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Thread: BRP basic skill rules giving me cognitive dissonance

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    Default BRP basic skill rules giving me cognitive dissonance

    Hey everybody! This is my first post. I've been reading some BRP and RuneQuest material just out of curiosity. I've never actually played a pen and paper RPG before, but I've read quite a few rulebooks (sadly). What started me on my journey of reading these books, funny enough, was looking for ideas to create Elder Scrolls mods for the video games. The rules of Elder Scrolls games always bugged me.

    Anyway, these dice-rolling RPGs look pretty fun! I'd like to play sometime. So, I've been reading different rule sets (D&D, Interlock, Unisystem, Barbarians of Lemuria, Mini Six just to name a few), and of all these sets of rules, I like BRP the best. . . sort of. I was wondering if someone here could help me break through my mental block I'm having with BRP.

    The idea of a percent IS intuitive, yes. But, to me, the way it is used in BRP games (in general) does not feel intuitive. I'll try to explain as efficiently as I can.


    1. The idea that my skill rating is not a rating but a DC in and of itself messes with my head. I WANT to look at this number as a rating, but when the GM modifies this number
    due to difficulty, then it feels as though they modified my skill rating, which makes no sense. I know it seems like I'm picking nits, but really! It messes with me.

    2. Percentile. What does this mean? How is it a percentage? Of what? If this DC can go over 100, and you can fail on a 00 no matter what, then how is this a percentage?
    Doesn't the '%' symbol imply that 100 is the ultimate maximum which means "always and forever?" Again, picking nits, but really. It messes with me.

    3. Roll under doesn't feel as good as roll over. There SHOULD be a way to easily make BRP an optional roll over system. Couldn't you say if your skill rating is a 70, then you have to roll over a 30? Or something like that?

    Okay, I know it may seem like I'm nitpicking because I know there are probably thousands of people who don't have these problems, but these things really bug me.
    I believe the idea of using percentile dice IS intuitive and awesome, but I feel like the way it is actually used in the rules isn't very intuitive. Can you guys and gals set me right?

    Thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by j0nnyfive View Post
    1. The idea that my skill rating is not a rating but a DC in and of itself messes with my head. I WANT to look at this number as a rating, but when the GM modifies this number
    due to difficulty, then it feels as though they modified my skill rating, which makes no sense. I know it seems like I'm picking nits, but really! It messes with me.
    The GM modifies based on various factors. Some are additive, some are multiplicative. Your skill level is set at whatever rating it is. To make things easier to deal with, instead of applying the penalty after the roll, it is easier to apply it before, so that you know exactly what you need. So, if the task is difficult, the GM may apply a 1/2x, meaning your skill is effectively halved due to the difficulty. Much nicer than rolling and doubling the result after to determine whether or not you succeed.

    2. Percentile. What does this mean? How is it a percentage? Of what? If this DC can go over 100, and you can fail on a 00 no matter what, then how is this a percentage?
    Doesn't the '%' symbol imply that 100 is the ultimate maximum which means "always and forever?" Again, picking nits, but really. It messes with me.
    It is based on a percentile roll (i.e. most things are in terms of percentages), but it is not limited to 100% percent. With the use of criticals (say 1/10 is a crit), a skill of 100 crits on a 10 or less, but a skill of 120 crits on a 12 or less. So, going over 100 allows a greater chance of scoring a critical success. Also, some rules allow you to split your attacks if you have more than 100 in a skill, i.e someone with 120 in longsword can attack twice at 60. In RQ6, you use your skill over 100 as a penalty to your opponent (i.e. if you have 120 in longsword, you roll as if you have 100, but your opponent gets a -20 penalty).

    3. Roll under doesn't feel as good as roll over. There SHOULD be a way to easily make BRP an optional roll over system. Couldn't you say if your skill rating is a 70, then you have to roll over a 30? Or something like that?
    You could, if you wanted. But, for simplicity, and use of criticals/specials, it is much easier to roll less than your rating, and 1/20 or 1/10 or whatever to get special/critical hit. Knowing your skill rating is 70, it is much simpler to know you need to roll a 70 or less, or score a 7 or less for a critical if using the 1/10 rule. Your way introduces extra complication of 100 - 70 to get "roll a 30 or better", and 100 - (70/10) to get "roll a 93 or better to get a critical".

    Ian

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    Hey Ian! Thanks for your quick response.


    I'm not sure I'm following your first point. I'm trying, please forgive me. You said it's easier to deal with knowing what you have to roll against before you roll. I'm not sure I understand this. Whether you change the roll or the target, even if it is multiplicative, I'm not sure why this makes things easier or harder. Would you not know the same information either way? Sorry, I'm probably not seeing something. Please keep trying with me. This is a problem of... verisimilitude(?) I'm having, I think. I mean, if my skill is 70, then a harder challenge would not make me less skilled. My skill would still be 70, but my attempt in that moment (represented by the roll) would be what is handicapped. But telling me that I now have to beat 35 instead of 70 feels like I'm not as skilled, which doesn't make sense to me. Like rolling under, this FEELS strange. People don't lose skill, they simply face easier or harder challenges...

    What bugs me about the percentage thing is that it doesn't "feel" like a percentage. My intuition "wants" the skill rating system to stop at 100 which would be god-like and perfect.
    The fact that you can go past 100 makes me lose my sense of scale in some weird way. 100% should mean that I win 100% of the time, period, no matter what. But it doesn't.
    This bugs the fire out of me.

    I want to see things like this:

    90 = max human
    91 = mutant
    93 = something...
    95 = superhero
    99 = demigod
    100 = theoretically impossible in this universe (or some Cthulhu-ish sounding explanation) lol

    I wish the skill level and crit level would rise independently or something. So, you could stop at 99, then your crits continue to improve even though you stop at 99 skill.

    I think my problem is with "verisimilitude". I'm not sure if I'm using that word right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by j0nnyfive View Post
    Hey Ian! Thanks for your quick response.


    I'm not sure I'm following your first point. I'm trying, please forgive me. You said it's easier to deal with knowing what you have to roll against before you roll. I'm not sure I understand this. Whether you change the roll or the target, even if it is multiplicative, I'm not sure why this makes things easier or harder. Would you not know the same information either way? Sorry, I'm probably not seeing something. Please keep trying with me. This is a problem of... verisimilitude(?) I'm having, I think. I mean, if my skill is 70, then a harder challenge would not make me less skilled. My skill would still be 70, but my attempt in that moment (represented by the roll) would be what is handicapped. But telling me that I now have to beat 35 instead of 70 feels like I'm not as skilled, which doesn't make sense to me. Like rolling under, this FEELS strange. People don't lose skill, they simply face easier or harder challenges...

    What bugs me about the percentage thing is that it doesn't "feel" like a percentage. My intuition "wants" the skill rating system to stop at 100 which would be god-like and perfect.
    The fact that you can go past 100 makes me lose my sense of scale in some weird way. 100% should mean that I win 100% of the time, period, no matter what. But it doesn't.
    This bugs the fire out of me.

    I want to see things like this:

    90 = max human
    91 = mutant
    93 = something...
    95 = superhero
    99 = demigod
    100 = theoretically impossible in this universe (or some Cthulhu-ish sounding explanation) lol

    I wish the skill level and crit level would rise independently or something. So, you could stop at 99, then your crits continue to improve even though you stop at 99 skill.

    I think my problem is with "verisimilitude". I'm not sure if I'm using that word right.
    Seriously, just try playing it. As you get more comfortable and familiar with the rules and how things work, I suspect your concerns will go away. The system has been in use, in one form or another, since 1978. With only minor tweaks and additions. It's worked well for many people for over 35 years. I think you will surprise yourself.

    Ian

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    Quote Originally Posted by vagabond View Post
    Seriously, just try playing it. As you get more comfortable and familiar with the rules and how things work, I suspect your concerns will go away. The system has been in use, in one form or another, since 1978. With only minor tweaks and additions. It's worked well for many people for over 35 years. I think you will surprise yourself.

    Ian

    K. Well, thanks for your fast responses Ian! Goodnight!

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    That little symbol on the character sheets, %, really should be removed, as it puzzles many players. The number that is on your character sheet is not your chance of success full stop; it is "your chance of getting a normal success when attempting a task of average difficulty without additional circumstantial modifiers", or something like that. And this is only true as long as the rating is lower than 100, since the highest chance of success you can have at any task is 99%. So it is not really a percentage, but rather your character's "subjective contribution" to an actual percent chance of success in which also "objective external" circumstances are factored.

    If modifying the skill rating troubles you, modify the die roll result: double it for hard tasks, halve it for easy tasks, add and subtract specific modifiers to it.

    The first RPG I bought was D&D, but the first one I played was the German The Dark Eye; TDE's is a roll-under system, so to me rolling under felt "natural"... until I played a RPG with a different system. There are no "intuitive" and "counterintuitive" rules set, only good and bad ones. I habitually say that there's nothing intuitive in the way the knight moves on a chessboard, and still in at least five centuries nobody has had trouble playing chess because of it. All you have to do to is play a game, for its rules to become "second nature".
    Last edited by MatteoN; January 7th, 2014 at 19:42.

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    Quote Originally Posted by j0nnyfive View Post
    Hey Ian! Thanks for your quick response.


    I'm not sure I'm following your first point. I'm trying, please forgive me. You said it's easier to deal with knowing what you have to roll against before you roll. I'm not sure I understand this. Whether you change the roll or the target, even if it is multiplicative, I'm not sure why this makes things easier or harder. Would you not know the same information either way? Sorry, I'm probably not seeing something. Please keep trying with me. This is a problem of... verisimilitude(?) I'm having, I think. I mean, if my skill is 70, then a harder challenge would not make me less skilled. My skill would still be 70, but my attempt in that moment (represented by the roll) would be what is handicapped. But telling me that I now have to beat 35 instead of 70 feels like I'm not as skilled, which doesn't make sense to me. Like rolling under, this FEELS strange. People don't lose skill, they simply face easier or harder challenges...
    To get into this a bit more - think of it this way. The way BRP based games have been designed and implemented, the knowledge you have when attemtping to do something is front-loaded - you have pretty much all of the knowledge of what it takes to succeed in front of you. Your skill rating is your target number under normal challenges. When something is sufficiently more difficult (or easier), since there is no other target value than your skill level, the skill level is modified. In the end, whether you modify your skill level, or some arbitrary target number, the same effect is garnered - your skill is made less effective by the difficulty. So, it really doesn't matter what you change. In BRP, the skill is modified since that is the only thing that can be.

    What bugs me about the percentage thing is that it doesn't "feel" like a percentage. My intuition "wants" the skill rating system to stop at 100 which would be god-like and perfect.
    The fact that you can go past 100 makes me lose my sense of scale in some weird way. 100% should mean that I win 100% of the time, period, no matter what. But it doesn't.
    This bugs the fire out of me.

    I want to see things like this:

    90 = max human
    91 = mutant
    93 = something...
    95 = superhero
    99 = demigod
    100 = theoretically impossible in this universe (or some Cthulhu-ish sounding explanation) lol

    I wish the skill level and crit level would rise independently or something. So, you could stop at 99, then your crits continue to improve even though you stop at 99 skill.

    I think my problem is with "verisimilitude". I'm not sure if I'm using that word right.
    And this is what bugs me about percentages and an artifical limit of 100%. It's just math. 12 is 120% of 10. 20 is 200% of 10. Percentages describe relationships between values. Just because you define one value as the one you are comparing things to, does not mean you cannot have something greater. Same thing with fractions. 100% is 1. Surely you can have 1 1/2 (or 3/2) of something. You are not constrained/limited to a single value of 1. Percenatges are the same, they can exceed 100% if that is what the relationship dictates.

    Further, you really need to read the books more closely. The skill levels are succinctly defined in the BGB as to what they mean. It is the level of compentency on a human scale. Demigods, superheroes, etc. go beyond that scale. Read the Skills chapter again with all of this in mind. And, 100% has never meant, in BRP at least, that you always succeed. Again, the Skills chapter states this. There is always a chance for failure unless the task is so easy, a roll is not necessary. And, in all reality, what you are asking for about skill and crit level rising independently is pretty much what is happening. While your skill level can increase beyond 100%, a roll of "00" is always a failure, so it "stops at 99". However, as the skill level continues to increase, so does the crit level.

    Ian

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    In a few words, consider the "skill rating" only as a reference number used to calculate your chance of success, a kind of measure of you proficiency, not as a true percentage.

    But as other said, just try it, we swear you it works !

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    Quote Originally Posted by j0nnyfive View Post
    I'm not sure I'm following your first point. I'm trying, please forgive me. You said it's easier to deal with knowing what you have to roll against before you roll. I'm not sure I understand this. Whether you change the roll or the target, even if it is multiplicative, I'm not sure why this makes things easier or harder. Would you not know the same information either way? Sorry, I'm probably not seeing something. Please keep trying with me. This is a problem of... verisimilitude(?) I'm having, I think. I mean, if my skill is 70, then a harder challenge would not make me less skilled. My skill would still be 70, but my attempt in that moment (represented by the roll) would be what is handicapped. But telling me that I now have to beat 35 instead of 70 feels like I'm not as skilled, which doesn't make sense to me. Like rolling under, this FEELS strange. People don't lose skill, they simply face easier or harder challenges...
    OK, try this.

    100% means that you should be able to succeed in using a skill under optimal circumstances most of the time.

    However, BRP has modifiers for difficulty. A Difficult roll means your skill is halved. So, someone who is pretty good with a skill, say Climbing, most of the time should be able to climb a wall fairly easily. However, if he is climbing a mountain in a blizzard then his skill would be halved. Someone with 100% skill has a 50% chance of climbing the mountain in a blizzard. Someone with 200% Climbing can climb the mountain in a blizzard most of the time.

    Also, some special effects rely on scoring a Special or Critical roll. If your normal chance is 100% then you special on a 20 and critical on 05. If your skill is 200% then you special on 40 and critical on 10. This means that people with higher skills than 100% have a better chance of getting a better result.

    Finally, in combat, people with more than 100% skill can do more things. If you make multiple attacks then you split your skill across the attacks. So, someone with 100% could attack twice at 50% with the same weapon. Someone with a skill of 200% could attack twice at 100%.

    The higher skill indicates a higher proficiency.

    Quote Originally Posted by j0nnyfive View Post
    What bugs me about the percentage thing is that it doesn't "feel" like a percentage. My intuition "wants" the skill rating system to stop at 100 which would be god-like and perfect.
    The fact that you can go past 100 makes me lose my sense of scale in some weird way. 100% should mean that I win 100% of the time, period, no matter what. But it doesn't.
    This bugs the fire out of me.
    What happens if you are doing something very difficult? Do you automatically succeed? Nope.

    It is just a matter of perception. Your idea of what 100% means isn't the same as ours.

    Quote Originally Posted by j0nnyfive View Post
    I want to see things like this:

    90 = max human
    91 = mutant
    93 = something...
    95 = superhero
    99 = demigod
    100 = theoretically impossible in this universe (or some Cthulhu-ish sounding explanation) lol

    I wish the skill level and crit level would rise independently or something. So, you could stop at 99, then your crits continue to improve even though you stop at 99 skill.

    I think my problem is with "verisimilitude". I'm not sure if I'm using that word right.
    With magic, if you can increase your skill level by 20% and are at 90% what happens? Sure, increasing crits gives you a way of handling that, but it is a less elegant solution than having skills over 100%.
    Simon Phipp - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982.
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    RQ/BRP: www.soltakss.com/index.html
    RQ Alternate Earth: Group: http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/alternateearthrq/ Website: http://alternateearthrq.soltakss.com/

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    Hey guys/gals,

    Thanks for your responses!

    Yeah, my problems aren't about doubting whether the game works on a technical "math" level. Of course it does, I'm sure it does, it's been around forever and all... it's just my own subjective/aesthetic/psychological problems I'm having with the percent system. I think my problems stem from the idea that this skill rating scale seems to mean so many different things. Here's what I've gathered so far:

    1. It is a rating of how "good" I am as a human. 120% means I'm beyond the average human max potential of 100%? In this context, it is a comparison of how "good" I am as a human compared to another human. In this context, it makes sense to go past 100% since we're comparing me to others.

    2. It is a rating of my percent chance of beating the average challenge as that challenge pertains to humans since this is a human scale. So, a 50% challenge for a human may only be a 90% challenge for a demigod. This view only works until the skill reaches 99% because in this context, it doesn't make sense to beat a challenge 101% of the time since 100% or 99% is all that one can reasonably expect, but after 99%... okay, so if the human and the demigod are both at 99%, what is the difference? Human scale athletic challenge 99% vs demigod athletic challenge 99%... would you give the demigod bonuses while penalizing the human?

    3. The remainder of value past 99% pertains to a "bonus section" affecting how often I crit and various battle stuff. Even though its a part of the same number, we use this section in a different way... I think.

    I'm pretty sure I could play and run this game, but my imagination is angry with it. lol

    Question: Why are there different scales of skill rather than using this to compare me (human) with the monsters I fight? Does the SIZ attribute pertain to only humans as well? I thought that was so I could see just how big Cthulhu was in comparison to myself? I was thinking of the skills the same way. Oops.

    I don't doubt the system "works" as written. I don't doubt any of these RPG systems "work". My problem is one of cognitive aesthetics I guess. I'm sure to other people smarter or different then myself, this "core mechanic" is super intuitive and beautiful and all... I just wish I was one of them. lol Guys, correct any mistakes I made above, please. Thanks for your patience.

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