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Hands Off the Maxima


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Let's say that I'm willing to run very abstract, high concept fantasy games where the players are basically free to build whatever they want, vetted only for internal consistency and party cohesion. What horrible pitfalls am I gonna walk into if I decide to completely remove characteristic maxima? Remember, I'm fine with extremely outlandish concepts, so that isn't gonna be a worry for me. Say we're using 175 points. Can character points alone balance things? Like, if a player could buy any amount of SPD, CV, STR, and P/ED that he wants, how would the arms race unfold? What if somebody were to buy an accidentally relatively low DCV and PD, such that he's extremely vulnerable to attacks? Would they feel impotent and fragile and hate life, or would they enjoy (provided I properly GMed things) all the cool stuff they're doing with the points they didn't spend on SPD, CV, STR, and P/ED? What if somebody bought an extremely large RKA? Admittedly, I would have an easier time pressuring them on their character concept with that one, but say they figured something cool out that would let them buy an absurdly large RKA? Let's say 6d6, and almost everything else he spends on OCV. How would this feel in game?

 

Why do we use so many maxima? Shouldn't the point costs of things create an economy which produces rational and balanced charcters?

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At the most basic level, you'll see a sharp divide between "combatants" who invested relatively heavily in fighting and "noncombatants" who invested relatively lightly.  The same will follow for other areas, but this is where it will stand out the most. 

Combat will either suck for the combatants as they steamroll everything, suck for the noncombatants as everything trivially defeats them, suck for you because you have to build elaborate multi-level encounters, or some combination of the above.  The same will follow for other areas, but this is again where it will stand out the most. 

 

26 minutes ago, Shoug said:

Shouldn't the point costs of things create an economy which produces rational and balanced charcters?

No, because a significant balance problem can result from rational actors with differing investment priorities.  Other significant problems arise due to differing investment efficiencies, player execution skill, or ability to predict the obstacles presented by the GM. 

Additionally, "rational and balanced" characters require useful information as input to the character design process.  Being just a couple DCs or CV off from the rest of the party can cause serious problems.  Caps and baselines provide that needed information while also communicating the expectation of "these numbers shall be adhered to". 

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  • 1 month later...

The "double cost" NCM rule does not actually prevent that, though.  35 STR will cost 40 points - expensive, sure, but look at your damage with a big weapon.  Recalling 5e and prior games, with another 110 CP, you could still build a very viable character.  He's got a nice PD, STUN and REC out of the gates too.

 

I sometimes toyed with a 30 DEX.  90 of 150 points, but with an OCV and DCV of 10 and a 4 SPD, that's a pretty nice start to, say, an archer or an agile rogue.

 

I don't think the solution to "inappropriate" character concepts, or unbalanced characters, has ever been "OK, but you have to pay extra".

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I would think because that if it is unbalancing to the game then it shouldn't be available/allowed no matter what the cost of it is. So just making it more expensive via NCM doesn't solve the issue, it just makes it less attractive to some players, but not all of them. Just like most GM's wouldn't allow someone to buy 8 levels of Combat Luck for 48 pts, giving them 24 rPD and rED right out of char gen. 

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I used to have a pretty simple rule. Create whatever you want, but fill out your character sheet in pencil. Turn it in to me, and then I make any 'adjustments' I feel are necessary for the game. If they turn in a sheet that is well balanced, I need make no such adjustments. If they hand me something lopsided or abusive, they get back a 'corrected' character to play.

 

Another way to do it is let people do whatever they want, but stipulate they must spend X number of points in non-combat skills as well.

 

A rule I gave myself once with a GM who really had no clue how to GM me as someone with power gamer tendencies, what that I had to spend half my character points on non-combat skills and abilities, but the other half I could go to town on, as long as I bought them on the straight and narrow (no gratuitous limitations). I was still the toughest fighter in the game, but not to the point everyone else wasn't having fun.

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On 5/14/2020 at 9:02 AM, Hugh Neilson said:

I don't think the solution to "inappropriate" character concepts, or unbalanced characters, has ever been "OK, but you have to pay extra".

No but it definitely makes the player consider is that stat really worth double the cost? If you feel a high DEX is worth it for a character concept then usually the player is willing to pay the points.

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On 5/14/2020 at 10:58 AM, mallet said:

I would think because that if it is unbalancing to the game then it shouldn't be available/allowed no matter what the cost of it is. So just making it more expensive via NCM doesn't solve the issue, it just makes it less attractive to some players, but not all of them. Just like most GM's wouldn't allow someone to buy 8 levels of Combat Luck for 48 pts, giving them 24 rPD and rED right out of char gen. 

 

Increasing the cost is really just another way of decreasing the amount. If I'm running high fantasy, I don't necessarily want to say no. Like Conan probably has STR 25. which is fine, but I don't necessarily wanting everyone to have STR 25. Costs affect behaviors, it's as simple as that. Maxima says, I want people to be more or less "normal" people but with skills, talents, and spells. But if someone wants to push that, they certainly can.

It's also training wheels from systems where characters are built from the ground up, rather than the top down. It's a lot more clear to just set the Maxima in place than say, "Uh, why do you have STR 30?"

"What, it's 20 points? Nothing here says not to spend 20 points on Strength."

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On 5/18/2020 at 7:02 PM, pawsplay said:

 

Increasing the cost is really just another way of decreasing the amount. If I'm running high fantasy, I don't necessarily want to say no. Like Conan probably has STR 25. which is fine, but I don't necessarily wanting everyone to have STR 25. Costs affect behaviors, it's as simple as that. Maxima says, I want people to be more or less "normal" people but with skills, talents, and spells. But if someone wants to push that, they certainly can.

It's also training wheels from systems where characters are built from the ground up, rather than the top down. It's a lot more clear to just set the Maxima in place than say, "Uh, why do you have STR 30?"

"What, it's 20 points? Nothing here says not to spend 20 points on Strength."

 

A classic case of "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should" methinks.

 

Stats beyond 20 are best left to non-humans, unless it's a superhero like Conan. And that probably represents him at the end of his career, as it were. People like that should be famous because of their preternatural Strength, because it's so far outside the norm. It's like Julius Hafthor Bjornsson, who is famous because he broke an endurance strength record that had stood for a 1000 years, and broke the back of the man who set the record, back in Viking times. You can search for the footage on Youtube.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I don't use CHA Maxima, but I also give my players some idea of what is reasonable for a heroic level character by providing some sample characters as a guide/template.  Players will frequently want the strongest or most dexterous character around, but I have never had anyone with a STR higher than 25 or a DEX above 23, and even those were outliers.  The template characters also give them an idea of average combat values and damage classes so they don't go overboard there, or find themselves completely ineffectual relative to the other characters.

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Not QUITE the same, but in my super hero campaign I explain it like this : up to 20 is what you can expect to see people get to who are dedicated (Muscle boys on the beach, professional / Olympic athletes, etc...).  Between 21-30 is characters who are still human, but legendary.  If Hercules was a real person that myths were created about he would be near str 30, Bruce Lee (he of the so fast you can't film it) would be 23-25 dex, etc...

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On 5/19/2020 at 12:44 PM, DusterBoy said:

 

A classic case of "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should" methinks.

 

Stats beyond 20 are best left to non-humans, unless it's a superhero like Conan. And that probably represents him at the end of his career, as it were. People like that should be famous because of their preternatural Strength, because it's so far outside the norm. It's like Julius Hafthor Bjornsson, who is famous because he broke an endurance strength record that had stood for a 1000 years, and broke the back of the man who set the record, back in Viking times. You can search for the footage on Youtube.

As a strength enthusiast, realism doesn't really come into the game in terms of strength. The nature of strength and strength tasks is so complicated, it's best to just let it be simple. I tried to create a table for Hero before that created realistic behaviors, and it turned out to be impossible to figure out. I was trying to figure out carrying ability, based on where on their bodies they could set the weight and how well they could grip the object. It just turned into a nightmare, it wasn't worth it. It is best left abstract. What I would do is just give players beneficial modifiers for properly roleplaying the use of their strength, and maybe use some kind " wieldiness" property to items that multiplies the strength requirement to deal with them (a fridge is wieldiness 2, double it's weight for max lift; a car is wieldiness 3) in the normal way (only do this if you desire realistic-ish strength).

 

All you need to know is that, on paper, the strongest men who have ever lived are STR 20. On paper, it's now like 23, but the way throwing and carrying works, it's more like 20, and even then that's too high for certain tasks. If you have STR 25, your character is unbelievably more strong than the upper human limit. He is an enigma to modern strength sport, a veritable superhuman ultrabeing. He is likely 3 meters tall and weighs a half tonne. He is as strong as the legendry of Angus McAskil, but probably much stronger than the actual man. Also keep in mind that STR 15 is pretty much only for strength athletes or enormously naturally strong individuals like a tall and fat Samoan who played football in highschool. Only if you're into realism, maybe for a single campaign or something.

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14 hours ago, Shoug said:

As a strength enthusiast, realism doesn't really come into the game in terms of strength. The nature of strength and strength tasks is so complicated, it's best to just let it be simple. I tried to create a table for Hero before that created realistic behaviors, and it turned out to be impossible to figure out. I was trying to figure out carrying ability, based on where on their bodies they could set the weight and how well they could grip the object. It just turned into a nightmare, it wasn't worth it. It is best left abstract. What I would do is just give players beneficial modifiers for properly roleplaying the use of their strength, and maybe use some kind " wieldiness" property to items that multiplies the strength requirement to deal with them (a fridge is wieldiness 2, double it's weight for max lift; a car is wieldiness 3) in the normal way (only do this if you desire realistic-ish strength).

 

All you need to know is that, on paper, the strongest men who have ever lived are STR 20. On paper, it's now like 23, but the way throwing and carrying works, it's more like 20, and even then that's too high for certain tasks. If you have STR 25, your character is unbelievably more strong than the upper human limit. He is an enigma to modern strength sport, a veritable superhuman ultrabeing. He is likely 3 meters tall and weighs a half tonne. He is as strong as the legendry of Angus McAskil, but probably much stronger than the actual man. Also keep in mind that STR 15 is pretty much only for strength athletes or enormously naturally strong individuals like a tall and fat Samoan who played football in highschool. Only if you're into realism, maybe for a single campaign or something.

 

And that tallies with what it says in “The. Ultimate Brick”. Thanks for the info.

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On 6/17/2020 at 1:49 PM, DusterBoy said:

@pawsplay lol

 

Also, in Dark Champions, STR 15 is the minimum for Navy SEALs, which makes sense, given the need foe exceptional upper body strength in the Teams.

I would please the minimum of strength closer to 12-3 for a navy seal. As I said, 15 is an enormous individual, not just a "strong" one. No navy seal ever has had 19 or more strength. They excel in other areas, like End and Rec, Spd and Dex, sure, but in terms of sheer strength, I would call 15 a generous average, not a minimum.

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5 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

Has anyone ever used an alternative Strength Chart for Heroic level characters?

 

 

 

Many years ago, I did decimation to stats and damage for Heroic level in an attempt to get some actual granularity.  We were really tired of six party members with nine different guns between them, all of them doing the exact same damage. I mean _all_ of them.   It's not a derision or an insult to accept that HERO doesn't really work that well at "normal guy" levels-- at least, not as good as at other levels.

 

I'm turning in, but what we did was start to do something without much forethought, then attempt to tweak it on the fly, and the whole thing was just a mess.

We fiddled with creating charts to give different values for different scores, but then we ran afoul of the linear / geometrical progression problem.....

 

To sum it up, we almost ended up playing GURPS, but none of us were really all that into GURPS.  :lol:

 

 

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On 6/17/2020 at 2:49 PM, DusterBoy said:

Also, in Dark Champions, STR 15 is the minimum for Navy SEALs, which makes sense, given the need foe exceptional upper body strength in the Teams.

 

I barely considered myself STR 15 at the peak of my martial arts days where I was hitting the gym 6 days a week and could rep the 600 lb calf raise machine with one leg.

STR 15 came and went fairly quickly.  Maybe I held it for a hot 3 years.

In real life you lay off the fitness routine and your STR will drop 3-5 points in a matter of months.

 

I know in our Fantasty HERO days we used a rough estimate of full weight on the STR chart for dead lift, 1/2 for military press and 3/4 for bench press.  Not terribly realistic, but it gave us a rough benchmark.

 

STR 15 would be 440lb dead lifts (reps, not single max), 220 military press and 330 bench.  That is VERY strong.

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When I was in 8th grade, I could leg press 600 pounds, if I remember correctly. That was much more than anyone else in the gym class, even people who were much bigger and much more athletic.

 

I could do fairly rapid (no straining) sit ups for the whole class when no one else could do 15 minutes.

 

After school I split and hauled firewood. That involved a heck of a lot of throwing the cut firewood a number of yards out of the brush toward the truck then throwing it again up into the truck then stacking it neatly. Then emptying the truck and stacking it neatly when we reached our destination.

 

I couldn't do one chin up. My body mass index at the time showed me to be obese despite 30-40 hours a week of intense physical activity, another 10-20 of lighter work, plus gym class.

 

After measuring my BMI, my coach told me, no kidding, that I "should get some exercise".

 

I have no idea what an appropriate STR score should have been.  Maybe I bought STR with (-1/2 limited applications to upper body strength) :) 

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My whole thing has always been why do you want it? More STR because you want damage? Then the player needs to look at Martial Art and a few other options.  Want a high SPD because you run fast? Look at buying some extra running or (if allowed) buy a bit of SPD with Only to Move(??).

 

I love how Allston had it so a barbarian who just wanted to do damage brought the CSL's and poof, more damage.

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On 7/22/2020 at 3:14 AM, ChaosDrgn said:

My whole thing has always been why do you want it? More STR because you want damage? Then the player needs to look at Martial Art and a few other options.  Want a high SPD because you run fast? Look at buying some extra running or (if allowed) buy a bit of SPD with Only to Move(??).

 

I love how Allston had it so a barbarian who just wanted to do damage brought the CSL's and poof, more damage.

Good options but here are some counter points to consider. I’m helping my brother run Fantasy Hero so NO Martial Arts. The reason is to keep it as simple as possible for him. Second adding CSLs together is an option that again many players (in my group) aren’t familiar nor comfortable with. Thirdly adding CSL does not off set Weapon STR Min. nor does it add to lifting and throwing things. Fourthly most people assume a strong character has a high strength stat. 

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