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Thoughts about an open ended usage based skill system?

 
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Sir Darkmane
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 5:32 pm    Post subject: Thoughts about an open ended usage based skill system? Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I've been kicking around an idea recently about what a usage based skill growth system might look like in a TTRPG. I can think of examples in computer games (the first examples that come to mind for me are Elder Scrolls or gathering/crafting in World of Warcraft). I assume it is more common there due to the amount of bookeeping that a pen and paper game would need, but thats just my guess.

For those unfamiliar with this idea; Skill advancement usually occurs by gainining ranks through continued use of the skill. Want to learn how to use a sword? Pick one up and use it. These types of systems are usually more granular in terms of number of possible ranks and going up one rank in a skill is usually a small benefit. Some games give you larger bonuses, abilities, or subskills as you rank up. For example: "Congradulations, by reaching alchemy 50 you are now able to craft a MODERATE health potion. This is twice as effective as the MINOR health potion." Or something along those lines. Most of these games also give you extra skill points to allocate when your character levels up. Which is (usually) indpendant of your skill advancement.

A few questions!
1. How well do we think this would translate into a TTRPG?
2. Does anyone know of an existing TTRPG that does this well?
3. Does anyone have any thoughts about what kind of resolution mechanic they would use to accomplish something like this?

Thanks all!
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
1. How well do we think this would translate into a TTRPG?


Not well. The problem is grinding. If you want to increase a skill, you have to exercise the skill, which means finding opportunities to use the skill as much as possible. This is fine in MMOs where you can pick flowers for sixty-seven hours to max out your Flower Picking skill, but in a table top RPG that kind of behavior is just an exercise in me-me-me first player minmaxing. And depending on the system, it involves a lot of failing.

Quote:
2. Does anyone know of an existing TTRPG that does this well?

No, but I know one that does it badly: Basic Roleplaying (BRP), the core "engine" of Call of Cthulhu & co. Where critical successes are supposed to give you a boost in your skill. Like I said, it doesn't inspire player behavior that you want.

Quote:
3. Does anyone have any thoughts about what kind of resolution mechanic they would use to accomplish something like this?


If you had to do it... it depends a lot on what sort of skill system you have and what granularity you have as far as levels of success. In Shadowrun 4th edition, for example, you've got a big pile of dice from skill + attributes and you're rolling to get a certain number of hits; more dice equals greater chance of success. In d20, you've got a die (d20) and bonuses from your skill ranks/high attribute/magic items etc. against a variable target number - at some point (quite quickly, if you minmax) the bonuses are higher than the entire range of the die, so some tasks become almost automatic successes and others are perpetually out of reach. In straight Call of Cthulhu, you have a percentile skill, and try to roll under it with a d100. Etc.

For a lot of these systems, the major metric is pass or fail - you either succeed or you don't succeed. Some of them have crits or botches, but most of them don't have any finer level of granularity. If you're in d20 and you need a 10 but roll an 18, the result is the same. "Partial success" just sort of ran out of steam as a design metric.

So it really depends on what the rest of your system looks like.
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angelfromanotherpin
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

BRP, Burning Wheel, and a lot of other games implement this poorly. I've never seen it done well.
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Sir Darkmane
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:

BRP, Burning Wheel, and a lot of other games implement this poorly


For my own benefit, does anyone have an example of how an existing system implementation works and specifically what is bad about it?Is it bad mechanically, or is it just not fun? Both? Neither? Both and Neither?
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angelfromanotherpin
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

AHs 'grinding' covers a most of what's bad, although I'd call it 'flailing.' It doesn't really matter which system is being used, because the end result is that players are motivated to make a lot of skill checks in things they want to advance, no matter how much or little sense that makes. The adventure hasn't involved any lockpicking, but the player wants more lockpicking, so they pick the locks on random houses they pass, shit like that.

It doesn't really matter if the system requires skill successes, failures, both, or just uses. The result is that characters try to use all their skills every advancement interval, and it results in absurdist scenes that don't make any in-story sense.
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Zaranthan
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Nobody actually wants to play through a training montage. What you want to do is say that when Jeff puts his first skill point into Swords, he's been spending time off camera swinging a sword around and learning how to use it. Usually this is retroactive, but if you for some reason want to insist your players decide where their NEXT skill points are going before they actually get them, that's fine. Just know that it's going to cause no end of confusion as players think they already HAVE those next points and roll accordingly.
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JonSetanta
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 4:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

This might be out of context, but an old iteration of the MMORPG "Flyff" had for a time a spamworthy skill system wherein the more you use a skill/spell/ whatever, the better it got.

Use a skill X number of times within a 24 hour period and it simply leveled up.

This led to people using macros to leave their characters skill spamming self buffs overnight all over the towns, and increased lag.

Within a few months the game was altered to a skill point system based on level, much like 3.X D&D. Many players quit.

So, when it comes to TTRPGS, if you want skill spam, go for it.
Players will abuse those skills until they are maxed out every time. Guaranteed.
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Blade
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

As usual with a game mechanic, the good question to ask yourself is "What would that bring to the game?".

The only answer I can imagine is "It makes sure that character advancement is in line with their action". Thus, the only acceptable solution I'd see would be to use XP but only allow the character to spend it in skill he has used or been able to train.
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