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Old 05-02-2022, 07:58 AM   #1
David Bofinger
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Sydney, Australia
Default Environmental Talents

I'd like opinions on this:

Philosophy

One of the decisions a game designer has to make is how character abilities will be split from each other. In TFT there's a set of talents related to spotting things or getting along in an environment, which I'll call environmental talents - Alertness, Detect Traps, Naturalist, Seamanship, Swimming, Tracking, etc. TFT chooses to split these talents up by output, i.e. by what they do. Even a talent like Woodsman, which sounds like it relates to a specific environment, on close examination can be used in many environments and is actually defined by what it does.

Another way to split these talents up would be by when they are used, which in this case means the environment in which they are used. This is more or less how advanced combat talents like Weapon Expert work: there's a different talent for each kind of weapon, but each one has the same benefits. We could instead choose to use an output-oriented approach for advanced combat talents, where the talent doesn't care what the weapon is, but each talent provides a different advantage: a bonus to damage, an improved defence, benefits in HTH, benefits against multi-hex opponents, etc. Or we could have an input-oriented approach to environment talents, where the talents are used in different environments but have similar effects.

I actually believe both these changes would be a good thing for TFT. In the case of environment talents that's mostly driven by my experience of watching players generate characters. It is really common for a character to be partially built around an environment: "She grew up in the forest and she knows every animal and plant as a personal friend," or "Six years a fisherman before I was captured, five years a galley slave of pirates, and four years with the navy that rescued me, I may not know the land but by God I know the sea," or "I was raised by desert foxes and learnt all its ways." Conversely the choice of RAW talents is more commonly a matter of practicality: someone has to take Alertness, someone should probably have Woodsman so we don't starve, etc. When the forest expert who doesn't have Tracking goes into the forest and can't follow the enemy tracks, it feels kind of sad - I have Naturalist, you said that made me expert on the local animals, doesn't that help me track? When that forest expert does buy tracking to fix the problem, and goes into a desert and discovers they can track just as well there as they can in a forest, it feels gamey, really that shouldn't happen. I want to promote the input-based environmental talents, which I think are superior for most purposes.

On the other hand there might be characters who want e.g. to play the equivalent of an ex-olympic swimmer who just swims in pools and doesn't know rivers or the sea. So some output-oriented talents should perhaps exist.

This is a proposal for making environment talents defined by input. These could either replace or be used in parallel with output-oriented talents. Since it is the less radical proposal I'm assuming here they are used in parallel. A character in possession of both Swimming and Sea would then be particularly expert at swimming in the sea.

Rules
  • Probably delete the following talents: Alertness, Woodsman, Tracking.
  • Naturalist and Expert Naturalist become academic talents rather than practical ones.
  • The environment talents are:
    • Forest (IQ 11, cost 2) Also the abilities of Climbing as applied to trees.
    • Desert (IQ 9, cost 1) Includes a general tolerance for heat and low humidity.
    • Cavern (IQ 10, cost 1) Natural environments rather than artificial labyrinths.
    • Sea (IQ 10, cost 2, cost 1 if you have River) Also abilities of Swimming, Boating and Seamanship in a sea environment and mostly in other environments. Seaside environments such as beaches and harbours are considered sea.
    • River (IQ 9, cost 2, cost 1 if you have Sea) Also includes abilities of Swimming and Boating in a lake or river and mostly in other environments. River- and lakeside environments (banks, shores, wharfs, etc.) are considered part of the River environment.
    • Mountain (IQ 9, cost 2, cost 1 if you have Ice) Also includes Climbing as applied to rocky cliffs. Includes a general but not superhuman tolerance for thin air.
    • Ice (IQ 10, cost 2, cost 1 if you have Mountain) Also includes Climbing as applied to crevasses etc., the ability to use snowshoes, skis, etc. if such things are used in your campaign, and a general but not superhuman tolerance for low temperatures.
  • Some other environments that could exist include:
    • Marsh (IQ 9, cost 1) A marsh is a soggy grassland.
    • Urban (IQ 11, cost 2) Also includes Climbing as applied to buildings. A village doesn't count as urban, it has to be a kind of environment most people don't know well.
    • Tropical (IQ 8, cost 1) Includes a general but not superhuman tolerance for heat and high humidity, including some resistance to tropical diseases.
    • Labyrinth (IQ 10, cost 1)
  • Some environments require two talents:
    • A character with both Marsh and Forest, or with Forest alone if Marsh doesn't exist, can use the abilities of both in a swamp (a swamp is a soggy forest).
    • A character with Tropical and Forest is comfortable in a jungle.
  • Environment talents have the following advantages for characters in that environment:
    • The abilities of Woodsman and Silent Movement.
    • Roll one fewer die when attempting to notice something.
    • Other characters roll one extra die to see you if you do not wish to be seen.
    • If there is a penalty to MA and/or DX due to the environment then the penalty is halved (round penalty down). e.g.:
      • If the boggy terrain of a marsh imposes a -3 MA penalty then characters with the Marsh talent suffer only -1 MA.
      • If the rough seas on board a ship impose a -1 DX penalty then characters with the Sea talent suffer no penalty.
  • Environment talents also provide the following benefits related to the creatures of the environment, even when the encounter occurs outside that environment:
    • The benefits of Naturalist with respect to the common plants and animals of the environment. Not if the animal is e.g. a rare visitor from outside.
    • If the environment in this campaign is commonly inhabited bv some kind of people with whom your culture has become familiar (e.g. seas might have merfolk; caverns might have dwarves; forests might have elves, centaurs, monkey folk or pygmies) then:
      • +1 in reaction rolls. This is relative to those who don't have the talent: they may still hate you enough to provide a large negative modifier to anyone from outside.
      • A general familiarity with their ways.
      • You can communicate with them at a basic level (e.g. speak a pidgin of their language).
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Old 05-02-2022, 10:24 AM   #2
Skarg
 
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Default Re: Environmental Talents

I like breaking up Woodsman and Naturalist into knowledge of specific environments and not others.

I don't think including talents like Climbing, Swimming, Boating, and Alertness into talents about environmental knowledge, makes sense. I think they need to be separate, because clearly some people have lots of knowledge and survival ability in forest or riparian or urban or other areas without actually climbing trees or buildings or swimming or crewing boats. There are also scholar-types who may have useful knowledge but no physical abilities. And there are certainly people who can climb and swim or be alert but don't have any other outdoor survival expertise I don't see a value in removing those sorts of talents.

If someone does see a value in having a package talent that includes all related physical abilities for an environment, that could be added without the ability to only learn the knowledge, or to learn Swimming. If the goal is to make character sheets short as possible (?), you could note it as Desert +, or something.
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Old 05-02-2022, 10:30 AM   #3
Shostak
 
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Default Re: Environmental Talents

It's an interesting idea, David, especially how a character can't have encyclopedic knowledge of flora and fauna without also knowing about the environment in which it lives.

Some skills will be transferable across environments, though. For instance, climbing involves being able to spot and use toeholds and fingerholds, which can just as easily be on a labyrinth wall as they can on a tree. And knowing how to purify water isn't going to change much whether you are in arid uplands or a swamp. I can see Alertness remaining a distinct talent that could give a bonus to spotting spoor, loose pavers, etc. Similarly, I'd recommend against rolling Silent Movement and Stealth into an environmental talent.

Also, increasingly I'm of the opinion that IQ prerequisites for nearly all talents should be abandoned. Why should Desert be IQ 9 but Forest is 11?
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Old 05-02-2022, 11:17 AM   #4
hcobb
 
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Default Re: Environmental Talents

Move area knowledge down to IQ 7 please.
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Old 05-02-2022, 06:52 PM   #5
TippetsTX
 
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Default Re: Environmental Talents

I'm not sure I understand the varying IQ levels for the talents. Why would FOREST require two more points than DESERT?

If the baseline 'output' is the same, shouldn't they require the same IQ?

(Plus, if the IQ prerequisites are core to the concept, it seems to me that learning the DESERT talent would be the harder option. Finding resources in a desert would be much harder than the same task in a forest.)

P.S. Just noticed Shostak asked the same question. ;)
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Old 05-02-2022, 10:06 PM   #6
David Bofinger
 
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Default Re: Environmental Talents

Quote:
Originally Posted by TippetsTX View Post
I'm not sure I understand the varying IQ levels for the talents.
They're very much draft numbers. I made Forest cost more partly because forests are more complex places and ecosystems than deserts and there's more to learn, partly because a lot more adventures happen in forests than in deserts (not many deserts in the southern Elyntia map :-)) and so Forest is a much more useful talent. I gave Forest a high IQ requirement because I wanted to match the IQ requirements of talents like Woodsman. But they could all change.
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Old 05-02-2022, 10:50 PM   #7
David Bofinger
 
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Default Re: Environmental Talents

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skarg View Post
I like breaking up Woodsman and Naturalist into knowledge of specific environments and not others. I don't think including talents like Climbing, Swimming, Boating, and Alertness into talents about environmental knowledge, makes sense.
There's definitely a spectrum, from talents that can easily be folded into the environments like Woodsman and those which really need to be kept separate. Some of my choices could definitely be changed.

Quote:
I think they need to be separate, because clearly some people have lots of knowledge and survival ability in forest or riparian or urban or other areas without actually climbing trees or buildings or swimming or crewing boats.
So we end up asking how plausible the following characters are:
  • Grew up in the forest, doesn't know how to climb a tree. I would say: not very likely. So I'm comfortable with Climbing being in Forest.
  • Grew up in an urban environment, doesn't know how to get in a third storey window. I would say extremely likely, so yes, I oopsed there, Climbing shouldn't be part of urban.
  • Grew up on the river, or at sea, doesn't know how to swim. I would say highly campaign-dependent. In Mediaeval Europe very likely, in Polynesia really weird. I'll have to modify for that.
  • Grew up on the river or at sea, uncomfortable in a boat, doesn't know how to use it and always in danger of tipping it over like a landlubber. I would say quite unlikely, so I'm OK with Sea and River including Boating.
  • Grew up at sea, doesn't know how to sail a ship. I would say um. It really depends what the Sea talent represents. Does someone who collects oysters on rocks have it? I need to think about this.

Quote:
There are also scholar-types who may have useful knowledge but no physical abilities.
I think these characters don't have the environmental talents, which are supposed to represent practical skills. Can you give an example of a problematic concept?

Quote:
And there are certainly people who can climb and swim or be alert but don't have any other outdoor survival expertise I don't see a value in removing those sorts of talents.
For climb and swim I mostly agree and I haven't. Alertness I'm much happier to let go, I'm not sure it represents anything much in fiction. A character who doesn't know the forest but is good at spotting things in a forest because she's just good at spotting things? Not sure I believe it.

Quote:
If someone does see a value in having a package talent that includes all related physical abilities for an environment, that could be added without the ability to only learn the knowledge, or to learn Swimming. If the goal is to make character sheets short as possible (?), you could note it as Desert +, or something.
I don't understand what you mean by this.
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Old 05-02-2022, 10:53 PM   #8
David Bofinger
 
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Default Re: Environmental Talents

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shostak View Post
increasingly I'm of the opinion that IQ prerequisites for nearly all talents should be abandoned.
A much more radical proposal which I don't want to touch in this one. I like the idea of, wherever possible, eliminating prerequisites and making the talent require a roll instead.
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Old 05-03-2022, 06:26 AM   #9
Shostak
 
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Default Re: Environmental Talents

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Bofinger
Alertness I'm much happier to let go, I'm not sure it represents anything much in fiction. A character who doesn't know the forest but is good at spotting things in a forest because she's just good at spotting things? Not sure I believe it.
Alertness means being more aware of one’s senses. Someone who grew up in the forest might spot the spoor of a moose because they know where to look for it, whereas they would not necessarily notice the small clue left in a book on someone’s bed table, that someone appears unwell, or that the bandits’s arrow fletchings were all red. Similarly, Alertness can represent one’s ability to sleep lightly, which would help someone who grew up in the forest just as much should they find themselves in any other environment.
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Old 05-03-2022, 10:31 AM   #10
TippetsTX
 
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Default Re: Environmental Talents

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shostak View Post
Alertness means being more aware of one’s senses. Someone who grew up in the forest might spot the spoor of a moose because they know where to look for it, whereas they would not necessarily notice the small clue left in a book on someone’s bed table, that someone appears unwell, or that the bandits’s arrow fletchings were all red. Similarly, Alertness can represent one’s ability to sleep lightly, which would help someone who grew up in the forest just as much should they find themselves in any other environment.
Which makes me think the type of specialization David is looking for might be more simply addressed using a bonus from the character’s AREA KNOWLEDGE talent.

For example, keep ALERTNESS but the roll is +2 IQ when made in the forest where they grew up.
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