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RPG Balance
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aprettybigdeal last won the day on October 6 2019

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  1. aprettybigdeal

    RPG System v4 Updates

    First update! This is picking up sort of mid-stream, but hopefully it'll make some sense anyhow. This update deals with identifying role identities for expected retail-inspired builds, and using a three-point gradient 'role chart' to start the process of turning a build from a loose concept into something actionable. So, we're aiming for using a perk tree for character creation and development in v4, and otherwise going classless with the system. This means that, from a player perspective, you build your character by looking through the perk tree, and making choices to obtain the abilities and advantages that fit with how you envision your character. But from a design perspective, we have a bunch of things to consider to make something that seemingly simple actually happen and work well. The first thing we have to consider is that while players will definitely want to make their own unique builds and come up with cool combinations of perks, there are also players who will want some kind of a baseline to work from, and the retail class specs are a great starting point for that. And for us, they can actually give us an avenue for starting to design the perk tree, since--if we know we want to accommodate retail specs (within the constraints to which we can)--we know we have some 'pre-set builds' to design as our templates. Structure is good! But retail specs weren't designed with a classless 'free-form' character creation and development system in mind like how our perk tree is shaping up. So what we have to do is figure out how to 'convert' a class-based design into a classless design. And for that, we use a 'role chart.' Basically, what a role chart does, is it allows us to first identify what capabilities/responsibilities are common to different specs and builds, and use those to identify major, overarching roles. And then we can use those roles as axes on a chart, to loosely categorize builds, and 'reverse engineer' them into collections of perks. I know it sounds complicated--and it is. But it's a necessary process to try to make sure that, for instance, a mage you build to be a certain kind of mage, actually performs and feels like they're that kind of mage. It allows us to build baselines and have a conceptual foundation to work from so that we know that something built to be a certain way should function correctly, instead of having the pitfalls that earlier versions of the system have had. So, let's look at the current version of the role chart! Kind of a lot going on there visually, but it's actually pretty simple to understand. Our three main axes of the role chart are Control, Attack, and Support. At the top-left, the main capabilities/responsibilities (or 'verbs') of an axis are listed. These are conceptual more than mechanical, and act as guiding concepts for developing abilities and perks. For example, classic 'DPS'-focused abilities serve the 'Eliminates Enemies' verb, and so are more heavily found in roles which are higher up the Attack axis. For any given build, the more (and more fully) it exemplifies a given axis's verbs, the higher it should be on that axis; for example, the more a build does the things listed under the Control axis, the higher it should be on the Control axis. Pretty simple, right? Each section of the chart pertains to a certain classification of a role. At the top right, the 'guide' shows what the generally expected balance of a role should be, given its place on the chart along a given axis. We then name these roles in a way which makes them consistent and understandable: Any role which has no (or very little) influence from more than one axis, is considered a 'Pure' role on that axis. For example, a role which is all or nearly all Attack, is considered a Pure Attack role. Any role which has a meaningful but not high degree of influence from a secondary axis (or two) is considered a 'Flex' role on its primary axis; for example, a build which is mostly Control, but has some amount of Attack, is considered a Control / Attack Flex role. Any role which has a high degree of influence from a secondary axis (or two) is considered a 'Hybrid' role on its primary axis; for example, a build which is strongly Support, but has a high amount of Attack, is considered a Support / Attack Hybrid role. And finally, a role can be both Flex and Hybrid. This relates to roles which are strongly mixed and adaptable; for example, a role which is strongly Control, but has meaningful amounts of both Attack and Support, is considered a Control Flex Hybrid role. So now, we have a terminology and a classification method to start reverse-engineering retail builds, by plotting them on the role chart. This lets us know what the balance of abilities and perks we design for that build should be, so we don't--for example--design too much healing for a DPS build, or too much CC for a healer build. From there, we can start breaking down retail builds and using these guidelines to identify key mechanics which make the build unique and special, how those key mechanics feed into the build's role balance, and what kinds of abilities and perks we should design to express those key mechanics. Right now, everything is still in the concept phase, but what this lets us do is go from nebulous ideas of what a build could be, to start narrowing down and identifying what actual actionable things we can design that can bring these builds to life. These can then be plotted onto a work-in-progress perk tree in the appropriate places, and we can start toying around what what a player could make out of those building blocks, and add, remove, or revise things as necessary. The end result--hopefully--being that players who want to make reasonably retail-faithful familiar builds, as well as those who want to take a traditional build and tweak it, and even those who want to make experimental and original builds from scratch, can all choose from the same broad selection of perk options in the perk tree, and have fun finding the combination and style that works best for them. To finish up, let's look at an example retail build breakdown, with the Shadow Priest. I want to emphasize that this is not finished work, and was only created as an example of how a build breakdown could be written up to be useful from a design perspective, and that not all of the things contained in this example are likely to be retail-accurate; I just spun this one off the top of my head to illustrate the method. The actual in-depth retail build breakdowns are slowly underway by people who know retail way better than I do! But hopefully, this should give a glimpse into how builds are being classified, broken down, and turned into ability and perk concepts at this stage of development. Whew, a lot of stuff in this update! Stay tuned for more as work on v4 continues!
  2. aprettybigdeal

    RPG System v4 Updates

    Hey, everyone! In an effort to not lose these updates on v4 progress, I'm starting a topic here for posting them. Following this message will be v4 updates as they happen!
  3. aprettybigdeal

    Expectaction vs Reality

    So, the thing about Mel (hi, I'm Mel) is that while I had a narrative concept for her in mind, I also made her in such a way where the expectation of power would probably mesh with the mechanical progression as it unfolded. I've butted heads with staff members a couple of times through the course of that evolution while figuring it out, but largely, I'm actually very much okay with how things have gone. I didn't envision Mel as a low-power character, I envisioned her as a character agnostic of power, and then adapted to the reality of how power played out and changed with regard to the character and the larger community and story. I don't see her as a 'high-power' character now, nor do I try to play her as one, despite being one of the oldest and highest XP characters currently on the server, because her mechanical power doesn't constitute the most important things about her, to me. She's a community-oriented character, a socially-oriented character, and I think for the most part, a lot of her 'sway' in things now doesn't come from her mechanical ability; it comes from her social and community position. She has very much evolved from a character who was essentially afraid of anything remotely dangerous, to someone who will do everything they can to walk beside someone who would otherwise be going into danger alone. She knows things, remembers things, and has developed skills and abilities very much based on a "we're all in this together" mentality, so in or out of combat, she strives to help others, and demands the best of people. While I play her as not believing it, she has gone from someone who needed to be protected, to someone who is very much a leader. It's come from her experiences with other characters, and I've tried to justify everything about who she is now by her experiences 'growing up' in the Doldrums, around all the other past and present characters. That's a character who's going to end up with ties to a lot of people, and relationships with a lot of people, and thus a lot of pull with a lot of people. But mechanically, she's maxed out in two professions--Architect (which has near-zero pure mechanical impact), and Provisioner (which is kind of a second-tier profession at best)--and would lose in a straight fight against any serious combat-focused character at almost any XP level. So she's both powerful and weak at the same time, and it's all come through an evolutionary narrative process. She's been a scared nobody, apprentice healer, caretaker, local leader, diplomat, negotiator, pseudo-crusader, entrepreneur, experienced healer, innkeeper, veteran survivor, local loremaster, and so on and so on, and almost none of that was what I originally had in mind, and I like the way it turned out way, way better. It's made her a much richer, fuller character in the long run. Wall of text aside, I think starting from zero like anyone else gave me the chance to mold a very compelling character for me to play over time in collaboration with the setting and system, instead of trying to force my concept onto the setting and system. But to achieve that, I saw what I was getting into, and committed to it as-is, and I'm honestly happy with the overall result from a narrative standpoint. I certainly think there's plenty of room for the systems to be made smoother and better designed, so I don't disagree with there needing to be improvements made to the systems and mechanics. But I think lifting the enforced baseline might damage what makes the server such a unique experience. It's not something everyone is going to enjoy, but it's also not meant for everyone to enjoy. There's a specific vision in play here (while it might not be extremely clearly conveyed), and I think this would dilute that vision. I think a better play would be to find specific targeted failings of the system to effectively onboard new players with that vision, and work on those aspects in order to make it easier for a player to bring their roleplay to the server, instead of demand that the server cater to their roleplay. In terms of GMing style, there are ultimately two primary types; the type which is highly concept-permissive, where the GM flexes the setting to accommodate whatever their players want to play; and the type which is more setting-first, where the GM has the setting and world, and there are firm, fixed boundaries within which players can create their concept. Shores is clearly the latter. There are going to be players who love that, and players who hate that, and players who have mixed feelings; I just think that's the nature of the beast.
  4. aprettybigdeal

    [Feedback] Keeper Events

    there are too many antagonists (or villainous protagonists, i guess technically) which spring out of nowhere, have unrelatable or unestablished motivations, and possess incontestable power until it's time to fight them, and then vanish again with little consequence. i'd like to see more mundane adversaries, and adversaries who are more 'human' and relatable. like, there's a reason that superman's most iconic villain is lex luthor, instead of doomsday. i'd like to see storylines which are less about 'big bad appears, everything threatened, band together and fight,' but by the same token, part of that is on the players to instigate. like for instance, mel and tim are trying to start up a coalition of all the crafters and gatherers among the playerbase and haytham's uncle's faction, to start a 'trade war' with silver-eye to end their monopoly and force them to deal fairly with everyone or starve. there's a wealth of interesting yet 'mundane' and personal conflict and narrative to be found there if a GM wants to, from intrigue to diplomacy to battle and so on, and it's player-instigated, if not necessarily player-driven entirely. the best stand-offs aren't the ones where you're literally powerless to destroy the villain, they're the ones where you're figuratively powerless to do so. an invincible enemy is boring; an enemy who has you in 'moral checkmate' is compelling. (copypasted from earlier discord convo) edit (adding another thought): to be fair, i'd also like to see storylines which are inverted from the normal power structure. instead of 'what do we do against X powerful/important thing,' it might be interesting to see storylines about 'what do we do with X powerful/important thing?' though that can take some serious consideration to keep reined in. the thing with the various crystal shards with minor powers was a neat example of this.
  5. aprettybigdeal

    The Rumor Mill

    Rumor has it yesterday, Friandir, Ehk, and Mel gave the orc woman at the murder site a proper burial, and packed up her camp. Mel took the tent, Ehk took the campfire, and Friandir took the other assorted oddments. https://imgur.com/a/VeozdPY
  6. aprettybigdeal

    The Rumor Mill

    Rumor has it Mel found a camp somewhere inland from the Daggerfins' bar that's the site of a murder, complete with tracks leading away from it.