*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
December 22, 2014, 04:08:32 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 29 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Stat Advancement at Character Creation vs During Gameplay  (Read 1843 times)
New Fire
Member

Posts: 8


« on: November 29, 2010, 07:18:28 PM »

I've been working on a game for quite awhile now called New Fire. It's an Aztec-themed fantasy RPG using a d10 system and done in a very heroic and dramatic fashion. We're pretty far along on it, but I'm having trouble making up my mind about a few elements of character creation. I thought I'd put the question out there, both for specific advice as well as general discussion!

The game uses a system of 8 Stats (Strength, Willpower, Stamina, etc) all of which are quite important (there are no "dump stats"). Each Stat can have a rank of 1-5, 1 being a subnormal level of talent and 5 being prodigy level talent that has been fully honed and developed (rank 5 would be Mozart, Einstein, Olympic gold medalist level talent). It costs quite a few character points to increase a stat.

The way it works currently is this: during character creation you can increase your Stats as much as you like. However, after character creation is over and the game begins, you can only increase each trait once during the lifespan of the character. You can go from sub-average to average, from average to above average, from above average to exceptional, or from exceptional to legendary, but you can't go from average to legendary, for example. There are a number of reasons we do this--firstly, it makes each Stat rank much more significant and maintains a certain frame of reference. Humans max out at rank 5 in a Stat, but monsters and animals may have Stats higher than rank 5 (a polar bear might have a Strength of 8, for instance). If we allow unlimited increases, advanced characters may be able to get all 5's and will probably want to increase their Stats beyond 5. This destroys what I like to call the "shape" of the character.

I am a firm believer in the idea that characters should be balanced, with strengths and weaknesses off-setting each other. I've seen many games where the characters start out with strengths and weaknesses--a particular character may be strong but clumsy, another may be weak but very smart, and so on--but by the middle of the game those strengths and weaknesses have disappeared. The strong but clumsy guy is no longer clumsy, and may in fact have improved himself up to 'unusually graceful.' The "landscape" of the character--high strength, low grace--has changed and possibly even inverted. It just seems strange to me that a character could start off being noticeably weak in one area and end up being noticeably strong in it. I can see the character making some improvements, but a complete inversion seems like a flaw in the game.

The way my game is set up, Stats are only part of the picture. There are also Skills, and the idea I started with is that by developing Skills you can offset weaker stats.

But as I've developed and tested the game, I've been favoring a more and more heroic and dramatic feel to it. Do you think I should lift the restriction on Stat increases during gameplay? Or is it more heroic to make players to play their original characters, strengths and flaws alike? And is this sort of thing even a problem in your experience--do players commonly build weaknesses into strengths if there aren't rules against it? My playtesting group doesn't, but I would appreciate some other perspectives.

Thanks!
Logged
Doug Law
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2010, 08:18:41 AM »

I am a big fan of player empowerment. Personally I feel like the players ought to be able to manipullate their own character in almost any way they desire. I think, if your players understand the game's preference to maintain the "shape" of the character, they will try to maintain a character within your expectations. Most players will prefer to hinder their characters in some way in order to play an interesting character. They will maintain game balance on their own.

The real problem with game balance issues from a character creation/ advancement standpoint comes from "Power" players or "Munchkins". These types of players will maximize their character no matter what sort of system you have in place to prevent it. If you disallow a great deal of advancement, they will simply do as much as they can at creation or vice versa. There really is no way to stop a Munchkin. They will figure out a way around your careful checks and balances and, in fact, will probably find it fun to do so.

I guess what I would ask is - How long to you expect a campaign to last with a single group of characters? If it is only a few adventures then very small advancement is fine. If you are planning a game of heroic proportions where campaigns last for months or years and characters rise from sheep-herders to dragons-reborn, you need a lot of advancement possibility.

Frankly, my group never plays more than a few sessions of a game before we move on to the next thing, be it a new system, setting or just campaign. Nobody is inclined to manipulate the advancement rules, because we never get that far. Ridiculous as it sounds, I sometimes have more issues not killing the guys who purposely "gimped" their character in the interest of realism!
Logged
Holywar
Registree

Posts: 2


« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2010, 07:13:45 PM »

I run similar system myself, dividing out traits and skills, as a consequence of birth, and allowing modest improvements, but if your born smart, your pretty much smart.

The fact is that realistically speaking, if your inclined to be brainy, or graceful, or charismatic, then that inclination will follow you for the rest of your life. I remember a book by Carl Sagan called "Shadows of Forgotten Ancesestors" ,and it it he linked alot of research to the idea that people who liked to do things actually liked them because they were slightly better at a particular thing within their peer groups. the lesson being that people might change on the basis of traumatic events, but that change is brought to them through teh lens of previous experience. A character who has an epiphany, and who decides to change, might put more effort into something unusual for his character, but he would be no better or worse at it untrained than someone with similar natural aptitudes.

A good maximum is people have evolution, not revolution. As you gain more expeirance, the weight of that experienced colors everything you do. After a while you become almost incapable of change except in the most trying of circumstances. Its simply how your brain has learned to solve problems. Its not possible to learn anything else.

Characters are however still capable of epiphanies, and learning, but this is still learning ,and doesn't effect aptitude. A 40 year old scholar might train to use a sword better after watching a dozen friends injuries due to his physical weakness, and that might be reflected in his skills, but he is too old, and his physical aptitude will only increase modestly.

My approach to issues like this is that traits can almost never improve, or improve only slightly. And my second method is by forcing the character to justify in rational terms the skills that they learn. Most good role players will always do that. Min maxing is no longer a problem, because in life we learn skills that have the most utility to us in real life. A non-combat character CAN learn combat skills without min-maxing, because they see alot of combat, and are rational enough to realize that they better learn to use a sword before someone they care about gets killed.
Logged
Certified
Member

Posts: 101


WWW
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2010, 02:16:05 PM »

Here's a question to answer your question. How much control can you exert over a game you are not a part of?

Once the game is out there it will be up to the Players and GMs to decide if they like that rule or not. While advancing an attribute one step may be costly you have provided the framework for it. If a group does not like the rule that they can only raise a stat once then they are likely to discard it. Other groups may find it accurate to real life and want to see it enforced in every game.

When you talk about heroism in the system are the rules what makes the characters heroic or the actions they take? What you may consider is something like guidelines for campaign tone or scope where you say if this is the feel you are looking for here are some rules that support that. This might be something akin to "True Heroes" versus "Legendary Heroes" or something along those lines. This might mean that at one power level an attribute can only be raised once while at another the character can get up to 8 total attribute bumps, placed where he likes or an unlimited number so long as they pay for them.

While I support flexible advancement I can see why things could and should be limited. Perhaps another way to raise an attribute past it's first bump is by taking a hit to another attribute. This would be to emulate the focus required to push themselves means that other areas suffer.
Logged

Finarvyn
Member

Posts: 133


WWW
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2010, 08:50:36 AM »

You've got 8 stats, and unless I misread your post it would appear that 3 is average. 8*3=24 stat points to be totally average.

What you might do is have different point totals suggested for various styles of play. For example, "grim and gritty" could be 24 points while "heroic" could be  27 and "epic" 30. That way, the GM would decide in advance which style to use and then have players develop characters based on those guidelines.
Logged

Marv (Finarvyn)
Sorcerer * Dresden Files RPG * Amber Diceless
Forge Member since 2004
OD&D Player since 1975
New Fire
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2010, 08:46:18 PM »

Excellent comments, everyone! Very insightful. You've given me a lot of good things to think about.

Let me add a little bit more to this discussion--

One of the over-arching ideas I am interested in pursuing with this game is emphasizing the playing of a character as opposed to the building of a character. That is, I want the choices a player makes when playing a character--the actions they take, the things they say, the way they go about doing things, etc--to be more important than the choices they make when building the character--what stats, skills, and items they choose, etc. Maybe I shouldn't say 'more imporant'--everything in the game should be important, yes? Otherwise there's no reason to include it! But when confronted with conflicts in the game, I want the players to be looking at what their characters can do and thinking in terms of those talents and abilities. I don't want them solving the conflicts by making major changes to their character for next session. I even considered not allowing stat increases at all after character creation. Of course, there are other ways to accomplish this aside from limiting player stat increase, I suppose.

Has anybody played or created a game where the characters have unchanging stats? And if so, was it fun/interesting, or did you find it limiting?

As some of you have said, however, there is no foolproof defense against power gamers, and there is no way to enforce rules in games you are not a part of. People will and should adapt games so that the game serves their needs. I may be worrying too much about this sort of thing--perhaps it should just be a recommended rule, rather than an intrinsic part of the game mechanics.




Logged
johnthedm7000
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2010, 09:00:57 PM »

Personally, for me part and parcel of a "heroic" and "dramatic" game is being able to go from "zero" to "hero", either in general or in specific capabilities. Assuming that you mean that your game favors a cinematic style of play, why are you worrying about this issue of realism? In cinema, legend, and fiction there are routinely individuals who drastically redefine themselves and "rise to the occasion", becoming great leaders, warriors etc. And in these cases, it's not a mater of improved training (skills) but rather increasing those basic qualities that define a person (attributes).

Now if you wanted to keep this level of realism but still allow characters to advance their attributes significantly you could have players assign attributes as normal during character creation, but also assign "potential" to each stat. A point of potential could increase the maximum value that the character could raise that stat to by 1 one, or else decrease the amount of xp (or similar resources) spent to increase it by a point. So for example you could have a character with the stats:

Strength: 1(2 potential points used) Max Stat: 4
Willpower: 3 (Max 4)
Stamina: 1 (2 potential points used) Max Stat: 4
Intelligence: 3 (Max 4)

This would mean that while this character might start off as physically weak, for whatever reason (whether genetics, favor of the gods, a magical bloodline, destiny, etc.) they have the potential to become strong and tough, should they choose that path. On the other hand, this character's intelligence and Willpower are likely to remain much the same for the rest of his or her life.
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2010, 01:36:58 PM »

Hello and welcome,

For this thread and its companion to continue, please set up and link to some external document that we can reference. It doesn't have to be your complete work, or even really anything more than what you have here. But it does need to be off-Forge. See the forum sticky thread for more about this policy.

Best, Ron
edited to clarify regarding both New Fire threads with this single post - RE
Logged
New Fire
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2011, 07:57:10 PM »

Sorry about the delay on this--I had to fix a few things on my website! http://newfirerpg.com/
Logged
DJ Ghost
Registree

Posts: 2


« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2011, 05:21:21 AM »

Ultimately I think that you and the play testers will  be the best judges of what is going to create the game that you and they want to play and that you and they enjoy, however some outside input is always useful. Just remember that you and your play testers have the experience of actually playing the game and therefore have more insight.

That said, here is my tupence on your question.

Decide what is most important to you, the feel of the game for example, or how well it models the real human experiance, a balance of the two or other factors.  Then think about what will beshelp you achieve that.

Realistically speaking some human attributes can and do change over a life time and some are easier to change than others.  Using an anecdotal experience, as a child I was relatively weak for my considerable size ( still stronger than many boys my age, but weaker than those my physical size). I was also quite clumsy, not terrifically so, but certainly less well co-ordinated than most people I know.

I took up fencing as a sport, primarily because it looked like something that I would enjoy.  As a result my balance, stamina and agility all improved a very great deal.  My reactions even more so.  I am now very agile and have reaction speeds that literally cause people to look on in shock.  This is a massive increase over where I started out but it took years of training and dedication.  Relating this to your stat system, my agility and reactions certainly have increased by more than one step and are now amongst the highest of anyone I've met (including a lot of other sports fencers).

Strength is another one that people often increase greatly over the course of their lives, there is whole industry dedicated to increasing ones strength and stamina and there are numerous body builders and weight lifters who started off life an awful lot weaker than they later became.

Using myself as an example, I am now considerably stronger than I was when younger, this has developed as a result of my day job which is much more physical than you would expect it to be.  I am no longer weaker than some one of my size may be expected to be, I am quite strong but, relating to your stat system I would say an increase of probably 1 step?  Possibly 2 (but I think more like 1).

Other attributes are far harder to increase over time.  I noticed you mentioned Willpower as an attribute  I may be wrong but I feel that is something that is very hard to increase greatly over time.  Certainly people do it, but it is a long and hard road and a limit of a 1 step increase such as the one you have seems realistic to me.

However, it is worth asking yourself and your play testers, “Would modelling this make the rules more ‘clunky’ than you want them to be/”  After all, introducing rules where some stats can be increased more often over the course of your life than others may model reality more closely but would make the rules a little more unwieldy.  Is that worth it?  That is a question you need to decide for yourself.  The next question you may like to consider should probably be “would making this change ruin the flavour and feel that you are trying to achieve, and if so would the new flavour and feel be something that you still enjoy to the same extent?”

I hope something in all of that is of some use or help to you.
Logged
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!