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Points for Flaws (from Sorcerer forum)

Started by Ace, April 22, 2002, 02:01:32 PM

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Quote from: Ron EdwardsUm. The real answer is, "Balancing benefits and limitations is a destructive element of game design." The aspect you are asking for (in retrospect) is not a desirable aspect.

Speaking as a long-time player of Champions and GURPS, which in combination defined and refined the "benefits-limits" paradigm of character design in role-playing, I have concluded that these two games were Very Wrong and that Robin, in Feng Shui, is right.


I just wanted to let you know I appreciate what you said about the add/disad systems being disruptive to good play. I used to play a lot of GURPS and the point crunching that went on took a rather good (and at its core) simple game and turned it into a counting exercise.

One optional rule they suggest for GURPS that you just give no points for disadvantages. For example the standard GURPS character is 100 base points, 40 is disadvantage points, 5 in quirks.

When I ran GURPS I found the  solution to be easy, just give 145 points (the assumed level) and let the player choose what they believe the charcter should have.

I use this in Witchcraft/All Flesh Must Be Eaten as well and just give 10 extra bonus points to lay with in leiu of points for drawbacks.


I think Ron is right I am going to fix this post and split it into two sections.

Aplogies for the clumsiness I still have not figured out the "flavor" of this forum yet.

Blake Hutchins

Not unless such loss of control is a core feature or conflict embedded in your game.  Otherwise, it's just a rationale for taking control away from the player.



Ron Edwards


It looks as if you're discussing two different things.

1) Using "negative" points to permit more "positive" points to be spent during character creation.

2) Using a quantitative personality indicator of some kind, in such a way as to affect how the character should be played.

These are two totally independent issues. I'll stick with the first one, as that's the thing that prompted your post. Since we agree on the general idea, the next step would be to consider what valid options remain, in terms of character creation.

One solution is the one I took in Sorcerer, which really goes back to The Fantasy Trip and can be seen in games as diverse as Amber, Over the Edge, Everway, and Prince Valiant, as well as recent designs like Le Mon Mouri. The attributes or other features of the game must be allocated in some way from a common pool of points, but the features themselves, whether individually or in combination with others, yield both "benefits" and "limitations" during play.

Another solution is to use free-form design, much as in The Window. "Whatever works for the character" is the watchword, which of course increases the potential for character design to override the social contract. I think it's significant that Fudge and Risus, the two games I can think of that are closest to The Window structurally, place quantitative limits on this step.

Still another is to provide archetypes, essentially 90% finished characters, for the players to fine-tune. In practice, these end up being versions of the other three options (the invalid +/-, and the two I describe above.

Your other topic, regarding personality mechanics, is a very serious issue and deserves a thread of its own. However, I suggest you spend some time phrasing the issue and your assertions carefully, going beyond what you simply do or do not like.



I have often found that games that use point systems tend to cause characters to clump together and grow towards being a "generic" type according to the campaign.  As players find out what is necessary for a game, they tend to all spend points in similar areas and take advantages in similar fields as well.  You often lose a level of individuality and character concept as a result.

Games that have pulled this off well have often given a sort of a "field limit" which determines how many strengths your character can have.  Examples include; only 3 traits for OTE, 5 skills for Donjon, 1 Cover for Sorcerer, etc.  Althought the field can be wide, you still cannot get extra fields(and turn into the fighter/mage/thief generic jack of all trades).  These games also give you more fields that you must prioritize with than you can build up(you get 4 points in Donjon, but you have 5 skills, and other stats).

Looking to other types of games, one can see built in strengths and weakness playing to different strategies(D&D, fighters cannot cast spells, period, Magic, the colors are locked into certain styles, etc.)  Every system rewards certain strategies, and by either building in strategies into the system(D&D's class & feats), or leaving them open(GURPS), you alter the type of play, characters, and development you get.