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daveceaser

Secondary abilities specializations

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I had not noticed this over the years until a player pointed it out to me. In the paragraph on secondary abilities specializations (p.46), there is a line saying that a specialization gives you bonus in the field you specialize in and a penalty in the fields you do not. It says this bonus and penalty is described in the ability description. Yet, the ability descriptions describe the bonus but not the penalty. Where can I find where the penalty is described?

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This took some digging a long time ago when I originally found it. I can't remember where I found it in English, but the Spanish Core Exxet is very clear about it.

 

 Si lo hace, obtendrá un bono especial en ese campo en concreto, pero aplicará un negativo equivalente en el resto de controles de esa habilidad (CE pg 48)

 

Which, roughly translated is...

 

If he does, he obtains a special bonus in this particular field, but applies an equal penalty in all other uses of this ability.

 

So... it's a -40 to everything except your specialization, which is pretty steep. I've been looking for alternate methods of specialization for a while, because the current one is pretty darn crippling.

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That was my instinct that was what was meant as well. And I agree, that is pretty steep. How about a house rule that it's a penalty equal to half the bonus for non specialties, so a -20 in this case? Seems pretty fair to me.

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Possibly. As I said, I've been looking through a lot of options and toying with a few of my own. That's been one of them, though I'm still not fully sold. So long as it works for you though. ^_^

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All penalties in the system are steep compared to the bonus.

 

The -40 seems fair, considering how extreme other penalties get.

Yes and no.

 

You're right that a lot of direct penalties are steeper by comparison. For clarification, when I say direct I mean penalties that affect the exact same statistic/check as the bonus does and in the same way. Mental Patterns like Psychopath are a good example of a direct penalty on multiple levels. +30 Potential for Harming Powers, -80 for Sentience, -20 for non-harming. +40 Composure vs -100 to all Socials (talk about steep). Indirect would be the +10 Damage and +20 Projection, which have no equivalent penalties. They're assumed to be evened out by the other penalties.

 

So, let's take a look at direct penalties and bonuses then, neh?

 

Some advantages and disadvantages have the disadvantage roughly twice as crippling as the bonus (like Add 1 to a Characteristic vs Deduct 2 from a Characteristic), while others (by comparable CP) are incredibly ramped up (Triple Zeon Regen vs No Regen at All). Some work on their own sliding scale, as in the case of Quick Reflexes vs Slow Reactions, where the penalty starts off at -5 if you took both at 1 CP, but increased to -15 at 2 CP. So, there's a sliding scale to consider, and some of them even get worse over time (Exceptional Resistances vs Susceptibilities, for example). On average though, a disadvantage is always applying a larger penalty than its equivalent advantage, not always by much, but by some.

 

Mental Patterns are all over the place. Psychopath, as mentioned earlier, has the most direct comparisons, but I want to stop for a moment to talk about Madness, which is interesting because it's one case in the game when the direct penalty/bonus factor is actually skewed towards the positive. The table has 4 negative results, 1 neutral result, and 5 positive results which means that unless you count neutral as negative (which would be unfair to do mathematically) then you actually have greater odds of obtaining a positive boost than a negative one. The other patterns (and even Madness itself when looked at in a broader scope) all have a lot of variables to consider which make the comparison difficult, but I wanted to mention Madness for this reason.

 

In combat, Higher Ground gives a +20 to Attack, while being on the ground gives a -30 to Attack (along with a host of other disadvantages). Attacking beyond your effective range is an equal penalty to the bonus for firing at point blank range. Interestingly enough though, Combat is also where we find the largest discrepancies in slightly-indirect bonuses, because of certain situation like Acrobatics being opposed by Dodge, or Notice checks against certain types of attacks. I say slightly-indirect because it's Secondary DP vs Primary DP being spent, but it's still a DP vs DP spend. Some of these can offer huge bonuses or benefits without any penalty at all.

 

Which brings us to Secondary ability (henceforth known as 'skill') modifiers. There are a lot of other things one could talk about, but I think I've said enough to fill a book already. Skill modifiers are almost always roughly equal to each other. Hiding, for example, has well-lit areas at -20, and dimly-lit ones at +20. Disguise gives a -40 for not having materials, or a +40 for having them. Time is perhaps the only example of steeper penalties to bonuses, and then only if you're playing in a day-by-day campaign (so it's difficult to judge how direct of a penalty or boon it is).

 

It's this trend towards even-handed modifiers that makes the specialization penalty so out-of-place. A +40 situational bonus is great, but if in all other situations you're suffering -40 then that's a deep price to pay. Let's say we're looking at Animals, for example, and we decide to specialize in Dogs. That's +40 for Dogs, and -40 for Cats, Rats, Horses, Bears, Elephants, Dragons, Frogs, Lizards, Birds, Whales, Unicorns, and on, and on, and on. The penalty is so steep in this case that it's practically infinitely worse unless you encounter dogs and wolves roughly half the time, and all other creatures roughly half the time.

 

Most penalties and bonuses in Anima at least try to balance around an indirect scaling of 1:2 (with disadvantages having the advantage ;) Get it?) but most specializations are crippling specializations. It's worse than taking Exclusive Weapon for a Fighter because at least the Fighter won't be expected to use other weapons most of the time, but secondaries are things that come up (or should come up) pretty often. Skills are how people Notice their surroundings, how they create Art and Music, how they know about History and Navigation; skills are how people live their lives. If being specialized in one area takes away roughly one level of difficulty for all checks beyond your specialization then, GM-willing, that's somewhere between a 1:1 ratio and a 1:1000 ratio.

 

In the end, it's not that -40/+40 is bad on paper, but, like Communism, working it out in the real world is a lot tougher than it seems. I've never taken a specialization yet because the least it could affect me would be with Creatives like Art, Dance, or Music (but definitely not Forging, that would be a mistake), where even the most creative of GMs would be hard-pressed to force someone into enough legitimate situations where their specialization wouldn't apply that it's almost ridiculous to consider.

 

At the same time though, this is all just one man's opinion of a situation. Obviously, every group should do what's right for that group. That being said, there have been a number of solutions presented that I've found, including the one that Dave and others have suggested, and here's a short list.

 

-Reduce penalty to -20 (can still get into the infinite loop of Animals, but is at least not costing 1 difficulty level constantly)

-No penalty, specializations are earned for every 20-50 points of a developed secondary and apply a smaller bonus (requires a new sub-system, would require

-Specialty matching (for every specialty, you choose a deficiency which gets the -40; useful, but easy to abuse. Possible solution was to pick two deficiencies per specialty).

-No penalty, but specialties cost DP (though how much is under serious debate).

-Specialty pools (essentially a bunch of spare points that would be used to buy specialties at custom levels. You can specialize a skill as much or as little as you want, but you take a scaling penalty)

-Remove specialties entirely (bad idea, but possibly good if nothing else works out)

 

There have been others which I've seen and dismissed already (and have therefore forgotten) but those are the options I'm looking at currently.

 

Hope this has been somewhat informative, and thanks for reading. ^_^

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I have always ruled it as +40 and -40, and I have never let a player complain. Here is why:

 

When you go for a specialization, the mindset (as I have seen it) is that you are trying to get a free bonus that works with your character, and can hopefully avoid the penalty. It then become my job (in the way that I run my games) to make sure that you are, at some point, punished for that choice. This sounds harsh, but it really helps define a characters strengths and flaws. THIS SHOULD NOT BE ABUSED! No, you should not do it constantly. If the specialization makes sense, then let it work in its situations, but do not be afraid to ask for a roll simply because it doesn't fall under a characters specialization.

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If I may weigh in, personally, I think the +/-40 is fair, at least for some skills. Especially science and history. When you think about it, most people are not that high a level. Take from Gaia beyond the dreams for example, the abilities of a level 2 University Graduate from Lucrecio, someone who has dedicated themselves to intellectual pursuits.

 

Class: Freelance; Level 2
Initiative 50; LP 80; AT None; Attack 10; Dodge 30; Weapon
None; Damage 10
AGI: 5 DEX: 5 CON: 5 STR: 5 PER: 7 INT: 8 WIL: 6 POW: 5
Abilities: Swim 10, Style 25, Persuasion 55, Poisons 30, Notice
35, Search 55, Animals 50, Science 80, Herbal Lore 50, History 50,
Medicine 30, Memorize 50.
Resistance: PhR 35, DR 35, VR 35, MR 35, PsR 40.
 
Note that their highest secondary ability is science at 80. I speak from experience having attended University myself, that as much as you want to do everything, you can't unless you A) teach it to yourself outside of class, or B) take several years to acquire more time. The specialization represents, in effect, what you took a degree in. Keep in mind, to reach 80 without an advantage, they would have to spend 120 DP out of their total of 700, assuming they used their natural bonus and +10 from being a Freelancer. That means they have dedicated more then 1/7 of their entire life to science. For them, to specialize would be over 1/10 of their life to a specific field, as the +40 translates to 80DP. If you have ever forgotten something from school in a single summer, imagine what you would forget dedicating years of study to acquire a PhD in a singular thing. Go look at any University course table and you will see just who narrow a specialization can be. For the sake of relevant humour, have this: http://i.imgur.com/3TcuTuI.png?1.
 
A Biological Engineer is not also going to have a PhD in Quantum mechanics. You need the basics of the other sciences to conduct you research, but you are not going to be the best at everything. 
 
The specialization is the equivalent of what you trained to do as you professional career. Not everyone is going to be a level high enough to be able to afford that level of skill in everything, and the specialization is so that low level characters can be good at at least something, but at the cost of other things, because only a handful of people in the world are great enough to do so many different things, and most simply don't have the time to not lose a lot of knowledge in others. Even Einstein himself did not work part time as a Surgeon or Engineer. With the sheer unbridled amount of knowledge that exists in the world, you are going to miss out on a lot.
 
It largely comes down to the fact that the skills are so broad. The specializations could have specializations! If you take Science (Physics), which kind? Quantum physics? General Relativity? Engineering you say? Civil, Mechanical, Chemical, or Biological? Biology? Do you focus on cells or evolution or what?
 
Besides, even just having an 81 puts you above a University graduate without specialization.
 
Final recommendation: If you really want, you could make an advantage that reduces the penalty of specialization by half for one or two CP, but the penalty makes too much sense for some secondary abilities (like History or Science) to not be an actual penalty that does not have a cost to overcome. Another addition  that I would recommend that you vary your degree of specialization. If you want a minor amount of specialization, maybe you could have +20 in one field and a -20 in others.
 
I know in the fan work Anima Beyond Science they made it so Mastery doubled the bonus and halved the penalty, but that just seems ridiculous.
 
That said, what TyrHawk recommended could also work in terms of applying the penalty to two field, but as he said, it is abusable. So are the other suggestions.
 

-No penalty, but specialties cost DP (though how much is under serious debate).

 
Rather than make Specializations cost DP, why not make specialization in field a one CP advantage? A sizable bonus, but only to one specific thing, is a fair trade for it I should think.
Edited by lollypopalopicus

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If I may weigh in, personally, I think the +/-40 is fair, at least for some skills. Especially science and history. When you think about it, most people are not that high a level. Take from Gaia beyond the dreams for example, the abilities of a level 2 University Graduate from Lucrecio, someone who has dedicated themselves to intellectual pursuits.


 


Note that their highest secondary ability is science at 80.

 

This is less of a point than you might think. In Anima, scores for folks simply tend to trend at 30-40 points per level in their highest skill, and then lesser degrees for everything else. The creators rarely break from this mold, even for high level NPCs like Sylvanus, Romeo Exxet, and Elisibetta herself. In fact, even most of those named NPCs even stop development once they've reached Mastery in a subject, so even Level 13s won't have much higher than a 240 in their highest skill, which is just enough to reach levels of Inhumanity. In Anima, a trained professional is only expected to be able to reach a 120-140 in their highest skill (and that's on a rolled result, not the base modifier we're talking about in this discussion), and that's someone who tends to be at the top of their field (or at least in the top 25%). Reaching a 180 in something is considered to be Absurd, a level reserved for true prodigies, but having a handful of skills at 100, even at Level 1, is pittance if you've invested a few CP into it.

 

Heck, even the monsters they build tend to follow the same pattern, and sometimes it makes you wonder just how much time those monsters dedicate to training in comparison to, say, these scholars you mention.

 

I speak from experience having attended University myself, that as much as you want to do everything, you can't unless you A) teach it to yourself outside of class, or B) take several years to acquire more time. The specialization represents, in effect, what you took a degree in. Keep in mind, to reach 80 without an advantage, they would have to spend 120 DP out of their total of 700, assuming they used their natural bonus and +10 from being a Freelancer. That means they have dedicated more then 1/7 of their entire life to science. For them, to specialize would be over 1/10 of their life to a specific field, as the +40 translates to 80DP.

 

I've attended university too, at both the undergraduate and graduate level. I've worked with administration at all levels, closely with an admissions officer, and I've been rallying against the specialization of education for a while now. But all that aside, the main problem with the analogy is the breadth of information involved in modern universities versus the world of Gaia. In Gaia, which is more akin the the middle ages in many places and the early pre-renaissance in the best, people could and did develop many talents within a field that simply were not as far along as they are now. Medicine, for example, was not specialized until relatively recently in the history of the world. Science was specialized, yes, but the categories were broad and overreaching by modern standards in every case I can think of. Even so, at the time it was possible to know almost everything available in the field, because the rapid expansion of knowledge had yet to occur.

 

The other issue I'm finding is that you seem to be only using Core Rules when you do calculations, but the characters in Gaia 1 are built pre-Core Exxet Rules, which give the Freelancer Bonus to everyone (and Freelancers get it a second time) along with giving a Natural Bonus (doubling the stat value for 1 Physical and 1 Mental Skill). Assuming you were looking to get an 80, and you have the same stats and class, you could actually spend as little as 20 DP to get the same score in Science using those bonuses. The worst part of it is though, when you don't factor in those bonuses, the scholar is 40 DP overspent, meaning he has to have advantages not listed on the sheet lowering costs or giving additional bonuses somewhere, potentially lowering his spent DP on Science pretty far. If you do take them into account, rebuilding the scholar for Core Exxet, then the scholar is pretty far underspent, meaning he's got a lot more wiggle room to work with now..

 

The specialization is the equivalent of what you trained to do as you professional career. Not everyone is going to be a level high enough to be able to afford that level of skill in everything, and the specialization is so that low level characters can be good at at least something, but at the cost of other things, because only a handful of people in the world are great enough to do so many different things, and most simply don't have the time to not lose a lot of knowledge in others. Even Einstein himself did not work part time as a Surgeon or Engineer. With the sheer unbridled amount of knowledge that exists in the world, you are going to miss out on a lot.

 


It largely comes down to the fact that the skills are so broad. The specializations could have specializations! If you take Science (Physics), which kind? Quantum physics? General Relativity? Engineering you say? Civil, Mechanical, Chemical, or Biological? Biology? Do you focus on cells or evolution or what?


 

This is another thing to take into account. Einstein, as an Anima character, probably would have been Level 1, maybe 2 on a good day, with either specializations or simply CP spent towards what he did. He was gifted, yes, but no one can say that he wouldn't have been an expert in multiple fields if he'd lived at a different time and place. Even more salient is that his work at the time is the basis for several fields that we have now which we didn't then, each of which would (as you point out) be a specialization of their own. Again, today we have far more information to contend with, so it seems like there's more to know, but Gaia isn't the world we know, and so it isn't the same to say that one can't be an expert in multiple fields today as it would be then.

 

But the final point, and the one that I touched on first, is that Gaia really isn't our world. The mechanics of the world work differently (even some basic laws of physics that we take for granted are thrown out the window, like the Law of Conservation of Momentum for one), and the mechanics are the main concern that I usually have, as perhaps evidenced by my longest post before this one. While thinking about it in a purely lore-oriented fashion you might say "Man, no one could possibly know about All The SciencesTM ever, but if you only spend the DP and bonuses to get to an 80? You do. You're awesome at all Sciences on the planet according to the mechanics (at least in comparison to most people). Your GM (and many GMs) may think that difficulties need to scale up to the point that you need a 200+ to be really good, but if you can hit Very Difficult then you're an expert, someone people would look to for answers. Specialization puts you over the top without as much DP spend but to a point that, in the world and in the realm of game mechanics, you've crippled yourself. You may be able to do things impossible for anyone else in a particular field at a low level, but you're ignorant in so many other mechanical uses and situations that you need a good GM just to make it worth it, as I pointed out in my last post. You lose 80 DP in every science you don't specialize in. That's, depending on how many specializations you think there are in a given field, at minimum 240 DP you're losing for an 80 DP bonus, and possibly closer to a lost 800 or more for some fields. Objectively-speaking, it's simply not a wise investment without a GM willing to make it so.

 

I'd rather have an objectively-balanced (as much as possibly so, because there will always be subjective opinion to contend with) mechanic for it than this, which can be so lop-sided that it's a punishment to take a bonus. So, I do appreciate all aspects of the situation, but I do prioritize the mechanics a bit, because specialization is a mechanical benefit, not just a fluff one. ^_^

 

Another addition  that I would recommend that you vary your degree of specialization. If you want a minor amount of specialization, maybe you could have +20 in one field and a -20 in others.

 

This was one of my suggestions, actually. Specialty Pools, the second to last option, was pretty much precisely what you just said. ^_^

 

I know in the fan work Anima Beyond Science they made it so Mastery doubled the bonus and halved the penalty, but that just seems ridiculous.

 

Ugh. Beyond Science. Appropriately shortened to BS, in my humble opinion. They've got some good ideas, but most of it is just an entirely different system with an entirely different balance. I'm always a bit flabbergasted they still try to call it Anima, honestly.

 

Rather than make Specializations cost DP, why not make specialization in field a one CP advantage? A sizable bonus, but only to one specific thing, is a fair trade for it I should think.

 

This is another option, I suppose, especially since 1 CP is often translated to 100 DP by official standards. I'll add it to my list. ^_^ Thank you.

 

And, finally, sorry for being so long-winded. I was... honestly trying to put off some work I need to do, and this provided an excellent outlet. I still think all my points are valid, just wanted to explain why I said so much. XD

Edited by TyrHawk

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