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Old 07-04-2017, 01:45 PM   #1
dfinlay
 
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Default [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

I wanted to share some house rules I've been using overhauling the way GURPS handles techniques. These have now been play-tested for more than 2 years in over a hundred sessions of around 8 different campaigns, though of course only games run by my gaming group.

Problems these rules set out to solve:
  • Having more than one technique in a skill is almost always suboptimal. Having more than three always is.
  • Many techniques feel either under- or over-priced due to being near the resolution limit of GURPS points.
  • I felt that overall, skills needed a buff relative to advantages, attributes and talents.
  • Characters with more techniques tend to be more interesting and they help to make two characters with the same skill distinct, but often they aren't worth taking except in a few cases of really powerful ones.
  • From a realism, a narrative and a gameplay perspective, masters of some skill (very high skill level) should have a distinct style with a bunch of specialties and/or signature moves, but a lot of the time, mastery is achieved just by pumping a whole bunch of points into a skill and calling it a day.

The rules:
  • Every point spent in a skill after the second gives 2 TP (technique points) for use with that skill.
  • Techniques can be purchased with TP. Each technique should have an initial penalty (or in some cases bonus) for untrained use, a maximum amount it can be raised and a number of TP per level to raise it.
  • The GM will have to work out the above stats, but as a rough rule of thumb, 3 TP is what you should charge for a technique that feels fair costing 1 CP per level, so balance with 12 TP = a full level of the skill in mind.
  • Prefer specific techniques over broad ones. In other words, no rapid strike, but combinations are fine; don't allow 'deceptive attack' but maybe allow buying off the deceptive penalty in certain specific situations, etc.
  • The point of the system is for characters to have a way to come up with things to be good at that are specific to their character, so making an officiall 'list of all techniques' defeats the point, but being able to recommend some ideas when your players are stuck is sometimes neccessary.

All in all, it's worked out pretty well. It definitely increases paperwork a bit, but not too much. It increases the amount of time it takes to spend points, but my players have said (and I have found) that it makes that time more fun. It also nearly doubled the nominal value of buying skills but seems not to have made advantage or attribute builds suboptimal. It has made characters with several skills at moderately high levels relative to their atttributes more viable, though.

Notes:
  • When I first made the system, it was 1 TP per point that doesn't raise a level (so one at 3,5,6,7,9,etc), but it turned out to be too few to have the effects I wanted.
  • It's important that the first two points don't give TP as when players are adding 1 or 2 point skills, they generally don't want to have to think up techniques.
  • Characters in my games generally have most skills with 1-4 points in them and a few skills with more, with rarely more than 20 points. If your group has players regularly spending 40 or more points on a skill, this might get to be a bit much (though one character using this system has 44 points in a skill, that was under the old, lower TP version and he still has 10 techniques down)
  • Techniques stacking together is usually fine in this variant. If you have a technique offseting shock penalties and a technique offseting darkness penalties, you can use both together when suffering from both variants. You can even have one technique be a subset of another so they always stack (though it should cost less TP). Just be careful of players using this to bypass restrictions on maximum levels of techniques to stack up huge bonuses.

Some example techniques from our games:
  • Tomato Sauce {off Cooking} (+0 to +4, 1 TP per level)
  • Compact {off Gardening} (2 TP per level, offsets penalties for using less space than ideal)
  • Extra Effort Strong {off 2H Axe/Mace} (+0 to +2, 3 TP per level, gives a skill bonus when using extra effort strong)
  • Navigating Under the Influence {off Navigation} (1 TP per level, offsets penalties for being drunk or on drugs while navigating)
  • Cautious {off Scrounge} (2 TP per level, offsets penalties you can give yourself to get bonuses to not set off traps or other hazards while scrounging)
  • Talk people out of doing stupid things {off Diplomacy} (4 TP per level, bonuses apply when trying to convince someone not to do something clearly against their own best interests)
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Old 07-04-2017, 04:47 PM   #2
johndallman
 
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

I've been trying to create more techniques for non-combat skills lately. This is interesting, but it changes things quite a lot, to something a lot more like Ars Magica or World of Darkness specialisations.
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Old 07-04-2017, 06:19 PM   #3
Prince Charon
 
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

It's not a bad idea per se (sort of like the 'buckets of points' system in one of the Pyramid articles), but I usually go with a simpler revision, which is to remove the concept of Hard techniques, and give all current Hard techniques a further -1, thus keeping point-costs the same.

That said, if I were inclined to use a bigger change, yours certainly isn't bad. It's just that it adds more complexity to a system that already seems to scare some gamers away with the existing complexity.
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Old 07-04-2017, 07:55 PM   #4
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

I was thinking about something similar some time ago, but I abandoned this, because of one important thing: techniques ARE something to distinct 2 skilled martial artists. Because of this cap for "optimal deal". If there is two players with nearly identical characters and they are some free points yet, they can make their characters different by purchasing techniques. Simply you are much more efficient with one or two "flag-moves" than others. And other player is more efficient with other "flag-moves". And this is working great in my campaigns. When my players had "free techniques" from their styles, that was just freakish. Simple there was no sense to do this, and if you have whole list of techniques, this is really bog down your game. After that we was liked and returned to "original techniques system" RAW ;) 1-3 techniques at most. Think about this, maybe you too will notice what is purpose (IMO) of this optimum-limit ;)
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Old 07-05-2017, 09:10 AM   #5
DouglasCole
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

The real knock on a system like this is that it turns techniques from something you choose to do to something you HAVE to do. If you get a point in an unarmed combat skill, you must then allocate your Technique Points. It's a barrier to fast play, because if you just throw down (say) Judo at DX+2 and Karate at DX, for 12 and 4 points, respectively, you have 32 Technique points, which can be used to (roughly) offset -10 in penalties from various stuff.

That's a big delta (of course, it's a BIG point expenditure) in ability if you just want to get on with it.

That being said, the basic concept is sound, though my preference would be to take those 32 build points and be able to allocate them to ALL aspects of a skill, including the basics. That would ideally mean that if you just say "forget it, it all goes into my primary skill!" you've lost nothing. You're a well-rounded and non-specialized fighter. If you do shift around, you give something to get something.
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Old 07-06-2017, 07:25 PM   #6
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

Another thought would be to use something like the Dabbler perk to purchase techniques (if we're reducing the effective price of techniques, anyway. That's pretty close to what the OP does, but it's optional, rather than feeling required.
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Old 07-19-2017, 10:34 PM   #7
tbone
 
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

Quote:
Originally Posted by dfinlay View Post
Problems these rules set out to solve:
[LIST]
  1. Having more than one technique in a skill is almost always suboptimal. Having more than three always is.
  2. Many techniques feel either under- or over-priced due to being near the resolution limit of GURPS points.
  3. I felt that overall, skills needed a buff relative to advantages, attributes and talents.
  4. Characters with more techniques tend to be more interesting and they help to make two characters with the same skill distinct, but often they aren't worth taking except in a few cases of really powerful ones.
  5. From a realism, a narrative and a gameplay perspective, masters of some skill (very high skill level) should have a distinct style with a bunch of specialties and/or signature moves, but a lot of the time, mastery is achieved just by pumping a whole bunch of points into a skill and calling it a day.
Interesting take on a solution. I agree that there's something dissatisfying in the techniques system, in that there are so many nifty techniques attached to a skill, yet buying up 3 (sometimes even 2) feels wasteful, and buying up 4 is meaningless. I like that you're taking a shot at improving things (and especially appreciate that you start by clearly laying out the problems to be solved).

I have an observation to toss in. But first, a look at those problems (I've numbered them above):

1. This is the crux, and is the problem that interests me.
2. Certainly, some techniques may be over- or under-priced, though that's a problem with the definitions/scope of the individual techniques in question, not a problem with the techniques system itself. For GMs who don't want to muck with technique pricing, the solution is simply to adjust the effects of troublesome techniques so those better fit the cost.
3. Can't say I share that impression, though I suspect you could offer some good examples to support the idea. Will skip for now, though.
4. Agreed. It'd be nice to see detailed fighters dip deeper into unique sets of technique specializations; as you note, the cost system works against that.
5. True but I'll commend GURPS for letting you design a master by custom-designing an array of special moves and techniques and all that, OR by just slapping on a really high skill and keeping things simple. Two valid ways to do things. Definitely a feature, not a bug!

All right. My observation on the pricing issue (problem #1):

I think most of us agree that GURPS' technique pricing is problem where breadth is concerned - i.e., buying up 2 or 3 or (don't do it!) 4 or more techniques. This just doesn't play nicely with the 4-point/level cost for the whole skill.

However, IMO, GURPS' technique pricing is not a problem where depth is concerned i.e., buying any single technique up and up. I pay 1 point for a +1 on some subset of the skill (say, Feint), another 1 point for another +1, and so on, up to the cap. To me, this meshes nicely with the 4-point/level cost of the skill itself, and feels and plays just fine.

The point: I like the gist of your TP system as a fix, but to me there's a flaw in it (and in other suggestions that lower the cost of techniques all-around): The fix doesn't distinguish between the cost of technique depth (which is not a problem) and the cost of technique breadth (which is a problem).

In other words: If the TP system (or similar suggestion) gives me a handful of "technique points" for free (or at a super-cheap price), and I spend them to buy +1 on each of a handful of techniques, that feels like a nice step toward addressing the cost problem. But if I instead spend them to buy a big +X on one technique (say, Feint), it seems to me I'm getting away with something, netting a big unneeded discount on an effect that was priced fairly to begin with.

How to improve this wee little dilemma? I think that....

Well, before yammering about a fix for the above, let me stop and ask: Does my objection to the TP system even make sense? Or am I missing something completely?
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Old 07-20-2017, 04:30 AM   #8
Maz
 
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

Quote:
Originally Posted by tbone View Post
In other words: If the TP system (or similar suggestion) gives me a handful of "technique points" for free (or at a super-cheap price), and I spend them to buy +1 on each of a handful of techniques, that feels like a nice step toward addressing the cost problem. But if I instead spend them to buy a big +X on one technique (say, Feint), it seems to me I'm getting away with something, netting a big unneeded discount on an effect that was priced fairly to begin with.

How to improve this wee little dilemma? I think that....

Well, before yammering about a fix for the above, let me stop and ask: Does my objection to the TP system even make sense? Or am I missing something completely?
I mentioned the same problem. My players would just get a lot of free points in powerfull techniques such as Targeted attack and Feint. Which doesn't really make them all that distinct just make them better at things they all already do.

But. dfinlay does mention two things that is a solution to this.

1) He charges TP differently depending on the technique. So some would cost 3 per +1, others only 1 TP per +1. So you could charge more for the techniques we feel are powerful, such as Feint.

2) He seems to deliberately NOT use the official list of techniques, but rather let players come up with their own based on their individual characters personality and traits. This would not work with my group. They would for the most part, want the ones already there.
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Old 07-20-2017, 09:59 AM   #9
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

I'm lazy but I like the idea.
Perhaps 1 free TP per character point spent after 4? and the cost of buying up your technique is similar to actual skill costs, eg 1, 2, 4, 8, unless spread over time...
Then I wouldn't have to estimate comparative values of different techniques, which imho is the keystone of making this house rule cool.
(now I want to see a thread for House Cools...)
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Old 07-20-2017, 01:19 PM   #10
tbone
 
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maz View Post
I mentioned the same problem...

But. dfinlay does mention two things that is a solution to this.

1) He charges TP differently depending on the technique. So some would cost 3 per +1, others only 1 TP per +1. So you could charge more for the techniques we feel are powerful, such as Feint.
The problem you mention is a valid one: technique points are free in the TP system as written, which means powerful combat freebies (or whatever freebies the players choose). Then there's the related problem D Cole mentions: freebie points mean more things that you have to take care of.

The problem I mentioned is a bit different (and unrelated to the matter of over-priced vs under-priced techniques). It's this: IMO, the cost of multiple techniques needs to be cheaper, but the per-level cost of a technique does not need to be cheaper.

So that's my little objection to any suggestion for free technique points, or an all-round cheaper cost for techniques: those solutions make it cheaper to buy more techniques, which is good, but also make it cheaper to buy higher levels of techniques, which is not good (IMO).

Not sure whether I make the point clearly or not...
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