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2010-10-02

Shortchanging in Character Creation


BACKGROUND INFO:

These people are discussing "BESM", a tabletop roleplaying game.

Character creation is point-based, where you have a certain amount of character points and you spend them to buy things such as "attributes".

Attributes have "levels" (a.k.a. "ranks") where you must pay a certain amount of character points to get more levels (these values are called the "points per level" or "cost/lvl" or "pts/lvl")

There are things you can buy called "variables" which you can apply to an attribute to enhance the attribute
There are things you can buy called "restrictions" which you can apply to an attribute to hamper the attribute.

Variables cost you extra points to attach them to an attribute.
Restrictions give you points back for attaching them to an attribute.

As-is, BESM has attaching variables and restrictions affect the final cost of an attribute rather than the attribute's cost per level.

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TRANSCRIPT BEGINS
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[Alice] I think I may of just pinpointed what exactly is the root cause of why the character creation process is so broken, and a relatively-simple fix that could be applied that might of fixed it



[Bob] What's the problem?

[Alice] It's clear to me that originally, the designers intended the restrictions and variables to modify the cost/level rather then the final cost

[Alice] given that

[Alice] A relatively simple fix they might of done to allow that

[Alice] would be to quadruple the total points allotted for character creation, and doubled the base costs of everything (while leaving the costs of restriction and variable costs alone)

[Alice] it'd be more fair however, to make the points alloted and base costs the same multiple though

[Alice] like say 5

[Bob] What. No, no, no. >.<

[Bob] You can run BESM however you want

[Bob] but I'm not doing any of this for the supers game. :/

[Alice] I'm just speaking theoretically

[Alice] that as designers, they could of increased "how much money a person has" as well as "how much everything costs" (while leaving variables and restrictions alone) and they could of allowed variables and restrictions to affect cost/level

[Alice] rather than final cost

[Bob] What exactly supports your conclusion that the defects where intended to be 'per rank'?

[Alice] that the highest return a restriction can return is -9pts, that the smallest attribute base cost possible as-is is 1, and that you can't have a zero or negative final attribute cost

[Alice] multiply the base costs by 10, and that 1pt attribute can have that -9 restriction

[Bob] I don't think that's logical at all.

[Alice] Basically, I'm saying that no restriction should be inherently impossible to apply to a Lvl 1 attribute based SOLELY on its Lvl 1 cost (other reasons for forbidding a restriction on a specific attribute however, such as they just don't work together i.e. "Charges are normally applied to Attributes with instantaneous effects, such as Teleport or Weapon" are just fine)

[Alice] Again, this is all design theory, not something we'd actually do

[Bob] But it's bad theory, I think.

[Alice] How?

[Bob] Because you CAN take a cheap power and lower the cost with a severe restriction.

[Bob] You just get no benefit for doing so.

[Alice] Yeah... but that's not fair. It gives the player no reason to build the character like that

[Alice] as opposed to if they were allowed, and it just wouldn't be effective

[Bob] Saying that: "Power costs 1/rank: -> 1 rank -> Cannot apply -9 defect -> Cost is 1" logically leads to "Power SHOULD cost 10/rank -> 1 Rank -> -9 defect applied -> Cost is 1" Is faulty reasoning.

[Alice] The difference is that they get what they pay for with all the benefits, as opposed to getting what they for with no benefits, which isn't fair.

[Bob] Also what the fuck. 'They have no reason to build a character like that' 'If it were allowed, it just wouldn't be effective' It IS allowed, and it's just not effective now.

[Bob] :/

[Alice] I'll give an example

[Alice] In the current system: A Weapon (2pts/level) with -9 charges doesn't get any of the benefits of choosing to put -9pts Charges at Lvl 1, and only starts to get the full benefits at Lvl 5. Additionally, it's a totally useless and crappy weapon.

[Alice] i.e. That version costs 1pt at Lvl 1, 1pt at Lvl 2, etc

[Alice] In the theoretical system: A Weapon (20pts/level) with -9pts Charges (use once a day) now costs 11pts/level. This version gets all the benefits of -9pts Charges even at Lvl 1. It costs 11pts at Lvl 1, 22pts at Lvl 2, 33pts at Lvl 3, etc.

[Alice] still a totally useless and crappy weapon, but

[Alice] it's a useless and crappy weapon THEY PAID FOR

[Alice] and got all the benefits of choosing to pay for it

[Alice] (more points to spend elsewhere)

[Bob] :/ Okay, two points on how this is broken.

[Bob] 1. You seem obsessed with 'Getting what you pay for'. The attribute is already cheap. If you want to apply a restriction to it, well, why don't you just go ahead and make a choice that is correct from a roleplaying standpoint instead of from a strictly gamist view?

[Alice] "Getting what you pay for" is a primary game design principle of being fair to the player. If they aren't getting the benefits for the price they pay, they won't pay for it at a low level until they start seeing benefits (at a high level). It'd be like saying that you get no benefits of buying a stale loaf of bread unless you buy a HUGE loaf of stale bread, when you just want some stale bread for the ducks at the river for today.

[Bob] Why not just buy the damn attribute WITHOUT the restriction then?

[Alice] because maybe the character concept demands it

[Alice] for example, Petra can't fly outright, but can skim

[Alice] it's a 1pt pittance to remove it, but I don't because it fits the character

[Bob] If you're at the point where you are unable to take the smallest possible hit to your character's capabilities without being compensated for it in some way, then there's no hope for you.

[Alice] I was just giving a small scale example I had already used

[Alice] I'm fine with it

[Alice] as-is

[Bob] But that's the argument that fuels this theory. And I think it's flawed.

[Alice] Why?

[Alice] because you'd just say they should not buy the restriction?

[Bob] No, because I'd say, "If it fits the character to have the limitation, take the restriction anyway, even if you're not getting points for it."

[Alice] How exactly is that fair?

[Bob] When you respond with 'But then I won't be getting restriction points for it!'

[Bob] Then you're trying to be an RPer and a Gamist at the same time

[Bob] and that's a balance the PLAYER needs to find

[Bob] not the system.

[Alice] okay, large scale example

[Alice] actually

[Alice] waitaminute

[Alice] Are you saying that game design principles ("gamist" views as you put it), are not useful or valuable in designing in a tabletop RPG?

[Alice] or more to the point

[Alice] that they ultimately don't matter?

[Bob] That's not what I'm saying.

[Bob] Your argument currently is that, at it's core, it is possible to have a cheap power with a strict restriction on it, where the value of the restriction is greater than the value of the power, the player is being shortchanged in some fashion, since the power cannot be reduced in cost below a certain threshhold?

[Alice] More to the point, that shortchanging shouldn't happen, period.

[Alice] I realize that the system I've described doesn't actually fix the problem from being a possibility, it just prevents any single restriction from shortchanging any Lvl 1 attribute

[Alice] But in general, shortchanging should not be possible

[Bob] I posit that, in general, being shortchanged is not really a big deal.

[Alice] And there is the root of the problem.

[Bob] Can you prove to me that in a realistic case of 'shortchange', the player is actually missing out on a serious power advantage?

[Alice] Yes, however, it has to use a large-scale example

[Bob] Go on, then.

[Alice] Okay, say I choose to keep the "skim" restriction on Petra's flight attribute until she's no longer a child (a character concept decision).

[Alice] This might take a very long time campaign-wise

[Alice] so she's collecting points over various campaigns and eventually gets enough points to add say... 3 ranks to her flight attribute. Uh oh, character concept is now biting Petra in the ass because that aspect of being a Hubward child is still worth only one point to remove, rather than cumulatively affecting the cost over the accoutrement of these flight levels.

[Alice] so she might be able to move at super-sonic speeds... 2m off the ground, and flight might of cost significantly less if it affected points/level

[Alice] that's not all though

[Alice] the same applies to the Detectable 2 (-2pts) restriction she also has on Flight

[Alice] so despite getting massive flight speed, Petra's not getting anywhere near the benefits she should for the player hampering her flight

[Alice] for all those levels

[Alice] flight costs 8pts/level as-is

[Alice] -3pts final cost for those restrictions comes to 5pts at level 1

[Alice] this progresses

[Alice] to 5 -> 13 -> 21 -> 29 -> 37

[Alice] whereas if the -3 affected points/level

[Alice] the progression would be 5 -> 10 -> 15 -> 20 -> 25

[Alice] That's a difference of 12 points

[Bob] You've moved the goal posts here though. This isn't about being shortchanged anymore. This is about 'This defect is limiting me more than I wish to deal with for it's cost'.

[Alice] That's the same thing as being shortchanged, just worded differently

[Alice] Taking that Skim restriction becomes less and less of a good decision the more levels she gets

[Alice] when it should be just as good a decision

[Bob] I have to question why you would buy more ranks of Fly knowing that it only effectively lets you skim faster.

[Alice] It's a theoretical scenario

[Alice] It could of been anything

[Alice] like a Weapon with ammo restriction

[Alice] the more and more powerful the weapon gets, the less and less useful that ammo restriction becomes

[Alice] when that ammo restriction should logically come into play when determining the cost to raise the level of the weapon

[Alice] i.e. "The weapon still sucks, so it should cost less"

[Bob] This is incredibly stupid.

[Bob] STEPS, IN ORDER: 1. Make a power. 2. CHOOSE, VERY CONCIOUSLY, TO TAKE A RESTRICTION, KNOWING THAT IT WILL HAMPER THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE POWER, FOR PURPOSES OF CONCEPT 3. Play the game. Advance in power. 4. The restriction is hampering me more than anticipated.

[Bob] SHOULD YOU: A. Remove the defect and rationalize it with RP. B. Make a new character, now wiser about the effects of restrictions. C. Blame the game system for forcing you to make suboptimal choices for the sake of your concept?

[Bob] Restrictions are TOTALLY OPTIONAL.

[Bob] *facepalms*

[Alice] Character concept is God when creating and maintaining a character. 'A' forces the player to violate concept and remove it just because it's a nuisance and isn't helping any. 'B' forces the player to start over (the same as if there was a game-breaking bug in a game and you couldn't continue, so you start over knowing the bug is there so you can avoid it).

[Alice] 'B' still happens, BTW

[Alice] In Metroid: Other M no less

[Bob] They're restrictions. They're NOT supposed to be HELPING you.

[Alice] Whenever anyone playing a game sees 'B', they loathe the developer

[Alice] Restrictions are only fair BECAUSE they help you

[Alice] if they didn't, there's never a point to putting them on

[Bob] You're swinging back and forth between 'Character concept is god!' and 'No-one would ever take something that is sub-optimal, even if it fits their character!'

[Alice] I'm not swinging:

[Alice] the latter is a grievance the player must make for the system not allowing the player to fairly accomplish the former

[Alice] it's unfortunate, and here, not fair

[Bob] The only 100% fair thing is rolling two dice and the higher wins.

[Bob] Chess is entirely unfair.

[Bob] Because people of differing skill can play.

[Bob] And when that happens

[Bob] The better player usually wins.

[Alice] That's a complete non-sequitur

[Bob] I think it's pretty apt.

[Bob] You've mangled 'Fair' to where it has no fucking meaning.

[Alice] Now you're trying to determine a fair definition of "fair"

[Alice] *ugh*

[Alice] fine

[Alice] Apparently, this is OMG SRSBZNS, even if we're talking game theory. This discussion is over.

[Bob] Allright.

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TRANSCRIPT ENDS
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So which system is better, the system as-is or one where shortchanging occurs less often?

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