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Author Topic: Points and abilities  (Read 5618 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: January 25, 2002, 11:26:24 AM »

Hi Fang,

I have a number of Currency questions about Scattershot.

Here's one, admittedly from the basic grognard school of thought, but still genuine.

If starting character points are unlimited, then why are skills sensu stricto rated in cost according to their "difficulty" to learn?

As opposed merely to taking the abilities that seem just right for the character, case closed? That would seem to be the purpose of having no point caps. So ... why any cost to abilities at all? (Hero Wars, for instance, has no such thing in character creation, although it does come in regarding character development.)

The current construction implies that the "points themselves" are entities of note or worth or importance during play, but as far as I can tell, they aren't - after character creation, those points basically evaporate as game items.

Best,
Ron
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2002, 11:38:58 PM »

Yeah, I get this a lot.  "What's the point?"  "Why have points with no cut-offs?"

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I have a number of Currency questions about Scattershot.

Tut, tut!  If I remember my class on Currency issues, Currency has to do primarily with 'soy bean trading' between different components of the game, like characteristics.  In Scattershot's character creation there isn't any way to do more than even the most superficial 'cashing in,' and even then the exchange rate is one-to-one.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Here's one, admittedly from the basic grognard school of thought, but still genuine.

If starting character points are unlimited, then why are skills sensu stricto rated in cost according to their "difficulty" to learn?

Advertising.  (And it's not supposed to seem like the learning complexity, if anything it would relate to how hard they are for the 'untrained' to practice.)  Remember the sinister Uncle Fang?  Well, he's hidden a fair amount of design and mechanical efficacy balancing behind the smokescreen of difficulty rankings with the abilities (we'll use skills in these examples, but it applies to everything).

Each ability has a number of facilities, things like 'usual' scope, time needed, subject limitations, opportuniy requirements, and so on.  Two abilities, with everything else the same, have a difference of efficacy when, say, their realm of subjects is different.  Say comparing Throwing and Shuriken.  A person with Throwing can certainly throw shuriken for effect, but not vice versa.  That would make Shuriken a rank 'easier' than Throwing right?  If all else were equal, it would, but all things aren't equal.  Shuriken are exceptionally better combat projectiles, thus a rank 'harder;' the two cancel out.  It works that way all the way up and down Scattershot's point system.

Remember how I said "advertising?"  Well, since one of Scattershot's primary design concerns is the guise of traditionality, I couldn't very well have separate 'prices' for all kinds of skills.  So I just called the lowest cost skills 'Easy,' next up was 'Intermediate,' you get the picture.

Instead of changing the cost for each level and since raising a rating 1 point only costs 1 point, I simply gave them different 'starting levels.'  Easy is 11 plus points spent, Intermediate is 10 plus points spent and et cetera.  I could have just as easily said that all skills start at 12 and that easy skills cost 1 point, Intermediate skills cost 2 points, and so on; and then have people add points to customize their ratings.  Doing it the way we do allows us to subtly limit how 'low' the 'simpler' skills can go, have more range for the more effective skills, create simplicity in presentation, and have a certain traditional 'feel.'

It turns a little strange when we took superpowers and spells into playtest.  The playtesters didn't really like 'Incredible' rank powers that started out at 6 or so, plus points spent.  What did fly was calling all superpowers Difficult and giving a number of different 'buy in costs.'  For spells, instead of just a wide variety of unrelated choices, the playtesters liked our arranging them into 'colleges' (I forget what we called them) that also collected the 'imperfect' versions of spells into ranked lists.  (Imperfect spells would have greater limitations of range, quantity, flexibility and such; obviously using a more 'perfected' spell 'holding back' allows 'imperfect' spell emulation.)  It all looks really complicated, but the players liked it and at the end of the day the prices wound up being exactly the same.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
As opposed merely to taking the abilities that seem just right for the character, case closed? That would seem to be the purpose of having no point caps. So ... why any cost to abilities at all? (Hero Wars, for instance, has no such thing in character creation, although it does come in regarding character development.)

Because points are for when 'you care enough to spend the very best.'

I know that almost all past games (that have them) have used points to create some kind of functional, mechanical, or efficacy balance.  (The texts of Scattershot even promote the idea of players setting 'challenge limits' and 'competing' to see who can make the most interesting characters, if they want.)  That's not what we're doing in Scattershot.  Technically?  It's actually a very subtle niche-protection mechanic.

You see, since the points work out as an imperfect measure of efficacy, whenever they get clustered together, you can tell that the character's creator wants that aspect to be one of the character's signature elements.  In keeping with ideas based on niche protection, but not limited to ideas like specialized character classes or formalized archetypes, Scattershot uses an 'outed' practice of being careful about concentrations of points.  It comes out quite a complicated technique on paper, but the premise is fairly easy to imagine.  Simply look for patterns and bring it up to the group so the group can avoid trumping a single player's favorite aspects (which actually becomes one of the central character creation techniques - ask me about the Sine Qua Non stuff later).

This also leads to a lot of the techniques for dealing with significantly different character efficacies (which are completely unavoidable when passing from one niche's favorite realm to another's).  Ultimately, it even allows us to explain how to deal with broad-ranged efficacy deficiencies (like the infamous Lois and Clark example).

Quote from: Ron Edwards
The current construction implies that the "points themselves" are entities of note or worth or importance during play, but as far as I can tell, they aren't - after character creation, those points basically evaporate as game items.

Probably because I haven't done the character creation/evolution stuff justice or pulled in the more Gamist use of the Critical Junctures.

The section of character creation carries all the instructions for point-wise character development (or evolution as we call it because, in some cases, points can be moved out of one ability into another depending on character concept changes).  Remember Experience Dice also translate into character development points using a vague 'gambling' system.  Take however many Experience Dice you want to 'gamble,' roll and total them.  Compare this total to; 6 gets you 1 point, 10 gets you 2 points, 14 gets 3, 18 gets 4 (and so on for each 4 more in total, get 1 more point; this works out to about a 1 in 6 chance of getting 1 point for each die you 'put up').  As Scattershot Transitions more towards Gamism (where I hear detailed character development mechanics are usually ascribed), Experience Dice are meant to be more rare of animals, something to be horded for emergencies and for character development (and for other reasons I haven't noticed yet).

When Scattershot gets more Gamist, the nature of the Critical Juncture mechanic changes.  Instead of stressing the narrative consequence of the outcome (since that tends to color on moral, ethical, or thematic issues related more to Narrativism), it instead calls for the result to cause pointwise changes in the victim.  Much like using character points to improve a character, Telling Blows force the victim to 'lose' these points (often by the acquisition of disadvantages).

Another mechanic I frequently forget to relate is that players can spend points on having Experience Dice (at the beginning of play and later).  This and a few other ideas we are considering work to tie the value of Experience Dice tightly to the character point scheme (and this is a character currency issue we haven't solved to our satisfaction yet).  The more Scattershot Transitions towards Narrativism, the more importance there is on working with Experience Dice (because of their use outside of Mechanical play and how they can empower a player in terms of their character's narrative impact).  When Transitioning towards Gamism the stress falls more on their incarnation as and interaction with character points.  In Simulationism they serve as a constant (imperfect) measuring system of efficacy usable in estimating the features that the players might be exploring as well as providing at least some verisimilar advancement mechanics (the role in Simulationism is something I am still trying to justify in the GNS, it's hard since I don't subscribe to the theory directly and must constantly translate my ideas into the vernacular); both Experience Dice and character points have a de-emphasized role in Simulationism (outside of niche protection issues involved with avoiding deprotagonizing characters in any venue).

Fang Langford

(Who never attended Julie-Grognard and has never been anywhere near Grensandwich Village or to New Amsterdam.  I'm strictly a Rogue Scholar.)
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RobMuadib
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« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2002, 01:01:02 PM »

Fang

Thought I would ask this question again, as it probably got lost in one of my longer responses in a earlier. I agree with your assertion that no cut offs for typical Abilities is self-limiting, because of the diminishing returns gained in chance of Success, for each rating. That is for Ratings who measure your Acting/Opposing Ability.

However, this obviously doesn't apply to Powers and such where your Power is mapped to the UE, which provides a geometric increase in effectivness for each point gained. For example, what's to stop me to get a say a Power of 300 in my energy blast (able to vaporize the moon in one shot or whatever.), this could be pretty jarring when the other guy made Batman, or more cruely Hawkman:). The only solution would seem to campaign power limits?

Or to take a Geas spell that can 2.5 billion people, etc.

Rob Muadib
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« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2002, 03:09:20 PM »

Quote from: RobMuadib
I agree with your assertion that no cut-offs for typical Abilities is self-limiting, because of the diminishing returns gained in chance of Success, for each rating. That is for Ratings who measure your Acting/Opposing Ability.

However, this obviously doesn't apply to Powers and such where your Power is mapped to the UE, which provides a geometric increase in effectivness for each point gained. For example, what's to stop me to get a say a Power of 300 in my energy blast (able to vaporize the moon in one shot or whatever.), this could be pretty jarring when the other guy made Batman, or more cruely Hawkman:). The only solution would seem to campaign power limits?

Or to take a Geas spell that can 2.5 billion people, etc.

First of all, a Power of 300 costs 290 points (there are alternative mechanics that would make the cost 60 points with some limitations).  The issue here is the economy of scale.  Consider the fact that to have an attribute at barely superhuman levels only costs 5 points.  Even a difficult skill at the 'normal' maximum costs only 5 points.  What about 290 or 60 points?  This kind of concentration of points (since the Invoked Rating of the superpower using this Power will, itself, costs no more than 5 points) is clear notification to the rest of the group that here is a character who is 'defined' by Power and all that entails.  If the rest of the group 'buys into' this idea without raising any concerns, then it is likely that they are 'fine with it.'

If the group consensus of the game's intent allows this character then there is no problem.  Of course, if players are going to create characters with this much power disparity, then they probably have some idea of how the game's narrative will handle it.  As in the infamous example of Lois and Clark, you have this kind of disparity.  Even though it is scripted, I believe you can imagine what kind of 'an understanding' would function to keep Superman's superpower efficacy from creating an unpleasant game.  Having the focus on 'human level' interactions that are colored and dignified by occasional superpowered interactions set the tone for the game.  This indirectly de-emphasizes the superpowers, just the way that the participants will have planned it.

It was exactly these kinds of examples that prompted me to remove the cut-offs in the first place.  How could you emulate the Avengers if one player can't play Hawkeye because he has too few points.  Or Green Arrow of the Justice League (an interesting parallel we plan to make use of in our setting)?  The examples are innumerable.  Scattershot presents: Universe 6, the World of the Modern Fantastic will obviously need a great deal of discussion on how to handle these issues of group concensus, and I hope someday to be able to express it.

Fang Langford
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2002, 07:28:21 AM »

Hi Fang,

I've been turning your point about group consensus over in my mind for a couple of days, and I keep coming a-cropper on this issue:

If standards are being set on point totals (either overall or toward individual abilities or sets of abilities) via group consensus, then we are still talking about point limits.

In other words, to say, "Scattershot does not use point limits during character creation" is not accurate. It certainly does not use them in the traditional fashion of text-set point-totals, but they are there via another method.

I suggest that the introductory text for character creation present this fairly and simply: "Point totals for character creation are set for specific instances of play and involve some interaction and decision-making among the members of the group."

Further, a larger issue does crop up, namely the problem with consensus decision-making in the first place - it does not resolve actual disagreements. Agreeing not to disagree universally fails, when the disagreement "matters" to anyone involved. Hence, what resolution mechanisms do you see being acceptable in Scattershot, beyond dissolving the group/play?

Best,
Ron
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2002, 10:14:06 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
If standards are being set on point totals (either overall or toward individual abilities or sets of abilities) via group consensus, then we are still talking about point limits.

In other words, to say, "Scattershot does not use point limits during character creation" is not accurate. It certainly does not use them in the traditional fashion of text-set point-totals, but they are there via another method.

Ah, yes.  This whole matter revolves on my defensive nature.  How do I talk about Scattershot to hardened, traditional, point-based game players?  I have to tell them 'there are no limits.'

The above quote is technically true; Scattershot doesn't use point limits, but it does permit them.  Even when the players opt for point-challenges, this is does not become a hard limit.  Point-challenges is one of the ways available for Scattershot to Transition to Gamism.  Ultimately the game, and the techniques involved in playing it, are designed in the absence of point limitations.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I suggest that the introductory text for character creation present this fairly and simply: "Point totals for character creation are set for specific instances of play and involve some interaction and decision-making among the members of the group."

I could never do that because it leaves a huge footprint saying 'use point limits' in the minds of the players.  It also seems to foster overly traditional play, character-creation-wise.

Point-challenges are intended to be included only as an addendum to the techniques of Advanced stage mechanics.  Sort of an 'oh, by the by, if you are more comfortable with it, players may set point-challenge limits during character creation.'  The only hard rule is 'the gamemaster is not allowed to place any limitation on the number of points a character design uses.'

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Further, a larger issue does crop up, namely the problem with consensus decision-making in the first place - it does not resolve actual disagreements. Agreeing not to disagree universally fails, when the disagreement "matters" to anyone involved. Hence, what resolution mechanisms do you see being acceptable in Scattershot, beyond dissolving the group/play?

In regards to the point-challenge limits?  I can't really conceive of an on-going disagreement.  Once the group has conceived of its point-challenge policy, the issue is closed, isn't it?  (The characters get created and cut-offs become moot.)  If no one can agree on a specific point-challenge, since the mechanics are not bound by them, what harm is there in avoiding them?

When I say 'group consensus' in terms of point-challenges, I mean that the group has concluded a guideline that most of them will follow.  By the very nature of Transition, Scattershot will be heavy with text talking about creating, supporting, enforcing, and if necessary, abandoning overall consensus.  As I have stated elsewhere, I believe that in order for a game to Transition and remain focused, consensus is critical.  This means there must be some explanation of how to 'sense' when Transition is appropriate, how to experiement with it, and most importantly, how to tell what works.  If there is no overall consensus, there is no focus and the game doesn't work.  Right?

No, I don't think writing this will be an easy task.  I'm not even sure I can do it.

Fang Langford
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2002, 11:01:23 AM »

Hi Fang,

Looking over that last post, I see a certain dance going on between what will ideally happen, what can be encouraged to happen, and what can reasonably be expected to happen. I think that in practice, to be useful, some things are just gonna have to be nailed down.

Perhaps I should clarify one point before going on - when I am talking about disagreements, I am talking about in reaching consensus. Therefore, the consensus itself cannot "prevent" disagreement, as it hasn't happened yet - and I submit, cannot happen just because it "should." Groups fizzle and break apart at this stage very easily.

Also, a group may share a common vision regarding modes of play (ie Narrativism, level of critical juncture, etc), yet members may still disagree strongly about such things as power-levels and competency-levels. It strikes me as very, very problematic to hand a group a set of point-cost rules, say, "Make up characters, oh, and there are no point limits," and expect that the default will be seamless - unless something else is going on: some kind of dialogue, some kind of discussion, some kind of establishing of "values" of play-components among the players.

Even people who are disinclined to say "I make Joe Bob with a bezillion points in everything!" may be uncomfortable with the idea that someone could do such a thing. I think that "rules" sensu lato that at least designate sensible ranges for abilities, given a setting or type of story, are there for a reason.

Let's go to the videotape. You've run Scattershot quite a lot, and here you are, with the last group you played with using the point-cost character creation method. What did you tell them before they started to play? Did you tell them the setting or type of story? (E.g. "A Robin Hood type adventure") If so, did they simply hop in and make up characters tuned to that scale and scope of play, with no further guidance or dialogue? If there was dialogue, did you act as final-arbiter? If the dialogue was with one another rather than with you as final-arbiter, what did it consist of?

Tell us how it happens, with players, in actual play. If there's a way that "no point limits" actually works, and if you as GM or designer are not providing a "personal approval stamp" on that way, then I'd like to hear about it in detail.

Best,
Ron
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Marco
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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2002, 11:52:16 AM »

Hi,

I've heard people talk about playing GURPS or Hero with no limits--I've even run games where the point totals for different characters were vastly different. However, I'd have problems with using either of those systems in a limit-less fashion most of the time.

A few notes:

1. Anyone can drop points (and play Hawkeye in The Avengers)--some systems include meta-game effects (which cost points) that will do things to protect those characters (i.e. Hawkeye is just as hard to kill as Thor because he has purchased a clause which says only attacks which are likely to knock him out can be leveled at him). Under those conditions the characters are "equal."

2. Often I *like* playing low power-scale characters but I don't want to be overshadowed by the gamers in the group who like high-powered ones. Since their like for high-powred characters is just as legitimate what do we do to compromise? Each play medium characters netiher of us like?

3. In traditional point-based games (which I happen to count as my favorites) often where I've spent a lot of points may not have much to do with what I want my character to be doing. That is, it might be *misleading* to the GM.

4. Since you are using point costs and some concept of "balance" judging from the Shuriken example, I would wonder whether or not you're putting a lot or a little effort into play-balance? If you don't balance things carefuly then the limited point pools won't work well (i.e. you'll get certain limited types of preferred character designs from players almost regardless of their GNS preferences).

I'm interested in seeing how those problems got resolved in practice as well.

BTW: Your endeavor with Scattershot does sound very interesting and you have some very cool ideas.

Something that I feel is overlooked far too often are large lists of cool ideas--especially those that interlock in an interesting fashion. Free form character design like Over The Edge is great for some types of character realization (Risus might even be better) but the part of me that considers character genreation an art isn't satisfied by those systems.

-Marco
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« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2002, 04:05:19 PM »

I considered responding point by point, but I respect Ron's disinclination towards how it can destroy an overall message.  As far as I read his post he has basically three issues.

The first I believe arises from the misconception that Scattershot's mechanics are the bulk of it.  Far from it, I consider the mechanics the least of the three parts we plan to include.  Aside from the genre-dependant material, there is the yawning absence of Scattershot's techniques.  By far the largest of the components of the system, the techniques answer most of the questions he poses in his article.

Unfortunately for as fully as I have fleshed out the mechanics, I am far behind it with the techniques.  I am hoping that nearly all of the consensus difficulties he has raised will be addressed largely by Scattershot's technique section on 'starting' a game, and especially by the examples.  I realize there is a mechanical solution to what he describes, but I do not believe that would be anything but unwieldy in the rigid components of this 'Generalist' system.

I believe much of his problem stems from the fact that the material he's asking for varies a great deal, from genre to genre.  Like examples, the genre-dependant material is yet forthcoming.  This is just the mechanics, nothing more.

One of the reasons I was originally reticent to put this stuff up in the first place is because it is so unfinished.  The mechanics were the easiest part by far.  The techniques I don't even have all in one computer, much less in a readable form; everyone will have to be patient.  Soon I will begin discussing 'chunks' of the techniques, but at this point I am far from even an outline of what I want to cover.  I invite everyone to participate in the discussion of these techniques, because I see that as probably the only way I will be able to put my thoughts into an easy-to-assimilate form.

Second, I believe I have had a fair degree of difficulty describing another side to the 'power shift' or sharing ideal of Scattershot gaming.  With comments like "What did you tell them?" and "Did you tell them the setting or type of story?" it is clear that Ron is implying that the gamemaster starts the process, creates the setting, or chooses the type of story.  While that is a fine way to play, I do not intend Scattershot to 'start' with that perspective.  (Nor do I plan to make it even difficult, I want it all, baby.)

In comments like "did they simply hop in" and "with no further guidance or dialogue," it is clear that the implied gamemaster is a pedagogue.  While that might work in a classroom setting, and does make up a significant portion of traditional gaming, I do not see it as impossible under the type of gaming I am outlining in Scattershot.  But it would do an injustice to my idea of 'shared gaming' to use it as the form to start with.  (This was one of the toughest decisions we made about the techniques.)

Control issues between the gamemaster and players are highlighted by comments like "final-arbiter," "designate sensible ranges," and "personal approval stamp."  Looking over the whole of Ron's article, I must conclude I create my own personal games completely backwards.

You see; it is the rare occasion that I "tell them the setting or type of story."  In fact, it's largely the opposite; they tell me the setting and the type of story.  In Scattershot I am trying to formalize either party "telling" this to the other party.  By publishing a background heavy with examples and containing explicit discussion of genre expectations for the "type of story," the people playing Scattershot will come together with a common starting basis.  That way the players can come to the gamemaster and say, "We want to play Universe VI but with heavy noir trappings and story structure," and both will know exactly what is being proposed.

There have been a number of times when a player or two have come to me with fully completed characters, begging for adventure.  I don't think it my place, even as gamemaster, to dictate "sensible ranges" or give my "personal approval stamp."  To me gamemastering is about facilitating whatever they throw at me.  That's why I am so fond of the Lois and Clark example; I never would have conceived of a game about reporters in a superheroic world, especially with the power inequity.  But darned if I couldn't see twenty ways to make it work as a game.  That's what I am talking about when it comes to sharing; I let the players 'make up the world' sometimes (I'm just the gamemaster).

While we're on the topic of leaving tradition behind....

Let's talk about one of Uncle Fang's old swayback nags, Scattershot's point system.  Here's another one of those 'bait and switches' I have written into the mechanics.  Sure, I calls 'em points, and sure they look like they work just like points, right up until you get to that nagging 'no point limits' thing.  It just don' look right, do it?

That's because they're not really points.  Sure, that's what I calls 'em, and that's how they look, but it's all smoke and mirrors.  It's actually a class-based character generation system.  Remember D & D, from waaayyy back?  What was there, seven classes?  Were they balanced?  Not exactly; but many people began using informal methods to keep all their players feeling adequately efficacious.

Then people started 'enhancing' it.  There were multi-classed characters (does anyone remember dual-classed humans?), there were secondary proficiencies and on an on.  (I dropped out of A D & D around the time of Monster Manual 2.)  Here you have 'more chunks;' a fighter/thief/magic-user could do a number of different things, but it didn't really do much for how the players were feeling, those same informal methods carried on.

So how is Scattershot a class-based system?

Around that time Champions really got going.  The whole hero system, make your own character up, whole cloth.  The efficacy grail in hand, right?  Well, not quite.  Every game of Champions I ever played in had a number of 'common' character types; the brick, the esper, the stealthy spy-type, were these a result of the rules?  Not really, just another informal method (to classify characters as a tool) to keep players feeling 'effective.'  It's funny how a class-based system has been slowly sliding towards interchangeable units of ability and a point-based system showed signs of archetyping.

What the players really needed was something that gave their characters a feeling of value.

I've seen, and been awed by, a lot of current 'garage' games that create 'screen time' and plot-influencing mechanics to help get all the players to feel that their characters had adequate 'value' in the game.  As much as I'd like to pursue something like that, I see them falter when it come to reaching those 'old school gamers' that have been revealed as my "lurking desire."

So what does that have to do with Scattershot?  Well, for one thing, every product will practically begin with Exemplars.  These will (as best as we can) be the archetypes of genre for the book that they're in.  Not only that, but in a fashion vaguely similar to Shadowrun, they will allow Scattershot to be picked up and played right away.  (Let's not forget, Palladium has been doing this for years; heck theirs even come with equipment lists.)  I'll be putting the Chapter List for Scattershot up here one of these days soon, but until then remember, the second time the book comes around to characters, it goes into some depth on how to create them from scratch.

Remember Scattershot's 'Fat Points?'  In Champions, it takes five points to raise an attack one dice in damage (roughly equivalent to raising a Rating in Scattershot one point).  In GURPS, if memory serves an initial one-point Stat increase costs ten points (to Scattershot's one).  Why are Scattershot's 'points' so big?  Because they're not points, they're 'particles' of character class.

Five points in any Stat makes your character superhuman in that respect.  (Heck, it doesn't take more than six points in any Invoked Rating to raise it to superhuman.)  As soon as you put hardly any points into a character you can already see what kind of character it might be, the same way that Champions characters had informal 'classes,' only quicker.

Marco talks about putting points 'where they might be misleading' because it didn't have much to do with 'what he wanted to do with his character.'  Unless I am mistaken, would this be an example of the 'academic paradox' I see in a lot of other systems.  (Ron, maybe you can help me out here, you have the real world experience.)  Let's say Marco wants to play a character much like Marvel Comics' The Hulk.  Scientist becomes super-powered Mr. (green-)Hyde.

In most games I have found, no matter how much value the player places on Bruce Banner's scientific knowledge, they'd be a fool to spend hardly any points there, but I would, and I think Marco would too. (This is where you can help, Ron, if you had to put your academic acumen on paper, would it be a) few points, b) more than a few, c) many; use whatever system you choose.)  Sure, those points might look misleading to a gamemaster at the once-over, but who stops with the once-over?  Me, I'd pull Marco aside and point out that he's spent like half of his total points on Banner's academic qualifications; does this mean he wants a collegiate game?  "No," he might say, "they're just there 'in case.'"

This gives me, as the gamemaster, a whole legion of possibilities where I can instantly pull non-player characters out of, who are connected to Marco's character.  This kind of connection enhances Banner's significance in the game whenever I choose to use it, so those points are far from wasted.  (This would probably be overlooked if Marco had to be careful 'how he spent his points,' as he might if there were a limit everyone was shooting for.)

Now let's say Marco, said "hey, yeah, that'd make a great game," instead.  Then I'd have to tell him to 'take it to the players.'  If they all like college, I'm off.  (Or maybe everybody likes Lois' player's idea of a journalism-based game for Lois and Clark, either way, it gives me a background that means something to the players.)

Ultimately with all the Exemplars in the front of the book, and all the sample characters in the genre-specific mechanics listings (Didn't I mention that?  For example, in the superhero book's laundry list of powers, every one of them is demonstrated by a capsule description of a character, hero or villain; these populate the world.), players should be hard-pressed to not compare their characters to that many examples.  Comparison breeds contrast and the contrasts are the most important things the group needs to know to be comfortable with each others' characters in play.

At least that's the plan.

Fang Langford

p. s.  I need some time to find the VCR, Ron. So what say we roll the tape in a few days, okay?  (That being the third issue, I really gotta get outta here tonight.)
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2002, 06:19:34 PM »

Hey Fang,

Nice post.

Every game of Champions I ever played in had a number of 'common' character types; the brick, the esper, the stealthy spy-type, were these a result of the rules? Not really, just another informal method (to classify characters as a tool) to keep players feeling 'effective.'

Do you think this was the result of social contract stuff, negotiated niche selection, "Don't step on my shtick and I won't step on yours," or an outgrowth of the game's mechanics, certain power combinations just fall together based on a limited range of initial choices the player confronts, "When you focus on DEX it makes sense to do (blank) and (blank)?" And which of these two are you pursuing with Scattershot?

For example, in the superhero book's laundry list of powers, every one of them is demonstrated by a capsule description of a character, hero or villain; these populate the world.

This is very old school, and I like it quite a bit. Back in the day, you'd have your own game world that wasn't Greyhawk, but you'd drop the Keep (from Keep on the Borderlands) onto it. You'd put the Village of Hommlet onto it. You'd have the tarrasque somewhere. Maybe you'd create your own version of Mordenkainen because you needed a powerful wizard for a specific scenario of your own design. There was no pressure to maintain faithfulness to a published setting or to historical accuracy, or to be comprehensive in what you used. It was pick and choose from what you had available. It will be impressive if you pull this off with Scattershot. The trick will be avoiding the perception that you're providing a setting.

Paul
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« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2002, 06:19:35 PM »

I'm taking your word for it.

Your ideas are no stranger to me--and, since I'm as "old-school" as you're likely to find here, if you can convince me--you've got it made.

I do belive this is the first time I've ever seen Ron accused of implying "gamemaster is a pedagogue," though.

I still don't have a firm grasp on what will happen when a real-world group of players (i.e. non-theorists with at least some power-gamer desiers, in-group rivalries, and/or vastly different styles than one another) wil do with it. Your solution sounds a little like peer-pressure to me but it's obvious you've got something more elegant in mind.

As you probably know, I've got a multi-genre game with a supers system. It's point based--I'm quite aware of the "archetype" idea (in fact, JAGS has lists of gener specific archetypes with specific rules--and, more and more, meta-game rules--to flesh them out in various world books).

That's the perspective I'm coming from. We looked hard at supers-archetypes and decided that (as Ron feels about "genre") they were so muddy as to be unquantifiable. Some characters stood out as paragons of the archetype--but others were blurry.

It'll be interesting to see what you do with it (where does the character who is both faster than normal and stronger than normal--to the same degree--fit into the archetype?)

-Marco
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2002, 09:41:52 AM »

Great posts all around, everyone. This is a real meeting of minds. (Damn! Paul, me, Marco, Fang. Talk about a variety of approaches and standards.)

Fang, you're right that my proposed questions did take the classic "GM proposes, player disposes" as the foundation. But my question still stands, which perhaps better phrased, is, "How is Scattershot presented in practical play such that its goals, rather than those of point-crunchers, are achieved?" But wait! Read the next paragraph.

I am perfectly willing to accept that the answer lies in the techniques rather than the mechanics and will wait patiently for all that to emerge. I hope that this thread has emphasized what specific issues "better be there" in those techniques.

Of course, I would like to get a preview, especially in terms of instances of playtesting, whenever you get the time to present it.

[One of the sub-issues that emerged in the discussion concerned spending Bruce Banner's points, and I agree with every argument Fang presented. I think it is very interesting that Champions, 1st-3rd editions only, required no point cost for scientific or any other professional expertise - only for their application to super-powered stuff like computer or sec-system hacking. It was one of my favorite features of the system which, among much else, was jettisoned for the uber-Sim 4th edition.]

Best,
Ron
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Marco
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« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2002, 11:32:36 AM »

Hi Ron,

RE: The hulk

I wonder if you're addressing the detail of Champs 4th into science skills, their presence at all, or the way points get disbursed making it a bad-gamist-payoff to buy a bunch of science skills? You talk like you're addressing the "Sim-issue" but Fang is talking about the "mechanics" issue (if I spend all my super-hero points on nuclear physics I won't be a super-hero).

That, I don't think, is a Sim issue at all. It's a mechanic issue pure and simple.

At least one way to address it is to separate normal-guy stuff from power-stuff (that's what JAGS did for that very reason). That way you can be the Banner-hulk guy without having to "be a fool to spend hardly any points there" (not that I disagree with Fang's statement in general).

Of course that creates other problems (how do I play a super-powered ninja if I can't buy extra "normal stuff") but there are degrees of solutions for these as well.

-Marco
[ For that matter, Fang's Turn-A-Telling-Blow-into-some-game-event mechanic (which I think is brilliant) seems purely Sim to me: yes, it's meta-game but it seems like just a run-of-the-mill dramatist mechanic--which could be either Nar or Sim. ]
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2002, 03:16:03 PM »

Quote from: Marco
I still don't have a firm grasp on what will happen when a real-world group of players (i.e. non-theorists with at least some power-gamer desiers, in-group rivalries, and/or vastly different styles than one another) wil do with it. Your solution sounds a little like peer-pressure to me but it's obvious you've got something more elegant in mind.

Make no mistake, we will be putting in a whole mess of 'techniques for negotiating' the (insert game feature of choice), founded on the idea of 'no surprises' from the 'infra-genre' created for the game.  Explicit, pre-character generation, genre expectations are what Scattershot's techniques are all about.  It's a lot more complicated than just giving (or fighting over) development point limits.

Quote from: Marco
As you probably know, I've got a multi-genre game with a supers system. It's point based--I'm quite aware of the "archetype" idea.

That's the perspective I'm coming from. We looked hard at supers-archetypes and decided that (as Ron feels about "genre") they were so muddy as to be unquantifiable. Some characters stood out as paragons of the archetype--but others were blurry.

It'll be interesting to see what you do with it

That's the trick then.  We don't do archetyes; never planned to.  We're doing Exemplars (as in examples, it's in the dictionary, really).  They will look a lot like archetypes (if we're doing our jobs), but we won't be 'under the gun' for our impressions of the archetypes.

Quote from: Marco
where does the character who is both faster than normal and stronger than normal--to the same degree--fit into the archetype?

You mean like Captain America? Or are we talking even more powerful?  (I need some examples or relative measures.)

Fang Langford
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2002, 03:20:20 PM »

Quote from: Marco
For that matter, Fang's Turn-A-Telling-Blow-into-some-game-event mechanic (which I think is brilliant) seems purely Sim to me: yes, it's meta-game but it seems like just a run-of-the-mill dramatist mechanic--which could be either Nar or Sim.

I'm not inclined to agree.  The Critical Juncture mechanic, I think, suits all modes depending on how it is applied.

For example, to the Gamist, it creates an extra challenge deciding how far they can 'push' things without racking up more point-based disadvantages (unlike the usual Hit Point loss).  In that application, a Telling Blow forces you to adopt more mechanical disadvantages, such as losing the use of your hand.  Mechanics are closely enforced for 'how severe' the result is and the character creation/evolution mechanics provide the tools to make those changes.  I am thinking that either the gamemaster or group vote will be there to make sure you've 'penalized' yourself well enough.

For the Simulationist, it opens up the possibilities of what a blow that bad would do to your exploration, especially making it a lot more verisimilar than '8 points of damage.' This application allows a fair amount of detail (which should be able to satisfy the most strict of Simulationist's hunger for verisimilitude, after all, they are the ones supplying the detail) without the appendage of critical hit tables that never quite seem to fit the situation.

For the Narrativist, it calls for them to create a 'turn of events' for their character and can be quite cleverly used to illustrate their theme.  This application doesn't really require a point-based result, but instead takes the lead of the person playing the recipient (the character whose life will be changed after all), the author of that character.

I actually think it fails when it comes to how I understand Dramatists play.  From what I have read, I would expect them to want the gamemaster (the purveyor of story) to create the detail that arises as a result of a Telling Blow (to properly put it into their Dramatic context).  Sadly, I have not come to any ideas how to satisfy this type of desire (I can only hope that Dramatists feel fortunate in being empowered with their character's fate and don't feel left out.)

I believe Critical Juncture is only as meta-game as you want it to be.  In the gamist example, it isn't any more meta-game than picking a nasty disadvantage off a list, nothing motivates it to have a greater impact aside from efficacy for them.  For Gamists and Simulationists, I don't see it as needing to be anything more meta-game than a critical hit table (that takes a little more creativity).

But thank you for the vote for what I have always considered one of Scattershot's 'clever bits.'

Fang Langford
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