A Question on Terminology

Talk about any rules that don't directly fall under personal combat
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higgins
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Re: A Question on Terminology

Post by higgins » 21 Nov 2014, 16:35

Daeruin wrote:Some names, while creative, can hurt the product if they are too annoying to use.
Like Seneschal? :)
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Re: A Question on Terminology

Post by Agamemnon » 21 Nov 2014, 20:45

higgins wrote:
Daeruin wrote:Some names, while creative, can hurt the product if they are too annoying to use.
Like Seneschal? :)
You know. That's a good conversation point. We originally started the game trying to decide what we were calling the GM. We had "narrator" for a long time, but ultimately wound up going with ...GM. Yes, we could carve ourselves out a neat title for the role of game master - Seneschal, Narrator, Story Teller, Scribe, Referee Arbiter, Adjudicator, Justicar, Grand Moff, Naib - but these are all cases of using a five dollar word where fifty cents will do. It's already pretty well established what a GM is and does, and ultimately people are going to call it GM anyway when they can't be bothered to remember what our particular variant is called.

My original response to this actually wound up trailing into an entirely different dicussion, but I didn't want to derail the topic with my rambling. If you're interested though, I rewrote it a bit and threw it up on the blog.

In summary, I complain about the way indie games have a habit of portraying themselves. The ultimate point being that I want the game to speak for itself. Part of that is in managing the way we pitch ourselves, but that also carries through to more mundane topics.. like naming things.
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Re: A Question on Terminology

Post by thirtythr33 » 12 Oct 2015, 06:53

I was going to make a new thread to ask what the names of the Attributes in BoB were, but this thread is so close to what I was driving at I think a little necromancy is appropriate.

To echo Agamemnon's thoughts about indie games seeming to always use the most pretentious terminology, I always found it annoying that TROS had an Attribute named Mental Aptitude. Yes, its pretty accurate to what it reflects but did anyone ever actually call it anything other than Intelligence?

BotIT ditched TROS's Attribute list altogether and went with Brawn, Daring, Tenacity, Heart, Sagicity and Cunning... which going by their descriptions are basically the same as Strength, Athletics, Wisdom, Charisma, Intelligence, and Dexterity. It just pains me when I'm reading through the machanics and it says "take a Challenging Daring Check" I have to do a mental think through of "is he talking about Dexterity or Athletics?" Why on earth do I need to make a Cunning check to run across a balance beam? Just because Rogue arch-type characters are stereotyped into being Suave and they are expected to do well on a balance beam?

Tangentially, any game which uses abstract challenge levels in general are really annoying to me unless I have made up a DM screen with the table on there. Take RuneQuest 6 as an example this time. It has difficulty grades such as Very Easy, Easy, Standard, Hard, Formidable and Herculean which translates to +40%, +20%, 0%, -20%, -40% and -80% modifiers. This is supposedly meant to make it easier for GMs to come up with modifiers for tasks (by thinking "is this Hard, or Formidable?") but I just find it an unneeded exercise in memory when I read someone has to make a Formidable Check. Why not just say -40% penalty? It's also limiting is that it doesn't allow for a -60% modifier because there is no word for it.

Burning Wheel on the other hand does all this terminology stuff great! Attributes are straight forward and it says right there in the text what the words do. "Obstacle 5 test to pick the lock with +2 dice for having tools!" Sweet, no memory games!

So in a round about way, I guess I'm just saying its refreshing to hear designers talking as practically and level headed as you guys do.
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Re: A Question on Terminology

Post by hector » 12 Oct 2015, 10:13

I think the main source of your problem was that the attributes were never intended to map directly to the standard D&D 6. The attribute names mean precisely what they say on the tin. Rather than describing a character in physical and mental terms, these attributes are intended to describe a character in fictional terms; with the only purely physical one being Brawn and the only purely mental one being Sagacity.

Running across a beam should be Daring, because it's physically dangerous and demanding; not because Daring is "Athleticism". Sneaking around should probably be Cunning, because that's the fictional attribute that best fits, not because Cunning is "Dexterity". It also includes picking pockets, because fictionally, that's something a cunning person might do (and would also fall under dexterity in other games). On the other hand, it also includes things like following tracks in the wild, tailing somebody and being streetwise - because fictionally these are also things that a cunning person might do. Anything involving research should be Sagacity, keeping going in spite of adversity (regardless of its source) is Tenacity, anything involving people (either influencing them or reading them) is going to be Heart and anything that involves being big and burly is going to be Brawn.
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Re: A Question on Terminology

Post by Agamemnon » 12 Oct 2015, 16:53

Yeah, I think the problem here comes down to re-mapping what things mean. BotIT's attribute spread wasn't really my bag, but then again I didn't like Old School Hack's setup either.

Image

We've kept ours fairly basic, all things considered.

We split the difference on things like challenge levels. Most of the places we give them have both a name and a number listed, but frankly the former is more instructional than proscriptive. Everywhere it shows up referenced (and really, how we tend to use it in play) it comes up as "make an ob3 test to do this."

We actually designed most of it in such a way that there's a very familiar rhythm to it as well. The same numbers pop up again and again. I can tell you off-hand that ob1 is generally not worth testing, ob3 is where most of the things you'd bother to roll for will be, and ob5 is the high-end of silly difficult. ob6+ are heroic nonsense that you've probably got SAs firing to even try. Generally, the magic numbers for Margin of Success are 3+ and 5+..

You see where this is going. Most of it reflects our high bias against ever having to stop and look things up in a book when playing.
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Re: A Question on Terminology

Post by thirtythr33 » 12 Oct 2015, 19:23

@hector, I wouldn't have the problem if the BotIT Attributes actually did what you purport them to do, but to me they really do look like (most) of the standard DND ones with the names changed, when you read the descriptions as laid out in the book.

Lets take this Cunning example and look at what the BotIT book says about it's own attribute. p6
Cunning – (CG) is a measure
of your raw instincts, agility,
reaction time and balance. It
affects how skilled you are
with actions like lock picking,
pick pocketing, hiding, and
sneaking.

Now just for a giggle, lets see how the DND 2e players handbook describes dexterity, p20
Dexterity
Dexterity (Dex) encompasses several physical attributes
including hand-eye coordination, agility, reaction speed,
reflexes, and balance. Dexterity affects a character's reaction
to a threat or surprise, his accuracy with thrown weapons and
bows, and his ability to dodge an enemies blows.

The Smallville RPG (why do I even have this?) does this kind of thing but actually succeeds. It's prime attributes are Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power and Truth. Not a single one of them governs "agility, reaction time and balance".
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Re: A Question on Terminology

Post by Agamemnon » 12 Oct 2015, 20:13

thirtythr33 wrote:@hector, I wouldn't have the problem if the BotIT Attributes actually did what you purport them to do, but to me they really do look like (most) of the standard DND ones with the names changed, when you read the descriptions as laid out in the book.

Lets take this Cunning example and look at what the BotIT book says about it's own attribute. p6
Cunning – (CG) is a measure
of your raw instincts, agility,
reaction time and balance. It
affects how skilled you are
with actions like lock picking,
pick pocketing, hiding, and
sneaking.

Now just for a giggle, lets see how the DND 2e players handbook describes dexterity, p20
Dexterity
Dexterity (Dex) encompasses several physical attributes
including hand-eye coordination, agility, reaction speed,
reflexes, and balance. Dexterity affects a character's reaction
to a threat or surprise, his accuracy with thrown weapons and
bows, and his ability to dodge an enemies blows.

The Smallville RPG (why do I even have this?) does this kind of thing but actually succeeds. It's prime attributes are Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power and Truth. Not a single one of them governs "agility, reaction time and balance".
In a half-measure of defense, I think a big thing they were trying to do -- and a big thing that oldschool hack does -- is to combat the idea that there was a sharp division between physical and mental attributes. That's why they use the oldchool hack triangle. Brawn is more or less purely physical, commitment (tenacity) is more or less purely spiritual, and charm (heart) is more or less purely social.. but the other three are supposed to be some combination of two attributes. Thus Daring (which they didn't bother renaming for some reason) is meant to be a combination both of the physical prowess of a person, and their spiritual fortitude.. as opposed to a D&D model where strength, dex, and con are all physical, with intelligence, wisdom, and charisma being all mental. Sort of. Because no one is ever really sure what exactly charisma means.

That said, I find the re-fluffing a bit unintuitive, at least in part because I don't necessarily agree with the divisions - you could make a strong argument for Brawn to be about willpower in addition to strength. After all, we're all technically about twice or three times as strong as we think we are, we simply have mental inhibitors that prevent us from using our full strength to keep us from damaging our bodies. This is why you get mothers lifting cars off of children.

Even if we go with the rough distribution they were going for though, the oldschool hack names were better, I think. Charm is definitely a clearer analog for "social prowess" than Heart. I think of someone who has great heart - it's usually talking about will and courage. On the flip side, because of their nomenclature, a manipulative sociopath has the most heart.

Sagacity is similarly less direct than it's predecessor. Awareness immediately strikes you as "noticing things" or "knowing things." I.e. "I am aware of that."Sagacity is sometimes used in systems as a term for knowledge, but that's a bit weird as well because sagacious simply means "good mental discernment," good judgement, common sense, shrewd. Which is probably closer to D&D style "Wisdom" than perception or knowledge.

Tenacity isn't terrible. Neither is Commitment, though frankly both of them are just talking about willpower. It would have been easier for them to just say so. That said, it was never clear to me why either system lumped "knowing stuff related to your passions(or goals)" or crafting material as a feat of willpower.
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Re: A Question on Terminology

Post by higgins » 13 Oct 2015, 02:28

Agamemnon wrote:After all, we're all technically about twice or three times as strong as we think we are, we simply have mental inhibitors that prevent us from using our full strength to keep us from damaging our bodies. This is why you get mothers lifting cars off of children.
Well, that would be the SAs talking. ;)
Agamemnon wrote:Even if we go with the rough distribution they were going for though, the oldschool hack names were better, I think. Charm is definitely a clearer analog for "social prowess" than Heart. I think of someone who has great heart - it's usually talking about will and courage. On the flip side, because of their nomenclature, a manipulative sociopath has the most heart.
I've put off reading BotiT until our beta is out, but this is funny! :lol:
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Re: A Question on Terminology

Post by thirtythr33 » 13 Oct 2015, 02:43

I didn't really mean to derail this into a criticisms of BotIT thread. I appreciate they had some good principles underlying their choices but it was just an example I thought everyone would be familiar with where I felt terminology execution could have been clearer.

DND is has the exact same problem, but it takes up so much of the thought-space that we just stop seeing the problems. Dexterity ultimately means "fine motor control" but is routinely used as the statistic to measure things like acrobatics, fast reflexes and others things that are better described as Agility. Wisdom purports to be a measure of judgement or common sense but is most often used to represent the entirely unrelated Willpower and Perception.

Given the high frequency Wisdom is used as a stand-in for Perception or Willpower and the almost non-existent number of times it is actually used to test "common-sense", it would be better served just abolishing Wisdom entirely and substituting Willpower for the saving throws and all the clericly stuff and having Perception be a separate attribute. (Speaking as if it were changed back on day 1. Changing going into a theoretical 6e would be stupid considering their branding and its current familiarity.) Similarly Dexterity would be better served being broken into Dexterity and Agility.

Funnily enough this end us up somewhere very close to how TROS has their Temporal and Mental attributes split up, with the addition of 6 spiritual attributes.

Of-course all this comes down to trying to find a practical way to strike a balance between having a huge number of separate attributes to differentiate every aspect of a character and having an over simplification of attributes that doesn't harmonize with the rest of the mechanics of the game. How often each Attribute is used in play is really key here.

If I have a number on my character sheet I hardly ever use, maybe it's time to scrap it. If I frequently think "I suppose XXX would come under..." then maybe XXX needs to have a number of it's own. Imagining a system with a silly large number of skills/stats/attributes, running 10,000 games on it and counting up the 50 most frequently used items would give a list of things that best represents that game.

And then I remember there is Burning Wheel that has 200 obscure skills that people seem to love... primarily I think because they spur people to creativity during play, not because of the utility of the system though.
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Re: A Question on Terminology

Post by Agamemnon » 13 Oct 2015, 03:10

I don't have any issue with BoTIT. It's an interesting system. I don't think anything said about the terminology issue has been unfair, but that hardly condemns the game as a whole.

The problem with deconstructing attributes is that there are only so many ways of doing it anyway, and a lot of it depends on how your skill system (if any) will interact with it, as by definition attributes are usually used for things that skills don't cover. The D&D big six setup has a lot of staying power simply because it's a fairly reasonable way to cover the spectrum of a person. It's hard to come up with a means to discuss someone's raw abilities that don't ultimately come down to "how strong?" "how tough?" "how nimble?" "how smart?" etc. You can make some arguments back and forth about specifics - manual dexterity vs physical agility, for instance, or force of will vs clarity of mind or spiritual awareness - and split some of those up, or shove different things back together, but for many cases, that's close enough anyway. It's worth noting that in TSR's Alternity RPG, they kept the same setup but used Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Will, and Personality to make what-covered-what even more clear.

That game was very underrated. Clunky as hell, but underrated.

I will say that while we have a fairly condensed number of skills in our game compared to what we could have, I've always had a deep love for really in-depth skill sets. Burning Wheel has one of my favorites, simply because I've seen players use them in extremely creative ways. I think we might disagree is that the creativity spurred during play is a direct product of the utility of the skill system. If you've ever played it, a big part of the game is facing rolls so high that you're almost certainly not going to have enough dice to pull it off. The intended mechanic then is reaching into your skills and traits to find places you can gain extra dice from. It's extremely satisfying when someone in the group pulls out something like Cobbler as a FoRK for some kind of tracking check in order to identify clues about the suspect based on the type of footprints they left.

The utility comes in making your character feel like a bit more like a whole person, having picked up all kinds of bits of information over the course of their lives just like real people do. Of course, the flip side is that having access to 200 or so skills means that character creation needs to be heavily structured to help narrow down your options into something more manageable.
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
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