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Old 03-05-2007, 10:07 PM   #21
Kromm
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

Quote:
Originally Posted by quarkstomper

So, the Black Panther had to make the standard 8 or less default roll for "Everyman" skills, and blew it.
Relying on defaults -- whatever the game system calls them -- is rarely fun. In GURPS, I hint that certain skills are necessary for adventurers, true action heroes or not, to keep the story flowing without annoying breaks caused by PCs being incompetent at tasks that adventure fiction commonly treats as "everyman" skills:
  • Carousing, Diplomacy, Fast-Talk, or Interrogation -- Eventually, everybody wants to interrogate NPCs. I'm generous about what skills work, but some skill is required.

  • Climbing, Hiking, and Stealth -- The party is only as good at these things as its worst party member, and nearly every party has to move around as a unit at some point.

  • Driving or Riding -- Travel is vital to adventure, and while "every hero can drive/ride a horse" is often assumed, it isn't automatic in games that have skills for these things.

  • First Aid -- Effective bandaging isn't an unskilled activity, AD&D notwithstanding. Non-action heroes often want to do this to "contribute" to party combat effectiveness, so they especially need this skill.

  • Gesture -- Sooner or later, communication without making a sound will be vital to almost any party's survival.

  • Observation, Scrounging, or Search -- Noticing interesting things takes training, and finding clues and useful items is so central to adventures that no PC should lack at least basic training here.

  • Savoir-Faire or Streetwise -- Everybody came from somewhere. It's passing annoying when a player just assumes that her PC would "get on with folks in her element" without having any practical social skills to back up the assumption.
I further suggest -- strongly -- that action heroes have this list as well:
  • Axe/Mace, Broadsword, Knife, Shortsword, or Staff -- Wielding a stick, knife, or heavy tool to any real effect requires practice. These common improvised weapons are not idiot-proof, trivial, or safe to use without training.

  • Beam Weapons, Bow, Crossbow, or Guns -- However easy "point and shoot" looks, it's quite tough in reality. No credible action hero lacks competency at all ranged combat.

  • Boxing, Brawling, or Karate -- Fisticuffs are the worst place to be untrained. Your fists are the only weapons you always have, so learn to use them.

  • Forced Entry -- No, it isn't easy to kick in a door. Actually, unless you know how, you'll hurt yourself.

  • Holdout -- "Concealable" equipment only works if you have skill at concealment, and frustratingly few players realize this.

  • Judo, Sumo Wrestling, or Wrestling -- The number of people who think they should be able to grab others automatically is astounding. In fact, this is a difficult feat, trickier than hitting people, and absolutely requires training.

  • Throwing -- Whether you're tossing spare magazines to friends or grenades at enemies, this is a trained skill, so it pays to know it.
I think that players would be far less unhappy about surprises if more GMs made lists like this and did everything possible to get players to take them seriously. A PC with Brawling, Fast-Talk, Forced Entry, Holdout, Knife, Scrounging, Stealth, and Wrestling should be able to make and conceal a shiv, overpower a guard, steal his clothes, sneak away from the scene, talk his way past the other guards, and leave through an inadequately bolted back door.
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Old 03-05-2007, 10:43 PM   #22
Kyle Aaron
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

This is one of the rare cases where I agree with Kromm's approach to things, more or less. If you want to be the all-round hero - spend the points on it! And the GM, for their part, should cut some slack. "But I would have -" "Would you? Okay, make an IQ roll."

There's also a degree of trust involved. I've sometimes found that players new to my GMing take a while to settle in, and realise that I'm there to present an interesting game world - I'm not there to screw them up for giggles. I'm not an adversary, I'm just a guy who has a whole heap of NPCs to play. That's a GM - a player who has many characters instead of one, and who makes judgments about rules. There is no malice at my game table. Once they realise that, most settle down and relax.

But it's true there are different player responses to character failure, loss, imprisonment, maiming and so on. Just the other day I was saying to a gamer buddy, "I have these two players... for one, a failed dice roll is just a failure, and something to swear at. For the other, a failure is something to laugh at, or something which is going to make the game more interesting." And then last night at the first session of a new campaign, they confirmed this view for me. One was creating a character, and gave him "bad knee" and "law-abiding" as traits. The other player said, "why do always create flawed characters?" The player looked puzzled and surprised, and said, "Because they're fun, of course. Being flawless is boring!" Guess which of the two players consistently has more fun... ;)
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Old 03-05-2007, 11:15 PM   #23
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kromm
Relying on defaults -- whatever the game system calls them -- is rarely fun.
It is, however, often funny! I once played a bookworm socialite, whose only combat skill was fencing. As this was pre-WWI London, it was a less than useful skill. The rest of the party got themselves captured while I was looking for a contact at a party. I went to rescue them, armed with evening dress and an (unloaded!) revolver. The butler didn't notice the gun was unloaded, but the first goon I ran into did. That was the end of that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kromm
I think that players would be far less unhappy about surprises if more GMs made lists like this and did everything possible to get players to take them seriously. A PC with Brawling, Fast-Talk, Forced Entry, Holdout, Knife, Scrounging, Stealth, and Wrestling should be able to make and conceal a shiv, overpower a guard, steal his clothes, sneak away from the scene, talk his way past the other guards, and leave through an inadequately bolted back door.
I have a list for most the campaigns I've run. It overlaps quite a lot with yours, though I don't have quite so many categories of combat skills as you do. I have Computer Operations at TL7+ and Area Knowledge, and Research in most settings. I'll also point out things like swimming.

This is one of the places I miss half point skills. There are lots of places where IQ-1 or -2 is enough.
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Old 03-05-2007, 11:28 PM   #24
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kromm
In GURPS, I hint that certain skills are necessary for adventurers, true action heroes or not, to keep the story flowing without annoying breaks caused by PCs being incompetent at tasks that adventure fiction commonly treats as "everyman" skills:

[list snipped]

I further suggest -- strongly -- that action heroes have this list as well:

[second list snipped]

A PC with Brawling, Fast-Talk, Forced Entry, Holdout, Knife, Scrounging, Stealth, and Wrestling should be able to make and conceal a shiv, overpower a guard, steal his clothes, sneak away from the scene, talk his way past the other guards, and leave through an inadequately bolted back door.
Kromm, you just made my night. This is exactly the sort of cheat sheet I've been looking for!
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Old 03-05-2007, 11:59 PM   #25
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

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Originally Posted by RevBob
Kromm, you just made my night. This is exactly the sort of cheat sheet I've been looking for!
Seconded. This will save me a lot of time.

Do you have recommendations for a good old fantasy game or Space opera?
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Old 03-06-2007, 01:36 AM   #26
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

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Originally Posted by Ogo
"Die Hard" comes to mind; can you imagine as a GM, announcing "ok there's broken glass everywhere. Wait, did I mention you don't have shoes on?"
I think it's important to note that the broken glass does not really make Bruce's job harder. I don't see it giving modifiers of any kind, and I'm not even sure whether Bruce's character suffers damage (in the RPG-sense). Rather, the broken glas let's him demonstrate how bad-ass and tough he is. Look, he crawls through broken glass, bloodies his feet, grimaces with pain - but when push comes to shove, he isn't really inconvienced! Cool!

In movies, many details are just there to make the inevitable victory of the hero more heroic. If you want a similiar effect in RPGs, you need to scale up the description (The pain! The blood!), and scale down the game-mechanical effect (You lose 1 HP. Roll vs First Aid. You get back 1 HP.).

Unless, of course, you're running a very realistic and gritty game. In this case, by all means check whether Bruce's wounds get infected! :)
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Old 03-06-2007, 02:39 AM   #27
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

Our group's ex-werewolf always carries a guitar case containing a two-handed battle axe. Doesn't seem unreasonable to most, she looks like a rock musician.
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Old 03-06-2007, 03:40 AM   #28
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

It's a cool list, but I disagree about the unarmed combat skills. With most skills, 1 point buys you +4 to your skill. With action hero PCs, that' usually a jump from a default 6-8 to a semi-respectable 10-12. That's a good investment; you'll certainly do better if you spend one point each on Diplomacy, First Aid, Stealth, and Streetwise, than if you just increase your main skill by one level.

But with hitting and grabbing, you get that 1-point level for free, since you can use DX at no penalty. And I'm not convinced it's a better idea to spend 4 points on Wrestling to get that +1 than to spend the points on whatever skill you're focusing on and get an equal +1.
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Old 03-06-2007, 04:48 AM   #29
Kyle Aaron
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

I think perhaps Kromm's assuming 200+CP characters, which he's previously stated is about minimum to be "action heroes". With 200 CP to spend, you're not going to be needing to save 1 or 2 here or there. There are 16 skills as a minimum in Kromm's list. 4CP in each would be 64CP in all, giving an average of Attribute+1, or a "professional minimum" level of 11 in each, even with entirely average attributes - and I'm sure Kromm would argue that "action heroes" should not have average attributes ;)

I go for lower-powered campaigns, myself... 30-75CP.
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Old 03-06-2007, 05:55 AM   #30
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

If you want to employ a ruse, you need to make sure that there is a sense of "normalicy" in social situations. Thus, you should use social settings extensively even outside of such ruses. Make sure that the PCs frequently try to get information, gain allies, request favors or similar things that require them to go to pubs, high society functions, and so forth. Actual combat at such situations should be rare - but make sure to ask the PCs what they will take with them at these situations, implying that carrying weapons or armor will be a terrible faux pas if discovered.

But if the PCs wish to conceal such items when going to such a setting, only give the NPCs a chance to spot them instead of making it automatic. The skill of the PCs should count for something, and sometimes such paranoia does pay off.
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