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Do you limit Combat Skill Level's?


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I am relatively new to Hero.  I have been running many RPG's for 40+ years and recognize min/maxers and power creeps.  My players are masters as I am sure yours are as well.  My question for Fantasy Hero is do you limit CSL's?  My players have figured out that if they buy 3 pt CSL's and not OCV/DCV straight up they save points.  I don't want to punish them, but they are running around with 12 levels of these.  Any thoughts or experiences would be helpful.

 

 

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Yes, you do need to limit CSLs to keep within campaign boundaries, otherwise you end up in an arms race. I don't have my books in front of me, but in 6th Edition I believe CSLs will only affect ranged DCV when they are 8-point or better in cost. It is my understanding that martial arts DCV bonuses other than for Dodge don't increase DCV either. Archers should be able to pincushion your PCs.

 

Here are two suggestions for keeping things under control:

1) Have them buy OCV/DCV that is for either HTH Only or Ranged Only. This is a -1 Limitation, so they get +2 OCV or +2 DCV for five points. This lets PCs specialize in range or HTH combat a bit.

2) Suggest Deadly Blow or Weapon Mastery for damage increases instead of buying a boatload of 3-point levels.

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I took a variation of an old adventurer's club Combat Effectiveness calculator (this problem has existed since the beginning of HERO) and modified it for my campaign.

 

It's imperfect and could use some work, but it kept things within rough constraints so the players didn't get too crazy (20x Levels with Swords, for example).

 

Here's an old one I used a couple of campaigns ago.Fantasy Hero Combat Effectiveness.xlsx

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It is absolutely necessary to set combat limits.  Here is what I have done in my campaign.

 

High level explanation

  • Brink/Tank type fighters
    • Characteristics:  High strength, constitution, Body, Stun & PD/ED
    • Martial Arts:  Maybe
    • CSL : No more than 4.  Can buy up to 4 overall combat levels
    • PSL:  No more than 3 PSL
  • Nimble type fighters (including archers)
    • Characteristics:  Lower strength, constitution, Body, Stun & PD/ED
    • Martial Arts:  Almost certainly
    • CSL : No more than 6.  Can only buy CSL for a specific weapon or type (sword).
    • PSL:  No more than 3 PSL; but can have +3 vs. Range and +3 vs Hit Locations
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Like Christopher, I have an absolute cap.  It was easy enough to broach:  either we accept that something needs to be done, or the enemies will get just as outrageous as you are so that you may continue to be challenged. 

 

In light of the understanding that the enemies were always going to be challenging enough to be fun, they didn't have any complaints about hard CV caps, and have no complaints when a particularly dangerous opponent violates the cap by one or two points, as they know 1) these opponents are extremely rare and 2) I will not pair them up with an opponent more than a point or two ahead of them (at the point of hitting the cap, I mean). 

 

Also, I don't allow overall skill levels in heroic games.  Characters have to increase their skill with weapons and weapons groups; they can't just "get gooder at hitting people with everything." 

 

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5 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

 

Also, I don't allow overall skill levels in heroic games.  

 

 

I'm surprised, given your area of the country, that you could be anti-farmer in this manner.

 

Overalls are part of the bedrock of this country.

 

 

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16 minutes ago, archer said:

 

C'mon, you scanned all those Adventurers Club issues. Not even a chuckle for the levels while wearing overalls gag?

 

 

Actually yes, but evidently not in the post.  I'll have to edit that back in.

 

To explain my current condition:

 

For the past two weeks, I have gone in to work at 5:30 AM and haven't gotten off of work until 8-8:30 PM.   My job is physically demanding, and out in the sun all day.  I am sixty years old.  I can do it all day; I can do it all week.

 

I cannot do it for two weeks straight without some side effects.

 

 

Last night I sat down to compose a quick note about a mini-campaign (Halloween adventure for the youth group) to a friend.  I fell asleep in the middle of typing it.  At some point, I sent it, got up, went to bed....

 

I re-read it this afternoon.  It was incomprehensible!

 

Anyway, I have to go edit something before it happens again.  I'm up too late as it is (likely Japanese "revenge bedtime" or something).

 

 

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14 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

Yes, and in fact I put an absolute cap on CV, no matter what combination of abilties you use; you will never exceed this point until the cap rises later in the campaign.

 

The last campaign I ran had an absolute CV ceiling (including levels), and restrictions on PSLs. You couldn't have more than two, "stacking" levels. For example, you could have 2 PSLs vs hit locations, and two vs range modifiers, but not 4 vs hit locations.

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I definitely agree with campaign caps.

 

As for the view that I am saving massive points with 3 point levels, well, it is cheaper than buying OCV and DCV.  But it is also limited.

 

Oh, you need to scale a wall?  Your DCV can't be enhanced when you can't, or aren't, holding your special weapon of choice.  All those Sword levels aren't much use when the enemy attacks from range - guess you are down to half moves and dodges.  Too bad there is very difficult terrain between you and those archers, huh?  It's going to be pretty hard to close in.  Too bad you are so specialized in melee combat and suck fighting at range.

 

Being Disarmed sucks when your DCV drops radically because those levels are no longer in use.  Or if you just had to make a full move, or otherwise use your action on something other than an attack with that weapon last phase.  Or if you just wanted to hold your phase.  Or you had to recover from being Stunned.

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1 hour ago, Hugh Neilson said:

Being Disarmed sucks when your DCV drops radically because those levels are no longer in use.  Or if you just had to make a full move, or otherwise use your action on something other than an attack with that weapon last phase.  Or if you just wanted to hold your phase.  Or you had to recover from being Stunned.

I generally don't set campaign caps explicitly... but effectively I do. I generally just let players know that "I train with my sword during down time" is not sufficient to get you beyond a couple skill levels specifically to OCV for sword. Sparring practice with another party member might get you up to a couple 3 point levels and they can do the same for their mace or flail or whatever. But beyond that you need to start seeking out very skilled people to train for things like all melee or all ranged or spend a very long time working to master multiple weapons. And at that point, I am fine with them having the levels because the progress is gradual and makes sense to me. I generally don't have people taking overall skill levels because of the price. Even  the 10 point all non-combat skill levels I have not seen taken as people tend to go for all Agility or all Intellect or 3 skill groups or even skill enhancers before they would attempt a 10 point level. And then when you factor that skill levels do not apply if you are not proficient or only have a familiarity, plus all the factors that Hugh lays out above, I just have not seen it as an issue. At some point, yes, the party fighter will likely be the greatest maul wielder the setting has know but... isn't that okay? He's going to not have access to that maul sometimes and sometimes that maul will not be the answer to all the questions or the monster will be resistant to crushing damage, so the rogue or the mage or the druid will get to exercise their greatest skill. It all works out.

 

I do like Duke's idea of just leveling with the players about caps, but I would go with soft caps most likely if I got to that point. I really like letting players excel at something and I think sometimes caps get in the way of that, unless you don't let anyone else get to the cap for that schtick. If you play it as a maxima, it gets expensive to pay double for things really quickly. It's not a hard no, just a "are you sure you really want to put your points there"?

 

To the original question... yes, I do limit them, just not as explicitly. At some point, I would have to tell the player "You are already the best at that skill, you'll have to find other areas to improve in", but I have been lucky that the methods above have worked so far and I have not had to do that. 

 

Note, if you ask the same questions in a Supers genre, a different answer is likely. There, I have had people simply try to buy enough overall levels to do whatever they wanted and I use caps at least in initial character creation.

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I also use the concept of schitck protection. Whereas there is a range for everyone and an absolute max but you can only max out in one category.  For example say the range is 6-9 CV max 11. Sword master might max at 11 OCV and no one else. Archer has the 11 OCV. Sword master can still have WF: Bows and maybe a level or two but just not past 9 OCV.  Archer has WF: Blades and maybe a 8 OCV with swords. 
 

I never had a problem with Overall levels. 

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2 hours ago, eepjr24 said:

I generally don't set campaign caps explicitly... but effectively I do. I generally just let players know that "I train with my sword during down time" is not sufficient to get you beyond a couple skill levels specifically to OCV for sword. Sparring practice with another party member might get you up to a couple 3 point levels and they can do the same for their mace or flail or whatever. But beyond that you need to start seeking out very skilled people to train for things like all melee or all ranged or spend a very long time working to master multiple weapons.

 

My first issue with this type of approach is typically whether a similar restriction is placed on other uses of xp.  That is, you also can't get better at stealth, more BOD or STUN, better at spellcasting, etc. without similarly highly skilled people.  If that is the standard for my character, how did the other fellow who is very skilled and can train me get so skilled, if we can't get better unless someone even better trains us?  That should mean that skills plateau or, over generations, deteriorate, as there is no one "even better" to train with.

 

But how did that first really skilled person get so skilled?  Who trained him?

 

I agree that those Overall Levels are a pretty rare purchase.  They are expensive - and they are still only a single +1 in each phase.

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3 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

I agree that those Overall Levels are a pretty rare purchase.  They are expensive - and they are still only a single +1 in each phase.

I have to say that pricing keeps most people from buying Overall levels. I also do the sell back system. So if you have a +1 with Punch then later want to increase it +1 with three maneuvers then sell back the 2pt and buy a 3pt.  The bonus isn’t higher but the usefulness is broader.

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1 hour ago, Ninja-Bear said:

I have to say that pricing keeps most people from buying Overall levels. I also do the sell back system. So if you have a +1 with Punch then later want to increase it +1 with three maneuvers then sell back the 2pt and buy a 3pt.  The bonus isn’t higher but the usefulness is broader.

 

I tend to think of it more as an "organic" progression.  I've been toying with the idea of limiting the number of "low-level" (think 2-pt and 3-pt) CSLs to something like 2 at a time.  Once you have 2, you can't buy a 3rd,  but you can "upgrade" an existing one to a 5-point CSL, as you broaden your knowledge first with a small group of weapons, expanding into a larger group of weapons, then into melee / ranged combat in general, and finally into all overall combat.  What I haven't figured out is whether I want / need to set limits at each tier (such as 2 per tier, i.e. max of 2x 2-pt, 2x 3-pt, 2x 5-pt, and 2x 8-pt CSLs, no limit on the number of 10-pt CSLs), or a limit on the total number of CSLs "in progress" (below the 10-pt) level.

 

I'd be curious to know if anyone has already tried such an approach and how it worked out for them and their group...?

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I will have loose limits, but I often drop challenges on the players that aren't "personally" solvable. This usually results in Skill bloat but I am happy with that. We did have a swordsman that had 6 levels with blade, so he could get "eye shots" with his blade, because that was his thing. (Then I threw monsters that had no eyes at him XD).

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9 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

 

My first issue with this type of approach is typically whether a similar restriction is placed on other uses of xp.  That is, you also can't get better at stealth, more BOD or STUN, better at spellcasting, etc. without similarly highly skilled people.  If that is the standard for my character, how did the other fellow who is very skilled and can train me get so skilled, if we can't get better unless someone even better trains us?  That should mean that skills plateau or, over generations, deteriorate, as there is no one "even better" to train with.

 

But how did that first really skilled person get so skilled?  Who trained him?

 

I agree that those Overall Levels are a pretty rare purchase.  They are expensive - and they are still only a single +1 in each phase.

Yes, the higher levels of all skills have the same restrictions. 

 

Oh, you can get better at anything if you are willing to spend enough time, just like in real life. But at some point the improvements become so incremental as to be not noticeable in the time frame that campaigns are set in. If you want to shortcut that you need someone who has done that already and can point you in the direction of what to do. And the other part is that many people don't realize is to truly get better at something once you reach a certain level, teaching becomes the best way to get better at it. You revisit skills you had not thought of and see others use them realize new potentials or techniques that would not have been possible without the experience plus the insight into how others perceive them.

 

But by all means, use caps. Those are much more realistic! =P

 

- E

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To be fair, I concede immediately that caps are not, as you point out, realistic.  I also point out that caps create their own problem:  the mad race to get to the cap as quickly as you can.

 

Yes; it happens.  Frankly, caps not only don't stop CV creep, they don't even slow it down.  However, they do put an _end_ to it beyond a certain point, which means that players who wish to spend EP or otherwise improve their characters will have to broaden them:  improve some skills or perhaps learn new ones.  Buy off a Disad or two.  That sort of thing.

 

As someone else mentioned above, caps can be rolled back incrementally once the GM is ready to deal with the next race to power, but even then, the caps give him the ability to control (to some extent) just how wild the PCs and their foes are going to be for the next little while.  That not only works toward players eyeing broader characters, but it controls the pace of the adventure, which can help him tailor the next leg of the story more to the players at hand.  It's the same reason that old-timey Superman once lifted a car and threw it a short distance, but new-fangled Superman hasn't foiled a bank robbery in a long, long time....

 

Look at the truly lame villains in Batman's past, and compare them to the absolute meat grinders he fights today.  I don't think he's going to stumble backwards and match wits with Wallflower or Clockman ever again, but he didn't get to where he is overnight, either.

 

Nothing can really stop players from building to the maximum you're willing to allow.  Nothing.  Everyone wants to be the best.  Caps, particularly when used as Ninja-Bear demonstrated, give everyone a chance to be "the best" at theirown little schtick without requiring the GM to ensure that the universe hangs in the balance of every encounter.

 

 

 

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In my campaigns I have generally required a pyramid scheme of skill levels.

 

After you have two 3pt levels you cannot get another until you have a 5pt level.

After you have two 5pt levels you cannot get another until you have an 8pt levels.

and so on.

 

Still, you have to cap overall skill levels or CVs or players will go nuts.

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8 hours ago, ScottishFox said:

In my campaigns I have generally required a pyramid scheme of skill levels.

 

After you have two 3pt levels you cannot get another until you have a 5pt level.

After you have two 5pt levels you cannot get another until you have an 8pt levels.

and so on.

 

Still, you have to cap overall skill levels or CVs or players will go nuts.

 

To the last comment, I think one of the challenges, especially with the open-ended nature of Hero, is getting balance without sameness.  That theme will recur below.  Are we capping combat skill levels, or OCV, DCV and/or damage classes?  Should it be less acceptable to be really good with one weapon, or one weapon type, than with a broad pool of weapons, or all combat?  The answer, as with most things Hero, is "it depends - what kind of game do you want?"

 

19 hours ago, Pegasus40218 said:

 

I tend to think of it more as an "organic" progression.  I've been toying with the idea of limiting the number of "low-level" (think 2-pt and 3-pt) CSLs to something like 2 at a time.  Once you have 2, you can't buy a 3rd,  but you can "upgrade" an existing one to a 5-point CSL, as you broaden your knowledge first with a small group of weapons, expanding into a larger group of weapons, then into melee / ranged combat in general, and finally into all overall combat.  What I haven't figured out is whether I want / need to set limits at each tier (such as 2 per tier, i.e. max of 2x 2-pt, 2x 3-pt, 2x 5-pt, and 2x 8-pt CSLs, no limit on the number of 10-pt CSLs), or a limit on the total number of CSLs "in progress" (below the 10-pt) level.

 

I'd be curious to know if anyone has already tried such an approach and how it worked out for them and their group...?

 

So, basically, no one can be more than "X" better with one weapon than with a group of similar weapons, or with a group of similar weapons than with melee combat in general, or with melee combat than with all forms of combat.  If that's the game we want, fine.   But the concept of a great swordsman who has devoted his entire life to mastery of that one weapon, and is unskilled with axes or bows, is denied for this game.  Such a thing is simply not possible, having set these rules.  Sure, the player can choose to only use those levels for swordsmanship, but having paid for levels that make him better with a bow, or with his fists, or with an axe, why not also use those weapons when the need arises?  Turns out he is an all-round good combatant, and a bit better with  blades, and a bit better than that with the longsword.  Just like the archer is an an all-round good combatant, and a bit better with  ranged weapons, and a bit better than that with the longbow.

 

15 hours ago, Scott Ruggels said:

I will have loose limits, but I often drop challenges on the players that aren't "personally" solvable. This usually results in Skill bloat but I am happy with that. We did have a swordsman that had 6 levels with blade, so he could get "eye shots" with his blade, because that was his thing. (Then I threw monsters that had no eyes at him XD).

 

This is the mark of experienced Hero gamers, to me.  Nothing is always, everything is sometimes, let me get an overall feel for the character to assess whether it will fit in this game, be over-powered or be under-powered.  Hmmm...damage is pretty high, but OCV and SPD are relatively low, and he's not overly powerful defensively - OK.

 

14 hours ago, eepjr24 said:

Yes, the higher levels of all skills have the same restrictions. 

 

Oh, you can get better at anything if you are willing to spend enough time, just like in real life. But at some point the improvements become so incremental as to be not noticeable in the time frame that campaigns are set in. If you want to shortcut that you need someone who has done that already and can point you in the direction of what to do. And the other part is that many people don't realize is to truly get better at something once you reach a certain level, teaching becomes the best way to get better at it. You revisit skills you had not thought of and see others use them realize new potentials or techniques that would not have been possible without the experience plus the insight into how others perceive them.

 

But by all means, use caps. Those are much more realistic!

 

 

Who taught Albert Einstein how to discover the Theory of Relativity?  Who trained Stephen Hawking to get better at physics?  What was the formal musical training which enabled the Beatles to advance music so significantly in under a decade?  I suggest that, in many fields, the top-tier people have long since moved past "being taught",and learn by doing, often by working in collaboration.

 

No, caps are not realistic either.  Neither is a team that are all equally skilled, with never an experienced veteran coaching a rookie on getting the most from his raw talent.  But in games, we don't typically want the player characters to have wildly different levels of ability and value to the team.  So we look for some way to balance that out, even in a rough manner.

 

12 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

To be fair, I concede immediately that caps are not, as you point out, realistic.  I also point out that caps create their own problem:  the mad race to get to the cap as quickly as you can.

 

Yes; it happens.  Frankly, caps not only don't stop CV creep, they don't even slow it down.  However, they do put an _end_ to it beyond a certain point, which means that players who wish to spend EP or otherwise improve their characters will have to broaden them:  improve some skills or perhaps learn new ones.  Buy off a Disad or two.  That sort of thing.

 

As someone else mentioned above, caps can be rolled back incrementally once the GM is ready to deal with the next race to power, but even then, the caps give him the ability to control (to some extent) just how wild the PCs and their foes are going to be for the next little while.  That not only works toward players eyeing broader characters, but it controls the pace of the adventure, which can help him tailor the next leg of the story more to the players at hand.  It's the same reason that old-timey Superman once lifted a car and threw it a short distance, but new-fangled Superman hasn't foiled a bank robbery in a long, long time....

 

Look at the truly lame villains in Batman's past, and compare them to the absolute meat grinders he fights today.  I don't think he's going to stumble backwards and match wits with Wallflower or Clockman ever again, but he didn't get to where he is overnight, either.

 

Nothing can really stop players from building to the maximum you're willing to allow.  Nothing.  Everyone wants to be the best.  Caps, particularly when used as Ninja-Bear demonstrated, give everyone a chance to be "the best" at theirown little schtick without requiring the GM to ensure that the universe hangs in the balance of every encounter.

 

I think every game has its own variant of caps.  One problem I often see with caps is, as you say, the race to cap out.  Sameness.  Maybe we said, for our Fantasy game, "the cap is 7 OCV, 7 DCV and 4 SPD".   OK, that costs 20 + 20 +20 = 60 points.  What shall I spend the other 90 on?

 

Actually, I would like to be easy to hit, but a terrific shot.  Well, you can have a 7 OCV and a 4 DCV.  No, I want to be MORE ACCURATE than everyone else at the cost of being easier to hit.  I don't want to be THE SAME as everyone else except that I am a much easier target.  I want to be stronger in one area in exchange for being weaker in another.  If the caps were so high that you could not max them all, or even a majority, we would see some variety.  But we would likely have the occasional character who pumps a lot of resources in being the very best at one or two things - sure, he does less damage and hits less often, but no one can land a hit on him.  Is that an unbalancing frustration, or a legitimate schtick?

 

Every game has some way of setting balance.  But Hero is a game system - the players and GM need to figure out how they will  balance each specific game they design with the system.  How great is a huge DCV that no one can hit?  It depends.  Do we have a lot of area effect or mental attacks in the game, or does everyone fight with attacks that have a normal roll to hit?

 

D&D has character levels - you can only get so good at anything at this level, and as you advance, you become better at some things you wanted, and others you maybe did not care about.  You can get bonuses from lots of sources, but they all cap out. And you only have so much resources - you can't maximize everything.

 

Mutants and Masterminds is much more free-form, but it still imposes limits.  You are Power Level 10?  OK, your bonus to hit,  bonus to dodge, bonus to damage and bonus to resist damage are capped.  We could cap them all at 10, but that would be too much sameness.  Instead, you can bump the cap on your bonus to hit up by the amount you drop your bonus to damage cap, or vice versa.  Same with dodging and resisting damage.  But that is too much variability - you can't have them more than 4 apart from each other either.  So 8/12, 9/11 or 10/10, but not 2/18.

 

Hero has way too many variables to easily create a similar tradeoff system precisely, so we often measure it by estimate, requiring a level of experience with the system.

 

 

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Several people have mentioned the race to the cap for CV, damage, skill levels, etc.

 

One thing I've done to slow that to a certain extent is to tell players in my games in advance that I'll, fairly often, spend their experience for them in realistic ways which fit what's going on in the campaign.

 

If they've been flying spaceships and running arounds in zero-G in spacesuits, they might get spaceship transport familiarity, zero-g environment familiarity, etc.

 

If they've been visiting Atlantis, they might have learned to swim faster. Or get AK: Atlantis. Or KS: Atlantis. Or whatever else based on what they've been spending their time doing.

 

If they've been running around a new city for a couple of weeks, I guarantee they'll pick up AK: new city or KS: new city or Favor from new city's mayor if I need them to burn off a couple of points.

 

Of course when I do that, I have to make sure they get a chance to use whatever the points have been spent on (a small price to pay).

 

It does help the player feel a sense of nostalgia when they can look at their character sheet and remember their adventures by seeing the Contacts, Favors, and skills they've picked up along the way. In the long run, the player is going to get more out of the experience of knowing Bruce "The Nose" Yarnell than he would from having a 2 point skill level in whatever.

 

(Sorry, I'm very "rambling man" today.)

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I ultimately resorted to using a complicated Combat Effectiveness sheet that had both a total points the players could have at each Tier of the campaign and then individual caps within that.

 

Players were allowed to exceed the cap by one rank for their signature trait or ability if they wanted as long as they didn't pick the same thing as another player.

The Fire Witch did more damage, the spirit monk was the fastest, the earth bender could maintain multiple durable barriers, etc.

 

 

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