Sunday, July 29, 2012

Player Chosen Ability Scores: Talent

Continuing my series on High and Low ability scores and how I used them in my games.  In addition to the four primary ability scores players could choose two ability scores that best reflected their character's quirks and virtues.    The most noteworthy aspect was that a low score was not necessarily a punishing score, instead a low score functioned in a complementary fashion to the boons of a high score.  In this series I'm going to take a look at each of these optional stats, how I want them to operate and how they were originally represented mechanically.  This time we're going to look at Talent.  Previous entries can be found here.

Sometimes you just have a knack for something, you have the good fortune to have a natural prowess with the things you know and for everything else you can easily get the hang of.  A talented character picks up on most things very quickly and can perform them adequately and often spectacularly.  An untalented character has to work much harder to keep up with others.
Both talented and untalented characters can be very appealing archetypes.  The prize student with no equal that advances to the top effortlessly can be very appealing for those who have struggled in the past.  On the other hand, the untalented no-name without a dime to their name that rises to the top through sheer determination and hard work speaks to core values in many of us.  With the talent attribute both of these are possible from the get go, here's how it was originally implemented.

  •  Prowess (Original)
    • The hero received a flat bonus (1-4) to either their Combat rolls or to their Skills rolls
      • A flat bonus to a frequently used roll became too tempting and other optional stats were frequently neglected in favor of this one
    • A negative modifier became the chance for a critical fumble to turn into a critical mishap
      • The chance was your modifier out of 6, the more clumsy you were the more likely this could happen
      • Critical mishaps could be good or bad depending on the whims of the GM and the situation and scenery you are in
    •  Used for the Precision offensive fighting style and the Cautious defensive stance
      • Could not be the victim of a called shot in that stance
How it currently works (after the translation from d20 to 3d6 and the increasing rarity of modifiers)
  • Talent
    • Quick Learner
      • A talented character has a chance to learn a new skill after encountering it and briefly trying it out
        • I don't actually use skills per se, but I do use backgrounds that influence whether you can or cannot do something (i.e. it is assumed a tailor can tie a good rope)
    • Spectacular Success (Positive modifier)
      • Whenever you roll 3 of a kind up to and including your modifier you score a Spectacular Success
      • Attacks by default are treated as critical hits (normally requires 2 same color dice to be equal to critical)
      • Attacks / ability checks can have their action/time costs reduced to 0
      • A domino effect of good things can happen
        • "Not only do you disable the trap spewing a gout of fire but it's last fan of flame illuminated a secret door on the opposite side of the wall.  Additionally, with the mechanism revealed you think you might be able to disable the fire spewing system on this floor or potentially destroy it."
    •  Untalented (Negative modifier)
      • Non-instantaneous ability checks have their action/time costs increased by your penalty
      • You earn additional XP equal to your modifier
        • It should be noted I give out XP typically in single integers so this is a proportionate boost.
      • Idiot Savant
        • Mechanically the same as Spectacular success
        • Consequences are not always positive
          • Disastrous effects are encouraged so long as they affect both sides
          • In a non-contested roll it is treated as the character coming up with a working simplistic analogy for a complex problem.
So there you have it.  Your untalented bum of a boxer has to work harder and longer for that title match but they certainly learn a lot from their mistakes and their losses.   Meanwhile the gifted archivist much to envy of their peers is inclined to kick back and relax waiting for that flash of insight to solve the inscrutable problems they face.  I'm fairly happy with how Talent has turned out, compared to its much more specific (and overly useful) predecessor in Prowess.  Comments and suggestions as always are welcome.

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