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 Post subject: Re: No Skill Chapter
PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 9:36 pm 
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Cold-Hearted Immortal

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Location: San Jose, CA
I like several parts of this and I'm inclined to run some games including pieces of the idea, but I need to think on "the whole of it" put together.

I would like each of the classes in DCC RPG to feel different, without a lot of rules. Those of you who play 4E may think that many classes in 4E "feel" the same -- the mechanics are too similar from class to class. In 3E, classes did "feel" different but it was accomplished through some fairly complex mechanisms: skill points for thieves, feats for fighters, etc. What I'm about to say flies in the face of "internet game design theory" but I'll say it anyway: I'm striving to avoid too much consistency, and embrace sub-systems and alternate mechanics where they are simple, easy to remember in play, and evocative of a class's unique abilities.

For example, the cleric system does get across the idea of a cleric draining his deity's resources. Every casting diminishes the cleric's connection with his deity, reflected in the successive -1 penalties. This element would be lost with a consistent mechanic across all classes.

For example, the wizard system does reflect the "chanciness" of magic (e.g., Harold Shea and Jack Vance) in the form of the random dice roll and mercurial magic, and the wizard's limited ability to recall a great number of spells (e.g., Jack Vance) in the finite number of spell slots. Spellburn maintains the connection to the patron theme (e.g., Elric). This element would be lost with a consistent mechanic across all classes.

And so on. That is why the Mighty Deed of Arms system (i.e., the "funky class die") should remain fairly specialized to fighters (with a hint of in the thief class), the wizard spell check system should be different from the cleric system (and it is), and so on. When building the classes I approached each with a list of Appendix N archetypes and situations I wanted to convey, then tried to come up with mechanics to get that across -- and I was (and am) okay if the underlying design elements are not always consistent.

So, with that lengthy preamble, I want to avoid two elements of what you're proposing:

* Simplifying all class abilities to a single mechanic. This has appeal in "game design theory" but in game play, I believe it would diminish the "special-ness" of each class -- mechanically they'd all have the same basic roll and same basic way to exercise their class contribution.

* I don't want to sever the connection to a skill system grounded in 0-level occupation. The introduction of the class die makes improvement in skills related to class, vs. 0-level occupation. This is subtle but it is a difference; it weaves classes into skills even more. A lot of the role playing elements of DCC RPG come out of the 0-level character generation and the resulting motley mix of occupations and classes: the scribe who becomes a warrior, the gravedigger who is now a wizard, and so on. I'd like skills to remain fundamentally connected to the 0-level experience.

So, those are the reasons why I don't want to adopt an across-the-board approach. Now, that said, I think there are some really good ideas in what you're saying. Here's what intrigues me:

* Rolling a lower die for "untrained" skills: great idea. Roll a d20 if you can role play a connection from your occupation or class to the attempt; otherwise roll d10. I like it.

* I also like that you've basically come up with a really simple system for skills. I'm trying to avoid creating lists of skills and what abilities apply to them (judges can generally do this on the fly), and what you've done does manage to accomplish that goal fairly well.

Finally, with all that said, I would encourage you to still run a couple games using your modified class rules, then run a couple using the beta rules 'as written', then let me know what the feedback from the players is. For all the math we do, what it really comes down to is Monopoly. Yes, you heard me: Monopoly. Is DCC RPG more fun than the other alternative ways to spending your time -- like Monopoly? Monopoly as a game breaks every rule of game design that many game designers like to throw out, but by God that game is popular! I like to use it as an example of what D&D could be: FUN and SIMPLE. There are plenty of games out there where we can do math...DCC RPG is meant to be one that's at least as fun as Monopoly to actually play, and hopefully more fun! And in application to your rules, what I mean is: if you run this version of the rules and the players love it, then let me know...because fundamentally THEY are the judges of whether a rule is right or not!

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 Post subject: Re: No Skill Chapter
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:41 am 
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Deft-Handed Cutpurse

Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 7:05 pm
Posts: 261
Location: Central Vermont
Joseph, this is an awesome post. I think it captures what is really making DCC unique. I'm generally a proponent of the simple and elegant game system, but you are making compelling arguments for the approach of uniqueness and sub-systems. Indeed, it is elements like the Mighty Deeds and Spell Duels that initially hooked me when reading the rules.

I think what the Beta has some of, but could use in greater measure, is actually this sort of background thinking/explanation. Ideally it can be spread and illuminated through the remainder of the judges rules, but even a half page aside here and there can really help set the tone.

This would particularly help with things like how to manage luck, how to prevent characters from losing all ability scores over their career, dealing with experience and treasure (including how to manage the player economy without it taking away from the DCC role playing feeling).

Even little rules like the % chance that found armor needs repair or modification before use go a long way to set the tone.

I also wanted to comment that in my opinion it is very very easy to use DCs that are too high. An approach that has worked well for me so far is to have most DCs be between about 5 and 12. I use a 5 DC for anything that I'd not check most of the time, but is interesting because of other events (such as a combat) going on. A 10 would be anything you'd usually get a particular class or professional to attempt. A 12 is a difficult example of the latter. I haven't found a reason to use a DC higher than 12 yet although I haven't had players push boundaries there either. This is a big change for 3/4E D&D. I'm finding that in that context using a value roughly 1/2 what is given is about right. Particularly with something like a 16 player level funnel crossing a ledge, even a DC of 5 or less is likely to result in one or two characters falling off, and in play it feels about right.


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 Post subject: Re: No Skill Chapter
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:14 am 
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Chaos-Summoning Sorcerer

Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:28 am
Posts: 779
Joseph, the point of "no skills" is that they are not named. I'm not looking for a unifying mechanic (that's the class die thread :)) I'm looking for a return to character class determines what you know and can do. You don't need to say "Thieves add +x to stealth rolls." Of course thieves get bonuses to their stealth rolls. That's what thieves do.

So to your points: The 0-level occupation is just a "mini-class". It is a narrow set of things you know and can do based on your upbringing. No reason to lose it. Just don't use the nasty word "skill". You should excise the word skill from the manuscript. It doesn't belong in a class-based gaming system.

Don't get me started on Monopoly. Popular and fun are not related. No one I know has ever had a good memory of play Monopoly. It is why board games are looked at derisively in America. Trimming one's fingernails is more fun than playing Monopoly. Trimming one's fingernails and jabbing the bits in your eye is more fun than playing Monopoly. Set your sights higher. :)

First of all, a class should evoke an image/archtype. How it behaves mechanically is secondary. Adding mechanics just for special-ness sake is just the opposite side of the "game design theory" coin as a unified class die design. You can have fun with a unified design and not end up with something like 4e. How each class is special is in how it applies the class die. The warrior gets the class die to perform wacky (whacky?) combat maneuvers. The thief adds it to his thievery attempts. The wizard adds it to his spellcasting. The cleric adds it to his turning and lay on hands. Aren't these all unique and different? Does any of that diminish the warrior in any way?

Quote:
When building the classes I approached each with a list of Appendix N archetypes and situations I wanted to convey

Clerics are in Appendix N?


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 Post subject: Re: No Skill Chapter
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:33 am 
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Chaos-Summoning Sorcerer

Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:28 am
Posts: 779
I hate posting twice but this is more in defense of the class die concept. I really should make a thread for that. I think the original post is buried in the Thief Percentage Skills thread....

goodmangames wrote:
I like to use it as an example of what D&D could be: FUN and SIMPLE. There are plenty of games out there where we can do math...DCC RPG is meant to be one that's at least as fun as Monopoly to actually play, and hopefully more fun! And in application to your rules, what I mean is: if you run this version of the rules and the players love it, then let me know...because fundamentally THEY are the judges of whether a rule is right or not!

I don't understand how you equate FUN and SIMPLE with every class is mechanically unique. Could you explain how SIMPLE and being against a unified mechanic makes sense?

Also, my class die concept encourages avoidance of the "roll dXX and add YOUR LEVEL and XYZ ability modifier." Instead you would roll dXX and add YOUR CLASS DIE and add XYZ ability modifier". Now tell me. What is more fun? Rolling d20 + 3 + 1 or d20 + d5 + 1. More dice is always better, right?

Class level from 1 to 10 gives bonuses in the range of 1 to 10. Class die in d3/d4/d5...d16 gives average bonuses in the range of 2 to 8.5 and at the high end can soar to 16. But the average range keeps the high levels from seeming so superhero-y. Even Conan could roll a 1 on his class die.


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 Post subject: Re: No Skill Chapter
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 2:24 pm 
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Mighty-Thewed Reaver

Joined: Fri Jan 14, 2011 11:53 am
Posts: 379
Maybe the name "class die" was jmucchiello's concept but I think a lot of us expected that classes used the funky dice as bonuses from the start so this was one of the big disappointments when I got the beta rules (which I love mind you, I just think they need lots of tweaking still). When I heard about warriors using the funky dice as their bonus (instead of a to-hit bonus) I thought this was genious. So fun and simple! Since this was a game that embraced the funky dice I just assumed every class would use them in this way. I was surprised and disappointed when I saw wizards just added their level to casting and didn't use them. It reeked of trying too hard to keep the funky dice fun a "warrior-thing" only since wizards are already so cool and interesting.

But what a failed chance to use this brilliant mechanic! Especially when dealing with something like magic, that is supposed to be volatile, dangerous and difficult to control in this world. This is not D&D with it's "safe", mechanical casting. And yet here we are adding static bonuses for level?

I hate games that are overly concerned with having unified mechanics so I am glad DCC has gone this route for the most part. Overall I love Joseph's post above. It clears up a lot about his vision and convinced me of some design decisions but I have to say, it really feels like a failed opportunity to use a great mechanic like this AND make the game a bit simpler/fiddly at the same time. Some things should be unified and this is one of them. Jmucchiello is right:
jmucchiello wrote:
How each class is special is in how it applies the class die.
and
jmucchiello wrote:
What is more fun? Rolling d20 + 3 + 1 or d20 + d5 + 1. More dice is always better, right?
and finally
jmucchiello wrote:
Even Conan could roll a 1 on his class die.
.

Perfectly said. Fighters were uninteresting in OD&D since they often had zero decisions to make in combat. What makes Fighters interesting in DCC is not the class die, it's how they can use it with MDoA's and actually have some creative decisions available to them. Allowing Wizards to use the class die mechanic when spell casting doesn't make Fighters less interesting, giving Wizards the MDoA mechanic would.


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 Post subject: Re: No Skill Chapter
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:53 pm 
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Ill-Fated Peasant
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Joseph - thank you for taking the time to share your philosophy. I absolutely agree with you.

I think the challenge is whether or not to scale challenges. Metagame theory would suggest that all things being equal, a 10th level Thief should be challenged to the same degree as a 1st level one. Otherwise, what's the point? Sure, if the same thief goes into the dungeon of his 1st level days to finally overcome the lock the stymied him he should be able to pop it without issue, right? Because it's a first level challenge, right?

Or is it?

Perhaps the narrative reason your 1st level thief was unable to pick the lock is because only a 10th level thief could actually succeed.

This poses a bigger question. Why should character's abilities improve at all? In real life there is not an unending progression. You can't simply progress and keep adding skill levels. However many levels you define, there is a limit. Out at a ski school in Colorado they identified about 8 levels of ability, which I thought was pretty fair. These levels were quantifiable, and I could easily recognize where I and my students fell. Through that spectrum, there are about 5 orders of magnitude of expertise (Untrained, Trained, Professional, Expert, Master).

Each of these orders of magnitude is, IMO, best modeled by mapping to the standard deviation of whatever dice mechanic you use. Standard Deviation for d20 is 6 (5.91). So, using a very simple progression DC 11 is Untrained, DC 17 is Trained, DC 23 is Expert, and DC 29 is Master.

Using your No Skills guideline, then somehow something characteristic to the class should progress from +0 to +18 over the course of the character's career (6 points per std. deviation).

There are a large number of assumptions here, but that is the gist of the math and assumes that you do want to scale the challenges. Why? Because what's the point of character with +18 making a test against a DC 11 challenge other than comedic value or if they are under extreme conditions such that the challenge is, in fact, challenging - thus making my point. IF the Judge is creating an adventure, planned or ad-hoc, the challenges are going to be such that it will be interesting regardless of the level of the character. The Judge will rule that "due to the age of the blah blah, and the stormy conditions, and the alien construction the Thief has a DC 10 pick locks". Clearly if this is a 10th level adventure a 1st level Thief could not possibly hope to do it.

How objective do you want the system to be? If you want it to be completely objective, then consistency is king, math is your friend, and you can very neatly define a mechanic that will work.

If you want it to be subjective, which you clearly do, then I suggest the following:

Define challenges in terms of DC and who can attempt. Any is viable, and implies untrained attempts.

If the action is part of your background, roll d20. Otherwise roll d14 (note the 6 point difference - std deviation).

Perception is always d20. Everything else is subjective.

The challenges assume a certain level of adventurer. If there is a difference, adjust accordingly one for one (i.e. a 1st level Thief in a 5th level adventure will find all the DCs adjusted by +4).

EXAMPLES:
  • Tough Lock (Thief:Agility DC 17 to pick, Any:Strength DC 20 to break)
  • Rough Cliff (Thief:Agility DC 11 to climb, Any:Strength DC 17 to climb)
  • Find Clue (Thief/Elf:Intelligence DC 17 to spot, Halfling:Luck DC 11 to find, Any:Luck DC 20 to find)

This encourages the Judge to evaluate each adventure and the challenge it presents rather than trying to fit it into a specific progression. Will this create situations that some characters have no chance? Yes. A Wizard should not be able to break down a door unless he burns luck. A warrior should not be able to sneak unless he does the same.

And if you do this, then Saving Throws should probably follow the same model. Vary the bonuses from +0 to +3, flat (no change with level), and then the DC of the save is either set by the Judge (for traps and such) or the level of the spellcaster (relative to the target).

I think that's closer to the spirit of what you are looking for, based on the adventures that were written (which led me here as I was trying to understand why in the first room of the first adventure it said DC 15 Pick Locks for a Thief when in the beta it has % skills). After I got over the confusion about the lack of a % chance, I asked myself why you even needed to specify Pick Locks. If the Thief is the only one that can do it, why not just say DC 15 Thief. If, based on alignment, some thieves are better at certain things than others then why not simplify and say Law thieves are +1 at X and Chaos thieves are +1 at Y.

However, when you look at it this way... combat must follow the same idea. Essentially, all monsters/traps/challenges become relative to the adventure level, following the same math rules. Most challenges would be +/- 3 (6 point spread), tougher/easier would be +/-6, and extreme would be +/- 9.

A Dragon therefore might be written like:

Dragon (AC 20, HD 9, HP 45, Attack: Bite +6 (2d8+4)...). Since it is HD 9, it assumes a level 9 adventure. If placed in a level 6 adventure, all rolls it makes would be at +3.

Such a relative system might seem okay at first, but can be challenging, especially when you mix elements (such as a horde of orcs attacking a 6th level party). Objective systems really shine here.

I think what you have put together is somewhat of a hybrid approach - clearly more objective for spellcasting and combat, more subjective for skills. I think that's okay. There is a relatively clear line that I think can clearly work.

Is there a simple answer? Obviously not, but hopefully this helps offer some perspective.

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 Post subject: Re: No Skill Chapter
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:23 pm 
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Ill-Fated Peasant

Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:26 pm
Posts: 8
I like this idea a lot (original post about it all)

there should be one or two background (0 lvl 'class') skills that a character gets and then some 'class "skills"'

the concept of skills with this still uses the dice, but no skill points or anything like that, the skills a character has depends on his class (wizards getting different skills than warriors, some similar to clerics and few like a thief) AND his occupation

moreover the skills shouldn't be set, but rather up to the Ref as to if it is appropriate for a class to have this 'skill'

the more you leave to a good DM...I mean ref...the better

if I can quote the playtest I was part of

"What is the Armor bonus for using my sheep as a shield?"
'+1 shield bonus, but it requires both hands to wield'
"SWEET!"
'oh, and it takes damage too'
"its already dead from the fireball traps"
'....then you still get a +1 for using a dead sheep'
"'DEAD SHEEP! DEAD SHEEP!"'


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 Post subject: Re: No Skill Chapter
PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:07 am 
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Cold-Hearted Immortal
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Location: Chicago suburbs
Summer-Knight925 wrote:
there should be one or two background (0 lvl 'class') skills that a character gets and then some 'class "skills"'
Keep in mind that the DCC RPG is designed not to have a skill system at all, really. As in the old days of OD&D, the background gives suggestions for clever players to insert opportunities rather than having to have a full skill list to bring in limitations.

What I mean is that if you have no skill list then players are apt to try things. "Well, I'm a carpenter so would I have any idea on how to wedge the door closed?" If there is a skill list the player often looks at the list, decides that he doesn't have the appropriate skill, and then moves on.

In this way, the lack of a rule actually encourages creativity.

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DCC Minister of Propaganda; Deputized 6/8/11
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DCC RPG playtester 2011, C&C playtester 2003,T&T since 2003,
ADRP Since 1993, OD&D player since 1975

"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs, He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own."
-- Gary Gygax
"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!"
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 Post subject: Re: No Skill Chapter
PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:55 am 
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Chaos-Summoning Sorcerer

Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:28 am
Posts: 779
As I said elsewhere, think of your starting occupation as a mini-class that provides a narrow area of knowledge that you can also tap into when you are trying to do stuff.


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 Post subject: Re: No Skill Chapter
PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 2:15 pm 
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Ill-Fated Peasant

Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:26 pm
Posts: 8
That is what I meant, skills are case sensitive and...well using your example, a carpenter would be able to attempt to wedge a door closer, same if a forester wanted to see if this bush was native to these parts

or like during our play test, the elven artisan used his clay to shape a clay 'glove' to open doors, in fear of the door hurting us (Portal under the Stars, first door)

then of course having the characters class add a little bit more to what they can do, in fact the only reason the word 'skills' comes into this argument is because in other games they use skills

they should be 'trained rolls' meaning something the character can do, such as carpentry (wedging a door closed) shaping clay or...well not sure what a caravan guard would be able to do...maybe reading a map, but something similar

something the character learned to do during either his occupational training or from his class

*Note: racial classes should get 'trained rolls' based upon how the race operates in that setting...if the ref wants to use fantasy cliches, the elf gets bonuses with forests, nature and magic, dwarves get caves and architecture, gems and ales and halflings get the skill of being dragged into adventures by 13 dwarves and a wizard only to have their nephew go on a much more epic adventure and throw a piece of the treasure you got on your adventure into a bloody volcano..its a 'skill' in some worlds


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 Post subject: Re: No Skill Chapter
PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:30 pm 
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Mighty-Thewed Reaver
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Joined: Sun May 04, 2008 6:00 pm
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mudpyr8 wrote:
Each of these orders of magnitude is, IMO, best modeled by mapping to the standard deviation of whatever dice mechanic you use. Standard Deviation for d20 is 6 (5.91). So, using a very simple progression DC 11 is Untrained, DC 17 is Trained, DC 23 is Expert, and DC 29 is Master.

Interesting post, but please don't use the standard deviation for a single die roll. The predictive power of the standard deviation is only useful for normal distributions, and a single die roll is definitely not normal--it is flat (at least, if the die is true...).


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