Flat XP progression and disposable PC's

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Stewbacca
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Flat XP progression and disposable PC's

Postby Stewbacca » Tue Sep 26, 2017 9:35 am

So, here's my concern about characters, and flat experience for all players, and what seems to me to be more of a leaning toward lethality in the game.

Certain realms, Pan Pacifica and Orrorsh, possibly Tharkold seem to be cast more this round as very lethal places meaning characters may and will die. And it seems also that the mitigation of this is that every character has the same amount of xp points and if Jimmy the Realm Runner dies, that player won't be penalized with a new character by being at the beginning of alpha clearance with xp (50 or less) while the rest of the group might be at beta clearance because they are at 65 xp.

So, Jimmy the Realm Runner is dead and the player gets to 'roll up' a new character and essentially level the character up so that he is on par with the rest of the party. I have 2 thoughts on this.

Why wouldn't the player just decide to erase the name on his character sheet, and change it, handing me Joey the Realm Runner or, Jimmy 2 the Realm Runner? While it seems like this xp mechanic is meant to remove the bite from character loss, and to reinforce the lethality of the adventures, if a player can essentially rename his character to get him back, has the sense of lethality been kind of castrated?

The other spin on this I could see is that players could essentially suicide respec. Don't like the way your character is progressing? Jump on that grenade, play the Martyr card and then 'fix' those mistakes on your character by respending points to better min/max your character on the next pass.

Maybe this is the point? Should characters be thought of as more of a throw away? Is it supposed to represent the horror of war that there are potentially more casualties? Is this iteration of the game supposed to be more a popcorn game where it feels more like a pickup or oneshot and who you're running isn't as important?

I know me, and my players are more the type that will invest in a character, buy and paint miniatures, invest in backstory and really get attached to characters. That's the way we've played most of our characters in most of our games historically (30+ years of tabletop RPGs). But if the mechanics of the game are fighting that, or at least enabling PC's to be much more disposable, then I want to be able to be up front with them about that from the beginning, OR, I will maybe need to find ways to keep PCs from feeling like bic pens.

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DerHuthmacher
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Re: Flat XP progression and disposable PC's

Postby DerHuthmacher » Tue Sep 26, 2017 10:06 am

Stewbacca wrote:Why wouldn't the player just decide to erase the name on his character sheet, and change it, handing me Joey the Realm Runner or, Jimmy 2 the Realm Runner? While it seems like this xp mechanic is meant to remove the bite from character loss, and to reinforce the lethality of the adventures, if a player can essentially rename his character to get him back, has the sense of lethality been kind of castrated?


In an ideal world this won't happen because the player in question knows that this is a childish and unsensitive behaviour that would make all others roll their eyes at and because he wants to try out something else.

The other spin on this I could see is that players could essentially suicide respec. Don't like the way your character is progressing? Jump on that grenade, play the Martyr card and then 'fix' those mistakes on your character by respending points to better min/max your character on the next pass.


This I can see actually see happen, because I saw it happen in other games, even when there was no xp-harmonization, so in a way your question is moot. If a player wants out of her character, she will do so.

As to your other points: I keep saying again and again that this game is cinematic in a big bad Hollywood blockbuster style. This is not Film Noir. It is not Pulp fiction (it can be in the right cosms, but it is still Hollywood even there). And, to answer your question, this is no war drama.

I'd strongly suggest that character death is something that happens in a most dramatic way. So, yes, technically the mook with the knife can kill your player's character in a stupid scene that has absolutely no dramatic effect, but does this entertain? On the other hand, falling at the hands of Whu Han while the rest of the party makes for the ancient idol that hold the key to whatever is dramatic, and cinematic. Leaping on that bomb so the rest of party can escape and continue the fight is dramatic.

One last advice from me:
You'd want to be careful about this. If your players get the feeling they can only die in a dramatic scene they will act on it, but cockiness or overconfidence kill characters as much as enemies do...
---
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ShirtlessOBrien
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Re: Flat XP progression and disposable PC's

Postby ShirtlessOBrien » Tue Sep 26, 2017 10:18 am

Stewbacca wrote:Why wouldn't the player just decide to erase the name on his character sheet, and change it, handing me Joey the Realm Runner or, Jimmy 2 the Realm Runner? While it seems like this xp mechanic is meant to remove the bite from character loss, and to reinforce the lethality of the adventures, if a player can essentially rename his character to get him back, has the sense of lethality been kind of castrated?


Because that's kind of a jerk move for everyone else's suspension of disbelief. No other reason.

The other spin on this I could see is that players could essentially suicide respec. Don't like the way your character is progressing? Jump on that grenade, play the Martyr card and then 'fix' those mistakes on your character by respending points to better min/max your character on the next pass.


This seems like a feature, not a bug. I'm not convinced anything good comes of people playing characters they don't like any more.

Maybe this is the point? Should characters be thought of as more of a throw away? ...

I know me, and my players are more the type that will invest in a character, buy and paint miniatures, invest in backstory and really get attached to characters.


You probably won't want to bring in Jimmy 2 or do constant suicide respecs then, so I don't actually see any problem here.

I don't think TorgE is a terribly lethal system, and I haven't heard of a Total Party Kill in anyone's attempt to run any published module yet, so I don't think characters will die left and right unless your players go out of their way to get their PCs killed, or you run your own material that is super difficult.

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Kuildeous
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Re: Flat XP progression and disposable PC's

Postby Kuildeous » Tue Sep 26, 2017 10:18 am

This has been getting some traction in D&D lately. Milestone leveling (which works better in versions after 2nd) allows players to make a new character at the same level because everyone is at the same level. In fact, while D&D and Pathfinder still pay lip service to uneven leveling, 13th Age flat-out said that characters should advance the same, including new players.

And Torg Eternity reflects that philosophy. It's just a little bit harder when you don't have a level system, but I feel it's worth it.

What stops a player from erasing Jimmy the Realm Runner and handing in Jimmy 2 Electric Boogaloo? Technically nothing, but I would imagine that the snickers of his fellow players may be somewhat discouraging. Or at the very least, there's the cost of not exploring the rich setting of Torg. If I get to play in a campaign, each of my characters will likely be stupidly heroic to the point of dying, just so I can try all the different concepts floating around in my head.

But it is a game of heroics. The Martyr card has always been there to encourage players to make characters that consider the bigger picture. Needs of the many and needs of the few and all that jazz. I think it's a great way to have selfless characters. But if you have a coward or greedy character, that works too. The game has a fair degree of lethality, but it's not a grinder, so those characters can still be less heroic and survive.

The big issue I see is that when someone suffers a permanent injury, rejects transformation, or succumbs to corruption, then numerically speaking, that character is inferior to the others. There is motivation to ditch that character and play another. I'd rather have the players choose to play out this weakness; maybe work up to a conclusion where the character martyrs/redeems/retires himself.
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Stewbacca
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Re: Flat XP progression and disposable PC's

Postby Stewbacca » Tue Sep 26, 2017 11:15 am

I appreciate the insight you're all lending. I don't think I see this as a pitfall our campaign will be subject to, but was wondering more what people think. Many times when I read about table top players gaming the system it is because the GM allows it and I've got a mature enough group of players that I don't see them trying it, much less me allowing it, but was wondering, based on the materials published to this point, what the feeling was on PCs.

I'll be honest, most of my D&D/Pathfinder and other game characters I have had for very long times, with slow character progression being the norm. I have only in the last year gotten into a campaign with brisk progression. This to me just reinforces that the group I play with don't make throw away characters and I feel that will be the case with TorgE (we're planning to start running mid October, going through the Day 1 adventures first as a primer/reminder of the rules for the players and to get me reaquainted with the dynamics... and to shake out how Roll20 works for TorgE).

I'm really looking forward to getting started. I loved this game when it first came out and still have print copies of most of the books. I just wan't sure how much the change in some of the rule dynamics might have shifted PC longevity.

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Spatula
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Re: Flat XP progression and disposable PC's

Postby Spatula » Tue Sep 26, 2017 11:36 am

Punishing players for losing a character (which is potentially already a bad thing in their head) by giving them a new character who can't hang with the other PCs might be fine for some hardcore groups, but I don't think it should be the norm.

If a player wants to move some points around on their character sheet because what they chose didn't work out they way they expected, let them. Punishing players for making choices that didn't work out through no fault of their own will just lead to suicide attempts like you mention.

If a player wants to try out a new character, let them, and move their current character into semi-retirement. Some players have short attention spans.

Like most things, these kinds of situations can be dealt with through communication and by the GM acting like a friend instead of a hardass or a jerk.

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Gargoyle
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Re: Flat XP progression and disposable PC's

Postby Gargoyle » Tue Sep 26, 2017 11:44 am

Stewbacca wrote:So, here's my concern about characters, and flat experience for all players, and what seems to me to be more of a leaning toward lethality in the game.

Certain realms, Pan Pacifica and Orrorsh, possibly Tharkold seem to be cast more this round as very lethal places meaning characters may and will die. And it seems also that the mitigation of this is that every character has the same amount of xp points and if Jimmy the Realm Runner dies, that player won't be penalized with a new character by being at the beginning of alpha clearance with xp (50 or less) while the rest of the group might be at beta clearance because they are at 65 xp.

So, Jimmy the Realm Runner is dead and the player gets to 'roll up' a new character and essentially level the character up so that he is on par with the rest of the party. I have 2 thoughts on this.

Why wouldn't the player just decide to erase the name on his character sheet, and change it, handing me Joey the Realm Runner or, Jimmy 2 the Realm Runner? While it seems like this xp mechanic is meant to remove the bite from character loss, and to reinforce the lethality of the adventures, if a player can essentially rename his character to get him back, has the sense of lethality been kind of castrated?


I feel the game has been designed more to accommodate one shots, convention games, and casual campaigns that don't get together very often. These are tables where there is less attachment to characters. My thinking is that this is ok because GM's running a more traditional long running campaign are going to change things to suit their table anyway. So they might slow down the XP, make the game less lethal, and likely won't have problems like Jimmy 2.

The other spin on this I could see is that players could essentially suicide respec. Don't like the way your character is progressing? Jump on that grenade, play the Martyr card and then 'fix' those mistakes on your character by respending points to better min/max your character on the next pass.

And that might be ok. Sometimes players just want to reroll and the game gives them options to go out with a bang.

Maybe this is the point? Should characters be thought of as more of a throw away? Is it supposed to represent the horror of war that there are potentially more casualties? Is this iteration of the game supposed to be more a popcorn game where it feels more like a pickup or oneshot and who you're running isn't as important?

Intentionally or not, I think the design lends itself to be more for shorter games and one shots.

I know me, and my players are more the type that will invest in a character, buy and paint miniatures, invest in backstory and really get attached to characters. That's the way we've played most of our characters in most of our games historically (30+ years of tabletop RPGs). But if the mechanics of the game are fighting that, or at least enabling PC's to be much more disposable, then I want to be able to be up front with them about that from the beginning, OR, I will maybe need to find ways to keep PCs from feeling like bic pens.

Yeah, I think if it's not running the way you want, you will have to make changes. I've always liked a small penalty when characters die; with D&D I would drop them a level or three on their new character but they'd catch up quickly due to how XP was awarded. It just seems right to me; makes death meaningful. I don't think it's mean or even a "punishment". It's just part of playing a game to lose sometimes.

But when I look at my games in the past few years, I haven't seen the same faces at the table every week. My campaigns used to be like yours, stable, focused on RP'ing, primarily good friends, etc. Life gets in the way though and people have to cancel more and more, including me, and there is a lot of competing entertainment and it's frustrating. So "milestone party" XP might be fine for me as I plan to run the game in my FLGS mostly, with some friends but also strangers, and I expect it will be for most groups out there, even if it's not what we're used to.

I do think that the longevity problem as far as unintentional death goes isn't so bad; I don't think TorgE is inherently deadly. It's those first few adventures you have to sort of watch it...with lots of newbie mistakes (both GM'ing and playing).
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ZorValachan
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Re: Flat XP progression and disposable PC's

Postby ZorValachan » Tue Sep 26, 2017 11:52 am

In another thread, I mentioned that there is a different thinking going on than 20+ years ago. Whether it is us older gamers mellowing out or new players with a different entertainment philosophy of fairness or a combination of both, I am not sure.

Back in the day, there was a sense of need to "punish" those that didn't show up for a game session or those who killed off their characters just because they wanted a new one. Not that it was conscious, but a why reward them for not showing up/dying on purpose. Collateral damage was those whose characters died with the player not wanting it. They suffered the same. Most games had an xp curve that allowed new characters to almost catch up fairly soon. The earlier the death in the game the easier. In OT, the high cost of skills after a certain add (6-7), slowed them down and let new characters catch up on tag skills, while old characters diversified/raised attributes.

Older, I understand lives and priorities may keep people from making a session. And with so many new games/editions and less time to read rules, you might make a character you don't like. I have asked to change a character I did not see and being good for the party. I have been asked by a player to allow a character change. Normally it can now be done without a death. Before it was seen as being dishonest or something.

My group has done the everyone has the same xp thing since 2010 and no complaints. I will state, I personally am not terribly found of the GM just announcing Level ups. I like to at least understand where I am on advancement. But it won't keep me from playing.

For TE, I have not seen a character death yet. with possiblities, cards (destiny and cosm), and defeat rolls (instead of 4 wnds = dead) it's not so easy to die without a martyr or intentionally keeping yourself in combat.
Last edited by ZorValachan on Tue Sep 26, 2017 12:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Flat XP progression and disposable PC's

Postby ZorValachan » Tue Sep 26, 2017 12:01 pm

I echo Gargoyle's thinking that intentionally or not, TE seems to work best as one-shot/convention/Casual. One act in a session seems rushed (fine in those circumstances), but getting into RP and problem solving through communication instead of dice make it more like a scene per session.
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Re: Flat XP progression and disposable PC's

Postby Atama » Tue Sep 26, 2017 12:10 pm

This is a tabletop RPG, not a video game that requires a “death tax” to add a sting to dying.

I’ve played for decades and I’ve lost characters many times. Not once, ever, have I been upset because I lost a character with really good stats. I’ve never been upset because I have to play a character who is behind the other characters in the party. That doesn’t matter.

What matters is that I lost all of the investment of time and energy. My character has a background, personality quirks, likes and dislikes, hopes and fears. He might have a battle cry or a catchphrase. Once gameplay starts, he has relationships with PCs and NPCs, he has stories of his exploits, in-jokes about those times he pulled off the impossible or really screwed up. That’s all gone, you lose all of it when your character dies.

When you talk about old characters with other players, do you swap stories about your skill ranks or power sets? Do you chat about what level you were or how much damage your weapon did? I doubt it. Stories are about what you did, and said, and what happened to you.

I don’t think this system serves to encourage disposable characters in the slightest. You have just as much to lose as you would in any other RPG, because what any player really values isn’t written down on a character sheet.
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