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 Post subject: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:08 pm 
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Hey,
I think I read about this complaint a long time ago, I don't know whether it was on the forge or the old TRoS Forums. But I recently stumbled over it again - is it just me or are the stats for the human NPCs in OBaM really high? A knight with all 6es and 7ens? A courtier with Soc 8? Do characters in your games have stats like that or do your players ever reach these heights?
I am asking because in my ASoIaF game, after converting the NPCs over from d20, even characters like Jaime or the Cleganes are more like 5es with an occasional 6 or two. (Okay Gregor I bumped up a bit physically, but trashed his mental stats..)

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Sandor


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 Post subject: Re: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 1:10 pm 
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Sandor wrote:
... is it just me or are the stats for the human NPCs in OBaM really high? A knight with all 6es and 7ens? A courtier with Soc 8? Do characters in your games have stats like that or do your players ever reach these heights?


OBaM is predicated on the idea that a player's SA expenditure will be to bump attributes as often as it is to bump proficiencies, vagaries, or skills. Perhaps even to the extent that it is the most common use of SA expenditure.

I follow the same approach in my games. Attribute changes are frequent. SA changes are frequent as well for that matter.

I know other gamers run their games with the idea that 4 is the human average and each point above that represents a substantial increase in capability. Character attributes are largely static; any change requires in-game justification.

For me, OBaM works as is. But if you follow the latter approach then the NPCs in OBaM will be completely inappropriate.

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 Post subject: Re: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2010 6:07 pm 
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Hmm, makes sense in that regard. At the pace I am handing out SA rewards, it would probably take the players a long time to buy themselves up to those heights.
The NPCs in the core to me seemed more natural, and I was kind of rolling with the 4 being human standard and all as well. But then I also flinched back then when 3e D&D came along and let players bump their stats beyond 18..

The thing is, how do you think of attributes then? Are your games more heroic, with stats in the sixes and sevens being normal? Or is your human standard something else in your mind? Or are they just..well, numbers? When I say a big man with muscle corded arms, built like an ox, walks into the room...what STR would he have in your game? In mine he would at max be 7 I guess, 8 if I were on too much caffeine...but that would be like a human maximum, the epitome of strength. Maybe even superhuman. In OBAM, the Knight has a STR of 7.

Oh, and do you limit toughness? I have no that much experience actually running TRoS, hence my feel for it might be off, I am just going with what feels natural to me, but I sure know I am bringing some baggage and misconceptions from other games to the table.

Cheers,
Sandor


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 Post subject: Re: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Sun Aug 15, 2010 10:39 am 
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Sandor wrote:
Hmm, makes sense in that regard. At the pace I am handing out SA rewards, it would probably take the players a long time to buy themselves up to those heights.


When we play a session lasts about three hours. In that time I try to get through between four and six scenes. My scene framing style is quite aggressive, so my transitions between scenes tend to be very short in duration. There are no scenes without SAs firing so at least one person is getting an SA point at the end of those scenes and usually more than one person. As such I tend to hit that 3 SA points per player per session mark most of the time. When we play we play fortnightly and a scenario runs from 3 to 6 sessions. So, 9 - 18 SAs per player per scenario. 4 scenarios per year -- 36 to 72 SA points per player, over the course of a real time year I'd say it is typical for a player to earn 70 SA points.

Sandor wrote:
The thing is, how do you think of attributes then?


This topic pretty much covers the gamut of view.



I am firmly in the camp that sees SA point expenditure as metagame reward for the player for participating in the game -- therefore they're free to spend those points as they see fit to get the character they want to continue playing. Those numbers in those attributes represent an abstract likelihood rather than a specific in-game capability, for me anyway.

Sandor wrote:
Oh, and do you limit toughness?


I don't. Naked Dwarf syndrome (TO is so high that no armour is required) doesn't concern me overly. I am more interested in the story than any illusion of realism.

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 Post subject: Re: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Sun Aug 15, 2010 4:40 pm 
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Thank you Ian, that really cleared things up for me. I totally understand where you are coming from, and this way of looking at stats is not alien to me, but I myself would not use it in conjunction with this particular game (TRoS). I like narrative games very much, but the way I always saw TRoS was that a big chunk of it was really a Sim, and that included the core dice mechanics and values, meaning Temporal and Mental stats, skill values and proficiencies. The SAs to me were the only metagaming mechanic, they were what could make a STR2 little girl somehow narratively prevail against a STR8 Mountain-that-rides.

I guess you could say in a hybridesque game like TRoS, I like to have clear distinctions between what part is Sim, what is Narration and what is just Gamism, to use the threefold model. I like the values to represent exactly what a character is capable of - and then push it over with SAs, to make the story happen. But it's interesting to see your very different view, which probably works very well with the way you frame scenes and always go straight for the SAs. I might just try that some time.

Cheers!
Sandor


Last edited by Sandor on Mon Aug 16, 2010 2:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Sun Aug 15, 2010 10:52 pm 
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Sandor wrote:
I like the values to represent exactly what a character is capable of - and then push it over with SAs, to make the story happen.
I didn't feel that I could contribute to this thread after Ian had posted his link, but I have to say that I like very much how you worded this!

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 Post subject: Re: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 2:51 am 
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Thanks higgins,
I felt from reading the thread Ian linked that we had a similar way of looking at stats. I was actually planning on reading up on all you guys have written for your EoS so far. Alas, I didn't quite get to it yet. But I really think I should play the game some more before I can contribute. So far, there really is not much I would want to change with TRoS - almost everything I find missing, I find in Burning Wheel, and vice versa. But that is not in a lacking kind of way, I think they just focus on different things..

Cheers,
Sandor


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 Post subject: Re: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:51 pm 
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Sandor wrote:
The SAs to me were the only metagaming mechanic...


What about Luck/Drama?

Sandor wrote:
I like the values to represent exactly what a character is capable of...


If the attribute values represent capability directly how do you feel about raising attributes through SA expenditure?

Sandor wrote:
... and then push it over with SAs, to make the story happen.


Equally though, from the perspective of the mechanics, the player can make the story go where they want simply through the expenditure of Luck/Drama. Most skill rolls, in TRoS, only require 1 success so even if the TN is set to a dramatic 23 the player can opt to roll a die and then expend Luck/Drama to make that roll successful. So, to a significant degree -- from the perspective of story -- the attribute values have less to say than Luck/Drama in demonstrating capability.

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 Post subject: Re: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:50 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:

What about Luck/Drama?



Well, Luck is an SA too, but to be honest, at the moment we are using neither. Again I generally like the concept of Drama/Fate/Hero/etc. points, but for some reason not in TRoS. Also, simply buying a success is not something I am fond of. Raising probabilities? Okay, check. But no free tickets.

But then again, playing some more, I might change my mind. In which case I would probably introduce Drama and see what happens.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
If the attribute values represent capability directly how do you feel about raising attributes through SA expenditure?


Well, that remains to be seen, as my SA awards have been kind of low and raising Attributes is quite costy. Though my players kind of share my view of what those attributes represent and probably wouldn't bump up stats that to them are not in line with their character concept. For example, the maester in my group would not increase STR in any way, I am sure.

You might argue that at some point we will run into situations when characters like him will not know where to put their SAs, as he for example is also not a martial character and probably wouldn't invest in proficiencies either. I tried to convince people at the beginning that the game is alot about combat and works best when everyone plays some kind of martial character but this is how it turned out. See how much authority I have at my table.

And if I don't allow stats over 7 or 8, the aforementioned maester won't be able to bump his Mental stats either, eventually. I am not yet sure about how to handle this. But I could imagine that the way things go, maybe he would be dead by then or just keep using SAs to bump skills. And generally keep the SAs values high, to get the bonus when things matter. With me not giving out too many rewards, progression will be slower, and it might work out for the campaign.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
Equally though, from the perspective of the mechanics, the player can make the story go where they want simply through the expenditure of Luck/Drama. Most skill rolls, in TRoS, only require 1 success so even if the TN is set to a dramatic 23 the player can opt to roll a die and then expend Luck/Drama to make that roll successful. So, to a significant degree -- from the perspective of story -- the attribute values have less to say than Luck/Drama in demonstrating capability.
Regards,


Yeah, see above. If I were using Luck or Drama, and using it as written, you would be right.

But honestly, take everything I say with a grain of salt as my experience with TRoS is limited. I think, since I have it going for a few RPGs which have various similarities but also lots of differences, I tend to try to seperate them and make them work in what I deem the purest way of what makes them special.

As said before, to me TRoS is a very simmy game at its core with a powerful story engine built on top. These aspects are seperate but complement each other perfectly.

In Burning Wheel, on the other hand, I see a game that has been smoothly blended, much harder to disect and see whats what. It just works.

Lastly, FATE is that game to me where you make story happen by spending points, and it does it better and in a purer way than any other game. I don't feel the need to have a Frankengame that combines all these things. I think it would lose focus.

But, as said, I might run into trouble as the way the advancement system in TRoS works. I just have to pace my SA rewards, and it should work out. Or not, and I will come whining back here ;)

Either way, all the best to you and no matter how we run our games, if we are having fun we are doing it right! And I have to say, I would really like to see Ian's way of playing in action. As a player, I mean.

Cheers!
Sandor


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 Post subject: Re: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 9:43 pm 
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Something you'll see written in various places is something to the effect of:

"TRoS: Players come for the combat but stay for the SAs."

For me, while the combat system is unique it is the SA system that is the ounce of genius in TRoS. In a single stroke the SA system:

  • Provides a mechanism that allows the players to tell the referee what they want the game to be about right now,
  • Provides the referee with a guarantee that if a scenario is built around the player's SAs that they will want to play it,
  • Provides the referee with a mechanism for rewarding players who actively participate in the game,
  • Provides the players with a guarantee that if they follow the plots that they asked for their characters will perform better and their characters will develop.

No more does the referee create a scenario from a blank canvas and hope that it will interest the players. No more do the players find themselves stuck at the table mind-numbingly bored playing a game that isn't about the referee's interests. No more do the players find that certain character races/professions/whatever perform better in the game and develop quicker.

The SA mechanic provides a neat closed-loop reward mechanic. The player states what they want the game to be about. The referee builds a scenario around that. The players participate, which pleases the referee. The referee rewards those players who participate with extra SA points, making their characters perform better. The players are happy; the game interests them and their character is developing. It is such an elegant system.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 11:43 pm 
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Ian,

I am right with you on all that! Improving Temporal and Mental Attributes is really the only thing that doesn't quite work beyond a certain point for me, as it would mean transcending human potential, growing huuuge arms or decoding the very myteries of creation. I guess just slowing the pace of SA rewards and/or making the SA cost for raising attributes beyond 6 really expensive would fix this problem for me. Though they already are quite steep..

Also, because I like the way SAs work so much, I don't want Drama/Luck to interfere with them. SAs give the characters Focus, not sure Drama really complements that well. It just seems like a mechanic lifted from another game because it was cool there. But dropping it on top of SAs? As I said, I will experiment.

Cheers,
Sandor


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 Post subject: Re: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:03 am 
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Sandor wrote:
Also, because I like the way SAs work so much, I don't want Drama/Luck to interfere with them. SAs give the characters Focus, not sure Drama really complements that well.


It is an interesting one. My own gaming background, pre-TRoS, was a home built Chivalry and Sorcery/HarnMaster combo that was very much hunkered down in the land of Sim.

On reading TRoS it took me ages to get my head around the purpose of SAs, and Luck just looked like a mechanic for cheating. However, once I understood the game I realised that it shone a bright light on all the pitfalls of our own beloved game.

It is, I think, important to understand that the SAs represent what the player wants the game to be about. They are metagame; not a function of character. They should change regularly, as the player decides that they've had enough of one plot line and instead want to concentrate on something else that has come up during play, or something they would like to see introduced to the game fairly soon.

I personally like the Luck/Drama mechanic. I am a firm believer in the adage "No meaningless character deaths." In our C&S game, we'd say that a bad roll that led to a character being killed was simply the gameworld saying it was the character's time to go. What rubbish! If the purpose of play is to create a story, then the main characters only die when it is pivotal to the plot to do so. Luck/Drama help to make that happen -- you avoid the meaningless death, you live to see the pivotal scene.

That aside, Luck/Drama is TRoS' way of adding complications to somebody else's scene. You can expend them to make someone else's scene more interesting, not just to save your own character's butt.

Nevertheless, all of this is just from a design point of view. In play -- well, to each their own.

Cheers,

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 Post subject: Re: Human stats in OBaM
PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:21 pm 
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Well,
It's interesting where you are coming from and where I am coming from. See, in my D&D games of the past, never did a PC die because of bad rolls. Ever. If a character died, it was because the Player wanted him to and then I made sure it did happen in a pivotal Scene of the story.

Now, what actually did intrigue me about TRoS was that it was so deadly, that players were very mortal, and that SAs pose those two questions: What are you willing to kill for AND what are you willing to die for? If a player draws steel, then he knows his character might die. So he will only draw steel with his SAs are firing, and if he, nevertheless, happens to die then, this automatically turns it into a pivotal scene - I mean, a main character died by fighting for what he believed in! That's good drama in itself, no? And it is created by the mechanics, not set up in advance.

Now if it happened because I overstatted my NPCs, well that's not so nice then. But Drama just seems to trim the claws of the tiger that is TRoS combat. But! This is me speaking about my current game, which is set in the world of Westeros, and in a way it IS true to the fiction that important characters die, at moments when you wouldn't expect it, without neccesarily fullfilling their destinies or attaining their goals before or by doing it.

If I were to run a different game in a different setting, I would really consider introducing Drama, with some or all it can do according to the book. I might yet introduce it into the current campaign but not with all it's effects. And I might make sure to tie it only to SA situations. If neccesary. That being said, if my players want it, I will give it to them. They still aren't very happy about the possibility of character death, but that's basically because they fear that if it happens, it will be due to them not being proficient enough with the combat mechanics.

And speaking of a design POV - Character death is always a problem, of course, and I wouldn't drop it into any game. I think though that it just clicks with TRoS and the way the game works. Characters will never die trivially. But they will or are likely to die, eventually. TRoS is the game, for me, that handles such themes best. I have been studying MMO design lately and came across a similar thing from their world - Permadeath. It seems like a totally no go design decision nowadays, but only because people try to imagine what their favorite MMO would be like if their hard worked on character could be removed from them forever. But WoW was never designed with the intention of having permadeath. If it were, it would be a totally different game.

In TRoS, I try to get my players to invest in the story, and through that, in the characters, rather than investing directly into the characters. If their characters die, well sure they make a new one, but the way SAs work, they will have died for the story and the new character will be tied in nicely. I want to get to the point were a player can be content or even "happy" about his character's death, because it made for a great story in a way they are hapy when character death is preplanned - just that it happened on the fly. Maybe I am naive and players always invest too much into characters to want to see them go by accident, or knowing it might happen, not invest into them at all. Time will tell. Maybe I should post my Actual Play on here, if you guys are interested. Tonight we have our first infrno session.

Cheers,
Sandor


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