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Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 5:26 pm
by Saladman
Because I've come to think we are playing two different games, out of the exact same rulebook.

In the game I play, I picked up from the start on the "don't roll skill checks unless you're being shot at, opposed or working under adverse circumstances" (my paraphrase, but true to the spirit I believe) language of the skill chapter, and realized that a broad base of trained skills that don't have to be very high will take characters pretty far outside desperate circumstances. If I ignore or minimize anything in the rulebook, it's assigning negative penalties to skill checks willy-nilly - the fact you're rolling at all is the first penalty. If players really need a bonus to a particular roll they can probably get that through a skill chain, assistance, upping the time, etc. (And for new players I'll give them suggestions of the kind of thing I'll accept for skill chains.)

I also took literally the suggested scale for skills, of skill-2 = professional, skill-3 = specialist, skill-4 = literally famous, and use that for NPCs. So if I need an NPC on the fly, a doctor probably has Medic 2 and Edu +1, a ship's captain probably has Pilot 2 and Dex +1, and so on. Supporting skills will be at +2 total, and ancillary at +1. Often I don't even break down what comes from stats and what comes from skills for many NPCs, just +3/+2/+1, and not all characters will have the +3's. It doesn't take a very high skill for player characters to hang with these guys.

In the game other people play, people notice the negative modifiers to skill checks for difficulty and assume they're supposed to use them often. And players want to be good at their chosen specialty, and assume they need a 3/4/5 in a skill to be good - higher is better, right? But skill 4 and stat 2 means you can't fail an unmodified roll, so now the GM needs to be thinking of negative mods if they weren't before, and now the whole table thinks they need a high skill just to deal with those -2 or worse mods the GM is handing out, and they congratulate themselves for their foresight in specializing. And if the GM ignores or minimizes anything out of the rulebook it's "don't roll unless..." because hell, with their skills and stats the players can probably handle it.

In my game a scattering of skills at 1 and 2 is perfectly respectable. That represents a competent character in the world, and you'll be able to do quite a lot at the table. And if you want a particular skill at 3, you can probably get there with Connections.

But people play that second game as well, and they come online talking about character creation "I want a skilled character" or "I want to play a specific concept". And those are reasonable goals in themselves, but the premise that you actually need a skill-3 or -4 to be good simply does not apply to everyone's game. So if you're frustrated that by the book character generation isn't giving you the Pilot-4, Astrogation-3, Sensors-2 character you think you should have to play a pilot, it's not a failure of the book, it's a difference in assumptions.

I almost put this in No Navy Medics?, but First and Second Edition reminded me as well. But I'm not trying to call any particular person out, it's something I've seen before this.

Am I wrong? Am I leaving something out? Am I understating the argument for the second game?

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 5:37 pm
by Moppy
skills in mongoose are lower than original traveler. original might assume 4 for professional. mongoose is 2 plus computer assist for 0- 2 more.

paper RPG are infinitely customisable and flexible and no two will play out the same, if not you might as well play a computer game

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 6:56 pm
by Sigtrygg
To the above post by Moppy

Absolute bollocks :)

In CT a skill level of 1 was enough to qualify you as a professional for your trade - see required skills for starship crew positions.

edit - I have to apologise - I forgot the smiley so the post comes across as a bit snarky - it is meant to be a bit humorous but that's what happens when you post after a bottle of red wine, sorry for any offence.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 8:26 pm
by ShawnDriscoll
Saladman wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 5:26 pm
Am I wrong? Am I leaving something out? Am I understating the argument for the second game?
No. Each referee has their own habits they bring to Mongoose Traveller tables. The tables that have referees that want to punish players, while those players are only interested in winning the game... I refuse to sit at those tables.
Moppy wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 5:37 pm
skills in mongoose are lower than original traveler.
You can't compare CT to MgT. Two different RPGs. One is 1st-gen. The other is 2nd-gen.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 9:59 pm
by Moppy
Sigtrygg wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 6:56 pm
To the above post by Moppy

Absolute bollocks

In CT a skill level of 1 was enough to qualify you as a professional for your trade - see required skills for starship crew positions.
Ok, you're right. Now I need to work out which edition I'm thinking of if it wasn't Classic.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 11:45 pm
by DanDare2050
Mongoose Traveller 2 has difficulty level based on how difficult something would be for a trained person. (p58)
Its rule for negative DMs comes into play when you are doing something like rushing the task, or flying aircraft outside the environment they were designed for. There are also negative DMs for some "save" situations like poisoning. Then there are boon and bane dice, which are reserved for times when you just need to say something is harder or easier but you only get one or the other, that's different to adding a DM because they don't stack.
I generally dislike this mix of ways to adjust difficulty. I don't use boon and bane or negative DMs. Its easier conceptually to move the task difficulty up or down. Its a single "go to".
That being said "routine" is 6+. Is a routine difficulty task something you would roll for? Might be a problem with the naming and description since routine would surely be an auto success for a trained person in almost all cases. Going up from "average" through to "formidable" is ok, except that I would only ever use those higher difficulties very sparingly. Also note those difficulties jump by 2, so each step up is -2 DM. So where elsewhere it calls for a -1 or -3 DM it does not equate to a named difficulty level change.
I tend to muddle through using the 8+ as standard, I never remember to use boon or bane and neither do my players, and then the rare negative DMs for rush jobs, and really difficult situations. Lots of situations will be an auto success because they are not really important, unless no one has at least 1 skill point to bring. Rolling the dice is reserved for "there is a significant challenge here".
The difficulty is getting the players to feel that their skills are significant. In D&D 5e for example there is, despite the bounded accuracy, a tendency for players to feel hopeless unless they are getting +7 or more on their dice rolls. If you rely on the mechanics and dice rolls to bring character skill into play then that will tend to happen, and in a 2d6 system +1 is significant but doesn't feel so. That's where the effect of skills on non-dice roll is probably fairly important. You have skill 1 in computer? Yeah you can operate this program without a dice roll. Skill 2? Oh well then you can hack the program to do something a little different without a dice roll. Skill 3? Break security, maybe have to roll if you end up fighting intelligent ICE. Skill 4? Make that computer your toy.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Fri Jun 07, 2019 2:18 pm
by Old School
I agree that there's no need for skill rolls in routine situations, and I don't know anyone that plays the game differently. We don't to an astrogation or engineer check for a routine jump, for example. Same for a pilot check when landing. They just bog the game down. I assume that it's standard procedure to take the extra time (i.e. a +2 bonus to each roll) in normal circumstances, so why bother with the rolls if you have travellers trained in those skills?

In my campaign the players wanted to chase a rogue scientist across the sector, so we'll use the expanded Traveller Companion rules on that allow for high skill rolls to slightly shorten the time in jump, etc. We're doing that because it adds something the game, and gives the players a fighting chance. But if they just need to get from one system to the next? Move the calendar forward seven days and get on with the game. Also don't forget that a failed skill roll might not be the end of the world. It might just mean try again. The referee can be forgiving in this regard if the situation warrants it.

As for the skill levels, I think that depends on the campaign. If your travellers are the interstellar version of Cain from Kung Fu, you know, wandering from place to place, meeting people, and getting into adventures, a smattering a level 0, 1 and 2 skills is enough. And that's a perfectly good way to play traveller.

If on the other hand, your travellers are six vagabonds trying to trying to build an interstellar empire via piracy and a 200 ton ship, they'd better be highly skilled. Pilot-1 and Diplomacy-1 probably isn't going to cut it. So I've let my players develop VERY highly skilled travellers, and I challenge them accordingly.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:22 pm
by Condottiere
Landing is never routine, and considering the consequences of getting astrogation wrong, that as well.

Game play is a balance of not making it interesting enough for players to pay attention of what's happening, without bogging down play with unnecessary detail or just pushing the narrative' it's making them feel that what they do or decide matters, and that there are consequences for frakking things up, and opportunities to repair or erase mistakes.

As regards to routine tasks, perhaps a double failure is required for the faeces to be launched at the air circulatory system.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:15 pm
by Moppy
Condottiere wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:22 pm
Landing is never routine, and considering the consequences of getting astrogation wrong, that as well.
It's true that about half of all airliner crashes are on landing, but considering how few crashes there are, I would argue that "routine landings" are a thing. It shouldn't be harder for a more advanced flying machine.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 5:05 pm
by Sigtrygg
I agree with Moppy completely. Aircraft landings are so easy the vast majority land with no issue whatsoever. Even in adverse weather conditions the number of crashes is incredibly low, make an easy roll or don't bother if your stat+skill bonus make it unnecessary.

I only require dice rolls if a situation is of great importance and, after looking at character skill, experience etc, I think it requires a roll because I can't decide on automatic success.

Every time you roll the dice you are increasing the chance of characters failing, not succeeding.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 10:17 pm
by NOLATrav
Yeah I only ask for rolls if I can’t decide the outcome for some reason, or if the anticipation of the roll will add meaningful tension.

With D&D or ICRPG however, playing with the polyhedrals is part of the ritual for us so we see a lot more rolls in those games.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 11:35 pm
by paltrysum
There are a few considerations when calling for a task check:
  • Is there a chance the character could fail?
  • If a failure occurs, what does it mean? If a pilot fails to skim hydrogen from a gas giant, does the ship fall into the gas giant—or maybe just do a little damage to the scoops? Failure might only mean things get interesting.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 11:59 pm
by Moppy
NOLATrav wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 10:17 pm
Yeah I only ask for rolls if I can’t decide the outcome for some reason, or if the anticipation of the roll will add meaningful tension.

With D&D or ICRPG however, playing with the polyhedrals is part of the ritual for us so we see a lot more rolls in those games.
If you aren't stressed you can take 10 automatically. If you aren't stressed and have lots of time, you can take 20. At least those are Pathfinder rules. I lost track of D&D when the 2 split from each other and Wizards wouldn't sell PDF or make the core rules free online.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:55 am
by baithammer
Moppy wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 11:59 pm
If you aren't stressed you can take 10 automatically. If you aren't stressed and have lots of time, you can take 20. At least those are Pathfinder rules. I lost track of D&D when the 2 split from each other and Wizards wouldn't sell PDF or make the core rules free online.
5th Edition fixed this, first it has a free basic edition so you can kick the tires and instead of a take ten you use a passive score which is attribute bonus+prof bonus+10 and compare against the difficulty of the check.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 5:07 pm
by Sigtrygg
Whenever I get a player to roll the dice for a skill saving throw I secretly roll 2d as well.
Regardless of player success or failure
2 - a major complication
3-4 minor complication
5-9 character success with no additional complications or advantages
10-11 minor advantage
12 major advantage
I got the idea years ago from the Aftermath/Daredevils consolidated outcome table or whatever it is called.
It fits quite well with the modern trend to multi-axis event resolution

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Sat Jun 22, 2019 11:51 am
by Moppy
baithammer wrote:
Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:55 am
Moppy wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 11:59 pm
If you aren't stressed you can take 10 automatically. If you aren't stressed and have lots of time, you can take 20. At least those are Pathfinder rules. I lost track of D&D when the 2 split from each other and Wizards wouldn't sell PDF or make the core rules free online.
5th Edition fixed this, first it has a free basic edition so you can kick the tires and instead of a take ten you use a passive score which is attribute bonus+prof bonus+10 and compare against the difficulty of the check.
Maybe it's offtopic for here, but I just had a chance to look at 5E. They have an SRD but it's missing many powers and basic components like character advancement. Do they have a single thing that has a reference for everything?

I have the same problem with Traveller. I am NOT going going to hunt through 1,000s of PDFs. I'm not the best fan of Paizo's style but Path/Starfinder are one of the few games I can actually find a rule for, because of their largely complete online SRDs. If you know of a 5E resource I'd be grateful.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Sat Jun 22, 2019 2:14 pm
by Old School
Mongoose does have a habit of dropping rules in random places. Weapons descriptions, the middle of an adventure, the introduction to a campaign, new ship design, a companion book, etc.

Its not that big a deal to me, but better organization or redundancy would help. I do use the search function in a pdf occasionally to find rules.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Sun Jun 23, 2019 6:22 pm
by Saladman
Moppy wrote:
Sat Jun 22, 2019 11:51 am
I have the same problem with Traveller. I am NOT going going to hunt through 1,000s of PDFs.
It's a fair critique if you're trying to use every rule ever published. For myself, I found it remarkably liberating to realize the 1e core book rules were stronger than most of the game rules out of supplements (possible exception of High Guard). I still use and like the supplements for career events, but I don't stop play to look up rules in them.

Re: Are we playing two different games?

Posted: Wed Jul 17, 2019 5:33 am
by GypsyComet
Saladman wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 5:26 pm
Because I've come to think we are playing two different games, out of the exact same rulebook.
In my experience, no two groups can be assumed to be playing "the same game", even out of the same book. The biases (ahem, "education and experiences") each person brings to a rule set vary considerably, to the point where some groups have trouble playing the same game at the same time and at the same table...