RichKarp
Posts: 111
Joined: Tue 29 Jun 2021, 19:37

Re: Balance of Distinctive Features and Useful Items

Mon 19 Jul 2021, 22:17

You know, YMMV and all that...

But why say on one hand that beginning characters are too weak, and on the other that useful items should be weakened?!?

Seems to me that Useful Items are a great way to customize your character AND reinforce some weaker skills; both being things you've been saying are errors/weaknesses of the new edition of the game.
Mythicos, I didn’t see the two statements as contradictory. They’re two distinct issues, not one problem that resolves itself, though I can see how you’d say that.

The game can both be prohibitively challenging (ie I won’t even bother using that skill) and obnoxiously dice-farmy. If the solution to high TNs is to have a Useful Item always at the ready, or Hope, or whatever mechanic it is, that’s going to get very repetitive and boring quickly. Hence my “dice scrounging” comment and my derisiveness towards the pipe that appears in every scene.

(btw, one of my favorite games IS a narrative, rather than utilitarian dice pool mechanic by which you increase your options through cinematic, rather than utility or your tool in question, be it a firearm or a pair of spectacles. But TOR never struck me as a “throw dice in the pool by any means necessary” kind of game, so the ubiquitous appearance of that famous walking stick or pipe seems only “Useful” in a meta-game sense).

In short I agree it’s a remedy, but one where the long term implications of it might make the cure as bad as the problem itself. Just from a thematic sense, why would you want merely useful items eclipsing magic rings and Elven swords and Dwarven hauberks?

I do realize I’m being picky here, but this is Middle-earth. If what gyrovague said becomes the norm and my trusty rope is as valuable as magic or featured in every single scene, maybe it’s a little too useful, you know?

I mean I know Sam loves his Elvish rope but it’d be very weird if he brought it up in every single scene thereafter. There’s a danger in creating player habits that lean their characters toward one-note characterizations out of a desire to pass their Skill checks, ie that lantern is always in his hand or he literally plays that harp anytime he has to greet a stranger on the road.
 
Mythicos
Posts: 100
Joined: Tue 16 Jun 2020, 03:46

Re: Balance of Distinctive Features and Useful Items

Mon 19 Jul 2021, 23:13



Mythicos, I didn’t see the two statements as contradictory. They’re two distinct issues, not one problem that resolves itself, though I can see how you’d say that.

The game can both be prohibitively challenging (ie I won’t even bother using that skill) and obnoxiously dice-farmy. If the solution to high TNs is to have a Useful Item always at the ready, or Hope, or whatever mechanic it is, that’s going to get very repetitive and boring quickly. Hence my “dice scrounging” comment and my derisiveness towards the pipe that appears in every scene.

(btw, one of my favorite games IS a narrative, rather than utilitarian dice pool mechanic by which you increase your options through cinematic, rather than utility or your tool in question, be it a firearm or a pair of spectacles. But TOR never struck me as a “throw dice in the pool by any means necessary” kind of game, so the ubiquitous appearance of that famous walking stick or pipe seems only “Useful” in a meta-game sense).

In short I agree it’s a remedy, but one where the long term implications of it might make the cure as bad as the problem itself. Just from a thematic sense, why would you want merely useful items eclipsing magic rings and Elven swords and Dwarven hauberks?

I do realize I’m being picky here, but this is Middle-earth. If what gyrovague said becomes the norm and my trusty rope is as valuable as magic or featured in every single scene, maybe it’s a little too useful, you know?

I mean I know Sam loves his Elvish rope but it’d be very weird if he brought it up in every single scene thereafter. There’s a danger in creating player habits that lean their characters toward one-note characterizations out of a desire to pass their Skill checks, ie that lantern is always in his hand or he literally plays that harp anytime he has to greet a stranger on the road.

To your and Asgo's point, I agree that the two statements are not necessarily contradictory.

BUT...

I also think that (* ) both are part of a global mechanical structure, and I am very weary of evaluating a mechanical bit without judging how it interacts with everything else.

***

(*) I know I've beaten this drum to death, so please forgive me if someone gets annoyed.

***

Taken in a vacuum, Useful Items can be considered to be too efficient.
Taken in a vacuum, beginning characters might have a difficult time succeeding in a lot of skill checks.
etc.

And having the advantage of writing this after Francesco's livestream, there's a point that I at least keep forgetting: characters should not make so many roll that each and every action they take results in a Test, and each hero should make checks mostly when it's one of their strengths.

i.e. A PC with Persuade 1 and Wits 2 will most likely fail any Persuade check, but this is by design: let the hero with Persuade 4 + Wits 5 make the roll. That doesn't mean that that PC should never try to argue with an NPC. But the player should not expect extraordinary results.

The "play to your strengths" part of the game mechanics is tied to the fact that some mechanics (e.g. Awareness or Scan for Lookouts in the Journey event resolution) allow 2 or 3 different skills to be used. Since there are rolls that can't skip (those related directly to the three pillars), the system has to allow some options for each PC. All PCs should have at least one of the 2 skills related to his Journey role be a good or even great one. Same with Council: many skills can be used in both the Introduction and Interaction stages.

All in all, beginning characters should be able to pull their weight in all three pillars. For all other obstacles, at least one PC should be able to have a (more than) decent chance of succeeding.

After all...

Legolas and Aragorn were the main Heroes for outdoor obstacles.
Gandalf and Gimli were when they were in Moria.
Boromir And Aragorn helped the Hobbits survive Caradhras.

Each Scene has one or two Heroes that get the chance to shine and contribute to the Fellowship's success.

If everyone can succeed in most everything, where's the fun in that?
Last edited by Mythicos on Tue 20 Jul 2021, 01:12, edited 1 time in total.
 
RichKarp
Posts: 111
Joined: Tue 29 Jun 2021, 19:37

Re: Balance of Distinctive Features and Useful Items

Tue 20 Jul 2021, 00:02

I think these are totally fair points. My only counterpoint is that things can get bad if the only way to reliably guarantee success is by leaning on the same tropes time after time. Though that may be a problem beyond the scope of the current discussion, I do think players rapidly catch on to winning strategies and will mine Traits and items to the fullest, possibly even to the point of overuse.

But yeah, this is an inherent tension of the high TN system we’ve been handed and I am not sure there’s an easy way to strike the balance between too easy and too challenging given the other complications involved.
 
User avatar
aramis
Posts: 558
Joined: Fri 14 Jun 2019, 20:34
Location: Oregon, USA
Contact:

Re: Balance of Distinctive Features and Useful Items

Tue 20 Jul 2021, 02:33

On my first impression I find Distinctive Features too weak now, Useful Items to strong. Especially if you take into consideration, that rich cultures have many useful items, while poor cultures don't have even one.
I find useful items about right... my players useful items include a loadstone on a string (a primitive compass), a lap harp, a map, a book of Folklore, a portable crafting toolset...
That they don't stack is what makes them not overpowered. Were it not for the maps, the party would not have passed most of their March tests.
I do agree that DF's are WAY too weak, but only because they were so powerful in 1E. In the current, no limit to 6 dice, help costs hope, they're merely too weak, not way too weak.
I think they should make inspiration a bonus die without hope.

That even larger useful things don't count towards load, such as the aforementioned lap harp, is a minor issue.
—————————————————————————
Smith & Wesson: the original point and click interface...
 
gyrovague
Posts: 321
Joined: Tue 28 Apr 2020, 16:52

Re: Balance of Distinctive Features and Useful Items

Tue 20 Jul 2021, 07:34

I think they should make inspiration a bonus die without hope.
My gut feel is that this would be too much, given the current rules, but I do think that either Hope needs to be more powerful (indirectly buffing Inspired) or Inspired itself needs to offer something outside of Hope expenditure. As it stands, any Virtue that only grants Inspired is a bad investment.

My concern is that if Inspired gave a bonus die even without Hope it creates an incentive to find any pretext to invoke Distinctive Features, which could quickly become annoying. (Just because some tables would resist that temptation doesn't make it a good mechanic.). Although I have misgivings about the current rules, at least the temptation to invoke Distinctive Features is gated by the Hope economy.

Traits may have been problematic in 1e, but it did result in complex, competing incentives for how to use Traits. That is, you could try to get an auto-success, but that means you wouldn't get an AP. And as you filled in the AP pips, the calculus for whether to go for the autosuccess or try to get another (increasingly difficult) AP changed. It was kind of brilliant, and I'm partly sorry to see it go.
 
User avatar
aramis
Posts: 558
Joined: Fri 14 Jun 2019, 20:34
Location: Oregon, USA
Contact:

Re: Balance of Distinctive Features and Useful Items

Thu 22 Jul 2021, 06:51

Traits may have been problematic in 1e, but it did result in complex, competing incentives for how to use Traits. That is, you could try to get an auto-success, but that means you wouldn't get an AP. And as you filled in the AP pips, the calculus for whether to go for the autosuccess or try to get another (increasingly difficult) AP changed. It was kind of brilliant, and I'm partly sorry to see it go.
I agree that it was an interesting set of meaningful choices. But, at the same time, I often saw players getting less than 2 skill points per session, and I run longish sessions (4-6 hours.
I think they should make inspiration a bonus die without hope.
My gut feel is that this would be too much, given the current rules, but I do think that either Hope needs to be more powerful (indirectly buffing Inspired) or Inspired itself needs to offer something outside of Hope expenditure. As it stands, any Virtue that only grants Inspired is a bad investment.

My concern is that if Inspired gave a bonus die even without Hope it creates an incentive to find any pretext to invoke Distinctive Features, which could quickly become annoying. (Just because some tables would resist that temptation doesn't make it a good mechanic.). Although I have misgivings about the current rules, at least the temptation to invoke Distinctive Features is gated by the Hope economy.
The hope economy is not nearly as tight as it was in 1E. Play has shown me that this is a very different game from 1E, despite the commonalities.
Last edited by aramis on Fri 23 Jul 2021, 02:23, edited 1 time in total.
—————————————————————————
Smith & Wesson: the original point and click interface...
 
User avatar
Aiden Harrison
Posts: 35
Joined: Sun 18 Apr 2021, 09:49

Re: Balance of Distinctive Features and Useful Items

Thu 22 Jul 2021, 13:14

Seems to me if you don't want to have the temptation for players to abuse the useful items mechanics you really have to have some kind of narrow focus for the items or some kind of time, place or other restriction.

Seems like Useful Items will be the new 'problematic' aspect of the game, replacing the Traits system as the part open to advantage fishing that players are often tempted with.

The list of examples in the pdf are mostly leaning towards having some kind of restriction to them.

The rope as a bonus to a subset of athletics checks is a good example of this.

As is the Sunstone for travel - only works in bad weather.

The suit of expensive clothing as a bonus to Awe or Courtesy makes sense in that it has a time and a place requirement - you can't claim the bonus if you are in your travelling clothes. The earrings of pearl are a little more likely to worn all the time (and could be an auto bonus).

On the other hand;

Not claiming the bonus to song from a exotic musical instrument is a little harder to justify.

As would something like a favourite walking stick to aid travel rolls (as was mentioned earlier in this thread), it would have too broad an application.


Perhaps a New Thread as an idea depository for Useful Items might be a good idea.
 
Mythicos
Posts: 100
Joined: Tue 16 Jun 2020, 03:46

Re: Balance of Distinctive Features and Useful Items

Thu 22 Jul 2021, 14:42

Seems to me if you don't want to have the temptation for players to abuse the useful items mechanics you really have to have some kind of narrow focus for the items or some kind of time, place or other restriction.

Seems like Useful Items will be the new 'problematic' aspect of the game, replacing the Traits system as the part open to advantage fishing that players are often tempted with.

The list of examples in the pdf are mostly leaning towards having some kind of restriction to them.

The rope as a bonus to a subset of athletics checks is a good example of this.

As is the Sunstone for travel - only works in bad weather.

The suit of expensive clothing as a bonus to Awe or Courtesy makes sense in that it has a time and a place requirement - you can't claim the bonus if you are in your travelling clothes. The earrings of pearl are a little more likely to worn all the time (and could be an auto bonus).

On the other hand;

Not claiming the bonus to song from a exotic musical instrument is a little harder to justify.

As would something like a favourite walking stick to aid travel rolls (as was mentioned earlier in this thread), it would have too broad an application.


Perhaps a New Thread as an idea depository for Useful Items might be a good idea.

I think the system takes into account the fact that certain skills (from 2 to 4, based on Standard of Living) will get a +1d.

This is different from how Traits could be abused in 1st ed, because those Traits weren't tied to specific skills. So a single Trait, if abused by player/allowed by LM, could apply to multiple skills, Tests and situations.

Not so with Useful Items.

Coming back to this, but one cannot protest too-hard TNs on one hand, and think that Useful Items are "too" useful.

Player-Heroes are supposed to each have certain areas of expertise (and Francesco was quite clear about this in the livestream) where they will be able to succeed most of the time. Useful Items are part of that expertise.
 
RichKarp
Posts: 111
Joined: Tue 29 Jun 2021, 19:37

Re: Balance of Distinctive Features and Useful Items

Thu 22 Jul 2021, 23:00

My objection here isn’t just the difficulty though: it’s the process. Traits and Hope and even obtaining bonus circumstantial success dice used to all feel unique and special.

Now tasks are deliberately made more difficult apparently for characters to have a challenge over their long arc of progression, and every task that does merit a roll requires players to go nuts mining their character sheets for Useful Items, Hope dice, etc to ensure they have enough dice to comfortably succeed.

I can’t really completely explain why I don’t like this, I just don’t. I know your whole thing is to not isolate the mechanics from each other and criticize them individually, but I’m also just not really digging this new dice pool focused approach. Obviously the old game used a dice pool too, so I’m having a hard time articulating what part of this I find objectionable, I just think it’s a bit ordinary and uninspired.

The simplicity of just having the pips, knowing the relative skills of characters (specifically to each other), being able to set a variable difficulty without the players explicitly knowing that or not and feeling either discouraged or softballed - I miss it. I think I’m just not a fan of them knowing their own difficulty threshold and then gaming the shit out of all their Hope and possessions to ensure victory.

I could just be a curmudgeon about this in particular. I guess I just don’t find it especially compelling from either a mechanical or thematic perspective.
 
Mythicos
Posts: 100
Joined: Tue 16 Jun 2020, 03:46

Re: Balance of Distinctive Features and Useful Items

Fri 23 Jul 2021, 01:52


I can’t really completely explain why I don’t like this, I just don’t. I know your whole thing is to not isolate the mechanics from each other and criticize them individually, but I’m also just not really digging this new dice pool focused approach. Obviously the old game used a dice pool too, so I’m having a hard time articulating what part of this I find objectionable, I just think it’s a bit ordinary and uninspired.

There's an expression in French (*) : "Tous les goûts sont dans la Nature"; roughly means "Everyone has different tastes". I guess people say YMMV these days (**).

I might argue with someone about a game or its mechanics, but I'll never try to convince them that "YOU MUST LIKE THIS!!!".

So I hope that either the final set of rules or house-rules you choose to adopt will be more to your liking, RichKarp.

---

(*) French, in a Tolkien game Forum, is probably anathema. Oh well...

(**) OMG I 8 abbreviations!

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: TheCaptin and 8 guests