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Principles of Learning

 
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Aycarus
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 6:04 am    Post subject: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

These ideas simply followed my train of thought in attempting to come to some sort of answer to the following problem of managing NPC levels:

Problem: A commoner should be able to master a particular craft, and not have to gain hit points or an attack bonus as a consequence of doing it. For example, a commoner that is a master of ropes should not have be required to be 10th level. There is no reason why a hero of 10th level should be more skilled at making rope than a peasant who has trained in the craft for his entire life.

Potential solution: Character training abilities. As a consequence of the learning a character has accrued over his dozen and a half years as a child (in the case of a human), he may choose n abilities from a list of abilities. These are generally highly specialized, including such things as strong skill focuses, proficiency in a single weapon, etc.

Problem: A chiseled old man who has spent his entire life making ropes should be better at the craft than a young man, yet there is no reason for him to be any higher level than the younger man.

Potential solution: Character age templates. The D&D system does not offer a clear distinction between levels of the NPC character classes a 10th level commoner is hard to discern from a 5th level commoner. In particular, it seems that in order to become decently skilled in a particular craft, you need to gain hit points and an attack bonus. The difference between a highly skilled commoner and a less skilled commoner is generally the difference of a dozen years practicing a particular craft. Thus, rather than measuring commoners in terms of levels, measuring commoners in terms of their age category seems more appropriate. Characters would not gain age templates as they leveled, as age templates represent years of experience in that particular craft.

Problem: How do levels stack with character age templates?

Potential solution: Commoner levels no longer exist. All classes are standard progressions that all characters can take, and will find worth in taking. There now exists 0-level characters which simply have the abilities granted to them by their associated age template. A generic battlefield warrior is a 0-level character who expended some of his training abilities on mastering a small selection of weaponry.

Problem: Hit points?

Potential solution: ?
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Neeek
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 1:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Aycarus wrote:

Problem: Hit points?

Potential solution: ?


Which hit point problem are you refering to? The "4 angry cats will probably kill pretty much any 1st level commoner" problem, or some other problem?
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PhoneLobster
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 1:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

This looks a bit like some rather crazy talk.

Which usually happens whenever someone starts deciding to reshape RPG rules to match their own ideas about how real life skillz learning outa really does kinda work cause they of all people outa know.

If smiths and craftsmen really need to be statted out (and not done so as NPC classes with level progression) they should be treated exactly like monsters.

They should appear in a monsterous manual style stat block with the special ability "has big craft skill".

You want a part of the game where there are NPCs with free abilities not tied to hit points? It already exists in the form of the monster, which gets its hit die, and then gets whatever the heck else you just decide to give it.

The monster rules are kind of sucky in other contexts, but they totally do what you want for these not so pressing problems.

When they are as spot on to stated requirements as this its better to use existing rules than craft new ones that function on an entirely new and alien mechanic.
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MrWaeseL
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 1:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Aycarus wrote:

Problem:There is no reason why a hero of 10th level should be more skilled at making rope than a peasant who has trained in the craft for his entire life.


I disagree.
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RandomCasualty
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 2:32 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Fixing commoner skills is fairly easy. Just give them huge skill bonuses. You don't need a system, you can just assign it, in much the same way that beholders get eye rays and dragons get breath weapons. An innate ability of a blacksmith can simply be a lot of skill bonuses, and you don't have to worry about where he got it, because a high craft skill doesn't change your CR one bit. Maybe it's some craftsman template or whatever.

I don't even find the need to stat out NPCs and their skill ranks. I just pretty much assume the NPC can do the job off camera and get on with the story. And who cares about the blacksmith's combat ability, all you have to know is that he's supposed to suck compared to the PCs.
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Murtak
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 3:04 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List


DnD simply breaks down when examining extreme cases like that. Fortunately, as everyone else has pointed out on this thread, this is easily fixed by simply slapping a big skill bonus on the commoner. I am curious - has this actually been a problem in your campaigns? Has the master smith with too many HPs detracted from your fun? Has the player character with a dozen ranks in a craft skill ruined anyone's gaming experience?

For me this has not happened yet, and I do not foresee it ever happening. And as long as that is the case I can live with the little absurdities that can happen, just as I can live with peasants being bitten to death by rats. I suggest that, unless you actually run into the problems you are attempting to fix, you simply ignore the issue. DnDs one major advantage is the simplicity of it's basic system. No need to tamper with that just to get rid of problems that never manifest themselves.

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Aycarus
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 3:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Neeek wrote:
Aycarus wrote:

Problem: Hit points?

Potential solution: ?


Which hit point problem are you refering to? The "4 angry cats will probably kill pretty much any 1st level commoner" problem, or some other problem?


Mainly I was referring to how hit points would be distributed given the addition of character age templates. But yeah, that problem plays into it as well.
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Aycarus
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 4:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

RandomCasualty wrote:
Fixing commoner skills is fairly easy. Just give them huge skill bonuses. You don't need a system, you can just assign it, in much the same way that beholders get eye rays and dragons get breath weapons. An innate ability of a blacksmith can simply be a lot of skill bonuses, and you don't have to worry about where he got it, because a high craft skill doesn't change your CR one bit. Maybe it's some craftsman template or whatever.


Regardless of whether it's a necessary addition or not, it's something I wanted to play around with - if just to see the possible consequences. I think the simple application of an age template removes a lot of the problems associated with the overwritability of NPC classes that seems so obscure. Yes, you can treat a blacksmith as a regular character with a massive skill bonus, but why should you? It does maintain simplicity, but I'd rather consider something that's justified and structured rather than something arbitrary.

Murtak wrote:
DnD simply breaks down when examining extreme cases like that. Fortunately, as everyone else has pointed out on this thread, this is easily fixed by simply slapping a big skill bonus on the commoner. I am curious - has this actually been a problem in your campaigns? Has the master smith with too many HPs detracted from your fun? Has the player character with a dozen ranks in a craft skill ruined anyone's gaming experience?


I wouldn't quite call it an extreme case. I've run into problems in the past with mid level commoners/nobles/combinations thereof in the past and found the rules very awkward to work with. Whenever building a commoner (one that the party might face), I find it particularly difficult to gauge commoner level from a mental image I have of the character's abilities. Perhaps NPC classes are more suited for inserts in the monster manual, but even the humanoid races are generally justified under the core rules.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 6:41 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The problem here is that you are thinking about "learning", which has nothing to do with gaining levels.

Levels are a measure of power. They are associated with skill maximums for player characters because high proficiency with skills is a form of power that can overcome obstacles.

If a character is neither an obstacle nor concerned with the overcoming of obstacles, it doesn't really matter what their skills are. Similarly wealth. Babies can be born to rich families or poor ones, and while this is very unfair and results in people competing at unequal levels invalidating competition-based economic systems; it also doesn't make a damned bit of difference in terms of the relative threat or challenge defeating properties of the baby.

Wealth and skills don't need to be tied to levels for NPCs. Levels exist for PCs as a kludge to make sure that players end up with characters that have a minimum of survivability and diversity in their abilities at any particular power level. That's it. For NPCs, there is no such driving force. You don't care if the powerful vampire can be destroyed by just delaying things until the sun rises. It doesn't bother us if very weak tailors are really good at tailoring.

There is no reason for NPCs or Monsters to have levels, because the advantages of a level-based system aren't even advantages in that context.

-Frank
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Aycarus
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 9:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
The problem here is that you are thinking about "learning", which has nothing to do with gaining levels.

Levels are a measure of power. They are associated with skill maximums for player characters because high proficiency with skills is a form of power that can overcome obstacles.


Very true.

Quote:
If a character is neither an obstacle nor concerned with the overcoming of obstacles, it doesn't really matter what their skills are. Similarly wealth. Babies can be born to rich families or poor ones, and while this is very unfair and results in people competing at unequal levels invalidating competition-based economic systems; it also doesn't make a damned bit of difference in terms of the relative threat or challenge defeating properties of the baby.


So this is about the part in the series of posts where I'm annoying and attempt to justify the rationale for pursuing something that could be easily tossed aside. I admit that in a typical D&D scenario, it doesn't really matter at all with regard to the statistics of the commoner.

I claim that even in not particularly applicable endeavours such as these, there is the potential for motivating some form of evolution in the system dynamics. It's far too easy to simply write things off as not worth fixing rather than coming up with a constructive solution.

So yeah, the DM can simply make something up, but I'm interested in exploring how this can be modelled for realism, simplicity and fun. So I suppose the question reduces to: Is it possible to model character dynamics for all characters using a levelling system?

Perhaps a more applicable question to the domain of PCs is... If you have a character that spent a year in apprenticeship as a blacksmith, should he gain a level? Should he be rewarded freely with ranks in profession (blacksmithing)?

I like to believe that a step towards complete system dynamics can only be achieved by considering a unification, generalization or simplification of existing rules.

I'm also curious what people think a typical town blacksmith looks like under the D&D system, or some interpretation/modification of it...

Quote:
There is no reason for NPCs or Monsters to have levels, because the advantages of a level-based system aren't even advantages in that context.


True. Unless, of course, they're NPCs whose levels are needed to resolve a battle, or - on a larger scale - a war.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2005 6:37 am    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ayc wrote:
Is it possible to model character dynamics for all characters using a levelling system?


In principle... yes.

You need a series of boxes that independently off choices within their confines at each power level.

You need to accept that some of those choices are going to make you ricockulously good at stuff that in the big scheme of things just isn't that important to what the game actually gives a damn about.

---

And what do you have? You have a system in which someone can take as their Column C ability either "Be a damned awesome Waitress" (high proficiency, meaningless task), or "Be Resistant to Iron Weapons" (weak proficiency, important task). That could, in principle work.

Weaknesses? Oh heck yes. First of all, unless you have a couple of things like "Column L: Flavor Text Crap", you won't be able to have characters who are passably OK at stupid tasks like whittling, bartending, or cartwrighting. Everyone would by definition have to be awesome or unskilled at any task which is inherently shitty, which is weird. It's still impossible for people to gain meaningful abilities in a level system without gaining levels. So it's never going to model people learning anything except in a fantasy story fashion - one in which the character immediately becomes in all ways generically more hardass and competent whenever the story underlines the fact that they picked up new abilities of any sort.

So in a level system, if a character - any character completes their apprenticeship as a blacksmith, they must kick more ass. That's a given, and there is absolutely no way around that. It's an inescapable genre convention, and if you don't want that to happen you have to abandon the project.

-Frank
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RandomCasualty
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2005 11:47 am    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Aycarus wrote:


Regardless of whether it's a necessary addition or not, it's something I wanted to play around with - if just to see the possible consequences. I think the simple application of an age template removes a lot of the problems associated with the overwritability of NPC classes that seems so obscure. Yes, you can treat a blacksmith as a regular character with a massive skill bonus, but why should you? It does maintain simplicity, but I'd rather consider something that's justified and structured rather than something arbitrary.


Unless you want a system for balance purposes, systems are bad. They take longer to compute, and when an arbitrary value could serve the same purpose, arbitrary values are actually better.

I mean think about it. What takes longer?

-Assigning the NPC some arbitrary skll bonus and using the stats of a goblin for combat purposes

or

-Assigning the NPC a hit dice and class levels, then determining BaB, skills and feats from that, then assigning him ability scores and figuring out all the derived values.

If you don't have to use the second one, there's no need to do so. You just wouldn't want to. You're creating pointless work for yourself with no visible gain to the game as a whole. The game doesn't become more balanced, it doesn't become more fun, it just becomes more complicated.

The simplicity of assigning arbitrary values can actually be a good thing sometimes.

Not everything in an RPG benefits from a codified system. Many times you're just putting unneccessary work on the DM. I just don't care what feats and crap Farmer Bill has. I don't. I don't want to be assigning them, I don't want to be writing them down... I don't even want them to exist.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2005 4:09 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

RC has the right of it, with one exception:

RC wrote:
The game doesn't become more balanced, it doesn't become more fun, it just becomes more complicated.


There is a caveat here that's pretty important: If the PCs have Leadership or Summoning, or whatever, and actually have an entourage of farmers and blacksmiths and shit following them around as part of their own character - it suddenly becomes a game balance issue how one goes about generating tailors and bar maids.

If PCs don't have personal butlers and cobblers and such nought, then there's indeed no reason at all to worry yourself about how such characters are generated. If they do, however, then you need some system of some kind.

-Frank
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Aycarus
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2005 6:08 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

RandomCasualty wrote:

I mean think about it. What takes longer?


A codified system will naturally take longer, of course. But a DM is free not to use it if it won't improve game dynamics.

FrankTrollman wrote:
The problem here is that you are thinking about "learning", which has nothing to do with gaining levels.


FrankTrollman wrote:
It's still impossible for people to gain meaningful abilities in a level system without gaining levels.


I've been doing some thinking about this, and I think I might have an approach that preserves simplicity for the most part, somewhat independent from what Frank suggested later on.

It's fairly clear that a character's profession should be independent from the level system - in particular, the Profession skill as it stands is fairly unwieldly. I don't think I have ever had a reasonable application for it in the past, besides the occassional alchemy check when it's warranted. Also, I agree that the DM should effectively be able to assign arbitrary bonuses to the NPC in question in order to raise their profession (blah) skill to an appropriate level. What's lacking, however, is a means to measure the level-equivilance of this assignment.

Thus I would propose Profession Levels. The rough idea behind Profession levels is that they generally take a long period of time to gain, and hence are generally unrealistic for player characters. At each profession level, a character gains 1 skill point (unaffected by intelligence) to distribute among the list of available professions. Each profession has an associated ability score that also adds to any checks made with the profession skill (ie. blacksmith = strength, ropemaker = dexterity, laborer = constitution, sage=intelligence, spellless clergy = wisdom, barmaid = charisma). Otherwise they're treated like regular skills. A character untrained in a particular profession is inherently at -5 to profession checks - thus that first level in a particular profession has a lot of merit.

There are bound to exist some synergies, of course. For example Profession (performer) will inherently grant a synergy bonus to perform checks.

The only question left is - what is the value of a profession level in terms of a real level so you can reasonably balance an NPC Blacksmith(4)/Fighter(4)? For hopes not to sound as though this is arbitrary, I'd suggest 1/4. Thus a Blacksmith(4)/Figher(4) has an effective level 5.

Similarly, a character who has apprenticed as a blacksmith for a year will likely gain a level in Profession(Blacksmith), thus increasing his effective worth.

So that's it. No more commoner level / knowledge discrepancies and without even losing too much simplicity.

Thoughts?
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2005 6:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

A Profession level has no value when compared to a real level. It's an entirely separate concern. If you were going to go that way, you'd want to have it be a truly separate tally altogether that didn't grant combat effective bonuses at all.

Then you just wouldn't allow XP to buy profession levels. You'd have a separate total like "downtime points" or "practice points" that gave you Profession levels.

Like my suggestion about having Active Points, and Background Points. The DM can hand them out separately in various amounts according to the needs of the campaign. In campaigns where you really care if people are qualified to be coopers, you give them a pile of Profession levels to worry about, and in pure hack and slash, you don't bother giving them any because you don't give a damn.

-Frank
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Aycarus
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2005 6:20 pm    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
A Profession level has no value when compared to a real level. It's an entirely separate concern. If you were going to go that way, you'd want to have it be a truly separate tally altogether that didn't grant combat effective bonuses at all.

Then you just wouldn't allow XP to buy profession levels. You'd have a separate total like "downtime points" or "practice points" that gave you Profession levels.


Oh yeah, of course. XP is a tally of a character's accumulated power, whereas "practice points" (or something with a less campy acronym) measure accumulation towards a particular profession. It does increase a character's power however (simply with the added versatility), and hence should be included in the measure of his total power, even if it's a minute quantity. This will prevent the few DMs who actually use this rule from being taken in by characters taking profession levels because they don't affect the overall character level.
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erik
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2005 11:59 am    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm thinkin my solution to this would be allowing characters to pick an arbitrary number of professions with whice that are proficient and in-practice, say 2 or 3. With these professions the characters simply add their stat modifier (strength, wisdom, intelligence or whatever seems most appropriate) to a static number for skill checks.

For someone who wants to be a master craftsman or what have you, spend a feat and then the character also adds their level to the skill check.

Could spend an additional feat also for another 2 or 3 professions if really necessary.

Mind you, this is with a system in mind where one gets a bunch of feats per level (I currently like 5 feats/level) with which to buy any and all special "class" features.
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Essence
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2005 2:23 am    Post subject: Re: Principles of Learning Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

My solution:

Commoner level 1 has a class feature:
Common Tasks(Ex): Commoners have no rank-per-level caps on the skills Craft, Profession, Knowledge, or Perform. Every skill point a Commoner spends on one of these skills results in the Commoner gaining 4 ranks in that skill.


This allows 18 Int, level-1 commoners to have 24 ranks in a single skill, making them potentially better at Craft: Weapons than any non-epic PC.

And, no, I don't allow PCs to take NPC classes, ever. Smile
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