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 Post subject: Concept guidelines
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:13 pm 
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Wild-Eyed Zealot

Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:38 am
Posts: 67
Recently I dug into some indie RPGs and was amazed by them. There were some many interesting settings, fitting mechanics, new ways to play - and most were fun. So, I improved my gamedesign ability a little... %)

Comparing the systems, I was thinking of Eldritch's strong and weak points. Got many ideas.

So, the main advantage of Eldritch RP is its ability system: universal, flexible, as broad or detailed as you wish it to be, not easily broken. This is done to implement a wonderful principle: concept is the king. Imagine a character and flesh him or her (or it) out with abilities. No class restriction to say "no, you can't do that", no heavy, layered mechanics to hinder you. This is how it supposed to work, in my opinion.

Following are my thought of how Eldritch gem can be cut into a brilliant.

1) All my players were displeased (to various degrees) that they had to spend some precious points to raise mechanics-tied abilities, such as agility or endurance. They weren't part of the concept as is, but were assumed by it. Such as, one of the characters was a plane-traveler with a tiny pet dragon (actually, the character was a pet, not the dragon). Useful dragon's abilities were bought for character's CP (as part of his concept), as were some Knowledge and Contacts abilities for the character. The player imagined his avatar as a rogue-type, so he _assumed_ his cunning and combat abilities should be more than average. So, he had to buy Reflexes, Speed and Willpower, which are not as interesting and important to concept.
I think that annoying thing is not the obligation to buy non-tailored abilities, but the need to remember them. No matter what great abilities you imagined and plan to use - to stand out - you have to keep in mind that some points should be stored for mechanics-tied abilities. In other systems this annoyance is absent because points for _attributes_ and skills are separate.

In Eldritch, I think, this can be done with pre-gened archetypes or templates, like a concept basis - warrior (weapon skills), dodger (agility and reflexes), sturdy (endurance, resistance)... They would work like racial packages. Just grab a package or two (with listed CP cost) - and you don't have to worry about basic abilities.

2) We can't predict every concept that will be played with Eldritch - and we shouldn't, that would be a restriction, right? So, what the system really need is guidelines for different abilities. Here and there I encounter various solutions of unusual mechanics: add plain modifier; you can't use Mastery under these conditions; use only basic ability die rank under these conditions; add the lowest die from the ability chain; avoid abilities that add to damage; apply this Specialization as Mastery for following Specs; and so on. I don't know which is more balanced, precise or gets better results.

There should be guidelines for implementing various concepts into action. They should answer such question as:
- How to represent tricky abilities in terms of the system? For example, what Specializations and Masteries fit Speed ability (for speed-centered character - some humanoid cheetah)? What other abilities are recommended for such concept? What difference do they make mechanically?
- How to represent even more tricky concepts - such as mounts, familiars, construct crafting, skyship sailing, cursed characters? Usually these questions are addressed in supplemental books, I know, but most of them can be dealt with easy and elegant principles. As with pet dragon above: most of his draconic features were unusable by the character (the dragon just wouldn't use them for character's benefit) while few of them that were useful were bought with CP, just like if they were the character's abilities. Balance - check, elegance - check, minimum rules modification - check.
- How to handle unusual situations? What difference does it make if the conditions are beneficial or otherwise? What if the character acquired a special tool? What if he has to use his ability in unusual way or aimed for unusual results? How does one ability/character help another?
- As a bonus, ideas for exciting concepts and how they are represented in Eldritch abilities. Now that would be a tasty part! Read and spark your imagination, get instant desire to play and experience something not felt before!


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 Post subject: Re: Concept guidelines
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 4:53 am 
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Cold-Blooded Diabolist

Joined: Sat Sep 08, 2007 11:32 pm
Posts: 528
EvilCat wrote:
I think that annoying thing is not the obligation to buy non-tailored abilities, but the need to remember them. No matter what great abilities you imagined and plan to use - to stand out - you have to keep in mind that some points should be stored for mechanics-tied abilities. In other systems this annoyance is absent because points for _attributes_ and skills are separate.


ERP has no skills derivative or dependent on related attributes. So where's the obligation to buy non-tailored abilities? If the player is frustrated because his concept assumes a higher level of several abilities than what's possible at first level, why not start the campaign off at a higher level? That would grant more character points to work with.

Quote:
In Eldritch, I think, this can be done with pre-gened archetypes or templates, like a concept basis - warrior (weapon skills), dodger (agility and reflexes), sturdy (endurance, resistance)... They would work like racial packages. Just grab a package or two (with listed CP cost) - and you don't have to worry about basic abilities.


We did this on page 11 with the occupations, though even those are only presented as a list of suggestions. They don't subsume mechanics-tied abilities exclusively, as you can see. Must every rogue have high speed and willpower? Why force that? A thug or con-man may not.

Quote:
2) We can't predict every concept that will be played with Eldritch - and we shouldn't, that would be a restriction, right? So, what the system really need is guidelines for different abilities.


You mean guidelines for creating new abilities or variations on existing, right?

Quote:
Here and there I encounter various solutions of unusual mechanics: add plain modifier; you can't use Mastery under these conditions; use only basic ability die rank under these conditions; add the lowest die from the ability chain; avoid abilities that add to damage; apply this Specialization as Mastery for following Specs; and so on. I don't know which is more balanced, precise or gets better results.


Hmmm. "apply this Specialization as Mastery for following Specs"...that's an interesting one. Odd. Pardon my ignorance, but could you cite a page number for that?

Quote:
There should be guidelines for implementing various concepts into action. They should answer such question as:
- How to represent tricky abilities in terms of the system? For example, what Specializations and Masteries fit Speed ability (for speed-centered character - some humanoid cheetah)? What other abilities are recommended for such concept? What difference do they make mechanically?


When you ask "what other abilities are recommended for such concept" you're talking about templates. That's not a bad idea, but it's a little different than the occupational chart on page 11. You're talking about something more fleshed out for each concept. Such a thing could fill an entire book on it's own (never a bad thing!). And I think templates are the best way to exelmply various uses of the broad-based skills in the game, rather than trying to list more and more words to describe additional specializations and/or masteries.

Quote:
- How to represent even more tricky concepts - such as mounts, familiars, construct crafting, skyship sailing, cursed characters? Usually these questions are addressed in supplemental books, I know, but most of them can be dealt with easy and elegant principles. As with pet dragon above: most of his draconic features were unusable by the character (the dragon just wouldn't use them for character's benefit) while few of them that were useful were bought with CP, just like if they were the character's abilities. Balance - check, elegance - check, minimum rules modification - check.


My only concern there is I've only got 96 pages to work with and it's already filled out. Something in the core rules would be removed to make room for that stuff...it would work better as supplemental. Again, like templates, a book of examples is a better guideline than trying to write a step-by-step guide to "tricky concepts". Better to show than tell in those cases.

Quote:
- How to handle unusual situations? What difference does it make if the conditions are beneficial or otherwise? What if the character acquired a special tool? What if he has to use his ability in unusual way or aimed for unusual results? How does one ability/character help another?


One example here is extra invisibility rules. I can need the need for the additions brought up there to be in the core rules, and I can stuff it into a sidebar, so expect that. As for those other questions...I thought those things are better handled by the GM on the fly. The only conditional modifiers I've seen deal with things like height advantage, speed of opponent movement, or flanking, or terrain considerations. Do you want a chart for that stuff, as in D&D?

Quote:
As a bonus, ideas for exciting concepts and how they are represented in Eldritch abilities. Now that would be a tasty part! Read and spark your imagination, get instant desire to play and experience something not felt before!


Again, templates. I think a book of templates is a great idea.


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 Post subject: Re: Concept guidelines
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 9:18 am 
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Wild-Eyed Zealot

Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:38 am
Posts: 67
dancross wrote:
We did this on page 11 with the occupations, though even those are only presented as a list of suggestions. They don't subsume mechanics-tied abilities exclusively, as you can see. Must every rogue have high speed and willpower? Why force that? A thug or con-man may not.

Yeah, I know and that's what I told the players. It's not a fault, it's an opportunity. But still, there is system to their frustration. Almost all of them got to the point where all CPs was spent on concept abilities and then - "wait, I have to raise my reflexes or I'll be sluggish!". Something like that.
There surely should be something that can be done to avoid that.

dancross wrote:
Hmmm. "apply this Specialization as Mastery for following Specs"...that's an interesting one. Odd. Pardon my ignorance, but could you cite a page number for that?

Sorry, I haven't made this clear... I mostly cited houserules that were suggested in this forum and wikis. This Spec tweak was mine, for Felids race (for their Hunting ability).

dancross wrote:
I thought those things are better handled by the GM on the fly. The only conditional modifiers I've seen deal with things like height advantage, speed of opponent movement, or flanking, or terrain considerations. Do you want a chart for that stuff, as in D&D?

To be able to do something on the fly you have to have resolution methods in your head. In D&D, you can really use only the DM's best friend: "+2 for beneficial conditions, -2 for penalizing conditions". Most other modifiers come from that rule of thumb.
In Eldrich, plain bonuses are tricky. With mere +3 bonus anyone can do simple (1d4) task in 100% cases. Specialist would only require +2 to be 100% successful. Anyway, plain bonuses can shift roll results heavily, and I suspect that any die bigger than d4 will do the same.
Thus, I'm not sure how to give bonuses for different conditions. Especially little pleasant bonuses that improve chances just a little, to reward player's smart thinking.

dancross wrote:
You mean guidelines for creating new abilities or variations on existing, right?

Rather I mean _details_ on existing and new abilities. Basically, IMHO, there should be as little interlayer between concept in player's imagination and its game implementation as possible. Like... You think "Oh, I was to play a knight!", then you write:

Riding d8 > Gallop d6
> Charge d6
> Horse Care d4

...and then you know how it works in-game. No considerations like "oh, this skill is cool, but it doesn't add anything, so it's useless... I better just state this in background information". I know that for a skill to matter you have to play a specific type of game. Steed care, for example, is usually omitted from heroic setting, but if the player wants it - it should play some role in this game. Every character should have a chance to shine with his abilities.
So... How _do_ you make such abilities work? What makes them better than another rank in Reflexes? This is an important question, I think.

Templates... Really, after D&D this word sounds so heavy to me %) and somehow it connects with "stereotype" rather than with "ideas" and "suggestions". I mean, you may want pre-made template for basic combat functionality, but not for your unique character concept, no?

(I'm not 100% sure how does the tone of my posts sound in English... Well, I'm often not sure of my tone, in any language. Anyway, I didn't mean to force my opinion, or to announce that system is flawed, or to teach you what is the right way to play Eldritch RP... I just got some fresh ideas and to share it. It would be great if they'll help something.)


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 Post subject: Re: Concept guidelines
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 9:13 am 
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Cold-Blooded Diabolist

Joined: Sat Sep 08, 2007 11:32 pm
Posts: 528
hey, just checking in. I haven't had time to respond yet, but I'm still here. Nothing is wrong with your tone, Evilcat! I always appreciate suggestions :lol:

I'll be back...


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 Post subject: Re: Concept guidelines
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 9:40 am 
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Wild-Eyed Zealot

Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:38 am
Posts: 67
No sweat, I can relate to free time bottlenecks.


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 Post subject: Re: Concept guidelines
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 4:33 am 
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Cold-Blooded Diabolist

Joined: Sat Sep 08, 2007 11:32 pm
Posts: 528
EvilCat wrote:
dancross wrote:
...Almost all of them got to the point where all CPs was spent on concept abilities and then - "wait, I have to raise my reflexes or I'll be sluggish!". Something like that.
There surely should be something that can be done to avoid that.


I suppose you could split your ability selections into "survival" and "other"? Grant a bonus rank to any "other" ability increased from D4 or zero for the very first time. So, for example, you have a player who thinks his character ought to be quite stealthy. Fine, he spends 2CPs, bringing stealth up from the default D4 to D6. Then, because it works with his character concept, he get's a bonus step, bringing it to D8.

It might be interesting to experiment with a bonus rank for "survival" abilities associated with a particular occupation. Note this is different than the racial "packages", which pretty much force allocation of character points from the onset.

What do you think of the "bonus step" idea?

Quote:
To be able to do something on the fly you have to have resolution methods in your head. In D&D, you can really use only the DM's best friend: "+2 for beneficial conditions, -2 for penalizing conditions". Most other modifiers come from that rule of thumb. In Eldritch, plain bonuses are tricky. With mere +3 bonus anyone can do simple (1d4) task in 100% cases. Specialist would only require +2 to be 100% successful. Anyway, plain bonuses can shift roll results heavily, and I suspect that any die bigger than d4 will do the same. Thus, I'm not sure how to give bonuses for different conditions. Especially little pleasant bonuses that improve chances just a little, to reward player's smart thinking.


+1 to ability roll for good related use, strategy, or tactic.
+2 to ability roll for great related use, strategy, or tactic.
-1 to ability roll for poor judgment, disadvantageous position, or tricky circumstance.
-2 to ability roll for terrible judgment, disastrous position, or unlucky circumstance.

Quote:
Rather I mean _details_ on existing and new abilities. Basically, IMHO, there should be as little interlayer between concept in player's imagination and its game implementation as possible. Like... You think "Oh, I was to play a knight!", then you write:

Riding d8 > Gallop d6
> Charge d6
> Horse Care d4

...and then you know how it works in-game. No considerations like "oh, this skill is cool, but it doesn't add anything, so it's useless... I better just state this in background information". I know that for a skill to matter you have to play a specific type of game. Steed care, for example, is usually omitted from heroic setting, but if the player wants it - it should play some role in this game. Every character should have a chance to shine with his abilities.
So... How _do_ you make such abilities work? What makes them better than another rank in Reflexes? This is an important question, I think.


You're right that the GM needs to pencil those details into the adventures themselves. Such skills, especially specialized forms, often get neglected by the players of RPGs, especially if the game is mostly combat encounters. But if the player takes a skill, the GM should make note, and try to come up with ways it can come into play. And if you use the idea of "survival" versus "other" abilities, the player would get a single step bonus to the rank.

Quote:
Templates... Really, after D&D this word sounds so heavy to me %) and somehow it connects with "stereotype" rather than with "ideas" and "suggestions". I mean, you may want pre-made template for basic combat functionality, but not for your unique character concept, no?


Right. So, do you think the occupational guidelines on page 11 might work better for your group with the idea for bonus steps to non-mechanically tied abilities?


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 Post subject: Re: Concept guidelines
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:57 am 
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Wild-Eyed Zealot

Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:38 am
Posts: 67
dancross wrote:
What do you think of the "bonus step" idea?


Ooh, I have an idea of somewhat different solution:
First, I should list mechanics-tied abilities for the players - they should treat them as attributes, even if they are raised from the same pool as other abilities. Shouldn't be a problem here, attributes are a common concept.
Second, a houserule: pick N abilities and/or specializations (except for ones in mechanics-tied list above): you have 1 free rank in them.

This is basically the same as "bonus step" idea and it's like giving out 2*N additional CP for concept abilities. Players love bonuses %)

dancross wrote:
+1 to ability roll for good related use, strategy, or tactic.
+2 to ability roll for great related use, strategy, or tactic.
-1 to ability roll for poor judgment, disadvantageous position, or tricky circumstance.
-2 to ability roll for terrible judgment, disastrous position, or unlucky circumstance.


Just what I need! Thanks.

dancross wrote:
You're right that the GM needs to pencil those details into the adventures themselves. Such skills, especially specialized forms, often get neglected by the players of RPGs, especially if the game is mostly combat encounters. But if the player takes a skill, the GM should make note, and try to come up with ways it can come into play.


Well, you're right, the core rules need but a single paragraph on this to work out all issues - something like you said here and a couple of how-to's.
Anyway, whenever I'll have an ability/concept idea and time to write it down, I'll put in to Eldritch wiki. That what it's for %)


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 Post subject: Re: Concept guidelines
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:28 pm 
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How about having a set of "physical" Abilities (Agility, Endurance, Reflexes, and Willpower) that are set at character creation? You put CPs into them when you create the character, and they are then fixed (no more CPs can be added). Except maybe at certain levels, when one Ability could be advanced (similar to the increase in ability scores in D&D v3 -- every 4th level).
This would encourage the training in other (non-game-mechanic related) Abilities, while still allowing improvement in "class" Abiliites, such as Arcanum, Melee, Stealth, etc.


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