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BRP without skills


jux

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Forgive my heresy, but I had the following thought about my favourite game - CoC. I post this under BRP section, because this can be applied to other BRP-based games as well, but I talk about CoC.

CoC IS rules right, you all agree, right? But isn't it a bit controversial to have such a narrow skills like mechanics, electronics, pilot whatever, astronomy, etc. And then the main skill - spot hidden among them.

What if we get rid of that? I have seen many light games done that, I really like it. In these games, character has only attributes and occupation. In CoC you might have addition occupation(s) as interest, and that's it. All the mechanics are built around the attribute checks.

So if your occupation is "construction worker", you might have some knowledge about mechanics and electronics (+0%). If you are engineer, than you are even better at it (+20%). If you are accountant, then it is safe to say you don't know these subjects (-20%).

I'd really like such a light system for one-shots.

But then comes the unconditionally important levelling, I mean character advancement. I could totally live without it. Only learning spells/Mythos would be something relevant in this game. In a game about combat, perhaps have them also as separate skills.

What do you think?

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I think you could make a case for a system where Attributes represent the ceiling (and basement?) of a character's abilities. The downside of it is that there needs to be some kind of representation for actual experience and training, otherwise a character with a high INT for instance could be as good at Neurosurgery as she is at Egyptian Hieroglyphs or Forensic science; yes some people may be that qualified but it is few and far between.  So yes some kind of occupational bonus and or non-occupational penalty. A poet trying to perform a tumor removal should have heavy penalties.

However, once you start down the road of Occupation bonus/penalty aren't you just getting back to having skills?

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The idea is you just have one Profession or Occupation, not a skill-list.  If the GM (or the table concensus) says that your profession is relevant to a given in-character task, then you get your Profession/Occupation bonus on the roll.

I'm unclear as to why "level up" couldn't simply give the Profession a skill-ranking rather than a flat bonus; so (off the top of my head) someone with a Bachelor's in engineering gets a +20%, someone with a Masters' gets +30%. someone with a PhD gets +35%, and add +3% per career-year thereafter (so a PhD + 10-year career has +65%; and a BA+3yr is much like a Master's; etc).

If I were doing this, I'd be inclined to have:

  • background/origins/culture/upbringing/etc - up to +50% (Primary at full, Secondary at 1/2, Tertiary at 1/4 (round down)
  • hobby/avocation - up to +20%  (Primary at full, Secondary at 1/2
  • profession/occupation - Up to +30%  (Primary at full, Secondary at 1/2, Tertiary at 1/4 (round down)

Because a single "profession" descriptor just leads to a 1-dimensional character, literally:  it's the one dimension for anything (other than stats/attributes, which I find the least-interesting part of any RPG character-sheet).

===

But honestly:  NO.   To me, the skills-centric nature of BRP (crit/normal/fumble on d%; skill-check/skill-advancement rules; fine-grained skills rather than amorphous blobs; etc) is the core of the game, and I don't think it'd BE a "BRP" game if you excised that part.

 

Edited by g33k
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This is exactly how 13th Age works: you have your Characteristic Bonus à la D&D, and then your Previous Background Bonus (each character has three) ranging from +1 to +5. it can easily be ported to BRP with bonuses ranging from +10% to +50%.

However, I would really not like a similar approach with characteristics as the base rolls, because characteristics (when rolled as percentiles) would become way more important than experience.

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You could easily do it by having Characteristics and receiving modifiers for particular abilities according to the concept. It would work better by heavily using the difficulty levels from CoC 7E, where you include Hard/Difficult (1/2 skill) as a way of measuring level of ability, and how this works with opposed rolls, and add bonus/penalty dice (or modifiers) to the situation depending upon character concept.

You could also do it by using by keeping the Characteristics and using the BRP Skill Categories as actual Skills, which gives a little more granularity, although still cuts down the Skill list considerably. You could still use the same concept, and add modifiers to Skill Categories to portray skill use.

However, for both ideas, as already stated above by Paolo, you would have to heavily modifier the Skill Check system for this, otherwise you would be maxing characters out very early.

You also could easily go the other way as well, and not have Characteristics at all, just having a Skill list. In this case some traits could be expressed within that Skill list, such as using the Brawn and Resilience skills from Mythras in place of STR and CON, for instance. I think this would work well with the current Skill Check system, and keep the skill granularity that SDLeary pointed out.

I thought about doing all this a few years ago, but at the end of the day I figured I wasn't actually playing BRP if I altered things like this too much.

However in this day and age where we all have word processors to build character sheets, there are many options to go with if you want to trial a BRP-lite :)

Edited by Mankcam

" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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2 hours ago, g33k said:

But honestly:  NO.   To me, the skills-centric nature of BRP (crit/normal/fumble on d%; skill-check/skill-advancement rules; fine-grained skills rather than amorphous blobs; etc) is the core of the game, and I don't think it'd BE a "BRP" game if you excised that part.

I guess it would be a different game, but I find it much more natural. I like how BRP does all the rest - HPs, combat, sanity, etc. I just don't like how the defined set of skills limit the overall game play - I don't like it in any game (now) :).

And the spot-hidden as a skill just blows my mind - it should not exist! If you search the room, you find it! Things are there for finding. Missing this roll just kills this game.

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1 minute ago, jux said:

I guess it would be a different game, but I find it much more natural. I like how BRP does all the rest - HPs, combat, sanity, etc. I just don't like how the defined set of skills limit the overall game play - I don't like it in any game (now) :).

Well... do remember that selecting a skill-list for a given iteration of BRP has long been noted as one of the key elements for defining the setting and the "feel" &c !

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2 minutes ago, jux said:

And the spot-hidden as a skill just blows my mind - it should not exist! If you search the room, you find it! Things are there for finding. Missing this roll just kills this game.

Feel free to eliminate that skill and associated rule / issue.  Done!  ;)

Mind you, I think there is scope for the notion of "hiding" things so well that "finding them" isn't actually a safe assumption.  I've got to agree that nothing "critical" to the game or the plotline should be hidden such that a failed Spot Hidden roll is a stopper !  I only like to put "bonus" material there; extra above-and-beyond rewards.

But...

Imagine a deep-cover spy.  They have hidden some critical McGuffin.  A druggie who busts in to grab "all the valuable stuff" and sell it for more drugs will not find the McGuffin.  Even some pretty skilled folk -- professional mafia types, for example, or a private investigator -- will probably not be able to find it.

Maybe a downtown police crime-scene team has a decent chance:... but think what that is:  multiple people searching for hours, not needing to worry about "Wandering Monsters" or "the Dragon Returning to his Lair," or other life-threatening interruptions; it involves specialized personnel (not ordinary cops), with large amounts of specialist equipment; it may involve taking pieces away for outside examination by even-more-specialized people with even-larger amounts of gear.

And it's *STILL* not as complete a search as will be done by Military Intelligence sorts -- counterspies.

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6 hours ago, g33k said:

The idea is you just have one Profession or Occupation, not a skill-list.  If the GM (or the table concensus) says that your profession is relevant to a given in-character task, then you get your Profession/Occupation bonus on the roll.

I'm unclear as to why "level up" couldn't simply give the Profession a skill-ranking rather than a flat bonus; so (off the top of my head) someone with a Bachelor's in engineering gets a +20%, someone with a Masters' gets +30%. someone with a PhD gets +35%, and add +3% per career-year thereafter (so a PhD + 10-year career has +65%; and a BA+3yr is much like a Master's; etc).

Because a single "profession" descriptor just leads to a 1-dimensional character, literally:  it's the one dimension for anything (other than stats/attributes, which I find the least-interesting part of any RPG character-sheet).

===

But honestly:  NO.   To me, the skills-centric nature of BRP (crit/normal/fumble on d%; skill-check/skill-advancement rules; fine-grained skills rather than amorphous blobs; etc) is the core of the game, and I don't think it'd BE a "BRP" game if you excised that part.

 

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay probably explored this the best (Rolemaster also to an extent). You have a 'current' profession which allows you to improve certain skills or attributes. Or you can 'level up' by changing profession to something else, possibly related. Some professions are gateways to others, eg. Masters Student might be a gateway to PhD.

But I agree this is not BRP.

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9 hours ago, jux said:

And the spot-hidden as a skill just blows my mind - it should not exist! If you search the room, you find it! Things are there for finding. Missing this roll just kills this game.

Why? Do you run with Search/Spot being an absolute? I would say that if they fail, the clue/data/whatever simply takes longer to find. Fumble? Perhaps they fall down and injure themselves, and then someone else in the party finds it and rubs their nose in it.

If you feel that Search/Spot is more an inherent thing, pull it out and base it on a characteristic or two? There are any number of ways to handle things while not truly messing with the core of BRP.

SDLeary

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There is a historic problem with Spot Hidden

When CoC was first launched it was still riding on the back of the nascent RPG fantasy trope (D&D, RuneQuest, The Fantsy Trip, etc.) and I don't think Chaosium, Sandy, early scenario authors or original play adopters quite realised the different play style CoC was to develop ( a more mystery-busting trope with monsters on the side ) than what it was first perceived as ( monster-busting with mysteries on the side ).

As such, there wasn't really any thought or guidance given to new Keepers in the rulebooks about how mysteries were to be translated into in-game clues that the PCs could then get with skill checks. There was an especial lack of guidance about making sure bottlenecks didn't happen when clues were not found. Hence the problem with many, many, MANY scenarios from the 80s ( to even the 2000s ) of plenty of places for brick walls and bottlenecks in published scenarios. Keepers were left to realise by themselves that they MUST let players get some clues ( even with a failed skill check ) in order for the scenario to "work". Since the rulebooks didn't deal with this problem explicitly it was only with experience that a Keeper realised this problem (a) exists and (b) you have to bend the rules as written to fix it.

It's only with the current v7 rulebook that this issue is now being tackled explicitly.

Of course this problem can exist with any skill, not just Spot Hidden, but so many early published scenarios included the use of Spot Hidden to hide clues that were imperative for progression that Spot Hidden certainly flags up the idea that some skill checks should never be prone to total failure for the good of the game.

-----------

Back to the point of the thread - the proposed idea is also a bit similar to the Castles and Crusades RPG mechanic ( which uses a d20 ).

 

Edited by groovyclam
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Yes, having a bottleneck in a scenario for failing a skill is another subject of it's own - more about scenario design or Keeper guide.

My original problem with skills and the spot hidden skill particular, is that skills are not equally valuable among one another. Spot hidden is the default skill every PC will spam all the time compared to astronomy skill for example.

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The value of skills, relative to one another depends a lot of the style of play, and the type of adventures the GM runs. That holds true with attributes as well.

 

One approach you could consider doing with information gathering skills (such as spot hidden) would be to have the die roll determine how long it takes for the characters to discover the information. In other words, eventually the characters will discover the grimore hidden under the loose floorboard in the attic. The die roll determines how long it takes them to do so. A GM could make some things time dependent. So the character might not be able to spend all day tearing the house apart, and could miss something becuase they had to stop searching. 

 

Another thing you might consider is having the background and professional bonuses affect the difficulty (i.e. easy/normal/hard) of the attribute rolls rather than adding a flat modifier. The benefits of doing so would be that you'd get simpler math (you'd never have to add anything, just work out the 1/2 and 2x percentages, which you could do in advance) and that it could be used to address those tasks that should require training. For example, surgery could be a difficult (or harder) skill, but normal for someone with the right medical background. You could even allow for a "master surgeon"  reducing the difficulty two levels to easy. This would be a simple but elegant way to deal with skills without skill percentages. It could even be used for character advancement.

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Traits and conflicts in Revolutions eliminate the majority of these issues, while being also similar to the Base+Bonus mechanics that Jux postulated.

Being very good at some "key" skills (Communication [Persuade] for social, Perception [Vision] for spotting, Stealth [Hide/Sneak] for infiltration) is important, but it is not enough to ensure that you will succeed. In order to win a mental challenge, the players must exhibit experience in fields of knowledge related to the subject they are investigating. While the roll is still made on a "main" skill like Spot, the plethora of skills that you never use because the GM does not want to call a roll to avoid a disastrous failure are employed to give substantial bonuses and stimulate description. If players cooperate and have complementary skills, it is very rare to see them defeated because of bad luck.

As stated above, it is not just how many entries you have on your sheet. How you use them in game is even more important.

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5 hours ago, jux said:

Yes, having a bottleneck in a scenario for failing a skill is another subject of it's own - more about scenario design or Keeper guide.

My original problem with skills and the spot hidden skill particular, is that skills are not equally valuable among one another. Spot hidden is the default skill every PC will spam all the time compared to astronomy skill for example.

Then I will say that the party navigator and pilot on the tramp hauler between Titan and Ceres is going to run into trouble when the going gets tough and they have a couple of torpedoes closing on them.

Just a note. Spot can also be used as a fallback skill, not as an active skill. In the above example it would probably be the guy with astronomy that would notice that there is an extra star on the visuals that isn't there on the maps, or the person with Anatomy or Medicine that will note that the "dead guy" with the hole through his heart still has a pulse and a distinctive something beating on the other side of his chest. In fact, you could get rid of Spot, and still have the ability to do so, though it would be more skill limited. 

The other possibility here is to simply note their skill level, and don't have them roll. Higher the skill level, the quicker they come across the item in question. IIRC, this is something that is in the new Delta Green book.

SDLeary

Edited by SDLeary
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19 hours ago, SDLeary said:

 

Just a note. Spot can also be used as a fallback skill, not as an active skill. In the above example it would probably be the guy with astronomy that would notice that there is an extra star on the visuals that isn't there on the maps, or the person with Anatomy or Medicine that will note that the "dead guy" with the hole through his heart still has a pulse and a distinctive something beating on the other side of his chest. In fact, you could get rid of Spot, and still have the ability to do so, though it would be more skill limited. 

That's kinda how the old James Bond RPG used the Sixth Sense skill. PERception was used to notice things. Sixth Sense was used as a kinda safety net to allow the PCs the chance to notice something that they either didn't with thier PER rolls, or that they'd have no real way of noticing. 

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

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