Building characters with XP: The Simple way or the Easy way

Sword of Spirit
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Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:03 am

Building characters with XP: The Simple way or the Easy way

Postby Sword of Spirit » Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:16 pm

It's no secret that the math of Torg XP rewards newly created characters joining a campaign much more than characters starting from the beginning. A character gets 40 points to divide amongst attributes on a 1 for 1 basis. XP, however, is spent on an increasing scale, so if you eventually want to have a 13 and a 12 in your stats, it is much more efficient to buy those with your build points (and leave your other three at 5), than to raise them later with XP. You probably aren't going to do that however, because those 5s are crippling. That downside doesn't apply for characters starting later, since they can simply put their build points into that 13 and 12, and then buy up their low stats with XP for a much more efficient way to end up with the exact same stats.

How much more efficient are we talking here? The least efficient build starts with five 8s, and 16 skills at 1 add. The most efficient starts with a 13, a 12, three 5s; and five skills at 3 and one at 1. That's the equivalent of an 83 xp point difference (68 in attributes alone)! That is seven bought Perks. Let that sink in.

As a further illustration, if you started with those two characters, and you were going to give each the values of the other with XP, (ie, a 13, 12, three 8s; and five 3s and ten 1s) the campaign would need to gain 219 xp (4 Acts past Gamma Clearance) for the less efficient build to get there. And by that time the efficient build would have been there since mid-Beta, and now has 7 more Perks than the inefficient build.

Some of you don't have a problem with this. Many players will. So this thread is to propose two different solutions to address it for those who have a problem with it, and I'd be interested in hearing thoughts on the pros and cons of each.

The Simple Solution: The game works as normal, but any player can rebuild their character (as if they were creating a new one) at any point between Acts. They still have to buy the stuff they've already bought--they just get to check and see if they have extra XP to spend due to being able to start more efficiently. This would also take care of Perks that raise attributes or skills directly (the Super Pulp Powers, and the lesser other cosm specfic ones), since the rebuild could take them at the most efficient time. I expect there would be some players who would do this after every Act, while others would likely consider it after an adventure, and some players wouldn't want to mess with it at all. The latter players wouldn't have to do anything with it (though let's be honest, the other players in the group would rather do it for them than not have it done). To avoid imposing on players that don't want to mess with recalculating, just having the group sitting down and do this together at each new clearance rating (or whenever) would allow those who care to optimize the XP allotment of their less interested friends without constantly feeling like they need to mess with their character sheets. Due to the math involved, this solution is simple, but not really easy. Pros are that the players get to individually choose how much to use this system, and the game starts out the same as always. Cons are that the players have to mess with more math than the other method every time they want to do this.

The Easy Solution: For this one, you eliminate build points. Instead, you buy initial Attributes and Skills with XP points (calculated according to the most efficient methods), just like you would if increasing them later. You never need to recalculate anything because characters are always equally efficient in terms of XP. This solution is generally fairly easy to work with, but not as simple of a change. You'll want some simple charts, and you are going to require all your starting players to do a little bit more addition with bigger numbers. To account for Perks that directly raise Attributes/Skills, you count them as always having raised the stat to its highest current value. In other words, for purposes of XP spent to buy up a stat, consider the stat to equal it's current level minus any increased level due to Perks.*

For creating characters, you get 278 XP for Attributes, and you buy each of your five attributes using this cost scale:
5 = 0 xp, 6 = 12 xp, 7 = 26 xp, 8 = 42 xp, 9 = 60 xp, 10 = 80 xp, 11 = 102 xp, 12 = 126 xp, 13 = 152 xp, 14 = 176 xp, 15 = 198 xp.

You get 31 XP for Skills and the scale is:
+1 = 1 xp, +2 = 3 xp, +3 = 6 xp

There are a few things to note about this table.
1) 14s and 15s (available to non-humans) cost less than their rating would indicate (only 24 points to go from 13 to 14, and 22 to points to go from 14 to 15). This same cost needs to be applied to buying them later with XP. 14 = 24 xp, 15 = 22 xp. This weird pricing is necessary to allow starting non-humans to buy the same attribute levels they could buy using the default system, without allowing humans to buy higher attributes than they could. You could use the standard pricing for 14 and 15 (making the character build values be 180 and 210 respectively), but then you'd want to give everyone 290 XP to build their characters with, which you might not want to do. If it seems like this reduced cost my unduly encourage players to always go for the 15 (rather than stopping at a 13 if that makes more sense), just think of how often anyone is actually going to take their stat to a 13 that isn't planning on going all the way to 15 anyway. Doesn't really happen. Think of this oddity as further representing the bonus of those races in getting achieving high stats.
2) A character going for a 13 and a 12 still starts with three 5s, but a character going for a more balanced start starts with three 9s and two 8s (rather than five 8s). In addition to balancing the XP efficiency, this discourages starting out with over-specialization and dump stats, because you'll actually get 3 more attributes (based on the standard build points, rather than XP) if you go with the most balanced start. Many people will find this desirable because it makes more well-rounded starting characters, while others might not. The important thing to remember here is that regardless of which way you want to start on (and of course, there are a lot of more interesting (IMO) combinations in that space between balanced and super-specialized), you'll end up equal with every other way once you start spending XP to increasing things.
3) Many attribute array choices (and potentially some skill choices) will leave you with leftover XP in those categories. I recommend that the extra XP be recorded and dedicated to the appropriate category (attributes or skills) rather than being allowed to be used in the other category or roll over into the general XP you gain. While there is no XP imbalance caused by using the XP outside of its defined category (or even combining character creation XP into a total pool of 309 points) you might not want to encourage the sorts of eccentric characters that could allow (such as characters with few or no skill adds).

This method is easy, because once you've created your character with the charts you don't have to worry about recalculating anything again, but it isn't as simple behind the surface, and some players would rather just divide 40 points amongst five attributes than add up double and triple digit XP costs.

In effort to make this easy method even more player-accessible, you could provide some standard arrays they could choose from to eliminate the math on their end entirely, will still allowing a good degree of choice. I've taken the liberty of putting a few together.

Attribute Arrays (none of these have leftover XP):
13, 12, 5, 5, 5
13, 8, 8, 8, 5
13, 9, 8, 6, 6
12, 8, 8, 8, 7
11, 10, 8, 8, 6

(I tried to find one that had nothing under 8 and didn't have leftover XP, but couldn't. But a good one is 9, 9, 9, 8 ,8, which has 14 leftover XP, which means after your first Act you can afford to turn one of those 8s into a 9.)

Skill Arrays
Jack of Trades: One 3, twenty-five 1s
Generalist: One 3, five 2s, ten 1s
Double Major: Two 3s, four 2s, seven 1s
Adventurer: Three 3s, three 2s, four 1s
Specialist: Four 3s, seven 1s
Dedicant: Five 3s, one 1

Are there any additional pros or cons I missed?

* I recommend this to anyone, even those who aren't using one of these systems, because otherwise those Perks can be "traps" that after you've gained enough Perks end up actually only being worth it if you never take more than a certain (often small) number of Perks. Even with this system, due to the increasing cost of Perks, the non-Nile Perks (that don't allow you to exceed racial maximums) eventually become liabilities, but it will take them longer to do so, and if you only plan to take a moderate number of Perks you might never hit that point, making them reasonable choices.

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