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Author Topic: [Solar System] Armor as Effect  (Read 9900 times)
dindenver
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« on: November 20, 2008, 07:40:06 AM »

Eero,
  I saw you write how armor crafted using an Ability check could be considered an Effect as opposed to becoming Gear with an Armor bonus.
  This makes sense, except, I don't know how to interpret the Effect mechanically. I see different alternatives and I am not sure which you intended, the thoughts I had:
1) Effect Armor 4(V) means it absorbs 4 successful Ability checks for Harm ([possibly regardless of how much Harm is generated by the check), then it goes away
2) Effect Armor 4(V) means it has 4 harm boxes, one each for Harm levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 and you use them first if that appropriate levels of Harm are scored.
3) Effect Armor 4(V) means you get 4 bonus die to defend, then the armor is gone
  My instinct tells me to go with Option 3, but something in the description made me think that Option 1 or 2 is what you had in mind.
  Any clarification would be appreciated.
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Dave M
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oliof
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« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2008, 10:37:26 AM »

My understanding:

Your opponent needs to beat the Effect Level to harm you directly (i.e., needs Success Level 5, which is reduced by the Effect Level) or needs to beat (or match) the Effect Level to destroy the armor by attacking it directly, where each success level destroys one point of the armor. So, the first attempt to be at Success Level 5 (4) against the armor removes one point of the Effect, lowering the overall efficacy of the Effect to 3

Why differentiate? Depending on your method of attack, trying to destroy the armor might be unfeasible. Depending on circumstances (and rules bits) you might want to get the armor (i.e., steal the Effect). Sometimes, you're fine with removing only a couple of effect levels because you can bypass lower levels by other means, i.e. a piece of weaponry.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2008, 11:29:26 AM »

The player whose Effect it is makes the choice of how to handle the Effect on a case-by-case basis. Effects are just Ability checks frozen-in-time, so the options for how to use that Ability check are the same as they'd be if the check were made right at this moment: either it is a support check, in which case you get bonus dice from it, or it's a check by itself to get something done, in which case it's treated exactly like any other Ability check made in conflict. The rules are flexible on which option is more appropriate for a given situation, except that the bonus dice option is preferred most of the time simply because it tends to be slightly weaker - your opponent basically needs to cooperate a bit for you to be able to use the Effect directly against him.

Simple Conflict

To use that in practice, let's say you have that Effect of "Plate Armor 4/V" and you're going into battle against an appropriately armed opponent. It's a normal conflict at this point, I'll deal with extended next. You could declare any of the following when negotiating stakes:
  • "I'm checking my 'Swordfighting' Ability and dueling him to the ground. My armor provides me with an edge, as it limits the efficient attack forms he can use. I spend two bonus dice from the armor." This means that you lower your Effect's value by two dice and get those to your conflict check with your Swordfighting Ability. This is the simple default manner in which you'd use an armor. Why does it break down when it's used? You can describe the armor getting worn down by the heat of battle if you want, but in truth this is a dramatic conceit - a movie would be boring if the same trick saved the hero time and again, so we're limiting the number of bonus dice you can get out of that one trick. After the battle you can check your "Warrior Equipment Maintenance" Ability to re-create the used Effect anew, representing how you take care of the armor; if you happen to still have a couple of points invested in the armor Effect at that point, you can just spend those to support the maintenance check, ensuring that you'll get a good value in your new Effect. Or you can decide to not refresh the armor, in which case it'll run down at some point - either the character discards it after its straps break down and it's full of holes, or we just stop focusing on it as a source of advantage when it's been relied on too many times.
  • "I ignore my opponent, I know that his weak blows have nothing against my Genoan plate." This is the option where you basically put your Effect in between yourself and your opponent; it's not always possible, depending on how the opponent describes his action, but when you both agree that it's reasonable (or the SG does some creative refereeing), you can use the Effect as your primary defense. In this case you wouldn't roll the dice yourself at all (or would roll to accomplish something else, perhaps), but your opponent would rather make a check directly against the value of the Effect itself. He could choose to specify that his action is against the Effect itself, in which case you'd probably lose the Effect when and if he succeeds. Or he might choose to try to hurt you, in which case the Effect value is handled as a straightforward replacement for your own Ability check, which you're not making now. This sort of solution is not very common when two characters are against each other (this armor example is a bit contrived in that), as your own skills factually do come into play in almost any armor vs. weapons interaction, but this sort of thing is pretty natural when the Effect is something you've left behind to do your bidding while you're yourself away somewhere: the example I use in the booklet is setting a trap, I think: the guy who set the trap isn't there to oppose you, but assuming that he's still paying for the Effect, the Effect certainly is.

Extended Conflict

Extended conflict is basically the same as simple conflict, except we're working on the level of individual actions. In the negotiation phase of each round the players can declare what they're trying to do; this includes how their Effects are going to interact with the situation and how they're going to interact with the Effects of their opponents. Characters can always explicitly attack the Effects of other characters, which is basically an opposed check for Harm, opposition coming from the Effect itself and the Harm lowering the value of the Effect as well. However, just like characters could interpose themselves in between a source of Harm and the victim, so can an Effect, which is why you need to decide whether you're trying to destroy the armor or its owner: who takes the Harm you cause depends on that.

To come back to your three options, the first two are wrong in that Effects do not have Harm boxes. Instead, they directly reduce their value when they suffer Harm. This makes Effects hard but frail, which is appropriate, as they're not characters however beloved they might be. So if the "Plate Armor 4/V" Effect were attacked by an opponent intent on ruining it somehow (cutting supporting straps, say, or lighting it on fire to force you to take it off), any success over the Effect's value would reduce the value itself. So an opponent who manages a level 5 success is going to reduce the armor to "Plate Armor 3/V", just like if you spent one level of it for bonus dice. On the other hand, if the Effect won the comparison, it'd gain whatever effect was declared for it in the negotiation phase - usually this'd be bonus dice, as armor and other passive Effects probably wouldn't do anything to directly harm the opponent.

Your third option is basically right, except that you don't need to spend all the bonus dice in the armor at once, you can spread them to several checks. This is the default manner of using Effects and should be available pretty much always when the Effect is somehow pertinent; unlike the more complex "handle Effect like an Ability check" options above, the opponent can't really negotiate himself out of you using your armor for bonus dice, assuming that he's fighting you at all.

How does the smart guy fight against armor, then? The basic principle is to describe your actions in ways that do not justify the opponent just interposing his armor Effect against your check, because that usually will leave you open to a double-whammy: the opponent makes his own check to attack you AND his armor might block your own attack. Avoiding this might be as simple (depending on the genre) as describing how you focus your attacks on weak points and do not waste your time trying to break through the armor, or it might be as hard as desisting from direct attacks completely. Your two choices against an Effect-dependent opponent are basically to either destroy the Effect or work around it; this is appropriate, as if we're running around with stuff like "Plate Armor 4/V", we do kinda presume that it'll count for something when a fight comes. The opponent will need special tools (punch-daggers, say, to break through the armor) and tactics (smothering the knight inside his armor might do the trick, perhaps) to get around the full-body protection the armor provides. This is fine with me, as something like getting encased in metal is pretty much the professional win-button when it comes to medieval warfare. Other, less comprehensively useful Effects will be easier to get around and more difficult to apply.

And, of course, this all depends on how the given genre works as regard plate mail. In some stories and game worlds it's a given that only cowards and incompetents sheathe themselves in metal, which is then enough grounds to favor the opponent in choosing how the plate armor Effect works - get a couple of bonus dice out of it before the opponent punches his dagger through the faceplate or drops you in a conveniently placed lake.
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Paul T
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« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2008, 01:15:51 PM »

You know, I asked about this a little while ago (in a slightly different way), and I'm still not entirely sure I get it. It seems kind of awkward, and I'm having trouble wrapping my head around it.

To wit:

1. Solar System/TSoY is specifically designed so that someone Unskilled (0) always has a chance against even a Grand Master (4). However, what you're saying about Effects, Eero, acting as an "opponent" without a roll, seems to break that aspect of the system. If you have "Plate Mail - 4/V", and my relevant Abilities are all at level 1, how can I ever hurt you or reduce your armour's rating? I can't roll any higher than 4, can I?

2.

However, just like characters could interpose themselves in between a source of Harm and the victim, so can an Effect, which is why you need to decide whether you're trying to destroy the armor or its owner: who takes the Harm you cause depends on that.

This also confuses me! Since when can a character interpose themselves between a source of Harm and a victim? I asked about this a while back, asking whether you could make a opposed check for bonus dice--i.e. a defensive Ability check--to defend another character, and the answer you gave was that, no, the only way to keep someone else from doing something was to Harm them until they drop out of the conflict.

And, since Solar System doesn't use any sort of grid or positioning, what else could "interpose themselves" mean?

(Upon rereading this post, I realize it may sound angry or frustrated. You should know that it most definitely is not the case: I'm merely trying to clear up a few points about this before I apply it in play. Eero, you've been extremely helpful, and I really appreciate all the time you're taking!)

Thanks!


Paul

Just to clarify: None of those are problems with the straight-up "bonus dice" version. So, my concerns are only about the other options being discussed here.
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dindenver
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« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2008, 01:45:57 PM »

Paul,
  I am still a little fuzzy too. But, this is what I "think" ti means:
  The armor, in essence, becomes a character that has no pool and one Ability Armor (V) 4. And if you can narrate the armor coming between you and the attack, then the armor roll fudge dice +4 vs whatever you are attacking with.
  If I understand correctly, Eero is trying to say that this positioning is narrative positioning. As in lying in wait and jumping the char when they don't have armor on or aiming for a vulnerable spon in the armor (gap, joint, strap, etc).
  I will admit that a lot of this is interpreting what Eero posted, so he may come back and say I got it wrong.
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Dave M
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dindenver
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« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2008, 01:48:03 PM »

Also,
  This does seems to be a powerful "Effect." Maybe this should be relegated to a secret or have some other cost to allow Crafting to do more than create a bonus pool like another Ability?
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Dave M
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« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2008, 03:33:25 PM »

Good points, Paul. Let me comment on them:

Your first point is correct - a character working against an Effect might not have a chance against it. This is, however, surmountable in many different ways, and usually the Effect is only narrowly applicable. To wit:
  • The situation needs to be such that the character cannot go around the Effect or desist from attacking it directly.
  • The Effect needs to be able to resist the method of attack the character is using against it.
If these both hold true and the character insists on attacking a high-powered Effect (anything above level 3), then he is, indeed, potentially attacking a force he could not surmount. This is essentially the same as trying to have a conflict without sufficient Leverage - your character can try to walk through a wall all day long, but as long as he doesn't choose to break down the wall with a big hammer or otherwise change the situation, he's not going to succeed. Likewise, the guy with Strength (V) at Mediocre (0) is not going to punch through a "Plate Mail 4/V", however long he tries. He's going to need to try something else.

Although this situation practically means that there are places where the weak character can't hope to win, I find this acceptable, because the opposition in these situations is always lifeless. It's not another character you're fighting with, it's a force of nature, and sometimes you simply don't have the leverage to beat those. If the Story Guide is telling you that the wall you're climbing is an Effect (the legendary White Bulwark of the Ancients, whatever) and one with such a high level that you can't hope to win it - that's the same as refusing to run the conflict because the character lacks Leverage.

(Philosophically, check what the booklet says about Transcendent Effects - those are just like setting facts in all ways, including being immune to overcoming them in conflict. You can't beat gravity with a sword.)

We have to understand, though, that all of this is strictly a matter of setting and campaign style. The Solar System booklet provides many tools, of which some may not be what you'd want to use for certain sorts of campaigns. TSoY makes a point of all things being surmountable, but that might not work for a grittier sort of campaign where you want to have some real limitations in place. I'll discuss these stylistic issues in the TSoY book when I get around to writing it.

As for your second point, let me clarify: unless I misremember, when I said that you can't prevent others from hurting each other, we were discussing a situation where both sides are trying to hurt each other, and you're trying to prevent them from having a fight at all. It's this "having a fight at all" that is the key here - if you're trying to stop other characters from acting in a certain way in the fiction, you'll need to force them it via the conflict mechanics. On the other hand, if you just want to protect another character from some Harm, I find it quite permissible to bring that up in the negotiation phase: character A is going to stab character B, you interject that your character is going to jump in and prevent it to protect B. According to the multiple-participant stuff in the extended conflict chapter the description of the action will determine who is going to take Harm if A succeeds in his stab - might be you, might be B, might be you both.

"Interpose themselves" means, quite simply, that you say that your character is going to interpose himself in between you and your target, and the SG agrees that this is not unreasonable in the fictional situation. Some things you can't protect others from - if your opponent attacked your friend B verbally, there's not much you could do to protect him, is there? Or perhaps you could, in which case you'd tell the other players what it is that you say or do to counter the insidious attack, allowing you to make an opposed check against the attacker.

So perhaps our earlier discussion was a bit confused if you were left with the impression that characters can't absolutely ever take the Harm intended for another. I'd have to reread that discussion to see what sort of gibberish I was offering there, but my suspicion is that I was addressing another point - you can't make another character do anything without mechanically Harming them was my point in that discussion, I think. So if you're trying to stop two characters from fighting, you have to, paradoxically, do it by filling their Harm tracks and forcing them out of the conflict, at which point you can just narrate how they act. In summation:
  • Forcing somebody to do something: as long as they disagree, continue pounding their Harm track. Need not be violent in the fiction, might be just sharp words or whatever. Sooner or later the other player gives or takes level 7 Harm, forcing them to bend to your will.
  • Protecting somebody: Describe actions that put you in between the attacker and victim. Take Harm intended for others for yourself. Grab a Secret or two that specifically allow you to do this even in contrived situations. Die, most likely, protecting your charge.
Make sense?

--

Dave: The armor does not have an Ability at Grandmaster (4); rather, its check result is level 4 already, and it doesn't roll the dice. This is exactly the same as if the armor-smith who made the armor were then and there rolling dice against you. The major difference is that the Effect is reusable... I haven't had problems with this, but you know, I could see using a variant rule wherein the value of the Effect dropped by one each time it's used this way against an Ability check, successful or not. I wouldn't use that in all situations, but in some cases it'd be pretty appropriate.

Also, I fully support fiddling with the rules by altering the crunch landscape. For example, I could imagine a Secret along these lines:

Secret of Armor Use
The character is trained in the use of heavy medieval armor. Whenever attacked with appropriate melee weapons, the player may opt to act in parallel himself and let his armor take the blow according to the rules on conflicting with Effects. In simple conflict the character does not need to make a check himself at all if he's willing to trust in his Effect. Cost: 1 Vigor per use

(Remember that having something like this on the table implies that others can't do this stuff - in this case, obviously others can't use armor Effects to block in this way in this campaign, even if it's described in the rules booklet as a general option.)

Populate your crunch landscape with this sort of stuff if your group ends up over-using the Effect system - pricing the Secret in a balanced manner is also helpful if the SG is feeling pressure from players who insist on making the Effect rulings a big deal. If the cost is balanced correctly, the players will themselves choose to use their Effects as bonus dice or independent actors according to what makes sense in the fiction. I haven't had trouble with this myself, but different groups have different concerns, so I can easily imagine players who'd bitch and make the SG's life difficult if they felt that their Effects were not given enough room to shine.

(I'm sorry if my answers to these questions seem vague or non-authoritative; I'm just describing how I myself played this last spring and summer, not laying the law on how the game should be played.)
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dindenver
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« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2008, 05:50:44 PM »

Eero,
  That clears up a lot, thanks.

  I guess what I meant by this secret was that it "seems" like the secret would be for the guy who made the armor, not for the user. I mean, most Abilities give you a pool of bonus dice. But, for some reason, we are saying this one ability can make bypass this restriction and make a standing Ability check result. I am not suggesting this is a game breaker, just wondering why one Ability uses different rules from others?
  Seems like it devalues Secret of Imbuement a little.
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Dave M
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« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2008, 10:56:10 PM »

Well, it's not that only this Ability can do this stuff; rather, it's just that this is the example we've bandied about here. You could use any Effect as a standing Ability check - the origin for Effects is in the Ammeni poison rules of TSoY, which basically posit something like an Effect already: when you create these poisons you make an Ability check and write the result down as the strength of the poison, which is then later compared to the resistance of the victim when the poison is used. It's up to the group to decide when it makes sense for Effects to work as delayed support checks for bonus dice and when they should be more like Ammeni poisons.

Apart from armor and poisons, other things you might create as Effects and end up using directly, as opposed to bonus dice:
  • Use Oratory (I), raise a mob and send it to capture your foe for you. The foe will have to overcome the strength of the mob to scatter it.
  • Set a trap for your enemies, anybody stepping into it will have to oppose it with React (I) to avoid the consequences.
  • Build a robot or several to do your bidding while you're off in Arcturus. They need not be characters if they're simple and inflexible.
  • Make a work of art that tries to transmit the idea of gender equality to the viewers. Have others resist it to stay oblivious to your truth.
As can be seen, it's not just armor that can do this stuff. Of course, it could be - I can see limiting this sort of thing to just being done through Secrets. But when I've played, this rule has been used whenever characters have acted indirectly, so that they are not necessarily present in the scene themselves when the Effect strikes. Whichever Abilities they end up using indirectly, those are the ones they can use this rule with.

This of course brings the question of why I'm using "Plate Mail 4/V" as my example Effect for this sort of thing when I'm much more likely to use this rule in some more indirect situation. I must be stupid or something. (Not that I wouldn't use this with plate mail - I like the image of the nigh invulnerable knight clad in expensive craftsmanship. It just might not be so obvious to others why I'd use this rule with them.)
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dindenver
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« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2008, 11:55:01 AM »

Eero,
  Um, I don't think you are stupid (in fact, I am pretty sure I am the one that is being stupid here, lol).

  I guess with Ammeni Alchemy this rule makes sense because you only get one chance to poison someone. Where as the armor example seems to take us into a realm that vastly favors defense.

  In my mind, using this rule for a one-off Effect (like poison or traps) makes perfect sense. For lasting artifacts, it seems like doing this should require a secret (Secret of the Forge to make this armor or something). This is just a opposed basic ability check, its just that the players don't roll at the same time.

  Of course, I might be over thinking all this. Let me know what your play looks like, or what the weapon ratings are like in campaigns that use this rule.

  Sorry, I am a slow learner, so I am still trying to work this out is all. The good news is, once I learn something through my slower process, it sticks (we won't have to go over this again).
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Dave M
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« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2008, 12:17:25 PM »

I don't think that I'd have ever used the exact example of a plate mail armor in actual play, but in principle the way it'd work at my table is this:
  • The armor-user makes a narrative point of wearing his armor and preparing to rely on it for his defense. This lays the groundwork for later.
  • The attacker describes an attack that basically highlights the character's inexperience or unpreparedness for an armor-using opponent - the attacker is a barbarian berserker, say.
  • The attack glances off the armor with no effect. The attacker makes the choice of either retreating or trying to find ways around the armor. Let's say he's going to continue trying to attack.
  • Basically anything the attacking player suggests as a way of getting around the armor is going to work, forcing the defender to defend himself in other ways (possibly burning the armor as bonus dice). Effects are inflexible and initiative-lacking things, a character should basically be able to concoct a plan that allows them to bypass the Effect once they're aware of its existence. This might require the character to use some other Abilities, though.
In other words, the phenomenon you describe, where characters are totally protected by their Effects while the opponent flails futilely doesn't practically happen in my play because we make a point of being permissive in finding ways for characters to bypass Effects - it's the same principle of permissiveness we have in choosing suitable Abilities for conflicts; the player should basically be able to choose the Ability he wants in conflict, with the SG at most encouraging him to consider a better alternative. With Effects it's basically one good round of extended conflict that you can expect to get out of your Effect before the opponent starts trying something innovative to get around it. Then you can either reposition your Effects, if you can, or suck it up, burn them for bonus dice and resolve the rest of the conflict mano-a-mano. If the opponent thinks that there is no believable way around the Effect, then he is likely to concede the situation altogether and try some other way of getting what he wants.

The more we discuss this, though, the more convinced I am that armor is a stupid example of this usage of Effects in the first place. Perhaps we could pretend that I discussed poison and traps in the booklet, instead? Then again, the armor thing is an useful example in that it demonstrates one way for a character to enter into a multiple-participant extended conflict against the odds and still triumph.

As for your points on game balance, I agree with you in full - without the above method-based soft stuff (which I largely failed to explain in the booklet) the rule about Effects acting in conflict can get pretty overpowering when a player just insists on hiding behind his Effects and letting them do the work for him. I myself like the idea of requiring characters to spend Pool to make their Effects do these tricks, but then, I always like requiring Pool spends. You could also make a Secret that allows characters to create special Effects that can be used multiple times like this. Or, one rule that might work really well would be to just say that all characters need to spend a Pool point whenever they want to make their Effects act in conflict. I think that this'd balance the potential for misuse pretty nicely.

I'll make a point of testing this the next time I set up a Solar System game. Just have to set up a lot of Effects somehow...
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