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  • Hacking Untrained Penalties

    I have never liked the Untrained Penalty of skills with no dots in them. In particular, I find the massive -3 to mental skills a bit too much. Has anyone tinkered with these and can tell me how it worked?

    I have specifically been thinking about 2 hacks:
    1) Making all skills without dots have just a -1 penalty, including mental skills. I don't know, I just don't find it convincing that a person with 3 Intelligence would get a chance die a Investigation unless trained..
    2) Getting rid of Untrained Penalty altogether. If players want to roll an untrained skill they just roll their Attributes instead. In this case no dots just mean you have no special training but are simply average. If the player REALLY wishes to be especially bad at something they may get an "Incompetent" Condition to simulate this.

    How have other people thought about this?
    Last edited by Aristarkos; 04-04-2017, 12:40 AM.

  • #2
    Actually, I think I'd split the difference and make it a -2 Penalty for all untrained skills, regardless of whether it was Mental, Physical, or Social if I were to make any changes.
    Last edited by Ashenrogue; 04-04-2017, 01:01 AM.

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    • #3
      I wouldn't drop the untrained penalty completely, mostly because its existence encourages generalized characters over specialized ones; the difference between 0 dots and 1 dot is more significant than the difference between 4 dots and 5 dots, so there is more inscentive to put at least 1 dot in more skills than there is to put a lot of dots in one or two skills. If this doesn't bother you, feel free to disregard this argument.

      However, I don't disagree that the -3 penalty for untrained mental skills as opposed to the -1 penalty for other untrained skills does smack of old-fashioned game design. I can't see anything that extra -2 does that improves the game, beyond a very dubious nod to "realism". And honestly, the idea that being untrained in a mental task is more of a detriment than being untrained in a physical or social task has more to do with intellectual elitism than it does with actual reality.
      Last edited by Charlaquin; 04-04-2017, 01:07 AM.


      Onyx Path Forum Moderator

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Ashenrogue View Post
        Actually, I think I'd split the difference and make it a -2 Penalty for all untrained skills, regardless of whether it was Mental, Physical, or Social if I were to make any changes.
        I could get behind that change. That would make the difference between untrained and trained roughly equivalent to one expected success.


        Onyx Path Forum Moderator

        My mod voice is red. I use it so you know when I'm speaking in an official capacity, not as an indication of tone.

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        • #5
          It think it's worth considering a few things:

          1) Intelligence 3/Investigation 0 isn't automatically a chance die. It's a base dice pool of 0. A character can spend Willpower, have some equipment, and end up with good odds of a success. A -3 isn't a meaningless penalty, but it's not the end of the world either. The untrained penalties really end up being more, "if you want to roll this, you're going to have to spend some resources to make it work," than, "you shouldn't bother because even though you can roll, it's pointless."

          2) With the 2e beat economy, higher untrained penalties mean more chance-die, means more dramatic failures, and more Beats. Having a few Skills you suck at can be a decent Beat source without having yet another Condition to track (and as a different kind of reward means you can double them up).

          3) The "nod to verisimilitude" is something I'd weigh a bit. It's not really that important, especially if it bothers you, but for plenty of people it does add to the experience. I'd definitely consider Ashenrogue here over nothing if you want the penalty to be even across Skills. As alluded to in point 1, it's not that hard to get a decent dice-pool even with a penalty. I think there's a big risk of ending up effectively adding untrained penalties back in the game via situational penalties being applied for what amounts to no training so that you don't have Attribute 2/Skill 0 characters having ~85-90% odds of success on a roll they're willing to throw WP at and isn't resisted or contested. I think it's very likely that verisimilitude will come back in anyway with things like, "-2 situational penalty for using a tool you've never seen before."

          The Condition option isn't horrible, but unless it's one Condition that covers all your zeroes, it would get extremely clunky.

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          • #6
            Another hack could be to tie it to you Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary skill groups. Primary is -1, Secondary -2, Tertiary -3.


            Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
            Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

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            • #7
              You try hacking or operating someone without knowledge in a programming syntax or basic anatomy and lemme know how that goes, k?

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              • #8
                The problem is that some actions (surgery and hacking) should have hefty unskilled penalties while others (the entire Investigation Skill) shouldn't be more difficult that any of the other Skill categories.
                One way to deal with it is to have -1 unskilled penalties and add additional penalties if you don't have the correct (or just a relevant) Specialty. If I remember correctly you need a Heavy Weapons Specialty on Firearms or get a -2 penalty to use certain weapons such as flamethrowers.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Malus View Post
                  You try hacking or operating someone without knowledge in a programming syntax or basic anatomy and lemme know how that goes, k?
                  You are 100% correct in your implication, someone without knowledge would have a much harder time. But, just as Tessie brought up, this is something I would rather adjust myself with penalties based upon just what is being done in the situation.

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                  • #10
                    While I can understand the desire to "just do it yourself," keep in mind that this means your players can start to suffer a lot of unfun uncertainty around such things (and thus avoid them instead of engaging with fun story options). That's sort of the whole point of having rules instead of ST fiat for the game. A set penalty from the books is something known, and something the players can feel agency towards approaching. If "untrained" is changed to a, "0 to -5 penalty at ST discretion," players have to take those hits with only their experience with the ST as a guide for what they're in for.

                    As well, keep in mind that as the ST, you have extremely strong control over situational modifiers as it is. If you want an Investigation roll to be something even an untrained person has a good shot at... you can give it a +3 for a bazillion reasons (though I'm not quite sure about the assumption that Investigation is something that is over penalized, things like cryptography and forensics aren't exactly something people can do with ease, and you can let players make perception or memory/trivia checks instead of full Investigations in many situations where the penalty might seem too high).

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                      As well, keep in mind that as the ST, you have extremely strong control over situational modifiers as it is. If you want an Investigation roll to be something even an untrained person has a good shot at... you can give it a +3 for a bazillion reasons (though I'm not quite sure about the assumption that Investigation is something that is over penalized, things like cryptography and forensics aren't exactly something people can do with ease, and you can let players make perception or memory/trivia checks instead of full Investigations in many situations where the penalty might seem too high).
                      Isn't that proposal? Just roll unskilled modifiers into the general situational modifers?

                      That would even allow a degree of consistency in giving skill based modifers for other ratings aside from zero. I mean, to use Malus' example, someone trained in first aid, isn't going to be much more equiped for performing an operation than the unskilled person. I mean, as is, the core describes the various dot ratings in highly differentiated ways which a +1 mechanic doesn't really do.


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                      • #12
                        I can perform all the physical and social skill actions either without any training or a few minutes of instruction. I don't care if my intelligence, etc. were increased to 10, I still would not be able to translate Arabic, hack a computer, rebuild an automotive engine, or perform open heart surgery. I'm going to need more than a 5 minute tutorial to have any chance to succeed.

                        For the easier mental skill actions, why doesn't the character automatically succeed? I'm sure there are instances where neither of the standard options fit, so ad hoc bonuses to mitigate the penalty would work at those times. I think the situations that might call for non-standard solution are much more rare than the other two, so I don't see a need to change the rule for the rare cases by making the more common situations to no longer fit.

                        I don't care so much about the specific numbers as I think that falls into subjectivity, but I agree with the untrained should be more difficult and mental significantly more difficult than physical or social. Honestly, I consider the easier mental skills as an excuse not to bother rolling. "Let's see how many dots in Investigation you have. As I thought, you automatically succeed."

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Michael View Post
                          Isn't that proposal? Just roll unskilled modifiers into the general situational modifers?
                          That's a suggestion yet, but I'm generally against it for reasons specified.

                          As an additional issue, it makes it very hard to separate "situational penalty for this being a specifically hard task," and, "free form untrained penalties as situational modifiers."

                          Though that's sort of the point I was going for anyway. You can make a task's situational modifier +3 because it's just easy. But that +3 goes for everyone equally, rather than having to be adjusted for each player's traits.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Diggs View Post
                            I can perform all the physical and social skill actions either without any training or a few minutes of instruction. I don't care if my intelligence, etc. were increased to 10, I still would not be able to translate Arabic, hack a computer, rebuild an automotive engine, or perform open heart surgery. I'm going to need more than a 5 minute tutorial to have any chance to succeed.

                            For the easier mental skill actions, why doesn't the character automatically succeed? I'm sure there are instances where neither of the standard options fit, so ad hoc bonuses to mitigate the penalty would work at those times. I think the situations that might call for non-standard solution are much more rare than the other two, so I don't see a need to change the rule for the rare cases by making the more common situations to no longer fit.

                            I don't care so much about the specific numbers as I think that falls into subjectivity, but I agree with the untrained should be more difficult and mental significantly more difficult than physical or social. Honestly, I consider the easier mental skills as an excuse not to bother rolling. "Let's see how many dots in Investigation you have. As I thought, you automatically succeed."
                            Sure, you'd have no chance of doing the super high technical aspects of the mental skills but that applies to the highest form of any of the skills. You'd have about as much luck performing a complex acrobatic routine as you would open heart surgery given no experience in Athletic activites and only a 5 minute explanation on proper form.

                            That said, having 10 in an Attribute might let you get away with it. 10 is far and away past the limit of human potential, so who knows at that point.
                            Last edited by Ashenrogue; 04-04-2017, 11:18 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Michael View Post

                              Isn't that proposal? Just roll unskilled modifiers into the general situational modifers?

                              That would even allow a degree of consistency in giving skill based modifers for other ratings aside from zero. I mean, to use Malus' example, someone trained in first aid, isn't going to be much more equiped for performing an operation than the unskilled person. I mean, as is, the core describes the various dot ratings in highly differentiated ways which a +1 mechanic doesn't really do.
                              Someone who can perform a tracheostomy is far better prepared than someone who can't even perform a heimlich maneuver.

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