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Author Topic: (Chthonian) Dilemma - Skill Scores & Character Effective  (Read 8017 times)
Zak Arntson
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Posts: 839


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« on: July 30, 2002, 08:55:53 PM »

Chthonian consists of 7 Skills, currently you divide 18 points between them. These skills are Role, Aware, Stamina, Persuade, Research, Shoot and Fight.

You can find the current playtest rules here: http://www.harlekin-maus.com/chthonian/playtest.txt. A synopsis for the current system is: Each Skill has a score and a Descriptor. Use a Skill, you roll your Skill score in dice. You can add a die by "burning" a Descriptor by roleplaying using that Descriptor (usable once per scene). For each die that rolls above a Difficulty number, you get 1 success. 0 succ = failure, 1 succ = mixed blessing, 2+ succ = solid success.

Now, my Players pointed out that Aware and Fight were used most of the time, with Stamina and Research showing up just a few times. They weren't happy with the fact that they pumped a ton of points into little-used Skills.

I want to balance Character effectiveness, yet still provide a point-based creation system. Players are comfortable with visible points on their sheets, and I want to keep this.

Here are my thoughts:
Role - Shouldn't have a score. It came in rarely during play. You can use your Role for an extra die.
Shoot & Fight - Shoot is only good when you've got guns, so instead I'll providing two or three Fight Skills, each with a separate Descriptor (use Descriptors for bonus dice)

Persuade and Research are going to be used mostly during the investigation phase, so these aren't too important. Should I combine them into one Skill? Maybe a Discover Skill?

Aware and Fight seem to be the most commonly used. I'm splitting Fight into three Skills, but what to do with Aware? It's called into question a ton. Should it be a point-less Skill like Role? Where you can just get a bonus die by using your Aware Descriptor?

Since this game is more about the crazy action than being better than the other Characters, I'm thinking about reducing the effectiveness of a Skill's score. So here's the new proposed resolution system (and what I'd love to get opinions on):

Proposed Skill Use
Each Skill has a Score from 1 on up (5 being a tentative maximum).

When you use a Skill you roll 3 dice. AFTER the roll, when you see how many successes you have rolled, you can opt to spend x Skill points and you add x dice to your pool.

At the end of each Stage (in Chthonian this means a big boss-fight), you get back your Skill scores.

Has anyone used a system similar to this? I'm curious as to how it will play out. I will most likely try it out this coming Monday.

---

If I do go this route, I'm also considering successes made during the investigation phases add to a "points pool" to be used for any roll made later on. This way the high Persuade & Research characters, by gleaning information on their situation, can pump up their combat & physical rolls. This would serve to
a) Encourage investigation & research, and
b) Characters who do better at Research can increase their effectiveness during combat, evening out their poor combat skills.

This would, using a one research/learning/persuade success = 1 die for the pool, tend to put a portion of your Research/Persuade points towards your Fight/Aware/Stamina, while still allowing the combat-oriented characters to have a mariginally higher effectiveness.

Unfortunately, these rules may be too specialized for Persuade and Research. This could be made simpler by saying "each success on a non-physical roll provides a point to your bonus pool".

Thoughts on this?
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2002, 05:55:42 AM »

I think that that last part you have is the key to it all.

My thought is that when dealing with a Cthulonian monstrosity, that your Fight (shoot, whatever) and Awareness are going to be at a disadvantage due to the nature of such beasties. Thus, the investigators should need an edge to have a chance.

Have the target numbers to find and kill such creatures be obscenely high. Requiring lots and lots of dice to kill. How do you get these dice? From using your other skills, of course. Whenever a person "discovers" somegthing about the monstrosity, via Persuade, Research or Role, they get to keep their successes as descriptors that they can burn for extra dice against the appropriate baddies.

Essentially a currency rollover system aimed at the final resolution. Yep, you have an excellent idea there.

This gives a focus and meaning to the initial part of the scenario where now the characters just seem to be bumbling around trying to findd out where the baddies are so they can attack them. Make it a bit Gamist in that the players should realize that if they go directly to the source of the horror that they'll likely get eaten. Only by accumulating some bonus descriptors through investigation can they hope to survive.

This balances out not only the costs of the stats, but the value of each part of play as well. And it links the phases together.

"Remember when I pulled that strange gland from Dr. Mophus' twisted and bloated corpse, and persuaded the cops to let me keep it for study? Well, from my research and what I know of molecular biology, I think that we can use the fluid from the gland to control the creature. At least enough to slow it down long enough to electrocute it, which according to that strange book should do the job."

You could even make this a director stance thing, giving bonus dice for particularly disgusting solutions that the players come up with.

Mike
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damion
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Posts: 198


« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2002, 06:33:34 AM »

Various Thoughts:
One thought is that 18 points is only 2 points/skill with 3 for 4 of them. I think you intended that these be normal people, but your example with a 'high-security lab' is a bit misleading. Shadowrunners these people arn't. Couple with the effect that you need a skill of 2 to truly succed.(2+ successes) An average person has only a 25% chance of succeding on an Amature task without a complication.
   I guess what I'm saying is that you need a 3+ to be reasonaly effective, even, at mundane tasks(4).
Perhaps your expecting charachters to be more effective than they are?

What does stamina do? Fear and Damage resistance are already taken by Safty and Sanity, so maybe just get rid of it? Maybe you can reduce it by one to get a bonus die on a Safety or Sanity role? It returns at the end of a Stage?

This might just be your GMing style. If you want crazy action, why have Research and Persuade at all, just have a 'Non-Action' skill, used for external stuff. Everyone can get a decent score in it, differentiated by a descriptor and be decent at the research phase and still be able to fight.
OTOH if you want Reserach & Stuff, just bring them up more often. Multiple research scenes. I can picture a Persuade role to get out of trouble after an adventure.


Did people have multiple fight skills? It would be something of an advantage as you get multiple descriptors. Same with more fight skills.
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James
Bailywolf
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Posts: 729


« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2002, 06:42:00 AM »

Quote from: Zak Arntson

Now, my Players pointed out that Aware and Fight were used most of the time, with Stamina and Research showing up just a few times. They weren't happy with the fact that they pumped a ton of points into little-used Skills.



One solution is to provide some more functinoality for these skills, making them very importiant to a certain character concept.  I'm not sure how often magic and the occult will work its way into this project- in Cuthulu it seems like a fairly major thing- but perhaps by making the research/acedemic skill the Magic/Occult expertise skill... it likely won't get as much play as shoot(FBI Pistol Training) , but when you have to banish that Creeping Stalker back to the Unseen Dimensions... well, shooting it ain't gonna do the trick.

As for Stamina... perhaps if it represented all things physical- how strong, healthy, and tough (read=damage capacity).  It might not get rolled all the time (though I can see it being used mostly in a resistance capacity), but success or failure can be the difference in life and death...

I think if you can ballance frequency of required use with the peril of required use, you can find parity.  The more frequently the skill is rolled, the less impact any single roll should have on the life or death of the character.


Quote

I want to balance Character effectiveness, yet still provide a point-based creation system. Players are comfortable with visible points on their sheets, and I want to keep this.

Here are my thoughts:
Role - Shouldn't have a score. It came in rarely during play. You can use your Role for an extra die.
Shoot & Fight - Shoot is only good when you've got guns, so instead I'll providing two or three Fight Skills, each with a separate Descriptor (use Descriptors for bonus dice)



Perhpas Role can be a set of 'floating descriptors'?  Your role is "FBI Special Agent" and you get (say) 3 Descriptors for it.  I choose- Forensics, Interogation, and Beuracracy.   So when I'm using Research to study strange stains left at a crime scene, I can get an extra die by burning Forensics... if I'm using Persuade on a suspect I can tap Interogate or if I'm looking into a government agency, I can use Buerocracy for either skill...


Quote


Persuade and Research are going to be used mostly during the investigation phase, so these aren't too important. Should I combine them into one Skill? Maybe a Discover Skill?

Aware and Fight seem to be the most commonly used. I'm splitting Fight into three Skills, but what to do with Aware? It's called into question a ton. Should it be a point-less Skill like Role? Where you can just get a bonus die by using your Aware Descriptor?



Perhaps split it as well?  Into Notice and React?  Use Notice to percieve something significant...use React to move quicker than someone else...?  I'm not sure on this one.  


Quote


Since this game is more about the crazy action than being better than the other Characters, I'm thinking about reducing the effectiveness of a Skill's score. So here's the new proposed resolution system (and what I'd love to get opinions on):

Proposed Skill Use
Each Skill has a Score from 1 on up (5 being a tentative maximum).

When you use a Skill you roll 3 dice. AFTER the roll, when you see how many successes you have rolled, you can opt to spend x Skill points and you add x dice to your pool.

At the end of each Stage (in Chthonian this means a big boss-fight), you get back your Skill scores.

Has anyone used a system similar to this? I'm curious as to how it will play out. I will most likely try it out this coming Monday.

---




I can see this working quite well... will this use the "no and", "no but", "yea but", "yes and" scheme?  I quite liked that breakdown...  It makes for a different play dynamic though.  

How would burning a Descriptor help here?  

In some ways (the use of floating skill pools) it is similar to Dying Earth, though with a significantly different core mechanic.  The big problem I can see with this is that it encourages a character to horde his skill points and be cautious, avoiding serious conflict until he runs into the Big Boss when he'll blow his load of skill points as fast as possible...  

Quote


If I do go this route, I'm also considering successes made during the investigation phases add to a "points pool" to be used for any roll made later on. This way the high Persuade & Research characters, by gleaning information on their situation, can pump up their combat & physical rolls. This would serve to
a) Encourage investigation & research, and
b) Characters who do better at Research can increase their effectiveness during combat, evening out their poor combat skills.

This would, using a one research/learning/persuade success = 1 die for the pool, tend to put a portion of your Research/Persuade points towards your Fight/Aware/Stamina, while still allowing the combat-oriented characters to have a mariginally higher effectiveness.

Unfortunately, these rules may be too specialized for Persuade and Research. This could be made simpler by saying "each success on a non-physical roll provides a point to your bonus pool".

Thoughts on this?




This last bit is very intresting.  Perhaps in a more regulated, staged way...

You can break a Cthonian game down into elements- challanges with a certain set point value.  Eliminate this challange, and you can earn points for later rolls up to a certain value.  Discovering a book containing a demons vulnerabilities might grant 3 skill points for use with combat skills... beating up a cultist might grant skill points for a research check later (as he spills the beans to keep from a worse beating).

Players should also be able to cede these points to other players- the research geek shouting instructionts to the kung fu master as he fights a creature.

All told, it looks like intresting stuff.
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Jared A. Sorensen
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Posts: 1463

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« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2002, 07:32:12 AM »

Quote from: Zak Arntson
Now, my Players pointed out that Aware and Fight were used most of the time, with Stamina and Research showing up just a few times. They weren't happy with the fact that they pumped a ton of points into little-used Skills.



Just lump 'em together. Aware and Research are close enough to be the same thing, as are Fight and Stamina.

- J
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2002, 08:28:31 AM »

Quote from: Jared A. Sorensen

Just lump 'em together. Aware and Research are close enough to be the same thing, as are Fight and Stamina.
- J


I don't know.  The absent minded professor is a standard archetype for this type of setting.  Having the two be seperate plays into that well.

If they were combined this would need to be accounted for in some other manner, like with specific descriptors or something.
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Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2002, 10:22:20 AM »

What about something like a modified attribute/skill system...

Attributes- these are rated with a number but have no descriptor.  They represent a character's raw ability in a given field.

Action- dynamic physical stuff ranging from breaking in a door to kicking a zombie in the head.

Awareness- on the fly perception, reflexes, reactions; ability to notice things and process immediate input.

Aptitude- how good you are at focused, technical, or acedemic tasks.  A combination of manual dexterity, focused attention, and intelligence.

Weird- your innate capacity to understand and perhaps wield the Unnatural.



Then you get skills which are basicly just floating Descriptors.

Number of Dice Rolled:
No Skill= Attribute -1
Skill= Attribute
2 Overlaping Skills = +1
Burned Skill= Attribute +1
2 Burned Skills= Attribute +2

no more than 2 skills can be applied to any single action.


I would say 12 points for attributes and 6 Skills.

Like so:

Mike McColmb
Role: ex FBI Special Agent
Action: 3
Awareness:  4
Aptitude:  4
Weird: 1

Skills:
FBI Firearms Training
Self Defense
Interogation
Forensic Investigation
Beurocracy
Thick and Strong


note- this is just a rough sketch of a character, missing several things.


If Mike wants to shoot a zombie, he can throw all 3 Action dice (or has 3 points to spend to boost the action) because of his FBI Firearms Training skill.  If he wants to kick in a door, he has his Thick and Strong skill to help.  If he needs to leap between buildings while chasing a cultist... he doesn't have a skill for it, so rolls only 2 Action dice.   If he is wrestling the cultist to the ground, he has 2 skills which help- Self Defense and Thick and Strong- for a +1 to Action.  If he needs to study crime scene photos for clues, he does so with his Aptitude at full value.  If he needs to read arcane tomes for info, he does so with a -1 because he lacks the skills for it.  

Something like that.
[/b]
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Zak Arntson
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Posts: 839


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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2002, 01:59:09 PM »

Mike,
Yes! That's what I'm going for. Although Chthonian adventures are purposefully more action-packed than the stereotypical CoC adventure. It goes like this: Hook (involving something terrible and action-y) -> Discovery Stages filled with Violent Interludes, each ending in a Mini-Boss Fight -> Finale, w/ Big Boss Fight.

I'm wary of author/director stance, but that's probably due to my gaming group. They like to invent things about themselves, but they enjoy unearthing things they don't know _as players_. But your example isn't so much as author/director stance. It's more like offering a suggestion to the GM. Which is great, because Skill resolution is dependent on suggestions by the Group to the acting Player.

---

Damion,
Yup, the score spread is intentionally low. Players tend to pump up their rolls by Burning Safety. By the end of our game, they were nearly dead but achieved some amazing results.

And these people aren't Shadowrunners, but they are Characters in an action-movie/survival horror videogame, where one police officer can take out an entire city of undead.

Stamina acts as reflexes, strength and endurance all in one. Aware is for noticing things (hearing, seeing, smelling, intuiting, etc). Persuade & Research are probably staying separate. Right now, there are only two combat skills, Fight and Shoot, both with only one Descriptor each.

---

Bailywolf,
There won't be any Skill/Stat split. I like your idea, just not for Chthonian. I like how the rolls go real fast right now, with just a glance at the sheet to possibly use a Descriptor. I don't want to increase the handling time of matching a bunch of Descriptors to a Skill. Though I may be over-wary. Maybe I'll playtest this (or have you played anything like this already?)

And yes, I will be keeping the "no and" "yes but" "yes and" scheme. I've decided to drop the "no but" and allow the GM to change a "no and" to a "no but" if he wants.

And to avoid the whole hoarding thing, you've got each stage filled with conflict ending in a mini-boss. In our short adventure the Players fought a zombie dog, zombie baboon + evil TA, zombie baboon pack, evil scientist, and zombie/boss TA. All different combats demanding point-spending all around.

And yeah, I did get the mechanic from Dying Earth :) In effect, your points ARE Burning your Descriptor. So with the new model using the old rules, all Skills are at 3 with a variable number of chances to Burn the Descriptor.

Yeah, I like lending points to another Player. Maybe at a cost? Two for one or something. If I make it one-to-one, then you remove the benefit of a high-Research Player earning bonuses for combat. And I want EVERYONE to kick some ass, even the wimpy grad students.

---

Jared, I agree that Stamina and Fight could be combined. But I like the difference between Aware and Research. Aware is used to hear something sneaking around or finding footprints. Research is for ... well ... research.

---

Wow! Thanks everyone for you responses. What an amazing bunch of input! Just for that, here's a sneak preview of the playtest layout (text highly unfinished): http://www.harlekin-maus.com/chthonian/chthonian_playtest_1_0.pdf

It's designed to be printed out one-sided, hence the constant page number in the right corner. And I'm thinking of balancing out the page number monster with some other graphic in the upper-left.
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Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2002, 05:08:02 AM »

It sounds really chewy.  I've been thinking of starting a game-of-the-week indie session... and this bad boy is certainly on the dance card.

As for the skill/stat thing... it would increase book keeping a share... and could lead to some disagrements if judgements differ on whether "Pizza Cheff" allows you to use a pizza cutter to serate zombies with... For the least possible overhead (as I believe is the direction you want) it might not work.

I've used a similar scheme before with good success (in a one-shot thing I ran one weekend set in an pure Cast a Deadly Spell meets The Big Sleep ripoff)- attributes provided hard numbers, talents (what I called them then) defined what an attribute could be used for...


Anyhow, let me check out the new version.
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Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2002, 05:24:40 AM »

And a side note here... by "TA" do you mean Teaching Assistant?  A demon zombie Teaching Assistant?  I thought this was a game of fantasy...
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Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2002, 05:32:45 AM »

OK, first aproximation lookover... ...nice...

Love the layout (your page number body horror guy is very evocative).  The rules are clear and quite reasonable... and it left me thinking one thing very loudly:

HELLBOY.

You seem to have captured the core dramatics of a Hellboy story here...the only difference is that in HB the PC's would have some supernatural mojo to sling.  But really, with about a page of extra rules on supernatural characters, its ready to roll.  Well done all around (I consider it a strength when a game with sparse- or no- specific setting can be adapted with minimal effort).

This will most sertainly find its its way into my group's rotation.  [/b][/i]
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Zak Arntson
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Posts: 839


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« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2002, 06:06:35 AM »

Quote from: Bailywolf
HELLBOY


Man, don't you know it. I was just thinking the same thing last night. Looking back on our adventure, all it needed was local folklore and one of the Characters to have big horns. I will have to add the option of supernatural characters, though I can't imagine how it would be much different. Maybe just another skill "Weird" or something.

Too bad the Hellboy game is already coming out (preordered my copy, should get it any day now), because damn if I wouldn't love the Hellboy license. Oh well, I've got that game on preorder, so our group gets to do a comparison!

---

To all,
Here's my current thinking on mechanics.
Two types of Skills - Combat and Non-Combat (better name?):

Non-Combat: Role, Investigate, Aware. ANY Successes made here go into your Action Pool.

Combat: Shoot, Fight, Brawl.

Role - An adjective (or two) and profession or other role. "Whiny, paranoid teen," "Disillusioned medical doctor"
Investigate - How you tend to get the facts, "Flirts like all the women die tomorrow," "Hits the books for the long haul."
Aware - "She tilts her head, intuiting some danger, before leaping out of the way," "He's constantly watching things"

Combat rules follow the same rules for Descriptors (i.e., answer the question "how do you do this Skill"), but I'm being lazy:
Shoot - How you shoot things
Fight - Your customizable fighting score. Guns? Knives? Martial Arts?
Brawl - How you fight up close

Every success in a non-combat skill also adds a die to your Acction Pool. During a fight, you can use it to pump up ANY roll. I'm sticking with the Skill Score = # of Dice, and you can Burn a Descriptor _once_ per scene (as an aside, surprising the group with a Descriptor can be pretty funny. One Player said "I'm gonna headbutt!" and grabs an extra die. Sure enough, he'd written "headbutt" for his Fight Descriptor).

You have two Harm scores, then, Safety and Sanity. You can Burn both to give you extra dice. At the end of the _scene_, you make a Sanity check to see if you gain a Disorder. You only go nuts when the adrenaline runs out.

---

You know? What do you think of changing "Disorder" to "Attitude?" So instead of concentrating on Phobias and Tics, you get more of an action-oriented feel? Your Attitudes become "Hates a guy in uniform," or "Can't stand cramped spaces."
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Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2002, 06:19:11 AM »

Groovy.

What is the functional distinction between Fight, Shoot, and Brawl?  If Fight can go either way, why use it at all?
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2002, 07:54:17 AM »

Quote from: Zak Arntson
What do you think of changing "Disorder" to "Attitude?" So instead of concentrating on Phobias and Tics, you get more of an action-oriented feel? Your Attitudes become "Hates a guy in uniform," or "Can't stand cramped spaces."


How about this. After combat, you can trade in two for a disorder instead of taking two more attitudes. Give the player the choice.

Mike
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Zak Arntson
Member

Posts: 839


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« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2002, 09:16:50 AM »

Quote from: Bailywolf
And a side note here... by "TA" do you mean Teaching Assistant?  A demon zombie Teaching Assistant?  I thought this was a game of fantasy...


Yup, Teaching Assistant. It's my homage to Lovecraft, Survival Horror video games, and gorey horror movies (a la Dead Alive). The default setting is very much modern day, but (which seems to be the trend lately, like Donjon, octaNe, Paladin) the System could be plopped into any like-minded setting. So gorey, fast-paced, things-not-meant-to-be-known fantasy would be great!

Check out the various Indie Gaming Monday posts in Actual Play for details on our sessions for a feel of how the game plays out:
Indie Monday (6/10)
Inde Monday (7/15)
Indie Monday (7/29)
Rabidchyld's Playtest

---

Bailywolf,
Shoot is specifically for guns, Brawl is specifically up close, and Fight is your choice, depending on your Descriptor. Since Descriptors really drive things (by giving you an extra die, something that Players use a lot, I've noticed), you can give yourself two chances at using a fighting descriptor in one scene.

Now that I think about it, though, if you have Fight 4 and Brawl 3, using your Brawl Descriptor would be as effective as using your Fight Skill.

How's this: Four Skills, 10 points to divide: Role, Investigate, Aware, Fight. You get one Descriptor for each non-Fight Skill and _three_ Descriptors for your Fight Skill.

---

Mike,
Attitude would replace Disorders entirely. You can still have "Afraid of snakes" as an Attitude, and it should be worded just like that (or even more colorful) instead of "Ophidiophobia."

I'm thinking that you have the chance to earn one Attitude at the end of a stage, rather than a single scene. So after each mini-boss fight, essentially, you build up your 'tude for the big-boss fight.

---

Oh, and part of the game is full Player knowledge when they're at the climactic end. They don't know all the specifics, but they are told when they are in the final stage.
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