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Galdred

What about the L5R RPG and other L5R products?

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How can one not have enough info to tell if a certain Technique (or talent or feat or whatever) mechanically requires another in order to function? 

 

 

Agreed, this is pretty concrete stuff.

 

In a game where you can't do X.

 

Technique 1: You can do X.

Technique 2: You get a bonus to doing X.

 

Clearly, 1 is required for 2.

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Here is a difference between Trees and Flat Techniques:

Kakita 1 gives you, among other things, "+2x Iaijutsu to Initative". It's a very massive bonus that can be early stacked.

In a tree, you can make it a smaller bonus which is purchased few times during your journey towards the ultimate technique, stacking together and having more natural progression. Also, you can put these "Initiative Perks" into *other schools*, without stealing Kakita's thunder - they may have "+10 initative total" as 4 other schools, but only them can pick it two times at tier 1 and can grasp the full bonus sooner, even if total is the same. Overall, when you design a talent tree, you can "see" the progression curve for characters abilities and see what is expected at what XP levels - which, in context of the other schools (and no-school blank state), allows you to give the tree "identity". You can write all about how Kakita are super fast, but in order to properly design a game, you need to actually make it "feel" in gameplay. 

Trees also allow you some choice - you can arrive at your destiny by adopting different paths. It would allow to represent different dojos and schools of thoughts within the same TalentsFrame; you can have a sensei who favors diving deep into the tree using left path and not "spreading your wings" to abilities to the left and right of it, and you can have a sensei who believes that you need to focus on particular tier of abilities. 

Notice that this makes great potential room for roleplaying, because you can actually "see" how your character is building their style out of smaller blocks, instead of having 5 massive milestones that suddenly blomp abilities on your head. 

Also, having "bushi tree that primarly consists of fighting abilities with some side dish of social", and "courtier tree that primarly consists of social with some side dish of combat" isn't really a bad thing; knowing that character type x is going to be good at y usually means that you understand how the game you created works, and your design is "aware" of it; good design will help people create archetypical characters without putting too much thought into it (you should be able to create a good kakita duelist simply by buying up your talents), and will also allow people to do more specific and less cookie cutter characters after attaining some system mastery (for example, combining unusual career paths and picking abilities from both of them instead of focusing on one). Having direction is good.

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I will agree that the tree, or some other multi-option system, is better than simple linear progression (as presented in the existing schools). 

 

 

What I'm not interested in, as a player or GM, is having the system try to hold my hand.  I've been gaming a long time, I can take care of my character build myself, thank you.  If a game has so many moving pieces of such intricate interaction that it requires extra guidance and constraints, then... perhaps the issue isn't the players. 

Edited by MaxKilljoy

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Assuming that your player is a veteran with 20 years of experience who is used to reading through tons of materials and fishing for good stuff while obtaining system mastery isn't good design. Good design assumes that your player is a little babby who is playing RPG for the first time and stuff should be presented for them in easily understandable, digestible manner. Artifical complexity isn't healthy at all. Usually, when people pick up RPG games based about certain themes, they want to play characters that are traditional heroes for these shows; so Star Wars RPG will present you with easy way to play Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, while samurai RPG should be set up so you can play Ruroni Kenshin and Tomoe Gozen. Supporting basic archetypes should come first, opening up can of weirdness and out-of-the-box stuff is secondary at best. You want to identify what people wanting to play this game are "hooked up" on, and give them a way to fulfill this desire; this is why they bought your game, after all. To play it.

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I also object to the hand-holdy vibe of tree-based character progression.

 

But I'd argue that's a result of poor execution rather than a problem inherent to the concept.

 

RPG design that only reflects metagme considerations such as balance should be avoided. As far as tree progression goes, this concept should be designed to capture the feeling of the setting. If a mechanic does not immerse you deeper into playing the character as she or he exists in the setting, then it's not pulling its weight.

Edited by Manchu

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I also object to the hand-holdy vibe of tree-based character progression.

 

But I'd argue that's a result of poor execution rather than a problem inherent to the concept.

 

RPG design that only reflects metagme considerations such as balance should be avoided. As far as tree progression goes, this concept should be designed to capture the feeling of the setting. If a mechanic does not immerse you deeper into playing the character as she or he exists in the setting, then it's not pulling its weight.

 

Game balance and other "metagame" concerns do matter, they just can't be allowed to dominate other concerns -- but from your exact phrasing, I think you're agreeing here pretty much. 

 

I've long since lost patience with the True Believers of various design philosophies.  The various "new wave" game design "movements" had some good points, but they went off the deep end and ended up with collective craniorectal inversion, so that we ended up with "games" like The Rust or whatever it was called.  The "old school" grognards then predictably over-reacted and so on...   

 

If one wants to use the GNS triad, then I would say that all three legs matter, and your game just toppels over if you don't put any thought into how they all work together.  Gamist, Narrativist, and Simulationist concerns all have validity, and all need to be taken into consideration in game design. 

 

A game that allows markedly unblanced or unfair builds, or has rules that give unfair or wonky results, will turn many players off. 

 

A game with rules and systems that constantly get in the way of a "good story", will turn many players off.

 

A game with rules that actively run counter to or interfere with the tone and feel, that clash with the setting, will turn many players off. 

 

 

Clarification.

Edited by MaxKilljoy

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They can also allow you to create your own paths by navigating the tree in any way you desire, as long as you follow the connections. Tree isn't a stick. Each ability can have from 0 to 4 connections; you may progress into any direction you desire (or none of them). If you wish so, you can literally go to the bottom of the tree from one side, and then backtrack your way up to another entry point. Or take a turn somewhere else. I wouldn't call it funneling, but providing a structure to operate in. 

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WHW - Again, I don't propose that funneling is a bad thing. Rokugan is a land of restrictions. Bushi do X and not Y. Lion do A and not B. As long as funneling is at the service of character development and not just character sheet development, I have no problem with it. When character development becomes its own separate game of rules mastery, that's when I object to it. If we're going to play a rules mastery game, and personaly I'd rather not, then character development should at least be wide open rather than funneled through trees.

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The mechanical purpose of a tree is to funnel character development down pre-arranged paths.

 

Eh, I would argue well-designed trees offer balanced trade-offs between accessing a wide variety of abilities across multiple trees and accessing very powerful "end of tree" abilities.

 

Although in L5R, where as I recall you can only access one "tree," that's kind of immaterial. :P

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The mechanical purpose of a tree is to funnel character development down pre-arranged paths.

 

Eh, I would argue well-designed trees offer balanced trade-offs between accessing a wide variety of abilities across multiple trees and accessing very powerful "end of tree" abilities.

 

Although in L5R, where as I recall you can only access one "tree," that's kind of immaterial. :P

 

 

 

There are a some "alternate paths" tacked on, but they're pretty much "either/or at this level" choices, and still constrained to a Clan, School, Family, or whatever in many cases. 

 

Actually moving over to another School takes a special Advantage costing what I'd consider a significant number of points (same number of points needed to increase a skill from 0 to 4 on a scale of 10).

Edited by MaxKilljoy

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When it comes to RPGs - I don't want to make decisions like, do I take three average powers or one super power? I want to make decisions like, should I play a character with the drive to master dueling or a character with broader ambitions?

 

I think an average designer will produce the first kind of game. A good designer can produce the second kind, including with tree-based character development mechanics.

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When it comes to RPGs - I don't want to make decisions like, do I take three average powers or one super power? I want to make decisions like, should I play a character with the drive to master dueling or a character with broader ambitions?

 

I think an average designer will produce the first kind of game. A good designer can produce the second kind, including with tree-based character development mechanics.

 

I think balancing the first is a prerequisite for the second. If your game isn't balanced, players that base their decisions on theme and character are going to be overshadowed in play by those who do game the system. But we may be saying more or less the same thing here.

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When it comes to RPGs - I don't want to make decisions like, do I take three average powers or one super power? I want to make decisions like, should I play a character with the drive to master dueling or a character with broader ambitions?

 

I think an average designer will produce the first kind of game. A good designer can produce the second kind, including with tree-based character development mechanics.

 

 

I think balancing the first is a prerequisite for the second. If your game isn't balanced, players that base their decisions on theme and character are going to be overshadowed in play by those who do game the system. But we may be saying more or less the same thing here.

 

 

 

I think that's why those who would say that game balance is "out-dated" or "not needed" for RPGs are to some degree fooling themselves  (and yes, there's a certain game designer I'm thinking of right now). 

 

Some game balance is necessary in order to create a "good structural environment" within which players can make their character design/build decisions on concept, theme, personality, history, narrative, whatever, etc without being concerned that their choices are going to result in other characters overshadowing them completely when the crunchy stuff happens. 

Edited by MaxKilljoy

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For me the question isn't "is having trees/Schools/whatever awesome, or is it better not to have them at all?" so much as the degree to which those templates dominate the play experience. The current edition of L5R happens to sit in a sweet spot as far as I'm concerned--even for quite a fresh PC, and increasingly as the character progresses, skills, traits, and advantages/disadvantages do more than School Techniques to define how the character plays at the table, and all of those can be customized pretty much however one likes regardless of character class/school/however you prefer to think of it. You have the tree (or stalk, heh) providing a unifying identity for characters of a similar background, on top of which you can pretty much do as you please. 

My mind turns also to the original Exalted corebook (I'm talking about 1E just because 2E's flaws turned me off before I could get as familiar with it), in which your Caste gave you a couple of unique characteristics and abilities and a certain set of default skills, but you could go on to buy whatever skills etc. you liked; each skill had a tree of magic abilities associated with it, and you could go as deeply or shallowly into as many trees as you wanted to. Hardly a perfect game, mechanically, but it did hit a nice balance between giving you some defining archetypal features to hang your character concepts on and leaving nearly infinite leeway for customization beyond that. 

My (admittedly limited) experience with Edge of the Empire involved nearly constantly flipping to the giant skill-tree diagram for my character class, and not much flexibility outside that. D&D4E (the only D&D edition I've played much as an adult) is another example of a game I enjoy casually, but in which I never was able to get too invested in my characters because the set of choices involved in creating them was so thoroughly predefined by being A Bard or A Barbarian or whatever. 

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For me the question isn't "is having trees/Schools/whatever awesome, or is it better not to have them at all?" so much as the degree to which those templates dominate the play experience. The current edition of L5R happens to sit in a sweet spot as far as I'm concerned--even for quite a fresh PC, and increasingly as the character progresses, skills, traits, and advantages/disadvantages do more than School Techniques to define how the character plays at the table, and all of those can be customized pretty much however one likes regardless of character class/school/however you prefer to think of it. You have the tree (or stalk, heh) providing a unifying identity for characters of a similar background, on top of which you can pretty much do as you please. 

My mind turns also to the original Exalted corebook (I'm talking about 1E just because 2E's flaws turned me off before I could get as familiar with it), in which your Caste gave you a couple of unique characteristics and abilities and a certain set of default skills, but you could go on to buy whatever skills etc. you liked; each skill had a tree of magic abilities associated with it, and you could go as deeply or shallowly into as many trees as you wanted to. Hardly a perfect game, mechanically, but it did hit a nice balance between giving you some defining archetypal features to hang your character concepts on and leaving nearly infinite leeway for customization beyond that. 

My (admittedly limited) experience with Edge of the Empire involved nearly constantly flipping to the giant skill-tree diagram for my character class, and not much flexibility outside that. D&D4E (the only D&D edition I've played much as an adult) is another example of a game I enjoy casually, but in which I never was able to get too invested in my characters because the set of choices involved in creating them was so thoroughly predefined by being A Bard or A Barbarian or whatever. 

 

By paragraph:

 

1)  You're not the first person I've seen comment that the School Techniques aren't dominant in mechanically defining a character in practice.  The problem is, both the 4th Ed books, and the Design Diary for 4th Ed, make a very big deal about the Schools and make it seem that Schools strongly define the character. 

 

2)  Still smells too much of Archetypes. 

 

3)  AD&D 4thE was, in mechanics and presentation, way too much like an attempt to build a tabletop MMO. 

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1)  You're not the first person I've seen comment that the School Techniques aren't dominant in mechanically defining a character in practice.  The problem is, both the 4th Ed books, and the Design Diary for 4th Ed, make a very big deal about the Schools and make it seem that Schools strongly define the character. 

 

I've seen this point on this thread before (can't remember who all else had raised it besides presumably you, MaxKilljoy), but I think it's been talked over and around enough that all I can really say is I'm one of those who hasn't ever experienced this in the way you describe. FWIW, I went and looked--there were eleven design diaries back in the day, of which only three were about designing basic schools (one each for courtier, bushi, and shugenja) and about half of another dealt with advanced schools and paths; that seems about right for the degree of importance they have in the experiences of reading the corebook and playing the game. It's a relatively unique mechanic, so it does stand out, but I would suggest that this sense of its overwhelming importance seems to be far from universal among readers of the books and this may be a point where we'll just have to agree to disagree. 

It's certainly also the case that different players favor different things. I like systems that give you mechanically relevant hooks to hang your character concept from (Schools in L5R, Traditions and Spheres in original-flavor Mage, etc) and then lots of room to run in every direction from that start. Some people prefer something closer complete ground-up customizability; for me personally that tends to make the process more of a pain, not less, and it's easier to end up with a bland character. (This is particularly true when introducing a setting or system to someone who hasn't played it before, IME.)

 

 

2)  Still smells too much of Archetypes. 

 

 

Not sure whether you're referring to something specific here, nor why it's a problem. 

 

Edit: Hah, and I probably shouldn't even have mentioned which edition of D&D I was referring to, TBH. No desire to open that can of worms here. FWIW I feel much the same way about characters I've played in my longer-ago experiences of D&D 2 and 3/3.5--so much defined by their class/race/gear that there wasn't much wiggle room to get personally engaged--except that character advancement and combat in those systems was more annoying. 

Edited by locust shell

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1)  You're not the first person I've seen comment that the School Techniques aren't dominant in mechanically defining a character in practice.  The problem is, both the 4th Ed books, and the Design Diary for 4th Ed, make a very big deal about the Schools and make it seem that Schools strongly define the character.

 

If anything, that's a problem with the fluff rather than the design. I've played 4e L5R and I've played various flavors of D&D, and the latter put me in far more of a straitjacket when it came to character progression than the former. I think L5R talks up the setting power of schools, but in terms of actual gameplay, I agree with locust shell: it sits in a nice zone where you get some meaningful flavor from your school, but you can easily invest in other stuff and be good at it. You'll never be as good as somebody with the same stats plus techs aimed at that niche -- and I don't think you should be -- but you can often beat somebody with the techs but lower stats.

 

Honestly, most of the people I see talking about how schools define the character are players with the conviction that every single clan needs a dedicated dueling school. They never seem to believe that an Akodo or whatever with good dueling stats can do just fine in most situations.

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Because you missed the whole point. Its not about mechanics here. These decisions are based on what they represent. From my perspective the mechanical argument you are making is about the worst reason you can develop. Things should flow first as story dictates. Not if one mechanic builds off another. 

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It's just that FFG just seems to love to throw in specialized dice in their larger rpgs. It Started with Warhammer when they had it? Of course, you start with the basics of L5R RPG (romanticized samurai, clans, and bushido) and work from them, then just add new dice! Sell those dice packs!

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To be quite fair, RPGs are not a gold mine and I applaud every effort to make these things profitable.

Custom dice are a good way to do this, especially you you can manufacture them cheap. 

 

They have the rights to sell the RPG pdfs I would assume, so they can mitigate the costs of the purchase a bit.

 

But if we ever get a 5th edition, it will probably be after the successful LCG launch and will have custom dice.

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