It is currently Wed Oct 17, 2018 2:54 pm

All times are UTC




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 24 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 11:05 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:12 pm
Posts: 67
The Alternative Combat Mechanics thread (q.v.) ended up with debate about the NPCs in OBaM possibly being overpowered in terms of their attributes, relative to PCs. Some posts responded by saying that these were not starting characters but already developed. Is this applicable?

For D&D and its descendants, if we describe the campaign in terms of a story being told, then it is a tale of their adventures and begins when the PCs become "adventurers", in other words their story starts when they first go down a dungeon to kill monsters and take their stuff. With such game systems the way the way they are, with experience measured by amount of monsters killed and stuff taken, that means the PCs are by definition always callow youths in the beginning. But in The Price of Freedom I've seen people borrow the idea of the "kicker" from Sorcerer: this is the notion of a life interrupted by some event at which point someone becomes a Player Character, as it were. If this is the start of the game/story, then the notion of the D&D style starting character is irrelevant. A kicker event could occur at any time, including when the character is already what would in the latter gaming milieu be described as a "high level character". How, then is it possible to talk of starting characters in TROS with any meaning?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 12:10 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:06 am
Posts: 1495
Location: Vienna, Austria, Europe
Excellent topic, and very good points you are raising here, Certic!

Certic wrote:
A kicker event could occur at any time, including when the character is already what would in the latter gaming milieu be described as a "high level character". How, then is it possible to talk of starting characters in TROS with any meaning?

I hold indeed that a “starting character” (meaning a character right out of character creation) in TRoS is infinitely more powerful than a “starting character” in, say, D&D. In the latter case the term “starting” refers to starting out on a long journey of character advancement, in the former it refers just to the start of the character’s story.

The fact that a starting character in TRoS is no grunt but already somebody able to make a difference is very pleasing to me. When we look characters from adventure fiction, even characters who are the protagonists of a long series of tales, we find that they don’t go from being a grunt to becoming a superhero. Guys like Conan or Druss the Legend are already quite formidable when the reader first encounters them, then they get get a bit more skilled and experienced, and then their capabilities peak, and plateau at this peak. Odysseus, Achilles, Beowulf and Sigurd, Aragorn, Elric, Conan and the Gray Mouser, even if we happen to catch them young, they are never grunts, and their stories are imo better for it. The notion of having to “earn” a capable character and not being allowed to start out with one is not one derived from the literary model of role-playing adventures but a remnant of the hobby’s origin in wargaming. The way most people like to play today, I’d say it’s high time to jettison this obsolete concept.

A tiny (semi-)aside:
Certic wrote:
The Alternative Combat Mechanics thread (q.v.) ended up with debate about the NPCs in OBaM possibly being overpowered in terms of their attributes, relative to PCs. Some posts responded by saying that these were not starting characters but already developed.


Personally, I repudiate the concept of the “starting soldier” (e.g.) and the “developed soldier”. I can’t see how there should be a great difference in Proficiency and Skills, let alone Attributes, between a “starting soldier” and a “developed soldier”. In basically all pursuits I am familiar with, once you achieve a certain level of proficiency, you usually plateau there, unless you put tremendous effort into stretching your boundaries – the Law of Diminishing Returns. Again, the entire notion of people getting constantly ever better is neither to be found in fiction nor rooted in real life but rather a relic of wargaming.

_________________
My real name is Michael; use it, if you like.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 12:56 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:05 pm
Posts: 2035
Location: Estonia
Certic wrote:
How, then is it possible to talk of starting characters in TROS with any meaning?
I think the point of that thread was that... Considering the average attribute level of 4 (or 3.5 as I believe it to be from the construction of the priority table) the NPC attributes in OBaM are ridiculously high compared to the options that are given to the players to build their characters.

_________________
"Brothels are a much sounder investment than ships, I've found. Whores seldom sink, and when they are boarded by pirates, why, the pirates pay good coin like everyone else."
- Lord Petyr Baelish, A Game of Thrones


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2009 5:56 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 4:31 am
Posts: 251
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, US
Grettir wrote:
Personally, I repudiate the concept of the “starting soldier” (e.g.) and the “developed soldier”. I can’t see how there should be a great difference in Proficiency and Skills, let alone Attributes, between a “starting soldier” and a “developed soldier”. In basically all pursuits I am familiar with, once you achieve a certain level of proficiency, you usually plateau there, unless you put tremendous effort into stretching your boundaries – the Law of Diminishing Returns. Again, the entire notion of people getting constantly ever better is neither to be found in fiction nor rooted in real life but rather a relic of wargaming.


But I don't think character advancement in TROS is intended to model reality at all. TROS characters can advance to almost ridiculously high combat abilities with the only restriction being the fact that you can only have 5 SAs at a maximum of 5 points each to spend raising your proficiency. In that respect, TROS is actually a lot like wargames and traditional RPGs. You can have starting soldiers and developed soldiers. And by looking at the overall abilities of a given character--his attributes, skills, proficiencies, etc.--you can tell whether this is a character who has just been created, with only the points from initial priorities, or one who has had some SA points spent on him. In that way, you can say that there are starting characters in TROS.

The biggest difference, and the most important, is the one you already mentioned. A brand new TROS character can start with very high combat abilities, or very low, depending on what the player wants out of the game. It's only in looking at the overall package that you can tell a starting character from an experienced one in TROS.

_________________
Ben
My blog: fantasy fiction, gaming, and progressive metal


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2009 6:32 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:06 am
Posts: 1495
Location: Vienna, Austria, Europe
Daeruin wrote:
But I don't think character advancement in TROS is intended to model reality at all. (...) You can have starting soldiers and developed soldiers.

I agree – but I think that you can’t, or shouldn’t, compare PC development with NPC development. The PCs are protagonists, the NPCs, especially the run-of-of-the-mill ones like he quoted soldiers, are merely supporting cast.

In that respect I consider it appropriate and supportive of drama that TRoS deviates from real-world realism in favour of story-realism. Personally, I still think that TRoS character development is too quick – not because it gives you very powerful characters very soon, but because this steep progression does not follow the model of fiction closely enough. Were I to rework the system, I’d make starting characters even more powerful than they are but slow down advancement a bit.

_________________
My real name is Michael; use it, if you like.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2009 11:26 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:12 pm
Posts: 67
The core rulebook sometimes seems to have contradictory ideas in it... you've got that article on sorcerers by Ron Edwards, the gist of which is "It's not about game balance" but then if you give Proficiences an A or B pick, you may not put more than 7 points into any one, because of game balance.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2009 11:27 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:12 pm
Posts: 67
Sorry - I should explain what the significance of my post above is: it sometimes seems that the authors were torn between creating a traditional RPG where the characters "go up levels" and a strongly narrativist game which isn't bothered about traditional concerns.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 2:31 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:43 pm
Posts: 2112
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Certic wrote:
it sometimes seems that the authors were torn between creating a traditional RPG where the characters "go up levels" and a strongly narrativist game which isn't bothered about traditional concerns.


Any game has to give its players a reason to keep playing. In a role-paying game, character development is the key incentive for the player. In a story-telling game, such as Montsegur 1244, story-development itself is the reason for playing.

TRoS, as an RPG, takes the point of view that the player wants to see their character be more effective within the constraints of the gaming environment. TRoS has a Narrativist mechanic controlling character development. The player determines the kind of tale they want to explore through their character and defines the character's SAs accordingly. The referee builds the scenario material around the players SAs. As long as the the player follows the plot arcs relevant to their character's SAs the player will receive SA points -- making the character more effective in future, related scenes -- and those points may be traded in for character development.

I don't agree with the idea that Narrativist RPGs are not concerned with character development and play balance. As I see it, those games place greater priority on supporting story development but this doesn't mean that they place no emphasis on issues of play balance and character development. If they did then I'm not sure that they are an RPG any more, but rather a story-telling game.

Sorcery in TRoS Core isn't balanced, as you rightly point out. Equally you could say that religious characters are not balanced -- just it is in the opposite direction. :) The only part of TRoS, IMO, for which there is an attempt at play balance is the area of the game that is largely a Sim design -- the combat system.

Regards,

_________________
Ian Plumb
Illustrations for Gamers
Lyonpaedia
Griffin Grove Gaming
Kraftworks for Kids School Holiday Program


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 10:37 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:12 pm
Posts: 67
Ian.Plumb wrote:
Certic wrote:
it sometimes seems that the authors were torn between creating a traditional RPG where the characters "go up levels" and a strongly narrativist game which isn't bothered about traditional concerns.


Any game has to give its players a reason to keep playing. In a role-paying game, character development is the key incentive for the player.

So is classic Traveller, which has no character development in terms of changes to stats, not a roleplaying game?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 11:44 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:05 pm
Posts: 2035
Location: Estonia
Certic wrote:
So is classic Traveller, which has no character development in terms of changes to stats, not a roleplaying game?
I've never seen the original Traveller, but in video games this is true. No game mechanical development means that the game will be labeled an "adventure game". Ironically, most adventure games see more character development than most CRPGs. :?

_________________
"Brothels are a much sounder investment than ships, I've found. Whores seldom sink, and when they are boarded by pirates, why, the pirates pay good coin like everyone else."
- Lord Petyr Baelish, A Game of Thrones


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 5:26 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:06 am
Posts: 1495
Location: Vienna, Austria, Europe
Ian.Plumb wrote:
I don't agree with the idea that Narrativist RPGs are not concerned with character development and play balance. As I see it, those games place greater priority on supporting story development but this doesn't mean that they place no emphasis on issues of play balance and character development. If they did then I'm not sure that they are an RPG any more, but rather a story-telling game.

Like Certic, I do also think that character development is not an indispensible component of role-playing. Sure, almost no systems do without, and seeing your character get better is nice, but most serious gamers without Gamist priorities wouldn’t probably be dismayed having to do without it – provided of course their characters are already competent to begin with.

_________________
My real name is Michael; use it, if you like.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 9:56 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:43 pm
Posts: 2112
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Certic wrote:
So is classic Traveller, which has no character development in terms of changes to stats, not a roleplaying game?


:lol:

Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?Of course there will be games that straddle both categories or don't have all of the characteristics. The original Traveller RPG had no character development after character generation -- but you could start your character at any age, thereby creating more developed characters. Universalis allows you to assign attributes to the characters as the game progresses, thereby potentially developing that character, making it more capable within the game world. But as a dodgy rule of thumb I think the above criteria work for me.


Regards,

_________________
Ian Plumb
Illustrations for Gamers
Lyonpaedia
Griffin Grove Gaming
Kraftworks for Kids School Holiday Program


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 10:01 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:43 pm
Posts: 2112
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Grettir wrote:
Sure, almost no systems do without, and seeing your character get better is nice, but most serious gamers without Gamist priorities wouldn’t probably be dismayed having to do without it – provided of course their characters are already competent to begin with.


I couldn't disagree more. If there's no character development, mechanically, then I won't play it. This view relies on the idea of disposable characters being played in short run scenarios, IMO. If you play the same character for a couple of years in a couple of campaigns with a dozen scenarios, and the character doesn't change as a result of their activities, then -- quite frankly -- what's the point?

Regards,

_________________
Ian Plumb
Illustrations for Gamers
Lyonpaedia
Griffin Grove Gaming
Kraftworks for Kids School Holiday Program


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2009 1:18 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:12 pm
Posts: 67
Change and mechanics-based character progression are not the same thing. A Traveller character might not ever get better than Auto rifle-2 but has clearly changed if he ends up owning a small fleet of traders; on the other hand how far has a D&D character changed going from 1st to 7th level while never doing anything but going down dungeons to kill monsters?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: What is a Starting Character?
PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2009 3:41 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:43 pm
Posts: 2112
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Certic wrote:
Change and mechanics-based character progression are not the same thing.


Obviously -- hence I was specific.

Certic wrote:
A Traveller character might not ever get better than Auto rifle-2 but has clearly changed if he ends up owning a small fleet of traders;


Which I'm guessing is why I'm playing TRoS and not Traveller...?

Certic wrote:
on the other hand how far has a D&D character changed going from 1st to 7th level while never doing anything but going down dungeons to kill monsters?


Yes, there are RPGs that have no mechanical character progression. I don't play them because I find them pointless.

Yes, there are crappy RPGs that do have mechanical character progression. I don't play them because they are crappy.

Have a look at the statement I am responding to:

Quote:
Sure, almost no systems do without, and seeing your character get better is nice, but most serious gamers without Gamist priorities wouldn’t probably be dismayed having to do without it – provided of course their characters are already competent to begin with.


Most serious gamers without Gamist priorities would happily play a game without character progression...

Really?

So, ipso facto, those who want character progression are either Gamist or not serious gamers?

Really?

Regards,

_________________
Ian Plumb
Illustrations for Gamers
Lyonpaedia
Griffin Grove Gaming
Kraftworks for Kids School Holiday Program


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 24 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next

All times are UTC


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron


Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group              Designed by QuakeZone