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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 93 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Question; dropping social and mental stats - been done?  (Read 5284 times)
James Holloway
Member

Posts: 372


« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2004, 12:44:48 AM »

Quote from: DannyK
Years of playing White Wolf games has convinced me that a lot of people *like* the process of allocating points to dfferent stats, even if those stats don't make that much difference afterwards.  There must be some force other than tradition which keeps game designers using the same type of stats 30 years after the creation of D&D.

A friend of mine once observed "the more Intelligence you buy in this game, the less intelligent you must be" in a game where that particular stat wasn't worth a hang.

In White Wolf games, I would say that people like essentially-useless stats like Appearance because they allow them to have a mental benchmark: I have an image in my head of how beautiful Violet is. I know that Pinky is less beautiful but that Mungo is more beautiful and Sneed is about the same.

(Aside: I've always felt that White Wolf 2nd ed games -- and others! -- suffered terribly from the difference between "the character sheet is a descriptive document about your character" and "the character sheet is a list of the game play abilities you exert through your character." This difference usually manifested itself as me winding up with a lot of dots in Finance and Etiquette.)

The Cthulhu Lives! RPG guys (not Cthulhu Live) dispensed with the idea that your character had any capabilities at all that were not the same as yours. This document is in Ancient Greek? Find someone who speaks it. Saw a mysterious light in those rafters? Go on and climb up there. Possible in a LARP; less so in tabletop.
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NN
Member

Posts: 93


« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2004, 10:50:02 AM »

On reflection I think that physical vs. mental stats is a red herring. What we are really discussing is stance and character vs. player knowledge.

I dont see the point in presenting players with situations which they as players can solve (puzzles, riddles, exercises in deduction) and then 'overruling'  the players skill with their characters stats/skills.

For me, the purpose of social and mental stats (and skills) is to adjudicate those situations where the players have little or no knowledge.
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Tobias
Member

Posts: 446


« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2004, 06:11:34 AM »

Thank you for the interesting replies. I'll peruse the suggestions more closely. Universalis I've actually played, so I know how that works.

I don't think the physical vs. mental thing is a red herring. The issue is that there will likely be a mis-match between a player's physical, mental, and social skills/"values", and a character's.

During RPG tabletop play, the physical values of the player are generally totally irrelevant (LARP play is obviously different), so physical character stats are generally easily accepted by the players as necessary (Social Contract) and are accepted as part of the SIS. (And physical stat-only systems always leading to a lot of combat and being boring is not something that I agree with).

Mental and social skills often suffer from a mis-match between character and player as well, but tabletop RPG generally draws heavily on these qualities (for the player). Witness the statwise dumb fighter and the player who feels compelled on the one hand not to puzzle along with the others, and on the other hand is missing out on the fun. Witness countless gruf samurai with glib speech.

What I'd like to explore (and asked references for) is how to resolve the mismatch. One option is to ditch stats and mechanics for social and mental skills that the playgroup overrides anyway (PTA is an example, but they ditch physical as well, as Ron told us). Another is clearly seperating the mechanical effects of social/mental stats and how they support the goal of play. Another is to make the mismatch (if present) part of your Social Contract conversation.

I hadn't thought about it, but LARP suffers from the same 'problems' as tabletop, but enhanced by also having a possible physical mismatch. Solutions from LARP play might be translatable to tabletop games.

Anyone else have experience as well with physical-only games (or sublimated social/mental stat games) and the gameplay they lead to? (Board games or certain wargames come to mind as well, but I'd like to keep within the realms of RPG-esque games).
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Tobias op den Brouw

- DitV misses dead gods in Augurann
- My GroupDesign .pdf.
Tobias
Member

Posts: 446


« Reply #18 on: November 30, 2004, 07:37:02 AM »

Also have a look at: http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/columns/kosher26nov04.html

It's about skills more than types of stats, but it's also about mismatch between player expectations, the game (focus) actually being played, etc.

Lots of this can be resolved with good design, clear goals and social contract. I'm trying to look at the power of removing social and mental character stats because of possible mismatches/player behaviour.
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Tobias op den Brouw

- DitV misses dead gods in Augurann
- My GroupDesign .pdf.
M. J. Young
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Posts: 2198


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« Reply #19 on: November 30, 2004, 01:42:26 PM »

Quote from: Tobias
Mental and social skills often suffer from a mis-match between character and player as well, but tabletop RPG generally draws heavily on these qualities (for the player). Witness the statwise dumb fighter and the player who feels compelled on the one hand not to puzzle along with the others, and on the other hand is missing out on the fun. Witness countless gruf samurai with glib speech.

What I'd like to explore (and asked references for) is how to resolve the mismatch.

Although in Multiverser the character starts as a representation of the player, and thus presumably has identical stats in all areas, it is recognized that characters diverge from players. There are also other bases for recognizing moments when the difference between the player and the character may be relevant.

As an example, during the course of a four to six hour game session a character might spend a week during which he's trying to remember something he knows that he knows. In Multiverser, I'd give the player a check against his character's education level (an attribute) to see whether this is something he learned and remembers. After all, given a week to remember something, I can remember quite a bit more than I can in a few minutes.

If a character's intelligence is impaired, the player is forced to make checks if he thinks of something that might be beyond the ability of his character. Conversely, if the character's intelligence has been boosted, the player is permitted to make such checks to see whether his character can deduce something that is beyond him.

Note that few people object to perception checks in this regard. Multiverser uses intuition for this. Does the character realize that someone has just entered the room behind him? Does the character perceive that this person with whom he is talking is uncomfortable, and does he know what this means? These are all social and mental related, but they are also connected to sensory perceptions of the world. We're in a bind here. Do we rely on the skill of the referee to describe the situation such that an intuitive or observant player will realize from the description what is happening while one who is less so will miss it? We're not all Agatha Christie, able to place clues in plain sight without putting bright orange "this is a clue" labels on them. Using a roll to determine whether a character recognizes something in his surroundings or understands the meaning or intent of something is quite natural. Doing the same thing with mental and social situations is perfectly ordinary.

When my players attempt to persuade non-player characters of some course of action, I let them talk; I let them give their arguments, and I listen to them, and sometimes play out the responses of those with whom they are debating. In the end, though, I roll the dice. Before I roll them, I will sometimes state that there are bonuses (or penalties) based on the situation, including my assessment of the argument. If I think the reasons given are persuasive, I'll bonus the die roll. It's still dependent in part on the character's ability to make that argument persuasively. I might also give the NPCs will power checks to ignore the argument--people can be stubborn even when they know they are wrong.

The rules also specify that such rolls are made only when the referee believes there is question about the outcome. If Joe asks Mary to go for a cup of coffee and I know that Mary has been waiting for Joe to ask her out, unless there is reason to think that this is a really bad time, I'm going to have her say yes without rolling any kind of check. That's really in the same category as physical checks. I don't roll a strength check to see whether the character can lift a glass of grog unless there's some reason to think he's horribly debilitated. I only roll if the matter is in doubt.

I hope this is helpful.

--M. J. Young
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Tobias
Member

Posts: 446


« Reply #20 on: November 30, 2004, 11:44:02 PM »

It sounds like some clear mechanics and social contract (I get the vibe it's been communicated to the group and they know how to work things, as in "such rolls are only made when the referee believes there is question about the outcome").

How about dumb-as-nails-fighter syndrome, though? When a player figures out the response to a puzzle/tactical situation, but the character might not?
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Tobias op den Brouw

- DitV misses dead gods in Augurann
- My GroupDesign .pdf.
M. J. Young
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Posts: 2198


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« Reply #21 on: December 01, 2004, 12:47:05 PM »

Quote from: Tobias
How about dumb-as-nails-fighter syndrome, though? When a player figures out the response to a puzzle/tactical situation, but the character might not?

That doesn't happen much in Multiverser, of course, because it's rare for a player's character to be worse than he is on such things. However, I've encountered it in OAD&D a number of times. I've noted that it's very difficult for players to handle characters whose non-physical attributes in these areas are significantly lower than their own. Believe it or not, the worst ones in my experience are highly charismatic players who roll low charismas and don't understand why they aren't the leaders or can't charm everyone they meet with their witty repartee. I usually manage to get them through it, though, mostly with an added leadership system in which experience and status integrate with charisma to control influence and particularly party leadership.

On the specific problem of the player who runs the fighter solving the problem the fighter could never solve, I think the OAD&D party style play provides a ready answer to this. I'm sure that nearly everyone who plays that sort of game allows everyone to help the dumb player with the brilliant wizard; this is the reverse of that problem. In both cases, the smart players are providing the answers at the table, but the smart characters are bringing them into the game. Thus if the smart player with the dumb fighter figures out the puzzle, I can give him an intelligence check to see if somehow this smart-as-rocks head basher ignorantly stumbled on something brilliant--but if he fails the check, it's simple enough for that player to give the solution to someone whose character is smart enough to have solved it, and let their character introduce the solution to the situation.

This works fine with the kind of step-on-up gamism of party play. The players are still giving credit to the guy who came up with the idea, while the idea is still used by the team to solve the problem. Since OAD&D gave equal experience awards except in very rare circumstances, it didn't matter which individual character solved a puzzle as long as the group solved it.

Does that help?

--M. J. Young
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Tobias
Member

Posts: 446


« Reply #22 on: December 02, 2004, 01:19:37 AM »

It does, for it allows a player to use his own abilities to its full extent, as well as keep the character as truthful as the game (system/setting/people) calls for.

Thanks.
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Tobias op den Brouw

- DitV misses dead gods in Augurann
- My GroupDesign .pdf.
Callan S.
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Posts: 3588


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« Reply #23 on: December 02, 2004, 04:56:57 PM »

I don't quite see what it brings to the game if the charismatic player or intelligent player have their personal contributions removed by the system. I mean, for them? What do they get out of it? I can't imagine a simulationist enjoying 'Ah, THIS is what its like to be stupid! AND unpleasant!' (that is, if there isn't any system support for bringing up interesting situations based on failed rolls...which is sort of like getting a reward for low stats).
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
inky
Member

Posts: 51


« Reply #24 on: December 02, 2004, 06:40:45 PM »

Quote from: Noon
I don't quite see what it brings to the game if the charismatic player or intelligent player have their personal contributions removed by the system. I mean, for them? What do they get out of it?


It seems like there is enjoyment to be gotten in the system working as it's designed -- "hey, look, my character only has 8 int and I'm not as helpful on the riddles as when I was playing Frob the Wizard!" -- even if this particular ramification of the rules makes things worse for the player. As a related thing, it may be that doing worse now is essentially a reminder of the guarantee that when the action moves into an area they're good at (say, strength or dexterity) they'll be better off than the other players. To some extent this seems like the same question as what it brings to the (simulationist) game when players miss on their attack rolls or fail their skill checks or whatever.
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Dan Shiovitz
Tobias
Member

Posts: 446


« Reply #25 on: December 03, 2004, 12:28:45 AM »

Quote from: Noon
I don't quite see what it brings to the game if the charismatic player or intelligent player have their personal contributions removed by the system. I mean, for them? What do they get out of it? I can't imagine a simulationist enjoying 'Ah, THIS is what its like to be stupid! AND unpleasant!' (that is, if there isn't any system support for bringing up interesting situations based on failed rolls...which is sort of like getting a reward for low stats).


Was that question meant for me, Noon? Because I'm not advocating taking away personal contributions.

Let me know if I need to expand on something.

Tobias
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Tobias op den Brouw

- DitV misses dead gods in Augurann
- My GroupDesign .pdf.
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