New GM confused by Obligation

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#1 Darkjawa

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 10:14 AM

So I am reading through the Core book and I understand most of the rules. The one thing I am hung up on is the Obligation check I make as a GM. The chart on pg41 doesnt explain where to Obligation value comes from either, adding to my confusion. It lists the type as Favor and has a value of 1-15. Where do those numbers come from?

#2 Desslok

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 10:26 AM

It took me a while to wrap my brain around that too - maddeningly, the book has no guidelines to work from. Does a bounty of 5 mean that you have some unpaid parking tickets while a bounty of 15 mean that you blew up a Death Star and are Public Enemy #1?

Eventually I just said screw it and came up with my own arbitrary way of thinking - so yes, my own personal head canon means that a 5 bounty means a smaller more personal scale and a 15 means Boba Fett is coming after you. A 5 debt means you bought a brand new car while a 15 means you owe several million to a crime lord who constantly heaps fees, late payments and interest on the principal. A 5 favor means someone asks you to help them land a job at your company while a 15 means that someone requires you to pull a heist from Fort Knox (and all the set-up jobs that come with pulling that heist - securing uniforms, stealing get-away vehicles, inserting cover stories and so on)

Edited by Desslok, 26 December 2013 - 10:31 AM.

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#3 Darkjawa

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 10:30 AM

So then its up to me as GM to determine the weight of the Obligation and assign a value to it?

#4 kinnison

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 10:33 AM

All the characters in the example on the bottom of page 41 have 15 obligation.  Which is a bit high compared to the chart on pg 40 for starting obligation.

Basically you as the GM, create a simple d100 roll chart that includes the values of your characters obligation, and use that chart at the start or end of an adventure to see if it is triggered.

Players can take on more obligation "debt" or try to pay it off over the course of gameplay.

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#5 GMRicc

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 10:34 AM

For the most part, obligation values come from the players. Let me give you the math as I use it  in my game. First, I will tell you that I have 2 players. I gave each of them 20 points of Obligation (as advised on pg. 40 at the top of the page). The smuggler got that 20 in Duty and the force exile got it in bounty.

Further each picked another 20 points of a type that was explained in thier background. They took the extra to get bonus in credits and starting XP as detailed in the character creation section. so, in the end, they totaled 40 Obligation each, in 2 Obligations. With that, I made a chart That looked something like this:

Now, at the beginning of each play session, I roll a % dice as written in the rules, and if I roll 80% or less, I look at that number and see who's obligation triggered and apply the strain threshold penalty (-1 threshold penalty to the party, -2 for the triggering character, or double that if I roll double numbers, like "44").

Then I add an encounter or story element based on that obligation as suggested by that character's background. It works out very well. I also watch to see if they "avoid" dealing with that obligation and up the difficulty each time it is triggered and they have avoided dealing with it.

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#6 Kshatriya

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 11:42 AM

I think it's a good way to think that if a player selects a particular Obligation at 15 instead of 5 (for example) they're saying they want (or expect) that to come up more often than the other. If you have Family (15) and Debt (5) you're saying you're expecting (maybe hoping) for the character's family to play a larger role in motivating or complicating their adventures than their debt. That doesn't mean the debt can't or shouldn't be to someone really nasty like Jabba, or that their family has to be some huge political player or whatnot. Bounty 5 could very well mean the best bounty hunters are after the character - when it's convenient for them since the bounty isn't big enough to make them zero in immediately. Of course some of this is on the player to flesh out as well.

#7 Desslok

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 12:40 PM

So then its up to me as GM to determine the weight of the Obligation and assign a value to it?

Not necessarily. Like all aspects of the character creation process, the GM and player need to work together. They go "You know, I really want X to be important to my background, but Y was just a one off" or you go "Hey, I have a good idea for Y - how about we do this, this and this instead?"

I think it's a good way to think that if a player selects a particular Obligation at 15 instead of 5 (for example) they're saying they want (or expect) that to come up more often than the other. If you have Family (15) and Debt (5) you're saying you're expecting (maybe hoping) for the character's family to play a larger role in motivating or complicating their adventures than their debt.

The Hero system had a pretty good way of handling Disadvantages / Obligation with two aspects, how often it affected the character and how strong it was.

So you could have Boba Fett hunting you, but he showed up very infrequently - we'll call it five points. You could have bounty hunters show up all the time, but they were easy to defeat Bounty Hunter Interns (also worth only five points). Or you could have Fett showing up on a constant basis - and that would be worth 20 points. And of course you could have some gradation - skilled (but not awesome) hunters showing up just once in a while might be worth 10 and so on.

#8 Kshatriya

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 01:11 PM

So then its up to me as GM to determine the weight of the Obligation and assign a value to it?

In the end, it's completely up to the player how to weight his Obligations(s) at character creation. Subject as always to GM veto, but I have never seen that exercised on that precise of a level in any system - it's usually an objection to a very Mary Sue or inappropriate backstory or a particularly overpowered build.

On the other hand, a GM giving out Obligation as in-game consequences would have total control over it. Not that I suggest doing this casually or with any real frequency, as it could quickly push the group's Obligation over 100.

#9 Maelora

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 03:58 AM

Obligation as RAW is a bit of a mess.  We just threw out the dice roll entirely because the players absolutely detested the concept.  Between every session I just roll each player's Obligation as a %, and if it comes up, I incorporate some element of it into their next story session.

It doesn't help that half the 'Obligations' are actually 'Motivations', making the concept muddied and confusing.

I believe 'Obligations' should be external forces on your character that exert influence whether you want them to or not - a criminal past, a spice addiction, a large debt, bounty killers on your trail, or employment by a sponsor who expects a return on their investment.

Stuff like Oath or Fervour should really be Motivations.

Edited by Maelora, 28 December 2013 - 03:59 AM.

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#10 whafrog

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 09:37 AM

I like the Obligation mechanic as a way to help spur the imagination during character creation. I'm really glad it exists for that. After that...I haven't bothered. For my son's campaign, we came up with the story together, and most of the sessions have been driven by that original obligation, but now that that story arc is done and we're into a new one, I haven't seen the need to use it.

I'm also somewhat averse to relying on a random die roll to keep the obligation injected into the story. That's my *job* as the GM, and I'll inject it when it makes most sense in the story. I have a feeling one if the reasons the obligation mechanic was created was to help steer the game experience into a more narrative one, or help introduce the concept to people who otherwise wouldn't have thought of it. It also brings the player more fully into the story generation process. If you're already doing that, you don't really need obligation.
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#11 Desslok

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 10:06 AM

Obligation as RAW is a bit of a mess.

Yeah, I do wish they had cribbed from HERO for this, break it down more something like:

* Psychological disads (duty, obsessions, and the like)

* Social limitations (fame, being a minority, being a slave)

* Hunteds (Debts, Bounty and people generally gunning after your ass)

* Dependent NPCs (people who get in trouble that you have to go save or deal with. Your Aunt Mays and Lois Lanes of the character's life)

Because as written, I'm not too fond of the Obligation rules. . . .

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#12 Maelora

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 10:22 AM

Agree with whafrog and Desslok.  It's pushed to be a huge deal (you select your Obligation before you pick your race and class!) but in actual play it feels less than useful.

Whafrog's solution is probably the best - use it as a role-playing tool and discard it when it's played out or resolved.

I get the feeling it was probably designed to keep the players together or give them reasons to adventure.

My players absolutely hated the way it affected strain thresholds. It's a very 'disassociated mechanic' (and the way Duty works in AoR is even worse!).  I thought FFG were trying to get away from all those fiddly rules like 'stance' and 'party tension'. The latter always felt like penalising the players for role-playing.

Edited by Maelora, 28 December 2013 - 10:28 AM.

#13 Maelora

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 10:46 AM

And here's another thing about Obligation.  You're supposed to work towards working it off - as is noted in BTR and all the premade adventures.  I get how this works for a debt, or paying off bounty hunters or erasing a criminal record.

But how does that work with Fervour, or Responsibility, or Addiction or something? (Han Solo going into therapy just... doesn't sound very Star Wars-y to me)

What happens when you're trying to reduce these self-motivational 'obligations'?

"Gee, I used to care about droid rights, but following my therapy sessions, I barely care about those useless rustbuckets at all!"

It's all rather blurred when we have essentially two different things both referred to as 'Obligation'.

And it feels very handwaved, in as much as there's no real correlation between how much credits, say, is needed to pay off a debt. It suggests characters can use Obligation as a kind of credit to buy stuff, but doesn't give you any idea how much.

All terribly vague really.

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#14 Kshatriya

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 10:54 AM

Really they should have just merged the ideas of Obligation and Motivation. It's not like the latter has a mechanical effect anyway.

#15 Maelora

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 11:14 AM

Really they should have just merged the ideas of Obligation and Motivation. It's not like the latter has a mechanical effect anyway.

Maybe.  I kind of get why they didn't - Motivation is something the PC should role-play, and get XP for doing so.

Obligation is meant to be an external thing the GM uses to tie the character to a story.

The problems occur when they put a bunch of motivations on the obligation chart.

Edited by Maelora, 28 December 2013 - 11:15 AM.

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#16 Kshatriya

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 11:54 AM

I like how L5R did it. You can take Advantages and Disadvantages. Part of each has a role-play element and part has a mechanical element. Disadvantages also give you more XP at chargen, for a drawback. Whenever that drawback comes up in play, you're supposed to get an additional XP for dealing with it. That provides good story hooks for the GM, mechanical and roleplaying hooks for the player.

But I agree that some Obligations are essentially impossible to reduce on a meaningful level, if they even should be reduced. How am I supposed to lower my Obsession with pod racing, or am I supposed to start ignoring the requests for help from my Family? Doesn't make much sense.

#17 GMRicc

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 12:24 PM

I am cautiously fond of the Obligation mechanic. I roll it on the table (in front of everyone). Since I don't know what it will be any more than the players do, it can, and often does bring the story to interesting places I didn't expect. most often, not because of the obligation, but because of how my players respond to that sudden story element.

Now, that said, it is true my players like the obligation mechanic more than I do...lol

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#18 whafrog

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 03:06 PM

Most often, not because of the obligation, but because of how my players respond to that sudden story element.

That is a good point, and I should try that now and again, especially as story arcs end to help shake things up.

Edited by whafrog, 28 December 2013 - 03:06 PM.

#19 Colyer

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 06:49 PM

I'm don't agree with the idea that there are Motivations on the Obligation table. Obligation is a motivator, or course, but none of them are internal drives. How do you pay down a Responsibility? Well, by ensuring that whatever person, place or thing you feel accountable for is sufficiently well off that they simply don't need you anymore. Very similar to Dutybound or Oath. An interesting character should have a Motivation that opposes his Obligation, in my opinion. Obligation is best when it is a force that pushes the PC against what is best for them. I don't feel there is a single Obligation that doesn't work in this way.

Edited by Colyer, 28 December 2013 - 06:50 PM.

#20 blittlepage

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 10:35 PM

For our group, We use the Obligation amount as how many points that Obligation gets on the d100 chart. This means that it only affects the frequency and the "heat" that the group suffers overall. The importance of the Obligation starts out sort of nebulous. The character is wanted or has an Oath that she must honor. That takes time in the story with bounty hunters or not being able to indulge or take advantage of a specific situation.

Obligation is the main drive of our stories. I don't always make a roll the sole story point but I always make sure that each character is aware of the presence of their Obligation in each session. The Obligations shape our stories. As NPCs re-appear, they begin to weave the Obligations into more complex stories. As a GM, I find that the players enjoy the spotlight and it inspires them to add more background to their characters as play progresses.

Most of the development is made up as we go and some of their actions have created new Obligations and added to old ones. No one has completed a story built around their Obligation but it feels like that completion will be when the Obligation will be reduced or bought off.

I don't like the idea of someone declaring that they are reducing an Obligation and it being reduced without a story to how they would get rid of it. Play off, not pay off was a term we used when trying to get rid of the occasional Dark Side Point in WEG.

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