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Old 05-02-2022, 08:58 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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