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Author Topic: [Solar System] Quick Questions Thread  (Read 32514 times)
Simon JB
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« on: September 03, 2008, 12:56:47 PM »

A place to collect quick and dirty questions and answers on the rules in the Solar System booklet.

 - Page 63, equipment ratings add to a check if the check is successful, but is this before or after it is compared with an opposed check in conflict? Successful as in higher than zero or higher than the opposition before adding ratings?
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oliof
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Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2008, 10:11:33 PM »

I'd say successful as in higher than zero. This stays in line with the use of bonus dice to improve your results fluidly just after the dice hit the table and before the results are compared.
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Simon JB
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2008, 12:48:28 AM »

Sounds very reasonable. I had interpreted the rules i Tsoy the other way, probably because of the way its says +1 harm and so on. But the way you suggest it means that someone with weapons have a grater chance to win the conflict, and that has to sound good. Thanks for your answer!
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2008, 08:27:20 AM »

This topic shaked my faith in my rules-expertise when I realized at some point last winter that I'd been playing and reading the rules text of TSoY wrong, and so apparently had everybody else.

As far as I'm concerned, what the new text says is that you just need a successful check to make use of a weapon. However, what we should each be doing is figuring out what this all means for using and balancing arms and armor in TSoY. For all I know I'll be reworking this particular facet of the rules at some point to fit better in some way that I'm not foreseeing right now.
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oliof
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« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2008, 12:13:16 AM »

Higher than zero gives Weapons a distinct advantage over armor, which cannot reduce success to failure (i.e., cannot reduce the result to 0).  A level 1 weapon outranks a level 2 armor in edge cases (no pun intended).

A possible but clunky ruling here could be that higher-level armor can indeed reduce success to failure if and only if (ability check result + weapon level - armor level) is 1.

The cleanest way would be to do away with weapons and armor as is and only allow them to be brought in as Effects; you will see some gearing-up scenes that way before hard fights. Some secrets need to be redone or dropped; I'm not all too sure if that is good or bad.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2008, 06:07:29 AM »

That equipment asymmetry is one reason for why I dropped the distinction between weapons and armor, myself. With armor being a potential weapon (eg. coupled with a Passive Ability check) there is no inherent weakness to an armor-type equipment, other than the system bias for being active - which is fine with me, defending should not be rewarded over-much.

That said, I think that Effects work fine to emulate equipment, if you even need to emulate it. I think there's a certain kind of charm to a fantasy game where each character has Abilities such as "Warrior equipment care" (or a squire with such), which they roll before battle to garner some mojo for their equipment. It also rewards bashing your shields and whatnot to bits (= reduce the Effect to zero), which is cool. And if you weapons with a more permanent feel, I think I gave some examples of how to make equipment Secrets out of Effects.

Then again, I'm pretty sure that equipment ratings will make a brave reappearance in my TSoY rewrite - coupled with some discussion about where and when, exactly, one might expect to encounter rated equipment. Clinton's take is very formalistic in that equipment ratings just reflect local importance of stuff and players can just assing them nilly-willy. I'll be looking into perhaps including some definite in-setting meaning to the ratings. We'll see.
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Paul T
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« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2008, 09:18:40 AM »

Eero,

I'm not 100% clear on using Effects for equipment. For instance, you mention in the rules, as an example, someone with the Effect: "Plate mail, 5/V". How might someone get such an effect, and what Ability roll would determine its level?

Finally, what would have the plate mail in combat look like? Would you be adding bonus dice to defensive actions, or would the Effect "soak up" levels of harm, instead of them going directly to the character?

Thanks!


Paul
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2008, 01:34:04 PM »

To get that plate mail, ask a friend with "Blacksmithing (V)" to make the check for you. Or use your own "Haggling (I)" at a large market to compare and buy the best one. Or have your father bequeth it to you with "Heritage (I)". Or just have the Story Guide agree that somebody else has made available the Effect at a given level.

In combat, you could use the plate mail in two ways:
- Spend it as bonus dice, one point for one die, and describe how it takes hits for you. After the battle, get the value back up with a good roll of "Equipment Maintenance (I)" or something like that.
- Let it take a blow for you, while you yourself do something unrelated, such as attack relentlessly. Note that this is not possible if the opposition does not act in a manner that goes against the plate mail; if the opposition is tying to lasso you and tie you up, for instance, then you could maybe spend the armor as bonus dice with clever narration, but not as a conflict participant. This is discussed separately in the extended conflict chapter.

Let me know if you'd like elaboration on the above points - it's pretty simple and context-dependent, but perhaps I'm not explaining it well.
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Paul T
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« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2008, 11:02:08 AM »

Eero,

I think I get it.

So, for instance, if I have a "plate mail 4" effect, I can spend dice from to as a bonus to opposed Fighting checks.

If I'm taking some parallel action, then any opponents who are trying to hurt me (with methods the armour can block) would have to take a parallel action to wear down my armour before they could inflict Harm on me. Is that right?

In that case, what happens if I have "plate mail 4" and someone Competent:

--Takes a parallel action to stick a sword into me and rolls a +1 (total of 2)?
--Takes a parallel action to stick a sword into me and rolls a +3 (total of 5)?

Who or what takes Harm, and how much?

Thanks again!
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Paul T
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« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2008, 11:37:46 AM »

A side thought:

It's kind of a neat side effect to handling equipment as Effects: equipment like weapons and armor can require you to spend a point of Vigor to carry around, which functions as a bit of an "encumbrance system".

However, does handling it as an Effect mean that:

In simple Ability check contests, you can potentially draw on a huge bonus ("I'm using my master quality sword, and I'm going to use all four bonus dice!")?

In extended conflicts, on the other hand, you could pretty quickly run out of bonus dice, so such equipment is only giving you an opening advantage?
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2008, 12:26:41 AM »

If I'm taking some parallel action, then any opponents who are trying to hurt me (with methods the armour can block) would have to take a parallel action to wear down my armour before they could inflict Harm on me. Is that right?

In that case, what happens if I have "plate mail 4" and someone Competent:

--Takes a parallel action to stick a sword into me and rolls a +1 (total of 2)?
--Takes a parallel action to stick a sword into me and rolls a +3 (total of 5)?

Who or what takes Harm, and how much?

Yes. The way I think about it (and describe it in the book) is that an Effect can "act" in extended conflict to oppose actions that go against the basic nature of the Effect. The character who controls the Effect does not have the attention to use it inventively to block the opposition, but if the opponent regardless bashes himself head-on against the Effect, then he has to work against it. That distinction can be slightly vague at times, though luckily the SG is there to rule on it on a case-by-case basis. (And, more significantly, the group can make up its own standards on a per-campaign basis, and clarify them with Secrets; give somebody a "Secret of Equipment Use" that allows them to use Effects that describe personal equipment directly in this manner.)

When the Effect is applicable as an acting party in an extended conflict, it works just like a character, except that it does not roll an Ability check. So when the 4-point armor acts to protect you from an enemy swordsman, you declare it for Harm or bonus dice (bonus dice makes sense most of the time). So the armor is doing an opposed action for bonus dice against the swordsman, who rolls a total of two against it - meaning that no damage get through, but you get 2 bonus dice for whatever you're doing next. (Effects can't use bonus dice themselves, so your Effect passes on its bonus dice to you or whoever else makes sense on your side of the conflict.)

When the Effect's value is 4 and the opponent rolls a 5, however, the opponent gets through - he causes a Harm 1 with his sword against you, poking it through a hole in your plate mail. If the attack was described as being against your armor (with a brutal club, say, or a dagger with the intent of cutting your armor straps), then instead of you taking Harm 1, the armor's value would go down by one - Effects take Harm by lowering their value, which makes them relatively brittle. Effects can be very powerful in conflict because of their consistent results (no need to roll dice), but once you manage to overcome the Effect by maneuvering around it or overpowering it, its value goes straight down.

As I said above, though, all that is highly dependent on the character using the Effect allowing the Effect to act on its own - ironically enough, a high-quality sword would only rarely get to "act" with its Effect value, as it makes far more sense to have the character wielding the sword make an Ability check. (You could make a "magic sword" that did exactly this, of course!) The same goes for a helmet or shield; a full-body plate mail is the equivalent of a modern tank in this context, allowing the character such complete protection that he does not need to act to have it impede his enemies in many situations.

Personally, though, I'd lay down some basic principles for this sort of thing either at the beginning of a new campaign or as the campaign progresses. The Effect rules can be used to describe such diverse fictional phenomenons that it's best to develop a sense for good applications on the ground level. For example, that description of how to use a "plate mail 4/V" Effect would work well for the sort of medievalish fiction where a full plate panoply is a horrible implement of war that presents a tactical and narrative challenge for an opponent to overcome. I could imagine handling a full plate mail very differently in a different genre.

Quote
In simple Ability check contests, you can potentially draw on a huge bonus ("I'm using my master quality sword, and I'm going to use all four bonus dice!")?

That's right. You're basically using your sword in a skilled and brave, but abusive, manner. It might even shatter from this use, although if its somehow special to the story it probably won't - you've just exhausted all the help it's going to give you in this particular fight.

Quote
In extended conflicts, on the other hand, you could pretty quickly run out of bonus dice, so such equipment is only giving you an opening advantage?

Indeed. Effects in extended conflict are used either by having a load of them for use in waves, or by husbanding your resources carefully and only supplementing good rolls with extra bonus dice from them - just like Pools in that regard, really.
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Paul T
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« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2008, 07:58:36 AM »

Thanks you very much, Eero.

So, to make sure I've got this right:

The Effects as equipment rules probably would not work very well in a situation like this: a man is being chased through an old castle by an assassin. He sees a sword hanging on the wall and grabs it just as the assassin is closing in on him...

They're better suited for representing specific preparation made by characters, using their Abilities.

Or, if I'm wrong, how would you handle the situation above?

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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2008, 10:15:50 PM »

At first glance I'd use Effects to represent pre-created preparations, but that's just because for my personal sense of balance, a slight component of the cost of Effects is the uncertainty of their usefulness - if you're going to just turn around and spend the Effect right off, then it's almost a no-brainer compared to buying bonus dice.

HOWEVER, looking at the situation on a deeper level, the rules of the game actually already do this sort of thing all the time, so making an Effect on the run can't be unbalanced. Consider these cases:

My character is being chased by an assassin through the halls of an old castle. I describe how my character grabs and old sword on the wall and turns after a corner to wait for his assailant.
a) I make a Swordfighting (V) Ability check; the sword justifies this as an appropriate Ability for the situation. The SG agrees to have the sword there because it's reasonable and fun.
b) I make a Heritage (I) Ability check to establish that this castle, which belonged to my war-like ancestors, has all sorts of military paraphelia on the walls. The check becomes a support check for the immediately following Swordfighting (V) check when I turn to face the assassin with the sword (or whatever it is I grab to justify those bonus dice).
c) I make a Heritage (I) Ability check like above, but make an Effect out of the result, describing it as "old sword 4/I". Play continues normally, and soon I get an opportunity to spend the Effect for bonus dice when I attack my pursuer.
d) The Story Guide agrees that there are all sorts of weapons and stuff hanging on the walls. As I run through the corridors, I make a React (I) check to grab something useful without slowing down, then name the result "old sword 4/I" as an Effect. Essentially the same as above, but with a generic Ability, which is useful when the SG thinks that anybody should be able to pull off this trick right here and now.
e) The Story Guide agrees that there are all sorts of weapons and stuff hanging on the walls. He determines that I can pretty much just pick something off the wall, and it'll become a 2-point Effect (perhaps it's a "2-point medieval castle"), created a long ago by somebody else. If I had time to sort through the stuff, I could find up to 4-point Effects of the medieval martial sort in the castle. The campaign could even, if it was using a lot of this sort of technique, have a rule wherein the SG could ask for a Pool point in trade for a particularly useful Effect or something like that.

The important lesson to take back from this is that making an Effect and spending it immediately is actually less efficient than just plain making support checks. Effects are support checks, essentially, with only the added caveat that Effect dice can be piled on top of support checks (which rule can be easily finangled if it ever becomes a problem; on the principle of describing my own play style I didn't disallow this in the booklet, but I can see how somebody might abuse Effects to avoid the in-built limitations of support checks). Barring that sort of abuse, however, you're just paying for privileges that you would otherwise already have: all characters can grab stuff off the walls for free and use them in all sorts of manners, as described above, even without making them Effects. And this is why Effects are best used for pre-planned preparations you made in prior scenes: the reason you pay for the Effect at all is that it allows you to postpone spending the bonus dice from a support check you already made earlier. If you're just going to turn right around and use the result as bonus dice, you might as well declare a support check and go right ahead with whatever you were going to do in the first place.
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Paul T
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« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2008, 08:49:49 AM »

Thanks again, Eero. That makes total sense, in the framework of Abilities and what they are for in the Solar System.

One more question, about extended conflicts:

Why are opposed checks for bonus dice not allowed? I think Clinton says the same thing in TSoY, but I'm not sure what the logic is. Does it unbalance play in some significant way? Let's take your own example from the text:

"Parallel Fighting for bonus dice as I seek the higher ground"

To me, intuitively, it seems like it should be an opposed action for bonus dice. Essentially, it's a defensive action, just based on Fighting rather than one of the passive Abilities. It seems to make sense to call it "opposed", because, well, Fighting is an opposed activity. How can you Fight without opposing your opponent's attempts to hurt you?

I could see how it might be parallel if your opponents were trying to do something other than hurt you, though.

The logic seems to me to be that defensive actions should NOT accomplish anything, on their own. So, perhaps in this case, it should be judged based on whether "the higher ground" is some sort of significant achievement (in the fiction) or whether it's just color/description for bonus dice. For instance, if the character was trying to reach his friends at the top of the hill, it would make sense for the action to be parallel. But if it's just a maneuver for bonus dice, why can't we run the action as opposed? It would seem to make sense that if you rolled better than your opponents in Fighting, you would be able to keep them from Harming you.

Thank you very much for taking the time to reply to all the pesky questions, by the way! You've been tremendously helpful.

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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2008, 10:42:09 AM »

So, these are specifically opposed checks for bonus dice in extended conflict, and why they're always made as defensive actions.

There is conceptual backing for this notion, but the ugly truth of the matter is that limiting players like this makes the Passive Abilities a bit more interesting, while giving some small extra incentive for narrating weakness, hesitation and simple empty beats into a fight in certain situations. There is no balance reason not to allow opposed for bonus dice with any Ability if you find that particular rule super-annoying and difficult to remember. I don't, because it enhances my perception of the defensive Abilities as special, so I'm using the distinction.

The conceptual backing for this lies in how an action is always for Harm when it directly opposes your enemy - actions are only for bonus dice when they set up later actions against the enemy, not when the enemy is actively competing to prevent your success. Defensive actions get around opposed actions being for Harm by their nature of being defensive and only trying to prevent Harm, not cause it. From this viewpoint something like seeking higher ground in a swordfight is clearly a parallel action merely because you're not trying to stick your sword into your opponent, which is your ultimate goal - but if the opponent decides to outmaneuver you in trying to dominate the high ground, then it's not about swords and sticking at this moment, but about who's the better man-o-ver. This is a fine way of causing Harm, as Harm does not care about physical damage or whatever, it's all about getting defeated in Ability checks - getting Harm from pushing yourself too hard in a race for the hilltop is just fine.

As for how to make Fighting (V) Ability checks without them being opposed, that's just a conceptual necessity of how the Ability might be written. For example:

Fighting (V)
The character's skill and experience at fighting with people, useful for hitting and mangling them, or setting up ambushes, or leading armies - we're really not interested in violence in this game, so we just have this super-generic fighting Ability and call it a day.

So how do you use that in a non-opposed manner? Easiest thing in the world:
  • Long before the enemy gets there, set up an ambush.
  • Impress the emperor with your understanding of supply logistics at a banquet.
  • Act as the second to a samurai trying to take his own life.
  • Resist your own fears in the face of horrible slaughter. (Probably Resist (R) would have a role here, too.)
  • When the enemy is busy fighting with your friend, spot a good defensive position on higher ground and maneuver your way there. This could turn into a race to reach the spot first, but if the enemy doesn't try to prevent you from reaching the spot, then it's just a matter of choosing the right place and getting there in time despite the hazards of the battlefield.
The name of the Ability is just that, a name; the fact that it's called "Fighting" does not mean that it's always opposed, any more than "Swimming" would always be used in the water.
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