Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

The "5" Ability Score and performance scales

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • The "5" Ability Score and performance scales

    NOT the "5" Attribute Score, which I take to be much, much more common.... this post is about PC's and NPC's with a 5 rank in an ability -- Alertness, Medicine, Stealth, Firearms... whatever it is. My players often grumble because I'm fantastically stingy about these. I consider an ability of 5 or more sort of the holy grail of stats; it's easier to get a 5 discipline approved in my games than a 5 ability. Disciplines come with more powerful blood. Abilities only come with raw talent and practice working together to produce something magical.

    Now under the core rules we get guidance like "1 is poor, 5 is excellent" or "one is lousy, five is superb". Some of the specific ability examples give a little more color. For example, Acting in 2e ranges from "Novice: A rank amateur, you can feign sickness" to "Master: You could win, or have won, an Academy Award." That seems like a lot of people. The division between Rank 3 ("You are capable of playing almost any role") and Rank 4 ("You are a professional or have that potential") seems very fuzzy, too. What professional couldn't play almost any role?

    Some of the other abilities have a little more differentiation at the high end. Athletics 5 is described as "Olympic Gold Medalist" and Brawl 5 as "You could be a Golden Gloves boxing champion," for example. That seems a little more rareified than "You could win an Academy Award."

    Then in something like Leadership we get a REALLY specific example: Leadership 5 is reserved for "a Napolean, Churchill, or a Hitler."

    THAT is something more of what I have in mind when I think about Rank 5 abilities: the sort of ability that makes a mark in history, that gets remembered at least for decades, if not longer. In fact, I don't think you can even have a 5 if you AREN'T making a mark in history (whether mortal history or vampiric history) in some way; you have to deploy and use your ability to get it that high.

    So in my games, Athletics 5 doesn't mean you're just Olympic Gold Medal material -- lots of people get those, relatively speaking. It means you're Jim Thorpe, Bo Jackson, John Elway, Nadia Comaneci, Jesse Owens, Michael Jordan, Simone Biles, Deion Sanders, Michael Phelps, or Bo Jackson. Under the way I approach this, even my all-time favourite Olympian, Valentina Vezzali (3 Individual Gold Women's Foil, 1 Bronze, multiple team medals) was probably only an Athletics 4 -- though she probably also had Melee 4 AND a secondary skill in Fencing at 5.

    Likewise, if you want Brawl 5, that means you're an Ali, a Bruce Lee, a Mike Tyson, an Aleksandr Karelin, a Fedor Emelianenko or an Anderson Silva. It doesn't mean you're Brock Lesnar... he's probably a Brawl 4 but a Strength 5. (And he's probably a ghoul with Potence, too, but that's another matter.)

    Accordingly, among 110 NPC vampires (3,960 ability scores) in my Chronicle, there are only 32 scores of "5" and 2 scores of more than 5. A very large chunk of them are sequestered on the elders' sheets, although Academics and Empathy both make multiple showings among neonates. As it turns out, there isn't a single 5+ score in a combat discipline; this isn't by design, it's just the way that things turned out. Theoretically there could be one or two if I wanted (the Nosferatu elder might theoretically have Melee 5, and there's one Brujah I could see having Dodge 5).

    Now, at the risk of sounding like one of those annoying people who just posts what they want to share and then tacks on "What does everyone else think?" as a pandering tribute to the notion of conversation, what does everyone else think? How have you interpreted the "scales" in the core rulebooks? How have you run this in your home games?

    Do you even treat attributes differently than abilities?

    I'm in the middle of doing some major revisions to things, so I figured this would be a good chance to see what other people have to say on this issue.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Legendre View Post
    I'm in the middle of doing some major revisions to things, so I figured this would be a good chance to see what other people have to say on this issue.
    I think you need to comprehend that most player characters are under the assumption they're Indiana Jones and James Bond not "really capable dude."

    When they're asking for Melee 5, they are fully aware they are saying, "My katana wielding badass IS the best son of a bitch in the world with it."

    Allow me to quote Snowcrash.

    “Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.”

    And you know, he's absolutely right.

    Because if you're doing it right, then the player characters are the center of the world.


    Last edited by CTPhipps; 02-10-2019, 04:47 PM.


    Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

    Comment


    • #3
      I think your interpretation is valid from the books, but the books are completely wrong for doing it that way.

      This is a product of the game's authors combining mechanics that let you do X with telling people that playing the game to do X is bad.

      Discouraging 5s because they've been defined as being so rare, rather than any actual reason to make them rare? It's one of the worst remains of how the game as written frequently was at odds with how the game works and how the game is played.

      Ignore how the game defines ratings in Abilities like that completely. Left the definitions be nice and vague, so you don't feel like you have to take X to have your job, or you can't take Y because you're not some specific example's direct equivalent.

      Because 5s? They're not that good. The mechanics of the game have a diminishing return on dice pools (that is, more dice is better, but the level of increase each time gets less significant), and costs go up despite each dot doing less for you.

      Let go of insisting on 5s being special, and the games get far more fun without any 'cost' to the mood of the game.

      Comment


      • #4
        Hey, if that's what their character CONCEPT is, then more power to them. But it has to really be the character concept, and it has to be justified by the character's history.

        I *do* allow it. I'm just very stingy with it.

        What I don't allow, though, is "My character spent five years in the army so he should have Firearms 5."

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Legendre View Post
          Hey, if that's what their character CONCEPT is, then more power to them. But it has to really be the character concept, and it has to be justified by the character's history.

          I *do* allow it. I'm just very stingy with it.

          What I don't allow, though, is "My character spent five years in the army so he should have Firearms 5."
          Well the character starting stats REALLY make that difficult.

          You can't start with Firearms 5 or Melee 5 or even Science 5: Hematology.

          You can only start with 4 and that's with Freebie points.

          Which means they want to immediately spend EXP to get to where they want to.


          Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

            Well the character starting stats REALLY make that difficult.

            You can't start with Firearms 5 or Melee 5 or even Science 5: Hematology.
            I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Why, even if you take everything I say as given, couldn't you start with Firearms 5 if your concept was someone who had spent 10 years in a monastery forsaking all other interests in the pursuit of the lost arts of Gun-Go-Blam?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
              The mechanics of the game have a diminishing return on dice pools (that is, more dice is better, but the level of increase each time gets less significant), and costs go up despite each dot doing less for you.
              That's an excellent point -- and this is exactly the sort of "Here's how you might do it and here's a cogent reason why" response I was hoping to get. Thank you.

              As it happens, it's not something I need to worry about because I drastically changed the underlying mechanics of the game in order to emphasize superior "dice pools" (in quotes because they aren't really dice pools anymore) much more strongly over random chance. Getting that additional dot actually makes in INCREASINGLY big difference under my rules - to the point of getting automatic successes in combat if you're far enough in excess of your opponent.

              But it's an excellent point nonetheless and I appreciate your sharing it.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Legendre View Post

                I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Why, even if you take everything I say as given, couldn't you start with Firearms 5 if your concept was someone who had spent 10 years in a monastery forsaking all other interests in the pursuit of the lost arts of Gun-Go-Blam?
                No, that's against the rules.


                Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

                  No, that's against the rules.
                  I'm dreadfully sorry but I don't know what rules you're talking about.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    5 is subterfuge isn’t necessarily famous. Jokes aside I’d let the players. I wouldn’t associate fame with mastery per se.
                    Unless they help the Camarilla in another way they should have a skill of 5 else why embrace them unless they’re fodder?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

                      No, that's against the rules.
                      Which rules are you talking about? I just glanced at character generation in the Revised book and unless I missed something, while it does restrict abilities pre-freebies to three dots maximum, it places no ceiling on how high you may raise them with freebie points, and provides more than enough freebie points to raise an ability to five dots.

                      Are you interpreting the freebie point cost as 2 x (new rating) points? The example of character creation contradicts that.
                      Last edited by Stupid Loserman; 02-10-2019, 07:25 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Handful of points.

                        First, "nationally/globally famous, profession-defining" skill in something isn't merely a matter of a high ability score. Gotta have those attributes to back them up. However unfair it is, given equal experience in a field of study, an individual without raw talent (i.e. low relevant attributes) is never going to compare to someone with it (i.e. high relevant attributes).

                        Perhaps the easiest place to understand this, is brawling -- muscle mass, body fat, kinesthetic sense, reflexes, etc. -- matters just as much if not more than experience and technique. It's why combat sports have weight classes; given equal skill the bigger fighter is generally going to win. It's also why fighters starve, purge, and dehydrate themselves to weigh into a lower class than they should realistically be in -- bulimia and anorexia are so common in combat sports for precisely this reason.

                        Physical attributes directly correlate to physicality -- higher Strength and Stamina, more muscle mass and/or body fat which means higher weight, for example. Now, it's still entirely possible to have a character with a Brawl of 4 or 5 in front of physical attributes in the 2-4 range, but that's going to be a character with a "bantamweight or featherweight fighter" background. If you start talking about heavyweights, then you're talking about characters with physical attributes in the 3-5 range, but trending more strongly towards Str/Sta of 4-5. And, as ridiculous as it is, lower-weight class fighters rarely become household names -- the OP is testament to this, with the lightest professional fighter mentioned by name being a middleweight.

                        Bruce Lee is a really interesting case, here. Badass balls-to-the-wall fighter that he was, that wasn't the core of his fame. He was an actor and dancer who was also really fucking good at martial arts, and for that ended up typecast in the West. But, if it wasn't for his charisma, sense of theatricality, and presence, he likely would not have been offered the roles which made him a household name.

                        Second, rarely are professions the sum of a single Ability score. Take, for example, health care. Okay, you have a Medicine score or 5 -- so what next? What about bedside manner? The ability to parse medical journals and communicate with other practitioners and researchers to keep one's own practice up to date? The ability to use any number of technological doodads that permeate contemporary medical practice? Delegating to nurses and orderlies, and translating information from them into diagnoses and treatment regimes? An anaesthesiologist is going to require a different skill set from an epidemiologist, who is in turn going to require a different skill set from a radiologist, who is in turn going to require a different skill set from a surgeon, and all of them are going to require a different skill set than a general practitioner. Those "secondary" abilities -- Alertness, Empathy, Expression, Leadership, Crafts, Etiquette, Academics, Computer, Investigation, even a dash of Law for medical ethics, Science, and Technology -- are more definitive for what a character can and should be expected to do, than "just" Medicine.

                        Third, such prohibitions really only make sense for mortals and neonate vampires. When one's professional longevity is, at best, measured by three or four decades, the decade or so it may take to truly master a skill set is an overwhelmingly large chunk of time, especially when mortals have needs vampires don't, like eating multiple times per day, and basic daily hygiene and physical activity to preserve health. When we start talking about beings that may only need to actually feed once a week, and can get by just fine with something as mundane as reading all night for decades at a time, the frame of reference shifts dramatically.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Pnizzle View Post
                          5 is subterfuge isn’t necessarily famous. Jokes aside I’d let the players. I wouldn’t associate fame with mastery per se.
                          Unless they help the Camarilla in another way they should have a skill of 5 else why embrace them unless they’re fodder?
                          True, true. But history-altering doesn't not necessarily mean famous. Someone with Subterfuge 5 would have a significant impact on events, I think, in virtue of their skill -- even if it isn't something that captures the popular attention like athletics. Likewise, some of the greatest philosophers are virtually unknown outside of their discipline.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Mind you, in real life, I imagine there's a decent number of 5 skills without the Attributes to back it up.

                            Churchill has to have Charisma 5 and Manipulation 5 plus Leadership.

                            Not just Leadership as Leadership 5 plus Charisma 1 = Charisma 3, Leadership 3


                            Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              For my two cents on the matter I feel it bears saying that an ability score or stat by itself is essentially meaningless without it being used by the player in a way that supports it.

                              An example of what I am talking about can be taken from one of my own games. Most of the Players in the game had above average insight into various fields of study and actual real life experience. Thus their characters ended up doing more with lower stats, than the characters who had higher stats but were being used by players with less real experience and expertise.

                              Thus a character who is a child soldier who has say 2 dex and 2 firearms is technically more deadly in the hands of a player who is familiar with battlefield tactics and history, than say a character who is a military sniper with 5 dex and 5 firearms being played by a person whose combat knowledge is summed up as having play splatoon recently.

                              This can be made even more blatant by playing in a setting and time where the internet is available. Sure you need an academics or chemistry background to understand what is happening when you put a corpse into a tub of hot water and add lye. Alternatively all you need is the ability to do a google search on the subject and you probably get a youtube video that is practically a how to step by step guide for body disposal (cough* the modern rogue cough*).

                              So with that in mind it breaks down to the following:

                              one part knowledge of a thing being a possibility or applying to the situation
                              one part knowledge of how to do the thing
                              one part ability to actually do the thing
                              one part willingness to do the thing

                              All of that gets boiled down to Attribute + Ability + Player Knowledge.

                              Of course the 1 to 5 scale will break down and be vague, especially when the examples tend to be whole people or classes, which presumably are using multiple stats in combination.

                              So as to the question of how common should "rank 5 or higher" be in a game is kind of asking the wrong thing in my opinion. A better question is how common is having rank 5 AND the knowledge & desire to make use of it in a way that means something.

                              Or to put it another way, an MP3 player can perfectly reproduce any kind of music with any instrument or vocal, thus at first glance it would have Music 5. But an MP3 player can not compose a new song, create a new instrument, or create a new style of music. Thus it would have a score of music 0. The characters and the players are the second half of that equation which makes those stats mean something.

                              As an ST you have to bring that to the NPCs, while at the same time deciding how limited to make part of that equation to maintain play balance. Thus this theoretical number of individuals will shift with the needs of the game and what is fun for everyone.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X