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Shoug

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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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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