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Author Topic: [Echelon A&A] Character advancement and class(less) problem.  (Read 821 times)
Richard
Member

Posts: 14


WWW
« on: September 11, 2011, 07:21:06 PM »

Hello chaps.

I seem to have hit a devil of a quandary in the development of my game (Echelon, currently sitting in a rather rough alpha state at http://www.latech.co.uk/rpg ) concerning character advancement.

I have settled on the 'currency' of advancement - time - probably to be measured in weeks, although in the current draft it's measured in hours.

However, I have yet to establish how to structure the advancement. I would love to go classless, but I am worried that doing this will yield unacceptable levels of munchkinism.

I have also thought about splitting the advancement structures for physical skills, knowledge and trades in three separate whatevers as well, to encourage at least learning on the part of characters.

Help?
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Echelon: Adventure and Airships

irc://irc.irchighway.net/gamedesign :: Games Design IRC channel :: #gamedesign on irchighway
BubbaBrown
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2011, 10:30:37 PM »

Nothing like setting up an economy.

Munchkinism is going to happen one way or another after a certain point.  You can certainly make it less desirable.  Sectioning off components helps a bit, especially if you make mutually opposing components affect the cost of the other or be in the same section as each other.  This way they'll have the share the same points between the two rather than being able to dedicate separate point pools to each.

If you are using a point system, you'll have to set the price to encourage the behavior you want.  Static costs are good for things that you don't mind players buying multiples of.  Increasing costs are good to place on items which are nice to have, but you don't want the players to solely dump everything into repeatedly without considering the merits of other aspects.

You'll want to do an "Importance Weight Tally" of the upgradable aspects of a character.  List these aspects and find out how much they affect a character's ability to operate and the importance of such.  You'll quickly locate the bits you want to guard from misuse and it'll help in determining how you want to "price" them.  The most valuable are best to put an increasing cost upon.  This cost can be based on the current value of the aspect or just how many times it has been upgraded.  Pick one reason and stick with it to avoid confusion.  Cost based on current score is great for allowing players to caught up less than impressive aspects, but cost based on number of upgrades is good to encourage players to be careful in what they upgrade and how they construct characters.  Increasing linearly is great for nice to have items, and exponential is perfect for REALLY NICE to have items you don't want players to over capitalize on.

Pardon if the advice is pretty general, but the rest is tweaking and experimentation to form the feel of the game you want to cultivate.
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Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2011, 11:15:59 PM »

Hi Richard,

The answer might be in the why of why you are having character advancement at all? What are you trying to get at with it?

Or; if your just doing character advancement because everyone else does, then it the situation becomes harder - it's like trying to repair a mechanism you didn't even want in the first place.
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Daniel36
Member

Posts: 63


« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2011, 02:37:16 AM »

Make them choose a "Career Path" or two, which is far from the same as a "class", which gives them access to career specific skills, that they need to train at a facility that is built specifically for their career. We will call those schools for the time being, and studying for a skill takes 1 week for the first level, 2 weeks for the next, etcetera.

How you go about career choosing would be another matter which I will leave to rest until you tell me you are interested in the who's and what's.

Besides that, you can have non-career specific skills such as special attacks or spells, that can also be taught at a school, but these are for each and every character. I personally hate exp. points, I think they are stupid, and I would personally make them pay cash to advance, since they are training their skills in a school, which would need the cash to stay open for business. That's what I would do. Hope it helps.
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Richard
Member

Posts: 14


WWW
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2011, 09:26:36 PM »

Nothing like setting up an economy.

Munchkinism is going to happen one way or another after a certain point.  You can certainly make it less desirable.  Sectioning off components helps a bit, especially if you make mutually opposing components affect the cost of the other or be in the same section as each other.  This way they'll have the share the same points between the two rather than being able to dedicate separate point pools to each.

If you are using a point system, you'll have to set the price to encourage the behavior you want.  Static costs are good for things that you don't mind players buying multiples of.  Increasing costs are good to place on items which are nice to have, but you don't want the players to solely dump everything into repeatedly without considering the merits of other aspects.

You'll want to do an "Importance Weight Tally" of the upgradable aspects of a character.  List these aspects and find out how much they affect a character's ability to operate and the importance of such.  You'll quickly locate the bits you want to guard from misuse and it'll help in determining how you want to "price" them.  The most valuable are best to put an increasing cost upon.  This cost can be based on the current value of the aspect or just how many times it has been upgraded.  Pick one reason and stick with it to avoid confusion.  Cost based on current score is great for allowing players to caught up less than impressive aspects, but cost based on number of upgrades is good to encourage players to be careful in what they upgrade and how they construct characters.  Increasing linearly is great for nice to have items, and exponential is perfect for REALLY NICE to have items you don't want players to over capitalize on.

Pardon if the advice is pretty general, but the rest is tweaking and experimentation to form the feel of the game you want to cultivate.

The fact that your answer is pretty general is a reflect of my pretty general question - so no appologies needed.

Like I mentioned, I'm not going to be using a points system, but rather the time that has passed in-character (with some GM fudge of course - "You have spent so long reading and learning this ancient language over the past week that you gain a +1 bonus" etc.)

I'm not too worried about efforts at character optimisation, as opposed to outright munchkinism.

The linear advancement of skill bonuses (+1, +2, ... +n) will be roughly exponential. A +1 bonus will be much easier to attain than say a +4, and hugely less expensive in time terms than +9 (which is the max presently). For clarification, it's primarily the relationship between the skills that I'm having the brain-bleed over.

I've been shown a rather neat system for ensuring a broad mix of skills that I'm toying with implementing: for every skill of level n, there must be 2 skills of level n-1 to support it. I'd need to ensure that I have enough skills for this to work of course.

Could you give an example of this Importance Weight Tally thingy that you refer to? I think I understand what you're referring to, but I've never seen such a logic device used in practice before.

Hi Richard,

The answer might be in the why of why you are having character advancement at all? What are you trying to get at with it?

Or; if your just doing character advancement because everyone else does, then it the situation becomes harder - it's like trying to repair a mechanism you didn't even want in the first place.

The answer to that query is both reward and character evolution. Reward for the players who can see their character advancing, and because people learn stuff. Primarily it's for character evolution.

Make them choose a "Career Path" or two, which is far from the same as a "class", which gives them access to career specific skills, that they need to train at a facility that is built specifically for their career. We will call those schools for the time being, and studying for a skill takes 1 week for the first level, 2 weeks for the next, etcetera.

How you go about career choosing would be another matter which I will leave to rest until you tell me you are interested in the who's and what's.

Besides that, you can have non-career specific skills such as special attacks or spells, that can also be taught at a school, but these are for each and every character. I personally hate exp. points, I think they are stupid, and I would personally make them pay cash to advance, since they are training their skills in a school, which would need the cash to stay open for business. That's what I would do. Hope it helps.

Thanks for the ideas! I like the idea of needing money for training.
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Echelon: Adventure and Airships

irc://irc.irchighway.net/gamedesign :: Games Design IRC channel :: #gamedesign on irchighway
Kyles Games
Member

Posts: 24


« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2011, 04:46:55 AM »

What I did with Orchestra to solve this problem with a classless system (and it may not be solved, and somewhat relies on the dice/modifier mechanic) is that advancements directly neglect a more juicy spread, meaning nobody has a Combat Monster +5 (unless they really want one, in which case they will be an asset to the team but not a team leader, and still far from immortal). Similarly, with the exception of maybe Weight Lifting there's no skill that can get massive modifiers (and Weight Lifting is used for its namesake, so it won't be too terribly munchkin, it'll just be like an action movie- the character can flip cars, rip massive guns from turrets [should there be guns in turrets, and then it'll require someone with some Science skill to unlock it for him]) and this makes the game more fun, allows a little bit of exceptional characters but still remembers that "no man can outsmart the bullet".

I'd also recommend to look at the health system- it bothers me when health has to be bought separately (the King of Marthin has 5 health because he didn't wanna invest in it?) but I'd definitely link its growth to well-rounded (i.e. not munchkin) selections and activity. Typically when one finds a munchkin, they find that they obsess in one area they feel they do well in (or maybe that's just my brother), for instance playing a character in the CUDA Lord of the Rings game with no fewer than five weapons and full combat skills from the get go, or a Troll Street Samurai in Shadowrun (who, interestingly, neglected Body, but that's user error).

When dealing with something finite like time as an advancement mechanism, I'd be sure to keep in mind that some characters should "waste" time in character. While this definitely makes for a perks/flaws system, you could also do some interesting stuff with short-term bonuses at the cost of long term progression, though that's your call.

Also, the "Importance Weight Tally" is sorta what inspired me to write Orchestra, if it means what I think it does. Basically, if I understood it right, you look at everything and look at how it affects the gameplay. Either make the base number for those common areas (like combat) higher, or make it cost more, or attempt to direct focus away from it. In Orchestra I attempt to do this by making combat extremely lethal (a lot of guns kill starter characters or their buddies in one hit). You could just make all the combatants encountered have something like a +3 bonus to combat during NPC creation (if you have a system) which would mean giving them a slight boost, but then non-combat specialized characters really can't do anything in combat (which is realistic but can be boring or a turn off), or just make it cost double (or do like d20 does and make it be a progression over time, sorta like what I like to do with health).
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BubbaBrown
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2011, 08:44:19 AM »

Like I mentioned, I'm not going to be using a points system, but rather the time that has passed in-character (with some GM fudge of course - "You have spent so long reading and learning this ancient language over the past week that you gain a +1 bonus" etc.)
It's just a different abstraction of points in the end.  Consider points in reference to whatever you have chosen for your units of character development currency.

Quote
Could you give an example of this Importance Weight Tally thingy that you refer to? I think I understand what you're referring to, but I've never seen such a logic device used in practice before.

I wanted to debug a problem I had with character attributes.  I wanted to be sure they all had roughly equal importance to avoid have the "wonder" stat and the "dump" stat situation.  So, I listed them and systematically went through and counted each time they were used in the system.  Helped quickly to find attributes that were deviated from the rest.  The same methodology can be used to find out what components of the system are used the most.

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Richard
Member

Posts: 14


WWW
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2011, 09:16:55 AM »

What I did with Orchestra to solve this problem with a classless system (and it may not be solved, and somewhat relies on the dice/modifier mechanic) is that advancements directly neglect a more juicy spread, meaning nobody has a Combat Monster +5 (unless they really want one, in which case they will be an asset to the team but not a team leader, and still far from immortal). Similarly, with the exception of maybe Weight Lifting there's no skill that can get massive modifiers (and Weight Lifting is used for its namesake, so it won't be too terribly munchkin, it'll just be like an action movie- the character can flip cars, rip massive guns from turrets [should there be guns in turrets, and then it'll require someone with some Science skill to unlock it for him]) and this makes the game more fun, allows a little bit of exceptional characters but still remembers that "no man can outsmart the bullet".

I'd also recommend to look at the health system- it bothers me when health has to be bought separately (the King of Marthin has 5 health because he didn't wanna invest in it?) but I'd definitely link its growth to well-rounded (i.e. not munchkin) selections and activity. Typically when one finds a munchkin, they find that they obsess in one area they feel they do well in (or maybe that's just my brother), for instance playing a character in the CUDA Lord of the Rings game with no fewer than five weapons and full combat skills from the get go, or a Troll Street Samurai in Shadowrun (who, interestingly, neglected Body, but that's user error).

When dealing with something finite like time as an advancement mechanism, I'd be sure to keep in mind that some characters should "waste" time in character. While this definitely makes for a perks/flaws system, you could also do some interesting stuff with short-term bonuses at the cost of long term progression, though that's your call.

Also, the "Importance Weight Tally" is sorta what inspired me to write Orchestra, if it means what I think it does. Basically, if I understood it right, you look at everything and look at how it affects the gameplay. Either make the base number for those common areas (like combat) higher, or make it cost more, or attempt to direct focus away from it. In Orchestra I attempt to do this by making combat extremely lethal (a lot of guns kill starter characters or their buddies in one hit). You could just make all the combatants encountered have something like a +3 bonus to combat during NPC creation (if you have a system) which would mean giving them a slight boost, but then non-combat specialized characters really can't do anything in combat (which is realistic but can be boring or a turn off), or just make it cost double (or do like d20 does and make it be a progression over time, sorta like what I like to do with health).

I understand what you mean about health. I'm thinking of tying it to one or two stats, although toughness works already with damage reduction and starting health.

That being said - having two separate metrics for damage soak is interesting though. My dark heresy group has the 2 extremes of this - one of us has 21 wounds and 3 TB, whereas another has TB5 and 13 wounds.

Combat in Echelon is also very deadly. I'm using a location system inspired by Inquisitor's. The average number of health someone has is about 11 or so, so it takes 11 damage to be pushed into the next level of injury somewhere. The guns do a minimum of about 4d10 damage for the weakest pistols, so usually about 20-25 damage a pop. The more powerful rifles do up to 7d10.

With regards to the amount of time needed to learn stuff, procrastination and living will be taken into account in the time-cost.

Could you give some examples in your system of this process for the weighting malarky? Thanks!


Like I mentioned, I'm not going to be using a points system, but rather the time that has passed in-character (with some GM fudge of course - "You have spent so long reading and learning this ancient language over the past week that you gain a +1 bonus" etc.)
It's just a different abstraction of points in the end.  Consider points in reference to whatever you have chosen for your units of character development currency.

Quote
Could you give an example of this Importance Weight Tally thingy that you refer to? I think I understand what you're referring to, but I've never seen such a logic device used in practice before.

I wanted to debug a problem I had with character attributes.  I wanted to be sure they all had roughly equal importance to avoid have the "wonder" stat and the "dump" stat situation.  So, I listed them and systematically went through and counted each time they were used in the system.  Helped quickly to find attributes that were deviated from the rest.  The same methodology can be used to find out what components of the system are used the most.


Ah I see what you mean. Yes I think that will be very helpful for myself. Agility, Perception and Toughness are the most important presently, so like you suggest I think I'll increase the cost of these stats.
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irc://irc.irchighway.net/gamedesign :: Games Design IRC channel :: #gamedesign on irchighway
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