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sndwurks

Beginner's Set Adventure - Topaz Championship System modification

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Mild spoiler for those who have not yet played through the Beginner's Set ahead.

For each Event in the Topaz Championship, the PCs earn points towards their gempukku by making a roll. They choose an Approach, then make the roll, and keep the appropriate dice. Each roll is TN 2. Succeeding earns the PC one point. Choosing the appropriate Approach requested by the Judge earns an additional point if the PC succeeds, and having enough bonus successes to outperform the top performer earns another (potentially third) point.

While I understand that this teaches the idea of using different approaches, I actually find it to be counter-intuitive to how the game plays after this point. It creates a false logic in gameplay.

My modification:

  • The favored Approach reduces the TN 2 to a TN 1, but does not earn an additional point.
  • Using an Approach opposite the favored Approach (Water vs Fire, Air vs Earth) sets the TN at 3. Void is always TN 2, but a favored Approach of Void is TN 3 for all other Rings.
  • Required points for reaching Gempukku remain the same.

Thoughts?

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The beginner box adventure is designed to be simple and not burden more rules on newer players. Now experienced players might like a rule like this, but the beginner box already contains rules like this for future encounters. I don't get where you're coming up with "false logic in gameplay". Yes there are encounters or actions that have something like Theology TN3 (Fire 2, Air 4), but that doesn't mean everything is laid out that way.

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29 minutes ago, ElSuave said:

The beginner box adventure is designed to be simple and not burden more rules on newer players. Now experienced players might like a rule like this, but the beginner box already contains rules like this for future encounters. I don't get where you're coming up with "false logic in gameplay". Yes there are encounters or actions that have something like Theology TN3 (Fire 2, Air 4), but that doesn't mean everything is laid out that way.

Where else in the Beginner's Set is a character automatically more successful / powerful for choosing a particular Approach over another?

The "false logic in gameplay" is where a particular Approach is favored by being inherently more successful than another Approach, but not inherently any easier. In a way, the current set up gives something similar to a Bonus Success / Special Opportunity which is not replicated anywhere else in the rules. By having a variant TN, introduced earlier on? It teaches the players to differing Approaches can make the task easier, but not inherently more successful than another Approach.

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iTPdBl1.jpg

This one is found in Act 1 of "In The Palace of the Emerald Champion" which I still consider part of the Beginner Box adventure.

But if you want something specifically with the Topaz Championship they give you an example in the final battle with Sugai and the ronin where they introduce social demeanors. Using one approach has an advantage over a different approach. Now the book doesn't tell you how you can use this but that shouldn't stop a GM from making something on the spot. For example, doing a social action mid-combat could increase the strife of the target with TN2 and additional strife per bonus success. If the strife exceeeds their composure then they will panic and lose their balance during their next attack. (Requires TN3 instead of TN2 for a strike). Something along those lines.

Again the Topaz Championship rules were written to be extremely watered down. I could easily say that the strife mechanic is a "false logic in gameplay" because later on strife, unmasking and being compromised have additional rules that weren't laid out the way they were in the Topaz Championship adventure book.

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@ElSuave, I think @sndwurks is examining how approaches change both effort and yields in the topaz championship, and you're only addressing how approaches change effort. 

Yes, the game is littered with variant approaches, where one lowers the TN and another raises it. No one is questioning that part. But that's only the effort--how easy or difficult is the task based on the approach?

Sndwurks is also addressing yields. In the Topaz championship, changing your approach not only makes the task easier, but gives greater yields (more points in the contest). That's what "more successful" means in this case, and it's not an effect that's replicated elsewhere. 

Normally, choosing the right approach to lower the TN might *help* you be more successful; lowering the TN means a roll might get you a bonus success or an opportunity. But that's not the same thing as making you more successful outright, like the championship. Normally, the dice have to provide that extra success, whereas the extra yields (ie points) are baked into the structure of the topaz championship.

 

 

Edited by sidescroller
Runaway commas

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@sidescroller has the right of it.

The Topaz Championship events provide you the additional point towards your gempukku just for choosing the "correct" Approach, but the rest of the game only modifies the TN of a check when you vary the Approach. In your example of the Social action in the middle of a combat, one does not automatically inflict Strife on their opponent for just CHOOSING to take the Air approach, because their opponent REALLY HATES Air Approaches. The argument that the bonus points for choosing the "correct" Approach is not reflected elsewhere in the system, other than potentially in the Stance system. However, this actually misleads the player, as one only ever gets the benefit of a Stance during a Conflict scene, and not during the Narrative scenes or Downtime scenes, which is what these contests count as.

By making it a variable TN rather than a "bonus points", you teach the Variable TN Based On Approach from step 1 of the system, rather than a rules situation which does not occur elsewhere.

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Thanks @sndwurks, I'll give this a try if i run the Topaz Championship again.  I went through the tournament once with some new players who got a little too worried about getting points.  They almost always tried to dissect what each judge said so they could figure out the "correct" ring dice to roll.  I had been trying to get them to focus less on mechanics and more on roleplay and asked them to just state what they wanted to do and how they would do it and then I would suggest the dice to use.  Granting extra points for rolling the right dice, however, reinforced roll-play over roleplay and it got harder to get the players to look up from their character sheets.  I'll try your method next time as it still gets across the idea that some approaches might be better suited to a situation, but does less to encourage players to make the "correct" roll.

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1 hour ago, sndwurks said:

In your example of the Social action in the middle of a combat, one does not automatically inflict Strife on their opponent for just CHOOSING to take the Air approach, because their opponent REALLY HATES Air Approaches.

In my example the player is making a social action instead of an attack action. Depending on what approach/stance they have is what ring they will be using and the TN will be different for each ring according to the enemies' demeanor. The success + bonus successes can translate to strife.

1 hour ago, sndwurks said:

The argument that the bonus points for choosing the "correct" Approach is not reflected elsewhere in the system, other than potentially in the Stance system. However, this actually misleads the player, as one only ever gets the benefit of a Stance during a Conflict scene, and not during the Narrative scenes or Downtime scenes, which is what these contests count as.

Okay I have a better understanding of what you're saying. Yes the adventures don't spell this out for you but this can be up for GM interpretation. This can be explored in the sequel adventure a lot more than TTC. Take an NPC who is being interviewed by someone with a high fire ring value. Maybe this NPC does not like it when the player tries to talk in the tone of a Fire approach. This causes the NPC to gain strife and eventually become compromised, lose their composure and challenge the PC to a duel.

1 hour ago, sndwurks said:

By making it a variable TN rather than a "bonus points", you teach the Variable TN Based On Approach from step 1 of the system, rather than a rules situation which does not occur elsewhere.

The problem with this is that you increase the probability of not reaching 8 points to pass the gempuku which is okay since the story is written to allow the player to continue but it's not gonna sit well with them. And about half the NPCs will also fail their gempuku unless you change the story around. As written with your point system, Hitoshi will only have 5 points going into the archery scene with potentially getting 2 points max instead of 3 to pass. 

The other problem is that in every scenario after TTC the "yield for using the right approach" involves the players interacting with an NPC or some other obstacle. In the case of TTC the players will have chances of interacting with each other. You'll have to explain to the players who will immediately question why their 2 successes in Air can't overcome the other player who got 1 success in Earth. Before this was to gain approval from a judge but that's no longer the case here. 

Are you still giving judge hints or are you providing the players the new TN check with the modifier? If you're still giving judge hints then the players are still going to handle the situation the same way as written in the book. They're going to figure out the best approach based on the clues and roll with whatever approach they chose. The only difference now is that you've eliminated the chance of getting 2 points unless the player becomes the front-runner and now you've made it harder for some players to even get 1 point and succeed. 

If you're providing the information on the TN check with the modifier then you've essentially restricted their freedom on their desired approach. "Well I only need 1 success with Air. I have 0 skill dice and only 1 level in my Air ring. My Earth ring is 3 but I need to roll 3 successes on 3 black dice. I guess I'll take my chances at 1 success with 1 dice." It just ends up being a math game rather than a thematic narrative approach game, in my opinion.

Edited by ElSuave

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Just speculation, but I wonder if the system used in the adventure (awarding an extra point for using a judge-favored approach) is there to help ensure that the PCs are able to earn enough points towards their gempukku?

After all, it's quite likely that even against a TN of 2, not all of the PCs are going to be able to successfully complete each test; after all, the dice can be fickle things and it's quite possible that a test a PC should ace winds up being a failure simply because no success symbols came up on the dice.

By saying "hey, if you succeed using a particular approach, you get an extra point!" is just their way of again ensuring that all of the characters are able to become legal adults.  After all, makes it rather awkward for the follow-up module if one or two members of the group are still considered "children" during the course of that story, or for any other stories the GM might want to tell using those characters.

In the end, it's your game so do whatever you like with the mechanics.  But once again just speculating if perhaps there was a valid reason the tournament section was written the way it was.

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On the flip side, it is impossible for any of the NPCs to get 2 points without being the front runner, hence the challenge of getting the Mantis NPC to a passing score.

Both times I have run the Beginner's Set, and the one time I played through it, every PC ended the tournament at over 12 points. I think keeping the TN at 2, but reducing the TN to 1 if the PC chooses the correct Approach might be sufficient. This allows the PC to simply blitz all the events using their highest Ring (an effective strategy I have seen more than once), or allows the PC to pivot along their Rings of 2 and 3 to strengthen their chances at success., especially if their PC has ranks of the relevant Skill.

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13 minutes ago, sndwurks said:

On the flip side, it is impossible for any of the NPCs to get 2 points without being the front runner, hence the challenge of getting the Mantis NPC to a passing score.

Out of curiosity, why can't the NPCs get points for the "correct" Approach?

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3 minutes ago, Hida Jitenno said:

Out of curiosity, why can't the NPCs get points for the "correct" Approach?

Because they are not PCs, and the module does not go into how they earn points?

More accurately, this is an deduction based upon the plotline of the module. In order for the NPCs to receive the bonus point, they have to choose the correct Approach... but why then does the NPC you have to shepherd through the process not have the requisite points at the key deciding contest? In specific, my players broke it down, and went "Huh. The only way for this NPC to be denied his gempukku is if he only earned 1 point for each of the events he passed, and only if this event only gives him 2 points for being the best.

I have not sat down and calculated out ALL the NPCs in the module, but from what I recall, without the bonus point for being the front runner in the contests they were earning their extra points in? They each came out around 8 or 9 points.

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22 minutes ago, sndwurks said:

Because they are not PCs, and the module does not go into how they earn points?

More accurately, this is an deduction based upon the plotline of the module. In order for the NPCs to receive the bonus point, they have to choose the correct Approach... but why then does the NPC you have to shepherd through the process not have the requisite points at the key deciding contest? In specific, my players broke it down, and went "Huh. The only way for this NPC to be denied his gempukku is if he only earned 1 point for each of the events he passed, and only if this event only gives him 2 points for being the best.

I have not sat down and calculated out ALL the NPCs in the module, but from what I recall, without the bonus point for being the front runner in the contests they were earning their extra points in? They each came out around 8 or 9 points.

Ah, okay. I don't have the module myself, so I didn't realize that the NPCs didn't have an Approach associated with them for the trials.

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When I did the manual calculation I just made the assumption that any NPC who was named as a potential front-runner also picked the correct approach.

So every NPC that was named to fail received 0 points.
If the NPC was not specified at all in the paragraph then they pass with 1 point.
Every NPC that was named to be a front-runner received 2 points. If the PCs could not beat the front-runner then the NPC would receive 3 points instead.

When tallying up the points I got Bayushi Mei Lin, Kakita Riku and Moto Batbayar as the 3 strongest NPCs. Below is how my points spread ended up after everything was set and done. Granted I did all the manual calculations using my own assumptions above before the sessions started. This way all I had to do was tally up a point for the PCs and whenever an NPC came out on top.

1. Bayushi Mei Lin – 15 points
2. Moto Batbayar – 14 points
3. Kakita Riku – 14 points
4. Isawa Aki – 13 points
5. Bayushi Kyo – 11 points
6. Kitsu Tsubasa – 11 points
7. Akodo Masako – 10 points
8. Shiba Toya – 10 points
9. Doji Ren – 9 points
10. Mirumoto Hinata – 9 points
11. Hitoshi – 9 points
12. Yasuki Jun – 8 points

Edited by ElSuave

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In review of this post:

Everyone passes without the extra points, except for Hitoshi and potentially Yasuki Jun. I need to double check the results of the Hunting Competition, but other than that? Everyone else comes in at 10 points or higher, with Mei Lin and Riku both at 13.

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I remember that chart, needs a little proof-reading though. I'm pretty sure both Bayushi Mei Lin and Yasuki Jun are tied at front-runner for the Go competition.

As for hunting I think it was Moto Batbayar at the front-runner with Mirumoto Hinata and Shiba Toya as the failures. (I might be wrong on Shiba Toya).

Hitoshi passes if you count Hunting.

Yasuki Jun can fail with 7 points if you don't give him any extra points. With my own point system he barely passed with 8.

Edited by ElSuave

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15 hours ago, ElSuave said:

Yasuki Jun can fail with 7 points if you don't give him any extra points. With my own point system he barely passed with 8.

I feel that this is a good reason to go without the extra points. Having an NPC fail out of the Topaz Championship makes the PCs achieving graduation worth more, narratively. Considering the way the module practically hands the Topaz Championship to the PCs, having failure be possible makes the story more dynamic.

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58 minutes ago, sndwurks said:

I feel that this is a good reason to go without the extra points. Having an NPC fail out of the Topaz Championship makes the PCs achieving graduation worth more, narratively. Considering the way the module practically hands the Topaz Championship to the PCs, having failure be possible makes the story more dynamic.

Sure. Every playgroup is different. In my case the group really wanted everybody to pass, especially Tsubasa who they were personally worried about.

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1 hour ago, ElSuave said:

Sure. Every playgroup is different. In my case the group really wanted everybody to pass, especially Tsubasa who they were personally worried about.

And that is when you reward players for action with NPCs. If they really want everyone to pass? Have them spend an Opportunity to have Jun face them in a competition with the option of "losing" to him to get him that point he needs. Have them bag something cool in the Hunting Competition, and give it to him so he comes back with the extra point. Make it possible for him to fail out without their intervention, and it rewards their intervention, and now they have an ally who can help them out down the line.

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