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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 07-06-2017, 07:54 PM   #7
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

The group I'm in runs two games concurrently. The house rule we adopted was that all techniques are average (hard ones don't get made any more expensive). Additionally, in TL5+ melee techniques are half price. Those two together work fairly well, and the technique buff helps melee vs guns to some extent. Mostly in the way that it makes combos easier. Combos to disarm enemies with guns for example.
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Old 07-07-2017, 01:55 PM   #8
dfinlay
 
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

Quote:
Originally Posted by Prince Charon View Post
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.
Yeah, this simplifies techniques a bit but it doesn't seem like it would really achieve any of the goals I was trying to do (encourage characters to have several techniques and get rid of the really breakpointy tradeoffs between techniques and skills).

Quote:
Originally Posted by GWJ View Post
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".
It's not clear to me how this is an argument against this system.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GWJ View Post
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 ;)
I have no idea what you are saying about no sense or freakishness.

As for bogging down the game, do you mean during character creation or play? It definitely makes character creation take longer (maybe 20% longer, I would say), but doesn't seem to slow down play much at all. I have players keep track of their own techniques and we write techniques directly under skills, so when they look up their skill levels, they just glance slightly downwards and see if any techniques apply. Occassionally, I have to field a "Do I get the anti-demonic bonus on my exorcism?" or the like, but usually, there's no real slowdown.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DouglasCole View Post
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.
Note that the first two points don't give TP, which helps a lot with all those small skills that people throw down. In your example, it would still be 24 TP, though. Usually, characters in my games have 5 or so skills they need to spend TP on, so I find it isn't usually that bad in practice.

That said, it definitely slows down character creation (as I said above, by about 20-25% in my experience). I'm fine with that since I generally play longer ongoing campaigns, but I definitely wouldn't want to use it for, say, a convention game or even a game with people who weren't used to GURPS.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DouglasCole View Post
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.
Yeah, I can see the appeal of this, but it does defeat part of the point of this system, which is getting rid of the breakpoints that prevent people from taking several techniques. If you can just trade in TP for skill, getting techniques whose total value per level is more than that amount just becomes suboptimal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Prince Charon View Post
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.
Again, the point of what I did wasn't to make techniques cheaper (which you could definitely do with that), it was to make buying skills better (and more interesting) as well as to get rid of those breakpoints for multiple techniques.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calvin View Post
The group I'm in runs two games concurrently. The house rule we adopted was that all techniques are average (hard ones don't get made any more expensive). Additionally, in TL5+ melee techniques are half price. Those two together work fairly well, and the technique buff helps melee vs guns to some extent. Mostly in the way that it makes combos easier. Combos to disarm enemies with guns for example.
While I can see making melee techniques cheaper relative to ranged, discounting them relative to everything else seems odd. In my experience, players are already far more likely to buy techniques for their weapon skills than for things like Singing, Cooking, Merchant or Navigation (which I very rarely saw before adopting this system).
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Old 07-19-2017, 04:59 PM   #9
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

My only house rule on this is that all techniques are Average. This eliminates one big breakpoint.

I also allow players to trade in points from techniques (max one per technique) to count alongside character points when buying the affected skill level up. So you can buy higher skill levels on the installment plan, parking the points somewhere where they'll see some use while you save up enough to buy a full skill level.

IMO the design decision that techniques shouldn't overshadow skills is the right one, so that's where I come down, but they do have their place. My favorite house rules are those that add fun and flexibility even as they simplify the game. Ghostdancer's use of Impulse Points is one of the best examples. Next up are systems like Sorcery which show you all kinds of potential in the systems we already have.
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Old 07-19-2017, 08:00 PM   #10
Maz
 
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Default Re: [House Rules] Technique System Overhaul

I really like your system, as I run long campaigns with many characters ending up getting many similar skills (as they are useful for that particular campaign).

I currently use blunt force to make them more distinctive (ie. a hard skill-cap but then allow techniques). Although none of them have reached that cap yet.


However, in my game, it's mostly combat-skill that they all get. And getting Targeted Attack or Feint for free just seems too powerful. Your examples are mostly none-combat skill and a few very different combat-techniques. Do you not run into the problem of your players simply getting "the best"? Or are your players less min/max'ers than mine?
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