Design: Careers, Origins, Skills

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Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« on: April 21, 2014, 09:37:54 PM »
A thread for the design of careers, origins and individual skills. Please feel free to post any questions, comments or concerns about the skills, game-breaking or not-fun experiences with certain skills, or even inconsistencies in how they are written.

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2014, 10:43:46 PM »
I've made each of the Origin 'stat moves' unique and added a narrative 'mini-skill' that gives something more than just a stat boost; it also (hopefully) gives something that encourages the character to play a certain way.

For example, the old skill in Frontier was 'Hard Labor', which just read "You gain +1 Physique, max +2". The new Hard Labor reads "You can perform strenuous physical activity for extended periods of time before exhausting yourself. Gain +1 to your Physique stat (maximum of Physique+2)". Not exactly a superpower, but something that gives the character a bit of flavor. Poverty becomes "Hard Knocks - You fought hard to get where you are. You know how to roll with the punches, and never give up no matter how bloody and beaten you get. Gain +1 to your Mettle stat (maximum of Mettle+2)".

Doing this actually cemented what the core of each Origin was, allowing me to swap skills around to have a more cohesive Origin design. Thus Poverty gained Tenacious, Spacer ("New Horizons - You’ve encountered many odd cultures. You are quick to pick up new ideas, new customs and new ways of thinking. Gain +1 to your Ingenuity stat (maximum of Ingenuity+2)") gains Cosmopolitan, etc.

My one regret is that I couldn't come up with a 'Hard' name for each Origin.

Frontier: Hard Labor
Poverty: Hard Knocks
High-Tech: Hardwired
Privilege: Decorum
Spacer: New Horizons
Artificial: Designed

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2014, 09:45:01 PM »
After 3 weeks and a bunch of playtests (including a PbP), got a bunch of changes coming down the pipe:

Crews have been removed from all careers. They are now one of the choices a player can take as a starting loadout.
- The 4 new starting loadouts are: Fighter (better weapon), Survivor (better gear/armor), Driver (simple vehicle), Leader (crew). Each loadout also gets a simple weapon and a common set of gear.
- New skills have been added to the careers to replace the Crew skills
- - Academic career gets Coding, which lets to tack on extra benefits to the Program basic Move (Repeat, shutdown, hide traces, backdoor)
- - Engineering gets Build, which allows you to add Tags to structures or open areas ("Reinforced", "Workshop", "Cover", etc)
- - Engineering has lost "custom ammo" (it stepped on the toes of the Military career) and instead has a more general Upgrade skill, which allows them to add a temporary upgrade to a vehicle, weapon or gear.
- - Military gets a Unique Weapon, which is a super weapon with 3 upgrades (the normal limit is 2)
- - Personality gets Leadership, which grants them an elite Crew with 3 upgrades (normal limit is 2)
- Invention (Engineering) and Experiment (Academic) are being redesigned because they were too vague and open to confusion
- The Explorer career skills are being revisited to be bolder and more daring. Currently, Tenacious (which was a boring +1 on failure) is being replaced by Recklessness (when attempting something foolhardy/dangerous for the first time, you can assure success at great personal risk and/or protect allies from the consequences of your attempt)

I'll be posting more changes later. Thoughts or questions would be appreciated!

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2014, 07:10:45 AM »
I think the change in the crew mechanics might seems a great move. I for one do not like to have additional NPCs in my games but can understand why most/some do. This gives a clean option for including them and does not "force" them on all careers.
Our blog about gaming - Guild Redemund's Blog - Blog for Gaming in various forms (and stuff)

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2014, 07:58:45 PM »
So from the various playtests, it's become obvious that the leveling system is a bit confusing or ends up with unsatisfying results ("I don't know where to put my points, I guess I don't get any"). This is a Bad Thing (tm). I'd designed the leveling to be a logical progression, achieving milestones related to a skill before earning that skill. However, the nature of the game means the characters will often not accomplish an act that is close to a skill they want. This leads them to either pick a skill randomly ("good enough") or just abandon the idea of getting a skill ("meh").

I've been toying with the idea of centralizing character definition and advancement into the careers themselves, rather than in the individual skills.

Description: Taking a page from other *World games, I'd give a choice of one-word descriptions ("rugged", "emaciated", "portly", "scarred", etc). These lists would be in the origins and careers; you'd choose 1 from your origin and 1 from each career to give your description. For example: 'Filthy' from a Poverty origin, 'Palid' from an Academic career and 'Wiry' from a Clandestine career.

Quarters: The description of your personal quarters in the ship would be picked from a list in your career, rather than a per-skill list (so any Academic could have a lab in their section of the skip if they wanted, etc).

XP: At the end of each session, you earn 1 XP towards a single career (assuming you meet a milestone for it), and when you earned enough XP in that career, you'd level up and pick a Skill from there. This would lead to broader milestone achievements, which fit with the general outlook/personality of the career, rather than the minutea of individual skills. Your own careers start with 1xp already (making it faster to earn a level in that career), but you can earn XP in any career.

Thoughts?

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2014, 12:26:24 AM »
The advance system still sounds a bit overly complicated. I know that basic character development would be a neat thing but you have to consider that as the original work was not founded on such adding it on at a later point can become difficult. The best thing in this matter has been in Dungeon World. You could probably add a sheet for each career and allow characters to pull moves from them as they advance. But since you have a larger base of careers and each character has more than one this might also prove difficult.

Maybe you could do something a bit similar than in Lady Blackbird? Turn the careers into "keys" with "whenever you act accordingly to you career mark one exp." (or something similar). This would steer the players to act their characters according to their career. The advances could then be used to a broad list of new moves (that could have tags for suitable careers and amount of experience?). This way the players could get a character they like and I guarantee they would be going through these advancement list each session (you could actually write them in a way that the player would need to "hit a certain trigger event" before they could buy them).

Moving the Quarters out from the skills is a good idea. I would maybe put them into the trappings section so that the players would have to choose between quarters and something else. Or maybe you could provide them with a list of possible quarters with different tags (good security, but limited space / bad security, large space etc.)?
Our blog about gaming - Guild Redemund's Blog - Blog for Gaming in various forms (and stuff)

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2014, 05:39:40 PM »
One thing I believe is a weakness in the experience rules as they are now, is that they move away from the principle behind experience in both vanilla AW and Dark Ages, a principle inherited from the keys of Solar System. That is, that characters get rewarded for doing things, for trying, not for succeeding and achieving goals.

I think this is a very important difference, since having the players roll dice for moves is what drives the action and the drama forward, and rewarding this is good and nudges the players towards doing things with small chances of success, while only rewarding success and achievements steers players away from boldness, and thus is less good.

Hm, I'm probably saying the obvious here, but in that case, regard me as just thinking aloud. :)

Doc Cthulu's suggestion with keys for the careers is nice. I think I would suggest doing it with a number of triggers for each career, and possibly for the origins as well, with checkboxes so the same trigger will not give xp several times before levelling, at which point the marks would be erased.

The xp system, as of 0.8 anyhow, certainly has charm, but I think it is better design to make the advancement rules stimulate good, bold play rather than to try to keep it more logical within the game's fiction.

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2014, 01:26:50 AM »
Great stuff guys, I'll be keeping that in mind going forward.

I'll be away this weekend, but I'll post some stuff when I have a chance to write it up. Thanks again for the feedback :)

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2014, 08:10:21 AM »
I'm with Simon JB in that the it is AW's style to award EXP for trying (ie. failing). When trying out my own hack my players were always most excited about "situation escalates" outcomes and I noticed that the story actually evolves much better when the characters try to do things to do not necessarily excel in (ie. +1exp for failing certain rolls).
Our blog about gaming - Guild Redemund's Blog - Blog for Gaming in various forms (and stuff)

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2014, 10:32:13 PM »
Cool stuff, I'm toying with it now, seeing how I can balance out the pacing and add in non-failure options for XP as well (taking a page from DW). That said, I'm seeing an issue; Get Involved. When another player Gets Involved, they upgrade the 6- into a 7-9... thereby denying XP to the player who failed.

Should they still get the XP as if they had failed? Seems a bit wonky to me.

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2014, 01:02:23 AM »
I think it really just increases the ante of the situation. Players have to decide wether they need the exp or success.
Our blog about gaming - Guild Redemund's Blog - Blog for Gaming in various forms (and stuff)

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2014, 06:15:48 AM »
Oh, you mean that the XP would be awarded only if a roll fails? That would be less good, I would say. The thing that I'm advocating at least, is to award XP for doing, for trying, completely regardless of whether the roll fails or succeeds.

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2014, 12:46:13 AM »
Getting EXP for each roll will certainly break the game sooner than later. Unless you want the characters to exp out in a single nights session or just kill them when they miss a roll. I went with "an exp for each roll with certain stat approach" with my hack. For one session. One player managed to accumulate 12 exp powerplaying the stat.
Our blog about gaming - Guild Redemund's Blog - Blog for Gaming in various forms (and stuff)

Re: Design: Careers, Origins, Skills
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2014, 05:38:12 AM »
Oh no, haha, I didn't mean for each and every roll, unconditionally! My main point was just that it should not be success or failure, specifically, that gives you xp for a thing, but rather doing the thing no matter the outcome.

What I would suggest for this here hack is to keep the milestones as they are written, but use them as keys instead of prerequisites, so that when you reach a milestone, you check it. When you have a set number of checkmarks, say five for now, you improve and get to pick a new skill. And erase all the checkmarks.

Add to this a checkbox for every basic move, because we shouldn't penalize characters who move outside of their career box.

I really think we shouldn't worry that much about characters advancing too easily. You have the potential for powerplaying in regular old AW as well, but in the five years since it came out, I have more or less never seen it become a problem. Sure, sometimes in AW someone might get two improvements in one sesh, but it evens out, since your highlighted stats change every session.

Besides, change and growth is fun! :)

Now, I'm not advocating highlights like in AW here, I think checkmarks would be better. I'm just making the point that easy growth is not necessarily a problem.

Unless of course it stimulates one-sided play too much, but both the checkmarks and the hightlights-from-other-players approaches take care of that.