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Author Topic: Player thinking vs Skill  (Read 1004 times)

Abrojo

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Player thinking vs Skill
« on: June 30, 2008, 07:10:38 PM »
I have talked this with lots of people and so far i have seen its a bit of a gray area hard to define properly, so looking for some input & healthy discussion here.

This issue first came to me while playing Shadowrun but of course it applies to several other systems as well.

Let's say a character has a skill "small unit tactics" or similar.

Now lets say said character's party faces a situation where they can do some prep to face some opposition. Is it viable for the player, who really doesn't know much about tactics to ask to roll the skill (or just apply it with a take10/20 whatever approach) instead of the player behind the character to come up with a strategy?

Of course we could say that the "tactics" skill just applies a bonus to the party when prep was in place or some other simplification.

However this negates the posibility of a player to play a character of something he doesnt know very well like tactics which is something that sucks a bit.

A similar example could be made with skills like negotiate or bluff. Lets say a given player is not verbally skilled and doesnt want to roleplay the part where he tries to convince someone of something.

Negotiate/Bluff is perhaps harder to find in practice since people can at least try to talk things and then you just determine success with a roll. Tactics however is something that indeed some players can suck at, and if they come up with something bad, it will be exploitable by opposition (be it NPC or PC).

Should a game include skills like this or should the player be left to his own devices?

Experiences, opinions, etc welcome.
 

RandallS

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« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2008, 10:36:26 PM »
Quote from: Abrojo;220950
Now lets say said character's party faces a situation where they can do some prep to face some opposition. Is it viable for the player, who really doesn't know much about tactics to ask to roll the skill (or just apply it with a take10/20 whatever approach) instead of the player behind the character to come up with a strategy?


The way I've always handled skills in games that have them is to let the player tell me what he would do and interpret the results of the roll based on what they said. If they obviously have no clue on the subject, I just use the skill roll normally as the rules say. If the player's plan should work, a failed roll becomes a minimum success, a successful roll means a great success, etc.  If the plan is really great, then a failed roll is still a good success and better rolls get even better.  In other words, I never penalize the player for not knowing subject X, but if he does or just has a good idea by chance, the die roll can't negate it but can only improve it.

This does not penalize a player whose character has a skill they know nothing about, yet does not prevent players who are good at something from using their own skill. Of course, I come from an OD&D background, so I tend to favor player skill. People who think of characters as completely separate from their players may not like my way nearly as much as I do.
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Kyle Aaron

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Player thinking vs Skill
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2008, 10:57:30 PM »
I do it much as Randall describes.


  • There's a skill for everything.
  • If you just say, "we ambush them" or "I hit him" or "I try to persuade her to let us through the door" then we just roll against the relevant skill.
  • If you give an interesting or amusing description of the way your character does these things, then you get a bonus to the relevant skill roll.
This gives an advantage to players who are creative and thoughtful. But since this is a roleplaying game, that seems fair to me, it's like fit and agile players having an advantage in football. We want to encourage creativity and thoughtfulness because it makes for a more enjoyable game than just "I shoot him" and rolling dice.
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beejazz

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« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2008, 02:10:33 AM »
So long as the manner in which the task is described actually has an impact on the probability of success, I'm with Kyle.

Abrojo

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« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2008, 03:26:51 AM »
This is the kind of things that should be explained in GM's manuals heh

I like your approach Randalls for my failed attempt at generalizing an issue.

So i will try to put my main specific issue

The players are about to get ambushed from the sides, etc.
The player in question doesnt have a clue how to handle that situation.
I cant just roll his tactics and dumb out the opponents or change their strategy so accommodate for the roll. Best solution i can come up for this scenario is have the GM (who hopefully knows tactics a bit better) suggest possible counterstrategies but that is something i would rather not do.
 

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« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2008, 03:47:07 AM »
I do something similar. I give VIP treatment to players with skilled characters. So for tactics, I allow them extra time to make combat decisions. I give them more intel than the no-tactics players. And I interpret their actions with kindness. The low or no tactics guys have to make snap decisions on vague/faulty intel and their actions are interpreted with the animosity of a wish spell.
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VBWyrde

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Player thinking vs Skill
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2008, 09:38:00 AM »
Quote from: Abrojo;220950
... Should a game include skills like this or should the player be left to his own devices?


I think they should, but the way I would handle it is by abstracting out the use of the skill if they want to use it in-game as a Skill.   So for example the case of small unit tactics skill.   Two ways it can go;

1.  The player gets with the group and does not explicitly try to use the skill but instead they all sit around the table as per normal and move their characters around, and play as they normally do.   It is assumed that the Character who has small tactics skill is using that skill in play, even if he doesn't say anything in particular about it.   The Character has the skill and he's assumed to be using it.   If the Player is actually good himself at small unit tactics the Character shows up as a winner because the group wins the combat and all is well.   If the Player isn't good, but chose this path anyway, then it is as if the Character fumbled on the use of the skill, made mistakes or otherwise failed to implement the skill correctly.  That's ok.

2.  The Player explicitly says "I use my Small Unit Tactics Skill" in which case the combat is immediately taken off the board, assuming the other players agree.  If the Character is high level at this skill then they may just do so - or if they all really want to play out the combat tactically themselves then so be it - it is then assumed their characters override his and ignore his tactical advice anyway.   So abstracting out the combat for the use of the skill ... the way I would do it is make the two groups aggregate into simple single values so that each group fuses into a single character simply for the sake of running this one combat.   So the Player's group is Z1 and the opponents are Y2, lets say.   Add up all the characters of Z1's group in terms of levels and bonuses and divide by the number of characters in the group to get an average.   Do the same for Y2.   Now I have two characters that I can pit against each other, and these characters are actually the two groups.   Then add the Small Unit Tactics Bonus to the Attack Level and Armor Class of Z1.   Fight them as per a normal combat between two characters.  If Z1 defeats Y2 then Small Unit Tactics was useful.  Gamesmaster or Player(s) can describe the What-What about how the combat got played out tactically.

Now of course you're going to say - well that's kinda sucky because the players will hardly ever want to let Player X use his small unit tactics because they LIKE moving their characters around on the board and all that.   My answer to that is:  Absolutely right - until the day Player X becomes high enough level that his small unit tactics will make a serious difference to the chances of success... at which time they very well may, when it's important enough for them, say "Oh Yeah!   Player X do your thang!"

So that's small unit tactics.   For negotiation I'd do a very similar approach.  

1.  Let the Player talk through he negotiation.  Does he make a convincing argument or not?  Estimate the effectiveness of the argument and assign it a Attack Level value.   Look at the opponent whom he is trying to convince.  Is he high level and intelligent?  Then assign the opponent and "Armor Class".   Then roll to see if the character "hits" with his argument.

2.  What is the skill level of the character using Negotiate, and what is his "Attack Level" with that skill (does he get any bonuses for intelligence, magic items, secret knowledge, etc)?  How difficult will this negotiation be against the opponent ("armor class").   Roll the dice.   Does the Character "Hit"?  If so he wins the negotiation.  

That's basically how I handle this kinds of things, more or less.  I think that works out pretty well.   How's that seem to you?
« Last Edit: July 01, 2008, 09:42:55 AM by VBWyrde »
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Abrojo

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« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2008, 09:06:02 PM »
Well would have to talk to said player and see if the solution suits his spending of points in that talent if we are talking an ongoing campaign :)

Regarding negotiation your solutions are acceptable. Also is the fact to use the sweet talking of the player as a bonus modifier to the skill roll. All those kind of solutions are fine. However as i said, perhaps this wasnt a good analogy on my part for the problem i see since it has easy workarounds. (talk either succeeds or not)

Tactics is a bit of a problem since we are talking about what the group will do in a given circumstance and it might not be right or wrong.
Your first solution i dont like, if i am a player and took the skill, i wouldnt be happy if thats all the skill achieves.
For your second solution, i am not too sure i understand what you mean. If its a simple breaking down the skill to a bonus for any encounter where the player's party has some prep time or you are simplifying combat itself, if its combat itself that would be overriding the game's combat system and certainly i wouldnt want that.

So far what i prefer in this scenario is me, as a GM try to help the player in coming up with a strategy. I am not a master strategist but since i am also handling opposition, its hard they can outsmart him if i am advising the other side.
 

VBWyrde

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« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2008, 11:40:06 PM »
Quote from: Abrojo;221218
Well would have to talk to said player and see if the solution suits his spending of points in that talent if we are talking an ongoing campaign :)

Regarding negotiation your solutions are acceptable. Also is the fact to use the sweet talking of the player as a bonus modifier to the skill roll. All those kind of solutions are fine. However as i said, perhaps this wasnt a good analogy on my part for the problem i see since it has easy workarounds. (talk either succeeds or not)

Tactics is a bit of a problem since we are talking about what the group will do in a given circumstance and it might not be right or wrong.
Your first solution i dont like, if i am a player and took the skill, i wouldnt be happy if thats all the skill achieves.
For your second solution, i am not too sure i understand what you mean. If its a simple breaking down the skill to a bonus for any encounter where the player's party has some prep time or you are simplifying combat itself, if its combat itself that would be overriding the game's combat system and certainly i wouldnt want that.

So far what i prefer in this scenario is me, as a GM try to help the player in coming up with a strategy. I am not a master strategist but since i am also handling opposition, its hard they can outsmart him if i am advising the other side.


Yeah I understand your objections.  The problem I have with the "GM helps the player to do the tactics and fudges the monsters moves in order to give the player the advantage" is that it's kind of awful.   For one thing, your tactics as GM may be no better than the player, and making the monsters behave poorly just to give the player the advantage for having picked tactics skill is not very elegant.   I tried to come up with a way that would give some mathematical bones to the solution.   But your right about the first tactical example - it basically says, if you picked the skill but don't want to actively use it because the other players don't want to play that way, then you loose the usefulness of the skill.  That's not so good, I agree.   The second solution, the one the player would presumably prefer in so far is it actually uses the skill, is to abstract the battle so you can add the Tactical Bonus to the attack.  That also is not so great, but it does achieve it's goal of adding a math component to the result so that the Skill actually functions to give a bonus, which is it's purpose.

On the other hand, I think you may be right - the limitations of being able to use these kinds of skills may outweigh their usefulness in the game for the above mentioned reasons.

I tend to think that the best solution, if there is one, is in the direction at least of giving a bonus during the combat.  

Ok how about this.   Tactics provides a +1 AL to everyone in the party, when used.  Of course in that case everyone would use it every combat.  So there has to be a cost of some sort otherwise the skill is simply too powerful.  Well, I suppose you could make it so that the skill is expensive to learn, or can only be learned at high levels?   Not sure.  But maybe something along those lines.

As I said the problem with handing the player better tactics somehow as a rule is that some GMs simply are going to be suckier at tactics than their players in reality.   So for the rule to be "and then the GM helps you with your tactics" is not necessarily doing the player any good - it leaves the fate of the skill up to the quality of the GMs tactics.   Not great.
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Seanchai

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Player thinking vs Skill
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2008, 12:03:54 PM »
Quote from: Abrojo;220950
Should a game include skills like this or should the player be left to his own devices?


Yes. Both. Either. Personally, I let players use either in game as I don't want to punish player choice nor diminish the fun they have via the character-game interface.

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Abrojo

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« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2008, 01:14:30 PM »
Quote
Yeah I understand your objections. The problem I have with the "GM helps the player to do the tactics and fudges the monsters moves in order to give the player the advantage" is that it's kind of awful. For one thing, your tactics as GM may be no better than the player, and making the monsters behave poorly just to give the player the advantage for having picked tactics skill is not very elegant.


Yes, agreed that if the GM sucks at tactics he should go for a plain bonus if there is prep involved. Meaning the Player with the skill has at least 5 minutes or so to plan ahead.

But if the GM has at least a bit of knowledge it can be better to go the assistance approach. Why? so that a player that knows no tactics can think up stuff. Sometimes a proper tactic will help more than a bonus plus it adds to the feeling of the character. Lets take some examples:

Player is familiar with tactics, however he didnt buy the skill.
GM: "the enemy charges at you from the sides"
Player: "hmm they are flanking us, ok lets do this XXXXXXX"

Player is not familiar with tactics, however since he wants to play a war vet he buys the skill "Tactics" so he is able to perform at what his char should not tied by his own lack of knowledge:
GM: "the enemy charges at you from the sides"
Player: "ok sorry i dont have a clue what to do when flanked like this, can i roll tactics and you can tell me? i mean, my char should know even if i dont"
rolls tactics *success*
GM: "ok, you can try this XXX or YYY as the most usual ways to counter flanking"


Another way could be preemptive

Player: "ok i park here and decide to go inside"
GM: "ok roll tactics"
Player: "uh? what for?"
GM: "just roll it like if it was a Perception check, to see if you notice something, etc".
Player: "oh ok, here i go"  *success*
GM: "you realize parking near the back exit would be a safer call than parking here on the street by the main entrance".

And none of this past examples means fudging the opposition, just give some advice to the player, still play opposition to the best of their ability. Granted it depends on the GM.

To start coming to some conclusions. Would say
1) if GM is not confident enough to advice, then go for a plain bonus to some rolls when they have time to prep. Strategy per se will have to come from the Player itself. GM has to inform the player that's how its going to go beforehand so to be careful not to grab something he doesnt know how to play.
2) if GM is confident, he assists with some tips. If the roll is, lets say, a critical success, the character might even guess a bit what the opposition is planning to do according to their movements/positioning.
 

VBWyrde

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« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2008, 06:50:44 PM »
Quote from: Abrojo;221490

To start coming to some conclusions. Would say
1) if GM is not confident enough to advice, then go for a plain bonus to some rolls when they have time to prep. Strategy per se will have to come from the Player itself. GM has to inform the player that's how its going to go beforehand so to be careful not to grab something he doesnt know how to play.
2) if GM is confident, he assists with some tips. If the roll is, lets say, a critical success, the character might even guess a bit what the opposition is planning to do according to their movements/positioning.


Yeah, ok.  In that case I buy that, more or less.  Personally, I kind of prefer some sort of mechanic because it allows the player to know that the skill they are going to buy will be relatively equivalent to another skill on the list.  With GM intervention as the mechanic that assurance is substantially diminished.  But, then again, I think that your solution is reasonable, given the issues you've identified.
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Abrojo

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« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2008, 10:43:15 AM »
well yes, its just to allow for players to play something they know nothing about. I would actually encourage GM suggestion to a party of RPG newcomers.

As for stat boosting, perhaps initiative boost and for systems that dont have initiative (simultaneus hit or whatever) perhaps a bonus round for the Party?
 

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« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2008, 06:08:55 PM »
Our choice between gameplay mechanics determines what we consider to be noise that should be removed from the game stream and what is of value.  Therefore, there is no right answer as to what one should choose with regards to a system preference between character prowess in an area and the player's own skill.  Your group alone can make the choice.

I personally believe that a Tactics skill should function only to provide information or observations of some tactical importance.  Whilst essentially equivalent to "GM suggestion" in many regards, you should avoid making overt tactical suggestions to allow the players to make their own decisions.

One should phrase one's information in terms of possiblities, likelihoods, direct observations and internal information; your party is fatigued, there might be somebody in the alcove waiting to flank you, the hilliness makes it difficult to see things coming, this narrow pass would be a great chokepoint, William Wallace tends to charge with a rabble of disorganised troops.  Only provide information on demand and throw in some red herrings on occasion, players should not take possibilities as fact unless they have decided to play a character with some kind of risk aversion or delusion.  These red herrings should ideally be identifiable as false with closer observation.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2008, 06:19:22 PM by Heath Robinson »

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Player thinking vs Skill
« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2008, 06:23:07 PM »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;220976
I do it much as Randall describes.


  • There's a skill for everything.
  • If you just say, "we ambush them" or "I hit him" or "I try to persuade her to let us through the door" then we just roll against the relevant skill.
  • If you give an interesting or amusing description of the way your character does these things, then you get a bonus to the relevant skill roll.
This gives an advantage to players who are creative and thoughtful. But since this is a roleplaying game, that seems fair to me, it's like fit and agile players having an advantage in football. We want to encourage creativity and thoughtfulness because it makes for a more enjoyable game than just "I shoot him" and rolling dice.
Good advice.

You could also use the roll to provide a bit of extra information, like what they are likely to be armed with, what kind of protection they will have, static defences, and so on.  If they come up with a clever plan using that information, you may even give them a bonus in the first few rounds of combat.

That way, with a good roll, they still have the chance to screw up in the execution stage, but they get a positive result from the planning stage.  As Murphy's Laws of Combat state, no plan has ever survived enemy contact.
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