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Char gen alternatives - All fixed, all scaled costs or a third option?

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  • Char gen alternatives - All fixed, all scaled costs or a third option?

    I severely dislike character creation systems that can create large power differences between the players in the long run. One version is rolled stats, another more subtle one is Exalted’s where the difference in xp value between 5/5/1 and 4/3/3 is 20 xp (to get to 5/5/5). Obviously including the rest of chargen just makes it worse.

    It really bothers me that character creation in this way creates so big differences between the player characters over the long run. Admittedly this is also because it is really hard for me to ignore it and just create the character I imagine because I enjoy optimization (in moderation).

    Quite some other people listed their solutions to this in the houserules thread, but I figured I should start a new one not to hijack the thread.

    Flat experience costs
    Originally posted by Blaque View Post
    Some small ones about for my games:
    • Flat experience costs (Attributes 10xp each dot (8xp Caste/favored), Abilities 5xp per dot (4xp Caste/favored).
    Originally posted by BadassOverlord View Post
    • FLAT EXPERIENCE COSTS! seriously, best decision ever. In that same vein we got rid of Bonus Points and just give an equivalent amount of xp at chargen.
    Xp in chargen (but only for attributes?)
    Originally posted by Epitome View Post
    • At character creation, players spend exp instead of points to raise Attributes, equivalent to the exp value of min-maxing their Attributes. Min-maxing Primary Attributes would normally give a spread of 5-5-1 so players get 80 exp to spend on Primary Attributes. Likewise, Secondary is 5-3-1 so players get 52 xp, and Tertiary is 5-1-1 so players get 40 exp. That way players have many more "optimal" spreads to choose from and no one begins the game weaker than the others. It is possible to end up with leftover exp in this system, in which case the exp becomes Solar exp.
    Xp in chargen for everything
    Originally posted by Tytalus View Post
    I also use XP instead of BP, at all levels:

    80/52/40 xp split for Attributes
    84xp for Abilities
    39xp for Merits
    150 xp for charms
    100 Bonus XP.
    So I guess the real choice is between making making both chargen and character advancement either flat costs or scaled costs.
    I imagine the advantages are

    Flat Costs
    • Easy to calculate
    • Incentivizes specialized characters (One 5 costs the same as a 3 and 2)
    Scaled Costs
    • Time-consuming to calculate (unless you are using a smart excel sheet)
    • Incentivizes characters with stats that are more spread out (one 5 (23 xp) costs the same as two 3 and a 2, or four 2’s and 1.
    Are there any other advantages or disadvantages that should be added? / Why do you prefer either scaled or flat costs? Or is there a third option without the challenges of the one in the book?

    Tytalus (and others who use scaled costs), how did you arrive at those numbers for xp to be used during character creation? I get the attributes split is based on the most XP optimal distribution in normal chargen, but shouldn't that result in either 124 (five 5's, one 3, none favoured) or 102 xp (same, all favoured) for abilities? I think it makes sense to give less xp, but why 84? and why reduce it here and not for the attributes?

    I am just trying to figure out the best way to "solve" the character creation problem it before we start playing for the first time in our group :-)


    Also, look at the exalted fan collection that we are making.

  • #2
    I had the exact same annoyance, tried various methods to fix it, and constantly annoyed my players with it, as most of them either didn't care because they were happy to min-max their characters, or didn't care because they found the system easy and just made the characters they liked, so didn't see why they should change ... although that didn't stop them complaining about other people min-maxing a ton.

    I'd say the only one who got why I was trying to change it was the one who kept making ridiculous min-maxed characters (two virtues at 5, generally, sometimes instead just a ton of abilities at 5, and always Dex 5 of course) because he felt he'd be shooting himself in the foot if he didn't... then found them quite dull compared to the first character he'd made non-optimally.


    I tried replacing all the dots with XP, but they found that a huge hassle to character gen, and while it helped a bit in reducing the number of maxed-out stats they bought, it didn't mean they spent nearly all their XP on stuff they felt they needed, whereas with the dot-based system there's normally a few spare dots that you just chuck into something characterful that isn't going to matter that much, like Sail or Craft (Cooking) or something. Which I like.

    So then I tried just replacing the freebies with XP (50, in fact). That was better, though there's still the "character-gen-as-mini-game" problem, whereby you can "win" or "lose" at character gen by putting dots in the right order.

    So I put some more thought into it, and considered:
    a) Any new system has to be flexible
    b) A system that encourages PCs with a bunch of 5s and a bunch of 0s leads to a boring and awkward game. That's an issue with the normal character gen rules, don't replicate it (this is the issue with Flat XP)
    c) This is a somewhat theoretical problem. If two players built their characters with the same level of skill, it's fine. And if PCs are spending all their XP on charms and not attributes or abilities, it's fine. The issue is when one player understands the bp/xp disparity far more than others, and they all spend their Solar XP on dots, which goes further for one person than the others. And then later you get players whining about how another PC has such better stats than them (and it's not entirely untrue). This isn't something you'll get at low XP, as the disparities just aren't noticeable. It's only at about Essence 3+ that you might start to notice.

    So there's two other systems I considered, but never got round to trying.

    Option 1: An array:
    Everyone starts with 5/4/4/3/3/3/2/2/1 in attributes and 5/5/5/4/4/4/4/3/3/3/3/3/2/2/2//2/1/1/1/0/0/0 in abilities, placed how they want (not necessarily those numbers, just something like that). It's slightly inflexible in terms of spending bp on merits or whatever, but I think it's fine.

    Option 2: Limits
    Second is the simpler option: No-one can have Dex 5 at character gen, or 5 in anything that's not a Primary Attribute, or more than 3x Abilities at 5 dots. Done.
    Basically everyone will end up building their characters reasonably well if you go that way. Chances are they'll all end up having exactly three Abilities at 5 dots and no more, they'll put their attribute dots reasonably sensibly because most can't be 5 (no Per 3/Int 1/Wits 5 Dawns), and everyone will end up with something similar.
    (This is theoretical though.)

    Option 3: Play Lunars
    I started running a Lunars game. No house rules for character gen at all. Everyone gave me sensibly built characters. The bp/xp issues are much fairer with Lunars because they can't buy 7 abilities to 5 (only one of my PCs even has one Ability at 5), their odd numbers of Attribute dots don't quite work with min-maxing, and the way their excellency caps work and how they get excellencies also encourages you to have somewhat sensible Attribute dots.


    My characters:
    Dr Soma Vaidya, viper-totem Lunar and kung-fu doctor
    Brother Alazar, Zenith occultist and last survivor of the Black Monastery of Leng

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    • #3
      I use all scaled. And use an excel spreadsheet(/google doc). Different (mostly lower) amounts than other people. I also don't split attribute categories, mostly because it seemed like a pain to put in a spreadsheet. The general broadness-encouraging nature of xp makes it less necessary. I also make the bonus xp be solar xp, since BP are very expensive for charms.
      Once I decided to use a spreadsheet xp became less work to keep track of, because you can calculate how much XP someone has spent just from their stats, ignoring how they got there (bar things like story merits being sometimes paid for and sometimes worked for, or the handful of charms that affect xp).
      One maybe-advantage for scaled xp that is somewhat a subset of encouraging broader characters - the choice between dex 5 str 1 sta 1 and 4/3/2 is harder than between 5/1/1 and 4/2/1.


      I can't speak confidently for other people, but I think 84 xp for abilities is based on 7 abilities at 3 (unfavored), 1 at 1. Remember that in canon chargen you can't put an ability at 3 before bonus points.

      Comment


      • #4
        Our table went with flat xp costs. However, I figured out the maximum xp cost of maximizing all attributes up to 5 (attribute dots at maximum spread at char gen), and the minimum cost of doing the same (attributes min-maxed to all hell at char gen), and averaged the cost of each method per dot. I came up with 12xp per dot for attributes and 5 xp per dot of abilities (4 if favored).

        In my experience, flat costs allows for characters to specialize more while scaled costs basically forces everybody to generalize. It really sucks holding on to xp for awhile to save up for a 5th dot in an attribute when you could just spend it on a charm and the first few dots of a bunch of abilities.


        Check out my homebrew exalt: The Fabulists - Chosen of the Raksha here

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by armyofwhispers View Post
          Our table went with flat xp costs. However, I figured out the maximum xp cost of maximizing all attributes up to 5 (attribute dots at maximum spread at char gen), and the minimum cost of doing the same (attributes min-maxed to all hell at char gen), and averaged the cost of each method per dot. I came up with 12xp per dot for attributes and 5 xp per dot of abilities (4 if favored).

          In my experience, flat costs allows for characters to specialize more while scaled costs basically forces everybody to generalize. It really sucks holding on to xp for awhile to save up for a 5th dot in an attribute when you could just spend it on a charm and the first few dots of a bunch of abilities.

          It's actually just better to look at the total XP costs for Attributes and Abilities if raising them from 1 to 5 then averaging them. That would give you 10 XP for each Attribute dot (since the total is 40) and 3-4 XP for Ability dots.

          Comment


          • #6
            I think the fundamental problem to be fixed is that chargen resources are flat and progression resources are scaling, and that creates the disparity and strictly-optimal placement. So either make everything flat, or make everything scaling, both of those will work well. I personally prefer flat, mainly for simplicity's sake.

            I would contest the idea that flat costs encourages specialized characters. Under RAW, I would never take a 3/3 when I could take a 5/1 because the second option is clearly more valuable. With flat costs though, the 3/3 is a lot more attractive. If I envision a character being a typical strongman type, then I'll want them to have both high Strength and Stamina. Under RAW I would pick 5 in the most mechanically useful one depending on my build and 1 in the other, then raise that one to 5. With flat chargen, I just get 3 Strength and 3 Stamina, and then work them both up gradually, resulting in a much more satisfying and believable character progression.

            It is true without a doubt that with a scaling system you would likely end up with fewer higher numbers and more lower ones, but based on my experience of player behaviour that doesn't make a huge difference in the level of specialization. Exalted by nature is a game that encourages and rewards specialization; this is baked in the way charms build off of other charms in the same tree with ever higher prerequisites, meaning that the more charms/dots you invest into a thing, the more access you gain to new, more powerful things. This is true wether you're a Solar, DB or Lunar (maybe not an alchemical, but those don't exist yet).

            I have two complaints about a scaling system: firstly, that the fifth dot on an attribute/ability is not any more valuable than the first dot, they both provide the same effect: +1 die to this roll. This isn't like WoD merits that grant increasingly powerful effects, they all do the same. The only difference is in the broadness of that +1's applicability: attributes are broader than abilities and those cost more, specialties are the narrowest and cost the least. You can argue the strategic value of a maxing out a pool vs shoring up a smaller one, or assing more value if a dot will round up to increase a static value (defense, resolve) or unlock access to a new charm, but these are opportunity costs. The core value of a dot is still +1 die. With all that said, it doesn't make too much sense to me to price the first +1 and the fifth +1 so disparately. Maybe if the difference in price were narrower it wouldn't bother me.

            The second one though is the big one: what about charms? Charms are a huge deal. In my experience, they make up at least half of player's spent resources, usually a bit more. And charms have flat costs. Yet while the fifth dot of Intelligence only gives +1 to Int rolls, a flat increase in power, charms have a scaling increase in power, with the most powerful effects gated off behind more charm purchases. The more charms you get, the more/stronger charms you unlock, yet these higher-prerequisite charms still cost the same. That means in practice that rather than increasing low stat scores, players will be encouraged to spend more xp on charms since they give more bang for their xp, only buying more attribute/ability dots where absolutely necessary in order to qualify for new charms. You've created another optimization incentive, less destructive than RAW to be sure, but still there.

            A true scaling system would need to have ALL scaling costs, and that includes scaling charm costs. Yet every implementation of this idea that I can come up with would be practically untenable, not to mention probably super unfun to play.

            TL;DR charms already have flat costs and it's easier to make attributes and abilities flat than to make charms scaling. Plus the simplicity argument can't be underestimated, players are like goldfish high on Morning Glory most of the time.


            EDIT: I forgot about them the first time around but what about merits you can buy? Some are just a flat value like Fleet of Foot, others grant increasing value per rating like Mighty Thews. Should the second dot of Mighty Thews cost more than the first? It works the same way as an ability or attribute so why not? So would it be best to have some Merits be costed flatly and others scalingly? this leaves a looot of latitude, but isn't a concern for flat xp systems.
            Last edited by BadassOverlord; 05-14-2019, 06:57 PM.


            Are you in the market for some Martial Arts? Perhaps some custom Artifacts for your campaign?

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            • #7
              Also, is there anyone who changes the chargen/progression costs but keeps Bonus Points? If so, I'd like to hear the rationale behind it.


              Are you in the market for some Martial Arts? Perhaps some custom Artifacts for your campaign?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Alistair View Post


                It's actually just better to look at the total XP costs for Attributes and Abilities if raising them from 1 to 5 then averaging them. That would give you 10 XP for each Attribute dot (since the total is 40) and 3-4 XP for Ability dots.
                Uh, no it isn't

                That method completely ignores the amount of dots you get at char gen. Hence why your attributes and abilities are super cheap.


                I mean, you can definitely go that route, but it completely throws off the power curve of the setting. Because your Essence is based on the amount of spent xp, doing it your way would mean that every character would have a ton more attribute and ability dots at every Essence level (assuming a relatively even spread of xp between charms and abilities/attributes). This would generally be even worse because the cheaper an option is, the more attractive it is to buy, so you may end up with an even greater difference of stats vs charm purchases.


                Check out my homebrew exalt: The Fabulists - Chosen of the Raksha here

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by armyofwhispers View Post

                  Uh, no it isn't

                  That method completely ignores the amount of dots you get at char gen. Hence why your attributes and abilities are super cheap.


                  I mean, you can definitely go that route, but it completely throws off the power curve of the setting. Because your Essence is based on the amount of spent xp, doing it your way would mean that every character would have a ton more attribute and ability dots at every Essence level (assuming a relatively even spread of xp between charms and abilities/attributes). This would generally be even worse because the cheaper an option is, the more attractive it is to buy, so you may end up with an even greater difference of stats vs charm purchases.

                  Who even spends Normal XP on Attributes? You're meant to spend it on Charms, and spend Splat XP on everything else. It's the reason WHY Splat XP is a thing, to let you buy Charms AND other stuff without giving up one for the other.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TrueMonk View Post
                    Xp in chargen (but only for attributes?)
                    Originally posted by Epitome View Post
                    • At character creation, players spend exp instead of points to raise Attributes, equivalent to the exp value of min-maxing their Attributes. Min-maxing Primary Attributes would normally give a spread of 5-5-1 so players get 80 exp to spend on Primary Attributes. Likewise, Secondary is 5-3-1 so players get 52 xp, and Tertiary is 5-1-1 so players get 40 exp. That way players have many more "optimal" spreads to choose from and no one begins the game weaker than the others. It is possible to end up with leftover exp in this system, in which case the exp becomes Solar exp.
                    I did create rules to use Xp for Abilities and bonus abilities, but what I discovered is that in the case of Solars the only time when that prevents players from losing exp is when they make an impossibly spread out build (Like you need to leave ALL your caste/favorite abilities at 1 dot and invest everything in non-caste/favorite) which no player will ever do. So basically there was just no point.
                    Last edited by Epitome; 05-14-2019, 08:53 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Having been playing in other ST family games with flat XP and XP replacing BP for some time now? Definitely the best option. I've done everything as scaling XP... too much work. Even getting rid of the basic dots and buying everything with XP has no appreciable benefits as it doesn't tend to result in significant changes in character designs.

                      I also think the "buy they're jump to 5s!" doesn't pan out, because it's not the char-gen that causes that. It's things like Charms. Not getting to 5s in Abilities for Ability based Exalted sucks if you want to put any significant amount of Charms behind it. People will go for 5s no matter what you do. Without such prerequisites hanging over people's heads? They tend to naturally spread out a bit. Taking a 1 or a 2 at start for flavor when you know it's not going to be a huge XP sink to get that 5, and don't have to worry about getting a 5 to grab that Charm you really want, comes very naturally compared to scaled systems.

                      Arrays aren't a bad idea, but aren't really necessary.

                      If I wanted to do something more like arrays in Exalted, I'd take a long look at the STpath games (Scion and TC). A simple explanation, is that (remembering that STpath uses far less Skills than Exalted has Abilities) as you pick three Paths that roughly define your character, you assign three Skills to each Path. You rank your Paths from 1-3, and each of the three Skills associated with a Path get Skills dots equal to your ranking (there are some more rules to avoid you starting with 6s).

                      It's a similar result as Arrays, but it feels more organic and goes smoother.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Alistair View Post


                        Who even spends Normal XP on Attributes? You're meant to spend it on Charms, and spend Splat XP on everything else. It's the reason WHY Splat XP is a thing, to let you buy Charms AND other stuff without giving up one for the other.
                        People who want to spend normal xp on attributes? People who don't get all that much solar xp because thy figure it's a bloody hassle of a system? People who are building a character rather than a min/max machine?

                        Splat xp is besides the point here. If you make attributes and abilities cheap then you'll end up with much higher attributes and abilities spread at each Essence level. It's that simple.

                        I mean, it's not necessarily a bad thing but you will end up with a higher-powered campaign than normal.


                        Check out my homebrew exalt: The Fabulists - Chosen of the Raksha here

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by armyofwhispers View Post

                          People who want to spend normal xp on attributes? People who don't get all that much solar xp because thy figure it's a bloody hassle of a system? People who are building a character rather than a min/max machine?

                          Splat xp is besides the point here. If you make attributes and abilities cheap then you'll end up with much higher attributes and abilities spread at each Essence level. It's that simple.

                          I mean, it's not necessarily a bad thing but you will end up with a higher-powered campaign than normal.

                          10 XP per dot is exactly what you're paying for Attributes normally. From 1 to 5, you pay 4 then 8 then 12 then 16, 40 total. With flat XP, you're getting 10 > 10 > 10 > 10, 40 total too. It's the same thing, but more expensive at the beginning and cheaper at the end. Lunars would get 8 XP as a Caste/Favored cost.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Alistair View Post


                            10 XP per dot is exactly what you're paying for Attributes normally. From 1 to 5, you pay 4 then 8 then 12 then 16, 40 total. With flat XP, you're getting 10 > 10 > 10 > 10, 40 total too. It's the same thing, but more expensive at the beginning and cheaper at the end. Lunars would get 8 XP as a Caste/Favored cost.
                            That ignores the starting attributes though.

                            Even if you assume a min maxed character starting with 4 5's, 1 3 and 4 1's you result in a saving of 8 xp if they worked to a hypothetical all 5's. Assuming they dont start min maxed your system saves even more xp.

                            Edit: In the optimal xp cost spread the average cost per point is 10.444 to reach max stats. In the least optimal the result is 13.556. Averaging these two results in the cost of 12 suggested by armyofwhispers.
                            Last edited by Klaek; 05-14-2019, 11:12 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Saving 8 XP is hardly going to generate the "higher-powered campaign than normal," claim made. One more Charm by the time you've saved up enough XP to max out every Attribute? That's not even outside the XP divide created in the current rules as it is.

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