Jump to content

Cutting out Characteristics


K Peterson

Recommended Posts

Here's a BRP thought-experiment I had recently...

The past couple weeks I've been reading through a copy of the FASA Star Trek rules (2nd edition). I'm a Trek fan, and a lover of d100 systems, so reading it has been quite an enjoyable and enlightening experience. And, for being nearly 30 years old, FASA Trek is not that bad of a d100 system.

FASA Trek differs from BRP in that it relies solely on d10/d100. Both Stats and Skills are percentile values (with Skills capped at 99%, and Stats having no cap). Weapon damage is either a fixed value, or d10 + or - (x). Stats are generated through random roll - most are 3d10+40, while 2 of the Stats (Luck, and Psionic Potential) were straight d100 rolls. Racial modifers adjusted those totals, and then finally, free skill points were spent. Skill levels were calculated based on a lifepath chargen system - where academy training, and career path in Starfleet, raised initial values.

This got me thinking a little about BRP, and its Characteristics, the Resistance Table, and Characteristic Rolls. (I often compare and contrast variations of BRP - Gold Book, Runequest, Elric, etc. - like an armchair game designer. Finding ways to tweak the system - coax something else out of it). And, I thought: why can't Characteristic Rolls just be the stats? Define Effort, Stamina, Luck, etc. as the Stats instead of derived values. Generate them along the same lines as FASA Trek - within a range of 40-70 - or weight them in the case of CoC investigators, with higher than average Education values.

The Resistance Tables wouldn't be of much use after this point. Instead, you could use opposed tests, or use modifiers, in the case of more 'static opponents'.

It probably wouldn't take much effort to convert the generation of HPs and Damage Bonus to d100-ranges.

Anyway... just a few random thoughts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And, I thought: why can't Characteristic Rolls just be the stats? Define Effort, Stamina, Luck, etc. as the Stats instead of derived values. Generate them along the same lines as FASA Trek - within a range of 40-70 - or weight them in the case of CoC investigators, with higher than average Education values.

It would certainly be possible, but it would require a new method to handle

the relation between characteristics and skills, the usual skill category bo-

nus system would no longer work.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You would also have to ignore damage bonus, or introduce an arbitrary figure, recalculate Hit Points in some way, work out a new mechanism for general rolls, work out a new mechanism for overcoming somebody else using magic.

An Opposed Roll mechanic might be suitable, with skills representing the things that STRx5 etc used, then you could roll your Magic skill vs an opponent's Magic skill, or roll your Strength skill to lift a boulder and so on. You would need various difficulty levels to represent large vs small boulders, but it is doable.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Elder Scrolls series is essentially RuneQuest reworked to adapt it to fantasy computer games. It uses percentile based values for both attributes and skills.

Given that Elder Scrolls: Skyrim is the game of the moment, this may be a more convincing argument to show one simple thing: it can actually be done.

However, I am not so persuaded that it would be an improvement. Characteristic and resistance rolls are useful and important, but not so fundamental. RuneQuest, for instance, lacks them, and it still works. The real importance of attributes is in determining Hit Points, Damage Modifier, etc.

The BRP paradigm is rather simple, and it retains consistence even if it uses two scales:

- Attributes -> determine what effect you can achieve -> 1-20 scale

- Skills -> determine how likely you are to achieve the effect -> 1-100 scale

So, STR determines how high you can jump (a physical, measurable quantity), while the jump skill determines how often you can reach your maximum height (a chance, which is naturally expressed as a percentile).

It actually makes sense that these two aspects are kept on a separate scale.

Proud member of the Evil CompetitionTM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

IMHO, scaling attributes on a 1-20 or 1-100 scale is actually not so important, consistency and playability are the points. I think that the original d100 system (the very first BRP) was actually almost a d20 system: skills were on a 1-100 scale, but with 5% steps, which is equivalent a 1-20 scale –with the exception of critical and impale rolls-. BRP has been developed in the 70s, when the reference was D&D with a 1-20 scaling (as well as other rpg). The designers did not completely push the “D100 paradigm”, for whichever reason, probably not intentionally.

The second innovation has been the opposed characteristic rolls.

In the meantime, skills got a true 1-100 scaling and the opposed skill rolls have been found. I think this completes the d100 concept and can be extended to the opposed characteristic rolls, with characteristics on a 1-100 scale. One single concept for everything. This is what HeroQuest does. The main (single?) but big advantage of the 1-20 scale is actually its simplicity for bookkeeping (subtracting 6 from 12 hp is easier as subtracting 37 from 63 hp…).

Switching to the “full d100” implies some cleaning-up of the remnants of the 1-20-scale (hp, damage, encumbrance…) and changing 30 years of habits for rpg-players.

Because of all this, I’ll keep my good old 3D6, but I think it would be logical and interesting to explore the “full d100”.

(regarding the lack of characteristic rolls in RQ, this has been already debated but I must say I'm not realy convinced by it -but I'd be happy if somebody can explain me the point)

Wind on the Steppes, role playing among the steppe Nomads. The  running campaign and the blog

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course, the other option is to scale things back to D20 ... O:)

TBH, this is probably easier. The only loser would be the critical/special/fumble progression, which would have fewer options (IIRC the D&D 3.0 system used two rolls to determine criticals, which is a bit more fiddly). Oh, and of course it wouldn't be a D100 system any more ...

Edited by Vile

Dreamscape Design: Crafters of the Finest Tabletop Roleplaying Games

Dreamscape Design: My Corner of BRP Central ... Mine, All Mine! 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The big questions are - what do you gain? And for how much work? And what do you lose?

For me, if you put humans (and equivalent species) in a 30 - 70 range, how do you account for beings that go well beyond? Using a 1 - 20 range, super strong creatures (giants or giant sized, which can exist in a Sci-Fi campaign) can have STR of 50 or greater. Bumping up to a range of 100 representing extremely strong humans, those creatures now have a STR in the 200 - 300 range to represent something 5x as strong. I can see stat values getting out of hand very quickly. Especially if you tried to use such a scale in the fantasy genre where things already may have stats in the 100+ range, and to maintain the proper ratios, using the new scale, would be in the 500 range.

People seem to make a big deal over "Opposed rolls", but the reality is they already pretty much exist by virtue of levels of success. Sure, the possibility of ties is greater since the ranges for each success level is generally greater than one point, but those ties can be resolved in various ways if desired (highest skill/stat wins for example). I hardly use the Resistance Table anyway as it only a crutch in my opinion - I can do the math in my head. But, I also find that using levels of success gives me a more consistent method of resolving things since I apply it to skill rolls as well - providing me with a "unified mechanic" anyway.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

but those ties can be resolved in various ways if desired

Do you know this : http://www.basicrps.com/atrilia/fr/util/charte-angoumoise.html ? It is unfortunately in French. It explains how in the 16th century, the Duke of Angoulême, who after an accident was unable to hunt anymore, invented a hunting game with his fellows, played from his bed and based on oral exchange: it is a kind of rpg or story-telling. He invented he chart to estimate the chances of success and the results of an action on a 1-20 scale and evaluated the hunting skill of the courtisans on the same scale. Anybody can use it. It had been actualized by a french rpg in the 80's.

The d20 is actually 5 centuries old.

Wind on the Steppes, role playing among the steppe Nomads. The  running campaign and the blog

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It explains how in the 16th century, the Duke of Angoulême, who after an accident was unable to hunt anymore, invented a hunting game with his fellows, played from his bed and based on oral exchange ...

Hmmm ... an interesting story, but not without some minor problems.

Looking at the list of Dukes of Angouleme, there was only one "Duc

C. d'Angouleme" in the 16th century, Charles de Valois:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counts_and_dukes_of_Angoul%C3%AAme

This Charles died rather young (and in a rather stupid way) at the age

of 23, and he seems to have been quite active until his end:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_II_de_Valois,_Duke_of_Orl%C3%A9ans

The story could still be true, but I tend to be somewhat sceptical.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Looking at the list of Dukes of Angouleme, there was only one "Duc

C. d'Angouleme" in the 16th century, Charles de Valois...

Or it could have been this one (though that'd make it actually C15th, specifically tail-end of 1495):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles,_Count_of_Angoul%C3%AAme

The fall from a horse bit fits him better, actually told in the section on his wife:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louise_of_Savoy

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Or it could have been this one ...

Yep, although in this case the author of the story would have

got both the century and the title (count, not duke) wrong.

Edit.:

After a little more research, I found this in the French Wikipedia:

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charte_angoumoise

As for the story about the duke, this sentence is the key:

"Cette anecdote est néanmoins totalement fictive." - The story

is a complete fiction.

Edited by rust

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The big questions are - what do you gain? And for how much work? And what do you lose?

For me, if you put humans (and equivalent species) in a 30 - 70 range, how do you account for beings that go well beyond? Using a 1 - 20 range, super strong creatures (giants or giant sized, which can exist in a Sci-Fi campaign) can have STR of 50 or greater. Bumping up to a range of 100 representing extremely strong humans, those creatures now have a STR in the 200 - 300 range to represent something 5x as strong. I can see stat values getting out of hand very quickly. Especially if you tried to use such a scale in the fantasy genre where things already may have stats in the 100+ range, and to maintain the proper ratios, using the new scale, would be in the 500 range.

.

Using percentiles for everything might help keep things more down to earth, regardless of whatever weirdness is actually in the game, in some people's minds. It means that PCs have a chance against the zombie, vampire, serial killer, mutant space alien, etc. without it being too powerful. Which is great for most survival horror scenarios. However, It's just as easy to keep the stats for everything no greater than 18 or 20, as well, so you're right in that there is no benefit.

One possible benefit, as in the Outbreak Undead system, is that everything is estimated from one roll. In OU, the degrees of success (every ten points below your chance to hit) tells you how much damage you do. Such as 5d6 for five levels of success. It also tells you how good you did at a task. Thus the better/lower you roll, the more success you have.

Admittedly, the benefits are more psychological than anything. I was a degree of success person for a very long time. But I finally realized that there are things easily done in BRP style D100 systems that are difficult for other systems.

Edited by Dredj
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yep. Those are definitely big questions with this kind of thought exercise. Is the work required more of a pain in the ass than the value of the results? For now, it's just a thought-experiment.

You bring up a good point that I didn't consider: scaling. If you go beyond human ranges to try modeling beasts or monsters, the numbers start to inflate aggressively. That's definitely a strong argument for keeping the characteristic side of things to within the single-double digit range.

The big questions are - what do you gain? And for how much work? And what do you lose?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My BRP group has redeveloped the rules in a way that has dispensed with characteristics and moved characteristic rolls into skills-space...replaced hit-points with damage conditions. It sounds like they borrowed generously from RQ and HeroQuest.

Unfortunately a series of flood disasters and an unusually large work load has prevented me from joining their game for almost a year now, I've little practical to add other than it seems to be working great for them.

I don`t play monsters. I play men besieged by fate and out for revenge. ~Vincent Price

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most RPGs tend to tie Skills more tightly to the characteristic: the skill has a governing characteristic, and the level of skill modifies that.

BRP tends to use a practice makes perfect philosophy. A character with a DEX of 9 (the minimum required for the weapon) can be a deadeye shot archer, with a skill of 100%+.

In say, a D20 system, the emphasis is on innate ability. If you want a good archer, you better have a high DEX to begin with.

Practice can make you better, but it won't overcome a lack of beginning talent.

Edited by 1d8+DB
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In say, a D20 system, the emphasis is on innate ability.

That really depends on what is meant by a "D20 system". You could actually replicate a D100 system with a D20 system - RQ2 was effectively a D20 system with everything except criticals, specials and fumbles split into 5% blocks. Pendragon uses D20, but memory fails me as to how it uses it. Anyway, the point being that the emphasis on characteristic vs. skill depends on the individual system. The D20 system, for example, makes characteristics pretty irrelevant after gaining a few levels (I know lots of people play variants of D&D without characteristics at all).

I don't buy the argument that using one type of die is easier than using lots, unless it's D6 which is much easier to get hold of than other varieties. Even that's a pretty feeble reason compared to the difficulties of dealing with bell-curve probabilities. IMO the main reason for getting rid of characteristics would be to simplify the system and to minimise the exceptions to the core mechanic. Getting rid of characteristics and replacing them with skills is easy, the tricky bit would be the damage system unless all creatures are human-norm and there are no big targets like vehicles or spaceships. At least, I haven't come up with a good substitute for armour hit points yet.

Personally, what I like most about characteristics is the way they immediately help you visualise a character. Again, that would be possible with percentages but becomes problematical if there is more than a human range to deal with.

Dreamscape Design: Crafters of the Finest Tabletop Roleplaying Games

Dreamscape Design: My Corner of BRP Central ... Mine, All Mine! 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

BRP tends to use a practice makes perfect philosophy. A character with a DEX of 9 (the minimum required for the weapon) can be a deadeye shot archer, with a skill of 100%+.

In say, a D20 system, the emphasis is on innate ability. If you want a good archer, you better have a high DEX to begin with.

Practice can make you better, but it won't overcome a lack of beginning talent.

Well, being an Archer and (more relevant) a bow hunter, I can say Dexterity alone does not help at all. It is Skill you really need, if you want to hit anything other than static targets. Judging the distance right makes the difference between a total miss or a deadly hit. Dexterity is really not needed, I cannot see what for. If anything, it would be Intelligence, Knowledge or Education. On a Recurve bow it would be Strength. So, to me it is totally OK a Skill is the only relevance to hit something.

I think this is the same with other 'Skills'. Maybe an Ability helps a rookie to get started, but in the long term Skill is what makes you a professionell. Skill includes your experience and training, where pure Ability will only help you getting better or giving you an edge.

Back to topic: A game without Abilities is possible, one with percentile abilities is thinkable (I know at least one, The Mutant Epoche), but a game with Abilities set in a numeric range makes it easier to imagine a character and easier to compare it with non-human beings.

For example the critters in Mutant Epoche have abilities up to 400%+. Yes, I can imagine that, but I cannot do anything with that number, not even making a strength test. Although I can say the thing with 400% Strength is likely to crush my warrior with a Strength of 40%. But then, is it better? Is is easier? I don not think so ... ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...