Current direction and skills.

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Agamemnon
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Current direction and skills.

Post by Agamemnon » 16 Jan 2017, 19:54

Just giving an update, and throwing out an item for discussion.

Core Mechanic.
The core mechanic for the new version has changed, somewhat, but I think it's a direction that gives us the best of both worlds.

Core Mechanic wrote:
  • Attributes and Skills are separate categories of stats, neither of which directly interact with the other in purchase or advancement.
  • Each is ranked on the same scale, ultimately between 2 and 8 for normal humans, with 9-10 being exceptional territory for someone who picked a Tier 5 in that area.
  • Your rank in any given attribute or skill has a secondary value, from 0-3. 1-3 is worth 0, 4-6 is worth 1, 7-9 is worth 2, and 10 is worth 3. This roughly maps to tiers of competency per the narrative description of those values. If for whatever reason you would have more than 3 (Proficiency counts as a skill in some situations) it maxes out at 3.
  • When an attribute or skill check is called for, the specific item forms the basis of the pool.
  • The "associated skill" rule has been jettisoned entirely for Tapping. When you role-play or narrate your attempt at making a check in such a way that another skill or attribute would come into play, you can tap it's secondary value to add to your pool. You may have up to two things tapped in any given check.
  • Likewise, if you're helping someone with something, you now use your secondary value for that thing.
  • For a thing to be tapped, it has to directly apply to the task at hand, but not simply overlap the definition of the skill. Agility can't be tapped to make you run faster on a straight Athletics check, but if the task at hand was "weaving nimbly through an obstacle course" then it makes sense.


Tapping in action:
My intent in the narrative is to challenge the captain for command and inspire a mutiny aboard the ship. Depending on how I role-play my challenge, the most appropriate skill is probably Command.
  • If I've done this in front of the crew, I might be tapping Oration because I'm applying social pressure by proxy. I need to role-play this as challenging him through this big speech.
  • If this is about me trying to eyeball him down and challenge his nerve, Will as an attribute would apply for tapping as we size each other up.
  • If I'm arguing to the crew that he is no longer fit for Command because of some dangerous tactical blunder he's made, I can tap in Warfare in my speechifying. Alternatively, I can cite some breach of naval etiquette if I have an appropriate skill -- Lore or Culture (Imperial Navy).
Any of combination of up to two works, depending on how you play the scene.

As a nice side-effect, your ability to Help or Tap things is now directly tied to how good you are at the thing rather than being a flat +1 bonus as it was before. It also now requires you to actually have some investment in the individual thing to be useful in that regard.


Skill Changes
One of the things I wound up pretty heavily auditing this draft was making a bunch of different character concepts to see how they actually mapped to our mechanics. Skills underwent something of an audit in this regard. Our current skill list is as follows:
Skills wrote:
  • Athletics
  • Command
  • Coercion
  • Craft
  • Culture
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Gambling
  • Horsemanship
  • Impersonation
  • Larceny
  • Legerdemain
  • Lore (Specific)
  • Manipulation
  • Medicine
  • Mercantile
  • Navigation
  • Negotiation
  • Oration
  • Perform
  • Seamanship
  • Stewardship
  • Politics
  • Stealth
  • Streetwise
  • Survival
  • Teamster
  • Warfare
New skills are in italics.
Removed from list: Intrigue, Steel, Trade.

The first major change was the removal of Trade as a skill. It's a skill that kind of bugged me from the beginning as it didn't have a particularly good mechanical definition. It was a catch-all bucket for "those skills we don't want to bother making." Worse, the actual implementation was wonky, as it was more literally "the stuff you'd know from your trade that isn't covered elsewhere." This had an interesting effect of making Trade (Lawyer) a knowledge skill, mostly, but Trade (Sailor) would cover all kinds of practical things from shipboard functions to tying knots and working with rope -- conceivably even mild carpentry. Meanwhile, Trade (Thief) was literally useless, as all thief tasks were already a skill elsewhere, including "criminal contacts" -- streetwise. Trade (Noble) had a similar issue.

Instead, we added a few extra skills and removed trade entirely. From this decision Craft, Mercantile, Navigation, Seamanship, and Stewardship came. Things that are physical "making stuff" skills are now craft. Mercantile deals with economics, trading, appraisal, and so forth. Seamanship is exactly what you'd expect, as is Navigation. Stewardship is running of a property or business and managing the resources of a household. Between the above and the existing skill-set, I couldn't come up with any trade that might have applied that we couldn't replicate in some fashion.

The second big change was splitting up "Manipulation." To play a classic thief character would have required Athletics, Larceny, Legerdemain, Stealth, and Streetwise - to say nothing of any optional skills you might want. A rangery character would take at least Athletics, Stealth and Survival, as well as some kind of combat proficiency. Plus, taking the local area as a Lore skill is always helpful. Making a Face character though? All one really needed was to max out Manipulation. You could take Oration, if you wanted to broaden things a bit, but all you need is Manipulation. That seemed sort of funky to me. On the other hand, I didn't want to go the Burning Wheel route of having twenty social skills - intimidate, seduce, gossip, soothing platitudes, harsh truths, blah blah blah. Kinda fun, but also somewhat narrowing.

Ultimately, what we came up with was treating social skills a bit more like proficiencies in that they don't exactly describe what you are doing but how you're going about it. All three ultimately are attempting the same thing - persuade someone to do what you want them to do, but in different ways.
  • Coercion: Do what I want or else. You're making no pretense about them being on board with this, you just want them to fear the consequences. Interrogation, intimidation, torture, blackmail.
  • Manipulation: Subtle persuasion. You're convincing them that they want to do what you want them to do, either because you're trying to convince them that it's a good idea inherently, or because they will get some kind of benefit. Persuasion, seduction, gossiping, intrigue, bribery.
  • Negotiation:Overt bargaining. You and I will sit down and come up with a mutually quitable solution that we both profit from. Diplomacy, arbitration, negotiation, counseling.
The skills are now not "what you're doing" but the tactic you take when you approach trying to convince someone to do something. I'm not sure if anyone else has taken this approach to social skills before, but I'm pretty happy with it.

As a neat added bonus, this is a nice place to say something about your character. How do they relate to other people? Investing in coercion would suggest that your character is the kind that tries to force people into doing what they want, whether that makes them a corporate raider or a schoolhouse bully. Someone who is high in manipulation could be a worm-tongued vizier who is secretly the power behind the throne -- or that cute barmaid who knows how to get the most out of her tips. Negotiations could be high-powered deal-makers and business tycoons, diplomats and lawyers, or simply someone who prefers a straightforward approach to their dealings and prides themselves on their fair dealings

Intrigue disappeared as a skill during this rearrangement because it clearly just became a form of manipulation. As an aside, I'm debating on changing the name of Negotiation, because I also imagine it to be the skill that you'd use to de-escalate conflict, and because negotiation is one of the functions of it so the name is a bit literal (where coercion and manipulation describe the general relationships, rather than a specific function of the skills in question). Arbitration, maybe? Diplomacy sounds accurate, but always makes me think of 3.5e and the "diplomancer" bullshit.

The final additions to the list: Gambling was supposed to be in from the beginning, we just finally came up with an idea for gambling mechanics we actually liked.

Finally, Steel was lost as it just wasn't coming up enough and since we are no longer rolling X+Y by default, it seemed easier to make it a function of Will.

For Discussion
As I'm putting all this together, I'm stepping back and looking at the whole picture. Between Tapping as a thing for extra dice, SAs, the expanded range of skills and attributes, I'm starting to wonder: are expertise worth it? +1 die for your specialty is a neat way to get just a tiny amount more customization but in the scheme of things it adds one more bit of clutter. SAs are giving you extra dice because it's important to your character. Tapping is giving you extra dice because you are going out of your way to play the scene in such a way to engage other parts of your character (which itself is kind of a neat tactical/creative mini-game). Expertise are an auto-bonus because your character is slightly better at picking locks than disarming traps. From a flavor perspective, it gives you a neat place to make statements about your character, but you can do the same in other ways (Lore skills are awesome, in that way) and +1 die almost doesn't seem worth having an extra moving part in the system.

Are you particularly attached to Expertise?
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by taelor » 16 Jan 2017, 23:15

Overall, I think I like most of the changes. A little sad to see Trade skills go -- I liked the flexibility that they brought to the skill system -- but I can see how they add a wonkiness that you might not want in your game. (Side note, are backgrounds out as well?) I was never really particularly attached to expertise.

One minor concern with the switch from associated skills to tapping is that it seems like it'd be easier to tap an attribute than a skill. Assuming the attribute scale laid out in the other thread, it seems likely that for any given skill roll, a character will have at least one applicable attribute at 4+, if not two such attributes. Skills would then have to be in the 7+ range (i.e "The height of what normal people can actually achieve") in order to compete. All but the most skill-oriented characters are unlikely to have more than one such skill, if any at all. This would seem to devalue skills relative to stats somewhat. On the other hand, severing the direct connection between skills and stats improves the relative positions of skills, so maybe this is all a non-issue. I'd have to see how it works out in actual play before forming a firmer opinion. If it does become an issue, you might consider adding a rule stipulating that no more than one attribute may be tapped in skill rolls.
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by Agamemnon » 17 Jan 2017, 00:08

taelor wrote:Overall, I think I like most of the changes. A little sad to see Trade skills go -- I liked the flexibility that they brought to the skill system -- but I can see how they add a wonkiness that you might not want in your game. (Side note, are backgrounds out as well?) I was never really particularly attached to expertise.

One minor concern with the switch from associated skills to tapping is that it seems like it'd be easier to tap an attribute than a skill. Assuming the attribute scale laid out in the other thread, it seems likely that for any given skill roll, a character will have at least one applicable attribute at 4+, if not two such attributes. Skills would then have to be in the 7+ range (i.e "The height of what normal people can actually achieve") in order to compete. All but the most skill-oriented characters are unlikely to have more than one such skill, if any at all. This would seem to devalue skills relative to stats somewhat. On the other hand, severing the direct connection between skills and stats improves the relative positions of skills, so maybe this is all a non-issue. I'd have to see how it works out in actual play before forming a firmer opinion. If it does become an issue, you might consider adding a rule stipulating that no more than one attribute may be tapped in skill rolls.


you can have up to two things of any type plugged into a roll. So two skills, one skill one attribute, two skills. A trait and a skill (edges & flaws are getting a facelift as well.) Whatever.

I don't think the attribute issue will be too bad simply because of how attributes and skills are structured, and the GM has veto on how the stuff is applied. You have to come up with a good argument for an attribute to apply, and for the most part it is more difficult than getting skills to apply. Plus, having multiple high attributes will tend to mean not having as many high skills, and vice-versa. So it kind of balances out in the end.

Backgrounds are still a thing, but I'm tinkering with the form they take as it's another case of "I know what we were going for but it doesn't feel like we defined it properly."
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by dysjunct » 17 Jan 2017, 13:01

I like expertise, but would be fine with seeing it go -- being marginally good at a subskill it not really the focus of the system.
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by DannyBoy » 17 Jan 2017, 16:50

Wouldn't Mercantile be sort of part and parcel with Negotiation? They seem to be pretty close to the same thing. Plus, if you're doing away with a hard currency system in favour of abstarcting everything, Mercantile seems kind of useless.

It also seems like you left Negotiation out of the master skills list. ;)
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by Agamemnon » 17 Jan 2017, 19:10

DannyBoy wrote:Wouldn't Mercantile be sort of part and parcel with Negotiation? They seem to be pretty close to the same thing. Plus, if you're doing away with a hard currency system in favour of abstarcting everything, Mercantile seems kind of useless.

The two share a degree of overlap, though mostly just in the form of haggling. Then again, I could also try to coerce you into giving me a better deal ("It'd be a shame of your government contracts dried up..") or manipulate you into giving me a better deal (The poor little orphan girl stares up at you, her stomach audibly growling "please, sir.. I can't afford that.."). Negotiation isn't unique in this instance.

On the other hand, you couldn't bring mercantile to arbitrate a diplomatic treaty or try to get a kidnapper to release his hostage. Likewise, Negotiation probably doesn't tell you anything about the price of goods, local economics, or the exchange of goods in general.

DannyBoy wrote:It also seems like you left Negotiation out of the master skills list. ;)

Good catch. Fixed.
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by Benedict » 18 Jan 2017, 05:37

DannyBoy wrote:Wouldn't Mercantile be sort of part and parcel with Negotiation?

I believe that its Stewardship that overlaps with Merchantile.
Stewardship is running of a property or business and managing the resources of a household.

Dunno if they need to be separate skills, feels they should be merged down to one. For cutting deals one could use either of the three social paired with Merchantile/Stewardship.

I'm unsure to the direction this is going, so I'm kinda reluctant to Expertise.

+1 Die was/is a marginal bonus. On the other hand you have Emphasis withing Proficiencies, making every Proficiency special. Expertise should be there, but it should make your Skill special, not a flat +1D. Otherwise someone who maxes out ie Larceny is equally good at everything across the board, and that feels dull.
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by Agamemnon » 18 Jan 2017, 19:10

Benedict wrote:
DannyBoy wrote:Wouldn't Mercantile be sort of part and parcel with Negotiation?

I believe that its Stewardship that overlaps with Merchantile.
Stewardship is running of a property or business and managing the resources of a household.

Dunno if they need to be separate skills, feels they should be merged down to one. For cutting deals one could use either of the three social paired with Merchantile/Stewardship.

One is about goods and trading, the other is about household/resource management.

Benedict wrote:I'm unsure to the direction this is going, so I'm kinda reluctant to Expertise.

+1 Die was/is a marginal bonus. On the other hand you have Emphasis withing Proficiencies, making every Proficiency special. Expertise should be there, but it should make your Skill special, not a flat +1D. Otherwise someone who maxes out ie Larceny is equally good at everything across the board, and that feels dull.

If you've got suggestions, feel free. I don't know that I'm capable of creating 2-3 variant special rules for every skill in the game. At least not in the timeframe I have. On the other hand, it's worth noting that part of the reason we distinguish proficiencies with emphasis is to make them play differently when they are all ultimately about the same thing - hitting someone with a weapon. We chose to go that route in lieu of giving maneuvers variable activation costs. Skills are all about different things, and the expertise mechanics as they currently stand are about allowing you to say "my character is specifically good at this one thing more than another" within the same skill. I'm just not sure it works very well now. The game is neither really about the minutiae of your skills nor does the current solution really do a meaningful job of distinguishing those things.
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by taelor » 18 Jan 2017, 20:19

If you want to make a game about the minutia of the player's skills, go the Burning Wheel route and have 300 skills. Barring that, it's probably best not to even bother with distinguishing between Politics (Imperial Senate) and Politics (Foreign Policy) and the like.
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by Benedict » 18 Jan 2017, 23:19

Agamemnon wrote:
Benedict wrote:
DannyBoy wrote:Wouldn't Mercantile be sort of part and parcel with Negotiation?

I believe that its Stewardship that overlaps with Merchantile.
Stewardship is running of a property or business and managing the resources of a household.

Dunno if they need to be separate skills, feels they should be merged down to one. For cutting deals one could use either of the three social paired with Merchantile/Stewardship.

One is about goods and trading, the other is about household/resource management.

Agamemnon wrote:The two share a degree of overlap, though mostly just in the form of haggling. Then again, I could also try to coerce you into giving me a better deal ("It'd be a shame of your government contracts dried up..") or manipulate you into giving me a better deal (The poor little orphan girl stares up at you, her stomach audibly growling "please, sir.. I can't afford that.."). Negotiation isn't unique in this instance.

On the other hand, you couldn't bring mercantile to arbitrate a diplomatic treaty or try to get a kidnapper to release his hostage. Likewise, Negotiation probably doesn't tell you anything about the price of goods, local economics, or the exchange of goods in general.

By what I read both Merch and Steward are about the same thing. Administration and running the economics of an establishment (household/business). Deals, as you correctly pointed out, is the realm of Negotiate/Manipulate/Coercion.

Quality/price of goods? That sounds like a Craft knowledge roll.
Local economy lore? That could be Local knowledge roll.
Finding the perfect place to sell? That could be Streetwise.

Could be wrong though.

Agamemnon wrote:
Benedict wrote:I'm unsure to the direction this is going, so I'm kinda reluctant to Expertise.

+1 Die was/is a marginal bonus. On the other hand you have Emphasis withing Proficiencies, making every Proficiency special. Expertise should be there, but it should make your Skill special, not a flat +1D. Otherwise someone who maxes out ie Larceny is equally good at everything across the board, and that feels dull.

If you've got suggestions, feel free. I don't know that I'm capable of creating 2-3 variant special rules for every skill in the game. At least not in the timeframe I have. On the other hand, it's worth noting that part of the reason we distinguish proficiencies with emphasis is to make them play differently when they are all ultimately about the same thing - hitting someone with a weapon. We chose to go that route in lieu of giving maneuvers variable activation costs. Skills are all about different things, and the expertise mechanics as they currently stand are about allowing you to say "my character is specifically good at this one thing more than another" within the same skill. I'm just not sure it works very well now. The game is neither really about the minutiae of your skills nor does the current solution really do a meaningful job of distinguishing those things.

taelor wrote:If you want to make a game about the minutia of the player's skills, go the Burning Wheel route and have 300 skills. Barring that, it's probably best not to even bother with distinguishing between Politics (Imperial Senate) and Politics (Foreign Policy) and the like.

Woa, never said anything about adding another layer per Skill to 20-30 skills! This is plain overkill. I'm just saying that Expertise with a different effect than +1D would not be bad.

Two options come to mind: When you have Expertise either reduce TN by one, or task OB by one. And make Expertise pricey instead of free. Min Skill Rank3 to have Expertise, have it bought with Skill point(s) instead of getting it for free. Maybe even limit the number of max Expertises to your Acumen rank.
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by DannyBoy » 24 Jan 2017, 16:58

So it's been almost a week and no news on the new draft. Just wondering if we're going to be seeing anything new by Thursday?
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by dysjunct » 24 Jan 2017, 22:33

It's always Thursday.

I am taking the radio silence to mean furious work being done by sweat-laden designers. Half-empty bottle of Jack optional.
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by Agamemnon » 25 Jan 2017, 01:45

DannyBoy wrote:So it's been almost a week and no news on the new draft. Just wondering if we're going to be seeing anything new by Thursday?

A lot of work is being done, but I don't know that Henri will have time to play editor by Thursday. He's been hit hard by finals. I've been flying solo on a lot of stuff the last two weeks or so. On the plus side, I hear his finals are going well, which is awesome.

dysjunct wrote:It's always Thursday.

I am taking the radio silence to mean furious work being done by sweat-laden designers. Half-empty bottle of Jack optional.

The bottle of jack is never optional.
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by thirtythr33 » 31 Jan 2017, 02:00

I think it's safe to drop expertise. Or, to relegate expertise dice to some kind of "Expert" edge.
Otherwise, if you want to specialize at lockpicking over general Larceny, you can take something like Trade (Locksmith), Craft (Mechanisms) or Lore (Security Systems) to get a skill to Tap. It is unfortunately quite expensive to purchase, but it's the only way to boost the skill over 10.

It would be neat idea to have a skill roll to modify how much income you make per season, using your choice of Trade, Craft, Gambling, Mercantile or Stewardship.
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Re: Current direction and skills.

Post by Agamemnon » 31 Jan 2017, 17:04

thirtythr33 wrote:I think it's safe to drop expertise. Or, to relegate expertise dice to some kind of "Expert" edge.
Otherwise, if you want to specialize at lockpicking over general Larceny, you can take something like Trade (Locksmith), Craft (Mechanisms) or Lore (Security Systems) to get a skill to Tap. It is unfortunately quite expensive to purchase, but it's the only way to boost the skill over 10.

I was thinking about this as well. With Lore in particular, you have an excuse to stack specializations.

thirtythr33 wrote:It would be neat idea to have a skill roll to modify how much income you make per season, using your choice of Trade, Craft, Gambling, Mercantile or Stewardship.

I had just that in mind!
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