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How to simulate a Master Tactican

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Luck, based on a Tactics roll.  Then use the points to influence combat rolls.  That's one way to do it.

 

Detect: Vulnerabilities and Susceptibilities.  A little GM adjudication is necessary here.  Captain America probably can't deduce that Superman is vulnerable to Kryptonite, but he probably can figure out that the Sub-Mariner is vulnerable to dehydration.  His hunches on these things usually turn out to be right.

 

Higher Speed can represent faster decision making.  High Perception rolls can represent being tough to sneak up on (i.e., knowing when you're vulnerable to ambush and being on your guard because of it).

 

Mind Link, requires a Tactics roll.  Represents the fact that sometimes teams split up, and you have a really good idea after you've already gone over the plan and one guy is off on his own doing things.  Mind Link would let you shout advice to your buddy after you had already split up.  And it also lets him say stuff back, letting you know that he just got ambushed.  And that's when you're like "this room is empty... I bet Bob is getting ambushed right now!"  And you get to shout out orders in the middle of combat, and people can still hear you, despite explosions and stuff.  But that last part is sort of a genre convention too.

 

 Change Environment with penalties to OCV, DCV, Dex rolls, etc.  The effect is that you've maneuvered your guys into advantageous positions, and maneuvered their guys into places where they can't move around as effectively.

 

Missile Deflection and Reflection, only when you're kinda sorta between two characters, based on one guy shooting at you, and you've positioned yourself between him and his buddy.  Or him and the explosive computer panel, or whatever.

 

And then just all around good combat abilities.  High OCV and DCV, high Dex, levels with range penalties.  Those sorts of things will help you win fights, which is what it's all about.

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Yeah, well, one area where RPGs in general sort of intrinsically fail is in the whole genius-level INT thing where the character is somehow expected to think and act with a level of intelligence the controlling player does not himself possess. It just doesn't work, and I've never seen a set of mechanics that "simulate" it to any degree of satisfaction when play has reached some critical point in the game (like solving an important, cryptic riddle, or entering combat with the villains). That high INT just becomes a cruch, a way to shortcut having to solve puzzles or make smart decisions on one's own.

 

It's not unlike players who try to play characters with high-level social skills (Negotiation, Persuasion, Seduction, etc.), and expect dice rolls to substitute for roleplaying all the social interactions. It can work mechanically, I guess, but that ain't roleplaying. I understand the idea that RPGs let us play people who aren't us, but I have always believed that all in-game social interactions should come from the player, not the character sheet. I would extend that philosophy to combat decision making as well.

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There's a character in The Algernon Files named Perseus who is described as a 'living tactical computer". His power set included Find Weakness, a "Combat Tricks" VVP, a "Combat Reactions" Damages Shield HA with variable advantage and SPFX, Luck and Combat Luck, Combat sense, and Danger Sense, about 16 levels, and a fairly long list of skills.

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You could give him various aid powers based on Persuasion or some similar skill that enhances attributes like OCV, DCV, Ego, Con, and Presence to cause them to fight better and make them more able to stand up to physical and psychological pressure.

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Yeah, well, one area where RPGs in general sort of intrinsically fail is in the whole genius-level INT thing where the character is somehow expected to think and act with a level of intelligence the controlling player does not himself possess. It just doesn't work, and I've never seen a set of mechanics that "simulate" it to any degree of satisfaction when play has reached some critical point in the game (like solving an important, cryptic riddle, or entering combat with the villains). That high INT just becomes a cruch, a way to shortcut having to solve puzzles or make smart decisions on one's own.

 

It's not unlike players who try to play characters with high-level social skills (Negotiation, Persuasion, Seduction, etc.), and expect dice rolls to substitute for roleplaying all the social interactions. It can work mechanically, I guess, but that ain't roleplaying. I understand the idea that RPGs let us play people who aren't us, but I have always believed that all in-game social interactions should come from the player, not the character sheet. I would extend that philosophy to combat decision making as well.

Can't agree with this viewpoint for a tabletop game. The rule system exists to simulate the imponderables. The root of RPGs is wargames, and the biggest set of imponderables in most games is the combat: you don't have the room to run about and swing swords, nor the ability to go to work the next day with missing limbs and organs from not having the healing powers to cope with wounds received, and consider the problems faced by the unfortunate GM! Not to mention the set of people who actually have the skill, attitude and physique to engage in combat has small intersection within the set of people who enjoy sitting round a table rolling dice.

 

The rules let us do things in the game that we can't, for whatever reason, do IRL. If only the slick-tongued charmers get to play successful "face" characters, then only the stone-killer marksmen with cyberspurs and cyberpsychosis should get to play the Street Samurai. Sure, good roleplay (in any circumstances) should be considered by the GM to see if that approach would help but that's a case of dice roll/TN modifiers for good ideas and good roleplay.

 

There have been a lot of good ideas for how to represent a Master Tactician's skill set. Abstractions like CSLs for OCV and DCV are great to cover things that none of the parties sat around the table playing a non-zero-sum cooperative storytelling game can provide specific input on. Skills that allow others (whether the CQB instructor currently playing a pointless Noble or cowering wimp, or the GM who knows what the Bad Guys are actually up to and can therefore offer clues as to how to counter their plans) to pitch in with advice for the tactical Naif who wants to play an Ender Wiggin clone are useful for elements that can actually be represented above the abstraction layer. I'd say you need both approaches to cover all bases. Actual precog/TP "subconscious" powers to know what the opposition are fixing to do next are a crunchier way of building the "Tactical Genius" skill.

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The rules let us do things in the game that we can't, for whatever reason, do IRL. If only the slick-tongued charmers get to play successful "face" characters, then only the stone-killer marksmen with cyberspurs and cyberpsychosis should get to play the Street Samurai...

 

There have been a lot of good ideas for how to represent a Master Tactician's skill set.

Obviously we see things very differently.

 

The combat mechanics serve to handle things we can't (or shouldn't) physically do at the table, like fire guns, swing swords, and throw cars at each other. However, there is nothing preventing us as players from making over-the-board game decisions. We don't need game mechanics for that. In fact, that is our job as players. Relinquishing that aspect to the dice is not what the game mechanics are for. Sure, the ability to substitute a dice roll for making a decision or interacting with another character is possible, but that doesn't mean it is the design intent or the nature of an RPG to do so. It is, at best, a crutch and a shortcut to roleplaying. And most of the time when that crutch is used, the results are less than satisfying.

 

So far I haven't see any good ideas for representing a master tactician because you can't really simulate good decision making. Decision making happens at the player level, not the character level. Thus character-based abilities are the wrong tool.

 

I was watching an episode of an anime series called Ajin the other night, and I witnessed the worst tactical decision making I've seen in a long time on a tv show (this is very common in anime series, I've noticed). However, in this case the reason behind the atrocious tactical choices (made by the show's characters) was the need for the plot to go in a specific, contrived direction, with a specific, contrived ending. But it only reinforced for me the fact that none of the skills, abilities, or game mechanics in the Hero System would have helped a "master tactician" character solve the tactical dilemmas posed by the scenario in that episode; only smart decision making on the part of the player(s) would have.

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Obviously we see things very differently.

 

The combat mechanics serve to handle things we can't (or shouldn't) physically do at the table, like fire guns, swing swords, and throw cars at each other. However, there is nothing preventing us as players from making over-the-board game decisions. We don't need game mechanics for that. In fact, that is our job as players. Relinquishing that aspect to the dice is not what the game mechanics are for. Sure, the ability to substitute a dice roll for making a decision or interacting with another character is possible, but that doesn't mean it is the design intent or the nature of an RPG to do so. It is, at best, a crutch and a shortcut to roleplaying. And most of the time when that crutch is used, the results are less than satisfying.

Concrete example of how not allowing the rules to mediate a "personal interaction" led to a less than satisfying result:

 

The player of the "negotiator" character is somewhat reserved, and not particularly loquacious. The player isn't particularly familiar with the Shadowrun setting, and has zero real life experience of negotiating with a sprawlgang boss. So she stammers a bit and takes an approach that the GM decided wasn't going to get a particularly favourable result. Her attempts to describe how she wants to frame the argument are met with requirements to "Just say what you say". No dice are rolled. Bad consequences for the party occur. All the character points spent on Street Etiquette, Negotation and Knowledge skills relevant to the Barrens count for nought because no dice are rolled. The GM expected her to know all the ins and outs of his own take on the Remond Barrens ganglife, and to be able to translate that knowledge into a mode of interaction that would get a positive result. The fact was that she did her best, (though personally I wouldn't in this case have given her any bonuses), and her character's best was far, far better than anything she could have achieved in the situation left a nasty taste.

 

If there is no intent to allow a player to play something they don't personally have the chops to pull off, why are there skills in things? I take those as evidence that characters are better at some things than their players are and should be able to, by using the mechanics which present those skills, achieve better results in the game. It works the other way: there are things that some GMs aren't as good at as their characters are. And things their characters aren't as good at doing as the GM is, sometimes. Even if the GM is a perfect actor, deciding, for example, whether the less-than-poker-faced opposition cracks a frown/smirk is a job for the rule system, or you might as well just free kriegspiel the whole thing.

 

In my example there are several imponderables that, if I'd been reffing, I'd've given the player group chance to roll on:

knowledge of the gang leader they were talking to

Opposed Etiquette and Negotiation rolls to change his initial negotiating position and modify/moderate costs

Opposed Social perception rolls of some kind to notice that the negotiations didn't go well.

Etiquette rolls again to determine what probable courses of action such individuals (or even the specific one in question, if the Knowledge: Sprawl Gangs roll was a very good one) might take.

 

A charismatic GM "succeeding in a PRE attack" against the slightly shy player of a supposed "operator" (and then using the situation to shaft the player group) is not good game. While there are, obviously, problems with that GM's style (the list is larger than I've covered and we didn't play with him for long), using the rules provided would have mitigated them dramatically. Without rules to let characters do the things they can't do, the player, if they wish to be effective in the challenging situations presented, is constrained to playing roles for which they are already competent. Since at least part of the role of RPGs is escapism, and wish-fulfillment, it seems counter-intuitive to me to not let a character be good at the things that the character is good at, even if the player isn't. If the player doesn't try or the GM doesn't encourage them to try and allow them to fail, but for their character to rescue them, then  it seems to me that the result would be unsatisfying. It would, I agree, be unsatisfying for a GM to begin a combat with "Roll your Tactics skill. Oh, you succeed. Right, the best way to fight this lot is [full explanation of optimum approach]".

 

 

So far I haven't see any good ideas for representing a master tactician because you can't really simulate good decision making. Decision making happens at the player level, not the character level. Thus character-based abilities are the wrong tool.

[My bold]

It doesn't have to. That's the point of the "simulation" bit. It can occur at the "table" level: let the "Tactics Power" allow the player of GodOfTactics to run ideas by the other players; I've seen that work pretty well at tables I've played at, with some pretty tactically astute players who aren't necessarily playing characters with the experience or ability to quickly assess a combat situation helping the "Leader" type come up with a plan that makes sense, with the GM helping by providing more info to the BattleComputer character based on perception rolls and the like, information that the tactics players can use. Of course, then you've got the problem of getting the players to stick to the plan.

 

It can occur at the dice level. Enough DCV and OCV can mean that the characters bashing on the pointless targets survive long enough to finish the distractions/finish them quickly enough that the bad guy doesn't have time to set up the thing the distractions were supposed to be giving him time to set up.

 

The problem with requiring what we in the LARP game call "hard skills" for some (or even all, as is the case in most LARPs) situations is that you tend to see the same players playing in the same niche in every game. The guys who can operate effectively in the political field end up being "in charge" (or as in charge as the setting lets them be), the tactical-minded end up being generals, the martially-inclined end up being in the shield wall or guarding its flanks. Some LARP systems do offer "soft skills" (i.e mediated by the game system: dodge calls, or large quantities of hit points or armour etc) in the combat/tactical field; in those, the "Fighter" classes can take enough skills that a fellow who couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag can turn in a good day at the coal face of combat, but they'll still be meat for someone else with near-equal soft skills and better hard skills. It's really hard to have non-intrusive mechanics for persuasiveness or "knowing who's who in the Senate, and what they want", though, so the phenomenon of the same people filling the roles repeatedly occurs more with that sort of interaction. Now it might not be a problem that worries you, but it's certainly something I've observed.

 

Playing someone who isn't very good at something you can do well is much less difficult than the reverse though, which leads to another phenomenon when there's a hard skill requirement of the player to play the character: the flight to non-combatant. Characters in front line combat roles die more often than those in support roles or who don't "take the field". Players don't like to take the same role over and over again, and so at some point, the player of the combatant character, when "re-rolling" after a death, decides to go "merchant" or "politician". And doesn't die. In fact none of the REMFs die, and so the proportion of "fighty types" decreases, because the ones who don't can't operate in a fight will never become combatants. At fest-scale LARPs, the ones who enjoy a fight can even go off and "monster" to get their combat fix, which means the fighty types who are left face an increasing pool of opponents, making their job even more difficult and accelerating the trend. It's not such a biggie with a five seat tabletop game; if everyone's opted for Courtier or Social Rogue archetypes when their hitit has died, the GM can just change the focus. But then you end up with inertia driving the campaign a certain way.

 

 

I was watching an episode of an anime series called Ajin the other night, and I witnessed the worst tactical decision making I've seen in a long time on a tv show (this is very common in anime series, I've noticed). However, in this case the reason behind the atrocious tactical choices (made by the show's characters) was the need for the plot to go in a specific, contrived direction, with a specific, contrived ending. But it only reinforced for me the fact that none of the skills, abilities, or game mechanics in the Hero System would have helped a "master tactician" character solve the tactical dilemmas posed by the scenario in that episode; only smart decision making on the part of the player(s) would have.

I feel your pain :) I spend most of my time actively suspending disbelief (the mental equivalent of putting my fingers in my ears and going "La la la.") when things get "tactical" in most any TV or movie that has action scenes. Drama trumps credibility pretty much every time.

 

What is wrong with having a few tools for the GM to help the player(s) to make smart decisions that their character(s) maybe should've? Particularly in a situation where the player probably doesn't have as good a picture, in some respects, of the actual status of everything as the character does?

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For me this is like Deduction or Detective. Successful rolls get the player clues or basic information that would be obvious. But no roll no matter how successful will solve the mystery/puzzle.

 

I had a player make a Sherlock Holmes clone and wanted to just roll to solve everything. No. Not going to happen.

 

There are just some character concepts I cannot play. Just like detective work, tactics is something you need a little knowledge about in irder to play it. D&D 4th reduced non-combat to make-a-roll-and-be-spoon-fed and that was horrible.

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For me this is like Deduction or Detective. Successful rolls get the player clues or basic information that would be obvious. But no roll no matter how successful will solve the mystery/puzzle.

 

I had a player make a Sherlock Holmes clone and wanted to just roll to solve everything. No. Not going to happen.

 

There are just some character concepts I cannot play. Just like detective work, tactics is something you need a little knowledge about in irder to play it. D&D 4th reduced non-combat to make-a-roll-and-be-spoon-fed and that was horrible.

I agree that you don't allow the player to roll to solve the case, but rolls do lead to clues, great rolls lead to really juicy clues. Oh, and if they found enough clues for them to be able to put it together, a good Detective skill roll will have me give them some more hints to allow them to come to the right conclusion. With Tactics, a good roll will have me tell them when they are being unwise or suggest a tactic they hadn't considered. Perhaps even suggest a weakness in the Villain. (ie Hey, Icicle is a cold user, perhaps Firefox's flame powers might be more effective).

 

I am willing to help players learn some basics with playing a Detective, Tactician, Faceperson etc. You shouldn't need a background in a PC's skill to be able to use it. IMHO A player should be able to play any character concept they come up with. No matter how bad they are at the thing they are playing IRL. I don't need to know how to use a gun or sword for my PC to be able to use those in game. A player shouldn't need a background in non combat skills to use them. Just the willingness to work with me, ask questions and do their best to roleplay stuff out. It doesn't even have to be GOOD roleplaying. We are there to have fun, not play Warhammer 40k or be Improvisional Actor(esse)s. 

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I am willing to help players learn some basics with playing a Detective, Tactician, Faceperson etc. You shouldn't need a background in a PC's skill to be able to use it. IMHO A player should be able to play any character concept they come up with. No matter how bad they are at the thing they are playing IRL. I don't need to know how to use a gun or sword for my PC to be able to use those in game. A player shouldn't need a background in non combat skills to use them. Just the willingness to work with me, ask questions and do their best to roleplay stuff out. It doesn't even have to be GOOD roleplaying. We are there to have fun, not play Warhammer 40k or be Improvisional Actor(esse)s. 

Considering some stereotypical gamer-geek weaknesses, the Face archetype would be exceeding rare and ineffective, were this not true.

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In general, a player should be able to play any type of character they want.  But sometimes a player's real life lack of skill really strains their ability to play certain knowledge-based or social-based characters.  I'm sure we've all seen players like this:

 

 

 

And this guy decides he wants to play a master tactician.  Or the greatest detective in the world.  Or a guy with James Bond level seduction.  And he proposes "great" battle strategies like charging head-first into a machine gun nest across an open field.  Or you lay out all the clues in front of him, hint heavily at who did it, wink at him conspiratorialy when you say the perpetrator's name, and he comes to the wrong conclusion.

 

At some point, the player's own disadvantages and limitations prevent him from playing certain characters.  He took "can't play smart or charming characters, infrequently, total".  He got 10 points for it, so I guess it balances out. :)

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I actually think both sides are making really salient points on this issue.

 

This is sort of getting into one of my pet topics(which basically means, I'm going to monologue).

 

What defines a good combatant? Session after session, tons of rolls, lots of subtle choices in which maneuver to make, over and over, game after game.

 

What defines a good detective? Often, a five rolls over many sessions that reveal a lot.

 

What defines an epic fight? A lot of actions that went crazy but cinematic, perhaps.

 

What defines many solutions to mysteries. Same five rolls as before. Often not contested in any way by the skill of the criminal covering their tracks.

 

If the player is capable of role playing it, it can be just fine. If not, there is something inherently horrible about giving away huge hints for one roll.

 

I really think, to have the non-social player play the socialite, for example, the GM really needs to make a go at being more systematic about it all. Imagine if you treated other skills in as detailed a fashion as you treat combat, that's not quite necessary, but I really think there's a value in goiing part way there.

 

Okay, you're a detective. You have these knowledge skills, great. I refuse to give you story for mere rolls if you don't meet me half way is my view, perhaps I'm too severe, but it seems to me that the character is bordering on a macguffin detector more than a character, they could mount them on a volkswagen and drive around the city every week, looking for the plot hook.

 

This doesn't mean that they need to be able to act out the skill they don't have. But they could establish that, when investigating, they always check the map of the area they are in, dust for prints, have a host of things upon which to HINGE SOME ROLLS, and that more than one or two rolls and noting of excuses to make those rolls should be required to lead anywhere useful.

 

I know a lot of us have talked about this before. It's become almost painful to me after all these years to say, "You walk into the room, where blah blah blah, Tom, make a perception roll". It's just not fun. If Sam can learn to choose when to dodge versus strike, Tom can choose the best times to use his detective roll to minimize how often it is just a passive thing that the GM does. And he should not learn everything from one clue, anymore than all the fights should be summed up by one move.

 

In relation to the master strategist, some setup is required. The master strategist who only does it on the fly seems like probably not a master strategist.

 

The master strategist needs info to make his or her power work. He needs secret info. He needs maps of what he's to deal with. These are his bread and butter, regardless of how we define the game effect of the actual combat. Getting him his bread and butter is likely to involve sessions of their own, because the bad guys do not want their base surveilled, they do not want information leaked that the master strategist needs to enact the perfect plan. On the fly, the problem is, he's only as good as the teamwork of whoever is enacting his plans, and his ability will be limited. But sometimes, for a particular character type, I might focus less on the build than the feel. And a master strategist plans, and uses sources of info, and plots, and, whenever possible, knows his opponents better than a French chef knows butter long before he strikes. For cinematic game purposes, the feel of this is more important than the actual soundness of the strategy, and it all gives opportunities for the strategy to require more than roll once or twice, and then forget the skill.

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I'm going to interleave my comments in italics cos I don't want to have to quote TheDarkness umpty times and edit out the bits before and after what I'm addressing.

What defines a good combatant? Session after session, tons of rolls, lots of subtle choices in which maneuver to make, over and over, game after game.

 

Depends on the combatant. It might just be "lots of CSL and SPD and STR". Subtle choices might make a difference, but if they're *subtle*, throwing enough CSLetc at them will make the choice one of flavour rather than of a magnitude to decide between success or failure. And the vast majority of the combatant' character's activity in combat is completely subsumed into the dice rolls for attacks etc. The number of *subtle* choices which *matter* available per fight or session is probably of the same order of magnitude as the number of choices a detective might have to make while sleuthing. *None* of a combat's actions in Hero are decided by what Dan grade the player is, or what their SCA rank is.

 

What defines a good detective? Often, a five rolls over many sessions that reveal a lot.

 

Along with "Having good contacts or the Perks to let you access the resources you need to support you" and "Going to the right places". If it's 5 rolls over many sessions, your ref is stiffing you badly. Detective work should (at times) involve stealth and psychology as well as KS: and PS: 

 

If the player is capable of role playing it, it can be just fine. If not, there is something inherently horrible about giving away huge hints for one roll.

 

For normal skills, even a '3' on an 18- should only give away what could be given away by the situation. If it's an interrogation roll, the mook you're sweating can't tell you what he doesn't know. But he can tell you something that fits with something else your character has already discovered. Whether the player has the alertness to join fact A and fact B together could be left to the synapses of the player, or a "Master Detective" skill (which might almost be classed as a Power) could mediate how much help the GM can allow the table to give, or how much they are prepared to weight the hint-club. 

 

I really think, to have the non-social player play the socialite, for example, the GM really needs to make a go at being more systematic about it all. Imagine if you treated other skills in as detailed a fashion as you treat combat, that's not quite necessary, but I really think there's a value in goiing part way there.

 

Aye. Some sort of structure to the interaction is important. You can't just roll "Etiquette: Noble", get a good roll and be told the entire conspiracy structure of the Palace. There should be at least half a dozen skills deployed over time, and still the player should probably have to draw a mind map. Skill rolls can be used to inform the player that (for example),"Asking the Crown Prince whether he's bedding Duke Bugnor's son, in a loud voice in front of witnesses is a bad idea" if they're completely bull-at-a-gate. And yes, if they're playing something they know they don't have the skills to manage to best advantage themselves, they probably should trust the ref when they offer such advice and allow the retcon.

 

Okay, you're a detective. You have these knowledge skills, great. I refuse to give you story for mere rolls if you don't meet me half way is my view, perhaps I'm too severe, but it seems to me that the character is bordering on a macguffin detector more than a character, they could mount them on a volkswagen and drive around the city every week, looking for the plot hook.

 

Is anyone suggesting that a detective should be able to just throw a few knowledge skill successes and get given the answer? I didn't think they were. But maybe some refs handle non-combat like that.

 

This doesn't mean that they need to be able to act out the skill they don't have. But they could establish that, when investigating, they always check the map of the area they are in, dust for prints, have a host of things upon which to HINGE SOME ROLLS, and that more than one or two rolls and noting of excuses to make those rolls should be required to lead anywhere useful.

 

Thing is, when they start playing, they might not have any idea how to go about what they're doing. Skill rolls can substitute for the player knowing and let others assist with their knowledge of the activity or period. Ideally, after a couple of go-arounds, the player should be able to add the colour, but on the other side of the coin, if they're playing an "Absent minded professor", all the SOP from cop shows the player can muster will go out the window when they fail their "Police Procedure" roll that they have no skill in. 

 

I know a lot of us have talked about this before. It's become almost painful to me after all these years to say, "You walk into the room, where blah blah blah, Tom, make a perception roll". It's just not fun. If Sam can learn to choose when to dodge versus strike, Tom can choose the best times to use his detective roll to minimize how often it is just a passive thing that the GM does. And he should not learn everything from one clue, anymore than all the fights should be summed up by one move.

 

I'd say it's SOP for everyone to get a Perception roll if there's something to spot. Tom would have to do something to get his Detective roll. To begin with though the ref might want to remind Tom that he needs to "dust for prints" or whatever the skill is meant to represent beyond alertness that anyone else could have, and most game players will eventually pick up that there's a trigger for their roll. Some players, with some fields, or where the game is irregular, say, just never will, and will continue to need the ref's prompting. Or there'll be a TPK because the info was incomplete and they'll gen up a not-[whatever-they-never-got-to-grips-with]. Take the example of a DnD game I play in, which runs, *at best* twice a year. It started in 2nd Ed and is now in 3.5. We had a party death, a long way from home, and there was a mad rush to get the body back to the temple in time for a Raise Dead (I think it was) to be castable. Because the Clerics don't play any other DnD games, they clean forgot about the spell that they could all do which could have preserved the body. If the ref had remembered, a "Knowledge: Religion" or a "Knowledge: Arcane" roll from pretty much anyone with those skills would have been, I submit, a good way to remind the players of the existence of something the characters would have known.

 

The master strategist needs info to make his or her power work. He needs secret info. He needs maps of what he's to deal with. These are his bread and butter, regardless of how we define the game effect of the actual combat. Getting him his bread and butter is likely to involve sessions of their own, because the bad guys do not want their base surveilled, they do not want information leaked that the master strategist needs to enact the perfect plan. On the fly, the problem is, he's only as good as the teamwork of whoever is enacting his plans, and his ability will be limited. But sometimes, for a particular character type, I might focus less on the build than the feel. And a master strategist plans, and uses sources of info, and plots, and, whenever possible, knows his opponents better than a French chef knows butter long before he strikes. For cinematic game purposes, the feel of this is more important than the actual soundness of the strategy, and it all gives opportunities for the strategy to require more than roll once or twice, and then forget the skill.

 

We're looking at a Col John "Hannibal" Smith, here, right? The way the cinema might (did) do it would be to have the actual plan in execution shown, with the reasons for why who's doing what, when and where, being voiced over. Depends where your group wants the focus to be. If it's about the recon as much as the actual caper, then all those things can come into play, but if your table is all about the speed chart, it might even be helpful to just have Face roll his PS: Face skill once, everyone roll a Stealth skill and their specialist skill once, to give some assists to the Strategy roll which results in some bonuses to some of the moves the players ad-lib during the caper itself.

 

I can certainly see a "Master Tactician" skill/Power/Perk/[whatever] going way past that, into the realms of not really needing to know beforehand anything like that level of information. Where the ability would apply would perhaps be well-moderated by the skills that support it. If they only have KS/PS in "Infantry Tactics" and "Ancient Infantry Tactics", you might expect their Master Tactician ability to be struggling to help in aerospace and naval warfare. But a "proper" Master Tactician should probably have KS and/or PS in most fields of combat that their setting supports.

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Womble, all good points.

 

I think that one of my points and one of yours dovetail a bit, so I'm gonna comment on that a bit. I don't think it contains any points of disagreement, to be clear.

 

That is, the difficulty of a player, let's say playing their first detective in a game, in their first sessions. They very well may not know how to go about it, and should not be punished for this.

 

This is the heart of what I was getting at in relating skill situations to combat situations. In fairness, which you tactfully pointed out, I overplayed the nuances of many combats and underplayed the nuances of many detective scenarios.

 

However, I would say the combat monster who normally does not have to apply much in the way of nuances because their defenses and strengths in that realm are so good usually, at some point, face someone who could potentially overcome them, and, at that point, should and often are cognizant of dodges and blocks and these various choices, even if they only suddenly decide to play them because 'holy crap, if he hits me again I'm toast.' Or because they know the fight is a misunderstanding, and aren't wanting to even KO the opponent, You get the idea. They know what they can do with the combat skills, because it's obviously presented to them.

 

I think it is important, for games with more skill interactions, to go half way that direction, more systematized, but absolutely, the players need to know how to work that system just like players need to know that if their character is lower speed, block may be a useful move for them against some higher speed people, or holding actions, or what have you.

 

As a simple example, one of the problems with PRE attacks as they occasionally are played is the timing. An example I've used before from a game: a group of street thugs is confronted by our hero, an unknown super who looks like a street kid with his hoodie up and his face obscured. They don't know he is a super. The group balks for a second, but they have two guns, and their leader fires a round in the air and makes his own presence attack with marginal success to motivate his men. The hero makes a PRE attack and tells them to go home. The thug with the gun wins, because the advantage of knowing the thug leader has a gun and there will be repercussions on his guys if they don't do what he says is so much more threatening than a street kid saying anything.

 

Now, this is not a critique on the player's action in that case, his PRE attack didn't work, action then began, and he later ended up scaring off the bruised and beaten thugs with a new PRE attack. But there was a moment where the player was really visibly bothered by the failure of the first PRE attack.

 

Later, he got that timing can introduce new factors.

 

I think that it's important for players to understand what a PRE attack is.

 

A PRE attack might be:

  • Saying something
  • Saying nothing
  • Totally changing the topic when there is an expectation that there is no way any sane person would pull that on the person being spoken to
  • Standing in just the right place to force the other person to have to skirt around or push through
  • Saying something kind
  • Saying something cruel
  • and, concluding bullet point

 

Further, the player needs to understand that the result of a PRE attack might be that the target(s):

  • run
  • stop doing what they were doing
  • simply agree with what was said when before they might not have
  • switch sides
  • cry
  • gratuitous bullet point

 

Further, they need to understand that sometimes, it can even be fairly passive, or the effect desired might be quite small. The mobster's muscle standing guard in front of his door are a PRE attack, all the normals DON'T want to mess with them. The mobster's muscle standing behind our hero as he goes to determine the mobster's role in a recent event ARE a PRE attack. Our hero is simply statted well enough to not have to worry about that PRE attack.

 

Further, for my games, I would try to make clear that the more people there are involved or the more extreme the response the person making the PRE attack wants, the less likely that one PRE attack on its own is going to achieve it. Meaning, if the situation as it stands gives no or little tendency for that result, then more may be needed. If it is an argument, for example, in which the master villain who only the heroes know is the master villain, but everyone else thinks is the populist politician calling for 'reform' and the heroes are vying to influence a crowd to their way of thinking, I would not tend to have whole crowds won with one roll. A successful roll might sway more, which would then lend a bonus to their roll for a followup PRE roll as members of the crowd start seeing more people agreeing. I wouldn't force a ton of rolls in that situation, but two or three alongside a little role play(and, if we're really lucky, good role play) adds tension, especially since those are being contested by the rolls of the villain. Certainty is no longer the result of one roll.

 

So, PRE attacks might be modest moves to open the way for more decisive PRE attacks. The character should know, hey, in my game, sometimes if you want a big effect on a PRE attack, you will need lay down some ground work that favors it, maybe even an initial modest PRE attack, acting calm in the face of the thugs hoping merely to make them uncomfortable(simple PRE roll) before melting one of their guns with heat vision while yelling(followup presence roll with maybe some bonus from the first, and a lot of bonus from the gun melting), "Flee, flee for your lives, the demons in my head, they are coming free, I cannot stop them for long." Yes, silly, yes, probably not clever role playing, but alongside the rolls, the mediocre role player has a part in the narrative larger than just rolling, the mediocre role playing is not penalized, and the player does this because they have the knowledge that, hey, my skills and such play out in more than one roll in this campaign, they've thought of how to do that, and soon, that other player steals all their good ideas and everyone is more likely to do it.

 

Likewise, the detective. It's important for the detective to know how they may be contested. That time, weather, and things that change the conditions of what they are looking into may make results more difficult. That a villain's master criminal skill may affect the difficulty of knowing what happened, and that, if the villain did really well on their assumed roll, that the margin for success for the detective might be smaller, and the likelihood of detecting exactly what the villain wanted you to detect might be higher. Can you trust this one clue? Or should you interrogate this person as well, knowing that no matter how much control the villain may have had over the placing of clues, people might crack under the right pressure?

 

Further, as GM, I should do the same. Every crime scene, I should have an idea of what clues the Master Villain wanted left behind, and which ones he or she wouldn't have wanted to leave behind. Which of those were left behind by the henchmen, which were the rare error made by the master criminal?

 

For the master strategist, I agree, one can model one that is largely powers based, and I think that has been well covered in this thread, though I'm sure others will add more to it.

 

As far as skills, I see the master strategist's player as really having a lot of opportunities to create and/or catch plot hooks. Not having info about the inside of the villain's jungle fortress should bother the master strategist, knowing that people actually leave the base occasionally should be something that he might regularly recognize as a bread and butter part of having such skills, is there a group that leaves that we can capture or trick into giving us information should be something he considers as being as routine as knowing that blocking allows some people to deal with some kinds of other fighters.

 

Give the players a baseline of skill 'maneuvers', and they will use them and find more.

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In general, a player should be able to play any type of character they want.  But sometimes a player's real life lack of skill really strains their ability to play certain knowledge-based or social-based characters.

Oy, you give me flashbacks to a Marvel Superheroes game where the guy playing Mr. Fantastic played him as a belligerent thug who never tried to figure anything out. Meanwhile I was stuck playing the Human Torch and gritting my teeth every time an obvious solution presented itself, because it wouldn't have been obvious to Johnny. It was all I could do to keep from shouting "WHY did you want to play Reed Richards instead of Ben Grimm, again?"

 

When I designed a Captain America-esque NPC I went with 25 PRE for Presence Attacks, +4 with All Combat, Tactics and Teamwork skills at 14-, and the following power to simulate helping teammates with tactical expertise:

 

26    Seasoned Field Commander: Usable Simultaneously for +4 Combat Skill Levels (up to four recipients at once, one at a time, Grantor can take power back, Limited Range, Recipients must remain within LOS; +3/4); Reduced Endurance (0 END; +1/2); Incantations (-1/4), Recipients Must Hear And Understand Orders (-1/2)

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