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Old 07-15-2023, 12:37 AM   #1
mburr0003
 
Join Date: Jun 2022
Default Re-calibrating Attribute Costs

As can be seen at the end of the other thread (Odd Question in raising IQ) I have a disagreement with the cost of Attributes in relation to the price of Skills, namely Attributes are too dang inexpensive.

It makes balancing certain Character combos nigh impossible. I'm not the first person to have issues with "high Attributes", and this is certainly not the first time I've looked at implementing a solution... this will just be the first time I'm looking at implementing a very GM labor intensive solution.

Actually, the solution is pretty simple, change the cost of Attributes. It's the next step that becomes more untenable; change the cost of the Advantages and Disadvantages that should be changed relative to the cost of Attributes.

And really, I need to back up a step further... because once you start tinkering with Attribute costs... you need to look very hard at starting Character Point allotments.. and woooo. It's a bit of an interconnected nesting problem.

So to step back to the bottom-most level... I think Skill costs are mostly okay (that's a whole nother TEDtalk), they really should be the bottom out cost. 1 point, and they get slightly more expensive... but again, another discussion. (Okay, Perks and some Advantages lurk down here as well.)

So from there we have to decide what Attributes should cost based around the idea of "broadly and competently skilled but low attribute" PCs should be able to be made alongside "high attribute with a few skills" PCs and not be some variant of "one of them is a point croc". Now, I'm also not suggesting that "all builds are need to be equal". Certainly the IQ 18 PC who has all their IQ defaults in the 14 range doesn't need to be the same Character Points as the IQ 10 PC who has purchased every single IQ skill to 14. That would be madness... there is a certain symmetry to it, but it is madness.

I've looked at a number of ways to do this (fixing IQ) over the years, one person here suggested putting a cap at what point Attributes affect skills and defaults, but allowing them to be bought past that point for cheaper (for Attribute rolls alone)... which actually kinda works, but it's fiddly and complicated, and just didn't sit well with the Players, or with me. It felt like putting a bookcase over the mold spot in the wall, the problem was still back there, it was just hidden behind arbitrary nonsense. It was neither elegant, nor a solid fix.

Same with "just cap IQ"... I don't want to cap IQ. I like playing high IQ PCs myself, I have Players who like playing high IQ PCs. This is not a solution, this is another arbitrary "doesn't fix the problem, it just avoids running into it" bandaid. And whats worse, it doesn't even avoid running into it, it just shuffles the problem below where most Players feel the competence level lies so they're just usually okay with an IQ 14 PC's defaults being better than the IQ 10 PC's 80 different bought skills with only one point in each (and actually, usually if your done here where IQ 14 feels high, you don't have enough points to be buying 80 different skills... so no one wants to try make the "low IQ but still somehow competent" PC).



Anyway, I'm not really sure what cost to set for IQ, DX, or even ST and HT (those are also on the table to be discussed) right now, I just figured I'd toss my two cents out there and see if it generates a discussion before digging any deeper.
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Old 07-15-2023, 03:12 AM   #2
David Johnston2
 
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Default Re: Re-calibrating Attribute Costs

Quote:
Originally Posted by mburr0003 View Post

So from there we have to decide what Attributes should cost based around the idea of "broadly and competently skilled but low attribute" PCs should be able to be made alongside "high attribute with a few skills" PCs and not be some variant of "one of them is a point croc".
I don't really understand what "broadly and competently skilled but low attribute" represents in real terms. Why would a stupid character be good at a wide range of intellectual skills? How could you master a wide range of intellectual skills and not get smarter?

Last edited by David Johnston2; 07-15-2023 at 03:20 AM.
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Old 07-15-2023, 05:03 AM   #3
mirtexxan
 
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Default Re: Re-calibrating Attribute Costs

Quote:
Originally Posted by mburr0003 View Post
Same with "just cap IQ"...
You can try an hybrid approach. First of all set a attribute soft cap to some reasonable level. I vaguely remeber Kromm suggesting 15 for all attributes, 14 for Health. Anyone can up to that soft cap without penalty or added cost.

Then start charging progressively higher point cost for unusual backgrounds after the soft cap. E.g. 5 points for the first point, 10 for the second point and so on, up to whatever hard cap (realism cap?) you want to set.

What do you think?

BTW, have you checked Power Ups 9? There is a VERY in depth discussion about pricing attributes in different ways.
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Old 07-15-2023, 07:13 AM   #4
Arcanjo7Sagi
 
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Default Re: Re-calibrating Attribute Costs

As implied in my last post there, care needs to be taken about the impact of math on the game in general. If stats cost too much and the starting score is high to compensate, then problems begin to arise when a player simply decides to spend those points to be hyper-competent in a single skill.

I'm going to use combat as an example, because it's something recurring, but you can change it for magic, etc.

Let's count:

Quote:
Originally Posted by DX 20/level

DX 14 [80], Broadsword 18 [16], Shield 16 [4]. Total 100 points for a sword and shield knight.

DX 13 [60], Two-Handed Axe/Mace 23 [40]. Total 100 points for a classic greataxe barbarian.
Here the idea is of a higher DX character allowing him to be good at more than one combat skill, alongside a lower DX character and focusing the difference on a single skill.

Let's see how the same idea looks, only with DX costing 40 per level:

Quote:
Originally Posted by DX 40/level

DX 14 [160], Broadsword 18 [16], Shield 16 [4]. Total 180 points for a sword and shield knight.

DX 13 [120], Two-Handed Axe/Mace 28 [60]. Total 180 points for a classic greataxe barbarian.
Moving on, only with DX costing 60 per level:

Quote:
Originally Posted by DX 60/level

DX 14 [240], Broadsword 18 [16], Shield 16 [4]. Total 260 points for a sword and shield knight.

DX 13 [180], Two-Handed Axe/Mace 33 [80]. Total 260 points for a classic greataxe barbarian.
Can you see the pattern?

I understand that simply increasing the cost of attributes may sound like a simple solution, but we have to remember that they exist alongside a whole set of other elements that make up the system. You move one, it will impact how the system behaves. When we try to solve a problem, it is very easy to create others. That's why being an RPG designer can be difficult. We have to take many situations into account.

EDIT: If you really want to go in that direction, it might be worth taking a look at Power-Ups 9, Alternate Attributes, the "More Expensive Basic Attributes" section, starting on page 10.
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Last edited by Arcanjo7Sagi; 07-15-2023 at 07:21 AM.
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Old 07-15-2023, 08:52 AM   #5
nudj
 
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Default Re: Re-calibrating Attribute Costs

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
I don't really understand what "broadly and competently skilled but low attribute" represents in real terms. Why would a stupid character be good at a wide range of intellectual skills? How could you master a wide range of intellectual skills and not get smarter?
I agree. Just put 1 or 2 points in most skills and interpret part of your higher IQ as learning.

Learning develops neural pathways. It's not independent of IQ.

Same idea for DX. If you are great at football, shooting, and dancing, you have high DX, developed and innate.

Last edited by nudj; 07-15-2023 at 09:12 AM.
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Old 07-15-2023, 09:33 AM   #6
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Default Re: Re-calibrating Attribute Costs

I think you have to look at caps and costs on attributes and skills together. If outright capping attributes is not what you want to do, consider a 'soft cap' beyond which an unusual background is required. Perhaps an increasing UB for each level past the cap, to make high attributes work more like 3rd edition.

Another option that is particularly applicable in the case of IQ, is to break Per and Will off, and buy them up or down separately from a base of 10, rather than basing them off IQ. This makes it much more likely to have characters who can be smart and broadly competent in non-physical skills, and who aren't also eagle-eyed and iron-willed.

Don't stop there though, consider caps and UBs for skill levels as well. What is the story of a character that has a level of 33 in ax? How did that happen? Is it possible or even meaningful?

Sitting between attributes and skills, you can also make bespoke talents and anti-talents, that help to define a specific character concept.

It's a balancing act, and a matter of taste and how appropriate certain character builds are to the campaign you want to run. There's no 'right' answer that fits all situations.

When it comes down to it, even without altering costs or putting on caps, you can just look at each character individually, and decide if they fit in your campaign or not. Since most of us are GMs, and not game designers whose work is going out to a public audience, we don't have to have it all systematized to work for anyone who comes along and runs a campaign using our notes. Work with the players to create a character that fits your game.
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Old 07-15-2023, 10:05 AM   #7
Arcanjo7Sagi
 
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Default Re: Re-calibrating Attribute Costs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr_Sandman View Post
I think you have to look at caps and costs on attributes and skills together. If outright capping attributes is not what you want to do, consider a 'soft cap' beyond which an unusual background is required. Perhaps an increasing UB for each level past the cap, to make high attributes work more like 3rd edition.
I mentioned exactly this in an answer of mine, in the other thread. I think it's a reasonable solution, which doesn't punish characters with stats 11 to 13 (or below cap).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr_Sandman View Post
What is the story of a character that has a level of 33 in ax? How did that happen? Is it possible or even meaningful?
This part was a mathematical exercise of mine, to illustrate how changing the cost of attributes can impact character planning, system balance, etc. Of course, in practice it will depend on the narrator's approval, but that's not the point. My point is that attributes costing too much can create other potential problems.

That's why I think Power-Ups 9, Alternate Attributes, is worth a read. For there are sessions that deal precisely with these questions. From what I remember and understand, it suggests different costs with different objectives, possible impacts, etc. It could be that the GM wants to raise DX or IQ prices to encourage PCs to buy skills, for example. Or make WildCard Skills more attractive. It depends on the objective. But even so, it implies that there are reasonable values and values where they are probably too high.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Power-Ups 9, Alternate Attributes, pg. 12

Keeping Skills Relevant

After the campaign begins, players might improve DX or IQ not because it fits character concepts but because it’s the cheapest way to raise a bunch of skills. That suggests another reason to make attributes more expensive: To encourage players to spend points earned in play on skills used in play. The ideal markup is a question of GM fiat, not math, but don’t go too far (“You all have at least 20 IQ-based skills, so I’m making IQ cost 80 points/level!”) – realistically, someone who exercises a wide range of skills probably would build up the underlying qualities they share.
So, the book recognizes that there is this issue (that for certain characters with many skills) players can evolve DX or IQ instead of evolving those skills. Yes, it can happen. And there are arguments for charging more in games where this occurs or could occur. However, it is necessary to think a lot about it, so as not to charge values beyond the reasonable amount. In the quoted passage, 80 per level would be way past that point, but perhaps something between 40 and 50 might be acceptable - again, depending on the type of game.

It's just good to remember that not always the characters will fall into this situation. In many games I actually see PCs evolve one or another skill as a primary, like the main combat skill, and the rest evolve punctually. Wizard characters aside, I tend to see more specialist characters than generalist characters.

Using Dungeon Fantasy templates as an example, perhaps the mage and martial artist will want to invest in IQ and DX throughout the game. The others will likely focos their XP on one or two thematic skills they tend to specialize in, and maybe and maybe occasionally evolve something secondary.
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Old 07-15-2023, 11:34 AM   #8
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Default Re: Re-calibrating Attribute Costs

You might want to review the proposal of Douglas Cole in Pyramid 3/65 "By default". He proposes basing the defaults not in the Attrubute's value but in "half the value" +5. He also proposes a revised table of "skills costs"
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Old 07-15-2023, 11:43 AM   #9
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Default Re: Re-calibrating Attribute Costs

The easiest recalibration is to make costs nonlinear and rely on revealed preference to determine the true value of a +1.
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Old 07-15-2023, 01:43 PM   #10
monstrous engineer
 
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Default Re: Re-calibrating Attribute Costs

Have you considered approaching this from the demand side, rather than the supply side? By that I mean reduce the benefit of having high IQ rather than raising the cost of it.

Coming up with a demand side solution can be annoying because it means making lots of arbitrary rules about when you can or can't default to IQ, but it is much easier to make fine adjustments with much less risk of unbalancing the core system.
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