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The "5" Ability Score and performance scales

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Theodrim
    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.
    Not trying to argue, because you make really good points, but I just wanted to add in that this part would be somewhat balanced out by the fact that while most humans get on average 16 hours per day awake time, vampires get, on average, about 12 hours per day. Still, the point about longevity really stands. As a case in point my first vampire character was embraced at 15, and basically continued to act like it even though he was at game time 45 (he was a Malkavian who never matured). It was sometime after I had made him that I realized that that he had been spending the last 30 years honing his skills "dating" the same age group, and thus was far better at it than any teenager could possibly be, even without putting much effort into it.

    Originally posted by Thoth
    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.
    I can see how this could happen, but really if someone with that level of real world experience wants to play someone without it, they really shouldn't be letting the character have access to that knowledge. I know how much of a challenge that can be though, especially when playing characters younger than yourself (excellent case is the game CyberGeneration, where you have to play someone between 7 and 19 years old).

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Murdoc View Post
      I can see how this could happen, but really if someone with that level of real world experience wants to play someone without it, they really shouldn't be letting the character have access to that knowledge. I know how much of a challenge that can be though, especially when playing characters younger than yourself (excellent case is the game CyberGeneration, where you have to play someone between 7 and 19 years old).
      Fair point.

      Though I wasn't trying to imply that that the real world experienced player was using advanced battle tactics or quoting Sun Tzu left and right. It was more like the experienced player will sweep corners or understand how to set up an ambush, as opposed to the unexperienced real world player who despite having a character that is career military and a sniper, will do things like run in guns blazing or not think about things like line of sight or over penetration.

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      • #18
        There's also game mastery in there over mastery of real world applications.

        Knowing how things work in the real world only really helps if the games model whatever you're doing in a significant fashion.

        Player that know whether +2 dice or -2 difficulty is better for their character, and which tactics generate which bonus, can leverage the system to far greater impact than players that are just doing basic attacks and defenses.

        For example, about a year ago in a crossover 20th game, my mage PC got in a fight with a vampire PC and torpored the vamp in the first attack. They're both pretty combat heavy builds, but raw Attribute + Ability my mage was behind. The big difference? I slapped a -3 diff on Melee, and he decided to go for a +2 diff targeted attack around my characters magically enhanced but not full body armor. My parry roll at diff 3 blew his attack roll at diff 8 out of water, and got a big enough damage roll vs. his soak it has done then and there.

        Now, tactically, the narrative process there wasn't that stupid. The squishy mage can't resist edged weapons without armor, so trying to thrust a blade around the armor seems like the right call, and vampires are hard to hurt with blades and heal easily in combat. System mastery is why that's a bad, bad idea.

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        • #19
          I'd argue you're making a 5 in an Ability far too rare. The rating is a measure of a potential the descriptions of the ratings are examples and exemplars for what they represent. They use historical or fictional figures because they are an easy shorthand that a layperson can understand. In some cases the example given is tongue and cheek like 2ed Computer 5 is "Why aren't you playing Cyberpunk 2020?" is a roleplaying game from 1990 really the measure of computer skill, no its obviously a joke. Just because someone has a 5 Ability doesn't mean those are automatically successes, they still have to roll, even a 10 die pool can still botch.

          Furthermore in the 2ed rulebook only 9 skills of 30 have specific named examples and of those 3 are fictional characters.
          • Leadership (Napoleon, Churchill, Hitler) / Subterfuge (Perry Mason, fictional) / Drive (Evel Knievel) / Firearms ("Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?" attributable to Dirty Harry, fictional) / Melee (Bruce Lee) / Music (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) / Investigation (Sherlock Holmes) / Politics (Machiavelli) / Science (Albert Einstein)
          One of them I would argue isn't even an example of the right skill "Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?" looks a hell of a lot more like an Intimidation roll than a Firearms roll.

          Making history is such a subjective factor. It's not just about having the capability but being in the right place at the right time. The top article for the Google search "dan quayle potato" was written in 2015, 23 years after the incident. Well Dan Quayle must have Linguistics 5 because he managed to have history remember the time he used his Linguistics. In the same fashion how many people never get the chance to make history even if they had the Ability to do so. How many people with Athletics 5 get injured, or if you want to get mechanical how many botch their roll when they get the chance?

          Even some of your examples don't meet the criteria. You put Simone Biles in the list of 5 Ability even though she has less gold medals than Valentina Vezzali. Also the Olympics she competed in was only 3 years ago, do we really know if we are going to talk about her decades later? As it was she was only 19 when she competed in the 2016 Olympics, if you consider her gymnastics career to have started when she tried it at 6 then she only had 13 years of training to reach 5, what could a vampire with centuries manage. Was she only able to buy the 5 after she competed in the Olympics? Did she get it during the games? Also you say that getting gold medals are common. The 2016 Summer Olympics had 307 total gold medals, out of a world population of 7.4 billion that's 0.000004% of the population and you think that level of skill is 'too common'. If you go by the All-Time Olympic Tabulation table 6,178 gold medals (counting both summer and winter Olympics) have been given out since 1896 which would be 0.00008% of the current world population (7.7 billion).

          History also has to deal with your exposure to people of that skill. On the list you have for Athletics only 1 of them (Nadia) is not American, which says that your sample size is built around what you know and have experience with. Going back to the Firearms example, I'd use Simo Häyhä as an example of Firearms 5, how many people would have to search him just to know who he was? How many more people are out there who made a mark on history but might not be known by everyone, is there anyone known by everyone?

          All of that is before we get to the fact that on some level PCs are meant to be special, at least in vampire. They were chosen by magical immortal blood drinking corpses, which by the way how do we rate the capabilities of something that doesn't actually exist? The PCs are also the protagonists, the stars of the story, the whole point of the game is to give them the chance to make history.

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          • #20
            Totally agree with Cynic101 above here. Whilst stats of 5 are about people who've reached the peak of ability and should be rare, there is more to it that just raw numbers. I would fully expect for lots of people to have 5 in an ability but not be noticed for it. There are so many contributing factors to this - not just complimentary skill and attributes as picked up earlier, but also skills and attributes that aren't obviously connected - are you a great performer but have no street smarts or skills to pick up bad intentions? Your talent would get walked all over. Same if you had no skill in self promotion. How about an amazing fighter with low self control - it's only so long before you fight the wrong person and either end up in jail, or end up bringing a knife to a gun fight. Excellent in Stealth? of course we've never heard of you!

            Some people would also want to be good, but not want the attention or limelight. Some people aren't as good, but their strength of personality and their drive makes them appear better than they are. Perhaps they're in the wrong place at the wrong time? Perhaps they were born in the 'wrong' country or even weren't the 'right' skin colour or gender - how many people have been unfairly dismissed or not given the chance based on them not being white or male for example? it doesn't mean they aren't as capable, but that they weren't perceived as so.

            Finally, luck plays a really big part in this too, sometimes circumstances just are in your favor enough to get you noticed. Sometimes despite your skill, everything is stacked against you.

            i'd allow abilities of 5 in some things. As long as they have the XP, it fits their concept and it can be justified how they got that good then go for it. These characters are the center of your world, they should be exceptional.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by Cynic01 View Post
              All of that is before we get to the fact that on some level PCs are meant to be special, at least in vampire. They were chosen by magical immortal blood drinking corpses, which by the way how do we rate the capabilities of something that doesn't actually exist? The PCs are also the protagonists, the stars of the story, the whole point of the game is to give them the chance to make history.
              Yes. Thank you. Exactly.

              (And, thank you for doing the legwork for which figures are used as exemplars for which skills.)


              Legendre
              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.
              Why?

              I don't mean, "why is high expertise in a skill rare in the world?" I mean, what do you fear will happen in your game and to your narrative structure if pcs have abilities that could be described as "something magical"? You mention your players are unhappy with the situation, so why remain stingy?

              Also, which edition are you running?

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Thoth View Post

                Though I wasn't trying to imply that that the real world experienced player was using advanced battle tactics or quoting Sun Tzu left and right. It was more like the experienced player will sweep corners or understand how to set up an ambush, as opposed to the unexperienced real world player who despite having a character that is career military and a sniper, will do things like run in guns blazing or not think about things like line of sight or over penetration.
                Or, turn this around -- experienced players going over inexperienced ST's heads. That's not necessarily done in bad faith; in fact I'd argue it rarely is, since players are going to seek minute advantages wherever they can take them as a matter of course. Half the players in my group are gun nuts, myself included, and they're constantly trying to granularize firearms rules to a point where, frankly, it becomes annoying as hell and detracts from narrative. Because that's what they find fun, and I know my stuff too, I indulge them and include house rules when and where applicable, but even then there's a point where I have to say enough.

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                • #23
                  The people OP as describing as having a five in ability are more likely a combination of 5 attribute, 5 ability, a relevant specialization, and probably a merit of some kind.

                  Letting a player character having a five in firearms because they were in the military for half a decade isn't a big deal. Where else are you going to spend a lot of time shooting? Now 5 dexterity, 5 firarms(sniping) and natural marksman or whatever is probably some kind of american sniper type dude.

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                  • #24
                    Excellent Questions!

                    Originally posted by Nosimplehiway View Post
                    Why?

                    I don't mean, "why is high expertise in a skill rare in the world?" I mean, what do you fear will happen in your game and to your narrative structure if pcs have abilities that could be described as "something magical"?
                    Oh they'll get there eventually. But I consider it sort of like the Holy Avenger +5 for the Paladin character... it's a point of transition. You don't give it out at 4th level, and you sure as hell don't give them out in Chargen.

                    My apologies if I wasn't clear about that.

                    My post was supposed to be primarily about design, rather than play. In other words, not about gaming practices as such, but rather the theoretical distribution of skill levels across the 5-point ranking system of the game. Although obviously the whole reason you fiddle with design is to affect play, so I'm obviously interested in hearing about other people's play experience as well.

                    Originally posted by Nosimplehiway View Post
                    You mention your players are unhappy with the situation, so why remain stingy?
                    Oh - my players are *not* unhappy. They've all pretty much said that my vampire games are either their favourite or (in one case) their second favourite RPG experience ever. They love it. They just grumble -- because they're gonna grumble about something -- usually multiple somethings. The Tremere player grumbles about how many ritual rolls he fails. The Malks grumble about the fact that they're connected through the pipeline to the biggest, nastiest vampire in the city. The Toreador grumbles that the Ventrue Senate blew up her house. And everyone grumbles about not getting more XP.

                    All. The. Time.

                    That's what I meant by "grumble." Sorry for any confusion.

                    But ya gotta keep them hungry, coming back for more, right?

                    Originally posted by Nosimplehiway View Post
                    Also, which edition are you running?
                    There's only one edition for me these days: my own. I'm running Vampire: Degeneration 1.5 right now. The 1.5.1 tweak is going to be done in a few months, after I finish my Los Angeles sourcebook, but it is probably only going to change three or four things.

                    If you're interested, you can get it most easily here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2208...7764141699951/

                    But I also put it up on these fora here: http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...neration-v-1-5

                    Like I said to HeavyArms above, the mechanics of my system are a little different in that your having a higher score not only increases your chance of victory, but ALSO undercuts the opponent's chance of success AND reduces the randomness in the system -- to the point where if you have Dex+Brawl of 9 and your opponent has Dex+Brawl of 3, they literally cannot land a punch on you in a 1-on-1 fight unless they've got some sort of advantage working in their favor. Indeed, if they have Dex+Brawl 2, they can't do it period (though it's possible that they could if they ganged up with someone else).

                    Which I suppose is another (albeit much less important) reason I'm a little stingy about the 5's, to address your first question again.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Zanos View Post
                      The people OP as describing as having a five in ability are more likely a combination of 5 attribute, 5 ability, a relevant specialization, and probably a merit of some kind.

                      Letting a player character having a five in firearms because they were in the military for half a decade isn't a big deal. Where else are you going to spend a lot of time shooting? Now 5 dexterity, 5 firarms(sniping) and natural marksman or whatever is probably some kind of american sniper type dude.
                      This brings up a really interesting issue. A few people have said something more or less along these lines... like "what about people with Firearms 5 but Dex 2?"

                      I'm not really sure you can even *get* to Firearms 5 if you have Dexterity 2. You might actually lack the requisite natural talent to develop your skills that high. I think that there might be a synergy at play there.

                      Likewise with something like Manipulation and Expression (Expression the way I use it to be the infusing of speech and art with pathos and meaning... see the recent thread on such things). Could you get Expression 5 if you had Manipulation 1? I'm not sure.

                      Other possible combinations with similar limitations would be Intelligence and Medicine, *maybe* wits and repair, dexterity and athletics, perception and alertness.

                      I'm also not convinced that every ability is going to have such a pre-requisite, by the by.

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                      • #26
                        Dexterity of 2 wouldn't be a huge deal in achieving firearms 5, which would simply represent years of practise and study rather than a natural dexterity that would carry over to other things. My understanding is that most firearms tests would be rolling composure or resolve, which might not be necessary to practise at the range for hours but would certainly be required to stay cool in a gun fight.

                        A person with 1 intelligence can read and write and could technically get to 5 medicine, I suppose, given enough time, study and opportunity to practise. Recent political candidates have done away with the notion that say, an expert, savant like brain surgeon is possessed of a high level of generalised intelligence.

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                        • #27
                          Another way to explain Dex 2 and Firearms 5 would be an elderly or disabled military veteran. They retain the knowledge and skill with firearms, but their hands just aren't as steady as they used to be.

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                          • #28
                            I thought of a (possibly dumb) house rule for firearms where your dot rating in the skill represents how many turns you can take before you need to spend a full turn reloading. At 0 firearms, I don't think a character should know how to reload a firearm, generally, without an intelligence roll to figure it out. Progressively higher levels could represent either better ammo management (a turn at firearms 1 is "spray and pray", you fire off whatever is in the chamber) and/or being so adept at reloading that you can do it without requiring a full turn.

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Nosimplehiway View Post
                              Another way to explain Dex 2 and Firearms 5 would be an elderly or disabled military veteran. They retain the knowledge and skill with firearms, but their hands just aren't as steady as they used to be.

                              A disabled vet would be more Dex 1, Dex 2 is average healthy adult. So I could see an argument for a Dex 2 & Firearms 5 being something like shooter whom only goes to a gun range, rather than training in combat drills.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Theodrim View Post

                                Or, turn this around -- experienced players going over inexperienced ST's heads. That's not necessarily done in bad faith; in fact I'd argue it rarely is, since players are going to seek minute advantages wherever they can take them as a matter of course. Half the players in my group are gun nuts, myself included, and they're constantly trying to granularize firearms rules to a point where, frankly, it becomes annoying as hell and detracts from narrative. Because that's what they find fun, and I know my stuff too, I indulge them and include house rules when and where applicable, but even then there's a point where I have to say enough.
                                Yeah I know that situation rather well. Though I think you will appreciate what happened in one game.

                                The coterie was investigating a street gang that was causing some problems for the local vampires mortal minions. They broke into a warehouse because they found out the gang was receiving an important shipment of contraband. Unfortunately they got there too late and all the containers were empty. Just "stacks of wooden crates with Russian markings and piles of straw used as packing material that reeked of gun oil". The exact description used in the session of what they found.

                                The coterie considered the warehouse a dead end and went to follow other leads, eventually the same night they caught up to the gang at a stash house. The coterie decided that they should just rush the house since the few pistols they had seen the gang carrying in a previous game weren't much of a threat to vampires.... the resulting massed volley fire from about two dozen AK-74s apparently didn't occur to either the characters or their players as a possibility.

                                While it wasn't a TPK, only one vampire wasn't in torpor by the end of the fight. The players never put the clues together despite the blatant foreshadowing. In fact after the fight scene one player actually said "what does gun oil have to do with assault rifles?".

                                I'll be honest, I didn't know how to best respond to that statement for a few moments.

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