Meanderings Part 1: Stats

  • 13 Replies
Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« on: April 15, 2011, 09:13:13 PM »
Okay, so having five stats is okay for Apocalypse World, because it's a rather constrained setting, but my normal inclination would be to have more stats. Probably seven, by separating technical aptitude and psychic powers, and maybe separating cool into covert and overt, so there's a stealth stat. Or whatever else would fit a new setting—there's plenty of settings where magic, psionics, luck, knowledge, and the ability to make machines should all be separate stats instead of weird. And also, with five it's pretty easy to max out all your stats. Actually, it's pretty easy given the –2 to +3 range, but whatever.

Still, I like the four stats. And then I thought about a different style of dice mechanic. What if your stats are rated 1-4, so you give each one a different number. That's how many dice you roll, and you keep the two highest. So, if your stats is 2, roll 2d6. If your stat is 4, roll 4d6 and count the two highest ones.

If your stat is 1, either you roll 1d6 (which kinda sucks—I'll get to bonuses later), or you rate it P instead of 1, and roll 3d6 and keep the two lowest. So you still get a range of 2-12, just like the other stats, but it's considerably worse. Anyway, that gives a much different curve than straight +1 or +2 does (I think, anyway).

So, how do you get bonuses to your roll? Here is where having more than five stats comes in. You have additional tags for your stats that give you bonuses in certain situations, and you can use gear and other special bonuses.

And that's how I came up with this:

Assign amongst Cool, Heavy, Social, and Deep the following four scores: 2, 3, 4, and P.

When you avoid interference, roll your cool.
...and when you evade pursuit or detection, roll cool+evade.
...and when you resist pressure, roll cool+resist.

When you show your strength, roll your heavy.
...and when you commit assault, roll heavy+assault.
...and when you recover from shock, harm, or setbacks, roll heavy+recover.

When you manipulate someone, roll your social.
...and when you dissect someone, roll social+dissect.
...and when you make a deal, roll social+deal.

And then Deep gets a bit more complicated. Basically, it's the same as Echoes, you roll it to establish a node, and then you get a sync score in that node, and when you tap the node, your roll+sync.

When you look into something, there are three acknowledged levels. Level 1 is reality, the physical world. When you look deep into the real world, roll deep+sense (or deep+investigate or search maybe?). Level 0 is under-reality, the flat world of data, information in books and bytes, out there on the interwebs somewhere. When you dredge through Level 0, looking into it (whatever "it" is), roll deep+research. Level 2 is inside your mind. It's not connected to anybody else's mind, so you can only go deep into your own mind. When you do, roll deep+recall.

Psychic powers also occur on Level 2, and sometimes on Level 1...

You can get skills that act as bonuses, from your playbook or whatever:
Combat training, +1assault.
Iron will, +1resist.
Regeneration, +2recover.
Sex appeal, +1dissect.
Silver tongue, +1deal.
Eidetic memory, +1recall.
Hacker, +1research.

Or, you can get skills that act like permanent nodes, for example:
Criminology (sync+1)
Rocket science (sync+2)
Ancient history (sync=0)

That's what your stat thread made me do, Nathan.
More later...

Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2011, 09:25:50 PM »
I didn't like Hull, Fray, Vamp, and Echo for these reasons:

Hull and Fray seem like they are just Attack and Defend. I like how Vamp and Echo have a lot of density to them, but I really like having a "make a deal" version of manipulate, because it feels like a more natural wording for the AW move.

As for Hull and Fray, there's no act under fire type move and no stealth move. I also like the idea that whether you go down when you get hit depends on how hard you get hit, and whether you get up or not is based on your own stats.

And so you use Cool to sneak, get away with shit, and resist interrogation and stuff, and whatever else you think "avoiding interference" is good for. And you use Heavy to attack people and recover from stuff, and whatever else you think "showing your strength" is good for. I assume the stat-only meta-moves are good for adjudicating colour-based actions, and don't have mechanical effects. Or something.



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Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2011, 05:40:40 PM »

The new dice mechanic gives one a wider range of out comes. I think 12+ outcomes would become common with some builds stat level 3/4 or in some scene with double high stats.

I think the core mechanic is good, what's the max ranges -2 to +4?

I like the core stats/moves with sub move/stats. Gives it more granularity.

I really like the sync with a node move as is for two reasons both fiction related.

The first is that I want to play up Luhmann thesis that everything anyone knows they learned from some kind of media – books, tv, internet, whatever. I know that it doesn't really account from  experiential knowledge, but that knowledge is always interpreted through pregiven understandings of the world.

Thus, I wanted most PC requests for information to be haggling with AIs for your own memories. That kind of thing. So, you'd literally have something on you own sheet that said: Memories sync+3. Also, it would work like you skill set, but they'd be different archives and indexes that you had access to. I mean, even in contemporary times, most academics aren't much with the various article databases and libraries. Without them, research mostly either experimentation or speculation.

There's room for submoves in there, when you're don't have a particular node to ask or are scanning the ruins for something.

Oh, confront trauma == act under fire, essentially.

I'm not really interested in combat moves. I find them kind of tedious. In my view and experience, violence is often quick, brutal and confusing. Only the most experienced can make any kind of sense of it and usually not much. I don't really want any scenes where the PCs go in gun blazing.

In a lot of ways, AW is like Firefly. I like Firefly in a lot of ways, but I got some very mean critiques of that production as well. Bulwark isn't Firefly at all.

I think maybe violence and the like can be handled with one stat.

And stealthiness and cleverness can be handled with another.

I know it feels like manipulate is missing, but look at what you can do with the answers to dissect. I don't really like having it as a move that makes characters do things. I feel that leverage should be good enough.

Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2011, 07:57:39 PM »
I was assuming that 12+ results were available from the start, and you don't need to "open" moves. Might also be true for special moves, might not. And I was assuming the standard range of -2 to +3, but I'm not really sure how you'd get a -2. I was thinking you'd have to select disadvantages that would give you a -1evade or something at some point. Or debilities would do that. But I dunno.

The way I imagined memories to work was that you'd roll deep+recall and write down like High School Memories sync+1, or even as specific as My 16th Birthday sync+2. And then that memory would become a recurring motif throughout the game, perhaps similar to the way movies will often use a key memory as a motif to explain motivation (the memory of his kids in Inception, for example). Once you already have that down on your character sheet, you can draw from it without having to roll for a new one.

So, say I roll really good and now I have University in London sync+2. We've already established that I took polisci with a bunch of rich kids, and that now we're on a mission in Cairo. So, I ask... "do I know anybody from university who lives in Cairo?" I roll an 11, I know a guy, rich and connected, we got drunk soooo many times together...

Later, we encounter a guy who appears to be working for the Socialist Republic of Northern Italy's secret police. And so I ask... "did I study their methods in university?"

Later, we need to break into the lab on some back-water middle-American university campus. Wait, I ask... do I know anybody who works in the polisci department, through my university studies, either personally or by reputation? If I roll good, I might have a legitimate "in."

How does that jive with what you were thinking? I'm not really sure how to envision PCs bargaining with AIs for their own memories.

Oh, and the other thing I like about your node system is this: Since this is not a permanent skill on your character sheet, if you start screwing up those deep+sync rolls (or whatever stat you use), your sync rating goes down, and you realize your memories of university are perhaps somewhat different from the way other people remember you.

Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2011, 08:39:44 PM »
So, with your clarification, all I've done is rename Hull and Fray (and Vamp). It's the sub-stats that actually make it different. I'm using the wording that feels most comfortable to me, though.

I really, really, really like meaningful tactical violence. We had some pretty awesome battles when I was running AW, but yeah, they don't need that many moves. Act under fire and seize by force were the ones getting used mostly, so assault someone and avoid interference should do it, especially if assault works like go aggro, but you have some seize by force options on a 12+, because I really dislike the situation where one guy has a 9mm and the other guy has 2-armour, so go aggro means nothing. If dude has like 3-armour power armour, then yeah fine, 9mm doesn't do shit, but there's got to be some room to maneuver there.

Also, I like having two moves for each stat right off the bat. I assume there would be some custom moves added to those that would show up in playbooks, and some character types would be better suited to making deals, I think.

So, some of the move architectures I worked out:

When you resist pressure, roll cool+resist:
On a 12+, you gain the advantage and turn it back on them. On a 10-11, you're all snakeskin and callous, do what you want. On a 7-9, you can cave or take what the MC dishes out (MC adds or removes a tag). On a 6 or less, you cave.

I added a few more choices to your dissect move:

When you dissect someone, roll social+dissect, then choose one of the listed options:
On a 12+ you answer 1 you pick or they answer 3 you write yourself.
On a 10-11, you answer 1 they pick, or they answer 3 you pick.
On a 7-9, they answer 1 you pick.

And the list of questions is some version of yours and/or the read a person list, etc. Tailor it to the particular game.



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Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2011, 11:27:22 PM »
That's really cool. The 'background' as a node idea. Maybe not for this hack. Nodes can be retooled as stats – they are stats. So, you're looking at them like like traits in Dogs, almost. Thus, you have University+2 written on your sheet add you tap that when every it makes sense for the narrative.

The way I'm seeing it is that you memories are always already digital – everything you see and hear is recorded and you have to go back a sift through it – like an eidetic memory. But maybe you mind gets hacked and something gets stolen. Maybe they all get stolen off that wetware drive sitting in your skull. So, the raw sense data out there, all burdened with DRM maybe, but out there. And somewhere out in the net on the cloud, some entity has it. Or maybe you leave it with them for safe keeping. Whatever. Or maybe you bought at copy of someone else's memories but you're not sure what they know. Roll your sync and find out.

I feel like people in this hack aren't in the habit of remembering things because all knowledge is so accessible. They document everything but remember nothing. Written language ruined our memories for oral narratives. This has done something similar.

The characters are all replicants, in a sense. So thoroughly post-modern they have neither a past nor a future, just an extremely bright now.

Yeah, the go aggro / seize by force move can be easily collapsed, I feel.

Deal making could be fleshed-out more. I really like Joe's String sub system. That could easily be ported, I think. It's a carrot/stick for the PCs, and currency for the NPCs. It drives the  narrative really well. I don't think the playbooks need to be as oriented towards them as they are in Monsterhearts, but they are some interesting mash-ups between the String economy and the +sync stat that could be explored.

The point curve can be easily adjusted. The stat lines could be lowered with bonuses coming in on the sub moves. I like the submoves but I'm not convinced that they couldn't be handled with custom moves.

They make the game more fidley, which I like intuitively, but are the opposite of my design goals for this project.

Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2011, 12:58:15 AM »
Technically, the sub-moves actually ARE custom moves. If you have resist=0, and you resist pressure, you're just rolling your cool. Same as any other avoid interference roll.

Interestingly, you could have several different moves under each stat, and if there are no PCs with a particular sub-stat, you just cut that move out of the game. No PCs with +deal? Don't use the specifics of that move. I mean, if nobody chose to take points in that move, it sorta shows they aren't that interested in it, right?

To fiddle with the point curve, we could assume the default level is actually -1 and change the target numbers to 8-10, 11-12, and 13+. Just rolling 2d6 then assumes you have a -1. Rolling with a penalty die (roll 3, keep lowest 2) is a bit like having a -2. And rolling 3/4+keep best 2 is a bit like stat=0 or a +1/+2, but without having the stat opened. If you get a +1, +2, +3 from something, success comes easier and you can achieve those exceptional results.

So, mathematically, if you have Social 2 and dissect+4, with target numbers 8/11/13, it is the same as rolling stat+3 in Apocalypse World with the move opened. If you have Social 3 or 4, your chances are actually better than having a stat+3, BUT won't get you all the way to stat+5, where you can never miss.

Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2011, 01:19:57 AM »
I think both our descriptions of memories could work fine with these rules. I'm a little uncomfortable dictating straight-up how much cybertech is present in the game... although the sense-recording you describe could be a type of communal Level 2, and you could set that with a dial. I'll think about that in the setting thread.

The only other thing to add is that you have nodes being desirous of things, so the MC would have to decide what a person's University memories would want, or what their sense-recs of the Cairo mission last year want. Examples:

University wants you to dig out your old photos, the essays you wrote, the books your read and wrote notes in. It wants you to go there, walk the grounds, call up your old girlfriend again, even just to hear her voice.

Your sense-recs need indexing and menuing. They want you to run object-recognition software on them, they want to be fed through filters, scoured by experts.

I don't know Monsterhearts well enough to comment on strings. I like the idea, although Dissect where you answer for them does something similar, especially combined with Resist Pressure.



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Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2011, 05:57:10 PM »
Yeah, yeah, yeah - we just shift the target numbers a bit. I like that solution a lot better.

Another thing that just hit when I was rereading your post: Nodes are Fronts, mutatis mutandis.

So, we don't really have fronts per se, but the nodes are the driving point of the fiction. Which means they want things and the PCs want things from them. These things are usually information - created spontaneously in play. As such, it's an easy way to address world-building and exploration in play. You want your sync to stay high or you're shut out with either bad or no information - which is a bad way to be.

But the nodes want things too. They want things to be done and to learn things. Thus, they ask the PC to go out and do those things. Or maybe the PCs take them on themselves spontaneously.

Nodes are an easy way to give the PCs info and barf forth; but they double up as open your brain, NPCs and Fronts. This is pretty close to what goes on in AW but I wanted to force it a little more. That's why the Read moves are absent. I don't think the PC in my setting read much of anything, they ask the Net, or their sensor readouts, databases, etc.  

I see it like as if you just had to open your brain most of the time in AW. What's the best escape route? Is he lying? Who's the biggest threat? Open your brain.

The Node became a way of making it like Hx, and instead of one maelstrom there are many.

Instead of helping and hindering the other PCs, you get to read their minds or pull their Strings.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2011, 09:46:48 PM by Nathan Orlando Wilson »

Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2011, 11:37:27 PM »
Yeah, you're right. I was thinking primarily of re-incorporation, but they really do function as love-letters to the MC, fronts, and Hx with narrative elements.

I'll try to work on the math a bit sometime soon. It's the kind of thing that will drive me nuts not knowing it.

Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2011, 09:16:13 PM »
Here's the math on roll-and-keep.

3d6l2 means roll 3d6 and keep the two lowest.

3d6h2 means roll 3d6 and keep the two highest.

4d6h2 means roll 4d6 and keep the two highest.

edit: Formatting these tables would take too much work, so I put the info in a pdf, which is right here.

« Last Edit: April 22, 2011, 09:28:30 PM by Johnstone »



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Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2011, 11:40:42 PM »
I dig it.

I feel like the outcome ranges are good like:


I know it kinda fucks with your table a bit, but having 13+ be impossible for PC without any +'s as good as making it an advance.

Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2011, 03:14:10 AM »
I don't mean to suggest anything specifically, with those tables. They're just to get a basic understanding of the probabilities.

I like the idea that with the basic stat, no matter how good it is, you still can't get an exceptional success. The thing that sort of bugs me about the prob. spread is that 4d6h2 is way, way better than even 2d6. Aside from any 12+ results, having 4d6h2-2 is still better than 3d6l2+1.

So, some ideas as to how to work it:

If the target numbers are moved to 7 or less is a miss; 8-10 is a partial hit; 11-12 is a full hit; and 13+ is an exceptional hit, the probabilities are all the same, except add 1 to the bonus.

Or, like you say, just bump up 12+ to 13+. This makes the spread of the full success larger, though. If you want the chance of success to decrease as the level of success increases, that's bad. If you don't care much that partial success and full success come at the same rate, then it's fine.

At 7+, though, characters are going to succeed a lot, with the roll-and-keep. Not when they use the penalty die stat, but when they use their two good stats, for sure.

Or, if you don't care about descending levels of success, there's also 8-9, 10-11, 12+ as target numbers; or even 9-10, 11-12, 13+

I'm sort-of inclined towards 8-10, 11-12, 13+ myself, but I haven't worked out the whole thing yet.

The other thing to consider is what ratings to assign to the four stats. Like, do you really want one of them to be as good as 4d6h2? As important to the concept as the Deep stat is, do you really want to let somebody rate it 3d6l2?

So, Deep could always be 2d6, and the other three could be 3d6l2, 2d6, and 3d6h2. Or they could be 2d6, 3d6h2, and 4d6h2. Also depends on which target numbers you want to use.

I'll need to fiddle around with it some more in order to work out my preferences.



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Re: Meanderings Part 1: Stats
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2011, 08:36:47 PM »
8-10, 11-12, 13+ seems fine.

I don't really want the PCs gets lots of exceptional and full hits. Some sure, but for all but the most stacked in the PCs favour situations, I want it to feel risky.

I think two 2d6 stats "normal stats" and one unlucky stat [3d6l2] and one lucky stat [3d6h2] works and it makes character creation / playbooks easy. All you have to do it pick your luck and unlucky stat then the other two are normal.