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Old 04-04-2017, 02:06 PM   #1
Hyrneson
 
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Default The Rules of 14, 16, & 20

Are there any reasons or justifications beyond game balance for The Rules of 14, 16, & 20?
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Old 04-04-2017, 02:17 PM   #2
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Default Re: The Rules of 14, 16, & 20

The rule of 16 makes sense to me, in that anyone, no matter how skilled, may once in a while fail at performing a task. If you want to have any failures at all, an 18 has to fail; if you want to distinguish ordinary and catastrophic failure, an 18 needs to be catastrophic and a 17 ordinary. The odds actually give you far more failures than are realistic; I tend to think of them as "this is the time when the heroes are on camera, and interesting things will tend to happen," and to assume that the time when they're not being roleplayed is time when everything is going smoothly.

If you had a story where the heroes always succeeded at their main skills, and were defeated only by hopeless odds, that wouldn't make a very interesting narrative or drama, I think.

As for the rule of 20, if you look at defaults, a character with attribute 20 defaults to 16 for Easy skills, 15 for Average, and 14 for Hard. All of these are greater than ordinary professional competence. You're not quite looking at Clark Savage, Jr. or Bruce Wayne, but you're not far short. That's already pushing at the limits of believability. If it were up to me, the rule of 20 would change to rule of 16, with defaults of 12, 11, or 10—still pretty good, but not "trained professional" as default. But imagine letting it go higher—IQ 22 would make you the equally of a highly skilled professional at Artist, Diplomacy, Engineer (all specializations!), and Physician, among others. The limit helps lessen the strain on the players' disbelief suspension.

I don't think these narrative concerns are the same as "game balance."
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Old 04-04-2017, 02:20 PM   #3
sir_pudding
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Default Re: The Rules of 14, 16, & 20

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
The rule of 16 makes sense to me, in that anyone, no matter how skilled, may once in a while fail at performing a task. If you want to have any failures at all, an 18 has to fail; if you want to distinguish ordinary and catastrophic failure, an 18 needs to be catastrophic and a 17 ordinary. The odds actually give you far more failures than are realistic; I tend to think of them as "this is the time when the heroes are on camera, and interesting things will tend to happen," and to assume that the time when they're not being roleplayed is time when everything is going smoothly.

If you had a story where the heroes always succeeded at their main skills, and were defeated only by hopeless odds, that wouldn't make a very interesting narrative or drama, I think.
I thought the term-of-art "Rule of 16" was the one about resistance to supernatural attacks.
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Old 04-04-2017, 02:24 PM   #4
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Default Re: The Rules of 14, 16, & 20

Looked at from the other direction, if the game balance premise is accepted for the Rule of 20, then one could conclude that the value is set about high as it can be and still serve the function. As you point out, Bill, it would be easy to argue for setting it lower. I assume the reason it's set high is to provide as wide a range of useful trait values as possible. Certainly, I appreciate it when games have more than a few realistic and mechanically differentiated trait values.
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Old 04-04-2017, 02:29 PM   #5
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Default Re: The Rules of 14, 16, & 20

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Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
I thought the term-of-art "Rule of 16" was the one about resistance to supernatural attacks.
Yeah, that's the one I know of as well. In any case, I can't think of a non-balance reason for any of those rules, and the rule Bill is talking about has more to do with "should you really be bothering to roll when the odds of failure are so low?" than reality, plenty of things do have success chances well over 98%.
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Old 04-04-2017, 03:04 PM   #6
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Default Re: The Rules of 14, 16, & 20

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
As for the rule of 20, if you look at defaults, a character with attribute 20 defaults to 16 for Easy skills, 15 for Average, and 14 for Hard. All of these are greater than ordinary professional competence. You're not quite looking at Clark Savage, Jr. or Bruce Wayne, but you're not far short. That's already pushing at the limits of believability. If it were up to me, the rule of 20 would change to rule of 16, with defaults of 12, 11, or 10—still pretty good, but not "trained professional" as default. But imagine letting it go higher—IQ 22 would make you the equally of a highly skilled professional at Artist, Diplomacy, Engineer (all specializations!), and Physician, among others. The limit helps lessen the strain on the players' disbelief suspension.
If such superhuman general intelligence is accepted, then why would such exceptional defaults stretch suspension of disbelief too far? We would after all not say that basic lift doesn't improve for ST above 20 because it would be unbelievable for a human too be able to carry more than that. It is more reasonable to just restrict attributes to whatever is considered possible for the characters in your game.

Rather not getting better at defaults no matter how much your intelligence increase seems to me to run into far more problems with suspension of disbelief (one might argue that such general increases to intelligence should have the enhancement which makes the rule of 20 inapplicable, but such an argument leaves quite a lot to be desired, especially since the authors of GURPS books often don't bother to include it in templates and effects which improve intelligence).

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
If you had a story where the heroes always succeeded at their main skills, and were defeated only by hopeless odds, that wouldn't make a very interesting narrative or drama, I think.
In my experience that is actually very common in narratives. Heroes pretty much never fail in tasks which they are exceptionally skilled at unless the circumstances are such that the task is much harder than usual.

Last edited by Andreas; 04-04-2017 at 03:13 PM.
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Old 04-04-2017, 03:17 PM   #7
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Default Re: The Rules of 14, 16, & 20

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If such superhuman general intelligence is accepted, then why would such exceptional defaults stretch suspension of disbelief too far? We would after all not say that basic lift doesn't improve for ST above 20 because it would be unbelievable for a human too be able to carry more than that. It is more reasonable to just restrict attributes to whatever is considered possible for the characters in your game.
GURPS does not define 20 as superhuman; it makes it the upper limit of human. And, well, I've read about human beings who arguably were up there: Goethe, Mill, von Neumann, for example. I wouldn't say any of them had the breadth of competence you're talking about. We need either to have human stats top out at 16, or have IQ more narrowly split up, or have skills redefined so that higher skill levels are standard.
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Old 04-04-2017, 03:23 PM   #8
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Default Re: The Rules of 14, 16, & 20

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GURPS does not define 20 as superhuman; it makes it the upper limit of human. And, well, I've read about human beings who arguably were up there: Goethe, Mill, von Neumann, for example. I wouldn't say any of them had the breadth of competence you're talking about. We need either to have human stats top out at 16, or have IQ more narrowly split up, or have skills redefined so that higher skill levels are standard.
It does however define IQ above 20 as superhuman, which is when the rule of 20 starts to apply (and your post did include an IQ 22 example). Also even if GURPS does not define it as superhuman, IQ 20 is likely more than any real life human has been known to have and it is not very strange if such a person would also have unprecedentedly high defaults.

Why would one argue that those people had such high levels of IQ if they don't have such breadth of competence? More narrow competence is what Talents are for.

Last edited by Andreas; 04-04-2017 at 03:26 PM.
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Old 04-04-2017, 03:24 PM   #9
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Default Re: The Rules of 14, 16, & 20

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
GURPS does not define 20 as superhuman; it makes it the upper limit of human.
And that is far more of a realism problem than defaults.
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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
And, well, I've read about human beings who arguably were up there: Goethe, Mill, von Neumann, for example. I wouldn't say any of them had the breadth of competence you're talking about.
Then they didn't have that much IQ, they had something else. The rule of 20 is a patch for attributes being broken.
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Old 04-04-2017, 03:25 PM   #10
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Default Re: The Rules of 14, 16, & 20

If we are allowing IQ (or DX) to go above 16 (or even 14), the GM should really require mandatory incompetencies or "anti"-talents if they don't want characters to be good at everything by default.
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