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Changing the function of skill categories?


MatteoN

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Has anybody tried to have skill categories play a different role from just giving a bonus to skill ratings?

 

 

For example, I'd been mucking around with a very rough idea for a "FUDGEd BRP" (or "BuRPed FUDGE" :( ). Let's say your skill category doesn't have a number associated to it, but a descriptor from a fixed ordered list such as this:

 

...  Terrible  Poor  Inferior  Fair  Superior  Great  Superb  ...

 

Which adjective is associated to a given skill category depends on the sum of two related attributes (like single skills's starting ratings in RQ6):

 

  6 -   9   Terrible

10 - 13   Poor

14 - 17   Inferior

18 - 24   Fair 

25 - 28   Superior

29 - 32   Great

33 - 36   Superb

 

I've just made up this numbers. A character has a 60% chance of having Fair as the descriptor associated to any given skill category.

 

Skills have fixed starting (fake!) percentile ratings, like in CoC, that as usual can be improved during character creation and during the game.

 

When making a skill check a player rolls 2d10 and uses them to assemble two two-digit results (for example, if a player rolls 7 and 3, he gets a 73 and a 37) ranging from 00=0 to 99:

 

- If both results are equal to, or lower than the skill's rating, the check's success "moves" to the quality one step to the right of the skill category's descriptor (in case of a matched roll* under the skill, the quality of the success moves a further step to the right). 

 

- If only one of the results is equal to, or lower than the skill rating, the success is of the same quality as the skill category

 

- If both results are higher than the skill rating, the success "moves" to the quality one step to the left of the skill category's descriptor (in case of a matched roll over the skill, the quality of the success moves a further step to the left). 

 

For  example, Blundarr the Barbarian has a Strength of 16 and a Dexterity of 13 (it's when he has to think that things go downhill). This gives him "Great" in the Combat skill category. He has a Battleaxe skill of 55.

 

Blundarr attacks his own reflection in a pool of water, and the player rolls the dice, getting a 4 and a 7, that is a 47 and a 74. Since only one of the results doesn't exceed his skill rating, Blundarr's attack is Great. And so is his opponent's counterattack!

 

Afterwards, Blundarr tries to lighten up his comrades singing a happy song. The GM tells the player that Blundarr succeeds if he gets at least a Superior success. Blundarr has "Fair" in the Communication skill category, and his Perform (Sing) skill is rated at 30. The player rolls two 6s, and so gets a matched roll over the skill's rating that makes Blundarr's success move two steps to the left of his Fair Comunication skill category. That is, Blundarr success is Poor: a bad failure, actually!

 

A skill's minimum rating is 0 and it can be incremented indefinitely, but after reaching 99 it's reset to 0 and the quality of the successes obtained when using that skill gets an automatical fixed increment of +2 steps; so the skill rating progression is:

 

0, 1, 2, ..., 97, 98, 99, 0 (+2), 1 (+2), 3 (+2), ..., 97 (+2), 98 (+2), 99 (+2), 0 (+4), 1 (+4), 3 (+4), etc.

 

 

 

 

 

* Matched rolls are 00, 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, and 99.

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Sorry, I've tried to clarify the text a bit.

 

I think this might be a bolt-on alternative mechanics for BRP like Monsters and Magic is for oD&D.

 

I'd say you can tell would-players that if both the results they get with the dice are under a skill's rating, the quality of the success they get is superior to the default quality (corresponding to the skill category's descriptor), if only one result is under the skill's rating, the quality of the success is equal to the default quality, and if none of the results is lower than the rating, the quality of the success is inferior to the default quality.

 

Then introduce matched rolls and skills over 99.

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Possible confusion might perhaps be less likely to arise if the list of descriptors,  instead of vertically as FUDGE's "ladder", was written horizontally:

 

...  Terrible  Poor  Inferior  Fair  Superior  Great  Superb  ...

 

so that one could (more clearly?) state that if both results rolled with the dice are equal to or lower than the skill, the quality of the success "moves" one or two steps to the right of the skill category's descriptor, and if both results are higher than the skill, the quality of the success "moves" one or two steps to the left of the skill category's descriptor.

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I think this FUDGEd BRP would give stats a potentially much higher impact on the game compared to BRP (a Fair attacker hits a Superb defender only if the attacker gets a matched roll under their skill, and the defender a matched roll over their skill), that is however partially offset by the rarity of extremely good or bad descriptors (the chance to have a Fair skill category is almost 60%, that of having a Terrible or Superb skill category is about 0.2%, so out of 500 characters there would be a single superb combatant or communicator and 300 fair ones), and then naturally by skill ratings going over 99.

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This does break from the BRP-paradigm where poor attributes can be helped by high skill.

A Fair-skill base would stand little chance against a Great-skill base, unless a whole lot of skill points are pumped into it. Im pretty sure you've caught that detail, but it does move it away from BRP and more into a d100-mechanic.

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I agree. If I'm not wrong, ceteris paribus having a better category then your opponent is at least a very remarkable advantage and, compared to the average (N)PC, a character with a Superb skill category is practically superhuman. But as you say high skill* can compensate for the difference: for example, a character with a "mundane" Fair Combat skill category and a weapon skill higher than 99 is still at a disadvantage against a monstrous Superb opponent (since on average s/he scores Great successes), but less notably so. So natural talent potentially plays a much more important role than in BRP, but I think skills can still be paramount if characters are allowed to develop them to very high levels (the +2, +4, +6 etc. bonuses to the quality of success, that you get when your skill exceeds 99, should really be seen as masteries in Heroquest).

 

* Not to mention spells and Fate points used to move your success rightwards.

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But it's also worth mentioning again that, with the progression proposed above, each skill category (except those based on rating of stats rolled with 2d6+6+ instead of 3d6) has a 15% chance of being Inferior, 60% chance of being Fair, and 15% chance of being Superior, so the difference between characters should rarely be extreme.

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Hm, yes. I see your points, I see the mechanical bits and the pros (and cons) of having defined ability-levels like this, but I still think that Fudge and fudge-dice are better alternatives if you want to play Fudge.

Here you have to roll, flip the roll, compare it to skill, wait for your opponent to do the same, count successes, and finally compare it to a number disguised as a table of adjectives. If you had skill mastery, that would presumably mean that you had to compare and flip the roll to two different values?

 

I am not convinced. Seems like it's jumping through a lot of hoops for the sake of jumping.

Then again, I'm not a huge Fate-fan, so maybe my perceptions are coloured :P

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Hm, yes. I see your points, I see the mechanical bits and the pros (and cons) of having defined ability-levels like this, but I still think that Fudge and fudge-dice are better alternatives if you want to play Fudge.

Here you have to roll, flip the roll, compare it to skill, wait for your opponent to do the same, count successes, and finally compare it to a number disguised as a table of adjectives. If you had skill mastery, that would presumably mean that you had to compare and flip the roll to two different values?

 

I am not convinced. Seems like it's jumping through a lot of hoops for the sake of jumping.

Then again, I'm not a huge Fate-fan, so maybe my perceptions are coloured :P

Yes, the system would definitely be more complex than FUDGE because the modifier to your skill (category) level is determined by a roll of the dice and a comparison of the results to a rating (the specific skill), instead of just a dice roll. (The process actually would be: roll the dice, compare the results to the skill to determine the modifier to the skill category, determine the quality of your success by modifying the skill category, compare the quality of your success to that of your opponent, or to the worst success needed to perform the task according to the GM's judgement).

On the other hand, it would be compatible with BRP's stats and skills and could be developed as an optional alternative resolution method.

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I did something awhile back where skill categories were used as the base chance for skills. It simplified the math for determining starting percentages without eliminating the effect of attributes on skills. 

 

For example, in BRP, Knowledge skills use the INT modifier (twice), so in my variant KNO skills have a base score of INTx2%. 

 

I also used the categories as modifiers to improvement rolls, similar to RQ3. 

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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I like your houserule, but that's more a streamlining of skill categories (as modifiers to skill ratings) than a repurposing of skill categories.

Yup. But then I wasn't trying to completely change the way BRP works. 

 

Frankly, I'm not fond of your variant for several reasons:

 

 

1] It makes attributes too important. A beginner with high attribute scores will give a master with poor attribute scores a pasting. That just isn't right for most skills.

 

2] It would need to be extended to handle characters with attributes higher than 18, and will causes problems with handling big tough creatures  due to their higher attribute scores.  

 

3] Some character cannot ever fail (or do poorly) if they have high attributes. For instance, someone with a 18 INT is going to be fairly good at speaking French, even if he never heard it before (skill 0).  

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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I did try to complete change the way BRP works with a skill roll variant.

 

What I did was use the 10s die  as the "Effect". That would mean things like damage inflicted, how long an effort could be maintained, how many items juggled, etc. But that was done instead of the usual criticals, specials and fumbles.  A failure  had a zero effect, regardless of what was rolled on the tens die. Higher levels of effect could be achieved by raising the difficulty (i.e a normal difficulty was raised to hard, cutting the success chance in half, but adding something like 5 to the effect if successful). 

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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I did try to complete change the way BRP works with a skill roll variant.

 

What I did was use the 10s die  as the "Effect". That would mean things like damage inflicted, how long an effort could be maintained, how many items juggled, etc. But that was done instead of the usual criticals, specials and fumbles.  A failure  had a zero effect, regardless of what was rolled on the tens die. Higher levels of effect could be achieved by raising the difficulty (i.e a normal difficulty was raised to hard, cutting the success chance in half, but adding something like 5 to the effect if successful). 

I seem to remember that TSR's old, short-lived Amazing Engine added some interesting mechanics to percentile roll-under. IIRC, weapons had a sort of "threat-range" on a decimal scale, to which you had to compare the units of your attack roll to determine what kind and/or amount of damage your attack did.

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I seem to remember that TSR's old, short-lived Amazing Engine added some interesting mechanics to percentile roll-under. IIRC, weapons had a sort of "threat-range" on a decimal scale, to which you had to compare the units of your attack roll to determine what kind and/or amount of damage your attack did.

The mechanism I used was from TSR's Top Secret SI. For unarmed combat, the 10s digit was the damage and the 1s digit was the hit location. What I did was expand the damage to apply to all damage types. I just added a modifier to reflect weapon adjustments. For example:

 

1d4 = -3

1d6 = -2

1d8 = -1

1d10 = +0

2d6 = +2

2d8 = +4

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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Yup. But then I wasn't trying to completely change the way BRP works. 

 

Frankly, I'm not fond of your variant for several reasons:

 

 

1] It makes attributes too important. A beginner with high attribute scores will give a master with poor attribute scores a pasting. That just isn't right for most skills.

 

2] It would need to be extended to handle characters with attributes higher than 18, and will causes problems with handling big tough creatures  due to their higher attribute scores.  

 

3] Some character cannot ever fail (or do poorly) if they have high attributes. For instance, someone with a 18 INT is going to be fairly good at speaking French, even if he never heard it before (skill 0).  

 Your points made me realize I could (just for fun) combine this idea with another one I had recently. The result however would be quite far from BRP (even though both ideas stemmed from BRP), so I'm going to post about it ;D

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In Ringworld, the category headings were used as a cap on many but not all skills. The base skill could not exceed the category value, any advancement beyond that had to be in a branch skill, which in other games would probably be called Specialization. The system itself was called the Root/Branch system.

 

Certainly not what your looking for, but a decent example of how the "modifiers" can be utilized in a different way. If you can get your hand on a copy of Ringworld it might give you some more inspiration.

 

It also had a somewhat interesting reaction system called the Impulse system. It was a bit cumbersome in play, but that could have been because our group was more used to the SR system from RQ.

 

SDLeary

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Interesting. Has any rule or subsystem made its way from Ringworld to the BRP Gold Book?

It seems to be one of the sources that is absent from the BGB, probably due to its rarity and license expiration, though it could also be due to the fact that the Root/Branch system and the Impulse System were not really well received, at the time. 

 

SDLeary

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In Top Secret SI the way it worked was the damage inflicted in unarmed combat was equal to the 10s digit on the attack roll. That is if the roll was successful. For example a character with a 79% skill who rolled a 74 would do 7 points of damage to location 4, but if he rolled an 80 he would miss.
 
Weapon damage was just a variable die roll. For my variant I wanted to keep the link between the attack roll and damage so I changed the variable damage die roll to a modifier. So someone with Sword at 79% using a sword with a +1 damage modifier, would do 8 points of damage to location 4 on a 74 result.  
 
 
Where it got cute in my variant was with the raised difficulty. Someone with a high skill score had to try more risky, powerful maneuvers to take maximum advantage of their skill- and that increased their risk of failing the roll and "zeroing  out".
 
For example, let's say we had a character with a Sword skill of 180%. In my variant he could roll and make his sword skill rolls all day, at normal difficulty. But if he were to raise the difficulty to level 2, he would halve his success chance to 90% (180/2=90) but add +5 to his effect when he was successful. This gave him a much higher effect score, but at the risk of failing the roll (rolling over 90) and getting a zero result.
 
Since if an  attack hit and how much damage inflicted was tied to the effect and the difference between both sides it made things interesting. 

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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Having a lowered chance of success compensate an increased level of effect is a traditional game design from the days when "realism" was paramaount in RPGs. With its combat system, however, MRQII/Legend/RQ6 recently showed us that there's no need for such a compensation...

Need? No. But there there is no need for just about any game mechanic. That doesn't mean that there is no value to such a game mechanic, though.

 

It mostly boils down to what you want out of the game system. In this particular case, I wanted a way to allow for things like crtical hits  while factoring in for skill rating without having to use a  table, or track a specific range of values. .I was also trying to streamlining the die rolling process by eliminating the damage roll. Everything was just measured in terms of EFFECT.

 

Oh, and results other than inflicting direct injury were achievable with EFFECT. Basically EFFECT was a sort of currency used to accomplish things. Disarms, trips, locked blades could all be purchased by spending effect. In the magic rules, EFFECT worked kinda like how Intensity worked in RQ3. A spellcaster would generate EFFECT and any amount over that required to cast the spell could be used to augment the various aspect of the spell such as range, damage and duration.  

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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