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Brother Orpheo

Cooperative PCs

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tl;wr- Not everything needs to be balanced, and we need to RP more than we rely on rules to enable our PCs.

I've spent a lot of time reading posts about balance- balanced weapons, armour, starting gear, starting Skills and Talents, Characteristics, and other subjects- and it got me thinking about "the old days."

My first exposure to RPGs was AD&D. My Characters each were a set of 6 attributes, a few hit points, some starting equipment I purchased with a bit of gold, and a lot of RP ideas- personality, belief systems, loyalties, grudges, superstitions, and etc. In the days before Dragonlance introduced attribute checks, determining what your Character could accomplish was a RP opportunity, not an opportunity to rely on what the rules determined was possible for your PCs. Sure, Strength allowed you to lift gates and bend bars, and Dexterity allowed a Thief to move silently or climb walls, but as our gaming group evolved so too did our RP skills. The Fighter never attempted to climb a wall unless he was using rope and a grappling hook. The Magic User never tried to lift a fallen gate unless he could do it with Telekinesis. Fighters had access to all the armour and weapons, Thieves had access to a bit less, and Magic users much less than that. Anything any PC was denied access to was an opportunity to "act out" (role play) our participation.

There were (it seemed at the time) both good reasons and arbitrary reasons for the way certain Character types were allowed to interact with the mechanics of the game. But we rarely looked to the rules for guidance. We relied more on our RP skills, our personal social abilities, and our imaginations.

I think as RPGs progressed into the rules-bloated tomes they have become it became more and more about how the rules enable a PC rather than about actual RP, and I am now kind of saddened by this revelation.

I understand completely that every Player wants to have a PC that can accomplish things, that Players do not want to feel "left out" of the gaming experience in the groups. I have "old school" gamers in my group that have played Adepts because they are the "organizer" of the gaming group, knowing full well the Adept's combat ability and access to combat-related Skills and Talents was limited, knowing he was going to be the Magic User standing at the back of the group during a combat encounter because to do otherwise meant he was of little help, possibly more a liability than any help. Knowing they rely on others to be the "glory hounds" and shine in exciting combat, while they get to shine in not-so-exciting information gathering and forgery. Or is it not exciting? That is what the GM is for, making the game enjoyable for everyone. Perhaps we GMs have let our RP skills slip into disuse as well?

Players played cooperatively, each one's PC filling a need within the group, each player acutely aware of the responsibility of his/her PC, and reliant upon other Players to know the same and RP accordingly. I'm not saying it doesn't happen now, I'm just saying I think when it does happen that RP is rules-enabled rather than pure imaginative spark.

But I think again back to those "old days" of gaming- all of us around the table knew the Magic User's dagger was a "last ditch" weapon, that his unarmoured body was something we had to protect if we wanted to one day (eventually) see roaring balls of fire frying our opponents.

I know 40K RPGs are not the AD&D of yore. But I honestly believe in this quest for balance we have lost much more in RP value. Our RP skills have atrophied over the decades as rules allowed us to do what was once the sole purview of our imaginations.

Do starting PC really need to be balanced? I'm referring here to Nimsim's posts detailing the inequity of XP in starting Skills and Talents. Does an Adept really need to start with any Weapon Talents? Obviously the game needs to have balanced mechanics- guns and armour that scale correctly, Psychic Powers that make sense rather than being re-skinned clones of Power X detailed three pages prior- but I just don't think PCs need to be balanced from the beginning. I also think some Skills and Talents should simply be unattainable by certain PCs, whether that is because of their history or role, or any other reason, because it is these limits that make a PC just as interesting as its accesses. Crap; are all PCs meant to be special, win or lose, and all of them deserve a trophy just for showing up? No.

From the ground up, one at a time, all CharGen needs a complete redo, and each PC type needs to be built with consideration toward what he/she is meant to be doing and not always with consideration to what he/she can do just like other PCs with extra XP tacked on.

Edited by Brother Orpheo

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Players played cooperatively, each one's PC filling a need within the group, each player acutely aware of the responsibility of his/her PC, and reliant upon other Players to know the same and RP accordingly. I'm not saying it doesn't happen now, I'm just saying I think when it does happen that RP is rules-enabled rather than pure imaginative spark. 

This is making a huge assumption about other people's games. One that, if most of the groups I've played in are anything to go by, isn't true at all.

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Fine, then. I will try not to make any references to my own experiences that may then be misinterpreted as broad assumptions about all the RPers the wide world over.

 

Instead I will say this: I think everything need not be balanced, and that PC types would do just as well by having limited-to-no access to some certain Skills, Talents, gear, and etc, because these limits are an integral part of what makes RP a thing in the first place. I think limits enable imagination, while having more and more rules that enable a PC's ability to perform, even when those rules come at a greater personal cost to the PC (such as through XP) are a detriment to RP.

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I think your definition of balance is... odd. I haven't seen anyone implying that PCs should be equally competent in the same tasks. Rather, most people's stance (as far as I can tell, anyway) is that all the character options should be balanced in the sense that they provide similar levels of access to skills and talents, but separate ones. I mean it's a bit bull if, say, one character starts with five skills trained and the other with three, unless there's some other balancing factor to make up the difference.

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"I mean it's a bit bull if, say, one character...unless there's some other balancing factor to make up the difference."

 

Hence my reference to a thread started by Nimsim.

 

And, to clarify, I am not advocating for starting PC balance. That may be why you view my "definition of balance" as...odd.

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I agree with the core arguments of both the opening post as well as Tom Cruise - assuming that their opinions are actually more alike than they may think (at least that's what I'm reading out of the follow-up messages). Is it possible this is just a misunderstanding?

 

To me, the only concern on this topic is that every player of the group should feel valuable to the team and be a paragon of their chosen specialisation. There's general stuff where they should be okay with or at least not terrible, given the context of setting and character background (like, shooting a gun), and then there is their personal area of expertise where they should really shine. Each of these categories should indeed be balanced between the different classes, though there is of course room to make them unique - for example, a hive ganger should be as much of a dangerous fighter as a Guardsman, but both characters have a different style of fighting, and this should be reflected in the rules, giving them an edge under specific circumstances.

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I know 40K RPGs are not the AD&D of yore. But I honestly believe in this quest for balance we have lost much more in RP value. Our RP skills have atrophied over the decades as rules allowed us to do what was once the sole purview of our imaginations.

I disagree with pretty much everything you've said in this thread, but I wanted to pick this bit out in particular to ask about.

 

How have games in which player characters are able to contribute equally to the group effort atrophied player 'roleplaying skills'? What rules or mechanics, specifically, turn the players' focus away from whatever your definition of roleplaying is?

 

If you cannot answer this question clearly, it would seem to me your opinion motivated by age and nostalgia. How old were you when you played AD&D?

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I think roleplaying is entirely up to the group. All it usually takes is a player, or more often the gm, saying "screw it, this is cooler than the rules, describe it". No rule ever takes precedence over what your group wants to do. That said, I also don't care so much about balance, per-say. So long as it adheres to the lore, I'm fine with power discrepancies. I think, worse than balance is balance at the cost of lore.

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I think roleplaying is entirely up to the group. All it usually takes is a player, or more often the gm, saying "screw it, this is cooler than the rules, describe it". No rule ever takes precedence over what your group wants to do. That said, I also don't care so much about balance, per-say. So long as it adheres to the lore, I'm fine with power discrepancies. I think, worse than balance is balance at the cost of lore.

Is the fun you get from playing a roleplaying game based on how close to the reality of the setting's fiction the game feels? If so, that sounds great.

 

When I play a game, a lot of things make fun fun. One of the most important things, however, is that nobody at the table feels they're not contributing. That's why balance is so important - it makes it so everyone is able to contribute.

 

And it's not "per-say". It's "per se". It's Latin.

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I'll weigh in on this too, in part since I was specifically mentioned. I brought up different starting XP values because of the assumption that every skill and talent is equally useful as a hypothetical, with differential talent usefulness covered by increased cost or tiers or what had you. Under that assumption, when players start the game by getting skills or talents at a greater discount than someone else, the XP savings allow them to make a more versatile character more cheaply. If the player only makes a specialized character, this problem doesn't occur, but any time players buy skills outside of their character's aptitudes, the player who got them for free at character creation is at an advantage. It's not a huge advantage, but it's there, and it serves to obfuscate the rules from players. For some people, the advantage isn't that big a deal. For me, I'd prefer that players just get an allocation of XP to start with and buy skills and talents, with the creation options all just giving unique abilities and aptitudes. Hell, even limiting the xp given to only be spent on things that have 1+ aptitude with the character would speed things up further.

As far as balance goes in terms of having different roles, no one has argued against this. However, each of the roles should have their own strengths and specialty. All of the SP pistols should be roughly equivalent in terms of having a niche role. Same for the basic SP weapons and then the heavy ones. I shouldn't be choosing between weapons in which one of them is the clear choice 9 times out of 10. That is not proper role differentiation. Just because a hand cannon is good in the rare case that you are facing a heavily armored enemy at a level when you can't get anything better does not suddenly put it on par with the auto pistol. The hand cannon is useless 9 times out of 10 and the auto pistol is only useless 1 time. That is not balance.

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Another issue is that if one uses the point buy system for generating characteristics (or skills in certain other systems) it makes more sense to put points into areas that your character is not naturally affiliated with, because the cost in XP to increase these stats later will be vastly higher. On that note I actually think the idea of giving everyone 'flat'  stats to build from using a higher amount of XP could actually work really well, but might have a knock on effect of reducing the variation between characters of a certain type, which would be sad (something I refer to as D&D syndrome)

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The balance in a game group can be completely off, as long as everyone has meaningful characters and gets to have fun.

 

However, the rules govern both the GM and players, so if some rule is not working for a given game group the GM has to step in and do some work to fix it - which is a hassle (especially if you have many house rules) and can spawn heated discussions if some players resists.

 

So in the end we need to discuss the rules here, so the product will work as smoothly as possible for as many game groups as possible.

Edited by Alox

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