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[Thugs and Thieves] Abilities

Started by ethan_greer, September 04, 2003, 06:28:56 PM

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Hi all.  The "current" playtest version of Thugs and Thieves can be found here. (It's getting a bit stale, because a lot has either been changed or augmented as a result of all the discussion here, but that shouldn't have any impact on this thread.)

What I want to talk about right now is the Abilities.  Over in this thread Ron expressed some confusion, and got me thinking about and looking at the Abilities closely for the first time in a while.

I'm beginning to think I'm not satisfied with them as they stand.  From the current version:

Quote• Stealth: Physical acts of misdirection, stealth, and guile. Used for being quiet, physically disguising one's
appearance, sneaking around, camouflage, picking pockets, burglary, etc.
• Prowess: How good the character is in a combat situation. This includes fighting with or without weapons, tactics,
ambushing, raiding, etc.
• Beast Lore: Knowledge and skill concerning animals, beasts, and monsters. Used for animal handling, animal
empathy, animal training, animal knowledge, hunting, riding, etc.
• Charisma: Effectiveness in social situations. Used for etiquette, coercion, argument, interrogation, intimidation,
seduction, lying, catching others in lies, etc.
• Ingenuity: Ability to understand and manipulate mechanical devices. Used for repairing mechanisms, detection,
removal, and setting of booby traps, picking locks, knocking down evil strongholds, etc.
• Physique: Physical fitness. Used for acrobatics, running, jumping, climbing, dancing, tightrope walking,
endurance, etc.
• Cunning: Mental acuity and stability. Used for picking out details in one's surroundings, discerning clues,
tracking, willpower, knowledge, memory, learning, etc.

As Ron pointed out, there's definite potential for quite a bit of overlap there.  Here's how I'm thinking of changing things:

• Beast Lore - No change.
• Cunning - This takes over Charisma, and also covers all disguise (instead of having Stealth be physical disguise and Charisma be impersonation). It's also willpower and intelligence, including the mental aspects of combat that were formerly covered by tactics.
• Ingenuity - No change.
• Perception - Split out from the current Cunning. This is simply used to notice things.
• Physique - No change.
• Prowess - This will simply be the character's ability to make damaging attacks in combat, and will no longer include anything else like tactics or stuff.
• Stealth - Unchanged except that it no longer covers disguise.

So, what do you think? Improvement? More confusing than before?

Ron Edwards

Hi Ethan,

I'm good with it except for my concerns in the thread you cited, regarding the guy swingin' up from the log to kick the other guy. Your answer in that thread still makes me a little uneasy.

Perhaps it would be two rolls: one Athletics to swing up successfully, and one Prowess to kick? That seems inelegant to me, and also to provide a distinct lack of incentive for doing cool athletics during fights, as requiring two rolls brings down the overall chance of success.




The response I gave in the other thread is still valid, I think.  To reiterate:

Prowess is a measure of how well you hurt people.  Just as weapons don't make a difference to Prowess, the details of how you're making the attack don't matter either.  So you could be taking a running leap, bouncing off the wall with your feet, doing a triple backflip and landing a flying elbow off some guy's head.  Prowess roll.

On the other hand, if you're doing all that and landing in a cool pose, it's Physique. (Though actually I'd probably let it go without a roll unless you were trying to do it while on fire and walking a tightrope or something like that.)

How to put it to assuage your uneasiness?  Hmm.  Here's my best shot: Prowess is your ability to do whatever it takes to inflict damage on others.  Physique is your ability to do anything and everything else physical/athletic.

Is your concern based on the fact that, if the above is accepted, then there's no real advantage to swinging off the log, and instead your disarmed guy could just punch the dude in the jaw? If so you're forgetting the other bit I borrowed from Sorcerer about giving out bonuses for cool description. So, your action to swing around the log and kick the guy would get you a +1, increasing your chances of doing damage (because attacker's Margin is a penalty for Physique rolls to avoid being wounded).  Also, if you're playing a character whose Prowess Descriptor happens to be "Acrobatic Fighting" or something you'd get a +1 for that as well.

Still uneasy?

David Chunn

Hi, Ethan.

My recommendation, considering your genre and style, would be to combine Prowess and Physique.  In a game that doesn't differentiate weapons and armor, I don't see a lot of reason to separate the ability to fight from athletics.  After all, in the movies Conan kicks ass mostly because he's in such good shape.  People with the most physique are typically going to be the best fighters.  

I'd then change Physique to toughness, maybe, considering the way the damage system works.

I like moving tactics over to Cunning.  Disguise does sound like Cunning to me.

I like having Charisma because when I play my amazon seductress, I'm going to want that high Charisma score to do my thing.

I would also be tempted to combine Cunning and Ingenuity.  They were a lot alike to begin with, and your new descriptions bring them closer together.  For a thug or a thief, those two things are probably the same.

I don't know about Perception.  Maybe keep it if Cunning and Ingenuity were combined.  I guess it depends on what it can do for you.  I've just seen too many games where you roll your perception and regardless of what's rolled the character with the highest score notices what the GM was going to make damn sure someone noticed.

Those are my opinions, anyway.  Hope they're helpful.


I've slept on it.  This morning, I've come to some realizations:

If I want to play a Conan-esque combat monster, I have to max out two stats. (Prowess, Physique)

If I want to play a consummate thief, I have to max out three stats. (Cunning, Ingenuity, Stealth)

If I want to play the Beastmaster, I have to max out one stat. (Beast Lore)

Hardly seems fair, does it?

And Perception... What the hell kinds of Descriptors are there going to be for that?  Say it with me:  Boooooring...

And David has a point about keeping Charisma.

Let's try it again:

• Beast Lore - no change
• Physique - takes over Prowess
• Charisma - social stuff, as in current version
• Cunning - Intelligence, memory, noticing things, learning
• Thievery - Pick locks, pick pockets, hiding, stealth, disguise, traps

With only 5 stats, you only get 35 points to distribute, and the campaign will be a little shorter.  But that's fine with me.

What do y'all think?

Ron Edwards

Makes sense to me!

Except ... (and here Ethan rolls his eyes, "Will Ron never cease carping?") I'm thinking that anyone in this game needs to be concerned with Toughness, in pure damage-resistance terms. Perhaps that could become a score, which not only moves that point-total back in the original direction, but also allows for some nuances between the scrawny but scrappy fighter and the beefy fighter.



Yeah, that's a good idea, Ron. So it'll be:

Beast Lore

Barring issues that come up in playtesting, I think that's what I'm going with.  Thanks guys!

David Chunn

Ethan, I agree with Ron on Toughness and I like the new list of abilities.


Uh...why is Toughness seperate from Physique? Scrawny fighter gets the hell out of the way and avoids damage (function of Physique), brawny fighter laughs when your sword breaks on his iron-hard abs and avoids damage (function of Physique).

Jeff, not sayin', just sayin'.
Jeffrey S. Schecter: Pagoda / Other


Hi Jeph, you're echoing some sentiments that my playtesters had yesterday.  I'm going to be doing a bit of a write-up over in the Actual Play forum where I'll be further discussing this and other issues.

For now, the logic is, Physique is your ability to avoid being hit.  Toughness is your ability to avoid being hurt as a result of being hit.

Mike Holmes

Toughness lets you make that character who's the big out of shape thug who's not a great fighter, but can take all sorts of damage. OTOH, a low Toughness, high Physique character would be the quick wiry little scrapper who can deal it out, but relies on dodging to survive.

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Mike is correct.

And I've got that Actual Play thread posted.  It's here.