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Author Topic: Path Based Systems  (Read 2824 times)
dragongrace
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« on: May 11, 2004, 08:09:45 AM »

For those who remember me and the game I was working on, DragonGrace, I am revisiting the first set of rules I put out and stripping it down for a rebuild that makes more sense.  

One thing that I am looking at is a kind of Path-Based system of character growth.  In searching for 'path system' however it turning up 90 pages of posts in teh Forge search.  

Does anyone happen to recall one or a few good discussions about path based systems?  Or can they mention some games that would have used something classified as a path based system?  Also my idea of a path is different that of a class.  Characters are built up around skills but follow a particular path as a method of character growth. (If this helps someone point to a particular discussion).

Thanks.

JOE--
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Sparky
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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2004, 09:00:38 AM »

Perhaps I'm totally misunderstanding what you mean by path, but I think that the Burning Wheel qualifies...happily, there's a forum for it in the Independent Game forum area.

Quick link:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewforum.php?f=39



Chris
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dragongrace
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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2004, 09:49:34 AM »

Reading some of the offered materials and a few of the topics, I'd say yes, this is what I mean by a path, but BW seems to have handled differently than what I have down in the computer.  So similar premise, different conclusion.

The paths that I'm developing are more akin to a doctrine of beliefs.  Characters follow a particular path chooing skills that suit their view of how to fufill the culmination of that path.

For example.  The path of the Warrior.  A Character may see the end of the warrior's path as being a master of a single blade, all weapons, a combination of weapons and magic, or just a defeater of enemies regardless of means.  Skills are choosen along the way to facilitate the goal.

The path of the Craftsman.  A character may see gold as the craft, rocking chairs, horseshoes, glass blowing, etc.  A character grows into what they perceive as an ideal.  So that at the end of the path the character has physically change  (by increments) into a craftsmen, a warrior, a dragon, a giant space hamster with purple hair and a lead guitar position, what have you.

Like BW again, a character can switch paths but I have dangers in leaving the path at the beginning and ending stages.  Also once a path is compelte, a character is free to grow further and mold themselves into a different kind of being.  I found the "Prestige Races" article from Dragon Magazine after I began searching for similar concepts.

JOE--
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2004, 10:40:27 AM »

I think we may have discussed this already, but have you seen Final Fantasy Ten, Joe?

I think what you want has more of a tradition in CRPGs than pen and paper RPGs. As such, I don't know that we've discussed it much, other than interms of "lifepath" systems like Burning Wheel's and those from Traveller, and Mekton Zeta, etc, meant for chargen for the most part.

Mike
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dragongrace
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« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2004, 03:37:51 AM »

I'm actually in the process of playing through it currently.  The problem of CRPGs is obviously that no one can code for all possibilities.  And in FFX Character have automatic limitations that they cannot over come.  I would agree that character choose skills regardless of their 'path' however and in that there is similarity.

I'm using paths as an integral part of the game.  THey are a method of growth.  Choosing a path doesn't give you skills, though a particular path may enhance a skill you already have by the nature of what you are becoming.  I am including an Undecided path for anyone who wants to avoid any kind of specific physical growth.

I would be overjoyed if I was exploring new ground, but for all the various components of the game I'm looking for existing examples so that I'm not, like i said, reinventing the wheel.

JOE--
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Jack Aidley
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« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2004, 03:41:49 AM »

Have you seen WFRP (War Hammer Fantasy Roleplay)? It has a career based character advancement system that sounds similar to what your describing. Might be worth a look? (Although WFRP is horribly broken as a whole, it has some nice touchs).
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dragongrace
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« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2004, 04:08:13 AM »

I'll have to drop by the closest hobby shop and flip through the book in more detail but it appears at a glance (from the few sites I found) that careers seem a lot like D&D's Prestige Classes thing.  And I think that all of these system are similar in various aspects to what I thiking about, but not quite exact, and are divergent from what I perceive as the purpose of the path's in  my system.

To this end, I'll simply Flesh out my ideas in that area to a much greater degree and when I do that, submit the ideas to the Forge for in depth discussion.

Thanks, All.

JOE--
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2004, 07:16:02 AM »

Hmm. You might want to look at:

http://www.legendaryquest.com/

Seems to have some similarities to what you're doing.

Mike
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dragongrace
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« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2004, 08:51:56 AM »

That is very close in many concepts that I am mulling over.  Do have any experience in the pitfalls of that system? or even what they are in reference to the Class system (seems like they would call it a class-path system)?

JOE--
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2004, 09:04:47 AM »

I've never played the system, I'm helping them get through some other design challenges at this time. None of them deal with the path system. What I'd suggest is that you post your query to their fora there.

Mike
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John Kirk
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« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2004, 11:04:30 PM »

Well, well.  A chance to discuss my own system.  How can I possibly refuse? :-)  I noticed your postings here after I’d already created your account on the LQ Forum.  I would encourage you to post there as well, though, so you can get an unbiased reading from the Legendary Quest players.

LQ has its flaws, which Mike has been very active in helping me fix, but its class system is not one of them, IMHO.  It’s not perfect, but it is pretty darned good.  The LQ class system went through about five or six incarnations, each having its own problems, until the current system was reached.  So, I can speak to many of the pitfalls you will want to avoid in designing such a system.

You are quite correct in that the term “class path” would be a reasonable term to describe LQ’s class system.  Warhammer, the game after which I originally modeled LQ’s class system, uses the term “career path”.  I decided I didn’t like the term “path” because it implied a well worn route to me.  I didn’t want my system to constrain players by allowing them to select from a few chosen “paths” that fit my personal pre-conceptions of what a character should be allowed to do.  I wanted the players to be able to decide what made the most sense for their character concepts and work toward that.  Warhammer falls short in this regard, IMO.  But, I’ll get into how I circumvented the confines of a fixed “path” a little later.

If there was any single thing I’d do to enhance the current system it would be to create metaclass rules, so that a GM or third party game writer could come up with a class of his own following some basic guidelines.  Right now, the classes are hand crafted in an effort to make them both interesting and reasonable within the game rules.  The “metaclass” concept is minor, though, in comparison to other issues you will have to address in your design.

Skills
LQ’s current skill system is “mostly” two-tiered.  Many of the skills you can pick up “out of class” at any time while others are “gifts” that only a class can give you.  You indicated above that you want characters to choose their skills independent of class.  To do that, you may want to build up some kind of skill tree, so that not all skills are available at once.  LQ incorporates the skill tree concept in its “Crafts” system and its mage spell system.  Crafts and mage spells are wholly independent of classes, so the two concepts can work in harmony.

If you don’t allow classes to provide skills as “gifts”, you’re limiting yourself in how potent you can make a skill, since anyone will be able to pick the skill up unless you limit them in some other fashion (i.e. via trees).  And, if classes lack skills as “gifts”, you will have to decide exactly what it is that a class provides.  In LQ, a class gives “Talents”, which are similar to D&D’s “Feats”.  More importantly, though, LQ classes provide level bonuses to specific skills.  If a character doesn’t yet have a skill to which the level bonus is applied, then the class provides the skill as a gift.  LQ’s level bonuses range from +1 to +4, described by the terms “Reviewed”, “Versed”, “Specialized”, and “Expert”.  If you have a skill that isn’t enhanced by a class, then you are considered “Schooled” in the skill and have a +0 adjustment.  These level bonuses don’t stack.  A skill is simply awarded the highest bonus given by any class the character possesses.  If you are going to allow characters to have a large number of classes, I would recommend a bonus system that doesn’t stack, or your characters will eventually become unbalanced.

There are also a couple of software design concepts I used in creating LQ’s class system.  It is both Object Oriented and exhibits Loose Coupling:

Object Orientation
One of the fundamental precepts of Object Orientation is that you should “encapsulate that which varies” and you should “keep the objects thin”.  What that means is that every object (class or skill) in a system should be its own independent entity and each should convey a single, simple concept.  So, all of LQ’s skills and talents are separated out.  Contrast this with D&D’s Prestige classes, many of which have their own lists of special abilities.  With the special abilities embedded within each class, those abilities cannot be re-used in other classes.  And, if you decide that “sneaking” abilities throughout the game need to be changed in some way, you are forced to hunt down every place a sneaking ability is used and edit them wherever you find them.  What a nightmare!  By separating the skills out, you ease the maintenance of the system and, ultimately, the quality.

Loose Coupling vs. Tight Coupling
This is the single biggest mistake Warhammer made in its career path system, IMO.  From each career, they allow a number of “Career Exits” to other specific careers once certain prerequisites are met.  What that means is that each career explicitly references other careers.  This is known as “Tight Coupling”.  In this case, the tight coupling has unnecessarily constrained their system and made it brittle.  If they want to eliminate a career, they must also eliminate all references to that career from other careers.  And, if they want to create a whole new supplement with new careers, they have no way to “hook them in” without going back and editing the original book.  That’s not the worst of it, though.  The biggest problem is that it explicitly spells out where a character can go from his current situation.  So, the number of possible career paths is severely constrained in Warhammer for no good reason.  If I remember correctly, they have about 100 classes.  With every class having 3 or 4 career exits, the total number of career paths is somewhere around 1000. (I haven’t done a mathematical analysis, so I’m not sure of that figure).

LQ’s class system, though, uses Loose Coupling to accomplish the same goal.  Every LQ class has a set of prerequisites needed to attain the class.  (The beginning “Low Order” classes only demand attribute minimums while the “High Order” classes require skill level minimums as well.)  If a character meets the prerequisites to gain a class, he can pick up the class through training.  There is no fixed “path” that a character has to follow.  With about 100 classes listed in the Grimoire of Game Rules and assuming that a character will pick up about 4 or 5 classes throughout his career starting with one of the standard 30-ish beginning classes, there are something on the order of 30*99*98*97*96 class paths.  That’s about 27 billion possible class paths.  Oh, add 1 for the possibility of not having any classes at all :-)  Now, that’s probably a little too big because some classes have contradictory prerequisites and some require you to satisfy prerequisites that can only be attained by gaining other classes.  But, the number of possibilities is still very, very big.  Add to that the fact that the upcoming Handbook of Hazards and House Rules is going to add another 30 or so classes without my needing to change a single word in the core rule book and you can see the advantages that Loose Coupling provides.

There are a few classes in LQ where I elected to use Tight Coupling between classes (Master Swordsman refers to Swordsman, for example).  These couplings were conscious decisions on my part, since I felt these few instances warranted stronger ties for aesthetic reasons.

Well, I’ve blathered long enough.  I’d be honored to answer any questions you might have.

John
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John Kirk

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John Kim
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« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2004, 11:19:40 PM »

Quote from: dragongrace
  Does anyone happen to recall one or a few good discussions about path based systems?  Or can they mention some games that would have used something classified as a path based system?  Also my idea of a path is different that of a class.  Characters are built up around skills but follow a particular path as a method of character growth. (If this helps someone point to a particular discussion).  

I'm not sure how you're distinguishing "path" systems from other class or career systems.  For what it's worth, you might consider a look at my essay on http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/systemdesign/classes.html">Class and Template Mechanics.
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dragongrace
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« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2004, 04:18:36 AM »

Mr. Kim, Short and interesting article.  And perhaps Path is the only word I can use to think about my system.  I am thinking of at the core a skill based system.  This system may have templates for Wizard, Warrior, Stir Fry cook, etc. but that is wholly separate from what I'm calling "Path", Mike may have a better term in his vocabulary (which I'd like to use a better term if applicable).

The Path as I have it planned is a series of steps along a higher road, gates that a character must cross through both in game and out of game.  In game they are things like visiting a location, speaking to a particular person, casting a certain spell, collecting an amount of wealth, in other wods, character objectives.  Outside of the game, Metagame, the objectives are getting an attribute to a particular score, collecting a certain amount of resource points, kind of thing.

I've simply split the path in half at ten gates for each half.  This is an arbitrary decision (the numbers).  By walking a path you gain temporary boosts to particulars by virtue of sticking to the path.  And at the midway point those temporarys become permanent.  As a sign of devotion.  And each of the following gates offers something permanent as well.  This is primarily in the form of attribute boosting, but not necessarily in the form of something you cannot obtain by walking any other path.  

At the base, any skill can be taken by anybody at any time.  Some prerequisites will be in place such as Literacy before Writing kind of logics.    And the same applies to spells.  (Before that point is addressed as "Why should a first level character be able to cast Legendary magic?" They can't, that's a matter for another thread).  I have the default path of "The Path of the Undecided"  as well, Mr Kirk.  A person can abandon a path and take up another one.  Or they can complete a path and take up another one.  While I don't have the number of possibilities for "Paths" that you do I think mine qualify as something slightly different.

I referred to Prestige Races before, and to some degree those tie in with my paths.  Why have them?  I am using them as a vehicle for gradual change, and the reward for walking a path is to grow as a character in an outward sense.  

For instance, to walk The Path of the Dragon is to slowly become a dragon. (I never abandoned this idea from the original version I made).  At first I thought to limit this to a single race but I began to decide that any race should be able to walk that path. (I am applying some modifiers to make it easier for a primary race however, for good or bad).  At the halfway point a character walking the Path of the Dragon begins his physical transformation. (Think TSR's Dark Sun's DragonKings).  However since any race has the potential to walk the Path of the Dragon, I figured that the details of that transformation should be left up to the player.  Only in this transformation of being does a player gain something that can't be gained otherwise.  That is part of the nature of becoming.  Thus becoming an Angel is the gain of permanent wings.  

The player is something new in the end and have accomplished an in game goal.  I think at this point a whole new world opens up.  Perhaps a second specific path set or a generalized second path set.  An Angel becoming a Principality, perhaps.  I also have notes written down about a player abandoning a Path during transofrmation and taking up another, or revisiting a second of the first Path set.  Mostly in game consequences, to keep the general mechanics simple.

Mr. Kirk, I have some programming experience (hell it's what I do most of the day),  I find that I sometimes think in terms of the programming languages as well when thinking about systems.  I like the comparisons you have drawn.  They also crossed my mind.

JOE--
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