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Author Topic: Clarifications  (Read 6094 times)
dindenver
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« on: January 29, 2008, 11:37:03 AM »

Hi!
  I am getting ready to start a pretty serious SoY (Revised) campaign soon and I want to get it right the first time if possible (before now I have only played).

1) Species abilities/secrets/keys that are mandatory do not cost advances, right?

2) Buying something that costs more than one advance still only counts as one advance in a row, right?

3) Starting with 5 advances, how talented is such a character? Will they be more like noobs, average, heroic or super-heroic. I want the characters to start out fully capable. So that the game is not about whether or not Fred CAN jump the gorge, but whether or not he wants to, based on what is on the other side, see what I mean?

4) Any other tricks/traps I should look out for?

  Thanks in advance, you guys rock, so I am sure I will get prompt great answers!
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Dave M
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2008, 11:41:10 AM »

Dave,

Mandatory stuff *does* cost advances. Them's the breaks. You're right about buying something that costs more than one advance, though.

With 5 advances, you'll be plenty capable, but not heroic. As far as whether Fred can jump the gorge, the easiest way to handle that is for it not to come up. Don't roll to see if they can.

Best,
Clinton
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Clinton R. Nixon
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dindenver
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« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2008, 12:04:27 PM »

Hi!
  Thanks for the lightning fast response.
  Um, how fast does it spin out of control, if I want to bump the advances up a little. is 7 more like it or 11 or 20 or? Basically, I want the players to be able to either make a char that is REALLY good at one thing or average at most things. I guess I am a little intimidated by the loooong list of Abilities.
  Yeah, I know, don't put a gorge their if you want them on the other side. I was just trying to make an example of what I want the game to be about (the consequences of the PCs actions, not the possibility of the PCs actions succeeding).

Oh, and
5) When you get bonus dice and roll them, do you HAVE to take the 3 highest? In other words can you elect to take a slightly lower die? The reason I ask is for Transcendence. I am thinking of just ditching Transcendence all together, but before I do, I am trying to understand the urgency...

  Thanks again!
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Dave M
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2008, 12:08:35 PM »

7 is way more like it. Seriously, you'll be good, and remember, all characters can use all open abilities at Unskilled, which means they have a really decent chance of success. I would stay at 5 - they'll get 2 advances an adventure if you let them.

Yes, you absolutely have to take the 3 highest dice. If you don't want to transcend, don't get a Grand Master level ability, or choose the Secret of the Bodhisattva.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2008, 01:13:18 AM »

5 Advances is clearly what you need, when you realize how the game works. It'll make for characters who are either excellent in one thing or very adaptable to different situations. More significantly, it leaves some room for natural growth, which is a crucial part of the game - the intent is not for the characters to start finished, they need to be able to grow and change via the experience mechanics for TSoY to have a point to begin with.

To understand Abilities, realize that there isn't a character with more than six or so Abilities above Unskilled. Anything more is pure waste, as the game is intented to work by allowing players great leeway in choosing their Abilities for a situation. Specifically, you as the SG do not choose which Abilities a character needs to use in a specific situation - you do not put in a gorge and call for a Jumping (V) check! Instead, you put in the gorge, and the player, if he wants to, may describe how his character tries to surmount the obstacle. Most likely he will use something he already knows well, and that's exactly how the game is supposed to go; you don't punish players for not having some marginal Ability nobody would want, you let character nature be expressed by the choice of Ability players bring into situations.

(Remember that Abilities are to be group-defined when necessary! The list of Abilities in the book, especially the generic list, is just a list of examples, not definitive. If a player wants his character to have Games of Chance (I), say, and it works for the setting or the character's culture, then he should have that Ability. So you never know what Abilities characters might actually have.)

I can't stress the above point enough when it comes to TSoY procedure - the SG never needs to know or care about the Abilities characters have. In some other games the GM can't put in a wild horse encounter if he doesn't know how the riding rules in the game work, but in this game that's exactly what he does - he puts in some wild horses because that fits his sense of a good encounter, and then it's up to the characters to maybe have or not have suitable Abilities for dealing with wild horses. Whether a given Ability is "suitable" is judged in a case-per-case basis, the SG does not need to have a premade list of which Abilities are suitable and which are not. If the group considers a given Ability suitable for a given situation, then it is.

When you think about the implications of that procedural point for character generation, you will probably notice that a given fictional super-hero doesn't actually have dozens and dozens of high Abilities in TSoY terms. In GURPS (to pick an arbitrary traditional game) your character is forced to have high Abilities any which way simply because if the GM should call for a specific skill check, the character will fail in a most ignominious manner if he hasn't developed that skill. In TSoY a character will do just fine if he has something for violent situations, something for social situations, a little bit for romance, a dash of analytical Ability... in practice the game plays to its strengths when a barbarian character kills the diplomat instead of talking with him because that's how he can win; the assumed weakness of the character is not a weakness when the player can freely choose how he acts, it's a part of the nature of the character - this character solves diplomatical situations with steel because he doesn't have a diplomatical Ability! If you give player enough Advances to raise all Abilities sky-high this character definition disappears, which makes the game not only duller, but it also causes it to choke in dice - when characters have lots of Abilities it can also take a lot of time to work out all support checks when the character is making an Ability check. If you want characters to be equally capable in everything, you should rather give them less Advances instead of more. Simpler that way.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2008, 03:40:12 AM »

I need a canned response for times like this. It might say:

Eero knows TSOY better than I do. Thanks, Eero, for your excellent response.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2008, 07:28:27 AM »

Also, players are more likely to buy additional secrets and keys from those extra advances.

And if you stick with 5 XP = 1 advance, your protagonists will grow at a steady pace. I do use 10-advance-protagonists for convention games, though.

- Frank
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dindenver
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« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2008, 08:34:02 AM »

Hi!
  OK, hold on. You guys are focusing on my throw away example way too much.
  When I read TSOY, I see full-on awesome. But, there are 3 pools, dozens of abilities (and the ability to add more spontaneously), lots of keys, lots of secrets and sub-abilities under secrets (like spells, zu words, etc.). I want to bring on the awesome. I don't know if my campaign will run long enough for people to gradually develop awesome characters. I want them to have enough advances so that they can try interesting combos and not worry, that they are wasting advances on stuff they NEED for the story or their character to be the way they like it.
  To use a traditional system as an example, in my Exalted campaign I gave my players 700 XP at chargen so that they could face Mask of Winters as equals and have a realistic chance of winning. They said they wanted epic play and I delivered. This time, I don't want to go that big. But I still don't want to dangle the coolness of the system out in front of the players like a carrot in front of a donkey. This is a great system and I don't want them to discover that a month after we start, lol
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Dave M
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2008, 08:37:01 AM »

Dave,

We can't convince you that starting characters are awesome if you don't want to be convinced. Here's my advice:

- Start people with 5 advances, and have the advance ratio be 5 XP = 1 advance. Don't forget about Key Scenes, and use them liberally. Have people always have two choices for their next advance on their character sheet, so as to speed play and give them goals.

- Or, do whatever you like and let us know how it goes.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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dindenver
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Don't Panic!


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« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2008, 08:44:55 AM »

Hi!
  Thanks for your honesty Clinton.
  But I think my lame example got us side-tracked. My real question was, how fast do advances get out of hand? In other words does the game become unplayable when the chars hit 10 advances, 20, 50 or? At what point does the game become boring because nothing is a challenge anymore? As you guessed, I am probably going to pump up the advances a little. but I am afraid to over-do it. Does that make more sense?
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Dave M
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2008, 08:55:23 AM »

Dave,

A tremendous amount of the fun of TSOY comes from character growth. This growth is rapid, which means you don't have to wait for it. If characters start with Master level abilities and more than, say, 3 or 4 secrets, they are already near the end of their story. Starting with more than 10 advances is a recipe for a very short, and probably very boring, game.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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dindenver
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« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2008, 09:24:59 AM »

Hi!
  Thanks Clinton. Not just for your lightning fast replies, but for making a truly awesome game!
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Dave M
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2008, 09:59:52 AM »

Dave,

Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I should on a key point of how TSoY works: character advancement in TSoY is not linear! I like to use the example of simple Khalean warrior against an ancient Maldorian Three-corner wizard, in a battle for death. Even if the former has just ten Advances while the latter has fifty, mechanically the two are probably most even, assuming that both have one Ability at Grandmaster level! The single most powerful advantage a character can have in TSoY is ability advantage against an opponent; it's such an advantage that if the above Khalean warrior actually had the advantage in those terms against the wizard, I would bet my money on the warrior almost any time (although the wizard would probably triumph in ten parallel conflicts in the same time-frame with other opponents if he really had 50 Advantages). Characters do not need to get deep into the Advance structures to be "cool" in TSoY, and they definitely do not need that to be efficient! The single mechanically most powerful attack combination in TSoY, despite dozens of fans creating all kinds of deep Secret constructions, remains the combination of Secret of Mighty Blow and a high Vigor Pool. Advances simply are not there for the purpose of faciliating specific adventure types like experience levels do in D&D; their purpose is to reflect thematically important changes in who a character is, and their purpose is to give breadth to a character, and their purpose is to take the character to a higher competence level exactly twice during the campaign, but there is no pressing need for a character to gain xp just for the player to enjoy the game. (In D&D, for those who don't know, you can't have a meaningful adventure with a ghost in it before the characters reach 4th level or so, to pick an arbitrary example.) A player with an Advance to spend always has pretty much five different options for how to use the Advance:
  • Improve the highest Ability (or save to do so) on the way to dominance and Transcendence.
  • Buy something nifty (Abilities, Secrets, Pool) to either describe or prescribe a shift in the nature of the character.
  • Invest in a Key to mold the reward environment for the character; ultimately this tends to lead in a shift in the themes of the character's story.
  • Save the Advance for later, to spend it when the conditions are more alluring.
As you can see, this list does not recognize spending a zillion Advances to gain powerz; the best a character can do with a lot of Advances is to gain a lot of history, options and breadth; this is not the same as having raw power. Alternatively, the character can improve an Ability, but that can only be done at most four times per Ability before hitting the ceiling and being ready for Transcendence.

Also, an important point: all those Secrets are not intented to be gained! If there are ten Secrets "for ratkin" in the book, that doesn't mean that a character needs to catch them all to be a real, archetypal ratkin. All Secrets are already exceptional! The reason we produce so much crunch here at the forums is not that a typical character will have dozens of Secrets, it's because we want to have lots of nuance and choice for when a character is advancing himself in a real game, not on paper.

That being said, Clinton is right (as if that needs to be said of the man who wrote the game) that characters who have 10 Advances and distribute them in a typical manner are near the end of their story and are very competent. I probably couldn't think of anything meaningful to do with 10 Advances apart from taking a couple of Abilities to Master level. However, you could also intentionally distribute the Advances in other ways, perhaps helped by what I like to call "hyper-deep" Advance sinks, the foremost example of which is Three-corner magic. If a player intentionally distributes his Secrets into deep Advance sinks he might go on for a long ways. This is mostly theoretical, note; practical play has caused characters to develop in this way so rarely that it might not as well happen, although this is relevant when you're creating powerful NPCs (who can't transcend, and therefore might go on for a long while).

The above point is mostly relevant for when you start a game and want to start characters with a plenty of Advances, as seems to be the case now. To give you a sense of the scale of speculation and difference in setting when this becomes the case, check out these threads:
  • In this thread, we have an urban fantasy campaign converted from Mortal Coil; characters are pretty much demigods on Exalted power-level. We discuss, among other things, how characters with dozens of Advances are successfully created, and whether such is necessary.
  • This other thread has a player wondering about high power-level play, which is also relevant here. I suggest that high power-level can be a matter of a single Advance correctly placed, and we also note how in TSoY power-level is always a matter of leverage more than mere mechanical bonuses; beginning characters have the ability to triumph against demi-gods in this system, barring qualitative barriers.
Either of those threads might contain something relevant for your current doubts, so I suggest you check them out. Let us know if anything rings a bell, we can expand upon this stuff if we can just figure out where your uncertainty comes from; I'm pretty sure that you're thinking of messing with the character creation system because you've learned to do so from other games that dangle coolness like a carrot in front of the players just before snatching it away. It's understandable that you wouldn't trust in the designer if he told you that this game doesn't do that, considering how often designers lie about these things.

Finally: if you absolutely need to play a campaign of high-powered TSoY that ends in Transcendence in 1-3 sessions for any given character, create the character like this:
  • Determine who the character is and who he used to be. Who he used to be is called the first culture, who he is now is called the second culture. Instead of culture you can have a race or culture-independent magical discipline or what have you.
  • Distribute 21 points in Pools.
  • Set the Innate Abilities at Master, Adept and Competent.
  • Set one Ability at Grandmaster, two at Master, three at Adept and four at Competent. Of the three highest Abilities, one needs to be of the first culture, one of the second culture. The same for the three Abilities at Adept. For the four Competent Abilities, determine them randomly.
  • Choose one Secret for the character from his first culture and one from the second culture. Then give him one Secret that has nothing to do with either.
  • Choose one Key for the character.
  • Distribute five additional Advances for the character any way you wish.
  • Tell the other players a short vignette of how your character came to be who he is. Most likely he's pretty important in Near, considering his Ability.
This is the best I can do, I don't know if it actually works very well. Might work swimmingly well for all I know, at least if the characters are smart and avoid Transcending in the first scene. Most likely it'd take experience with the system to build characters for this, though, as a beginner player is likely to be unable to use those high Pools efficiently. (Note that I don't see why you'd want to use the above chargen principles if you want to avoid Transcendence; in that sense I see your requirements here as deeply and confusingly contradictory: how and why should we at the same time hike up the power-level but also remove Transcendence? That's like starting all D&D characters at 10th level but also giving all orcs 10x as many hit points.)
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« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2008, 10:06:54 AM »

No problem, Dave!

So, I was thinking at lunch. Here's a note you can do whatever with. The reason I chose 5 advances for beginning characters instead of a larger number is that it only takes 7 to take an ability from Adept (which your character should have one of) to Grand Master. No one should start the game with a Grand Master ability. Even if you use more (and again, I think you shouldn't, but you know your group better than I), make sure no one starts with a Grand Master ability.

(Again, man, Eero. I cross-posted with you. Your post was amazing.)
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Clinton R. Nixon
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dindenver
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« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2008, 10:56:37 AM »

Hi!
  I am definitely taking transcendence out of the picture. I don't understand the point of it and it seems like it is this pitfall that can undermine making grandmaster characters (And I can sorta see why grandmaster is a deal breaker, but I am not as worried about it with this group).
  I do remember the mortal coil thread. And I guess that is not my goal. I just see all those secrets and think, people should be able to sample those and pick the ones they like, and not have to save their advances until they can get a cool toy.
  I've never found character advancement to be interesting or fun. To me, its just a treadmill that leads you to where you started, because your NPCs typically scale to meet your new advanced level of ability. So, generally before I start a campaign, I try and figure out where the fun is in the game and make sure people can do that on the first session. To use D&D as an example, I would never start a game below lvl 3 and probably would start at lvl 5, at that level there is enough different stuff you can do with the character that they can be unique (lets face it all lvl 1 Magic users are pretty much the same) and can face most challenges as a group.
  My aim is not to make new secrets or abilities to make the game my own. But to make sure that most players can have a char with about 2 keys, and enough secrets that their char is unique and fun (I really don't care too much about abilities to be honest). I look at Zu and 3-corner magic and realize that if we want a magic user, 5 advances is almost a slap in the face, I mean it take 4 words to say "tiger" in Zu (and I realize that there is probably not a need to say "tiger" specifically, but it is a good example)...
  The point about 7 advances is well taken. Although I wonder if its not a non-issue without transcendence.
  The story I want to kick off will probably be one of political conflict on the border between two super powers. There will be wilds to explore, power to gain, but mostly it will be about how the players want to interact with this political struggle. Can they manufacture a rebirth of Maldor, can they guide the rise of the Ammeni away from their sadistic culture? Can they come to a 3rd option that is better for all parties involved? I dunno, but I bet it will be fun to find out. And I don't want that to be eclipsed by nagging questions about I need 3 more advances before I can be any good at Zu magic, etc.
  Does that make sense? I guess I don't want anyone to look at this thread and think I am some kinda crazy grognard bent on some power fantasy. I just want the game to be about Near, its a great setting and I wanna jump in feet first, you know?
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Dave M
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My blog
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