision it is you learn stuff throughout your life from the time your a kid. But due to physical and psychological reasons you can't apply that knoweldge easily. First your body has to mature to full capacity. But then your mind has to mature to full confidence. They you find that as time goes on you get better and better at all the skills you know. This is you achieving competence. Which comes from successful experiences over time. Now I have it divided up that some skills are Elective and others are Primary according to the class of the Character. Elective Skills track along side your Level based on when you learned it. So if you learned the Elective Skill swimming at 2nd Level then you are 1st Level with it. At 3rd Level you are 2nd Level with it. At 4th Level you are 3rd Level with it. So it your Skill Level = (Acquired At Level - Character Level). Primary Skills however are always Skill Level = (Character Level + 1).

Mario Replied:
Quote:

As for the risk/vs reward, it makes sense in combat, but it shouldn’t have to apply in every instance. I speak specifically where my character was trying to figure out the sounds coming from the forest (when it was the stag) – sometimes a check should just be a check. If it succeeds, great, perhaps small or reduced bit of xp can be earned. But the chance of failure in this case shouldn’t mean the attempt shouldn’t be made or overcomplicated (i.e., risk) – it should be just a fail and no xp (no reward). Some skills/checks have risk /reward ‘built in’, but for those that don’t, they can just be regular pass/fail checks. If xp for success is the key here, perhaps the reward can be halved where there’s no risk involved for failure.


The point I wanted to make about when to roll for things in the ODS is this: Whenever there is a roll for something there should be some reason to roll. The way I think of it is "don't roll for the sake of rolling - roll when there is a clear purpose for it". A Risk / Reward relationship should exist. The reward, typically, is both the success of the action, and also Experience Gains. Failures result in no Experience Gains. The risk should be that either the action produces no effect, or a harmful result. In combat this is all quite clear. In many skill uses however, that are not combat related, it's not quite so clear.

In the example from the game, Mario's Character wanted to listen to see if he could make out what kind of sound he heard, and what the possible source of the sound might have been. To my mind it seems unusual for someone to "hear a sound" but have no idea what kind of sound. Sounds have characteristics we can usually understand upon hearing them. For example, the sound of a twig breaking - you shouldn't need to roll to see if you can tell what that sound was. By hearing it you would already know that. So I was suggesting a framework by which to determine whether or not to roll to see if someone should roll the dice for something or not. In this case I was thinking "The GM should simply say, 'You heard a sound'. When the player asked 'What kind of sound', the answer should have been 'It sounded like a twig breaking', not 'Ok, roll to see if you know what the sound was'. I think my general tendency to want to hop in with a rules guideline on this one was a bit off, actually. But it still raises an interesting point.

Checks. Yes. What Mario recommends makes good sense. I would say that if there is no risk, there should be no reward, other than the inherent reward in having succeeded. In this case, I would not have made the player roll to see if he can tell what the sound was, as I think with sounds there's no need to actually check that. But we can go with the example anyway because maybe there could be a reason to roll for it. For example the forest has a lot of ferns, moss and fauna that obscure sound, making them too difficult to make out. Or it's windy, and you really might not be able to tell. Ok. So in this case yes, lets say a roll is required. The Player rolls to see if he can make out the nature of the sound. Let's say that in this forest under these conditions the difficulty is a 4, but there's really no risk result if he fails. He simple can't tell what the sound was. Fine. He rolls a 5 and so he can tell, "Its the sound of a twig breaking". He got the reward, but since there's no risk, he also gets no XP for it.

So the distinction is that for Skills Usage you should have a risk/reward relationship wherein Experience is Rewarded for success, and some consequence happens for failure.

How well does this play out? Lets take Basket Weaving Skill. The risk of failing to make a Difficulty Level 4 basket (the beautiful Rabbit Basket that requires 200 well placed twists of the reed and an artistic touch) ... is ... well, there's not risk in terms of a failure, except that the Character might have spent all day at it. Or two days. And it came out looking like a lopsided bear, not a rabbit. Ok. So you see that in this case the skill failure would be adjudicated by the GM... and it is narrative in nature, not technical. For that I would say, ok, that's sufficient to award Experience Gains on success. After all, Time = Money, and has a value. So it's loss is an actual loss.

How well does this work with other non-combat Skills? But we also have to distinguish between failure and fumbles. Fumbles are critical failures where something goes *seriously* wrong. We're talking ordinary failures here. Lets try some.


  • Swimming? Mouthful full of water, and treading water while recovering breath, perhaps. A fumble might = drowning.
  • Hunting? Hunger pains. Perhaps a negative modifier on Attack Level. Possible starvation.
  • Academics? Failure could result in misinformation. That could be risky.
  • Animal Training? The animal runs away, or bites, or something along those lines.
  • Folk Lore? Again misinformation. Could be a problem.
  • Gardening? This one is kind of hard to think of... risk of failure? Hmmm... ok. Toughie. :p Humiliation? Hunger?
  • Glass Blowing? Glass comes out lop-sided. Waste of time.


Kind of getting a pattern. Some Skills are crafts. Failure means you wasted your time. Some skills are physical and risk damage. Some are for primary needs and failure risks things like hunger, loss of income, or similar effects.

On the other hand we have Checks. Checks involve seeing if someone detects or understands something, and it is not necessarily Skill based, but is something most people should be able to do naturally. Like knowing what a particular sound is. These Checks should not award experience, I think.


That said, this can very easily be decided by the GM, and put in their World's House Rules. My own default rule will probably be as follows:

Experience Gains should be awarded for successes vs risks, and all Skills usage should carry some risk if it fails, and a worse risk if it fumbles. If the risks involved are Primary Skills for the Character, such as picking pockets for thieves, then the Experience Gains are maximized. Otherwise they're Elective Skills and the Experience Gains are minimal. Successes at Unlearned Skills are considered "pure luck" and award only 1 Experience Point per success.

Edited by user Thursday, July 31, 2014 7:17:19 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

Offline thegrimjester  
#2 Posted : Friday, August 1, 2014 1:06:03 AM(UTC)
thegrimjester

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As it stands, the experience point system in the ODS doesn't tickle my fancy for three reasons:

The first reason is that it begs to be abused. In other words, people who are into leveling up will know that they have to make as many die rolls as possible. Make sure an important, and frequently used skill is as high as possible, because that's going to be your bread and butter for getting xp to level up in everything else.

The second reason is that when it comes down to it, it's luck based, because you only award xp for success. In reality, failure is just as educational, if not more. For those who care, it would be downright disheartening that they didn't level up because of a series of bad die rolls.

The third reason is that it involves detailed book keeping. To be honest, I'm kind of envious about this. I would love someone to keep a chronicle of my game. I just don't want to do it myself. Also, if I'm not mistaken, the alignment tracker is merged with the experience tracker, and it's kind of fun to watch someone's alignment move, but once again, I would need to hire someone to keep track of it for me.

Personally, I'm not that fond of experience systems; especially combat based systems. I would prefer a more common sense approach where a character can learn a skill if the opportunity presents itself, and time is spent to learn it. The same would apply to basic traits. As I age, I want my role-playing games to focus on story, while I want my board games to have tight, easy to follow rules.

I am also not too excited about character levels. Let's say I'm role-playing a cat burglar. I have sneak, lock picking, and pick pocket as my skills. I've been working my craft with some success for 5 years. I am a level 3 burglar, who does not engage in combat. Still, my STR is 3, which means that I have 9 HP, and I am 32% more likely to succeed in combat than a level 1 burglar.

Still, I get that character advancement is a big deal for some folks. In that case, the best system that I've seen so far belongs to GURPS, which is a point buy system. Your traits, skills, and abilities are bought with character points (CP).

CPs are awarded kind of like this:

+1 for playing.
+1 for making progress toward your goal, or,
+2 for making great progress, or doing something else spectacular.
-1 for not playing in character.

A system like this rewards people for playing in character, and for working toward their goal. It doesn't require much book keeping, and no one is going to be severely left behind in the race to get to the next level.
Offline vbwyrde  
#3 Posted : Monday, August 4, 2014 4:59:16 PM(UTC)
vbwyrde

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Originally Posted by: thegrimjester Go to Quoted Post
As it stands, the experience point system in the ODS doesn't tickle my fancy for three reasons:


You're not unusual in that, I think. However, it's not the prevailing taste either. Or least it hasn't been in the past. Maybe it is now. Either way, the fact is, some people like Experience Point systems and some don't. In a split like that it's not possible to please everyone. Personally, I'm a fan. I'll have explained why by the end.

Originally Posted by: thegrimjester Go to Quoted Post
The first reason is that it begs to be abused. In other words, people who are into leveling up will know that they have to make as many die rolls as possible. Make sure an important, and frequently used skill is as high as possible, because that's going to be your bread and butter for getting xp to level up in everything else.


Generally speaking, this is true, actually. Most XP systems have this attribute. Players tend to focus on doing those things that advance their Characters. It's a part of the spectrum of Player actions that falls under the rubric 'Min-Maxing' I think. Again, some Players specifically enjoy this aspect of the game. I do, too. Only not to the Nth Maximum Degree. But within reason. In fact, I enjoy Min-Maxing in real life, too. To a certain degree. We all do. For example, I want to improve my chances of surviving the perilous journey to work in the morning. I up my odds by wearing my seat belt. Sounds frivolous, if I put it that way, perhaps. Lets try another one. I want to up my chances of getting a good grade in school. I study hard and ace my exams. I maximized my chances by doing something to Max. I want to increase my chance of surviving a knife fight... Yup. I put on the old Kevlar body armor. Etc. All of these things are real life Min-Maxing that people do every day. I like to do it in the game world, too. But only within reason, and only to a certain degree. I'm not really a huge rules lawyer player who looks at every rule for the flaw, every bonus, and every advantage. But I do like to try to stack the odds in my favor, and if the odds look poor, I often back off and don't take the risk. Kind of like in real life. All of which is to say that in real life people will often behave in a similar way as Characters in an RPG. If you think you're going to need or want to fight a lot - you go and take Kung Fu, or Judo, or just get in fights a lot at your local pub. You build up your experience. In RPGs this building up is counted by points, so we can keep track of it. I'm ok with that. You try to maximize your chances of success. I think of it as part of "Smart Play". In fact it's one of my preferences.

Originally Posted by: thegrimjester Go to Quoted Post
The second reason is that when it comes down to it, it's luck based, because you only award xp for success. In reality, failure is just as educational, if not more. For those who care, it would be downright disheartening that they didn't level up because of a series of bad die rolls.


That's a good point. Very good. I agree. The Elthos ODS is biased towards Good Luck. Sort of. The reason it's 'sort of' is that you can, and in my opinion should, be trying to maximize your chances of success via "Smart Play". So it's not just raw luck 50/50 I win or lose. It's "Gosh, this situation is tricky... how can I use the terrain to get any advantage at all, and maximize my chance of success?" Do that and you have a better chance of beating the odds, and going up in levels. The Elthos ODS is designed to reward, you guessed it, "Smart Play".

On the other hand... I've been toying with the idea of balancing that out. I'm not going to do it, but it did occur to me that the experience system rewards Success... but does not penalize Failure. You don't lose experience when you fail. What if you did? Well, that would incentivize "Smart Play" all the more. And of course make for a whole lotta pissed off players. So no, we won't be doing that. But ... what about in the case of Fumbles? Hmm... ok ok! No, I won't do that either. I know, I know... you're already steaming from the ears that I even mentioned it! :) But to be honest... such a thought did come to my mind recently. I decided against it for the obvious reasons.

Originally Posted by: thegrimjester Go to Quoted Post
The third reason is that it involves detailed book keeping. To be honest, I'm kind of envious about this. I would love someone to keep a chronicle of my game. I just don't want to do it myself. Also, if I'm not mistaken, the alignment tracker is merged with the experience tracker, and it's kind of fun to watch someone's alignment move, but once again, I would need to hire someone to keep track of it for me.


Yup. That is true. Detailed book keeping is indeed a drag. We all know it as GMs. It is probably the worst thing we have to do in this hobby. I used to do a heck of a lot more of it in the old days. Fortunately, I've kind of boiled off all the book keeping that I used to do and what's left are a few things, and none of them are all that hard to do. One is keeping tabs in Life and Mystic Points during combat. The other is Experience Gains. And for both of these I use those nice handy dandy print sheets on which we record the Life and Mystic Point losses - and on the other one the Experience Gains. It tracks Who performed the Action. What the Action was. What the Difficulty Level was. And what the Alignment Change was. Not that much.

Then again, I'm with you on not wanting to book keep during the game. I'm the GM. I've already done enough book keeping, and do plenty more during the game. So I opt for asking one of the players each game to be the Party Secretary and keep track for the group. We switch that around each week, or ask for a volunteer. For the effort I give a few Experience Points as "Party Scribe". I think that's fair, and it takes some of the load off of me. I'm ok with that. I think the Players have been, too. Getting some XP for your troubles seems fair enough to everyone. I usually give 5 XP, for the record.

Originally Posted by: thegrimjester Go to Quoted Post
Personally, I'm not that fond of experience systems; especially combat based systems. I would prefer a more common sense approach where a character can learn a skill if the opportunity presents itself, and time is spent to learn it. The same would apply to basic traits. As I age, I want my role-playing games to focus on story, while I want my board games to have tight, easy to follow rules.


My problem with that, and it's a pretty big problem, is that it's arbitrary. I've played with a lot of GMs. Not all of them are as great as others. Some of them wouldn't be quite there for me enough to provide the opportunities to learn the Skills I actually want. In the Elthos RPG I can go to the Guild and learn what I want. The GM doesn't have to come up with a time, place and NPC for me to interact with in order to offer me a chance to learn 'Rapier' or 'Gun Slinging'. That's what the Guild is there for. Or it's equivalent in whomever's world. Some Worlds won't have a Guild, or they'll name it something else. For me, as a Player, though, I prefer to learn what I want, when I want it (as long as the rules of the game allow it - ie, if it's not level or class restricted). To me that's more fair, and less arbitrary, and gives me a chance to build my own Character as I see fit. GM should not have control over that, except to say what the skill learning rules are in the beginning (ie - we don't have horses, so there is no Horsemanship skill in my world, for example).

Originally Posted by: thegrimjester Go to Quoted Post
I am also not too excited about character levels. Let's say I'm role-playing a cat burglar. I have sneak, lock picking, and pick pocket as my skills. I've been working my craft with some success for 5 years. I am a level 3 burglar, who does not engage in combat. Still, my STR is 3, which means that I have 9 HP, and I am 32% more likely to succeed in combat than a level 1 burglar.


Um... but your Cat Burlar doesn't have a 32% greater chance in combat because of his better Life Points than a Fighter. After all he will have a higher Attack Level based on his skill set. But yes, your 3rd Level Burglar would survive combat 32% longer than a 1st Level Burglar based on their Life Points, all else being equal. That's true. But I'm not sure what the conceptual problem with that is. You're Cat Burglar is more experienced, and is basically more competent at fighting because he's that much more competent than an 1st Level at everything, generally. To me, this abstraction works. I don't have a problem with it myself. But I accept that others do. Maybe it's because of the way that I define what Skills are and why people go up in Levels at them. I have it that you go up in Levels (in other words your chances of success increase) because your successful experiences improve your confidence... which in turn improves your competence. You simply are doing things you knew how to do before better. And better. As you go up in levels. That also works for me as an abstraction of how things work in reality. It's simple enough, yet tracks with what I observe in the real world. Or at least what I think I observe. Close enough for Government work, anyway. :)

Originally Posted by: thegrimjester Go to Quoted Post
Still, I get that character advancement is a big deal for some folks. In that case, the best system that I've seen so far belongs to GURPS, which is a point buy system. Your traits, skills, and abilities are bought with character points (CP).


I haven't really given GURPS much of a go. I should try it.

Originally Posted by: thegrimjester Go to Quoted Post
CPs are awarded kind of like this:

+1 for playing.
+1 for making progress toward your goal, or,
+2 for making great progress, or doing something else spectacular.
-1 for not playing in character.


Meh. Not my cup of tea. I don't care for systems that leave Character advancement, which is technical, to the GM's arbitrary decisions as to whether or not they think a Character has "made progress", or done something "spectacular". Yes that's all well and good if your GM favors you, but in those cases where it's not quite like that, you're at a disadvantage... or could be. I prefer not to give the GM that much power. The Players own their Characters and advancement should be fair. That's why I like the XP system. It's above board, there is no arbitrary decision making by the GM, and everyone has an equal shot at leveling. Also, taking someone's XP for not RPing is almost worse than taking it for Fumbling! :p Some people don't Roll Play well, but their Characters should still go up. I'm going to thumbs down on this one.

Originally Posted by: thegrimjester Go to Quoted Post
A system like this rewards people for playing in character, and for working toward their goal. It doesn't require much book keeping, and no one is going to be severely left behind in the race to get to the next level.


You can always reward Players for achievements in the ODS as well. You can simply assign experience for it. "Groknar the Barbarian Rescued the fair maiden from the mean old Paladin and had his way with her! Extra Experience! Yay!"

Anyway, the fact is, no system will please everyone. That's a fact. I am kind of persuaded by my own arguments still, as well. But I'm curious to hear what you think of my counter points. And as usual, thanks for the debate. It's great. :)

Edited by user Monday, August 4, 2014 5:08:53 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Minor edit.

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