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Author Topic: Questions on SAs  (Read 7809 times)
Stephen
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« on: October 21, 2002, 07:01:17 AM »

In the Sorcery Variation thread below Ron Edwards gave me some tips on the possible uses of SAs that were quite fascinating.  I'd like to follow up with some questions on them.

1)  If the player's behaviour determines the SA's actual level, a likely outcome is that the Seneschal will dock SA points for behaviour contravening the SAs, and that the level of "violation" required to lose a point should get stricter and stricter with higher SAs.  For example, a character with a Conscience of 5 should be darn well trying for perfection all down the line, and even a minor transgression should cost him a point; a character with Conscience 1, on the other hand, shouldn't lose that point for anything short of blatant atrocity.  (Which also leads to the question: what do you do if players and Seneschal disagree on what is enough of a violation of an SA to justify the Seneschal's docking the point?)

2)  Is it possible to "bank" spent SAs?  Some high-cost purchases require upwards of 5 points at a shot; by the rules as I understand them, players can only purchase these things with SA spendings that would make no logical sense in terms of character development (a player might choose to pay for his Mastery of a Vagary with 4 points of Conscience and 1 of Passion, but there's no strictly in-game reason for that drastic a change in his personality).  If a player can spend 1 or 2 SAs per session to a "bank", he can make these purchases over time rather than having to radically rewrite his personality in order to do it at all.
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Mokkurkalfe
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« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2002, 07:22:42 AM »

!) Good point. Haven't thought about that. As for your question:
Rule 1: The seneschal is always right.
Rule 2: If the seneschal is wrong, see Rule 1.

2) I personally think it should be possible to bank SA's in order to buy something expensive. However, I think one must decide what to do with the SA's before you store them, i.e. if I say I'm going to use these banked SA's to raise a profiency from 15 to 16, I can't change my mind and raise an attribute instead. They can then *only* be used to raise this profiency.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2002, 07:27:09 AM »

Quote from: Stephen

1)  If the player's behaviour determines the SA's actual level, a likely outcome is that the Seneschal will dock SA points for behaviour contravening the SAs, and that the level of "violation" required to lose a point should get stricter and stricter with higher SAs.  For example, a character with a Conscience of 5 should be darn well trying for perfection all down the line, and even a minor transgression should cost him a point; a character with Conscience 1, on the other hand, shouldn't lose that point for anything short of blatant atrocity.  (Which also leads to the question: what do you do if players and Seneschal disagree on what is enough of a violation of an SA to justify the Seneschal's docking the point?)


Nope.

The player can do whatever he wants. He gets rewarded for acting with his SAs, but not penalized fora acting against them. These are not alignments. They are rules that give positive reinforcement for going with your SAs, not negative reinforcement for going against them. You'll find that you don't need to "monitor" your players, they'll play along anyhow. And when they don't go with a particular SA, that's just their exploration of the character. Far from being punished, this should be encouraged. Players should have full latitude to play their characters as they see fit.

You'll find that some of the mostr dramatic moments come from when a player decides to try and buck their destiny and go it alone. The lack of dice from SAs speaks as strongly as having dice. BTW, and FWIW, I'm pretty sure Ron will agree with me on this.

Quote
2)  Is it possible to "bank" spent SAs?  Some high-cost purchases require upwards of 5 points at a shot; by the rules as I understand them, players can only purchase these things with SA spendings that would make no logical sense in terms of character development (a player might choose to pay for his Mastery of a Vagary with 4 points of Conscience and 1 of Passion, but there's no strictly in-game reason for that drastic a change in his personality).  If a player can spend 1 or 2 SAs per session to a "bank", he can make these purchases over time rather than having to radically rewrite his personality in order to do it at all.


First, as I see it, the depletion of any SA can be explained in-game by saying that the character is simply trading in energy that focuses him in one direction for another. There is no contradiction in the example you give above. More interestingly, this does not represent a change in personality. The player, again, will decide personality at every step of the way. The SAs just show the player and GM where the character's energies lie, and thus what things he will get bonuses for doing.

So a particular character may be interpereted by the player as hving a conscience. The points currently in that SA just determine how much of a boost he gets from acting in that manner. He can choose to be sullen and act without conscience when his Conscience SA is high, or he can act with his conscience even when the SA is zero currently. But he will only get a bonus when he acts with his conscience when that SA is high. This gives several routs of exploration for the character, all from just one SA. Neat, eh?

Again, this is my interperetation, and other players will want to use SAs as a stick as well as using it as a carrot. But that just seems artificially and unnecessarily limiting. It's also a burden on the GM, as he will have to monitor players. Whereas positive use will be monitored by the players themselves (who will constantly ask you for SA dice). Save yourself the trouble, and make the game more interesting by just forgeting about taking SAs away.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2002, 07:32:06 AM »

Hiya Stephen,

It's me again. Anything I say here should be understood to be subordinate to Jake's commentary, or for that matter, to anyone's points that make more sense.

Regarding your point #1, your stricture that Conscience is more restrictive (or for that matter, vulnerable) at higher levels is an add-on of your own making - it's not implicit in the rules, or indeed implicit in the concept of SA's as they relate to the game. If it "makes sense" to you and your group, run with it, but your assertion seems to imply that it's a necessary element of the concepts involved, which to me is puzzling.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not asking for clarification. I do see what you're saying. However, it seems to me to reflect some Simulationist prioritizing on your part - that the level of an SA also represents some "tighter winding" on the part of the character in those terms. Whereas to me, and (to me) in terms of what the text presents, the specific level of an SA represents, for lack of a better word, the "music" or "theme" of the character being at a higher volume or faster tempo.

If I'm playing a fellow whose Conscience is 5, and I spend all 5 of those points to improve that character's Strength attribute or something similar, I don't see it as an instance of his actual conscience becoming less important to him. I see it as that aspect of his character requiring "building" (ie foreshadowing) during play before it gets a real blowout of an expression some time in the future. It's a pacing statement, not a psychological one - the character's actual conscience, in-game, has undergone no changes whatsoever.

This approach to SA's is, to me, consistent with the rules text. Your approach is, to me, perfectly acceptable Drift that accords with certain goals of play which are a bit (not much) different from those which TROS best supports.

Regarding your point #2, the same point applies. Why is an in-game reason necessary at all in terms of the transition from SA to attribute or proficiency? Again, this question is rhetorical; I'm asking it in order to demonstrate to you that such a reason is actually not a priority to some players of the game, and arguably not to "the game" as written.

I can see why one would be puzzled about it, though. TROS character-improvement is a little unusual in this regard: skill improvement is aggressively in-game based, whereas attribute and proficiency/vagary improvement is aggressively metagame-based. Understanding the difference plays a big role in maximizing the game's potential in certain directions, but it's also potentially off-putting. It's one of the few places where the Simulationist elements of the game are not subordinate-supportive but rather interfering to the Narrativist uber-goal.

Best,
Ron
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Stephen
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« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2002, 07:42:47 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
The player can do whatever he wants. He gets rewarded for acting with his SAs, but not penalized for acting against them.


Hang on.  Can somebody who has access to the rules check me on this?  If I recall correctly, acting against your SAs does result in losing points on them.

Quote
First, as I see it, the depletion of any SA can be explained in-game by saying that the character is simply trading in energy that focuses him in one direction for another. There is no contradiction in the example you give above. More interestingly, this does not represent a change in personality. The player, again, will decide personality at every step of the way. The SAs just show the player and GM where the character's energies lie, and thus what things he will get bonuses for doing.


But actions speak louder than words, and human personalities simply don't change that fast.  I don't disagree that focusing your energy in one direction causes a drop in others; I simply point out that under the current rules you can take this to illogical extremes, at least as far as realistic character development goes.

Quote
Again, this is my interpretation, and other players will want to use SAs as a stick as well as using it as a carrot. But that just seems artificially and unnecessarily limiting. It's also a burden on the GM, as he will have to monitor players. Whereas positive use will be monitored by the players themselves (who will constantly ask you for SA dice). Save yourself the trouble, and make the game more interesting by just forgeting about taking SAs away.


GMs have to monitor players anyway, and given that TROS' rules really don't reward min-maxing in any other area (both combat and sorcery are so dangerous that even the toughest "stats-alone" character has built-in limits), this is actually significantly less monitoring than is required in most other games.

I don't see the docking of SAs as a "stick", "punishing" players for "undesireable" behaviour; it's simply another assertion of the everything-has-its-price mentality of TROS.  You shouldn't be allowed to call on 4 extra dice of Conscience only when that's convenient; in order to get those 4 dice, you have to refrain from doing stuff that's against that high Conscience, in exactly the same way that a fighter has to learn when to attack from ambush and a sorcerer has to learn when to come up with a cheaper alternative than just throwing spells at something.  And if you tell me your character's in love with someone for 5 dice, you'd better act to demonstrate that; walk the walk, or lose the talk.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2002, 08:26:49 AM »

Hi there,

People are posting fast & thick to this thread, and unfortunately Stephen is probably replying to me even as I'm replying to the exchange between him and Mike. Confusion is almost certainly going to result.

Regarding that exchange.

1) Mike's wrong about SA's not decreasing due to off-SA action, in some cases. Denying one's Faith, for example, decreases it. I don't see this so much as a stick, however, as an opportunity for reducing an SA that one doesn't want (although frankly, spending it is a much better way to go). It's got a "stick" quality to the extent that players/GMs want that quality in the game.

2) Stephen's points about human personalities changing and illogical extremes are addressed to some extent in my previous post, which argues that changing SA values are not necessarily modeling specific changes in personality. Having the SA at all is what matters in terms of what your character cares about; the actual value of 0-5 represents "the tension" currently embodied at this phase of the character's saga, in metagame terms.

Best,
Ron
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Bankuei
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« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2002, 09:07:19 AM »

#1
SA's are not necessarily meant to model the strength of a character's motivations, but rather, the narrative power of a character's motivations.  For example, in Gladiator, we all know that Maximus is honorable.  It's not that he's less honorable at the beginning than at the end, it's simply that in the end, it's his honor(even the Emperor's guards won't help him cheat) that is important story-wise, that makes it count for more.  So, as Ron said, you can see it as the climatic point where the music swells and the character's inner goods counts more than anything and makes the difference.

It's a very interesting bit, that TROS has everything Sim, and then you have this one bit that is divorced from reality for the sake of encouraging Narrativist Play, that also just happens to be the reward mechanic.

As far as lowering the stats, I'd follow what the rules say(Faith, Consciences, etc), but not necessarily the stricter #'s at a higher point.  As was mentioned previously, when you realize that the SA's don't model people's personalities, but the importance of the person's character in relation to the story focus at that point, it becomes easy to see how the numbers fly up and down.

#2
Because players can earn SA points at such a fast rate, if they work it properly, the 5 point ceiling does quite a few interesting things.  First, it obviously stops people from simply milking a single SA for 20 dice to fling around and makes them have to spread out a bit for more dice.  

Second, because you have to work up multiple pools to get the higher skills, it works as a means of slowing character advancement at higher levels of ability.  It makes sense to spend SA points as soon as you hit about 4 or 5 in a pool to get insight and not "lose" points you could have earned because your pool was maxed.  So at lower levels of power, players can spend it out quick and earn it back quick.  But once you get some experience under your belt, it becomes "secretly" expensive to raise stats.

Say I need to spend 15 SA  points to raise something.  That means I have to either max out 3 SA's and hope I don't lose the points I would have earned for those 3, or try to spread out and work on mulitple SA's equally.  You either pay in missing out on extra points or pay in extra time devoted towards rounding out your character.  Even though you can earn these points quickly, you pay by having to focus your character on the wide range of their SA's.

Through this, we also reach the limit of human ability.  That is, you can't get anything higher than what 25 SA point's will buy you.  

Chris
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2002, 10:44:06 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
1) Mike's wrong about SA's not decreasing due to off-SA action, in some cases. Denying one's Faith, for example, decreases it. I don't see this so much as a stick, however, as an opportunity for reducing an SA that one doesn't want (although frankly, spending it is a much better way to go). It's got a "stick" quality to the extent that players/GMs want that quality in the game.
That was exactly my point. Yes, the rules say that SAs can decrease due to actions. They do not say how to determine when this is truem however, which leads to Stephen's question ablout potential conflict of opinion. Simply, I am of the opinion that one should only reduce the SA if the player wants it reduced. As I suggested. This leaves the GM out of making decisions about the player's character, and eliminates the potential conflict.

Yes, this is just my interperetation and how I would play. As always, consult your local Jake Norwood for the straight dope on how the game was designed.

Quote
2) Stephen's points about human personalities changing and illogical extremes are addressed to some extent in my previous post, which argues that changing SA values are not necessarily modeling specific changes in personality. Having the SA at all is what matters in terms of what your character cares about; the actual value of 0-5 represents "the tension" currently embodied at this phase of the character's saga, in metagame terms.
And I agree. I merely use the "energy" thing to create a weak link between the meta-game, and the in-game rationale.

As Ron points out, your style is just one way to approach the problem. There are other valid styles that can be applied. I've given my opinion of the one that I think will work best with the rules. You'll use whatever style you like best, and that's just fine.

Mike
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Stephen
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« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2002, 11:33:22 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Having the SA at all is what matters in terms of what your character cares about; the actual value of 0-5 represents "the tension" currently embodied at this phase of the character's saga, in metagame terms.


Hmm.  I think I understand the difference, although if this is the intent, I will observe that this is pretty counterintuitive.  Given that every other Attribute in the game corresponds to the "higher rating = increased ability" paradigm, it's natural for players to assume that a higher Spiritual Attribute reflects a genuinely more powerful trait -- that somebody with Passion 5 loves or hates more powerfully than someone with Passion 1, and somebody with Conscience 5 is a living saint while somebody with Conscience 1 only has occasional twinges.

If I understand you right, a character who normally has Conscience 5 who's just reduced it to Conscience 1 for purchasing stuff is still just as conscientious as he was -- he just doesn't have as much "fuel in the tank" to use that Conscience in rolls.

The problem is that the same game score -- a low SA -- is also what represents the effect of nonconscionable behaviour on the character's part, so it becomes difficult to figure out the "personality" of any one character simply by looking at his SAs -- which in my opinion also reduces their roleplaying utility somewhat.  Von Salm has Faith 2: does that mean his Faith is the most important thing in his life and he's just spent a few points to buy up a stat, or has he just been denying it recently, or is it simply not his primary playing focus right now?  And if Cameron had 4 Passion for his lady love up till he spent some points, and as a result can now only add 1 die to a heartfelt appeal to the King to allow their marriage -- a weakening which is responsible for his failure, and which would logically be shown as a lack of Passion precisely when needed most -- does that now mean he loves his lady less?  You seem to be saying no, but everything about the dice and the situation -- and how I'd interpret that for the NPCs as a Seneschal -- says otherwise.

I have no problem with saying, "SAs are primarily a metagame mechanic and you shouldn't think of them as measures of the character's actual strength of feeling," but it would have been useful to get more tips along that line in the main corebook.

(And I'm lying, a little -- I do object to the idea that somebody who's been playing Conscience 5 all the way down the line can suddenly be outclassed by someone with Conscience 2, if that's the way the dice happen to shake down -- but this comes from the rules happening to clash with my personal sense of dramatic appropriateness, rather than any objective criticism.)
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Brian Leybourne
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« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2002, 11:46:05 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Yes, this is just my interperetation and how I would play. As always, consult your local Jake Norwood for the straight dope on how the game was designed.


Nah, that wont work. :-)

I can bet you pennies to pound notes that Jake's been very interestedly reading this thread, but the chance of him posting is tiny, precisely because as the game designer anything he says gets treated like the words of God and therefore unfortunately tends to choke off this exact kind of cool discussion.

Not to put words in the guys mouth, of course, but he has said as much in the past :-)

Brian.
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Brian Leybourne
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2002, 04:22:47 PM »

Hey, I'm here. Yay me.

This *is* a fascinating discussion, and I'm learning from it. I've never claimed that I even knew what I did when I created the SAs...I thought I did, but I was wrong. What I created was cooler than I am.

My personal--and this is my personal, not global--approach to SA's is along the lines of what Ron and Mike have been saying, more or less.

When I originally put them together they underwent a lot of changes in substance and rating. What I've found works cleanest for me is that the SAs are completely arbitrary...it's an out-of-game choice of preparation for certain consequences that determines which SAs you spend. The number represents how in-keeping with your own code, beliefs, etc you've been lately, but what happens to that rating when it's spent? It doesn't vanish, it's just been permanently devoted to some element of your character. In other words, if I've spent a total of 24 points out of my Faith SA over time, and there's 3 in it currently, I actually have benefited from 27 points of Faith in my life...3 of them just haven't been committed yet. The SA is not an in-game monitor of how faithful I'm being...it's just a place where the "blessings" of my faith hang out until they are permanently relocated into other elements of the character.

Stephen has a valid point in the counter-intuitiveness of that program (something I confess that never hit me before), but then again SA's only go to 5, where 4 is average everywhere else. SAs are simply the exeption to all rules.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that SA points not currently in the SAs aren't gone...they're just somewhere else for good. A lot of TROS is about commitment. That's why there's a 5-point cap. Sooner or later you have to decide what to do with your life.

Hope that helps.

Jake
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2002, 09:37:50 AM »

That does, Jake. Makes a much better way of looking at it than my just caling it energy. Essentially, if I reduce faith and lick to get proficiency in greatsword, it was in part my luck and my faith that made learning it possible (my faith made me push harder, my luck made my training more benificial). And those elements still reside in the character as empowering that level. So that particular die of my Sword CP is powered by faith and luck.

That's so very cool.

Mike
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2002, 10:45:50 AM »

Mike-

Is the "lick" SA in that mini-supplement you're writing? The Riddle of..."

Jake
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