Random vs Non-Random Char-Gen

SavAce

Legendary Member
Joined
May 28, 2018
Messages
227
Reaction score
680
Which is an example of the attributes not mattering for a large part of the gameplay, no?
I think that's a valid way to look at it. It's a game where the rules focus on 1 thing, but in campaign mode those rules won't necessarily be used all that often. It's an unusual case for sure, unlike almost any other RPG.

I've actually seen people who kind of object to grogs in principal, but among those that didn't, they didn't because they didn't consider them "real" PCs; they were effectively NPCs a player sometimes operated (the fact they're treated as a group possession reinforced this).

Past that--I don't think I ever said every single person felt this way--if that was true we wouldn't even be having this discussion. I'll say an awful lot of people do, however, and I suspect (but cannot prove) that the majority do, though. To make it extremely clear, and its an easy thing to go off in the rails in these kinds of discussions, that's not a moral judgment.

(Though CoC is kind of cheating. Its like talking about Dungeon Crawl Classics and noting people are not bothered by losing characters. People going into those are kind of expecting things to go badly. Paranoia too, far as that goes).
I don't think I'd try to argue that random character generation, or a lack of concern for balance or competency is a majority feeling (I really don't know). On the other hand, I don't think bringing up things like CoC, DCC or Paranoia is "kind of cheating" either, as it directly provides evidence of a player base that is not as concerned about the "balanced PC who is a competent hero" role. In fact, Call of Cthulhu is no small thing, being a quite popular game with a million editions, and a variety of spin-off games based on the same or related fictional origins (Trail of Cthulhu, Realms of Cthulhu, CthulhuTech, The Yellow King, other stuff I don't track, as I'm not a huge Mythos fan). Beyond playing Grogs and such, I've also had extensive experience in my GM (or me when playing as a GM), handing out characters in that "in this scene they play NPCs, sometimes vs. other players' PCs" way, enough that I think there is strong evidence that most RPG players enjoy playing characters in a variety of roles that aren't just "I want to imagine I'm a hero." Like, players can really ham it up and RP some really memorable characters and enjoy themselves. Sometimes, due to how memorable they are, they recur and the same player plays them as needed. In the same way being handed a pre-gen might take players to places they might not otherwise go, having players take over NPCs takes NPCs to places the GM might not otherwise go.

Even beyond this, I'd mention more RPGs, some of which challenge the "Players want to play competent" and others the "Hero" parts of your reply: Vampire: The Masquerade - Usually some kind of competent, but at the bottom of the totem pole and often not very concerned with heroism, almost sort of a survival thing. Sorcerer - A game that generally assumes a bad fate for the PCs and is about exploring the temptations of working with demons. A variety of games people argue the "RPG-ness" of, given variously the "Story Game" or "Narrative" label, such as Fiasco, Durance, My Life With Master, Dialect, Ten Candles, Poison'd...

I think this is slightly misrepresenting my point, though I doubt you're doing it deliberately.

Yes, there's the fundamental "I'm playing a game and want things to go well" but this goes well beyond that. Much of the hobby is people wanting to play some analog to a fictional hero. Most of those are defined, at least in part, about what they're good at. If they have the sense they're not good at anything (and that's going to be relative to what's going on around them to at least some degree) its not going to feel like a good experience, but it isn't about "winning" per se.

Well, I'll note that statement didn't come out of me, but I also think its true more often than not; most games are not DCC, CoC or Paranoia.

I think the core of what makes a hero is that it is someone willing to take great personal risk or make a real sacrifice for the sake of the greater good, regardless of their station in life or ability, and that it can only be expressed in actions taken in play. Atticus Finch, George Bailey, Tom Joad, Oskar Schindler, Juror #8 in 12 Angry Men. A person who shoots lasers out of their eyes or is the best pilot in the galaxy can be a hero, villain, or something in-between. Someone who sacrifices themselves for the sake of the greater good can be a hero regardless of if they're a fresh-faced, clumsy kid recruit in a horrible modern war, or the greatest warrior in the land riding upon the wings of Pegasus. I know you mean hero more in the sense of, like, an action/adventure hero, or the protagonist in a procedural, and most likely more of us are involved in action/adventure roleplay than not. Or maybe you mean "protagonist" more than hero? I also get that sometimes most of us want to play a protagonist who is kind of a bad-ass (or is at least recognized as solidly competent) in a particular area of endeavor, and that random chargen can interfere with that. I only bring these other hero type characters, or games not about heroes or capability to mind to keep the breadth of what the roleplaying hobby is in our awareness, so that it doesn't get lost in all of the talk about INT points and the attribute break-points that net you 3 AP in RuneQuest, etc. All of the talk about different random attribute schemes to possibly minimize the downsides of random roll, and niche protection concerns and power levels... it's all valid enough talk, but also feels like it's about a very particular kind of roleplay, and way of seeing what the "game" in RPG is. How people feel about balance and/or random chargen can all vary depending on the different style of RP going down, I believe.

Or maybe I'm blessed with a dozen odd-ball friends in my local gaming group who are willing to play it both/all ways, at least for a few sessions.
 

TJS

Legendary Member
Joined
May 5, 2018
Messages
2,263
Reaction score
4,692
In this case lack of niche protection means constantly having to rein in that particular player when he tries to join other players in the spotlight by having his character 'help', and due to lack of mechanical spotlight protection there's often no mechanical reason why the character shouldn't. Yes, this is technically a social, out of game, problem, but with stronger character niches it wouldn't come up as much, and that would be easier on me and make running the game less tiring, and maybe allow me more energy for improving the quality of my GMing in other ways.
This is assuming the game doesn't handle such situations well. Traditionally this was an issue, as I said, because of a whole lot of assumptions about how rpgs work. These assumptions aren't always wrong, but they don't always hold either.

Savage Worlds has quite an effective dramatic task resolution system that deals with this kind of thing quite well.

And you can easily have a game where this sort of issue can't even easily arise. Eg the PCs are different social classes: the Duke doesn't go down the stables to find out what the stableboys are gossiping about, while his bodyguard can't negotiate a treaty with the lord of a neighbouring land. In this case it doesn't matter so much if abilities overlap, because underlying assumptions are different.
 

TJS

Legendary Member
Joined
May 5, 2018
Messages
2,263
Reaction score
4,692
I think there's a fine line here, because if they aren't important (presumably with skills or dis/advantages taking over), you can have things like big, strong guys not being scary in brawls, and for a lot of people that's quite immersion-breaking.
I don't follow sorry. Based on your reply I think you think I'm saying something I don't believe I am, but I can't tell what it is.

If Strength is something you pick from a list of 4 things then it's very heavily weighed in importance. If it's something you pick from a list of 18 things then it's weighted less. The opportunity cost of investing in Strength is therefore less. (Especially as Strength rarely sees much real use except as one among several elements of combat). That's basically the point I was making.

In a lot of games being good at combat basically means investing in physical attributes at the expense of the non-physical attributes. This is a trade-off that gets old fast.
 
Last edited:

Sharrow

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2021
Messages
162
Reaction score
369
If Strength is something you pick from a list of 4 things then it's very heavily weighed in importance. If it's something you pick from a list of 18 things then it's weighted less. The opportunity cost of investing in Strength is therefore less. (Especially as Strength rarely sees much real use except as one among several elements of combat). That's basically the point I was making.

In a lot of games being good at combat basically means investing in physical attributes at the expense of the non-physical attributes. This is a trade-off that gets old fast.
Ah, right. I get what you're saying. I think the main thing is having enough currency, whatever that might be, to be able to afford things other than strength or dexterity or whatever the combat stats might be as well as good combat stats. This can result in all combat-competent characters then having maxed-out combat stats, but there are ways around that, such as making maximal stats mechanically little better than merely high stats.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TJS

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
True. The truth with RQ is I really like the game and there are things I don't want to try and change about it. Because of the way attributes work in the system, point buy doesn't work. So I use random generation, with a bit of GM oversight to protect against crappy characters. It works and I have plenty of players who enjoy the game.

I can get that. LIke I said I struggled like hell with this with Mythras, and the problems are very similar (unsurprisingly).

Yea, so the weapons table changes are one reason I don't like RQ2... On the other hand, I really don't have a problem with stronger PCs doing more damage (though I do appreciate that Cold Iron avoids the double dipping, while there is a damage bonus for high strength, it's for having a significantly higher strength that your weapon requires).

I didn't actually remember it had changed, but my copy of RQ1 is archived away so I couldn't go look.

OK, so I DO have one player who is unhappy with their ability to contribute to combat, and doesn't feel like their other capabilities are much use. But overall that has not been an issue with my RQ campaign. Yes, combat does take a significant amount of time, but one nice thing about RQ is everyone can do magic. If you don't have the stats to be a front line fighter, start using some magic. But this is a role balance issue, not a random vs. build issue. And yes, if the game is only rewarding if your character is good in combat, the generation system better make everyone good in combat...

Well, see, on some level I think most traditional systems tend to reward primarily for being good in combat. That's where almost all the mechanical heft in the system usually is. Yeah, it can be conceptually interesting to be a knowledge oriented character or a faceman, but to the degree the system has an ability to engage with that on a game level, its usually pretty minimalist (like I said, "roll this one skill roll" or "roll a couple skill rolls", but you have nothing like the decisions that impact a combat scene). So, at best, it turns into a struggle for screen time, and most games also aren't really set up so that away from combat its easy to share those. The GM can, of course, make it work, but at that point he's often doing so in a way that doesn't really related to the mechanics, and if it doesn't, then how the character is set up doesn't matter all that much either.

Don't play in my game, play in another. I run my games on Roll20 and draw from across the US (and sometimes across the world - I've had players from the UK, Australia, and New Zealand). There are plenty of other games being run out there.

I think that's a little overly blithe about the situations people find themselves in, honestly. Among other things it assumes a much more open set of options in terms of time frames and the like (not to mention being willing to play virtually, which there are still plenty of people who aren't, though I'd have to think most of those have been pretty frustrated the last couple years).
So Tactics gives +1 on surprise rolls (military also gives +1 - so that Marine with Tactics has +2 on surprise rolls - that's major). Zero-g could be very relevant.

I think the "could" in that sentence is doing some pretty heavy lifting.

Also, emergencies without Vacc Suit skill are almost sure to be disastrous (-4 for no skill...).

But at that point, its still disastrous for everyone else in the group. That was my point there; how common are the situations where having a high Vacc Suit skill is useful when only one character has it? About the only situation I can see is when someone needs to go out and do emergency repairs--and there's more than one issue there including how often that's going to come up, and how well the character will be able to do it since he doesn't also have any technical skills to go with it.

BTW, in Traveller, if you have a decent DEX you can get +1 or +2 with a weapon. One of the best combatants in my last Traveller campaign was the Doctor because he got +2 with Laser Rifle... And again, don't have a combat skill? You start a self improvement program, roll 8+ on 2d6 and immediately get level 1 in two combat skills. After 4 years, they are permanent. The roll was a bit easier in my game, I wanted to make training a bit more effective so the +1 or +2 you are eligible for using the weapon is added to the roll for the 8+ for self improvement.

I'm aware. I actually ran at least one OT campaign and a later one with MT back in the day.

But also - my Traveller campaign had combat in less than half the game sessions... And skills were less important that might seem, a lot of things were resolved through role play not skill rolls.

And that's of course the issue; yeah, if few things are involved in mechanics, then yeah, mechanical issues are going to matter less.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
Oh, absolutely. I actually would make the attributes not traditional attributes, but more like some kind of role. Maybe one aspect is fighter vs. magic user. And if you conceive it right, the middle is interesting too. Of course you are not playing a random character concept for sure...

I've seen a couple games that take that tact; the Cortex fantasy hack back in the day comes to mind.
 

zanshin

Legendary Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2021
Messages
607
Reaction score
1,233
So here's another thought on build versus random. I very much enjoy both RuneQuest and Cold Iron, but both have design points that make point buy of attributes problematic. The problem is changing the system to remove the problematic issues changes the system and puts it at risk of breaking.
Standard array can resolve this.

It means everyone will be very clever, but that's the bias in the RQ system. Makes a difference to D&D games I have played where none of the PC's can count beyond 10 if noone is a wizard :smile:
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
I have had issues in the past. I've had problems myself as a player (I've commented on those - and those inform how I run my games). I've probably even lost some folks from my current campaigns because of issues. But I know I have plenty of players in my current campaigns who are just fine with playing what the dice gave them.

My point wasn't about having issues in general, but about the system handing you a character that was just not appropriate for the current campaign. As we've noted that's usually not a big issue even with random generation, since they rarely randomize skills (Traveler notwithstanding), but you can still run into things where, for example, the high Int and Charisma character in the entirely-wilderness campaign with limited contact with other intelligent entities is kind of looking for a purpose.

My memory was faulty, so I looked up the actual rule in RQ1 (and I just confirmed the rule is the same in RQ2). It's probably different for RQ3 and different for various other BRP games. But whether it's +INT or +(INT - 12) * 3 there's a serious double dip and yes INT is super important.

Yeah, I remembered the rich-get-richer element, but couldn't remember how it worked. Don't get old. Or if you are, do so more gracefully than I am. :smile:

The only game I play in this vein is Traveller. And ultimately I have a love-hate relationship with SF (or really any modern) game, partially because of skills. It wasn't too much of an issue in my recent Classic Traveller gaming. But I also mitigate by allowing players to generate several PCs and pick one they would like to run. If they really couldn't find one they liked, I'd have them keep rolling. Or we would switch to the online generator and I'd ask them one thing (skill or something else) they really wanted, and use the directives the online generator has to generate a PC with that one thing.

Its a little less likely to apply to a lot of SF games because they're a bit less likely to be really focused in one thing. But of course if you roll multiples and only have to deal with the one you like, its far less likely to be an issue in the first place.

Well, RQ1 only has Oratory in the "Charisma" skills department... (I've added several more).

Really? I thought it at least had a couple, but again, I could be conflating it across multiple editions, too.

They PCs have used Oratory more often in the wilderness than in the city... But I will grant that there are systems that produce characters that will be of limited value outside of certain places. And yes, some ability to direct character rather than randomize the character is important to keep that from happening. And sure, that could be a serious issue with Traveller. Again, my work around to continue to use random vs. build is generate several characters and pick one. Also, the players and GM should be working together to make sure the skills that PCs have are useful. If I was running an exclusively city or exclusively wilderness campaign, I would also direct players to not make choices that render their character useless. And again, I'd do something to keep randomization from ruining a player's experience.

At least I think you can see why I consider this in general another strike against random gen; you methodologies to address them have, I'll note, mostly in practice been to reduce randomness. I get how that still can be something you want some element of, but at some point it kind of comes across as trying to extract your pound of flesh without spilling a drop of blood.
OK, I think you're arguing against the "roll several characters and pick one." That has worked out well in Traveller games I've been GM or player in. In an AD&D play by post, the GM gave us each a list of like 10 sets of attribute rolls. I picked one that looked interesting.

No, I was just noting there's been a persistent argument in this thread that its harder to introduce randomness in a non-random character gen system than the inverse. Since I've done it in several, that didn't seem well founded. It would be hard to do outside of attributes, but then, most random based character generation systems don't do that, either.
 

zanshin

Legendary Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2021
Messages
607
Reaction score
1,233
You could do a sort of "rolled array" thing where you have a selection of die roll ranges you pick each time for the attribute of choice (say, use a typical 3-18 range) one 15-18, two 12-14, two 9-12, and one 6-8).much prefer attribute arras
If you insist on a rolled element I quite like the paired number approach, where you make one roll and record it and deduct it from the other number to give your range

So e.g. Traveller - roll 2d6, deduct from 14 (or more if you want above average characters), record both numbers. Do that 3 times, you have 6 attributes averaging 7.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
*Eg you might occasionally roll well enough that you can put an extra high score in Intelligence without reducing the effectiveness of a Fighter overall and play a very smart Fighter - something which pretty much doesn't exist in point buy games - but this is a rare and unlikely result.

Well, in point buy games that don't benefit Intelligence for a Fighter at least. There are modern period games where that's probably the second most useful attribute for a combat focused character after whatever it uses for Dexterity.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
It depends on the game, but generally I think want you want to do is cap the high end* But allow for the lower end to spread more widely. A lot of them suffer from not just thinking clearly about the desired range of results. One of the frequent issues is to try and budget the point buy so to intrinsically do the former which ends up shortchanging the latter.

*Unless the game is perfectly fine with one PC being the best swordsman in the world from the get go - which some games may be.

There are some ways to put your thumb on the scale but they don't always end up working anyway. If you have the costs for higher level attributes be progressive, so that you can afford, say, three 14's for the cost of one 18, the 18 will have to be pretty damn attractive. But at that point, you do have to accept that a lot of 14's are okay at least.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
I think this flavors perceptions far greater than many understand. I envy people who have rarely had to hunt for a gaming group. Beyond high school I have rarely had such a luxury. I've had a few really solid groups, but life issues made them fairly short lived (employment can be such a bother).

I absolutely believe it. I try to keep my ear to other people's experiences so my sense of what its like being in the hobby as a whole isn't overly distorted (I think this can happen to people who scoff at the inability of people in some areas (at least those who are only interested in playing FTF) to find anything but D&D for example; they've been fortunate so they assume everyone else can do the same).
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
28,338
Reaction score
78,319
I havn't weighed in on this thread yet, and I just want to say that I find that outrageous.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
I think that's a valid way to look at it. It's a game where the rules focus on 1 thing, but in campaign mode those rules won't necessarily be used all that often. It's an unusual case for sure, unlike almost any other RPG.

I just emphasized it because I've tried to make it clear why I think this matters more in almost all modern games than it did in early D&D--because back in those very early days, most of what attributes did was help or harm your advancement. Which isn't nothing, but is far less visceral than things you can see constantly in play.

I don't think I'd try to argue that random character generation, or a lack of concern for balance or competency is a majority feeling (I really don't know). On the other hand, I don't think bringing up things like CoC, DCC or Paranoia is "kind of cheating" either, as it directly provides evidence of a player base that is not as concerned about the "balanced PC who is a competent hero" role.

But again, those are all games where, to be pretty blunt, PCs are are pretty ephemeral (it varies more with CoC than the other two, but is still true). Its much like the fact most people are going to care a lot less about what particular character type they get in a game that is going to be a one off; its true but it doesn't say anything about the more general case.

In fact, Call of Cthulhu is no small thing, being a quite popular game with a million editions, and a variety of spin-off games based on the same or related fictional origins (Trail of Cthulhu, Realms of Cthulhu, CthulhuTech, The Yellow King, other stuff I don't track, as I'm not a huge Mythos fan).

That said, I'm not sold people don't care about this sort of thing as much with CoC either. They simply may care more about it in different spots than in a conventional fantasy game. I've absolutely seen people back in the day roll their eyes when they rolled a crap CoC character, because whether they lasted a long time or not, they still were going to be, put simply, poor at their job. There are people who are okay with that, but not even people playing conventional horror games are necessarily particularly common to land in it.

Beyond playing Grogs and such, I've also had extensive experience in my GM (or me when playing as a GM), handing out characters in that "in this scene they play NPCs, sometimes vs. other players' PCs" way, enough that I think there is strong evidence that most RPG players enjoy playing characters in a variety of roles that aren't just "I want to imagine I'm a hero."

I've seen a lot of people who will do that, but not a lot who seem to particularly enjoy it. And notably, the people who are more willing run much more strongly to people who also GM.

Like, players can really ham it up and RP some really memorable characters and enjoy themselves. Sometimes, due to how memorable they are, they recur and the same player plays them as needed. In the same way being handed a pre-gen might take players to places they might not otherwise go, having players take over NPCs takes NPCs to places the GM might not otherwise go.

Even beyond this, I'd mention more RPGs, some of which challenge the "Players want to play competent" and others the "Hero" parts of your reply: Vampire: The Masquerade - Usually some kind of competent, but at the bottom of the totem pole and often not very concerned with heroism, almost sort of a survival thing. Sorcerer - A game that generally assumes a bad fate for the PCs and is about exploring the temptations of working with demons. A variety of games people argue the "RPG-ness" of, given variously the "Story Game" or "Narrative" label, such as Fiasco, Durance, My Life With Master, Dialect, Ten Candles, Poison'd...

I didn't actually say anything about being heroic. I said "playing fictional heroes". Those are not the same statement. I've said people usually have at least some sense of competence as part of their character idea. Even characters who are down and out, on the wrong side of society, or otherwise are subaltern in their setting are often capable in one way or another. That doesn't say anything about how they fit in their overall setting dynamic. In Vampire you can have a character who is at the bottom of the pecking order, and is still better at some things than his betters. Its not even uncommon.

That's the issue here; I will, indeed claim that a relatively small part of the gaming populace really doesn't care about this sort of thing. They care about it even in horror games (after all, a fair number of horror media still has very competent people; the fact that their competence only helps so much in dealing with the problem is part of the point in a lot of cases.) This doesn't mean you haven't seen people who feel otherwise; it means that I think they are, indeed, the exceptions.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
Standard array can resolve this.

It means everyone will be very clever, but that's the bias in the RQ system. Makes a difference to D&D games I have played where none of the PC's can count beyond 10 if noone is a wizard :smile:

Yeah, though its my preferred approach (because as I said, I'm picky) a build system isn't the only solution to the random-roll problems. An array handles most of the general ones fine.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
If you insist on a rolled element I quite like the paired number approach, where you make one roll and record it and deduct it from the other number to give your range

So e.g. Traveller - roll 2d6, deduct from 14 (or more if you want above average characters), record both numbers. Do that 3 times, you have 6 attributes averaging 7.
Like I said, the issue I'd have with that is it produces kind of a perverse thing where you really don't want to have too good a roll in some systems; because if you're going to get stuck with that relationship a slightly above average roll and a slightly below one is far more attractive than a really good attribute and a really terrible one. In Mythras, if you linked Strength and Int that way, I'd look at rolling a 17 and go "Oh, crap."
 

zanshin

Legendary Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2021
Messages
607
Reaction score
1,233
Like I said, the issue I'd have with that is it produces kind of a perverse thing where you really don't want to have too good a roll in some systems; because if you're going to get stuck with that relationship a slightly above average roll and a slightly below one is far more attractive than a really good attribute and a really terrible one. In Mythras, if you linked Strength and Int that way, I'd look at rolling a 17 and go "Oh, crap."
Yeah, I would definitely prefer that it produces 6 rolls which you allot.

Some people have a really strong need for some random in character generation. I don't.
 

SavAce

Legendary Member
Joined
May 28, 2018
Messages
227
Reaction score
680
But again, those are all games where, to be pretty blunt, PCs are are pretty ephemeral (it varies more with CoC than the other two, but is still true). Its much like the fact most people are going to care a lot less about what particular character type they get in a game that is going to be a one off; its true but it doesn't say anything about the more general case.

I think this is really begging the question in the classic sense. Here is an article claiming the CoC system is the 2nd most popular on Roll 20. What matters for the purpose of the argument is not the ephemerality of the characters, but what role players are willing to roleplay, and I think the idea that role players are willing to roleplay characters outside the "competent fictional hero" mold is plainly in evidence and not some weird rarity.

I've seen a lot of people who will do that, but not a lot who seem to particularly enjoy it. And notably, the people who are more willing run much more strongly to people who also GM.

I don't deny that this is your experience, but it is foreign to me. Back in '94-2000 or so we'd play a ton of Street Fighter (our PCs were totally competent ass kickers most of the time), but the GM would have us play NPCs regularly, even having a player running a sniper NPC open fire on PCs, etc., really ramping up the legitimate feeling of risk to the PCs and it was a huge part of the fun for all of us. We played Ars Magica 3e and liked playing all of the characters. With the current group I play with since 2011, there are about a dozen of us who rotate in & out. We had a long running campaign where we played "Rainy City Parliament", and we had characters that were more of our central PCs, but all of us played like... a dozen or more other PCs representing the various guilds, clubs, gangs, and factions of the city, some competent, others totally ridiculous and comical. Any game we run that has an element of faction level play will have players occasionally running non-primary, NPC-like characters. The best of those characters we still remember and talk about today because of their personalities and wacky hi-jinks. These are among our best, most treasured campaigns. Heck, even me running DC Heroes... if a fight breaks out that only involves a subset of the PCs, rather than the other players twiddling their thumbs, they may get some goons with a bit of character and a short briefing before they help me try to kick the other PCs asses, and they enjoy the opportunity to bring the pain!

Moreover, I think that you'll find ideas to this effect in a number of regular ol' roleplaying games tucked away in some "roleplaying techniques" part of a "how to run a campaign" chapter.

That's the issue here; I will, indeed claim that a relatively small part of the gaming populace really doesn't care about this sort of thing. They care about it even in horror games (after all, a fair number of horror media still has very competent people; the fact that their competence only helps so much in dealing with the problem is part of the point in a lot of cases.) This doesn't mean you haven't seen people who feel otherwise; it means that I think they are, indeed, the exceptions.

I'm curious what you feel the percentages are here. Like... 66/34? 95/5? Claiming that people enjoying playing characters not in the "competent fictional hero" mode are, indeed, the exception gives me the impression you consider them very rare, like, 1 out of 10 or less. I honestly don't know what the breakdown would be, but think it is at least a sizable minority, measuring at least 35% of roleplayers or more, are happy to at least sometimes play a game where their PC isn't in the mold you're speaking of. Like, I note you didn't really address some of the narrative or story game style games I mentioned, and maybe you do not count them among "RPGs", but every player playing Fiasco is playing some dope in a situation that's gone all wrong. There are guys who wouldn't mind being Rick Moranis and hamming it up in a Ghostbusters game.

Anyways, you may be right, and I doubt we'll be able to convince each other out of our respective opinions. I just wanted to make the case and have the point of view represented in the thread.
 

Lofgeornost

Vulpine once more.
Joined
Jul 8, 2020
Messages
1,780
Reaction score
5,047
There's also the factor of increasing competition for people's time. Compared to when I was a teenager or a student, I and all my peers have far more money and far less free time. We used to play basically anything because it was a cheap activity. That's no longer true, there are literally hundreds of other things we can do with out limited free time. The idea that you need to grind a "bad" character who isn't fun to play for several sessions to somehow earn the right to play the character you want to play once they level up to the point where they worked for you? Nah, there's other shit for people to do which doesn't involve the hassle of dealing with the logistics coordinating the schedule of several other people's free time.

If you've talking about creating a character for what's expected to be a long term game over multiple sessions, given the choice of creating them by taking their own decisions vs trusting some dice, with all these other activities competing for people's time you can see why player created appeals over randomly created.

I think that's a very interesting perspective, though one I would argue cuts as much the other way. One thing I've realized from thinking about this thread and looking over char-gen systems is that I do not have a very strong preference for random or not. What I do dislike are games that require a lot of knowledge of the system before you can construct your character. Sometimes, like Ars Magica, there are rewards that make this acceptable; other times, like GURPS (for me) there are not. What I particularly dislike are systems where in character creation you have to select from long lists of talents/advantages/flaws, etc. which then become unavailable, or nearly so, after char-gen. So that you have to acquire all of this knowledge to use once and it will never have any real utility once play begins--until you have to generate another character.

Now, one advantage of random methods is that they are quick. Since you don't make decisions, you don't need knowledge and careful consideration to make them. So I'd think that the more time is at a premium, the more players might want random options, so that they can just play the game, instead of wading through long lists of possibilities that they will never use again. Of course, they might also just want entirely pregenerated characters, or templates with simple rules for tweaking them. Too often games that supply the templates don't supply those rules explicitly--if you want to tweak the template you basically have to know the char-gen procedure, so using them may not speed things up that much.

There is some irony in all of this. Having to learn a lot to design your character would actually make the most sense in a game where you burn through characters fairly frequently. Then that knowledge would be used over and over again---you wouldn't feel that 'well I've learned all that so that I can forget it for the next two years.' But, for historical and other reasons, things tend to be the opposite; char-gen is fastest and lightest in games where characters are likely to die.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
I can get that. LIke I said I struggled like hell with this with Mythras, and the problems are very similar (unsurprisingly).
Other than one campaign, I've settled for random generation with GM oversight to provide re-rolls or fudges. For the one campaign with build I made the ability bonuses not dependent on the attributes, I gave everyone like 108 points for attributes (1 for 1) and then gave one +25%, two +20%, two +15%, two +10%, and one +5% ability bonuses to distribute between attack, parry, defense, manipulation, stealth, knowledge, perception, and communication. Previous experience with that campaign was also just choice. It worked OK but the PCs were generally considerably better than random generation would get. For my current campaign I chose to return to random generation, and initially didn't even give an extra die (as in 4d6k3) because I have been doing return to the roots gaming.

I didn't actually remember it had changed, but my copy of RQ1 is archived away so I couldn't go look.
Too bad I can't share my document laying out all the differences between RQ1 and RQ2, though it doesn't lay out all the differences in weapons - too many and it's one of the places I chose not to share all the differences to prevent my document from being able to be used with one edition to have access to the full text of the other.

Well, see, on some level I think most traditional systems tend to reward primarily for being good in combat. That's where almost all the mechanical heft in the system usually is. Yeah, it can be conceptually interesting to be a knowledge oriented character or a faceman, but to the degree the system has an ability to engage with that on a game level, its usually pretty minimalist (like I said, "roll this one skill roll" or "roll a couple skill rolls", but you have nothing like the decisions that impact a combat scene). So, at best, it turns into a struggle for screen time, and most games also aren't really set up so that away from combat its easy to share those. The GM can, of course, make it work, but at that point he's often doing so in a way that doesn't really related to the mechanics, and if it doesn't, then how the character is set up doesn't matter all that much either.
RQ has enough non-combat skills to make for plenty to engage with. Glorantha also has several cults that are less combat oriented. But also the way I'm running things, characters mostly are able to contribute to combat. The one change I would make is to set up previous experience to give a bit more combat skill (not necessarily much more for militia, but barbarian should give more combat skill). As I've said, it's working out OK for my campaign.

I think that's a little overly blithe about the situations people find themselves in, honestly. Among other things it assumes a much more open set of options in terms of time frames and the like (not to mention being willing to play virtually, which there are still plenty of people who aren't, though I'd have to think most of those have been pretty frustrated the last couple years).
Sure it's a little blithe. But my choices are for my game. Anyone willing to play in my game could find numerous other choices (since they are already OK with online).

I grant, for players who don't want to play online, or whose time availability doesn't coincide with lots of available online games, lack of choice could be a problem and then sure, maybe the only interesting games are random chargen. But I suspect build is much more popular than random, so I'm not sure there's really a problem. And even if it was, why should any given GM be forced to run a system where character build is available if they have plenty of players who are happy with random chargen? And if there aren't enough players happy with random chargen, then the GM will just have to offer character build.

I think the "could" in that sentence is doing some pretty heavy lifting.
In a game about traveling between worlds, I don't think "zero-g could be important" is all that much heavy lifting. And the presence of Vacc Suit among the not very long list of Classic Traveller skills suggests that it IS important.

But at that point, its still disastrous for everyone else in the group. That was my point there; how common are the situations where having a high Vacc Suit skill is useful when only one character has it? About the only situation I can see is when someone needs to go out and do emergency repairs--and there's more than one issue there including how often that's going to come up, and how well the character will be able to do it since he doesn't also have any technical skills to go with it.
Not having Mechanical or Electronics doesn't prevent one from being able to make repairs. At least the way I and other GMs have been playing. A GM might also rule that if two characters EVA in a team, one with Vacc Suit, and one with Mechanical and/or Electronics the one with Vacc Suit can (mostly) assure safety.

And that's of course the issue; yeah, if few things are involved in mechanics, then yeah, mechanical issues are going to matter less.
Yes, so it's important how the character's capabilities actually measure up in the game. If combat is 90% of the game time like it was when I was running Arcana Unearthed/Evolved (D&D 3.x, and I'm not sure it was 90% but still it was the bulk of the time), then yes, everyone needs to have a good solid role in combat. If combat is even only 50% of the time, then being useful in combat may still be important (it is half the game time after all), but if one has other opportunities to shine, one need not be equally shiny in combat as the other characters. My Traveller campaign featured less than 50% combat time. My RQ campaign is probably somewhere around 50% combat time, sometimes more, sometimes less, but all my PCs have a solid role in combat and if someone was unhappy, I would work with them. I'd do that if a character build wound up not being very effective in combat considering the amount of combat in the campaign, and believe me, all of the build systems I've had much experience with can easily produce characters that are less combat effective than a 1st level magic user in OD&D 3 LBB (who hit's the same as the fighters for the same 1d6 damage... He just has a piss poor AC and hit points). I have never had an RQ PC who was useless in combat (if they can't fight, they can at least cast something useful in combat more than just healing).
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
Standard array can resolve this.

It means everyone will be very clever, but that's the bias in the RQ system. Makes a difference to D&D games I have played where none of the PC's can count beyond 10 if noone is a wizard :smile:
Standard array wouldn't work in RQ. It might work in Cold Iron (though then almost every fighter will have the same STR, DEX, and CON). One issue in Cold Iron is what potentials do you provide with the standard array (the raw attribute roll in Cold Iron is 3d6 plus 1d6 of potential - for a total range of 4d6). Each needs one more attribute, so let's make the array 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 8 for a first pass. So let's see, in RQ:

STR 11, DEX 13, CON 10, SIZ 14 (so STR and CON can be increased to 14), INT 15 (can't change, super important), POW 12 (so you have enough that you can be useful and have a good chance of growing), CHA 8 (it will go up, trust me... though your Oratory is -5%). Actually, these are pretty cruddy attributes for RQ... I'd be hard pressed to come up with a good reason to distribute differently. I guess the 13 STR if you want to be able to use bigger weapons from the get go (but with my house rules, you need a 13 DEX to eventually be able to get to 20 and a 12 only gets you to 18, not good enough for DEX SR 0). Hmm, you MIGHT swap the 14 for DEX (eventually gets you to 21 for an additional +5 on any DEX related skills which is all combat skills and a good portion of the other skills. I guess technically you only need a 13 INT to make the break point, but that extra 2 INT is more spells memorized.

For Cold Iron (oops, need 2 more not one more), let's say the array is (base/potential) 15/20, 14/18, 13/16, 12/16, 12/14, 11/14, 10/12, 8/10. A fighter would be STR 15/20, DEX 14/18, CON 13/16, INT 10/12, WIS 8/10, WIL 12/14, ALT 12/16, CHA 8/10. If you want a talky character rather than a scout, trade ALT and CHA. If you aren't too worried about magic use the 12/14 in something other than WIL. If you really do want to focus on non-combat skills, put one of the 12s in CON and use the 13/16 somewhere useful for your skills. You won't be increasing CON towards potential until 6th level and the 12/14 gives you raises until 7th level. And after that, you get to roll 1d6 and if you get a 6, an attribute increases, or you increase ALT. That's actually a more decent character than the RQ character, but I also gave pretty good potential to the array, though it's also 3 points below average, so heck, spread 3 more points of potential to your choice, potential can't exceed 6. I might distribute it as STR 15/21, DEX 14/18, CON 13/16, INT 10/12, WIS 8/10, WIL 12/16, ALT 12/16, CHA 8/10. The 21 doesn't buy you much, but since you get to start at 1st level with one attribute raised to potential, or spread 5 points, you get that one point for free and it doesn't do MUCH for any attribute BUT is does make it cheaper to increase STR to the next break point (23) with magic. Optionally put it in ALT, one attribute where the value rather than the modifier is often used (so no break points).
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
My point wasn't about having issues in general, but about the system handing you a character that was just not appropriate for the current campaign. As we've noted that's usually not a big issue even with random generation, since they rarely randomize skills (Traveler notwithstanding), but you can still run into things where, for example, the high Int and Charisma character in the entirely-wilderness campaign with limited contact with other intelligent entities is kind of looking for a purpose.
Sure, and that's where a bit of GM oversight goes a long way. The GM still needs that oversight with build because in build systems you always have one person who is a slave to character concept, damn the campaign... :-)

Yeah, I remembered the rich-get-richer element, but couldn't remember how it worked. Don't get old. Or if you are, do so more gracefully than I am. :smile:
I'm old, but I'm actively running RQ... And I dug into the books to verify the rule (because MY memory was minimum chance of skill increase was INT x 1%...).

Its a little less likely to apply to a lot of SF games because they're a bit less likely to be really focused in one thing. But of course if you roll multiples and only have to deal with the one you like, its far less likely to be an issue in the first place.
Yes and no (SF games being single focused). Apparently there were lots of mercenary Traveller campaigns... But then everyone was generating an Army or Marine character using Book 4 which gave more skills. But yes, for Classic Traveller (books 1-3), rolling up several characters and picking one doesn't take that long and is kind of fun.

Really? I thought it at least had a couple, but again, I could be conflating it across multiple editions, too.
Yea, RQ1 and RQ2 only have Oratory in the book. There are a few others that are cult specialties. RQ3 started to expand the list. I play with an expanded list.

At least I think you can see why I consider this in general another strike against random gen; you methodologies to address them have, I'll note, mostly in practice been to reduce randomness. I get how that still can be something you want some element of, but at some point it kind of comes across as trying to extract your pound of flesh without spilling a drop of blood.
Sure, my techniques reduce the randomness (to a lesser or greater degree), but they avoid trying to figure out a workable build system.

No, I was just noting there's been a persistent argument in this thread that its harder to introduce randomness in a non-random character gen system than the inverse. Since I've done it in several, that didn't seem well founded. It would be hard to do outside of attributes, but then, most random based character generation systems don't do that, either.
I haven't made much of that argument. But doing random stuff in GURPS or Hero wouldn't work out that well. Using RQ's previous experience, there's a pretty significant component of randomness beyond the attributes with the skill increases (at least in RQ1 - RQ2 previous experience is different and not so random). Traveller is the big example of random skill determination. I think there ARE some other games out there, but I haven't played them. Villains and Vigilantes of course is another example with random powers. Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World have random mutations. Chivalry and Sorcery has random race (and random alignment...), though I think you can always choose to play human instead of what you roll.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
Yeah, I would definitely prefer that it produces 6 rolls which you allot.

Some people have a really strong need for some random in character generation. I don't.

Even doing that in some games would be painful. Once in a while you get a game that really doesn't provide a lot of dump stats. Mythras is one of those, but you really need to think twice before having a really low attribute in the Fragged Empire derived games too. So having a really high stat forcing you to have a really low one--almost anyone--can be pretty unattractive.

Of course some people just think that's a challenge, but I don't know that maps to everyone who would like to just not have a completely substandard character.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
Like I said, the issue I'd have with that is it produces kind of a perverse thing where you really don't want to have too good a roll in some systems; because if you're going to get stuck with that relationship a slightly above average roll and a slightly below one is far more attractive than a really good attribute and a really terrible one. In Mythras, if you linked Strength and Int that way, I'd look at rolling a 17 and go "Oh, crap."
I think for Classic Traveller paired attributes would work OK. STR/INT, DEX/EDU, END/SOC (hey that's even cool, those mamby pamby nobles aren't very robust...). I think you can almost always pick a career where a low attribute isn't horrible. And your hit points are no less random than they are in the rules as written though Marines would suck because you want 5 of the 6 attributes at 8+... Merchants also sucks because you want both STR and INT high, though if you don't mind never getting promoted you can live with 7/7 and INT 9+ still is relatively easy to get in (5+ vs the 4+ for the attributes in the 7/7). You will do decent with 6/8 but you need a 6+ to get in. Army uses a bunch of attributes but you only need 6+ or 7+. To have the best chance of getting in the scouts you have to perfectly land STR 8/INT 6... Of course if you make the total for each pair 15 or 16, things look a lot better and you're guaranteed some 8+ attributes.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
I think this is really begging the question in the classic sense. Here is an article claiming the CoC system is the 2nd most popular on Roll 20. What matters for the purpose of the argument is not the ephemerality of the characters, but what role players are willing to roleplay, and I think the idea that role players are willing to roleplay characters outside the "competent fictional hero" mold is plainly in evidence and not some weird rarity.

When the willingness to do so almost directly maps to campaigns that tend to have a short character life, I don't really think it is. If you want to say there's some assumptions buried in my statement that I'm not putting up front, I'll cop to that, but its not begging the question when you bring out a subset of games that I'm generally not talking about, its not what I'm talking about (though, again, what makes you think CoC players as a group are any more tolerant of this than anyone else? As I noted, I've seent he same from them. I don't think it belongs in the same category as a game at least heavily comedic in intent or a game that already assumes you'll lose characters on a regular basis no matter what you do. All CoC really assumes is that its "win" condition is not a conventional one for heroic fantasy).

I don't deny that this is your experience, but it is foreign to me. Back in '94-2000 or so we'd play a ton of Street Fighter (our PCs were totally competent ass kickers most of the time), but the GM would have us play NPCs regularly, even having a player running a sniper NPC open fire on PCs, etc., really ramping up the legitimate feeling of risk to the PCs and it was a huge part of the fun for all of us. We played Ars Magica 3e and liked playing all of the characters. With the current group I play with since 2011, there are about a dozen of us who rotate in & out. We had a long running campaign where we played "Rainy City Parliament", and we had characters that were more of our central PCs, but all of us played like... a dozen or more other PCs representing the various guilds, clubs, gangs, and factions of the city, some competent, others totally ridiculous and comical. Any game we run that has an element of faction level play will have players occasionally running non-primary, NPC-like characters. The best of those characters we still remember and talk about today because of their personalities and wacky hi-jinks. These are among our best, most treasured campaigns. Heck, even me running DC Heroes... if a fight breaks out that only involves a subset of the PCs, rather than the other players twiddling their thumbs, they may get some goons with a bit of character and a short briefing before they help me try to kick the other PCs asses, and they enjoy the opportunity to bring the pain!

Well, if we're down to "who's assumptions are the common one here" I'm not sure there's any way to proceed. I'll flat out say nothing in my time in the hobby suggests to me that what you describe above is anything but an outlier, but its not a question there's any way to really resolve.

As I've said, I'm not going to deny that a lot of people will be okay with occasionally running an NPC, and there can be times when that progresses to a more regular thing--but I don't think that changes the overall picture much, since it doesn't say anything about the quality of the NPC involved. Its more like asking for people's tolerance to one-off games--they can be good with that occasionally without it being any kind of preference.

I'm curious what you feel the percentages are here. Like... 66/34? 95/5? Claiming that people enjoying playing characters not in the "competent fictional hero" mode are,
> indeed, the exception gives me the impression you consider them very rare, like, 1 out of 10 or less. I honestly don't know what the breakdown would be, but >think it is at least a sizable minority, measuring at least 35% of roleplayers or more,


{Sorry about the odd quoting above; I broke the quote bar, and didn't have the patience to try and fix it}

And yeah, as a preference, rather than an occasional acceptance, I think 35% or more is vastly too large.

(I'd consider the percentage of the hobby that primarily plays, just to show where this is likely the case, D&D, and modern D&D at that. Just counting them you're likely putting the entire rest of us in less than 10%. Now its fair if you want to exclude the purely-D&D types as distorting the picture, but as a simple example if 1% of the gaming hobby has ever played Ars Magica, I'd be surprised (this applies just as much to most of the games I've played in the last decade to be clear, true, once you pulled out Savage Worlds).


>are happy to at least sometimes play a game where their PC isn't in the mold you're speaking of. Like, I note you didn't really address some of the narrative >or story game style games I mentioned, and maybe you do not count them among "RPGs", but every player playing Fiasco is playing some dope in a >situation that's gone all wrong. There are guys who wouldn't mind being Rick Moranis and hamming it up in a Ghostbusters game.

Fiasco is a case where I'm neither willing to conclude it is or is outside of the conventional roleplaying hobby, though I'd lean toward it being in. On the other hand, its also outside of the mainstream enough its not exactly representative of much of anything.

Anyways, you may be right, and I doubt we'll be able to convince each other out of our respective opinions. I just wanted to make the case and have the point of view represented in the thread.

Well, as I said, trying to demonstrate what is the common view is fundamentally impossible; RPGers are too diverse in a more general sense, and there's no really good way to poll them that isn't distorted by the methodology involved. As an example, does looking at Roll20 numbers actually tell you anything? There are people who use relatively narrative specific systems that aren't mechanically complex who'd be unlikely to bother because there's nothing on it you couldn't just do with Discord. At the other end, people who use mechanically complex systems that don't have any mechanical support may be less likely to bother because there are cheaper ways to just move tokens around a battle board and they're going to have to support anything else themselves. So to what extent does it preselect for games already well known?

(This is not to say that it automatically isn't representative, just that assuming so is just that--an assumption).

That's why I say the only thing that I think can be reliably said is that the biggest part of the hobby is D&D, but that doesn't tell you much else, since there are people who play D&D (possibly a lot of them) who may have never heard of another game at all. So its going to distort any discussion that tries to pay attention to the part of the hobby outside it.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
Now, one advantage of random methods is that they are quick. Since you don't make decisions, you don't need knowledge and careful consideration to make them.

That, however, also means that you either don't have the things that long list of Advantages represent at all, or you're taking whatever the system tosses you out of its equivalent. Normally it just means it won't be there at all. Now, for some people that's more than okay; they don't really like those anyway, and would rather stick to just stats and skills. There's nothing stopping a build system from doing that; heck there's nothing stopping you from doing that in a system that does have that sort of thing; if you don't much care you're not the person they're there for in the first place.

So I'd think that the more time is at a premium, the more players might want random options, so that they can just play the game, instead of wading through long lists of possibilities that they will never use again. Of course, they might also just want entirely pregenerated characters, or templates with simple rules for tweaking them. Too often games that supply the templates don't supply those rules explicitly--if you want to tweak the template you basically have to know the char-gen procedure, so using them may not speed things up that much.

At some point, with a game with any complexity, you're either going to take a template as-is, or you really don't consider the speed that big a priority.

There is some irony in all of this. Having to learn a lot to design your character would actually make the most sense in a game where you burn through characters fairly frequently. Then that knowledge would be used over and over again---you wouldn't feel that 'well I've learned all that so that I can forget it for the next two years.' But, for historical and other reasons, things tend to be the opposite; char-gen is fastest and lightest in games where characters are likely to die.

Honestly, I think if you go into the game already with an extent idea, you're overstating how much of it you need to learn. If I'm going into a game planning to play someone who's just an intrusion specialist, I don't need to learn all the ins and outs of of magical advantages, or even most of the combat tricks. The only reason I need to anyway is either if the rules are poorly arranged or I'm subject to FOMO in such things.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
Other than one campaign, I've settled for random generation with GM oversight to provide re-rolls or fudges. For the one campaign with build I made the ability bonuses not dependent on the attributes, I gave everyone like 108 points for attributes (1 for 1) and then gave one +25%, two +20%, two +15%, two +10%, and one +5% ability bonuses to distribute between attack, parry, defense, manipulation, stealth, knowledge, perception, and communication. Previous experience with that campaign was also just choice. It worked OK but the PCs were generally considerably better than random generation would get. For my current campaign I chose to return to random generation, and initially didn't even give an extra die (as in 4d6k3) because I have been doing return to the roots gaming.

As I recall I settled in my Mythras campaign on "here are a bunch of D3's; you can assign them as you go, so you'll get pretty close to what you want, but you're not going to be able to count on hitting it exactly. on every breakpoint." (It still paid attention to totals, so it made sense to spread them around as you went to some extent).

Too bad I can't share my document laying out all the differences between RQ1 and RQ2, though it doesn't lay out all the differences in weapons - too many and it's one of the places I chose not to share all the differences to prevent my document from being able to be used with one edition to have access to the full text of the other.

Its probably all stuff I knew at one time--its just that that time is, well, around 40 years ago now.

RQ has enough non-combat skills to make for plenty to engage with. Glorantha also has several cults that are less combat oriented. But also the way I'm running things, characters mostly are able to contribute to combat. The one change I would make is to set up previous experience to give a bit more combat skill (not necessarily much more for militia, but barbarian should give more combat skill). As I've said, it's working out OK for my campaign.

I think you're still not understand what I mean by "engage with".

Let's say you have a character in RQ who (just for simplicity I'm going to use the RQ3 approach to these as an example) has Earth Lore, Plant Lore and Animal Lore.

Let's say an important question regarding something that comes up in play relates to one of these. What happens?

Typically, the GM calls for a roll based on, say, Animal Lore. The player attempts to make it; depending on whether he crits, specials, succeeds, fails or fumbles, the GM supplies him some information. Maybe he gets to make another skill roll of some sort to follow up with it.

What has the player actually decided during all this? Not much. He's been, effectively, a passive information conduit that is useful because he has the portals to knowledge those three Lores represent. But he hasn't actually had any real decision-making in terms of using them.

This applies to a lot of skills; social skills are often fundamentally in the same bucket, just perturbed by the GM's evaluation of his framing (but in a way that fundamentally doesn't have much to do with the game mechanics at all; in games without those skills the framing wouldn't be much different). The same thing applies to a lot of usage of outdoor skills, crafts and others; they're largely handles for one off actions and any input the player has on applying them tends to be binary cases of just getting into the situation to do so. There's almost never any mechanical support for deciding what's likely to be a useful thing to do and not to do other than playing guessing games with the GM.

Combat skills, on the other hand, tend to have a lot of necessary engagement (at least in games more sophisticated than OD&D); is it worthwhile to get around behind someone while your buddy is keeping him distracted? Do you want to go to cover while in a firefight or get a closer range? These are usually things that are visible decisions not only in the fiction, but in the mechanics; you don't have to guess whether they're liable to to be things that are worth the tradeoff of what you're doing in a general sense. Further, they can be very much life or death in a way only a limited number of other skills (say, swimming, jumping and climbing) tend to reliably be, or in settings where they aren't (say, most superhero games), pivot points between success or failure. Your Lore skill or your Craft skill may close off options, but usually failing them outright doesn't create a failure state right there.

That's why I say the engagement level tends to be lower even when people want the look-and-feel (as I'm experienced with having a fatal attraction to Kemoc Tregarth style warrior-sages).


Sure it's a little blithe. But my choices are for my game. Anyone willing to play in my game could find numerous other choices (since they are already OK with online).


Even then, are there a bunch of other options in the time frames they have? Are any of them any better in this regard?

To make it clear, I'm not saying you should do anything different, I'm just saying "Find another game" is often not nearly as simple and functional as some people think it is, online or no.
I grant, for players who don't want to play online, or whose time availability doesn't coincide with lots of available online games, lack of choice could be a problem and then sure, maybe the only interesting games are random chargen. But I suspect build is much more popular than random, so I'm not sure there's really a problem. And even if it was, why should any given GM be forced to run a system where character build is available if they have plenty of players who are happy with random chargen? And if there aren't enough players happy with random chargen, then the GM will just have to offer character build.

The question is, is it more common in the kinds of games they're looking for? I mean, lets use a simple example. Lets have someone who enjoys a lot of elements of the Traveler experience, but not the way character gen works. He can try and look around for people who've patched around it, or see if he can find a game of Cepheus Deluxe (which is pretty close though its an offshoot), but that's a longshot. He's kind of stuck because Traveler traditionally used a really random (more than most if anything) character generation system and that's not really changed particularly dramatically over the years. And I suspect its still fills a lot of what you can find in terms of space-game availability.

I'm not going to say anyone should feel obliged to fix matters because of This Guy, but its still absolutely creating a problem for him, and a big part of it is just that this particular part of the hobby is so random-centric.

In a game about traveling between worlds, I don't think "zero-g could be important" is all that much heavy lifting. And the presence of Vacc Suit among the not very long list of Classic Traveller skills suggests that it IS important.

Yes, but the question is, is it important enough by itself? If so, you'd expect more people would get it as a mandatory skill, at least among the space-travel backgrounds like Naval, Scouts and Merchants. But its easy enough to come out of those without it. So is it really that generically useful? That suggests not, or that there's a basic design problem here.

Not having Mechanical or Electronics doesn't prevent one from being able to make repairs. At least the way I and other GMs have been playing. A GM might also rule that if two characters EVA in a team, one with Vacc Suit, and one with Mechanical and/or Electronics the one with Vacc Suit can (mostly) assure safety.

If you're willing to let someone without Electronics do complex electronic repairs, you're much more generous than any Traveler GM I ever ran into.

Yes, so it's important how the character's capabilities actually measure up in the game. If combat is 90% of the game time like it was when I was running Arcana Unearthed/Evolved (D&D 3.x, and I'm not sure it was 90% but still it was the bulk of the time), then yes, everyone needs to have a good solid role in combat. If combat is even only 50% of the time, then being useful in combat may still be important (it is half the game time after all), but if one has other opportunities to shine, one need not be equally shiny in combat as the other characters.

The question is, does the others that allows them to shine come up as often? Now, obviously, if you have little or no combat at all, then that changes the dynamic (but that seems to be short list of normal campaign types if one is to believe the amount of landscape most games take up with combat rules), but you still have the issue that marginal combatants will likely still participate in combat (often because they have no choice) but marginal negotiators or intrusion specialists won't likely participate in negotiations or intrusion attempts, because they're too likely to bollix it up. And that's assuming those come up as frequently as combat does in other games; if you have five characters, all of which participate in combat, but only one or two each of which participates in negotiation, crafting and scouting, even if all three of those others comes up as often as combat, they're not on the whole going to be things as many people get to see in play (and this is ignoring the issue I mention above about engagement).


My Traveller campaign featured less than 50% combat time. My RQ campaign is probably somewhere around 50% combat time, sometimes more, sometimes less, but all my PCs have a solid role in combat and if someone was unhappy, I would work with them. I'd do that if a character build wound up not being very effective in combat considering the amount of combat in the campaign, and believe me, all of the build systems I've had much experience with can easily produce characters that are less combat effective than a 1st level magic user in OD&D 3 LBB (who hit's the same as the fighters for the same 1d6 damage... He just has a piss poor AC and hit points). I have never had an RQ PC who was useless in combat (if they can't fight, they can at least cast something useful in combat more than just healing).

I have to honestly say the only way I've ever seen anyone in a build system that bad was when they were neither trying to understand the system at all or were ignoring advice from people who understood it better. The only other way it would happen is if they actively avoided investing in any combat skills, and well, if you do that the result should not be a surprise (and if its liable to matter someone should likely point that out).
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
Sure, and that's where a bit of GM oversight goes a long way. The GM still needs that oversight with build because in build systems you always have one person who is a slave to character concept, damn the campaign... :-)

Sure, but that person is at least the person who's deliberately shooting himself in the foot. That can be true in any game whatsoever.

Now campaigns where the players don't quite get what the campaign is about are a different story, because there's been some kind of communication breakdown there, but its not like a random system is particularly likely to make that better (if for no other reason there's bound to be some decisions somewhere).

I'm old, but I'm actively running RQ... And I dug into the books to verify the rule (because MY memory was minimum chance of skill increase was INT x 1%...).

I'd still expect to remember it a bit better since its probably one of the two games I ran most for at least around two decades. Of course I also ran three different editions (and that's not counting my recent use of Mythras or running some other BRP offshoots) so getting them mixed up is just easy. If asked about RQ rules I'd probably end up giving RQ3 answers if I didn't specifically remember, but who knows?

Yes and no (SF games being single focused). Apparently there were lots of mercenary Traveller campaigns... But then everyone was generating an Army or Marine character using Book 4 which gave more skills. But yes, for Classic Traveller (books 1-3), rolling up several characters and picking one doesn't take that long and is kind of fun.

While true, even in a mercenaries game you still needed someone to fly and fix the air raft and be able to negotiate the locals. You might do without a scientist or (depending on how the campaign is set up) a ship specialist, but you weren't going to be able to get by with shooters and nothing else.

Yea, RQ1 and RQ2 only have Oratory in the book. There are a few others that are cult specialties. RQ3 started to expand the list. I play with an expanded list.

That's probably another case of my misremembering, then; I thought I remembered at least the distinction between Oratory and Fast Talk (and probably Bargain) going way back.

Sure, my techniques reduce the randomness (to a lesser or greater degree), but they avoid trying to figure out a workable build system.

Well, I'm not going to fault someone not wanting to do that with RQ. I'm extremely familiar with build systems and I couldn't come up with a workable one for Mythras, and RQ isn't that different.

I haven't made much of that argument. But doing random stuff in GURPS or Hero wouldn't work out that well.

And this is where I disagree. There's nothing about Hero that makes random attribute generation impossible, or even difficult. I did it for NPCs sometimes in Fantasy Hero for a long time. Yeah, you aren't going to precisely hit the break points, but if that's a thing you're focused on you aren't going to want random anyway. But there's nothing about rolling, say, 3D6+2 for each Hero attribute that is unworkable (if your campaign wants more heroic characters, do something like 2D8+4 or or 3D4+8). You'll want to deduct whatever value total you get from the full points, but so what? If you don't want the completely random result, roll and place. I'm really not seeing how the result there is any worse than it is in any other game that uses random gen as a default. You probably can do something similar in GURPS; the result may not always be idea, but, and?

Its even easier in games where the attribute pool and the pools used for skills are separated.

Using RQ's previous experience, there's a pretty significant component of randomness beyond the attributes with the skill increases (at least in RQ1 - RQ2 previous experience is different and not so random).

If used straight, if anything RQ3 was even more so.

Traveller is the big example of random skill determination. I think there ARE some other games out there, but I haven't played them. Villains and Vigilantes of course is another example with random powers. Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World have random mutations. Chivalry and Sorcery has random race (and random alignment...), though I think you can always choose to play human instead of what you roll.

Well, don't get me started about random generation in superhero games; whatever my opinion of random in general I think doing it in that genre is generically a mistake, whether some people like it or not (and I know the old MSH people do). But short of things doing essentially retroclones, I doubt you'd see a modern game doing the random mutation thing (talk about a place with stupid big power swings).
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
I think for Classic Traveller paired attributes would work OK. STR/INT, DEX/EDU, END/SOC (hey that's even cool, those mamby pamby nobles aren't very robust...). I think you can almost always pick a career where a low attribute isn't horrible. And your hit points are no less random than they are in the rules as written though Marines would suck because you want 5 of the 6 attributes at 8+... Merchants also sucks because you want both STR and INT high, though if you don't mind never getting promoted you can live with 7/7 and INT 9+ still is relatively easy to get in (5+ vs the 4+ for the attributes in the 7/7). You will do decent with 6/8 but you need a 6+ to get in. Army uses a bunch of attributes but you only need 6+ or 7+. To have the best chance of getting in the scouts you have to perfectly land STR 8/INT 6... Of course if you make the total for each pair 15 or 16, things look a lot better and you're guaranteed some 8+ attributes.

That's a particular artifact of the way Traveler gates access to some careers, though; most games don't have that kind of issues.

But like I said, there are games where you really, really don't want much of anything low. Going in with a 1 in any attribute in Fragged Empire is just painful if you're going to have any combat at all, because of how damage is done, and the fact all six attributes contribute to combat significantly.
 

zanshin

Legendary Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2021
Messages
607
Reaction score
1,233
Even doing that in some games would be painful. Once in a while you get a game that really doesn't provide a lot of dump stats. Mythras is one of those, but you really need to think twice before having a really low attribute in the Fragged Empire derived games too. So having a really high stat forcing you to have a really low one--almost anyone--can be pretty unattractive.

Of course some people just think that's a challenge, but I don't know that maps to everyone who would like to just not have a completely substandard character.
If you all want a more competent game you just up the stat count.

Want everyone to average 13? Roll 2d6 +6, deduct from 26.

Again, a semi random solution for lovers of the random.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
As I recall I settled in my Mythras campaign on "here are a bunch of D3's; you can assign them as you go, so you'll get pretty close to what you want, but you're not going to be able to count on hitting it exactly. on every breakpoint." (It still paid attention to totals, so it made sense to spread them around as you went to some extent).
That's an interesting way of doing it. I think I've considered doing that with d6s. I have considered roll 18d6 and then spread them out. Hmm, you COULD even allow putting more than 3d6 in one attribute (thus only 2d6 in another) so long as you don't exceed 18 or go lower than 3. But at that point you've basically rolled a random number of points for point buy...

Its probably all stuff I knew at one time--its just that that time is, well, around 40 years ago now.
You've played a lot more BRP games than I have, and it's been a while since you played RQ2. I have run RQ1 every decade since 1978 and have an active campaign. I should have a better memory... And yet, I still didn't know the right rule. It's amazing the rules you don't know because you didn't play that way when you first played and just assume you know what a given section says so you don't really read it, even when you DO read it...

I think you're still not understand what I mean by "engage with".

Let's say you have a character in RQ who (just for simplicity I'm going to use the RQ3 approach to these as an example) has Earth Lore, Plant Lore and Animal Lore.

Let's say an important question regarding something that comes up in play relates to one of these. What happens?

Typically, the GM calls for a roll based on, say, Animal Lore. The player attempts to make it; depending on whether he crits, specials, succeeds, fails or fumbles, the GM supplies him some information. Maybe he gets to make another skill roll of some sort to follow up with it.

What has the player actually decided during all this? Not much. He's been, effectively, a passive information conduit that is useful because he has the portals to knowledge those three Lores represent. But he hasn't actually had any real decision-making in terms of using them.

This applies to a lot of skills; social skills are often fundamentally in the same bucket, just perturbed by the GM's evaluation of his framing (but in a way that fundamentally doesn't have much to do with the game mechanics at all; in games without those skills the framing wouldn't be much different). The same thing applies to a lot of usage of outdoor skills, crafts and others; they're largely handles for one off actions and any input the player has on applying them tends to be binary cases of just getting into the situation to do so. There's almost never any mechanical support for deciding what's likely to be a useful thing to do and not to do other than playing guessing games with the GM.
I think it really does depend on play style. But you also call out lore skills. I have come to the opinion that those are horrible skills in most games. Once I started running Fantasy Hero, I loaded every game up with them. And they NEVER were actually used or made any real difference. A play style some folks use with Burning Wheel is the ONE time I've seen them actually be interesting in play. In that style, a player may offer an assertion about the world. The GM can either say "yes, that's the way the world works" ("say yes or roll the dice") or say "no, the world doesn't work that way" (this is actually "say yes or roll the dice" also, "say yes or roll the dice" doesn't mean players can propose any cockamamie thing, make a dice roll, and have it be true), or the GM can say: "hmm, that's interesting, roll you're XYZ lore." (Now in the old days, I might have just assigned some percentage to something like that, but having a character skill factor in is cool). It helps that the RQ skill list is heavily tilted towards adventuring and not representing the skills of the farmers and townsmen of the world (though some of those skills have been added by RQ2 cults).

Combat skills, on the other hand, tend to have a lot of necessary engagement (at least in games more sophisticated than OD&D); is it worthwhile to get around behind someone while your buddy is keeping him distracted? Do you want to go to cover while in a firefight or get a closer range? These are usually things that are visible decisions not only in the fiction, but in the mechanics; you don't have to guess whether they're liable to to be things that are worth the tradeoff of what you're doing in a general sense. Further, they can be very much life or death in a way only a limited number of other skills (say, swimming, jumping and climbing) tend to reliably be, or in settings where they aren't (say, most superhero games), pivot points between success or failure. Your Lore skill or your Craft skill may close off options, but usually failing them outright doesn't create a failure state right there.

That's why I say the engagement level tends to be lower even when people want the look-and-feel (as I'm experienced with having a fatal attraction to Kemoc Tregarth style warrior-sages).
Certainly there is no doubt, everyone (who can contribute) will be engaged in combat. And my answer to that has always been to allow a player to pass on a random set of rolls that makes for someone useless in combat. I'm not going to make you run STR 6, DEX 10, CON 8, SIZ 11, POW 12, INT 15, CHA 13 unless you really want to.

Even then, are there a bunch of other options in the time frames they have? Are any of them any better in this regard?

To make it clear, I'm not saying you should do anything different, I'm just saying "Find another game" is often not nearly as simple and functional as some people think it is, online or no.
A reasonable point. But if there's more people who want to play character build systems than GMs, again, it's a people problem not a rule set problem. But I suspect given D&D started to shift to attribute array (and thus totally a build system), that the majority of games are actually using character builds.

The question is, is it more common in the kinds of games they're looking for? I mean, lets use a simple example. Lets have someone who enjoys a lot of elements of the Traveler experience, but not the way character gen works. He can try and look around for people who've patched around it, or see if he can find a game of Cepheus Deluxe (which is pretty close though its an offshoot), but that's a longshot. He's kind of stuck because Traveler traditionally used a really random (more than most if anything) character generation system and that's not really changed particularly dramatically over the years. And I suspect its still fills a lot of what you can find in terms of space-game availability.
Yea, maybe that's a problem for SFRPG though I wonder how much Star Wars there is compared to Traveller? But again, if there's not enough GMs running SFRPGs that use character builds (including optional rules for Traveller) for the demand, then we have a people problem again.

So if there's a mismatch in demand, then it seems like there's opportunity for folks who might want to GM.

Now if it falls down to "GM's prefer random, while players prefer build" well, I guess the players have to learn to like random... I know that's kind of flippant, but a mismatch of preferences is simply a people problem. And if it really came down to GMs vs players, guess what, the rule sets are going to favor random... because (most) rule sets are designed by GMs (I feel like I have heard of a player concocting a rule set and then trying to get someone to GM the game...).

I'm not going to say anyone should feel obliged to fix matters because of This Guy, but its still absolutely creating a problem for him, and a big part of it is just that this particular part of the hobby is so random-centric.

Yes, but the question is, is it important enough by itself? If so, you'd expect more people would get it as a mandatory skill, at least among the space-travel backgrounds like Naval, Scouts and Merchants. But its easy enough to come out of those without it. So is it really that generically useful? That suggests not, or that there's a basic design problem here.

If you're willing to let someone without Electronics do complex electronic repairs, you're much more generous than any Traveler GM I ever ran into.
So this does actually start to approach the problem I have with modern games. Trying to actually represent someone's knowledge and capability with a skill system seems doomed to me. So I embraced the idea put forth for Classic Traveller that the skills are NOT the character's resume, but things they are good at in emergency situations. Now some of the rules for penalties for not having the skill maybe should be re-examined with that idea in mind (maybe just -1 or -2 instead of -4). But note that a Scout ship is supposed to be operable by a single Scout, who can be granted a ship after one term. The ONLY sure skill said Scout has is Pilot. He must be able to make a reasonable number of repairs (though the low survival rate may reflect unskilled repairs made in an emergency...) and navigate, etc. etc. Even a Scout with several terms is unlikely to have ALL the reasonably necessary skills. So with this philosophy it's easier to assume almost any character can contribute. And then add in the offer to roll multiple PCs (which I have seen MUCH more commonly with Traveller than any other game). Oh, and technically by the rules, a player COULD choose to play a 0-term character with thusly no skills at all, this section after naming the character in 1977 Book 1:

"ACQUIRING SKILLS AND EXPERTISE

A newly generated character is singularly unequipped to deal with the adventuring world, having neither the expertise nor the experience necessary for the active life. In order to acquire some experience, it is possible to enlist in a service."

Note the last phrase and the use of "it is possible". That's not a requirement or force... Though the section also argues for enlisting in a service so you DO have expertise and experience.

The question is, does the others that allows them to shine come up as often? Now, obviously, if you have little or no combat at all, then that changes the dynamic (but that seems to be short list of normal campaign types if one is to believe the amount of landscape most games take up with combat rules), but you still have the issue that marginal combatants will likely still participate in combat (often because they have no choice) but marginal negotiators or intrusion specialists won't likely participate in negotiations or intrusion attempts, because they're too likely to bollix it up. And that's assuming those come up as frequently as combat does in other games; if you have five characters, all of which participate in combat, but only one or two each of which participates in negotiation, crafting and scouting, even if all three of those others comes up as often as combat, they're not on the whole going to be things as many people get to see in play (and this is ignoring the issue I mention above about engagement).
Considering how many times I've heard people talk about how awesome last week's session was in some game their playing because the dice were never rolled, I'm not sure how many campaigns have so much combat... My personal opinion though is such games with no dice rolls (at least as a regular thing) suck. Yea, I've had an occasional RQ session with few if any rolls. Partly that's due to 2 hour sessions which can easily be eaten up by planning or role play without hitting much that needs a roll. The thing is that at least in my campaigns, I have had almost no PCs that couldn't contribute to combat. I DO have one player complaining about that right now - he joined in the middle of a multi-session attempt to take out some high powered enemies in a constricted cave setting, many of the other combats run in the campaign, he would be in there with his spear (he is better with spear than the 2nd longest running PC in the group) or slinging, or casting spells. His Detect Undead was critical to understanding what they are up against (though the longest running PC DOES have Detect Undead, this particular PC was the one who cast it). But he also CHOSE to play an alchemist, now granted, he (and I) had no idea how that would actually play out. He would be more effective in almost any other scenario the PCs have been involved in (right now they are in the back ass end of nowhere - well not quite, they are just in the Condor Crags of Prax not The Wastes...). And I've offered to have a one on one conversation with him so we can change up his character. So sure, it's possible to end up with a combat weenie. If so, let's talk and fix it. In the meantime, no everyone doesn't need to be equal in combat as long as other stuff is important also.

I have to honestly say the only way I've ever seen anyone in a build system that bad was when they were neither trying to understand the system at all or were ignoring advice from people who understood it better. The only other way it would happen is if they actively avoided investing in any combat skills, and well, if you do that the result should not be a surprise (and if its liable to matter someone should likely point that out).
I've had players who build very non-combat oriented concepts. And some of them have been resistant to my guidance that they are heading down a path of unhappiness. Back in my Hero days I also had players who would refuse help with optimizing their character. But continuing my harping, those are people problems not rule system problems... OK, Hero (and to not quite the same extent GURPS) ARE problematic for the fact that optimization makes such a huge difference in effectiveness. D&D 3.x had the same problem with class level progression and feat selection. But optimization can be addressed by the players and GM. People problems can too... :-) - If you refuse to engage with the game as offered and the guidance offered and you rage quit, that's on you, not on the GM or the other players. The main way randomness can be a problem there is a hard nosed GM who insists on you playing exactly what you rolled no matter how much you don't want to or how much the character sucks. I've learned not to play with hard nosed GMs. I bailed out of a Traveller campaign because the GM was kind of a jerk about things and I kept having characters killed without any real opportunity to do anything about it.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
Sure, but that person is at least the person who's deliberately shooting himself in the foot. That can be true in any game whatsoever.

Now campaigns where the players don't quite get what the campaign is about are a different story, because there's been some kind of communication breakdown there, but its not like a random system is particularly likely to make that better (if for no other reason there's bound to be some decisions somewhere).
See my previous post for players shooting themselves...

Communication breakdown about play style and campaign direction/goals happens a lot. Some players roll with it well. Many players at least have a functional character, maybe a different choice would have been better, but at least this PC can function. And sometimes you need to adjust a PC or roll/build a new one. Starting with Hero, I started allowing players to rebuild after a session or two (and honestly would allow it even later if something significant only became apparent much later). That kind of grace and allowing re-rolls or roll several characters and pick one go a long way.

While true, even in a mercenaries game you still needed someone to fly and fix the air raft and be able to negotiate the locals. You might do without a scientist or (depending on how the campaign is set up) a ship specialist, but you weren't going to be able to get by with shooters and nothing else.
I think Book 4 characters are pretty likely to get some Vehicle skill. If you're doing a merc campaign with Book 4 characters, you don't expect to have a ship specialist. Classic Traveller has no science skills (Supplement 4 scientists get lots of technical skills). And Traveller rarely produces a character who is JUST a shooter, even Book 1. In a play by post I'm in, we recently finished a mercenary ticket and we did just fine with random Book 1 characters.

That's probably another case of my misremembering, then; I thought I remembered at least the distinction between Oratory and Fast Talk (and probably Bargain) going way back.
Bargain is added in Cults of Prax. I'm not sure when Fast Talk was introduced (I DO use it, but I could have taken it from anywhere, not necessarily even RQ).

Well, I'm not going to fault someone not wanting to do that with RQ. I'm extremely familiar with build systems and I couldn't come up with a workable one for Mythras, and RQ isn't that different.
Well, at least you support my assertion that RQ and build doesn't work very well...

And this is where I disagree. There's nothing about Hero that makes random attribute generation impossible, or even difficult. I did it for NPCs sometimes in Fantasy Hero for a long time. Yeah, you aren't going to precisely hit the break points, but if that's a thing you're focused on you aren't going to want random anyway. But there's nothing about rolling, say, 3D6+2 for each Hero attribute that is unworkable (if your campaign wants more heroic characters, do something like 2D8+4 or or 3D4+8). You'll want to deduct whatever value total you get from the full points, but so what? If you don't want the completely random result, roll and place. I'm really not seeing how the result there is any worse than it is in any other game that uses random gen as a default. You probably can do something similar in GURPS; the result may not always be idea, but, and?
Yea, I just wonder what kind of characters come out of random in Hero. I think it wouldn't be so unworkable in GURPS. The problem in Hero might be the number of points "wasted" on non-optimal attributes. And how would you do random for Champions where some high attributes are effectively powers?

Its even easier in games where the attribute pool and the pools used for skills are separated.
I'm sure there would be some, others would be hard pressed to make sense.

If used straight, if anything RQ3 was even more so.
Yea, RQ3 previous experience has almost no randomness (other than origin/social class type stuff). I used RQ3 style previous experience in the 1990s and 2000s.

Well, don't get me started about random generation in superhero games; whatever my opinion of random in general I think doing it in that genre is generically a mistake, whether some people like it or not (and I know the old MSH people do). But short of things doing essentially retroclones, I doubt you'd see a modern game doing the random mutation thing (talk about a place with stupid big power swings).
For me random for Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World would be part of the charm of playing those games. I agree, random super heroes don't sound very appealing unless you really worked on it and made the randomness really part of the game (the cosmic beam just blasted New York yesterday, you woke up with some weird new powers). But in that case, we're playing to find out just what these new powers mean. Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World are definitely strong play to find out games also, so I think random concept works as long as you truly embrace it. And the fun in any of these games is going to be success despite the wacky things the random chargen threw at you, and trying to figure out how to use this random ass set of powers to stay alive. There is a game in there. And it's not for everyone. Even I'm not signing up to play it tomorrow. But I can see how it could be appealing IF approached correctly.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
That's a particular artifact of the way Traveler gates access to some careers, though; most games don't have that kind of issues.
Yes, though plenty of games of course do have multiple attribute sets needed to excel in certain areas.

But like I said, there are games where you really, really don't want much of anything low. Going in with a 1 in any attribute in Fragged Empire is just painful if you're going to have any combat at all, because of how damage is done, and the fact all six attributes contribute to combat significantly.
Sure, you really don't want a 2 in Burning Wheel, thus so many characters with all 3s and 4s, you usually only take a 5 if you can still make everything else in the pool at least 3. You don't want less than a 2 (or really less than 3) SPD in Hero. I'd wager that almost every system has at least one attribute that royally sucks if you have too low a value in it. Even LBB OD&D, a low CON would suck (-1 HP per level).
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
If you all want a more competent game you just up the stat count.

Want everyone to average 13? Roll 2d6 +6, deduct from 26.

Again, a semi random solution for lovers of the random.
Yep that would work.

Another thing you could do is allowing you to change ONE pair by up to 2 points. Add a little bit of choice while still being reasonably random.
 

Lofgeornost

Vulpine once more.
Joined
Jul 8, 2020
Messages
1,780
Reaction score
5,047
I'd phrase the question somewhat differently.

"Are you willing to risk playing a beggar in exchange for the possibility of playing a noble?"

This is where the game part becomes important for me; I don't necessarily think there's anything wrong with the idea that random generation should provide a high risk/reward ratio. I'm fine with both random and point buy being an option, but if a player chooses random I expect them to roll with the punches and if they choose point buy I expect them to be ok with the fact their character will be average, not exceptional (whatever that means in the confines of the system).

That makes sense to me, but then I'm fine with some random elements in char-gen. I don't know how those who are adamantly opposed to randomness would feel about the issue. A lot of the complaints seem to boil down to the fact that random will likely lead to some characters being more powerful or successful than others out of the gate. (I won't say 'competent' since IMO that's one of the weasel-words of RPG discourse). So if that is one of the major problems with random parts of char-gen, then those who dislike it won't care that if those who embrace it took the chance of failure. If any of the random characters are in some way superior, they will still complain.

Some of this makes me wonder if the retreat of randomness in char-gen is the result of what I've come to think of as the 'no mushrooms on pizza' problem. That is, I've found that when I sit down to order pizza with a group of people, there is always somebody who dislikes mushrooms--or more accurately, despises them and can't stand to have them anywhere on the pie. So the order never includes mushrooms.

Likewise, looking over the thread, it seems to me that those who dislike randomness are a good deal more passionate about the issue, and less willing to see any value in randomness, than the reverse. So I suppose that if I were a designer seeking to get a lot of people to play my new game, I'd be more likely to feature non-random than random elements in char-gen, since you'll face a more dedicated and vociferous pushback from the 'non-random only' side than from the 'I like some random' side. No mushrooms, in other words.

Of course, I could just be overgeneralizing from one thread. More likely, games feature non-random char-gen because that's what the majority of players want--or what the designers want--or what designers think players want.
 
Last edited:

VisionStorm

Legendary Member
Joined
May 4, 2020
Messages
630
Reaction score
1,448
That makes sense to me, but then I'm fine with some random elements in char-gen. I don't know how those who are adamantly opposed to randomness would feel about the issue. A lot of the complaints seem to boil down to the fact that random will likely lead to some characters being more powerful or successful than others out of the gate. (I won't say 'competent' since IMO that's one of the weasel-words of RPG discourse). So if that is one of the major problems with random parts of char-gen, then those who dislike it won't care that if those who embrace it took the chance of failure. If any of the random characters are in some way superior, they will still complain.

Some of this makes me wonder if the retreat of randomness in char-gen is the result of what I've come to think of as the 'no mushrooms on pizza' problem. That is, I've found that when I sit down to order pizza with a group of people, there is always somebody who dislikes mushrooms--or more accurately, despises them and can't stand to have them anywhere on the pie. So the order never includes mushrooms.

Likewise, looking over the thread, it seems to me that those who dislike randomness are a good deal more passionate about the issue, and less willing to see any value in randomness, than the reverse. So I suppose that if I were a designer seeking to get a lot of people to play my new game, I'd be more likely to feature non-random than random elements in char-gen, since you'll face a more dedicated and vociferous pushback from the 'non-random only' side than from the 'I like some random' side. No mushrooms, in other words.

Of course, I could just be overgeneralizing from one thread. More likely, games feature non-random char-gen because that's what the majority of players want--or what the designers want--or what designers think players want.

For me, my dislike of randomness is mostly about attributes and power disparities rather than random generation per se. And I think that, power disparities aside, there can be a lot of value in random generation when it comes to life-path style stuff and random selection of character elements. They can help you out when you don't have a clear idea of what you want to play, and you might even end up with a character you might not have considered before. Plus a lot of that stuff can be easily ignored by people who prefer to customize their characters to their specifications by simply making random selection optional.

I also wouldn't take this thread as a representative sample, since I've run into people elsewhere who seem to think that random generation is the one true way, and people who don't conform to random generation are just whiney snowflakes.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
I just had another thought about character types...

A lot of the problem we run into is that RPGs came out of the wargaming hobby. That hobby knows how to make combat games engaging. And spatial positioning and such makes sense and is easy to make interesting. So we can have an interesting mini-game for a battle.

What the heck do we do for lock picking? Or bargaining? Or diplomacy?

We can sort of make an interesting game out of travel (again, we have spatial positioning with interesting terrain), so I think we CAN come up with a set of exploration skills that could make for a reasonably interesting game.

But too many other things are going to be hard to model with other than a single roll. Sometimes we will give a task a number of task points (like hit points) and you have to make rolls. Or there was the old track the enemy until you fail a tracking roll. Climb the cliff until you fail a climbing roll. Even books like TSR's Wilderness Survival Guide or Game Lords Mountain Environment couldn't actually make mountain climbing more than a roll until you fail game.

So non-combat turns interesting in my games when an encounter causes the players to have to come up with an interesting solution, and some modest amount of time is used up, but no where near as many rolls in that time as if we had a short combat.

And this is the root of a non-combat skill be useful for at best a roll or two every few sessions or something.

Now one solution is to render combat so simple it works in the same way. I haven't really played any of those games so I can't say how satisfying they are. Now granted, some folks play D&D without miniatures and a map, but the combat still is more interesting than the aforementioned mountain climbing. I will say that I have not very often heard someone talk about their years long campaign in a simplified system.

And so yea, if combat is the most engaging aspect of play, all characters had better be useful in combat, and build certainly is easier to guarantee that.
 

TJS

Legendary Member
Joined
May 5, 2018
Messages
2,263
Reaction score
4,692
This is almost getting into a different topic, but I think the Wargame legacy is key here. Combat is tactical (although often barely). This means it contains an element of player skill and decision making. Mountain climing can only ever be interesting as a mini-game if it's similarly tactical.

This lends itself to a few approaches.
1) Make a non-tactical minigame. In this approach you just roll dice in an extended resolution. Without any real scope for player skill all this really does is introduce a bell curve to resolution. It's not particularly interesting.
2) Make it an interesting tactical simulation. The problem here is most nerds have a better idea of what would be tactically useful in combat than they do of mountain climbingg. Sure the system could teach how to make good mountain climbing decisions, but is there really an audience to care about that? You'd also need a different mini-game for each different thing you'd be simulating, unless your focus is on one particular tactical option, i.e the game is all about mountain climbing in particular. This is how A Song of Ice and Fire rpg handles social intrigue.
3) Make it tactical but non-simulationist. This would mean that you could have basically the same kind of tactical options for each thing covered. The downside that this is likely to become so abstract as to be disengaging - and likely miss a lot of the reasons why people are playing a RPG rather than a board game in the first place.
4) Make the mini-games not tactical all all, but dramatic. This is basically similar to one in many ways, but adds the narrative element of seeing how things unfold from a story perspective, with some element of interpretation and improvisation to keep things interesting. This approach has the benefit of actually working and not needing a whole lot of different mini-games for different situations, but is not what many want (baby/bathwater etc). More narrative games handle everything this way, but there are also games like Savage Worlds which has a traditional tactical combat system but also has a dramatic task resolution for other situations that works more this way. (This kind of hybrid, tactical mini-games in some spaces, dramatic skill challenges in others, actually works quite well in my experience).
 
Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com
Top