Downgrading SKILL

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LordArioch
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Re: Downgrading SKILL

Post by LordArioch » Thu Jun 13, 2019 7:27 pm

Has anyone split SKILL into MENTAL SKILL and PHYSICAL SKILL? Surely that would not make this ruleset too granular.

Both start at 4.
Maximum of 2 pool-points may be added to each.
Thus either one would start no higher than 6.

I'd have to crunch numbers to see it that is viable.

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SkinnyOrc
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Re: Downgrading SKILL

Post by SkinnyOrc » Fri Jun 14, 2019 6:36 am

LordArioch wrote:
Thu Jun 13, 2019 7:27 pm
Has anyone split SKILL into MENTAL SKILL and PHYSICAL SKILL? Surely that would not make this ruleset too granular.
I think it depends how you see SKILL. I see it as being equivalent to level in other RPGs, as representing the general experience of the character as an adventurer. I don't believe it's equivalent to characteristics like Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence in other games (and those not usually being upgradable with XP supports that). So if you look at it like that then it doesn't make sense to split SKILL into mental and physical.

What I did propose a while back was minor characteristics, http://arion-games.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=842. The idea was these defined the natural attributes of the PC and the GM can choose for tests to be against one of those or against SKILL as they think fits. Intellect, Charisma and Appearance seem to me to be particularly useful in game.

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SkinnyOrc
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Re: Downgrading SKILL

Post by SkinnyOrc » Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:48 pm

Okay so here's how things pan out following the rulebook for a player concentrating just on improving AS (of course there's plenty of other things they could spend XP on). You can start with AS 9 and get to 13 with 180XP, just four adventures following the suggested 50XP per adventure. Then it really slows down as they have to increase SKILL, the first one costing 160XP, almost as much as all the WSS upgrades put together, and it only gets more expensive from there. The problem is AS 13 is already heading out of the sweet spot for having lots of monsters from the pit books to choose from.

SKILL 7, WSS 2, AS 9, 0XP (starting)
SKILL 7, WSS 3, AS 10, 30XP, 30XP
SKILL 7, WSS 4, AS 11, 40XP, 70XP
SKILL 7, WSS 5, AS 12, 50XP, 120XP
SKILL 7, WSS 6, AS 13, 60XP, 180XP
SKILL 8, WSS 6, AS 14, 160XP, 340XP
SKILL 9, WSS 6, AS 15, 180XP, 520XP
SKILL 10, WSS 6, AS 16, 200XP, 720XP
SKILL 11, WSS 6, AS 17, 220XP, 940XP
SKILL 12, WSS 6, AS 18, 240XP, 1180XP

This is what fixing SKILL at 6 looks like leaving XP alone. Max AS is limited but you can get there too quickly.

SKILL 6, WSS 2, AS 8, 0XP (starting)
SKILL 6, WSS 3, AS 9, 30XP, 30XP
SKILL 6, WSS 4, AS 10, 40XP, 70XP
SKILL 6, WSS 5, AS 11, 50XP, 120XP
SKILL 6, WSS 6, AS 12, 60XP, 180XP

Increasing WSS costs from new score x10 to x40 looks like this. My opinion is this would work okay but it means a long time between advancing and players tend not to like that.

SKILL 6, WSS 2, AS 8, 0XP (starting)
SKILL 6, WSS 3, AS 9, 120XP, 120XP
SKILL 6, WSS 4, AS 10, 160XP, 280XP
SKILL 6, WSS 5, AS 11, 200XP, 480XP
SKILL 6, WSS 6, AS 12, 240XP, 720XP

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Re: Downgrading SKILL

Post by Sukumvit » Fri Jun 14, 2019 3:58 pm

Looks good to me but, as you say, it depends on what the players are happy with. Possibly reducing the cost to 25 or 30 x new value in X.P.s would work better for some groups. It's something that you'll only be able to appraise when you try it; some players will say "I'm happy to wait a while before I get really good," and then they start to get impatient because they still can't "do an Aragorn" and hack through a platoon of goblins. I've always been more interested in story-telling than power-gaming, so I have limited patience with that approach, but if that's what makes players happy, what are ya gonna do? You're trying to run a game that they'll enjoy; they don't appreciate you telling them how they SHOULD be playing (going back to Cthulhu one last time, it has a nice way of showing, rather than telling, players how to play the game: "oh, you want to stand and fight that Dark Young? Really? Well okay, go ahead. There. Right, now your friends can come back and scrape up your remains." Well...maybe it's not "nice." But they learn pretty quickly.)

I've been thinking more about what you said about using lots of modifiers on rolls, and I'm now really wondering if my limiting of (SKILL + Special Skill) to 12/13 would work well in that style of game; you could find that , if you used all the modifiers that could apply to a situation (and the rulebook has an awful LOT of modifiers, many of which could be stacked,) nobody would be able to do anything. It's possible that all those modifiers are the way the system calibrates itself in the face of combined ratings of 16, 17 and 18. Those high ratings insulate you a bit from negative modifiers, but the modifiers do stop you being too powerful/capable. As I said, I use modifiers when I think they're necessary, but ignore them at other times. I'm not really interested in the difference between climbing a wall when wearing leather, or chainmail, or plate armour; I'll apply the modifier for full plate, but otherwise allow an unmodified roll based on the assumption that their Climb skill includes the ability to climb in lighter armour, of the sort that they wear day in and day out anyway. The modifiers all make perfect sense, but it's heading towards a Runequesty realism that AFF wasn't built for, in my opinion. If a situation entailed modifiers for climbing a steep wall, in a high wind, wearing plate, carrying a heavy burden and being shot at by orc archers...I probably wouldn't make the wall so bloody difficult to scale to start with, or "encourage" them to ditch the armour, or stage the scene on a nice, sunny day. As I say, too many shuddersome memories of Modifier Hell...
So, to sum up, it's possible that reducing Heroes becoming over-powered in combat might necessitate being less devoted to modifers. Not a problem from my point of view, but you (and others) might not like that.
Last edited by Sukumvit on Fri Jun 14, 2019 6:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Downgrading SKILL

Post by Sukumvit » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:58 pm

Regarding the above exchange between LordArioch and SkinnyOrc, it really does illustrate how abstract and nebulous a stat SKILL is. Some people think it's a characteristic (hence the regular attempts to split it into several new characteristics,) some think it represents level, some think it's a left-over artefact from the gamebooks, now a bit out of place and awkward in an RPG that has Special Skills (now, who does that sound like?) The rulebook suggests that it's not just a characteristic, but a bundling of several D&D/Runequest-style characteristics (to quote page 23: "it covers strength, agility, fighting prowess, social skills and even knowledge.") Phew; that's quite a lot of different fish to be catching with just one net. It works well enough with very focussed, Archetypal Heroes who confine themselves to a fairly narrow range of tasks; you can say it represents skills, knowledge and interractions within the context of that particular occupation/background, and SkinnyOrc's notion of it being analogous to "level" also fits that explanation. But when Heroes have broader, more multi-facetted backgrounds and skills, it becomes obvious that SKILL is carrying quite a heavy load. It's one of the reasons non-AFF players seem to dismiss the game we love as "simplistic" and "basic." We know that we can interpret rolls with and without Special Skills differently, or apply modifiers to unlikely SKILL use, or rule out its use altogether ("you're a barbarian from the Freezeblood Mountains; you know jack about etiquette.") But none of this is enforced or supported by the rulebook, and games aren't judged by the common sense solutions, interpretations and house rules that groups adopt when actually playing them; they're judged by what's on the printed page. That's just the way it is. For our part, unless we're going to do away with SKILL altogether, and move to a purely Special Skill-based game (which I'm often tempted to do,) we each have to find our own way of interpretting and accomodating SKILL. Well, it gives us something to talk about...
Last edited by Sukumvit on Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Downgrading SKILL

Post by SkinnyOrc » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:08 am

I can completely understand why people might see SKILL as equivalent to ability scores like Dexterity and Intelligence, because you test against SKILL and you can test against those in other games. But the most common test in D&D (I'll compare with that as the one most know) is the saving throw, and that's a test against level. A lot of the things you test SKILL for are similar to saving throws; spells, magical attacks like petrification, traps, and so on. In fact the majority of tests in D&D are level based, including hit rolls and thief abilities.

It's also reasonable to think that because those ability scores don't exist in AFF2 that SKILL must also cover them. But I don't see it does; how smart, how charismatic, how pretty and so on just aren't part of AFF2 character generation. For me that's not a big gap, they don't have nearly as much effect on play in other games as level does anyway. But they do help a player visualise and distinguish their character and are very simple to add to AFF2, which was what I did with those minor characteristics.

It's worth looking at what level does and how it maps to SKILL. Level decides your chance to hit, so does SKILL. Level decides your chance to avoid or minimise dangerous effects (saves), so does SKILL. Level decides your chance using class abilities like for a thief, so does SKILL (along with special skills). Level decides ability to take hits (through hp), this ones a difference as SKILL and STAM are separate. Which is good as it means creatures with high SKILL and low STAM, and vice versa, are possible.
Sukumvit wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:58 pm
it really does illustrate how abstact and nebulous a stat SKILL is.
It is but that's not uncommon with RPGs. Level is so standard in RPGs and video games that everyone accepts it without thinking, but it's not any less nebulous. Gygax used to make human leaders higher level depending on their status in society even if they had no combat experience. In AFF2 those can be high in some special skills without having high SKILL, which makes far more sense.

Hit points are even more nebulous, there's no commonly agreed explanation for how a high level human with a lot of hp can shrug off hits from huge creatures or being incinerated with magic. Some say although they were hit the hp reflect that they weren't really hit. Some say they were hit but their flesh is somehow tougher and they're not damaged as much. Some say the injuries are the same as for a lesser mortal but they're not affected by them the same (images of warriors charging around with their intestines hanging out). The same is somewhat true in AFF with STAM, but that goes up far less with XP than hp so it's easier to explain.
Sukumvit wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:58 pm
It works well enough with very focussed, Archetypal Heroes who confine themselves to a fairly narrow range of tasks... when Heroes have broader, more multi-facetted backgrounds and skills, it becomes obvious that SKILL is carrying quite a heavy load.
Sorry but I can't agree with this. One of the key strengths of AFF2 is how flexible the PC gen system is. You can do the archetypes, and you can equally well do anything in between the archetypes, combined in whatever proportions you like. Class based systems can never come close to that flexibility, and having ability scores doesn't help them with that. Saying SKILL has a heavy load in AFF is like saying level has a heavy load in D&D. Sure your experience as an adventurer has a lot to do with how effective you are when adventuring, that's as it should be.
Sukumvit wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:58 pm
It's one of the reasons non-AFF players seem to dismiss the game we love as "simplistic" and "basic."
I've actually never heard this from a non-AFF person, they just don't know the game exists, and to be fair most RPGers barely know anything other than D&D exists. It seems to be more something that AFFers worry is true. I think if someone's bothered by the lack of PC ability scores just add them in, and that can go for a lot of stuff. But ultimately AFF2 is a moderately rules light system (there's way lighter) and that either suits your style of play or it doesn't.
Sukumvit wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:58 pm
none of this is enforced or supported by the rulebook, and games aren't judged by the common sense solutions, interpretations and house rules that groups adopt when actually playing them; they're judged by what's on the printed page.
Definitely the section on making tests could be a lot clearer, guidelines on how to determine the possible results of a test is an important gap.

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Re: Downgrading SKILL

Post by Sukumvit » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:28 pm

Hey, SkinnyOrc.

Some good points, well made. I think that your notion of equating SKILL with Level certainly makes a lot of sense with regards to SKILL as written - something that can be improved up to a rating of 12, by spending X.P.s; I don't think that notion is compatible with my proposal to make SKILL a mid-range base chance with a fixed value, though. We could try to move the goal-posts a bit, and say that (SKILL + Special Skill) = Level, but then we get into trouble because all your Special Skills will be at different values. But then, your interpretation of the stat was formulated long before some fruitcake popped up and said "hey guys, why don't we make SKILL half as useful? Who's with me?" There's no reason why our interpretations should be compatible, and that's absolutely fine.

HedgeWizard hit the nail on the head when he interpreted my idea as SKILL representing your basic, inate ability as an adult, which in itself wouldn't really change; all the emphasis is placed on specialised training. And I think you hit the nail on the head by interpreting SKILL in the gamebooks as being a stat that would factor in what we now call "Special Skills" (certainly weapon skills, and probably things like climbing and jumping as well;) I think those two interpretations are completely compatible, and add up to the proposal we've been considering for a few days. We seem to agree that effective SKILL going up to 18 can cause problems (and I would add that it's never really been explained why it can go up to 18 - Runequest characters don't routinely have skills of 150%;) we also agree that Heroes can advance in power too quickly, and we've come up with some alternative X.P. costs to slow it down - assuming that players are going to tolerate this new approach. And interpreting the outcomes of rolls made with and without Special Skills, as well as ruling out simple SKILL rolls that seem to "challenge logic" - we're in agreement there, and these things should really be in the rulebook. So, all in all, I think we've made some progress.

I just wish "Rough guide to the Pit" had stayed in print for more than 36 hours... :cry:
Last edited by Sukumvit on Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Downgrading SKILL

Post by SkinnyOrc » Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:03 am

Sukumvit wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:28 pm
your notion of equating SKILL with Level certainly makes a lot of sense with regards to SKILL as written - something that can be improved up to a rating of 12, by spending X.P.s; I don't think that notion is compatible with my proposal to make SKILL a mid-range base chance with a fixed value, though.
Yes now we've talked it over it's clear your approach could be called a level-less system. Which isn't to say there's no PC advancement, but there's no master stat you can put XP into that improves your character overall. D&D and all it's derivatives are a level centric approach, while in AFF2 you have SKILL for general improvement but also lots of specific abilities you can improve separately. Your idea makes it completely level-less, which is an innovative and interesting approach.

One suggestion, if weapon special skills costs more XP then they should also cost more in character generation. Each point into a WSS counts as two points used from the available points to spend. So if a WSS is taken with 2 points then they either only get 2 special skills at 2 points rather than 3, or they only get 4 skills at 1 point instead of 6. If a WSS is taken with 1 point then they only get 5 skills at 1 point.

Or another idea that keeps everything simpler, have all special skills cost new level x20 but expand the range of them past 6, perhaps to 8. Then you can leave the way starting special skills are selected as it is.

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Re: Downgrading SKILL

Post by Sukumvit » Sun Jun 16, 2019 9:36 am

I guess moving away from the equivalence of SKILL with Level (which, the more I think about it, probably was the intention of the design, rather than just your interpretation of it) does make it a bit more like Runequest, and a bit less like D&D, which some people may like more than others. But I always thought AFF had more in common with Runequest, anyway; neither had any interest in "class" (in the more rigid sense) or alignment, they both made more use of skills and weren't absolutely preoccupied with "levelling up." The main difference between the two was the very high level of simulationist crunch in RQ, whereas AFF was more of a proto-narrativist game (which I prefer, especially as I get older and have less patience with fiddle-faddle.) There's also quite a Gloranthan influence on certain aspects of Titan (I seem to remember that Jackson, in particular, was quite enamoured of RQ.) But then, Titan is a melting pot of various influences; a bit of Stafford here, a bit of Gygax there, a lot of Livingstone and Jackson; a dash of of Tolkien, Moorcock, Leiber, Vance and even Lovecraft; a heavy dose of European folklore and legend. It all gets stirred together with a very British spoon and the final result somehow manages to end up with its own distinct flavour.

Anyone for a bowl of Titan soup? :shock:

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