View Single Post
Old 01-03-2018, 01:19 PM   #49
JLV's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Far northern California
Default Re: The Fantasy Trip

Steve, since we're on the subject of rules issues, one of my main ones has always been "attribute bloat." I've written about it several times over on Mark Tabyanan's fan-site, and pretty much every house rule I've ever made for TFT has been dedicated to overcoming that issue. If the average human female has a ST of 9-11 and the average human male has a ST of 10-12, being able to bump a character up to a ST of 43 seems...excessive. Similarly, if an IQ of greater than 14 is considered "genius," and we know that actual "geniuses" are rare in human history, an IQ of 36 somehow seems extreme. DX, at least, tends to be self-limiting to some extent -- after about 20 it's really sort of pointless to add in extra DX points for the most part.

Nonetheless, in the rules as written, you have to bump up to these extreme levels in order to be able to become that master wizard, or Conanesque warrior. Which goes back directly to the XP system wherein you are only allowed to spend XP for attribute plus-up, and how IQ limits learning in the game.

I've spent a lot of time (a couple of decades!) thinking about this, and have some thoughts I'd like to share with you on the topic.

XP expenditures should not be limited solely to attributes; in addition, using XP as a method of acquiring new skills and spells can be used to basically eliminate all the confusing rules on how new spells, languages and skills are learned and old ones are unlearned.

XP for attribute increase should be high. I'm thinking on the order of 200 XP to increase an attribute point at the "up to 36 total attribute points" level and doubling thereafter at each stage as listed in ITL (i.e., 400 at the "37-40" level, 800 at the "41-45" level, and so on), but even without changing that, the following system still works (attribute points are just more attractive than they otherwise would be, for a while). However, new Skills and Spells could be acquired by spending XP to earn them directly, instead of via attribute increases. This not only forces the players to make "resource management" decisions, but also effectively can simulate the time it takes to learn a new thing.

For Wizard Characters, the cost to gain a new Spell might be 20x the IQ level of the new Spell; while for non-Wizards it could be 60x Spell's IQ level. Spells have a higher cost because they don't have a built-in "difficulty" differential in the form of the number of IQ points they absorb to learn (they are all 1-point items).

Likewise, skills for the non-Wizard could be at 10x IQ level of the skill, while for Wizards it could be 30x the IQ level. Since skills (or "Talents" currently) are given varying "difficulty levels" in the form of the number of IQ points they absorb when you learn them, you could add in a modifier for the difficulty by again multiplying the number of XP by the existing number of IQ points the skill absorbs (that is, a 3-point skill would cost three times as much in XP as a 1-point skill). So, learning PHYSICKER (IQ-11, 2 points) would cost the non-Wizard player 220 XP to learn, and could only be learned by a character with an IQ of 11 or higher.

This would also require decoupling the number of skills/spells a player can have from his total IQ, and would instead enable a much freer construction of character type -- IF you survive long enough to accumulate the required XP. It also forces the player to choose between new skills, and new attribute points in expending XP. Finally, it also puts some effective limits on the number of attribute points a player gains -- at least until he acquires every single skill and spell in existence... Finally, it removes the need for "learning time" rules because the acquisition of XP requires time, and effectively handles that issue for you. Certainly, an FM could still require a player to state what skills/spells/languages/attributes s/he's working on improving, if the FM so chooses, but even that really isn't sort of comes out in the wash with this concept. It also removes the need to "forget" things before you can acquire others, which always struck me as an artificiality we were more or less forced into by the "IQ limits the number of Skills/Spells/Languages you can know" rule.

Oh, and starting characters should be limited to four or five skills/spells at the time of character creation, just for simplicity's sake...

Languages would be handled a bit differently. Your starting language is a free "skill" that every character has and which does not count against starting skills. (Literacy in that language might be a different issue, though!) At its simplest, learning new languages would require, say, 150 to 200 XP per language learned. Since there are no "IQ requirements" to learn a language, that would be a straight requirement across the board (and the same for both Wizards and Warriors).

Of note, this is an overly simplistic depiction of languages. Learning "pidgen" is infinitely easier than learning Latin, and learning Latin is much easier than learning Mandarin Chinese. To my mind, there ought to be a "difficulty level" for languages. Not tied to IQ, but just a recognition that some languages are easier to learn than others. It could be handled in the same way as skills currently are -- 1 to 3 points of "difficulty."

Literacy in a language is an issue too, and currently TFT has the LITERACY skill which doesn't really work the way it ought to because it requires IQ points to learn. Technically, just because you are literate in one language, that doesn't mean you are in any other. Sure, for those languages using the same alphabet, it's easy enough to transfer across, but if anyone thinks literacy is easy, try to read a Russian street sign, or an Arabic protest banner.

If I were going to use a different system for languages, I would probably say that learning to speak a language is a 150 point XP spend (based on the revised costs for other things I've listed above). You could complicate things more, if you wanted, by requiring multiple spends to improve fluency in the spoken version, but in that case the individual cost for levels of fluency should be dropped to, say, 50 points per level. You might have 3 levels -- 1, can make oneself understood, 2 fluent but obviously a foreigner, and 3, idiomatic -- which would keep in line with the 1, 2, and 3 point skills already existing in TFT. Some languages (like pidgen, again) might only BE a 1-pointer -- you either know it or you don't and there is no such thing as being idiomatic.

However, learning to write and read the language is an additional XP spend costing some additional number of points based on the written form; if you already know a language using the same kind of alphabet, and you're literate in that alphabet, it's free; while if you have to learn a new alphabet it's 50 to 100 points, and if you have to learn thousands of ideographs, it's a lot more (200? 300?). You could also place languages into "families" which lessen the learning difficulty if you already know one language in the family, but again, that's a complication and is tied to specific game worlds for the most part, and may be way overthinking this whole subject.

Another way to approach this would be to simply assign "difficulty levels" to languages -- e.g., Sorcerer's Tongue is a 3 pointer, while Common is a 1 pointer, and so on, with the cost to learn a language set at, for example, 100 XP times the difficulty level (and trader's pidgen being only 50 points perhaps). Actually, if I were using this system, I wouldn't even have "Common" since it's a purely Tolkienesque "lingua franca" artifice that defeats the purpose of having different languages anyway. Trader's Pidgen would take it's place as a "universal" tongue, but since it's limited pretty much to trade talk, it really isn't much good for tactical combat orders or peace negotiations...which more or less requires players to spend some XP learning the local language.

Steve, I know you're probably sick to death of unsolicited ideas for your baby (TFT), but really, the attribute bloat issue is the one consistent problem that has eventually contributed to the end of every campaign I've ever run -- when you've become a God-like, 200-point character, regularly slay 14-hex dragons without breaking a sweat, and can out-cast a platoon of other Wizards, what's left to pique your interest? Giving the players other things to spend their hard-earned XP on increases their resource management burden and slows the approach of God-hood to the point that even a long-played character still has to worry about that NPC fencing master that he honked off about 20 sessions ago catching up with him!

If I've wasted everyone's time with this, I apologize, but needed to say something on this topic, and where better to say it to than here, with the guy who made the magic happen in the first place? Besides, this gives people the opportunity to shoot my ideas full of holes, which is helpful to me, at least...

Last edited by JLV; 01-03-2018 at 02:01 PM.
JLV is offline   Reply With Quote