Rolling for Skill Advancement

Talk about any rules that don't directly fall under personal combat
User avatar
nemedeus
Scholar
Posts: 446
Joined: 20 Jan 2016, 12:53

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by nemedeus » 03 Feb 2016, 10:03

I guess it really depends on the type of story/game and on the type of character.

Although i would also add that just because something is true in one medium of storytelling, doesn't mean it's also true in others. The used medium, to an extent, informs the kind of stories being told with that medium. Yet I cannot vouch as to how exactly that extent may be...

Nonetheless, roleplaying games are still Games (Games as in, i don't really want to play a purely free-form narrative game, aka "Role Playing"),
and as such they have game theory things going on with them. Including the definition of some kind of game-level value, usually in form of some kind of scarce resource.

If you can play for years without heeding regard to them, we might as well say you and your players have reached a higher plane of Roleplayinggameing, where the narrative aspect was strong enough to have intrinsic value all on its own.
I have seldom met Game Masters capable of that, so kudos to you!


For the note, in videogames, i'm usually less interested in the story and more interested in the gameplay aspect. maybe video and tabletop relate after all?

Yet, my favorite game, Dark Souls, i mostly play PvP now. That's because dueling another real person is intrinsically valuable in itself - you don't level beyond 150 when doing PvP, so you end up with millions of souls, hahaha!


Onward.
And your point of view makes me genuinely curious about whether you've ever played a game where characters start off as competent to begin with? And specifically, a game where you can just make the character you WANT from the very get-go? If you already get to play the character you want, then what purpose would the progression serve? (The issue of acquiring a brand news skills through training aside, of course).
I have a confession to make.

I stone bloody cold don't remember ever playing a single character for longer than 3 sessions (usually less than that).
I've had... difficulties reaching out to game groups, and all my friends with whom i have played were often unavailable for long enough as to never have a single adventure seen continuation.

I'm at this point kinda starved for actual play. 99% of my time of about five years spent on the hobby was entirely theoretical in nature.

Yes, you can laugh now.

So honestly, I'm not even sure. I might turn out to have completely different tastes than i anticipated, if i ever were to actually get into a range of different games.

I have a few more points to add.

The thing with "growing into competence" is that... What if you reach that level?
Indeed, what if? Never been there. You tell me. You already told me, in fact.

My top of the head answer to that question would relate to this:
I have on more than one occasion ended up with an abundance of experience points. I just had no use for them.
Intuitively, this means that your character survived TOO DAMN LONG. Are we not talking about Grim&Gritty here?

I'm kidding.
But there is some sincerity to it. Sounds to me like that character's story might have ended and begun anew several times over.
The only game to modify that type of system into something bearable is Chronica Feudalis
I have never heard of that before.
higgins wrote:And there's nothing wrong with that. And this is why our hobby is so diverse. To bring a polar opposite example of your preferences, I used to run a bi-weekly (on average) game that ended up lasting six years.
That is an amazing story and testament to your and your players' competency.
Oh, how at fault we have been at the same thing! Hopefully we've learned a lot from that.
I don't think i will ever find a red line in my life. I'm the most aimless person i know. That extends to roleplaying games, too.
The game i try to write is roughly defined as "the game i want to write", and it mostly consists of various good ideas other people had, in other games. As i said, It's a heartbreaker. I don't really plan to publish anything.
"First Rule of War Club: Don't fight in the War Room" - Clint Eastwood, 1920
User avatar
higgins
Heresiarch
Posts: 1186
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 08:00

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by higgins » 03 Feb 2016, 15:40

Before I go any further, I just want to make one thing clear -- 'Bastards DOES include an option to "advance" your character. I'm not advocating for its removal, but simply explaining my perspective on why I don't find traditional "advancement" an exciting mechanic.

Now, with that cleared out of the way...
thirtythr33 wrote:While I understand your point higgins, your selecting media that supports your position. It is similarly easy for me to point out that Bran becomes significantly strong in magic. Harry Potter becomes a wizard.
Well, you got me there. You definitely need an advancement system in a multi-year plotline game if you use a system where the default PCs exit the character creation as 7 year olds. :D
thirtythr33 wrote:Gandalf arguably does a straight "level up" when he becomes Gandalf the White, and so does Gene Grey when she becomes the Phoenix. (Both X men and Lord of the Rings existed before TTRPGs to boot.)
Well, I've only seen the movie version of X-men, but both those characters DIED. That's not your typical advancement scenario. However, I'm glad to report that 'Bastards models this perfectly -- every SA point a player burns in a game (for advancement or otherwise) counts towards giving them extra points at the NEXT character creation, should their current character somehow perish. The fact that the internal consistencies of those two settings allowed recreating their old characters in a different form is another matter entirely.

Heh. With that line of thinking, one could even argue that Bran died and was negotiated to be created anew with a clear shift of focus.
thirtythr33 wrote:The fact is, mystical transformations or a student becoming a master is a very common character arc.
We've already covered the mystical transformation part above. And btw, your average RPG advancement mechanic doesn't really cover the the vast majority of mystical tranformations. In fiction, those tend to be rapid shifts in power, whereas the advancement is quite gradual in most games.

The one argument that DOES have serious merit is the student becoming a master. Instantly, Luke Skywalker comes into mind, as he grows more powerful and eventually becomes a literal jedi master... But even there the traditional model falls apart, as the same rules apply equally to all characters, such as Han and Leia. Now, if were to follow the traditional RPG model, then by all rights, Hand and Leia will have a similar boost in power than Luke does, but... that is simply not the case. But again, 'Bastards to the rescue! We can easily model Luke burning all his SAs for his personal advancement, while Han and Leia could burn theirs for narrative effects, such as flashy last-minute arrivals and force-clairvoyance.

--

So, my takeaway from all this is -- "sheet advancement" mechanics might indeed have a place for coming-of-age or student-becoming-a-master type of story arcs, but:

a) In fiction, it's usually just ONE character in a group that goes through such an arc, not all of them together (yet almost all experience mechanics promote the "everyone advances at the same pace" cookie cutter approach).

I can't really come up with examples that have MULTIPLE main characters going through the student-becoming-a-master trope. I'm glad if you can bring examples though. :)

b) How many RPG scenarios really deal with those specific instances? I still maintain that character sheet advancement is not required to model the overwhelming majority of fiction.
nemedeus wrote:I have seldom met Game Masters capable of that, so kudos to you!
I can't take all that credit. It was the players that did it. And I really do miss that group. :cry:
nemedeus wrote:That is an amazing story and testament to your and your players' competency.
*Goes and pastes this to everyone involved.* :oops:
nemedeus wrote:I stone bloody cold don't remember ever playing a single character for longer than 3 sessions (usually less than that). /--/ Yes, you can laugh now.
Well, there's nothing to laugh about here. If things are that dire, you should seriously consider joining an online gaming group. The game I mentioned before was run almost 100% online. In today's day and age, bi-weekly games aren't really feasible if you have a job, let alone family. Skype is perfectly adequate. I haven't tried joining complete strangers on Roll20 myself, but I'm sure it's possible.
nemedeus wrote:Intuitively, this means that your character survived TOO DAMN LONG. /--/ Sounds to me like that character's story might have ended and begun anew several times over.
Well, the character that demonstrated this problem most vividly for me was a courtier with a relatively narrow area of expertise. As such, I could build his sheet 100% as I envisioned the character to be at his height, straight from the creation. Having done so, I had simply NO use for the experience points whatsoever during the entire two-and-half year long game. The character and his sheet already matched a 100% from the very get-go.
"You can never have too many knives."
- Logen Ninefingers, The Blade Itself
User avatar
Agamemnon
Grand Master
Posts: 1058
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 13:59
Contact:

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by Agamemnon » 04 Feb 2016, 01:03

So I was busy with actual content for a couple days and neglected the forums only to find this whole discussion blowing up. Heh. Serves me right for not paying attention.

The discussion being had is great, and I'm not sure I can meaningfully advance it in any way but to state a couple of my own preferences:

1) I am perfectly fine with randomness in character generation. When I'm not playing TROS-style games, my group is OSR-focused. Last year we ran a silly number of sessions with a heavily-hacked Lamentations of the Flame Princess setup, which itself is basically just 1981 Tom Moldvay D&D with some weird horror tweaks and polish. The randomness in character creation is awesome. Randomness in advancement is less so, as lucky rolls can easily mean that one character far out-paces the others. In the above D&D example, the characters might start off with drastically different capabilities in their ability scores and HP.. but over time they will become more "average" in power level for their class. If they had random advancement, they would trend to actually become more divergent in power level for their class.

2) I actually really like "skills grow through use" as a mechanic. Once upon a time I wrote a game for private use that was essentially a d100 fantasy heartbreaker based loosely on how things worked in the Elder Scrolls games (I didn't even know that RQ existed back then). The advancement mechanic was based around the idea that every time you were successful with a skill, it would go up by 1 point. For combat, this was once per fight at the end of the fight. This actually worked pretty well from a book-keeping standpoint, but had the unfortunate effect of making skills improve faster over time, which is the exact opposite of what you generally want.

I still like "skills grow through use" as a mechanic, because it incentivizes me to do things that my character isn't good at, but as Higgins talks about, the trick is in how much bookkeeping it involves. This is actually one of the places where I think BW is both great and terrible. I can accept marking checks off for skill uses to improve them, but the added complication of requiring multiple kinds of checks AND having to compare your die pool to the obstacle of the roll each time to see what constitutes a regular check vs a challenging check (or whatever their terminology is) sounds like a bit much.

I distinctly remember Chronica Feudalis's system for advancement annoying me quite a bit. Ironically, that was the game I just resigned myself to never bothering with advancement in.

If I ever find a way to handle the book-keeping of "skills through use," I'll wind up putting it in my next project. I'm sure Higgins will be thrilled.

3) I'm definitely in the pro character advancement side though. There are certain kinds of fiction where the characters don't show any real progression in a mechanical sense (Conan, Indiana Jones, etc) but it's very easy to point to ones that do as well.

In Westeros alone:
  • Daenerys goes from timid chattel to finding her spine, developing her charisma, and becoming the focal point to an entire army, conquering cities.
  • Dunk the Lunk goes from being fairly bad at swordplay in the first story he appears in (he actually throws his sword away and resorts to wrestling instead) to dispatching other competent swordsmen by The Mystery Knight.
  • Jon Snow can be argued to significantly advance as well, but that gets into spoiler territory.
  • Arya is clearly becoming little miss badass as well.
  • And I don't buy "uh. Bran was.. killed. And someone made another Bran character" for a moment!
Then in more general terms:
  • Harry Dresden is shown to become incrementally more powerful as the story goes on. Pretty much every character in this series does as well. Susan goes from reporter to badass vampire slayer. Murphy practically becomes her own special forces unit.. and that's before the bit where Dresden.. uh.. Disappears for a while, we'll say, and everyone gets a crazy upgrade.
  • Most if not all of the Hobbit characters in Middle Earth go from farmers and layabouts to engaging in thrilling heroics. We even have an "Aragorn teaches them to fight" scene.
  • The Dwarves in The Hobbit also get pretty awesome over time. By the time it's over they are vanquishing foes left and right and make a huge difference in the Battle of Five Armies.
  • Edmund Dantes (The Count of Monte Cristo) has a lengthy training montage in prison.
  • Sarah Conner (Terminator) goes from niave waitress to badass, single-handedly becoming the reason the resistance even happens.
  • Neo in the Matrix not only goes from zero to one (ha. Get it. Because binary? it's in computers?) but as the series progresses his powers go overboard and somehow even effect the machines outside of the matrix.
  • Pirates of the Carribean doesn't advance Jack Sparrow meaningfully, but Elizabeth Swan and Legolas get major level-ups as the series goes on.
  • Spiderman's entire story arc is arguably about mastering his powers.
  • Dick Grayson goes from being Robin to slowly becoming a hero in his own right as Nightwing.
  • Paul Atreides in Dune goes from being a reasonably skilled if impatient youth to the quizat haderach and galactic emporer.
  • Ellen Ripley in Aliens goes from "I just work here" to being able to hold her own with colonial marines.
  • Azoth in The Way of Shadows going from a guild rat to a master assassin.
  • The entire Rocky series is about Balboa getting better at boxing. The "win" at the first movie was Balboa even making it 15 rounds. The "win" at the end of the fourth movie was punching Russia IN THE FACE. USA! USA!
  • Cillian Murphy in 28 days later goes from being a confused and scared civilian to ripping the throat out of special forces ops to show us that we are the real monsters in this zombie apocalypse movie.
  • Buffy Summers goes from blonde bimbo to vampire-fighting (and occasionally romancing) badass heroine.
  • In The Mummy films, Evie goes from a shy librarian to a gun-toting badass and genius.
  • In Star Trek, Wesley Crusher goes from the always-get-you-into-trouble young scamp to an officer in starfleet.
  • Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins learns to become a ninja!
  • In Highlander, Conner MacLeod becomes a more capable swordsman, and eventually trains Duncan. Duncan eventually trains Richie who goes from 80s/90s street punk to somehow being able to behead people with a rapier! If that's not proficiency developement, I don't know what is.
  • .. And in Happy Gilmore, Adam Sandler learned how to putt.
You can argue that some of these were external factors, or that some of these are perhaps the development of personality traits bringing out skills that were already there. But I can just as easily argue that since we don't get any kind of stats on characters in fiction to compare to over time, that all but the most absolutely dramatic shifts in skill and ability would go completely unnoticed to the reader/viewer and the overwhelming majority of media doesn't follow a character long enough to see that kind of development either.. which is exactly why you can make a quip about it being more common in multi-year plotlines revolving around younger characters. Only multi-year plot-lines (or multi-movie/multi-book series) hang around with a character long enough to actually see any development anyway. The overwhelming majority of books, films, and television shows are way more comparable to a single plot arc, which if played out at a table would likely be two to four sessions. In very few RPGs will you see dramatic improvement in the characters statistics in that time period either.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
User avatar
nemedeus
Scholar
Posts: 446
Joined: 20 Jan 2016, 12:53

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by nemedeus » 04 Feb 2016, 06:50

higgins wrote:Before I go any further, I just want to make one thing clear -- 'Bastards DOES include an option to "advance" your character. I'm not advocating for its removal, but simply explaining my perspective on why I don't find traditional "advancement" an exciting mechanic.
I know you included it.

Let's be clear here, Sheet Advancement is very much a concept that is associated with the gamist style.

Now, in my opinion, Gamism, Simulationism and Narrativism are ultimately just different emphases, and for me, i feel like most players have their tastes aligned as such that they will do well with bringing in aspects of all three of them.

For example, i have already said that even as a primary simulationist -- that is, i first and foremost want rules that 1. make an overwhelming amount of sense and 2. basically "map bijectively to the in game narrative layer" as i detailed in the Chase thread -- i make concessions to narrativism, by establishing rules that enciurage narrative play.

Now if tose narrativist rules reward the player with game layer resources, then one could say, this is a gamism sub-subengine that drives the narrative subengine.
Which is not to say that the entire construct then becomes gamistic; What i take from it is, the GNS styles are interconnected and support eachother

In fact:
nemedeus wrote:Intuitively, this means that your character survived TOO DAMN LONG. /--/ Sounds to me like that character's story might have ended and begun anew several times over.
Well, the character that demonstrated this problem most vividly for me was a courtier with a relatively narrow area of expertise. As such, I could build his sheet 100% as I envisioned the character to be at his height, straight from the creation. Having done so, I had simply NO use for the experience points whatsoever during the entire two-and-half year long game. The character and his sheet already matched a 100% from the very get-go.
A character that is already 100% as you envision him and doesn't need to gain more Sheet Power, to me that feels like a oneshot character.
Maybe i'm a rogue gamist, but in a game that lasts years with what is effectively max level characters, i'd assume it's about time to retire that character. So inother words, that years long game of yours must REALLY have had an incredibly strong narrative.

I do guess tough, that i'd need to eperience this myself: having a Character that is so much fun to play that i actually don't want to stop playing them even after they have obtained all the power i would envision them to.

this is me whining again but, i seem to have some diffficulties forming a connection to characters i play.
The few times i had the chance to play in the past five years, the characters i created didn't quite click with me much. Maybe that's why i was always so content with writing games instead of, well, playing them...
So, my takeaway from all this is -- "sheet advancement" mechanics might indeed have a place for coming-of-age or student-becoming-a-master type of story arcs, but:

a) In fiction, it's usually just ONE character in a group that goes through such an arc, not all of them together (yet almost all experience mechanics promote the "everyone advances at the same pace" cookie cutter approach).

I can't really come up with examples that have MULTIPLE main characters going through the student-becoming-a-master trope. I'm glad if you can bring examples though. :)

b) How many RPG scenarios really deal with those specific instances? I still maintain that character sheet advancement is not required to model the overwhelming majority of fiction.
But, Sheet Advancement is possibly a speciality of games-in-general. i have detailed this in my remarks about game theory, valuability, etc.

Just because they have limited appliccabiity to classical/modern narrative, doesn't mean that they automatically aren't a neccessity or even just a useful addition in roleplaying and other kinds of games.

In fact, i think i have made it clear that to me personally, and pertaining to my tastes, i very much have a need for these things.
nemedeus wrote:I stone bloody cold don't remember ever playing a single character for longer than 3 sessions (usually less than that). /--/ Yes, you can laugh now.
Well, there's nothing to laugh about here. If things are that dire, you should seriously consider joining an online gaming group. The game I mentioned before was run almost 100% online. In today's day and age, bi-weekly games aren't really feasible if you have a job, let alone family. Skype is perfectly adequate. I haven't tried joining complete strangers on Roll20 myself, but I'm sure it's possible.
I had actually signed up at Roll20 recently. but (as was probably obvious), as of late ive been struggling with real life problems and possibly depression, so nothing came of it as of yet...
"First Rule of War Club: Don't fight in the War Room" - Clint Eastwood, 1920
User avatar
higgins
Heresiarch
Posts: 1186
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 08:00

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by higgins » 04 Feb 2016, 08:29

Agamemnon wrote:In Westeros alone:
"Career-change" was also one of the tropes I considered listing, but I wasn't able to come with such a distinct name for it last night. Dunk certainly applies for that one. Arya falls under the "7 year old" rule. For the other characters, it could also be argued that the changes come from the personality shift.
Agamemnon wrote:And I don't buy "uh. Bran was.. killed. And someone made another Bran character" for a moment!
Anyway, I just thought that our Karma mechanic modeled Gandalf and Jean Grey so perfectly, as recreating the same character with better priority picks wasn't really something that I had considered before. And then Bran had a near-death experience as well, which kinda fit the theme. It's a massive stretch for sure, but I'm positive we've both seen weirder rules-concessions in our time! :lol:
Agamemnon wrote:Then in more general terms:
I actually considered and dismissed a lot of these. In particular the PotC series. Yes, Will and Elizabeth do become leaders and such, not unlike Daenerys, but going by the memory, it is primarily their leadership aspect that receives a boost. And how many games actually model leadership at all? So, under most advancement systems, it could be argued that very little changed on their sheets, and a lot changed in their personas.

Dantes & Connor I consider plain character re-writes. We get to see the "montage" of the change in case of Dantes, but not in case of Connor. Same could be said for Ripley, and in her case, the change in tone is even more stressed by the fact that the initial installment was horror movie, and the sequel was action. In RPG context, it not only smells of re-write, but also a change of system. Same could easily be said for Connor, as the transition is remarkably similar.

Paul, Neo, and Buffy can be dismissed entirely as they are the literal Chosen Ones -- their progression isn't even even remotely modeled by traditional RPG advancement mechanics, as they so far outpace every other character in their respective universes. Including the other main characters.

Spiderman, Batman and Robin are essentially "coming-of-age" stories told with grown-ups, since adding superpowers to the mix allows us to do that. In fact, one could argue that Paul, Neo and Buffy fall under this category as well. Same with Highlander, which is a "student-becoming-a-master" trope on top of that. With decapitating rapiers, no less! :lol:

Rocky & Evie fall under the "career-change" trope, and are valid examples of where "no advancement whatsoever" method falls apart. Cillian Murphy falls under here as well. As would Dantes, Connor and Ripley, if we dismissed the character re-write as a concept.

Although in the end, Evie all but jumps the shark into the near Chosen One territory, if memory serves. To stop a bit longer on that, The Mummy is an interesting franchise in that all the main characters are actually VILLAINS. They are actively working against Imhotep being reunited with the love of this life the entire time. And in fact, Evie actually turns out to be the reincarnation of the woman who destroyed their happiness in the first place! I'm always rooting for Imhotep in those movies. :lol:

I notice one great theme though... Most of these advancement examples are stories that focus on a SINGLE character. And even if there is a group, that story arc is RARELY applied to more than one character. Therefore the traditional advancement model still falls apart when trying to model fiction, as... where does Jack Sparrow put all his experience points? Same with Han and Leia.

You brought four examples where multiple characters advance:
1) The Dresden Files, which I cannot comment on, as I haven't read the books.
2) The Hobbit. I don't recall the dwarves getting ability boosts in the way, but it's been years since my last read.
3) LOTR. The hobbits becoming more active in the fights sounds more like an "SA firing" thing to me, as they caring about something is their usual cue of joining a fight.
4) POTC, which is again arguable.

So, I still hold that traditional RPG advancement does not apply in most fiction. You guys have made me concede that it might apply very partially to a select few characters in a story, but most definitely not across the whole board and to every character like most games would have that be.
"You can never have too many knives."
- Logen Ninefingers, The Blade Itself
User avatar
higgins
Heresiarch
Posts: 1186
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 08:00

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by higgins » 04 Feb 2016, 09:24

nemedeus wrote:A character that is already 100% as you envision him and doesn't need to gain more Sheet Power, to me that feels like a oneshot character.
That line of thinking would dismiss Tyrion, Frodo, Sand dan Glokta, Jack Sparrow, etc. You need to remember that character sheets mainly model physical prowess, and if that physical prowess is completely irrelevant to the character that you are creating, then coming up with a 100% vision right from the get-go is not that hard even in the most stringent of systems.
nemedeus wrote:Maybe i'm a rogue gamist, but in a game that lasts years with what is effectively max level characters, i'd assume it's about time to retire that character. So inother words, that years long game of yours must REALLY have had an incredibly strong narrative.
I never said anything about "max level". All I was saying that the character matches my vision.

Maybe an example would help. Let's make a first level character using D&D 3e.

I want to play a noble. The Aristocrat class is the only thing that allows such a thing in the core books, so, that's what I go with. The stats I roll are extremely crappy. The noble class gives only a few skills. With a maximum of four ranks, he isn't even remotely competent in what he does. While "proficient" with weapons, the character has the exact same BaB as a common farmer. I name that character King Joffrey, and this is EXACTLY how I see him at his HEIGHT. He's an incompetent weakling that will never rise above his circumstances. All he has on his side is his noble position, and a black pit of a heart to impose his cruel will upon others.

He wants power, all right, but not physical power. He doesn't care about becoming more skilled, more agile, smarter or more muscular. All he cares about is toying with people, and hurting them, none of which require any special skills or abilities. All he needs is a position, and as a king, he already has that. His sheet is complete and I am ready to play out his ambitions, for ever how long the game lasts.
nemedeus wrote:In fact, i think i have made it clear that to me personally, and pertaining to my tastes, i very much have a need for these things.
Oh, absolutely. It's all about personal tastes and I'm simply expressing mine.

Playing King Joffrey under the D&D rules set, I would refuse ALL experience points. In fact, King Joffrey gaining levels would actually UNDERMINE the whole character concept, as he would actually become more competent... which isn't supposed to happen. This would break the character for me.

Now, King Joffrey is obviously an extreme example as it requires an absolute zero competence on the character's part, but as I said before -- reaching a 100% matching vision is by no means equal to "max level" or some kind of height of unimaginable power. Now, of course it CAN be both those things, if that is what your vision is, but in my case, this is simply not true.
nemedeus wrote:I had actually signed up at Roll20 recently.
Good on you, man! :) The weekend is coming up. Try and see if you can find a game! A gaming session can work miracles on one's mood and motivation, especially if it's been so long since your last experience. Seriously. Do it. :)
"You can never have too many knives."
- Logen Ninefingers, The Blade Itself
User avatar
Korbel
Standard Bearer
Posts: 1153
Joined: 13 Apr 2015, 12:09
Location: Poland

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by Korbel » 04 Feb 2016, 10:11

Well, Conan does improve his abilities through all these years... One could argue, if his strength, agility, speed or toughness changes much, but he learns for example: archery (in Turan), leadership and commanding on the battlefield, a little bit of magic, even his sword skill improves (there's a scene where he performs a tricky disarming maneuver he learned from mercenaries...), not to mention minor things, like languages and customs in various countries in Hyboria. If we consider non-canon Conan stories, than he learns almost all of his thief skills AFTER escaping from Hyberboreans. And so on...
Conan does not change dramatically, but learns a thing or two in the stories.
User avatar
thirtythr33
Editorial Inquisition
Posts: 1238
Joined: 12 Aug 2015, 03:23

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by thirtythr33 » 04 Feb 2016, 10:34

Well, considering that "traditional RPG advancement" is used in "traditional RPGs" whose whole focus is in trying to recreate the works of J. R. R. Tolkien at the table, then it is almost self evident that "traditional RPG advancement" does apply to most RPG fiction, even if it is a small part of media as a whole.

You keep moving the goal posts. First, you say there is no media with great power growth of characters. Now it has the additional stipulations that if you can name the trope it doesn't count. What? The fact that Career Change, Mystical Transformation, Coming of Age, Student-becomes-Master and Chosen One are all forms of "leveling up" and that they are so common that they each have their own tropes shows they are very prevalent in fiction.

I think your making a bad stipulation that the story has to be about a group of people gaining power. It is the RPG that is making the restriction that all main characters have to be treated fairly; and it is for meta reasons, not narrative. In media where that doesn't have to be true it makes more sense to focus the growth on a single character to make it more pronounced and personally relateable. Tangentially, a fair number of people play RPGs with 1 player and 1 DM only, so in those cases it makes perfect sense for the single player to be Luke Skywalker. And if a group of people play a Star Wars RPG, there is no reason you can't have 4 Lukes!

As far as advancement examples always being about a single person... here are groups of people powering up at once:
1) Dragon ball Z. Goku, Gohan, Picolo. Or any anime ever.
2) Harry Potter, Hermoine and Ron
3) The X men first class movie and comics.
4) Ender, Bean and others from Enders game.
5) The Matrix. Trinity and Morpheus both become massively more powerful than when they started.
6) The Terminator movies. John and Sara Conner start as non combatants and become total badasses.
7) Spartacus TV series. Group of slaves train to be gladiators and eventually lead an uprising.
8) The Prestige. Competing magicians successively 1 up eachother.
9) The walking dead TV series, normal people learn to live after the apocalypse.
10) Survivor reality TV series (actually real people leveling up their survival skills!)

Obviously, most of it is from Sci-fi or fantasy where is plausible to have characters "level up". Character growth in general is very limited in movies and TV series. In movies, there is only so much you can grow a character in 2 hours without it feeling jarring and unnatural. While TV series have more time, they usually return to the status quo at the end of each episode so that the series can be watched out of order without viewers missing anything important. Leveling up is often an outgrowth of character growth. In Eastern cultures especially, physical power reflects spiritual enlightenment.

Having said all that... I completely agree with the way you have chosen to do advancement in BoB. It certainly does replicate the large portion of media and is a breath of fresh air. Personally, I hate leveling systems for all the same reasons you have mentioned. I just don't see BoBs method of advancement as being as universal as you claim, especially considering the types of games likely to played with BoB. Of the kinds of stories set in medieval fantasy the proportion of stories like J. R. R. Tolkien's sky rockets.

But all this kind of misses the point. Leveling up was never intended to reflect fiction. It is intended as a reward mechanism to propel game play. It's to keep people interested by giving them goals and accomplishments and to act as a more familiar reward structure than "a cool story is it's own reward". The power-up is often an illusion anyway since the badguys level up in step. The players don't actually make any ground because they are running on a treadmill. All it does is order the content you are allowed to access, making you fight goblins before dragons. Kind of a tutorial of sorts, the way abilities slowly open up. If people got to kill dragons in their first session, there is nowhere for attention and excitement go but down. In the end, the only thing a leveling system is for is to stretch the games content out farther and to scratch that Pavlovian itch of watching numbers get bigger.
"O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die."

- Juliet Capulet
User avatar
Agamemnon
Grand Master
Posts: 1058
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 13:59
Contact:

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by Agamemnon » 04 Feb 2016, 10:53

higgins wrote: "Career-change" was also one of the tropes I considered listing, but I wasn't able to come with such a distinct name for it last night. Dunk certainly applies for that one. Arya falls under the "7 year old" rule. For the other characters, it could also be argued that the changes come from the personality shift.
higgins wrote: Yes, Will and Elizabeth do become leaders and such, not unlike Daenerys, but going by the memory, it is primarily their leadership aspect that receives a boost.
In our game, they increased their Social attribue, Command or Manipulate skills, or all of the above. We literally have those things as character advancement paths while you're arguing they don't count as character advancement.
But let's look at this from another angle:
  • If a character does gradually show improvement in some areas, you're calling it a career change, so it doesn't count.
  • If a character changes gradually over the course of several years, you'll call it career change or coming of age, and doesn't count.
  • If a character changes are the quick within the plot, or occur between installments (you know, like leveling up, the literal thing being discussed) they are "character re-writes" and don't count.
  • If a character's progression is literally the point of the thing, it's coming of age, hero's journey, chosen one, or student-becomes-master... and doesn't count.
Given that we are completely unable to track minute changes between "sessions" in a work of fiction because we don't have numbers on the sheet, under what circumstances could a character grow in skill and ability that you would accept? Is your position falsifiable? Given the absence of numerical quantification of character makeup in fiction, I don't know how one could show the kind of progression you're saying doesn't exist without it being a trope and therefore disqualified.

Then I'll even tackle this the other way:

The subject was modeling progression based on its appearance in fiction. For literally any of the above ways you dismissed to happen in the overwhelming majority of role-playing games, things are going to get changed on the sheet increasing the character's overall level of competence and relative power. Whatever you decide to call it, I know of no game that has separate mechanics for creating a "coming of age" character vs a "chosen one" character, or allows for the player to go "I'd like a character rewrite that makes my character significantly more awesome, please." Mechanically, all of those things are advancement. And again, that's without touching the warhammer/40k RPGs where changing careers over time literally is the advancement mechanism.

So how do you get around dismissing it in fiction as anything that isn't some form of character advancement?
higgins wrote: I notice one great theme though... Most of these advancement examples are stories that focus on a SINGLE character. And even if there is a group, that story arc is RARELY applied to more than one character. Therefore the traditional advancement model still falls apart when trying to model fiction, as... where does Jack Sparrow put all his experience points? Same with Han and Leia.
This one can be challenged pretty easily simply by virtue of the format. Fiction almost always has a protagonist.. not protagonists. Extraordinarily rare is the book that treats multiple characters as completely equal protagonists within the same group without splitting them up and sending them on their own separate plots (GRRM is a good example of this). In fact, I'd be hard pressed to name any outside of The Three Musketeers that weren't written after the invention of RPGs with either RPGs in mind (R.A. Salvatore's entire career), or were an intentional inversion of traditional questing tropes (The First Law). The majority of stories, if played as RPGs, would only make sense if it was a one-on-one game with a GM and a single player who is the protagonist, with all the other characters as NPCs.

We've actually had this discussion before as an issue when talking about scenarios for settings. The problem with most movies/tv/books is that there just aren't very many good examples where multiple characters are A) protagonists that B) work together and C) share a common goal in the way RPG characters do.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
User avatar
EinBein
Sworn Brother
Posts: 511
Joined: 03 May 2014, 02:50

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by EinBein » 04 Feb 2016, 11:53

In the end, I just get the feeling that BoB will cater for most tastes:
  • There will be opportunity to NOT level up ever, but still burn SA's in other applications.
  • There will be opportunity for gradual growth by using SA's to improve the numbers on the character sheet. Which can also be used to change careers, student-becomes-master-, hero's-journey- and coming-of-age-scenarios.
  • There will be opportunity to do a mystical transformation after the death of a character by use of Karma.
  • You can rewrite your character after spekaing with your DM.
  • You can play a chosen one with the adapted rules provided in original TRoS for exactly that purpose.
So everything's fine ;) Just stop discussing here and give us the beta! :D
User avatar
higgins
Heresiarch
Posts: 1186
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 08:00

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by higgins » 04 Feb 2016, 14:37

thirtythr33 wrote:You keep moving the goal posts. First, you say there is no media with great power growth of characters. Now it has the additional stipulations that if you can name the trope it doesn't count. What?
Clearly, if the story is about going to school (Potter) or developing physical might (Rocky), then there is bound to be advancement. Those exceptions seemed to be rather in minority when I first made my statement. And now that you guys have ganged up on me with examples... :D ...it seems that the blanket statement I made might indeed have been overly broad.

That said, I still largely hold by the fact that character advancement in RPGs is disproportionally more common when you compare it to the character advancement in fiction.
thirtythr33 wrote:I think your making a bad stipulation that the story has to be about a group of people gaining power. It is the RPG that is making the restriction that all main characters have to be treated fairly; and it is for meta reasons, not narrative.
I'm well aware of that. The problem is, advancement is basically the only reward in most games. And in fact, I've been bringing examples, where that reward ceases to matter. In fact, I've had multiple cases where advancing the character as prescribed by the system would break their internal consistency and/or the very character concept.
thirtythr33 wrote:As far as advancement examples always being about a single person... here are groups of people powering up at once:
And indeed, half those examples take place in schools. I'm assuming those animes take place in schools as well, since all animes take place in schools (no exceptions). :lol: But sure, point taken.
thirtythr33 wrote:I just don't see BoBs method of advancement as being as universal as you claim
As universal as I claim?
thirtythr33 wrote:But all this kind of misses the point. Leveling up was never intended to reflect fiction. It is intended as a reward mechanism to propel game play. It's to keep people interested by giving them goals and accomplishments and to act as a more familiar reward structure than "a cool story is it's own reward".
This a key point actually, and one that me and Agamemnon recently discussed. It seems that systems without advancement are traditionally believed not to be suitable for long term play. We were trying to figure out what could be used to successfully substitute that, but alas, that holy grail still eludes us.
Agamemnon wrote:I know of no game that has separate mechanics for creating a "coming of age" character vs a "chosen one" character
Actually you brought one up yourself -- Buffy. Or virtually any good system that has both mortals and supernaturals in it, such as... Dresden Files, which you also brought up yourself. Now, I haven't played either to know how their advancement mechanics work, but I do know that they treat "chosen ones" differently. In Dresden, mortals have a much higher refresh, for example.
Agamemnon wrote:or allows for the player to go "I'd like a character rewrite that makes my character significantly more awesome, please."
Under a character rewrite, I meant "We have made 10+ year jump in the timeline, during which my character has worked towards their life goals and fundamentally changed as a person. My old sheet is no longer relevant. Here's the new one." -- This directly applies to Dantes, Connor and Ripley.

And yes, this is a rewrite, not a traditional advancement. No system that I'm aware of advocates dropping a megaton of experience on the characters if they choose to skip 10+ years forwards in the storyline.
EinBein wrote:You can rewrite your character after spekaing with your DM.
Just to clear up, 'Bastards doesn't provide any official rules for "character rewrites" as I coined the concept in this thread.
"You can never have too many knives."
- Logen Ninefingers, The Blade Itself
User avatar
Agamemnon
Grand Master
Posts: 1058
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 13:59
Contact:

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by Agamemnon » 04 Feb 2016, 15:06

higgins wrote:
EinBein wrote:You can rewrite your character after spekaing with your DM.
Just to clear up, 'Bastards doesn't provide any official rules for "character rewrites" as I coined the concept in this thread.
No, Higgins. I think you're onto something here with your Bran theory. From now on, whenever a character of mine dies I'll take their karma and spend it on building the exact same character but better, and then append a roman numeral to their name.

Bran I, Bran II, Bran II...
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
User avatar
higgins
Heresiarch
Posts: 1186
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 08:00

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by higgins » 04 Feb 2016, 15:20

Gandalf the Grey, the White, the ULTRAVIOLET!!!

This is precisely why I dislike magic. You can reason pretty much anything.
"You can never have too many knives."
- Logen Ninefingers, The Blade Itself
User avatar
thirtythr33
Editorial Inquisition
Posts: 1238
Joined: 12 Aug 2015, 03:23

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by thirtythr33 » 04 Feb 2016, 21:06

Honestly, I would rather a player be straight up and asked to rebuild and replay their dead character rather than have them make a total carbon copy in everything but name. Some people just want to be a Human Fighter. I would rather shoe horn a resurrection into Boromir's story than explain how Faramir, the Human Fighter somehow made it into the party.
"O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die."

- Juliet Capulet
User avatar
Agamemnon
Grand Master
Posts: 1058
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 13:59
Contact:

Re: Rolling for Skill Advancement

Post by Agamemnon » 04 Feb 2016, 22:39

thirtythr33 wrote:Honestly, I would rather a player be straight up and asked to rebuild and replay their dead character rather than have them make a total carbon copy in everything but name. Some people just want to be a Human Fighter. I would rather shoe horn a resurrection into Boromir's story than explain how Faramir, the Human Fighter somehow made it into the party.
Actually, bringing in a relative of the dead character is a time-honored tradition in old-school games. Particularly because that gives you some justification to pass on the loot your old character had to their next of kin. :D
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
Post Reply