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Old 02-25-2021, 09:56 PM   #1
Keampe
 
Join Date: Apr 2020
Default Improvement rolls

Some game systems have improvement rolls for their skill, and they're kind of nice as a break on characters getting extraordinarily high skills that really should be the purview of just a few in the world. It's OK if a character is that expert for one or a small number of related skill, but the way CP's work RAW mean that in any long running campaign the characters will be up there with many disparate skills. This is fine for a cinematic or supers type game but more down to earth games have a limit before they might as well be cinematic. Reducing CP's per session lengthens that limit and stops players from feeling any source of improvement - which is a major source of satisfaction for many players.

OTOH, improvement rolls can often be frustrating when trying to improve a high skill or when luck just isn't with you on low skills. It's annoying when you only have to roll over 30 on percentile and you get a 29.

I was thinking about these things in relation to GURPS and had an idea:

3d6 trying to get higher than or equal to a target number
- For Skills: 10 + CP's in skill
- For Attributes: the current score
- For Advantages: 10 + (CP's in Advantage)/5
- For Disadvantages: 10 + (Absolute value of CP's in Disadvantage)/5

A successful roll adds 1 CP to that particular Skill, Attribute, Advantage or Disadvantage. An unsuccessful roll adds Roll/5 to the next roll for that particular thing and this stacks until you succeed.

So, even a failed roll give you something and if you keep plugging at it you will eventually raise what you're working on.

Thoughts?

- Shane
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Old 02-25-2021, 10:26 PM   #2
AlexanderHowl
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: Improvement rolls

The fact that you cannot get above 8 CP in a skill the first try would be rather annoying (especially since you would need an average of 12 tries to reach 12 CP). If you want to limit expeditures, I would suggest not allowing PCs to purchase anything with CP and require them to get stuff through training instead. If they are not receiving formal training or self-studying, they will gain 2.5 CP per year. This is not necessarily the most realistic option, as two people working the same job with the same capabilities will often improve at different rates.

Alternatively, you could require something in between, with PCs being able to increase the rate of progress by investing CP. In that case, a PC would still need to spend 800 hours on the job to invest CP in a skill, but they could receive 8 CP instead of just 1 CP by investing an additional 7 CP. This would likely be the least frustrating route, as people would probably except that you need effort to improve, though the rate of improve varies between person to person.

Finally, you could use a gambling mechanic where players could spend 1 CP to make an improvement roll with a threshold equal to the level, with them receiving a bonus equal to any additional CP spent. If they succeed, they get to invest all of the CP that they spent in the ability, plus one. If they fail, they get back all the invested CP, minus one. For example, a character with skill 18 would need an 18+ on a roll to invest CP in that skill. If they invested 7 CP in the roll and rolled a '13', they could invest 8 CP in the skill. If they rolled a '9', they would only get back 6 CP. This will annoy certain players and excite other players.
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Old 02-26-2021, 12:28 AM   #3
Keampe
 
Join Date: Apr 2020
Default Re: Improvement rolls

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
The fact that you cannot get above 8 CP in a skill the first try would be rather annoying (especially since you would need an average of 12 tries to reach 12 CP). If you want to limit expeditures, I would suggest not allowing PCs to purchase anything with CP and require them to get stuff through training instead. If they are not receiving formal training or self-studying, they will gain 2.5 CP per year. This is not necessarily the most realistic option, as two people working the same job with the same capabilities will often improve at different rates.
8 CP in a skill is actually quite a bit already - an average person who's attributes are suitable to the job (11-12 in the governing attribute) and/or has any level of talent will have the 12-13 range of a professional. I could allow a roll every 100 hours of study instead of 200 so low skills bump up faster but it tappers off. Actually, that seems sensible. However, 2.5 CP per year is in the "no progress" zone of frustration for most players.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
Alternatively, you could require something in between, with PCs being able to increase the rate of progress by investing CP. In that case, a PC would still need to spend 800 hours on the job to invest CP in a skill, but they could receive 8 CP instead of just 1 CP by investing an additional 7 CP. This would likely be the least frustrating route, as people would probably except that you need effort to improve, though the rate of improve varies between person to person.
This is way too fast. Its treating every hour of work as 2 hours of study.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
Finally, you could use a gambling mechanic where players could spend 1 CP to make an improvement roll with a threshold equal to the level, with them receiving a bonus equal to any additional CP spent. If they succeed, they get to invest all of the CP that they spent in the ability, plus one. If they fail, they get back all the invested CP, minus one. For example, a character with skill 18 would need an 18+ on a roll to invest CP in that skill. If they invested 7 CP in the roll and rolled a '13', they could invest 8 CP in the skill. If they rolled a '9', they would only get back 6 CP. This will annoy certain players and excite other players.
This is one of the frustrations I'm trying to avoid - all or nothing. Someone who's just unlucky will wind up with nothing but a lost CP.

- Shane
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Old 02-26-2021, 07:37 AM   #4
Stormcrow
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Ronkonkoma, NY
Default Re: Improvement rolls

Why not just cap skill improvement in all areas except a character's chosen field of expertise or dramatic niche?

I mean, I don't happen to agree with your initial premise that normal character development must necessarily lead to unrealistically broad hyper-competency, but if we suppose it to be true, then all you need to do is limit player choices to the development pattern you want. If you want unusually high skill only in the character's shtick, then limit it to be so.
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Old 02-26-2021, 08:46 PM   #5
Keampe
 
Join Date: Apr 2020
Default Re: Improvement rolls

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stormcrow View Post
Why not just cap skill improvement in all areas except a character's chosen field of expertise or dramatic niche?

I mean, I don't happen to agree with your initial premise that normal character development must necessarily lead to unrealistically broad hyper-competency, but if we suppose it to be true, then all you need to do is limit player choices to the development pattern you want. If you want unusually high skill only in the character's shtick, then limit it to be so.
A fair question and one way to do it. I should explain my reasoning for not wanting to do this.

Take 2 characters based on 100-150 points apiece. It's a detective story so while there's likely to be combat, it's not the focus.

Player A puts 16 CP into Karate. This is a huge expenditure for this point level, but there is going to be combat and that's what Character A does.

Player B puts 1 CP into Karate. This is not the focus of the character, but they don't want to be useless. Leave aside that Brawling would have been the better choice for the moment. Character B is a sneak thief with the same DEX as Character A.

5 game sessions in at 3cp per and Character B could be just as good as Character A started and Character A could be 1 cp away from 32 points into karate.

Now character A is less of a problem because that's the role and because 32 points is bordering on wastage. How much more effective are they really? Would have been better off buying techniques.

Character B is a problem, though. 5 game sessions is not very long, and now they are equivalent to the combat monster? Character A presumably spent years learning and within a very short time Character B has skipped past those years of training. Not good.

If I just cap things than this happens.

Player B is saying "I have the points and there has been combat, so why can't I just put points in?"

To which I reply "Because I said so"? That seems heavy handed to me and a lot of players would be annoyed by it. Also capping skills seem very arbitrary and artificial, as well.

I'd much rather a more mechanistic approach. If I gave rolls instead - even twice as many - neither of these things would happen. Character A would likely take one look and realize that techniques are the better way to go and Character B could get quite a bit better, but would bog down well short - far more capable, but not mastering anything the way Character A started.

Just my reasoning.

- Shane
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Old 02-26-2021, 09:08 PM   #6
Keampe
 
Join Date: Apr 2020
Default Re: Improvement rolls

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
The fact that you cannot get above 8 CP in a skill the first try would be rather annoying (especially since you would need an average of 12 tries to reach 12 CP).
Taking a closer look at this and was thinking at work today about a couple of modifications:

- Maybe the rolls should be 6 + whatever mod, but this really just delays things by a step. Probably not the way to go.

How about:
- the bonus of roll/5 includes any bonus used and should be rounded up. This will help a bit. So a roll of 13 with a +3 bonus would be +4 (16/5 round up) leading to a +7 on the next roll if this one failed.
- On a successful roll any built up bonuses are used, but this roll still adds a bonus. So on the above if it succeeded you'd still get the +4 on the next.
- Your very first roll on each thing after character creation is against a 10, just to get that first boost.

And how about:
A second kind of roll for experience rather than study - flat, no bonus, auto succeeds on 17-18. On a failed roll, the point is not gone - you get to roll on something else. As long as you fail you can continue to roll, but only once per skill,attribute/advantage, ect. At any point you can choose to apply it as the normal roll (as above) on something you've tried for already.

Just kicking around some ideas....

- Shane
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Old 02-27-2021, 05:49 AM   #7
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: Improvement rolls

Quote:
Originally Posted by Keampe View Post
Character B is a problem, though. 5 game sessions is not very long, and now they are equivalent to the combat monster? Character A presumably spent years learning and within a very short time Character B has skipped past those years of training. Not good.

If I just cap things than this happens.

Player B is saying "I have the points and there has been combat, so why can't I just put points in?"

To which I reply "Because I said so"? That seems heavy handed to me and a lot of players would be annoyed by it. Also capping skills seem very arbitrary and artificial, as well.
A better way to handle this is to limit the rate of spending points on a single skill. Moving from DX-2 to DX+3 in Karate is a transformation of ability, and it's reasonable to require some training time as well as bonus points. You can limit spending by sessions, or by time passed in the game: you might allow one point per session, or a point for each game week in which the character attends classes and does their practice.
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Old 02-27-2021, 05:59 AM   #8
Anaraxes
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Default Re: Improvement rolls

I personally don't care for random skillup rolls at all. That was the worst thing about BRP to me. Character improvement isn't a result of time invested in the game or good play or surviving adventure. It's just random. In Call of Cthulhu, it's perhaps appropriate for your character to randomly get screwed since you're all going to fail anyway. (And we like it that way!) But I wouldn't adopt that as a general mechanism.

If the appeal is just making it harder and harder to level skills up as their level increases, just change the skill cost table. Rather than having the increase cap out at 4 CP per, keep increasing that number. Rather than the skill increases costing 4 / 4 / 4 / 4 / ...., make it 4 / 6 / 8 / 10 / 12 ... or 4 / 8 / 12 / 16 / 20 or go crazier with geometric growth, 4 / 8 / 16 / 32 / 64 or (1.5x) 4 / 6 / 9 / 14 / 21 / 32 ... You can tune the numbers to match whatever point of cost-effectiveness you're looking for to the number of xp you expect the characters to earn.
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Old 02-27-2021, 06:36 AM   #9
Stormcrow
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Ronkonkoma, NY
Default Re: Improvement rolls

Quote:
Originally Posted by Keampe View Post
Player A puts 16 CP into Karate. This is a huge expenditure for this point level, but there is going to be combat and that's what Character A does.

Player B puts 1 CP into Karate. [...] Character B is a sneak thief with the same DEX as Character A.
So one character is a fighter and the other is a thief. Got it.

Quote:
5 game sessions in at 3cp per and Character B could be just as good as Character A started and Character A could be 1 cp away from 32 points into karate.

Now character A is less of a problem because that's the role and because 32 points is bordering on wastage. How much more effective are they really? Would have been better off buying techniques.
Or any other useful skill. Maybe some Observation, or a weapon skill, or a vehicle skill, or Tactics, or Area Knowledge, or...

Quote:
Character B is a problem, though. 5 game sessions is not very long, and now they are equivalent to the combat monster? Character A presumably spent years learning and within a very short time Character B has skipped past those years of training. Not good.
But why would Player B do this? They wanted to play a thief, not a fighter. There are so many other useful skills to choose from that would better fit what the player wanted in the first place. Why would they want to do nothing but increase Karate this whole time?

And if they really wanted to play a combat specialist this whole time, why stop them?

As for matching years of training in a short time, that's the nature of bonus character points. That'll be true whether they're matching another character's skill or not. If Player B puts the points into Stealth instead, they just doubled the stealthiness they spent years learning.

The only solution to this problem is to disallow spending bonus character points on skills entirely.

Quote:
Also capping skills seem very arbitrary and artificial, as well.
Spending bonus character points on skills instead of spending years training them also seems arbitrary and artificial.
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Old 02-27-2021, 07:21 AM   #10
AlexanderHowl
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: Improvement rolls

Since GMs design and/or modify the adventures, high skill levels are really not an issue in most games because of the specialized nature of GURPS skills. If a character ends up being a problem with Karate-25, send in people with crossbows/guns or have them face an enemy with DR 10. If a character ends up being a problem with Stealth-25, put them against dogs in an open area. At worst, the character end up being too specialized, so they end up as a burden for their group.
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