Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

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Agamemnon
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Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by Agamemnon » 05 Feb 2017, 21:36

One part update, one part teasing, one part feedback request.

For those who might be nervous right about now, rest assured that the core tenants of our combat system remain the same. CP split between a two-tempo round to fuel maneuvers that have to target specific wheels, etc. Most of what is getting shuffled around are the maneuvers list and the specific proficiencies we're using, though we've definitely added some new tricks which we'll unveil later. That's not what this conversation is about.

We've cut down the number of maneuvers you need to juggle by a solid third. At the time of writing, the core list has 20, down from 32. Before you panic, we actually found a way to do this that actually makes combat more dynamic while not actually losing any of the options you had before. This setup was actually what got Higgins aboard the idea of a new draft in the first place. It was a damned cool idea.

What I'm wondering now, and why this is being written:
We previously simplified some things that other TROS games didn't. Almost all of these, I'm still perfectly fine with. At the moment, with the new maneuver spread, one has me reconsidering:

Activation Cost
We made the decision even back in Song of Steel to make the activation cost of a maneuver independent of the proficiency. The advantage to this in streamlining and simplicity is obvious, especially when you have a great many maneuvers to juggle. Power Swing is AC1 no matter what proficiency you're using it. It also makes reference cards simpler as the AC can be easily listed on the card.

The downside of this, of course, is that it removes one of the primary options one could use to differentiate between proficiencies. A proficiency either has the maneuver, or it doesn't, though some emphases cheat this a bit (Sabers using Draw Cut for free, for instance). The problem with this approach is that when the majority of maneuvers can be used by the majority of proficiencies, the differences between them become less interesting and you have less of a reason to invest in multiple proficiencies. As we're paring down our total maneuvers, I wonder if it wouldn't be worth it to reconsider making activation costs based on the proficiency using it.

Strawpoll for anyone who might be interested http://www.strawpoll.me/12279345 and as always, feel free to respond with your thoughts.
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by thirtythr33 » 05 Feb 2017, 23:45

I like the idea of aggressively parsing down the available maneuvers to make you default or invest in multiple proficiencies. Ideally, you shouldn't be able to get by always sticking to the same proficiency (this is pretty much always going to be true since wrestling is so powerful).

As far as costs go, I like the current system which becomes even better when its more restrictive.

Eg, if shield bash were only available to "Sword and Shield" and I were using a Sabre with only points in Sabre, I could still access Shield Bash when defaulting. If this halves my combat pool, it is effectively doing something close to doubling the maneuver price without my having to remember anything new.

So really the price breaks down into 4 tiers:
  • Free, due to emphases
  • Normal, listed price
  • Hidden, increased price due to defaulting
  • N/A, never available to your weapons
That in my opinion is already more than enough granularity of price.

The unfortunate downside to this system is that savy players can min max when they choose to default. Defaulting Shield bash in first tempo will lower my combat pool, but doing so in the second tempo wont. Perhaps you could put in a penalty price for "changing proficiency" mid phrase, though.
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by Agamemnon » 06 Feb 2017, 05:11

thirtythr33 wrote:I like the idea of aggressively parsing down the available maneuvers to make you default or invest in multiple proficiencies.
The current idea behind how proficiencies are designed and what maneuvers "belong" to them is "If it can do the thing, it gets the thing." We've given the proficiencies a lot of leeway in this because the way our maneuvers are structured most maneuvers can be performed by most things anyway. The more we studied, the more that seemed to be the case in real life as well. It was less "what" the proficiency could do and more "how," but we don't have the specificity built into the maneuvers for the "how" to be of importance worth modeling.

As we cut down the master maneuver list in this edition, I realize that this is becoming even more the case, which is what prompted this discussion in the first place. Since most maneuvers can do most things, the most obvious way to distinguish them would be in variable costs -- thus most things could do most things, but not equally well.
thirtythr33 wrote:As far as costs go, I like the current system which becomes even better when its more restrictive.

Eg, if shield bash were only available to "Sword and Shield" and I were using a Sabre with only points in Sabre, I could still access Shield Bash when defaulting. If this halves my combat pool, it is effectively doing something close to doubling the maneuver price without my having to remember anything new.
RAW, Shield Bash is already restricted to Sword & Shield, Mass Weapons, and Spears. Sabers covers the use of curved blades on their own, or with a dagger or buckler in the off-hand. Shield Bash only works with proper shields, not buckers. The scenario presented doesn't work within the rules of the currently-available draft simply because you need a proper shield to shield bash (otherwise, you're just striking with a buckler). Thus, if you have a saber and heater shield you have to use the Sword & Shield proficiency, not the Saber proficiency.

We don't have rules for "using maneuvers from other proficiencies" simply because if the thing could be practically done within the context of the way the proficiency is designed, we already let you do it. If it's not listed, we just cut the thing off there and said you couldn't do it. On a similar note, the RAW don't currently allow you to switch proficiencies between tempo anyway. We never could think of a way to do this that wasn't either horribly clunky or incredibly punitive, otherwise you'd automatically adjust your pool size when you get into a grapple.
thirtythr33 wrote:So really the price breaks down into 4 tiers:
  • Free, due to emphases
  • Normal, listed price
  • Hidden, increased price due to defaulting
  • N/A, never available to your weapons
That in my opinion is already more than enough granularity of price.
As it stands within the current framework:
  • the fourth isn't an issue of proficiency at all but the weapon you're using. Granted, it will influence what proficiency you must use, but if the biggest difference between proficiency A and B is simply "the weapon" then we could save ourselves a lot of trouble and just assume maneuvers are universal and then treat the proficiencies as weapon skills.
  • I have a hard time counting the third as that isn't a "hidden price increase," so much as just "your proficiency can do a thing, or it can't." If we made our maneuvers way more granular and weapon-specific, this would be effective in distinguishing the proficiencies more. As it stands, we're actually going the opposite direction. (Do we need Shield Bash as a shield-specific attack? Why not just give a shield weapon stats and use the swing maneuver?) When most of the proficiencies can do most of the things, this becomes less and less useful as a differentiating mechanism.
  • The second needs no comment.
  • The first is the primary feature of differentiation, at this point. And as you pointed out, it's an AC adjustment, which is what's being suggested.
We explicitly wanted to continue the TROS tradition where proficiencies were styles, rather than specific weapon skills. Thus we wanted to try and make it so that most weapons could be used with more than one proficiency option to represent different ways to use it. With the system as it stands, though, the only ways a proficiency can be differentiated are by:
  • The weapons that work with it
  • The emphasis
  • Which maneuvers it has
If we assume that we're in a position where you can choose between two proficiencies, the first doesn't come into it.. and as the maneuvers seem to be more broadly applicable, the third is less significant. That means that the choice between one proficiency and another is going to just come down to which emphasis I prefer. The only difference between Saber and Sword & Buckler in the last draft was "do I want free draw cuts or advantaged follow-up strikes?" Neither benefit would be enough to make me consider investing in or defaulting to the other proficiency if I already had one of the two.

Likewise, if we assume I have a big Dane Axe, my options are Mass Weapons or Polearms to use it. If I have Mass Weapons 10, am I going to want to invest in Polearms and drop my rank down to 6 just to get access to Beat or save 1 AC on Hook/Expulsion? Probably not. Conversely, if I had Polearms 10, would it ever be worth learning Mass Weapons for my Dane Axe? Even with the buffed variant of the emphasis (+2 Damage when Power Swinging for AC1, rather than having to spend two dice to get +2 damage), that's hardly worth investing in.

If I have Spear 10, is it worth getting Polearms as an option to fight with my spear? Not really. The buff to reach advantage is more useful. Even if I picked up a halberd, I'd still probably be better off using my spear proficiency for it — at least until the other guy got control of reach. Then it's time to abandon it for a dagger or short sword.

The obvious response would be "maybe we need to buff emphases, then." That's not a bad idea, but we have to decide then whether the role of an emphasis is to color the way a style fights, or be the primary definition of it. If it's the latter, we're going to need to introduce more special rules for each, effectively, which increases the total volume of special rules in the system. I'm not sure if needing to write down and remember the special rules for each proficiency is better or worse than giving different ACs for different proficiencies. I'm not sure it's any simpler, certainly. The latter can have one matrix that covers everything. The former needs something written out for every rules exception.

As an alternate approach in the vein your suggestion, we could change the philosophy behind assigning proficiencies maneuvers. Instead of assuming that the associated maneuvers are "what that proficiency can do," we could assume every proficiency can do everything that the weapon used is capable of, but the listed maneuvers are the ones that the proficiency specializes in. We'd then say that if you're trying to do something outside of that specialization, it was penalized somehow. The obvious solution would be to pay double AC or something, but that's probably not enough incentive to convince me to invest in or default to another proficiency unless I'm forced to default (e.g., picking up a spear when I only have Sword & Shield). A better scaling solution might be to assume that any off-menu maneuvers are automatically at a disadvantage, but I don't like to use disadvantage as a broad-stroke mechanic as it doesn't stack with other sources of disadvantage.

So we're clear: I'm not hellbent on variable activation costs. However, if the design goal is "make it worth it to learn multiple proficiencies for the same weapon" (which is desirable if the proficiencies are supposed to be styles representing how you fight, rather than "with what") then the topic of "how to differentiate proficiencies when the maneuvers seem to be fairly universal" is one in need of exploration,
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by Benedict » 06 Feb 2017, 05:12

thirtythr33 wrote:So really the price breaks down into 4 tiers:
  • Free, due to emphases
  • Normal, listed price
  • Hidden, increased price due to defaulting
  • N/A, never available to your weapons
That in my opinion is already more than enough granularity of price.
Totally agree with thirty33 on that one.

With all due respect, now a hard question. Or better make it two hard questions. :lol:

What I really don't get is why you're trying to change things that made Bastards/Scoundrels appealing in the first place. Further I don't really get where this need is coming from. :?

I'm going to quote Bert Lance, even if I don't want to:
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Do note I get the whole overhaul idea, even if skeptical about it. Time will tell after all.

EDIT: Got ninja'd (again). While you do answer my questions I feel that you are over thinking it guys.

A Proficiency no matter what you want to call it, is a skill. Not Skill as in game parlance, but something you must learn to do, and you require tools to do it (weapons).

One thing is that some Emphases are too good to pass up. The halberd used with Spears proficiency is a good example. I think that this needs other Emphasis effects to remedy, not different AC costs.

One suggestion I've made earlier about Daggers, along with three new ones for Spears:
Daggers Emphasis
Close Quarters: +2CP at Refresh when you have Initiative. Applies only during a grapple or when you have Reach Control. Stacks with Reach Control for a total of +4CP.

Spears Emphasis
Superior Reach: When you have Reach Control you can favor one Target Wheel for free.
or
Superior Reach: When you have Reach Control choose a target. Said target suffers Disadvantage at Positioning Rolls against you.
or
Superior Reach: +2 extra dice used exclusively for Speed Contests while you have Reach Control.
Another thing is that there has been the suggestion for weapons and shields to get CP penalties like armor has. While not directly tied to Proficiencies, if implemented it will affect combat and Proficiencies.
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by Korbel » 06 Feb 2017, 10:47

Agamemnon wrote:So we're clear: I'm not hellbent on variable activation costs. However, if the design goal is "make it worth it to learn multiple proficiencies for the same weapon" (which is desirable if the proficiencies are supposed to be styles representing how you fight, rather than "with what") then the topic of "how to differentiate proficiencies when the maneuvers seem to be fairly universal" is one in need of exploration,
Maybe it's my lazy mood today, but I'm thinking now: "is it all worth the hassle?". Using multiple Proficiencies with a single weapon might sound cool, but seeing how troublesome it becomes... I think I'd like to see the rules as simple and quick in use as possible. The less bookkeeping, the better. Even if you have to sacrifice the diversion between various Proficiencies.
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by higgins » 06 Feb 2017, 12:15

Benedict wrote:What I really don't get is why you're trying to change things that made Bastards/Scoundrels appealing in the first place. Further I don't really get where this need is coming from. :?
If you're thinking that less maneuvers means less options, this is not the case. In fact, you'll be able to do much more than before.
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by Benedict » 06 Feb 2017, 13:19

higgins wrote:
Benedict wrote:What I really don't get is why you're trying to change things that made Bastards/Scoundrels appealing in the first place. Further I don't really get where this need is coming from. :?
If you're thinking that less maneuvers means less options, this is not the case. In fact, you'll be able to do much more than before.
I'm not worrying about less Maneuvers. I trust in what you say, and tbh, less Manuevers is not bad at all.

I'm worrying about different Maneuver AC per Proficiency, or even worse, per weapon. I just didn't clarify it. :D
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by nemedeus » 06 Feb 2017, 13:21

I'll be fine with either option, although I like the idea of proficiencies having their own "special moves".

If i were the author, i know i'd probably focus on the emphases, make them more juicy. For example, I like triggered effects for instance like the one for Daggers Ben suggested above.
On the other hand, his suggestions read a lot like D&D feats, which i can't say is a direction i would want to veer down into too much.
Benedict wrote: I'm worrying about different Maneuver AC per Proficiency, or even worse, per weapon. I just didn't clarify it. :D
Tbh though i think i could get behind "weapon emphasis" (that "stacks" with the proficiency emphasis?). Makes the choice of weapon/weapon codex more interesting. I get that they already kinda have that to an extent.
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by myanbar » 07 Feb 2017, 04:42

Activation costs varying based on proficiency is cancerous. Those were perhaps the worst parts of Riddle of Steel. Your game will be made worse if you implement that design. It's yet another thing to look up and keep track of, for virtually no benefit.
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by Benedict » 07 Feb 2017, 05:49

nemedeus wrote:If i were the author, i know i'd probably focus on the emphases, make them more juicy. For example, I like triggered effects for instance like the one for Daggers Ben suggested above.
On the other hand, his suggestions read a lot like D&D feats, which i can't say is a direction i would want to veer down into too much.
Bastards RAW every Emphasis is a rule exception. Much like Feats are in DnD 3E onward.

I fail to see why my Daggers and Spears Emphases suggestions read "a lot like DnD feats", when RAW Emphases don't. :?

A major difference in DnD is not the one exception introduced by a single Feat. It's the tree of exceptions (feats) one must follow to build his character navigating through the multitude of exceptions (feats).

A Proficiency Emphasis+Weapon Emphasis approach would feel even more DnDy, plus it will make things even more complicated with double exceptions. Dunno if its worth the hassle.

And another thing. Skills have been cut to size and they are seemingly getting simpler by ditching the X+Y concept.

While cutting down Maneuvers available adds to simplicity, making variable ACs adds a lot of complexity. Unless we are talking about a total of 3-4 Maneuvers here, so I'm bitchin' about it without real reason. :lol:
myanbar wrote:Activation costs varying based on proficiency is cancerous. Those were perhaps the worst parts of Riddle of Steel.
That's the reason I asked why do the authors change things that made Bastards appealing in the first place:
'Bastards FAQ wrote:Song of Steel did begin its as a "spiritual successor" to Jake Norwood's game, but when we started the project our first move was to begin deconstructing the design decisions made and rebuilding them in what we thought was a more unified manner. You could probably tell that first draft had been heavily inspired by TROS, but we were comfortable calling it it's own stand-alone game. When we made the shift to Band of Bastards, it spurred us to further re-examine our influences and solutions and there was even more rewriting involved.

You can absolutely see Jake's fingerprints on our work (he's even done some consulting in places where we've gotten stuck) and we've kept the heart of what we learned and loved in TROS, but creating a "successor" was never as important to us as doing what we thought would make for the best game, mechanically. In most cases this meant significant departures from the original to make our vision a reality. At this point, the Band of Bastards RPG is a whole different beast now, ready to stalk the wilds on its own.
Since Bastards/Scoundrel is a TROS-spiritual successor but a different beast of its own entirely, I fail to see why it must resort to some of TROS' most hideous aspects, namely variable ACs per Prof/Weapon/whatever.

Especially when that hideous aspect has already been removed. :twisted:
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by thirtythr33 » 07 Feb 2017, 06:24

Agamemnon wrote:As an alternate approach in the vein your suggestion, we could change the philosophy behind assigning proficiencies maneuvers. Instead of assuming that the associated maneuvers are "what that proficiency can do," we could assume every proficiency can do everything that the weapon used is capable of, but the listed maneuvers are the ones that the proficiency specializes in. We'd then say that if you're trying to do something outside of that specialization, it was penalized somehow. The obvious solution would be to pay double AC or something, but that's probably not enough incentive to convince me to invest in or default to another proficiency unless I'm forced to default (e.g., picking up a spear when I only have Sword & Shield). A better scaling solution might be to assume that any off-menu maneuvers are automatically at a disadvantage, but I don't like to use disadvantage as a broad-stroke mechanic as it doesn't stack with other sources of disadvantage.
This is what I thought you were suggesting.

Restrict the maneuvers to what the proficiency is good at, not everything you could possibly do. Then when you are using a maneuver you could do but isn't on your proficiency's list you are forced to change to a different proficiency to use that maneuver. Changing to a lower proficiency or default is the penalty so you don't have to remember any new activation costs (the statis AC eats up a higher percentage of your pool now). This has the cool effect that if you are equally highly skilled in maneuvers from different proficiencies you get to swap back and forth without penalty. The draw back to this though is one of a) you get to use cross proficiency maneuvers in second tempo with no penalty b) you are locked out of cross proficiency maneuvers totally in second tempo or c) you make a rule penalizing proficiency swapping between tempos.

Basically, each weapon would have a "allowable maneuvers list" and each proficiency has a list of maneuvers it specializes in. Where both the lists overlap you get to use the maneuver at no penalty. When it is on the weapon list but not your proficient list you must change to a proficiency with that maneuver or default. When it is on your proficiency list but not your weapon list, too bad you can't do it at all. You wouldn't actually have a "allowable maneuvers list", rather you put keywords on your weapons or use common sense.
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by Benedict » 07 Feb 2017, 06:34

thirtythr33 wrote:c) you make a rule penalizing proficiency swapping between tempos
That's already in in a sense. You pay 1AC when switching grips, like Ice-Pick or Halfswording, when doing that mid-Phrase. It could be applied to switching Profs/styles as well.
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by thirtythr33 » 07 Feb 2017, 09:30

Benedict wrote:That's already in in a sense. You pay 1AC when switching grips, like Ice-Pick or Halfswording, when doing that mid-Phrase. It could be applied to switching Profs/styles as well.
Currently you cannot swap proficiency between tempos at all, but since every proficiency gets basically every plausible maneuver the only thing you are missing out on is the ability to change emphasis and some weirdness with positioning rolls, drawing weapons and disarms. It's done this way because changing proficiency between first and second tempo naturally leads to the question of whether or not the dicepool size is modified because of the relative difference in proficiency ranks... and ruling it one way or the other leads to both unintuitive and abusable results.

The problem with just making the cost a static penalty is that it heavily favors min maxing and just paying the cost whenever needed. For example, if you max sword to 20CP and the price to change proficiency is 1CP then you basically get to default to everything at 19CP (as long as it was in the second tempo). If you bump the cost up to say 3 to counter that tactic you are getting close to nuking the remaining dice in the second tempo to such an extend that changing is just never going to be a viable tactic.
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by Benedict » 07 Feb 2017, 10:37

thirtythr33 wrote:The problem with just making the cost a static penalty is that it heavily favors min maxing and just paying the cost whenever needed. For example, if you max sword to 20CP and the price to change proficiency is 1CP then you basically get to default to everything at 19CP (as long as it was in the second tempo). If you bump the cost up to say 3 to counter that tactic you are getting close to nuking the remaining dice in the second tempo to such an extend that changing is just never going to be a viable tactic.
Well, we don't know if under the new rules there is a thing as a 20+CP.

And yes, a static penalty will always be open for exploitation by minmaxers.

If there is a thought about restricting maneuvers/proficiency/weapon and allowing switching mid-Phrase I'd go with something like this:

Prof1: The proficiency you start the Phrase.
Prof2: The proficiency you are switching to mid-Phrase.

CP Penalty=Prof1-Prof2, min1. That means no negatives or zeros. Your CP is penalized by 1+ for switching mid-Phrase.

Sounds complicated on paper. Try it out, it's not that complicated. But it does add a new level of calculation mid Melee.
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Re: Chewing on proficiencies, maneuvers and combat.

Post by higgins » 07 Feb 2017, 15:08

There will not be any variable ACs based on proficiency.
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