[SOTC] Do away with Skill and Stunts?

edited December 2007 in Actual Play
In your opinion would the game work with just as well, better, or not as well using only Aspects to define characters?

Comments

  • I say go for it. Report your results.

    Personally I found that skills and stunts resulted in my stressing about character optimisation, which wasn't good for my fun; I'd be curious to see what happens when you remove tehm.

  • I've been playing in a semi-weekly test of Willow's Awesome Adventures rules. There are still skills, but the lack of stunts makes things more fluid. At least in my character's case, I've tried wilder conflicts because I don't have the level of crunch constraining my character. That would be the potential downside, as well; removing one layer of crunch puts extra strain on the other mechanics to carry the game's mood. In a less over-the-top game, this may cause problems.
  • Posted By: shreyasPersonally I found that skills and stunts resulted in my stressing about character optimisation, which wasn't good for my fun; I'd be curious to see what happens when you remove tehm.
    This is somewhat my experience, too. With skills not so much, as the skills seem easy enough to work with (for me that is) but with stunts yeah.

    In a recent game based on Crimson Skies, we limited ourselves to 5 stunts, which I think helped a bit (we didn't think about optimization as much to get the kewlness, we rather just spread them around a lot more).

    Do it, and post the results!

    -Andy
  • While I third the "try it an tell us!" sentiment, I think it's worth experimenting. I know that I don't care too much for stunts in the system -- when I demo it, I tend to let them take either a stunt or a stunt package (depending on my mood when demoing) mainly out of obligation since I'm stating a claim that I'm doing a demonstration. I could take or leave 'em.

    I happen to like Skills, if only because they allow people to shine in different ways, but when I'm running a quick demo I only care about the top three skills and I discard the extra effects of skills (like number of languages due to Athletics, extra stress boxes due to Endurance & Resolve, etc.) But, there's nothing to say that going all the way to just Aspects wouldn't also produce that same effect -- nothing, except to try it out, that is.
  • I've run it that way and it works great. I used the "multi-box" aspect rules from Fate 2.0, which lets you compare aspect ratings and have a regular trait vs. trait roll, too, if you ever need one.
  • Posted By: shreyasI say go for it. Report your results.Personally I found that skills and stunts resulted in my stressing about character optimisation, which wasn't good for my fun; I'd be curious to see what happens when you remove tehm.
    This expresses exactly my experience with SotC, which is that (while I dug the game and the system a great deal), I had a hell of a time making characters for it.

    Would a skill-less, stunt-less game play out grittier, or just be more Aspect-driven?
  • edited December 2007
    Would a skill-less, stunt-less game play out grittier, or just be more Aspect-driven?
    IME, the "gritty" goal is not addressed by having stunts in the game. It's also not addressed by taking stunts out of the game.

    There are different parts of the system I choose to tweak (usually in a reduced quantities sense) if I want grit (the way consequences and stress behave, mainly; the height of the skill pyramid, the number of fate points, too).

    Stunts just lock down particular situational advantages or add trappings to skills.
  • edited December 2007
    Posted By: John HarperI've run it that way and it works great. I used the "multi-box" aspect rules fromFate 2.0, which lets you compare aspect ratings and have a regular trait vs. trait roll, too, if you ever need one.
    So are you saying have the players rate their Aspects, like Traits in Over the Edge?

    ...and the boxes would represent "free" (non-Fate Point) uses of the Aspect?
  • Yeah, basically. It's worth downloading Fate 2.0 to see how it works in full.
  • Thanks for the suggestions everyone! I'll post an AP when it happens.
  • Hey John-

    Take a look at my Awesome Adventures rules. (You can download them from the FATE list.) They don't have Stunts, and the skills are very very simplified and streamlined- I feel that the game works better without stunts because character creation is so much faster; it excells more as a one shot.

    The dilemma I think you'll find without skills is properly statting encounters- what is your base quality, and what difficutly is it fair to roll against? The aspect/fate chip economy will be way up front and center. Again, Fate 2 worked a lot more similarly to this, but losing that level may make it so you have to deflate your difficutly levels.
  • If you take out skills and stunts, why not take out the dice mechanics that go with them?

    It would take some work, and probably ample inspiration from ...In Spaaace, Amber , and other games, but one might be able to tweak the Fate Point economy in such a way to make it a whole game.
  • Just a blind "bid" of fate points? I think even Amber ranks its stats, which at least gives you a deterministic baseline of winners and losers: Superb swordfighters will always skewer Average athletes with 4 shifts, for example, unless your fate bid changes that.

    Maybe a blind "bid" attached to a scripted (prewritten) hidden intent attached to those fate points? Like...you might bid 3 points, two of which are simply going to a total +4 to your skill, and the last one is going into powering a Compel or Invoke for Effect or something. You might also have to build in the opportunity to buy off compels/invokes you don't know are coming your way.

    p.
  • ...In Spaaace ranks its stats, too, and it works pretty much the same way - one's stat rating acts like free tokens in the bidding contest.
  • Posted By: zoatebix...In Spaaace ranks its stats, too, and it works pretty much the same way - one's stat rating acts like free tokens in the bidding contest.
    Likewise, Nobilis.
  • I'm trying to do something like this with my Amber/FATE/PDQ/etc. Hack at:

    http://johnpaul613.livejournal.com

    Ignore the Passions (I'm trying now to integrate these with Aspects to reduce the number of working parts).
  • John, is this what you're doing in your game based on Fate 2.0?

    Character Creation

    To follow SOTC here, you have 5 phases (background, great war, etc.) and in each one you choose 2 aspects.
    • Aspects can, and probably should, be taken more than once.
    • Each aspect has a rating equal to how many times you take that aspect during character creation.
    • This rating tells you how many times you can use that aspect (without resorting to fate points) and what level of 'skill' it is when you use it as the base ability in a contest.
    So, for example, here's...

    Doctor Julek Wijngaard, the Science Giant

    Mad Scientist -- Great (+4) 0000
    Larger than your Average House -- Fair (+2) 00
    Don't Touch the Rhododendron -- Average (+1) 0
    A Giant's Lab is his Castle -- Average (+1) 0
    Don't Ever Call Mathilda a Small Woman -- Fair (+2) 00

    *************
    Initial (obvious) observations and questions:
    • A fewer number of aspects overall, if you stay with the default of 5 (SOTC) phases.
    • Less likely to have any aspects/skills at superb, perhaps, because higher skills restrict your breadth quite a bit
    • How do you use Fate points? In Fate 2.0, they don't (at least in the default version) power aspects. Perhaps in this version they could do what they do in SoTC, but refresh is very low, probably 0 or 1, and they are mostly gained through compels...
    • How do you handle 'extras' (followers, magic items, etc.)? One could use the 'Going Stuntless' rules presented by Robert Donoghue. It occurs to me though that there may be something that could be done using the Fate 2.0 implied currency of 4 skills points being a bit like 1 aspect for the character, but 1 skill point being used to buy 1 aspect in an extra. So if you reduce your number of aspects by one (or 'lock' one aspect) you get 4 aspects to spend on extras.
  • Why add the ranking of Aspects? That seems to smuggle character optimization back into the game through the back door.

    I figure "extras" are just another sort of aspect. Again, what is the advantage of adding special rules for them? Why not just have an aspect, "To the Science!mobile!" and use that when it comes into play?
  • Posted By: DannyKWhy add the ranking of Aspects? That seems to smuggle character optimization back into the game through the back door.

    I figure "extras" are just another sort of aspect. Again, what is the advantage of adding special rules for them? Why not just have an aspect, "To the Science!mobile!" and use that when it comes into play?
    So you have a deterministic baseline from which to determine winners and losers prior to spending Fate for invokes and compels, I assume.

    p.
  • edited December 2007
    Posted By: Paul B

    So you have a deterministic baseline from which to determine winners and losers prior to spending Fate for invokes and compels, I assume.

    p.
    I'm having difficulty with this thread because the purpose of removing skills and stunts isn't very clear.

    Is it simply to streamline character creation?

    Is it to allow people to have big, complicated skills called Aspects which have the opportunity to be interpreted for different situations?

    Is it to pull out the deterministic qualities of the game and focus on story elements?

    I think this last option would be the most interesting if it could be defined correctly. Describe characters via a list of one-shot Aspects and allow characters to invoke them to narratively describe an interaction in a conflict. Work in the fate point economy to limit the usage of Aspects (I'm thinking a scale where the first invocation is free, but further invocations have increasing cost) and perhaps feed another resource pool which allows other characters narrative control back.
  • Well, Four Colors al Fresco looks an awful lot like SotC without skills or stunts, mechanically. And we've been running/playing it successfully for, what, 8 years now?

    But, of course, Four Colors al Fresco also doesn't have any sort of rating/ranking system related to character stats/traits/descriptors--it relies completely on the descriptors themselves to determine success/failure/superiority/etc. So, i'd say it would become even more important for everyone to be on the same page regarding the actual meaning of an Aspect, since they'd pretty much define the character, and her capabilities [in the absence of other character traits].
  • Posted By: mothlos
    Is it to pull out the deterministic qualities of the game and focus on story elements?

    I think this last option would be the most interesting if it could be defined correctly. Describe characters via a list of one-shot Aspects and allow characters to invoke them to narratively describe an interaction in a conflict. Work in the fate point economy to limit the usage of Aspects (I'm thinking a scale where the first invocation is free, but further invocations have increasing cost) and perhaps feed another resource pool which allows other characters narrative control back.
    Or, well, don't. I'm gonna go on a tangent here, since this sort of RPG (focused on the narrative elements, and minimizing the game-ness) is what i've been working on the most for the better part of a decade now. Now, i'm not saying that what you're suggesting (or what a lot of other RPGs use) is bad, by any means. Just that it's not the only way to do it.

    You do not need to have mechanical quantification or balancing mechanisms in an RPG. Most of the games out there that have free-form trait creation nonetheless equalize characters in some way mechanically. The most common techniques i've seen are (in no particular order):
    1. same number of traits
    2. limiting mechanism to the use of traits (using a trait costs a token, and everyone has the same number of tokens)
    3. same "values" of traits (everyone has one Superb, one Good, and one Fair trait, or just all traits have the same value)
    4. same total "value" of traits (everyone has 10 points to spend on traits; you can have a 5-pt trait or 5 1-pt traits, or whatever)
    5. trait descriptions are mechanically meaningless; all traits are equally-valuable/effective in play, and success/failure is primarily determined by some other mechanic
    SotC deals with aspects using options 1, 2, and 3, basically: everyone has the same number, all traits are essentially of equal value, and they have, in theory, equal access to the fate points needed to use them. OtE is an excellent example of combining 1 and 3: you can have traits like "showy bartender" and "jedi" in the same group, and the game "balances" these by giving you the same dice to work with. So, while "jedi" might come into play more often, you still only get 4d to roll when it does--if trying to juggle liquor bottles, the two characters are on an equal footing.

    And that, right there, shows up the failings in any such system, IME: if you allow truly open-ended freeform trait creation, it doesn't matter how tightly you control the use of those traits. Any attempt at mechanical balance (whether trying to balance character effectiveness or player spotlight time) goes out the window. Instead, you're forced to fall back on using narrative techniques to make sure that everyone gets their share of spotlight time--making sure you set up situations where everyone has something to contribute, and avoiding situations where one person outshines everyone else consistently, among other things. So, why not just cut all the mechanical balancing bits out in the first place?

    Personally, i'm a big fan of freeform traits coupled with mechanical limits--OtE, SotC, and many others. But i was talkin to a friend a while ago, and he's been playing a lot of games that work in that way, and he's the one who first verbalized the point i'm making here. He was realizing that the mechanical constraints exposed the artificiality of the freeform definitions: while in theory you could define your character any way you want, in practice your definitions end up having their scope/effectiveness constrained by the mechanical side of things. Those mechanisms are awesome at promoting equal spotlight time, but get in the way of differentiating characters based on power (if they don't have unique niches). That is, if everyone has, say, 5 tokens to spend to activate traits, and one character has "took a fencing lesson. once." and "stable hand" as traits, and the other has "best swordsman in the Muskateers" and "taught Hidalgo's everything he knows", and they both try to race a horse across the desert and fight a dozen swordsmen, either they'll be equally effective, or the tokens are no longer regulating effectiveness, and the person with broader/greater traits is more powerful. Neither of these is a bad situation, it's just that neither of them is an example of combining truly freeform trait creation with balanced characters--they're either not balanced, or the freeform-ness is an illusion, with only quality, not quantity, being under the player's control.

    [Now, neither Dread nor Four Colors al Fresco go completely freeform--both regulate the number of traits a character has, and constrain their nature in some way. But they do so not for situation resolution reasons, but purely for character creation reasons. There's nothing in either system that would stop you from creating either Batman or Superman (to use the classic superhero example) from the same starting point. Both rely on the players, rather than the rules, to limit character power and preserve schtick uniqueness.]

    The end result, however, is even less a game than most RPGs. If you like the resource-management aspects of RPGs, or want some more structure to build your situations around (like Willow mentions), then this is definitely not for you. If, however, you're of the "rules are a necessary evil" school of thought, WRT RPGs, then let me suggest you can just chuck the skills and stunts, and not add anything in to replace them. Just go with the aspects, and nothing else. Sounds awesome to me, and i assure you, it can work.
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