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  • Legendre
    started a topic The "5" Ability Score and performance scales

    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.

  • Nosimplehiway
    replied
    Originally posted by Tubect View Post
    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.
    That's not dumb at all. It can be drudge work keeping track of how many bullets all the pcs and npcs have, but if you don't you wind up with infinite ammo.

    Personally, how I handle it is that your ammo runs out if:
    • Combat ends, and your pc did the most shooting in the group.
    • You roll two fails in a row, the second fail is due to an empty chamber.
    • You botch... though I will sometimes apply a different outcome based on the situation.
    But, then my games are usually set in the US, where ammo is plentiful and easy to find. If you run out of ammo, just stop by Walmart or a gas station.

    Leave a comment:


  • Legendre
    replied
    Originally posted by Cynic01 View Post
    On the first point, the problem is that VTM isn't D&D. In D&D the expectation is your character is essentially fresh at what they're doing. In VTM you're not making a brand new 1st level character, you're taking a human that can basically have lived out almost the entirety of their life. It's why there are the 'mortal' Backgrounds like Allies, Contacts, Fame, Influence, and Resources. It's why Freebies let you buy Abilities over 3, because you can play someone starting who's not at an entry level in a job.
    • For example in the current edition of D&D the most money a starting character is going to have is 200 gold, meanwhile in VTM you can be so wealthy that it is described that corporations and governments might come to you to buy into stocks and bonds programs (2ed version Fantastically rich: you are easily a millionaire many times over. If liquidated, you would have at least $5,000,000 in cash. Allowance of $30,000 a month) so even by 2ed's standards still a lot of money.
    Of course it isn't. Agree with you completely here. Although to be fair, when I play D&D or, more likely, Rolemaster, I never limit my character's starting equipment in any mechanical way. They want a small house and a stove? Sure. It just has to fit into the economic models of wherever the game is set. But that's not quite the same thing as starting someone with the most powerful magic item in the game for their class -- which is why I said "+5 Holy Avenger" and not "+1 Sword." Characters start with +1 swords all the time.

    And I've had starting VtM characters begin the game with Resources 5, but it's close to a character-defining stat as it involves tending to and generating wealth, representing something of a commitment to the process. (If a character just wanted to have inherited $5,000,000 but was otherwise uninterested in money, then I'd say "you have $5M", but it would be "equipment" rather than a resources ranking.)

    Originally posted by Cynic01 View Post
    By the creation rules in VTM it is perfectly possible to make Simone Biles as a starting vampire. Athletics and Performance 5 are 4 freebies then put your Backgrounds into things like Fame, Resources, and Contacts or Allies. You're not making Bob the 1st Level Fighter, your making a human who has lived out some to all their life.
    And if you wanted to make a Simone Biles stand-in in my game, that'd be OK, too. But the way I'm currently approaching things, you're going to have been **Simon Biles** as a mortal; it's going to be your character concept ex ante and, as you note, you're going to have things like Fame and other baggage that go with it.

    The question on which I am most interested in hearing your thoughts is whether you think that you need to be Simone Biles in order to have Athletics 5, or can you just be an obscure former college gymnast who never quite made it.


    Originally posted by Cynic01 View Post
    The +5 Holy Avengers or Vorpal Swords of VTM are things like tutelage in rare Disciplines (like a non-Tremere learning Thaumaturgy in the Camarilla or a Camarilla vampire learning Necromancy or Vicissitude) or possibly the chance to commit sanctioned diablerie.
    I can totally see approaching things this way. The discipline spread is a little different in my game, but yeah -- this is what I was wanting to know -- what do people think about level 5 abilities and (by implication) what do they see as the holy grails of character sheet achievement? For my games it's usually level 5 abilities, new rituals if you're into Thaum/Nec, higher Willpower, and (most importantly) your degeneration stats. (Virtues and Humanity in regular VtM, keeping your Beast rating down and Humanity up and staying ahead of your Inhumanities and Beast Traits in my homebrew rules).

    Leave a comment:


  • Cynic01
    replied
    Originally posted by Legendre View Post
    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.

    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.
    On the first point, the problem is that VTM isn't D&D. In D&D the expectation is your character is essentially fresh at what they're doing. In VTM you're not making a brand new 1st level character, you're taking a human that can basically have lived out almost the entirety of their life. It's why there are the 'mortal' Backgrounds like Allies, Contacts, Fame, Influence, and Resources. It's why Freebies let you buy Abilities over 3, because you can play someone starting who's not at an entry level in a job.
    • For example in the current edition of D&D the most money a starting character is going to have is 200 gold, meanwhile in VTM you can be so wealthy that it is described that corporations and governments might come to you to buy into stocks and bonds programs (2ed version Fantastically rich: you are easily a millionaire many times over. If liquidated, you would have at least $5,000,000 in cash. Allowance of $30,000 a month) so even by 2ed's standards still a lot of money.
    By the creation rules in VTM it is perfectly possible to make Simone Biles as a starting vampire. Athletics and Performance 5 are 4 freebies then put your Backgrounds into things like Fame, Resources, and Contacts or Allies. You're not making Bob the 1st Level Fighter, your making a human who has lived out some to all their life. The +5 Holy Avengers or Vorpal Swords of VTM are things like tutelage in rare Disciplines (like a non-Tremere learning Thaumaturgy in the Camarilla or a Camarilla vampire learning Necromancy or Vicissitude) or possibly the chance to commit sanctioned diablerie.

    As for the mechanics all I will say is that in there is a way in the current system to do what you describe. The difference between a mediocre fighter and a champion is that the mediocre fighter might have 3-5 dice to work with, the golden gloves boxer will probably have a die pool of 7-10 letting them take some and put it towards dodging while still being able to throw a better punch than their opponent. That said they could still flub the dodge roll and get hit, lucky shots are a thing or for an intellectual example even chess pros can lose to new players.

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  • Theodrim
    replied
    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.
    Or someone like me, who only has middling to average physicality but grew up in a rural area with a strong gun culture, hunting, recreational, and competitive shooting most of, if not their whole life. While I definitely wouldn't say I have Firearms 5, more like 2 or 3, I'm not as gung-ho as many. Quite a few of the folks I grew up with, and much of my family, are terrifyingly good with a gun yet never served a day in any armed service or law enforcement agency. Not saying it's common for civilians to get that good with firearms, but on the other hand it does happen.

    Leave a comment:


  • Thoth
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Thoth
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Tubect
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Nosimplehiway
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Tubect
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Legendre
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Legendre
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Zanos
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Theodrim
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Nosimplehiway
    replied
    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?

    Leave a comment:

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