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Re: Careers and Specialties

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  • Jonathan Lang
    Further thoughts: characters should also have a Culture. Normally, a Culture doesn t need a rating, although someone who is familiarizing himself with a
    Message 1 of 25 , Aug 7 8:59 PM
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      Further thoughts: characters should also have a Culture. Normally, a Culture doesn't need a rating, although someone who is familiarizing himself with a foreign culture might take a substandard rating in it. Your culture acts like a Fair Career (or worse, for non-native Cultures) for the purpose of determining Specialties that are commonplace in your native culture, as well as acting as a fallback for any Specialty that you can't justify through one of your actual Careers. Specialties that are ubiquitous in your Culture are treated as Primary; specialties that are commonplace, but not essential, are treated as Supporting; specialties that are uncommon but not unheard of are treated as Background. An example of a Primary specialty would be your native tongue; a Supporting specialty for a modern-day urban culture might be the ability to operate a vehicle or use a computer. In a primitive hunter/gatherer Culture, strength and stamina are essential for survival, and so default to Fair; in a more advanced culture, such traits take on more of a supporting role, and so have a lower default; in a futuristic society where everybody's physical needs are taken care of by the machines, such traits probably count as Background. In a pre-industrial culture, a specialty in computers isn't even possible, and gets no default rating; if you don't have a Career that could supply the specialty (e.g., a high-tech priesthood in an otherwise primitive setting), you don't have access to it at all.

      In essence, all skills derive from either a Career or a Culture; and anything that can't be justified by one of your Careers or Culture isn't available to you.

      The "Careers and Specialties" system can be restricted to character creation, if you'd like; but it's designed with adding specialties to your character on the fly in mind. Adding a Specialty to your character can be as simple as deciding which Career to derive it from and what it's default level is, then writing it down; or you can spend experience points on it and get it at a higher level than its Career default would provide - or lower, if the revelation is one of a surprising lack of competence. Regardless, consider integrating the revelation of the skill into the game's roleplay: "I learned how to play Chess from a Master Sergeant in my old Army unit" for a new Specialty: Chess (Army Grunt).
    • Jens Alfke
      ... Hm, what do you see as being artificial about the pyramid? To me, it just seems like a way to get a more realistic balance of skills, since not everyone
      Message 2 of 25 , Aug 7 10:08 PM
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        On Aug 7, 2011, at 7:17 PM, Jonathan Lang wrote:

        > So that you know where I'm coming from: I hate the skill pyramid. It's too rigid and artificial for my tastes, and it strikes me as being contrary to the freeform, concept-first spirit of the rest of Fate.

        Hm, what do you see as being artificial about the pyramid? To me, it just seems like a way to get a more realistic balance of skills, since not everyone can be awesome at everything.

        I like Risus, but it’s a self-confessed “beer & pretzels” game that lends itself to anything-goes silliness.

        > The idea is this: instead of a skill pyramid, you select a number of Careers, each rated on the standard Fate Ladder. For example, you might put down "Knight of the Realm: Great", or "Psionic Adept: Good". You then write down your Specialties: each Specialty is also rated on the Fate Ladder, […] Individual Specialties work just like Skills in regular Fate.

        This sounds pretty good; but if the Specialties are freeform / made up on the spot, that brings some drawbacks. The good thing about a canned list of skills is that it introduces some constraints for chargen, and when you pick a skill both you and the GM understand what the skill means and what mechanical advantages it grants. If you can make up any Specialty, then you and the GM are probably going to have to huddle about what it can and can’t do, both in the narrative and game sense.

        On the other hand, if the Specialties are a fixed set made up ahead of time, it seems there’d have to be rather a lot of them, since every Career would have its own list (albeit with overlaps.)

        —Jens
      • Jon Lang
        ... What s artificial about the pyramid is that you must learn two Good skills in order to have one Great skill. That s also what s rigid about it: these are
        Message 3 of 25 , Aug 8 1:02 AM
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          On Sun, Aug 7, 2011 at 10:08 PM, Jens Alfke <jens@...> wrote:

          On Aug 7, 2011, at 7:17 PM, Jonathan Lang wrote:

          So that you know where I'm coming from: I hate the skill pyramid.  It's too rigid and artificial for my tastes, and it strikes me as being contrary to the freeform, concept-first spirit of the rest of Fate.

          Hm, what do you see as being artificial about the pyramid? To me, it just seems like a way to get a more realistic balance of skills, since not everyone can be awesome at everything.

          What's artificial about the pyramid is that you must learn two Good skills in order to have one Great skill.  That's also what's rigid about it: these are arbitrary requirements that are there to force players to create "balanced" characters. 

          I have a friend who once tried making a character for Spirit of the Century, and ended up complaining because he had the character that he wanted after filling in about half of the pyramid; the other half were skills that he had no interest in taking and which didn't fit his character concept, but which he had to take in order to fill the remaining spaces. 

          I want my players to be able to take the skills that make sense to their character concept, without being forced to "fill in the blanks" with skills that don't make sense to them in order to meet some arbitrary quota. 

          But really, I didn't come here to attack the pyramid or to get into an advocacy debate over it.  If you like the pyramid, great!  I don't, and I'm looking for something different.  I'd prefer that this thread stay focused on the "something different" - the "Careers and Specialties" approach. 

          I like Risus, but it’s a self-confessed “beer & pretzels” game that lends itself to anything-goes silliness.

          That doesn't mean that it can't be mined for more serious ideas, as I've done here.  But again, "Careers and Specialties", not "Risus". 
           
          The idea is this: instead of a skill pyramid, you select a number of Careers, each rated on the standard Fate Ladder.  For example, you might put down "Knight of the Realm: Great", or "Psionic Adept: Good". You then write down your Specialties: each Specialty is also rated on the Fate Ladder, […] Individual Specialties work just like Skills in regular Fate.

          This sounds pretty good; but if the Specialties are freeform / made up on the spot, that brings some drawbacks.

          The specialties don't have to be freeform.  If the GM wants to, he can create a master list of specialties that the various careers then provide access to (in which case, I'd recommend calling them skills).  Note that this list needn't be any longer than a typical Fate skill list; there can be a lot of overlap between Careers. 

          Heck, if he wants to, the GM can create a master list of careers that are available in his setting, complete with which skills are primary, supporting, and background.  There might even be some benefit to doing this, as it would give the players a good idea of how people in this setting live their lives. 

          Then again, the GM is also free to create a master list of Aspects, so that everyone's on the same page when an Aspect shows up on the character sheet.  Not that I'd recommend doing so...

          I'd be OK with a "specialty list" akin to the Aspect "list" found in SotC: a few sample specialties spelled out in detail representing some of the more common options players are likely to take and intended to illustrate what can be done with them, followed by a long list of possible names for specialties intended more as inspiration than as definition. 

          --
          Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang
        • Lisa Steele
          Then go to Dredsden s Skill tower system. Each skill is built on one lower skills, so to have a +5 skill, you need a +1, +2, +3, and +4. You can t have any
          Message 4 of 25 , Aug 8 5:38 AM
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            Then go to Dredsden's Skill tower system. Each skill is built on one lower skills, so to have a +5 skill, you need a +1, +2, +3, and +4. You can't have any overhangs or gaps so you can't have a tower that's +1, +2, and +4.

            I've had similar issues with StoC NPCs -- you can leave things blank in Chargen and fill it in later. The apex skill and the +4 skills are likely most character defining and need to be settled in CharGen. Often the rest can wait and get filled in during an adventure or two.

            One of the problems with an undefined list is, as others noted, having the GM and PCs on the same page about what the skill, or stunt, or aspect does for the PC. An equal problem is knowing what it does for a NPC. Fate/SotC is less rules-heavy than other systems, but if there are agreed-to skills and an agreed-to skill system, one has a better idea of how to make inferences about adversaries.


            -----Original Message-----
            From: Jon Lang
            Sent: Aug 8, 2011 4:02 AM
            To: FateRPG@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: Re: [FateRPG] Careers and Specialties





            On Sun, Aug 7, 2011 at 10:08 PM, Jens Alfke <jens@...> wrote:

            On Aug 7, 2011, at 7:17 PM, Jonathan Lang wrote:

            So that you know where I'm coming from: I hate the skill pyramid.  It's too rigid and artificial for my tastes, and it strikes me as being contrary to the freeform, concept-first spirit of the rest of Fate.

            Hm, what do you see as being artificial about the pyramid? To me, it just seems like a way to get a more realistic balance of skills, since not everyone can be awesome at everything.

            What's artificial about the pyramid is that you must learn two Good skills in order to have one Great skill.  That's also what's rigid about it: these are arbitrary requirements that are there to force players to create "balanced" characters. 

            I have a friend who once tried making a character for Spirit of the Century, and ended up complaining because he had the character that he wanted after filling in about half of the pyramid; the other half were skills that he had no interest in taking and which didn't fit his character concept, but which he had to take in order to fill the remaining spaces. 

            I want my players to be able to take the skills that make sense to their character concept, without being forced to "fill in the blanks" with skills that don't make sense to them in order to meet some arbitrary quota. 

            But really, I didn't come here to attack the pyramid or to get into an advocacy debate over it.  If you like the pyramid, great!  I don't, and I'm looking for something different.  I'd prefer that this thread stay focused on the "something different" - the "Careers and Specialties" approach. 

            I like Risus, but it’s a self-confessed “beer & pretzels” game that lends itself to anything-goes silliness.

            That doesn't mean that it can't be mined for more serious ideas, as I've done here.  But again, "Careers and Specialties", not "Risus". 
             
            The idea is this: instead of a skill pyramid, you select a number of Careers, each rated on the standard Fate Ladder.  For example, you might put down "Knight of the Realm: Great", or "Psionic Adept: Good". You then write down your Specialties: each Specialty is also rated on the Fate Ladder, […] Individual Specialties work just like Skills in regular Fate.

            This sounds pretty good; but if the Specialties are freeform / made up on the spot, that brings some drawbacks.

            The specialties don't have to be freeform.  If the GM wants to, he can create a master list of specialties that the various careers then provide access to (in which case, I'd recommend calling them skills).  Note that this list needn't be any longer than a typical Fate skill list; there can be a lot of overlap between Careers. 

            Heck, if he wants to, the GM can create a master list of careers that are available in his setting, complete with which skills are primary, supporting, and background.  There might even be some benefit to doing this, as it would give the players a good idea of how people in this setting live their lives. 

            Then again, the GM is also free to create a master list of Aspects, so that everyone's on the same page when an Aspect shows up on the character sheet.  Not that I'd recommend doing so...

            I'd be OK with a "specialty list" akin to the Aspect "list" found in SotC: a few sample specialties spelled out in detail representing some of the more common options players are likely to take and intended to illustrate what can be done with them, followed by a long list of possible names for specialties intended more as inspiration than as definition. 

            --
            Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang


          • Jon Lang
            ... Skill towers aren t quite as bad as the skill pyramid; so I only dislike them rather than hating them. I d still rather use a fundamentally different
            Message 5 of 25 , Aug 8 7:01 AM
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              On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 5:38 AM, Lisa Steele <steelelaw@...> wrote:
               

              Then go to Dredsden's Skill tower system. Each skill is built on one lower skills, so to have a +5 skill, you need a +1, +2, +3, and +4. You can't have any overhangs or gaps so you can't have a tower that's +1, +2, and +4.

              Skill towers aren't quite as bad as the skill pyramid; so I only dislike them rather than hating them.  I'd still rather use a fundamentally different solution, as outlined above. 
               
              One of the problems with an undefined list is, as others noted, having the GM and PCs on the same page about what the skill, or stunt, or aspect does for the PC. An equal problem is knowing what it does for a NPC. Fate/SotC is less rules-heavy than other systems, but if there are agreed-to skills and an agreed-to skill system, one has a better idea of how to make inferences about adversaries.

              OK: the heart of my proposal doesn't depend on a make-your-own-skills philosophy.  So for the sake of not getting bogged down in a sideline debate, let's assume that I establish a skill list.  What pitfalls remain, and how might they be resolved? 

              --
              Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang
            • Travis Casey
              ... Hm, what do you see as being artificial about the pyramid? To me, it just ... Then leave the rest blank. Someone taking fewer skills than they re allowed
              Message 6 of 25 , Aug 8 7:01 AM
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                On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 4:02 AM, Jon Lang <dataweaver@...> wrote:
                On Sun, Aug 7, 2011 at 10:08 PM, Jens Alfke <jens@...> wrote:

                Hm, what do you see as being artificial about the pyramid? To me, it just seems like a way to get a more realistic balance of skills, since not everyone can be awesome at everything.

                What's artificial about the pyramid is that you must learn two Good skills in order to have one Great skill.  That's also what's rigid about it: these are arbitrary requirements that are there to force players to create "balanced" characters. 

                I have a friend who once tried making a character for Spirit of the Century, and ended up complaining because he had the character that he wanted after filling in about half of the pyramid; the other half were skills that he had no interest in taking and which didn't fit his character concept, but which he had to take in order to fill the remaining spaces. 

                Then leave the rest blank.  Someone taking fewer skills than they're allowed isn't really a problem.  The pyramid (or column, in some Fate games) exists to keep someone from taking, say, all their skills at Superb.  As long as the skills they've taken could fit into a completed pyramid, there's no issue.

                I don't know about SotC, since I don't have it, but DF has a rule that allows for a player to start with only one skill -- their "best skill" -- defined, and to fill in others as they play.
                 
                I want my players to be able to take the skills that make sense to their character concept, without being forced to "fill in the blanks" with skills that don't make sense to them in order to meet some arbitrary quota. 

                I don't know about SotC, since I don't have it, but DF has a rule that allows for a player to start with only one skill -- their "best skill" -- defined, and to fill in others as they play.  (Of course, they can also start with more than one skill defined.)  Thus, in DF at least, players don't have to meet an "arbitrary quota" of skills if they don't want to.
                 
                The specialties don't have to be freeform.  If the GM wants to, he can create a master list of specialties that the various careers then provide access to (in which case, I'd recommend calling them skills).  Note that this list needn't be any longer than a typical Fate skill list; there can be a lot of overlap between Careers. 

                Heck, if he wants to, the GM can create a master list of careers that are available in his setting, complete with which skills are primary, supporting, and background.  There might even be some benefit to doing this, as it would give the players a good idea of how people in this setting live their lives. 

                This is also a good idea because it can make sure that each career is "worth" about the same.  Further, it avoids the problem of a persuasive/inventive player managing to link all the specialties they want to the one career they've pumped all their points into.

                Honestly, I like the fixed list of skills in Fate *because* it contrasts to the free-form nature of Aspects.  Some players find it easier to select from a list than to come up with their own things, while others find the reverse to be true for them.  With Fate having some of each, people can start with the part of character generation that they find easier, then use what they've done there to give them ideas on the other part.

                The overlap between careers raises some other questions:  if I have two careers that share a specialty, should I get any bonus to that specialty for that?  What if I have three or four that share a career?  If there is no bonus to having a specialty in multiple careers, then it makes sense for players to try to choose their careers so as to minimize overlap.

                Also, is there a way to get a specialty without a career or culture?  People in both real life and fiction *do* sometimes pick up odd skills that you wouldn't expect them to have.

                Lastly, you mentioned in your original post that each career would also be an aspect.  That strikes me as being a sort of double-dipping -- not only do you get a bunch of specialties, but you've also automatically picked up a related aspect, so you're guaranteed to be able to get a +2 on any of your specialties by spending a Fate point.  I find the difference between "skills that the character has an aspect related to" and "skills the character doesn't have an aspect related to" an important part of Fate -- and that becomes much less important if careers and cultures are aspects, and are the only or main way to get specialties.  I'd recommend not making them automatically be aspects, or having the player choose one as their "primary" career (not necessarily the one they have the highest rank in, though!) and making that be an automatic aspect.

                --Travis
              • Frank Eastman
                I mean, it sounds like you re creating a back-to-front skill pyramid is all. You re saying: You are completely awesome at knight-ing ... EXCEPT ... The
                Message 7 of 25 , Aug 8 8:35 AM
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                  I mean, it sounds like you're creating a back-to-front skill pyramid is all.  You're saying:  "You are completely awesome at knight-ing ... EXCEPT ..."  The except being the specialties that they have that are "large penalties" instead of the specialties they have that are "small or nonexistent penalties".  They only get so many points to un-negative-ify their specialties and they get "experience points" to make their penalties smaller.

                  Knowing what Fred's posted about in the past I think they tried to primarily work in positives.  You don't put a -2 penalty on the opponent, you get a +2 bonus to the attack, etc etc.  Thus setting skills at 5 or whatever and moving BACKWARDS seems backwards to most people, I imagine.  There's nothing inherently bad about it.

                  Your difficulties will be in:

                  Making sure that occupations/specialties are balanced against one another.
                  Making sure that characters are balanced against one another.

                  The first blush of this is usually sufficiently performed in logic, but no plan survives meeting the enemy.  It will need to be playtested.  You'll think it's logically laid out and square and invariably a player will purposefully or inadvertently find the stress point that causes the whole thing to fall down.  That's what playtesting is for.

                  As a logical construct, there's nothing inherently flawed about approaching skills in a different manner.  Front-to-back, back to front, top down, bottom up ... all can be logically consistent constructs.  They are not balanced rulesets until they've met the enemy.

                  --fje

                  On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 9:01 AM, Jon Lang <dataweaver@...> wrote:
                   

                  On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 5:38 AM, Lisa Steele <steelelaw@...> wrote:
                   

                  Then go to Dredsden's Skill tower system. Each skill is built on one lower skills, so to have a +5 skill, you need a +1, +2, +3, and +4. You can't have any overhangs or gaps so you can't have a tower that's +1, +2, and +4.

                  Skill towers aren't quite as bad as the skill pyramid; so I only dislike them rather than hating them.  I'd still rather use a fundamentally different solution, as outlined above. 
                   
                  One of the problems with an undefined list is, as others noted, having the GM and PCs on the same page about what the skill, or stunt, or aspect does for the PC. An equal problem is knowing what it does for a NPC. Fate/SotC is less rules-heavy than other systems, but if there are agreed-to skills and an agreed-to skill system, one has a better idea of how to make inferences about adversaries.

                  OK: the heart of my proposal doesn't depend on a make-your-own-skills philosophy.  So for the sake of not getting bogged down in a sideline debate, let's assume that I establish a skill list.  What pitfalls remain, and how might they be resolved? 

                  --
                  Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang


                • Jon Lang
                  ... To be honest, I m not terribly concerned with the hypothetical persuasive/inventive player mentioned above; nor am I all that concerned with making sure
                  Message 8 of 25 , Aug 8 8:41 AM
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                    On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 7:01 AM, Travis Casey <efindel@...> wrote:

                    The specialties don't have to be freeform.  If the GM wants to, he can create a master list of specialties that the various careers then provide access to (in which case, I'd recommend calling them skills).  Note that this list needn't be any longer than a typical Fate skill list; there can be a lot of overlap between Careers. 

                    Heck, if he wants to, the GM can create a master list of careers that are available in his setting, complete with which skills are primary, supporting, and background.  There might even be some benefit to doing this, as it would give the players a good idea of how people in this setting live their lives. 

                    This is also a good idea because it can make sure that each career is "worth" about the same.  Further, it avoids the problem of a persuasive/inventive player managing to link all the specialties they want to the one career they've pumped all their points into.

                    To be honest, I'm not terribly concerned with the hypothetical persuasive/inventive player mentioned above; nor am I all that concerned with making sure that each career is "worth" the same.  That kind of play balance (making sure every character has the exact same number/levels of skills as every other player) strikes me as being illusory.  What's more important, and what this approach attempts to set up, is that each player should have a niche - an area of expertise where he's the go-to guy.  Once that's established for each player (which is done by identifying where the cores of their respective Career choices don't overlap, and then focusing on the differences), there can be great disparities in their remaining skill proficiencies without significant impact on the game. 

                    Note that I do not insist on limits to how many Primary, Supporting, or Background skills a given Career can have.  This is deliberate: there's already a practical limit imposed by the need to justify each skill's base level in terms of the concept that the Career represents; I see no reason to put an arbitrary limit on top of that. 
                     
                    The overlap between careers raises some other questions:  if I have two careers that share a specialty, should I get any bonus to that specialty for that?  What if I have three or four that share a career?  If there is no bonus to having a specialty in multiple careers, then it makes sense for players to try to choose their careers so as to minimize overlap.

                    There is no bonus for having the same specialty in multiple careers.  Simply use whichever flavor of the specialty is most suited to the task at hand (or, if there's no clear "preferred flavor", go with the highest rating). 

                    As I indicated above, there are no caps on how many skills a given career provides; so an overlap between two careers does not represent a waste of potential.  Still, if a player wants to choose a set of careers with an eye toward minimizing the overlap, there's no harm done. 
                     
                    Also, is there a way to get a specialty without a career or culture?  People in both real life and fiction *do* sometimes pick up odd skills that you wouldn't expect them to have.

                    The Background level for a given Career or Culture is supposed to handle the odd skills that you wouldn't expect them to have.  Remember, the design of this system is still in flux: right now, I'm leaning toward the following levels of skills for each Career:
                    1. "You must have this."  This level represents skills that are at the heart of the career in question: you don't have these skills, and you can't do your job.  There's no penalty associated with this level. 
                    2. "You should have this."  These skills are not essential to the career in question; but they're important enough that it's uncommon to find someone in this career who isn't proficient in it.  The penalty associated with this level is mild at best: no more than a -1. 
                    3. "It's nice to have this." Proficiency in skills at this level are helpful to performing your job; but if you lack proficiency in them, you'll still be OK.  The penalty at this level is more significant: at least a -2, possibly a -3.  
                    4. "It's possible to have this."  The skill in question doesn't really have anything to do with your job; but it's the sort of thing that you might pick up anyway.  The penalty is a -3 or worse. 
                    If the skill doesn't fall into one of the above levels, you can't base that skill on this career.  If none of your careers nor your cultures have even a passing familiarity with the skill, how could you pick it up at all?  

                    Lastly, you mentioned in your original post that each career would also be an aspect.  That strikes me as being a sort of double-dipping -- not only do you get a bunch of specialties, but you've also automatically picked up a related aspect, so you're guaranteed to be able to get a +2 on any of your specialties by spending a Fate point. 

                    True enough.  Aspect and  Career should be distinct; but I could see taking an Aspect that pertains to your Career.  Indeed, I'd expect that your Defining Aspect would often be related to your dominant Career in some way. 
                     
                    --
                    Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang
                  • Travis Casey
                    ... Well, for me, it s not a hypothetical, because I have a couple of specific people in mind -- people I used to play with, who were great at getting GMs to
                    Message 9 of 25 , Aug 8 9:26 AM
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                      On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 11:41 AM, Jon Lang <dataweaver@...> wrote:
                       
                      To be honest, I'm not terribly concerned with the hypothetical persuasive/inventive player mentioned above; nor am I all that concerned with making sure that each career is "worth" the same.  That kind of play balance (making sure every character has the exact same number/levels of skills as every other player) strikes me as being illusory.  What's more important, and what this approach attempts to set up, is that each player should have a niche - an area of expertise where he's the go-to guy.  Once that's established for each player (which is done by identifying where the cores of their respective Career choices don't overlap, and then focusing on the differences), there can be great disparities in their remaining skill proficiencies without significant impact on the game. 

                      Well, for me, it's not a hypothetical, because I have a couple of specific people in mind -- people I used to play with, who were great at getting GMs to stretch things for them.

                      But hey, if you're not worried about it, fair enough.
                       

                      1. "You must have this."  This level represents skills that are at the heart of the career in question: you don't have these skills, and you can't do your job.  There's no penalty associated with this level. 
                      2. "You should have this."  These skills are not essential to the career in question; but they're important enough that it's uncommon to find someone in this career who isn't proficient in it.  The penalty associated with this level is mild at best: no more than a -1. 
                      3. "It's nice to have this." Proficiency in skills at this level are helpful to performing your job; but if you lack proficiency in them, you'll still be OK.  The penalty at this level is more significant: at least a -2, possibly a -3.  
                      4. "It's possible to have this."  The skill in question doesn't really have anything to do with your job; but it's the sort of thing that you might pick up anyway.  The penalty is a -3 or worse. 

                      A thought here -- you indicate the lower levels as "should", "nice to", "possible" -- indicating a likelihood that a character with the profession might not have these specialties at all.  However, the design of the system right now is such that the character *will* have these specialties, unless they deliberately choose not to.

                      I know you're not worried about balance, but if you're going to be putting this out for others to use, throwing out a suggested way of balancing it might help you get more people adopting it.  One means might be to limit the number of specialties a character can have at each rung here -- it especially makes sense with the bottom two rungs.

                      If the skill doesn't fall into one of the above levels, you can't base that skill on this career.  If none of your careers nor your cultures have even a passing familiarity with the skill, how could you pick it up at all?  

                      Because you found it interesting and went out of your way to learn it?  My culture doesn't teach quarterstaff use, and it's certainly not a part of any career I've taken, but I've learned it.  Initially, through trial and error, later by tracking down books on the subject and using them to guide my practice.

                      There's *always* trial and error available, if someone's driven enough to learn a particular skill, unless the resources to practice the skill simply don't exist.  In any modern culture, plenty of books exist about skills that aren't "normal" in the culture.

                      One possibility might be to let characters "trade out" some of the cultural skills.  For example, I grew up in the American South, but unlike most males here, I didn't go in for hunting, fishing, and sports -- instead, I picked up different specialties.

                      (Of course, one possibility would be to open up "cultures" to more than just nationalities and regions.  One's culture might be "gaming geek" for example.  I'll note also that DF, at least, gives everyone every skill -- if you didn't take a rank in a skill, you have it at Mediocre.  I don't know how SotC works that, though.)

                      True enough.  Aspect and  Career should be distinct; but I could see taking an Aspect that pertains to your Career.  Indeed, I'd expect that your Defining Aspect would often be related to your dominant Career in some way. 

                      Certainly -- and it's already encouraged in Fate to make your Aspects relate in some way to the skills your character is good at, so it's natural to do with this system.
                    • Lisa Steele
                      I hear you on persuasive players. A related problem is usually in the social skills where you get a mis-match between glib character, with tongue-tied player
                      Message 10 of 25 , Aug 8 5:06 PM
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                        I hear you on persuasive players. A related problem is usually in the social skills where you get a mis-match between glib character, with tongue-tied player or glib player with (on paper) tongue tied character. This can cause great frustration for a player who has invested in skills for a character, but doesn't get as good results as the player who hasn't invested in the skills, but who can "talk the talk".
                        -----Original Message-----
                        From: Travis Casey
                        Sent: Aug 8, 2011 12:26 PM
                        To: FateRPG@yahoogroups.com
                        Subject: Re: [FateRPG] Careers and Specialties



                        On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 11:41 AM, Jon Lang <dataweaver@...> wrote:
                         
                        To be honest, I'm not terribly concerned with the hypothetical persuasive/inventive player mentioned above; nor am I all that concerned with making sure that each career is "worth" the same.  That kind of play balance (making sure every character has the exact same number/levels of skills as every other player) strikes me as being illusory.  What's more important, and what this approach attempts to set up, is that each player should have a niche - an area of expertise where he's the go-to guy.  Once that's established for each player (which is done by identifying where the cores of their respective Career choices don't overlap, and then focusing on the differences), there can be great disparities in their remaining skill proficiencies without significant impact on the game. 

                        Well, for me, it's not a hypothetical, because I have a couple of specific people in mind -- people I used to play with, who were great at getting GMs to stretch things for them.

                        But hey, if you're not worried about it, fair enough.
                      • Jon Lang
                        ... How did you handle it in terms of Aspects? It seems to me that a carefully-worded Aspect, backed by a player who knows how to get the GM to stretch things
                        Message 11 of 25 , Aug 8 5:12 PM
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                          On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 9:26 AM, Travis Casey <efindel@...> wrote:
                           

                          On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 11:41 AM, Jon Lang <dataweaver@...> wrote:
                           
                          To be honest, I'm not terribly concerned with the hypothetical persuasive/inventive player mentioned above; nor am I all that concerned with making sure that each career is "worth" the same.  That kind of play balance (making sure every character has the exact same number/levels of skills as every other player) strikes me as being illusory.  What's more important, and what this approach attempts to set up, is that each player should have a niche - an area of expertise where he's the go-to guy.  Once that's established for each player (which is done by identifying where the cores of their respective Career choices don't overlap, and then focusing on the differences), there can be great disparities in their remaining skill proficiencies without significant impact on the game. 

                          Well, for me, it's not a hypothetical, because I have a couple of specific people in mind -- people I used to play with, who were great at getting GMs to stretch things for them.

                          How did you handle it in terms of Aspects?  It seems to me that a carefully-worded Aspect, backed by a player who knows how to get the GM to stretch things for him, would also result in an unfair advantage for that player. 

                          More generally, you're now getting into a meta-gaming issue.  The problem you're describing isn't with the rules so much as it is with the player who is willing and able to manipulate the GM.  When you have someone like that around, the most draconian "play balance" rules won't stop the abuse.  Indeed, my own experience has been that the more you attempt to box a player in and prevent him from abusing the rules, the more constrained he'll feel and the harder he'll push back, often turning to more and more creative forms of rules abuse in order to find a way out. 

                          In other words, the infamous min-maxer is often the product of game balance mechanics: they encourage the player to think primarily in terms of point efficiency rather than character concept. 

                          My solution is to go the other way: give the player what he wants.  Make the boundaries that he has to work in pliable enough that they don't really constrain him all that much.  If he has been point-skinning out of necessity, you will see a shift away from character designs that focus on exploiting loopholes in the rules and toward character designs that focus on highlighting and emphasizing the character concept.  If you don't see that shift, you have bigger problems than game mechanics can address. 
                           

                          But hey, if you're not worried about it, fair enough.
                           

                          1. "You must have this."  This level represents skills that are at the heart of the career in question: you don't have these skills, and you can't do your job.  There's no penalty associated with this level. 
                          2. "You should have this."  These skills are not essential to the career in question; but they're important enough that it's uncommon to find someone in this career who isn't proficient in it.  The penalty associated with this level is mild at best: no more than a -1. 
                          3. "It's nice to have this." Proficiency in skills at this level are helpful to performing your job; but if you lack proficiency in them, you'll still be OK.  The penalty at this level is more significant: at least a -2, possibly a -3.  
                          4. "It's possible to have this."  The skill in question doesn't really have anything to do with your job; but it's the sort of thing that you might pick up anyway.  The penalty is a -3 or worse. 

                          A thought here -- you indicate the lower levels as "should", "nice to", "possible" -- indicating a likelihood that a character with the profession might not have these specialties at all.  However, the design of the system right now is such that the character *will* have these specialties, unless they deliberately choose not to.

                          Well, not quite.  A bit like your earlier comments about leaving slots in a skill tower/pyramid blank, a player isn't required to take any given specialty.  But yeah; I see your point. 
                           

                          I know you're not worried about balance, but if you're going to be putting this out for others to use, throwing out a suggested way of balancing it might help you get more people adopting it.  One means might be to limit the number of specialties a character can have at each rung here -- it especially makes sense with the bottom two rungs.

                          Actually, it doesn't make sense for the bottom rung, for reasons that I'll get into shortly.  But if I'm going to put in some sort of game balance mechanism here, I'd rather lean toward incentivising "good behavior" rather than forbidding "bad behavior"; as I indicated above, I've found the latter to be more trouble than it's worth.  I really do not want to set quotas on the various rungs: the character should be able to take as many or as few skills at each level as makes sense for the character concept. 

                          So how about this: if, during gameplay, the GM asks about a skill that haven't yet written down, you can choose to declare that your character either doesn't have the skill or that he has it at a lower level than his career or culture would indicate.  Presumably, the GM is asking about the skill because it would be useful to have it at this juncture; so by deciding that you don't have it, you're making the game a little more interesting - and that ought to be worth a Fate Point. 
                           

                          If the skill doesn't fall into one of the above levels, you can't base that skill on this career.  If none of your careers nor your cultures have even a passing familiarity with the skill, how could you pick it up at all?  

                          Because you found it interesting and went out of your way to learn it?  My culture doesn't teach quarterstaff use, and it's certainly not a part of any career I've taken, but I've learned it.  Initially, through trial and error, later by tracking down books on the subject and using them to guide my practice.

                          There's *always* trial and error available, if someone's driven enough to learn a particular skill, unless the resources to practice the skill simply don't exist.  In any modern culture, plenty of books exist about skills that aren't "normal" in the culture.

                          One possibility might be to let characters "trade out" some of the cultural skills.  For example, I grew up in the American South, but unlike most males here, I didn't go in for hunting, fishing, and sports -- instead, I picked up different specialties.
                           

                          (Of course, one possibility would be to open up "cultures" to more than just nationalities and regions.  One's culture might be "gaming geek" for example.  I'll note also that DF, at least, gives everyone every skill -- if you didn't take a rank in a skill, you have it at Mediocre.  I don't know how SotC works that, though.)

                          This, in two ways: first, I do want "cultures" to be diverse, covering various subcultures and countercultures and most emphatically not being limited to nationalities and regions.  A culture should be a "career" that represents " this is the environment that I grew up in". 

                          Second, regular Fate assumes that every skill is available to every character.  This is true in DF, SotC, and every other flavor that I've encountered.  it's mostly true in my version, too; ultimately, the bottom rung of your culture (or maybe I should call it your Background?) represents this sort of thing.  That said, if your culture is "primitive hunter/gatherer society" and the skill that you're looking at is "applied quantum mechanics" or "software design", you won't be getting it from your culture. 

                          Still, it might be possible to pick up a skill that's totally out of bounds of all of your careers and cultures; but it did not appear ex nihilo.  Going back to the primitive traibesman example: an intrepid explorer encounters the tribe, and finds out that one member of the tribe is fluent in modern English.  This ought not be, because the explorer is the first Englishman ever to encounter the tribe.  Right?  The tribal hunter in question almost certainly didn't pick up English through his career or culture; so how does he have it? 

                          Story-wise, the hunter knows English because he's an exception in his tribe: he has encountered outsiders before - specifically, the explorer's long-lost mentor.  How to represent this in game?  Two ways that I can think of: he might have a "Career" that his fellow tribesmen are unaware of, representing the things that he learned from that earlier explorer; or it might be possible to pick up an odd skill here or there through an appropriate Aspect.  Right now, I'm leaning toward the former. 

                          --
                          Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang
                        • Jon Lang
                          ... it s an issue that game mechanics are of limited help in overcoming. There *are* solutions to this mismatch; but they generally do *not* involve the rules
                          Message 12 of 25 , Aug 8 5:18 PM
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                            On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 5:06 PM, Lisa Steele <steelelaw@...> wrote:
                            I hear you on persuasive players. A related problem is usually in the social skills where you get a mis-match between glib character, with tongue-tied player or glib player with (on paper) tongue tied character. This can cause great frustration for a player who has invested in skills for a character, but doesn't get as good results as the player who hasn't invested in the skills, but who can "talk the talk".

                            Although this is a separate issue, it's also a very true one - and again, it's an issue that game mechanics are of limited help in overcoming.  There are solutions to this mismatch; but they generally do not involve the rules of the game. 

                            --
                            Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang
                          • Lisa Steele
                            I agree to some extent. If there are relatively simple rules mechanics for social stuff -- Diaspora s map, as one example, or the SotC/Dresden social combat
                            Message 13 of 25 , Aug 8 5:25 PM
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                              I agree to some extent. If there are relatively simple rules mechanics for social stuff -- Diaspora's map, as one example, or the SotC/Dresden social combat system, that make it relatiavely simple to abstract, it can help by shifting the focus from what the player says to what the effect of the character's actions are. I like GUMSHOE's ideas on mysteries and clues for similar reasons -- it can help balance the usefulness of various skills/nitches. When there aren't rules, or the rules are hard to use, a GM seems most likely to fall back on player persuasiveness.

                              I mention this because of your expressed concern about nitch protection and giving each character something that they excel at -- built into that idea is the concept that the GM is going to enforce whatever system you set up so that the nitch is actually there and the PC can depend on it.

                              But moving back to your question -- if you are looking for an in-house system for a specific group of players, that's a much earier proposition than trying to design something commercial. What's your plan for this.

                              -----Original Message-----
                              From: Jon Lang
                              Sent: Aug 8, 2011 8:18 PM
                              To: FateRPG@yahoogroups.com
                              Subject: Re: [FateRPG] Careers and Specialties



                              On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 5:06 PM, Lisa Steele <steelelaw@...> wrote:
                              I hear you on persuasive players. A related problem is usually in the social skills where you get a mis-match between glib character, with tongue-tied player or glib player with (on paper) tongue tied character. This can cause great frustration for a player who has invested in skills for a character, but doesn't get as good results as the player who hasn't invested in the skills, but who can "talk the talk".

                              Although this is a separate issue, it's also a very true one - and again, it's an issue that game mechanics are of limited help in overcoming.  There are solutions to this mismatch; but they generally do not involve the rules of the game. 

                              --
                              Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang


                            • Travis Casey
                              ... Aspects have their own built-in limiter for the persuasive player: Fate Points. Since you have to spend a Fate Point to do something with an Aspect, you
                              Message 14 of 25 , Aug 8 6:24 PM
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                                On Aug 8, 2011, at 8:12 PM, Jon Lang wrote:

                                 

                                On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 9:26 AM, Travis Casey <efindel@...> wrote:

                                 
                                Well, for me, it's not a hypothetical, because I have a couple of specific people in mind -- people I used to play with, who were great at getting GMs to stretch things for them.

                                How did you handle it in terms of Aspects?  It seems to me that a carefully-worded Aspect, backed by a player who knows how to get the GM to stretch things for him, would also result in an unfair advantage for that player. 

                                Aspects have their own built-in limiter for the persuasive player:  Fate Points.  Since you have to spend a Fate Point to do something with an Aspect, you can only keep getting an advantage from them as long as you have Fate Points to spend.  

                                You get Fate Points by letting the GM use Aspects against you, or by allowing yourself to lose conflicts.  Thus, to keep his super-Aspect in play, the persuasive player has to either find a lot of ways to let the GM use Aspects against him, or lose a lot of conflicts.

                                This is in contrast to the "advantages" and "disadvantages" of older games.  These used/gave points as well, but they were character creation points, not in-play points -- thus, in those games, these players would use their persuasive abilities to get GMs to let them stretch their advantages, while simultaneously minimizing their disadvantages.

                                Now, a persuasive player can still use Aspects to get more screen time... but at least some of that screen time has to be devoted to how their character fails.  Quite simply, Aspects in combination with the Fate Point economy are a way to make it harder for someone to create a super-character who can dominate *all the time*.


                                More generally, you're now getting into a meta-gaming issue.  The problem you're describing isn't with the rules so much as it is with the player who is willing and able to manipulate the GM.  When you have someone like that around, the most draconian "play balance" rules won't stop the abuse.  Indeed, my own experience has been that the more you attempt to box a player in and prevent him from abusing the rules, the more constrained he'll feel and the harder he'll push back, often turning to more and more creative forms of rules abuse in order to find a way out.

                                There's more than one type of such player, though.  Yes, there are some who are out to dominate the game -- ultimately, with them, you either have to get rid of them or get them to change.  However, there are also:

                                - Players who enjoy the meta-game of "how can I make the most effective character in this system".  These players, when encountering a system that doesn't have a lot of room for min-maxing, will often find something else to have fun with on their own.

                                - Players who have been stuck in games with the first type too many times, and now try to min-max their own characters to try to keep from being overshadowed by such players.  Given a system where min-maxing doesn't have the huge effects it does in some, these players also will often relax about it and enjoy themselves.

                                The latter two types are those who I find to "blossom" quickly given a system that's resilient to min-maxing.

                                  In other words, the infamous min-maxer is often the product of game balance mechanics: they encourage the player to think primarily in terms of point efficiency rather than character concept.

                                I'd say that min-maxers are encouraged by *broken* game balance mechanics... but that's a debate in itself, and one that can take a long, long time.  ;-)

                                 My solution is to go the other way: give the player what he wants.  Make the boundaries that he has to work in pliable enough that they don't really constrain him all that much.  If he has been point-skinning out of necessity, you will see a shift away from character designs that focus on exploiting loopholes in the rules and toward character designs that focus on highlighting and emphasizing the character concept.  If you don't see that shift, you have bigger problems than game mechanics can address. 

                                Sometimes that works.  Sometimes the behavior is so ingrained after many years of playing that way, that it takes years to get them to shift in such a way.

                                How much of a problem this is also depends on intended play style for a system, including such things as length of campaigns, whether it's meant to be used for tournament play as well, and so on.

                                So how about this: if, during gameplay, the GM asks about a skill that haven't yet written down, you can choose to declare that your character either doesn't have the skill or that he has it at a lower level than his career or culture would indicate.  Presumably, the GM is asking about the skill because it would be useful to have it at this juncture; so by deciding that you don't have it, you're making the game a little more interesting - and that ought to be worth a Fate Point. 

                                Now there's a good idea!  Glad I could help spark it.  :-)

                                This, in two ways: first, I do want "cultures" to be diverse, covering various subcultures and countercultures and most emphatically not being limited to nationalities and regions.  A culture should be a "career" that represents " this is the environment that I grew up in". 

                                Good.  That should work quite well, then.

                                Second, regular Fate assumes that every skill is available to every character.  This is true in DF, SotC, and every other flavor that I've encountered.  it's mostly true in my version, too; ultimately, the bottom rung of your culture (or maybe I should call it your Background?) represents this sort of thing.  That said, if your culture is "primitive hunter/gatherer society" and the skill that you're looking at is "applied quantum mechanics" or "software design", you won't be getting it from your culture.  

                                [Snipping the other two examples.]

                                Sort of flipping things around here to me being the looser guy... that's the kind of thing where I'd leave it to GM discretion.  To me, the question of "how did you manage to learn this?" isn't that big a deal, as long as the player isn't going completely off the wall, or looking for some kind of advantage out of it.  GURPS tries to handle this sort of thing with the "Unusual Background" advantage -- making players pay extra points for the privilege of being able to buy skills that would normally be unavailable or very rare in the setting.

                                I'd be inclined to look for a way to limit it with Fate points, this being Fate, but nothing's springing to mind immediately.  Maybe require the player to take an Aspect that explains how they were able to learn these "extra" things, thereby making them use another type of resource for it....

                                --
                                Travis Casey
                                Reality is vastly overrated.



                              • Jon Lang
                                ... True enough: properly designed rules can help with these meta-gaming issues; but they can t solve them. For example, there are some players who simply
                                Message 15 of 25 , Aug 8 6:26 PM
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                                  On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 5:25 PM, Lisa Steele <steelelaw@...> wrote:
                                   

                                  I agree to some extent. If there are relatively simple rules mechanics for social stuff -- Diaspora's map, as one example, or the SotC/Dresden social combat system, that make it relatively simple to abstract, it can help by shifting the focus from what the player says to what the effect of the character's actions are. I like GUMSHOE's ideas on mysteries and clues for similar reasons -- it can help balance the usefulness of various skills/nitches. When there aren't rules, or the rules are hard to use, a GM seems most likely to fall back on player persuasiveness.

                                  True enough: properly designed rules can help with these meta-gaming issues; but they can't solve them.   For example, there are some players who simply shouldn't play social masters - because they're bad enough at it that any attempt that the rules make to compensate for the player's social ineptitude will devolve into roll-play.  But there are other players who also lack social skills, but can nonetheless manage to pull off a credible social master with a little outside assistance (tfrom the rules, the GM, other players, or some combination of the above).  Ultimately, it's up to the GM to decide which kind of player he's dealing with and to react accordingly. 

                                  I'm not familiar with GUMSHOE; but I can guess: GURPS recently released a "mini-line" called Monster Hunters that includes an in-game system for resolving an investigation, which I suspect is similar in spirit to what GUMSHOE does.  The trick with such mental and social systems is to set them up in a way so that they facilitate roleplaying (e.g., by helping address player/character ability mismatches) without replacing it. 

                                  I mention this because of your expressed concern about nitch protection and giving each character something that they excel at -- built into that idea is the concept that the GM is going to enforce whatever system you set up so that the nitch is actually there and the PC can depend on it.

                                  True enough.  

                                  But moving back to your question -- if you are looking for an in-house system for a specific group of players, that's a much earier proposition than trying to design something commercial. What's your plan for this.

                                   I'm intending it as an in-house system, but with the option of eventually going commercial. 

                                  --
                                  Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang
                                • Jon Lang
                                  Have I mentioned how refreshing it is to talk to players and game designers who don t have a knee-jerk reaction of He s challenging the One True Way!
                                  Message 16 of 25 , Aug 8 6:48 PM
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                                    Have I mentioned how refreshing it is to talk to players and game designers who don't have a knee-jerk reaction of "He's challenging the One True Way!  Heretic!" when I bring up something like this?  :)

                                    On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 6:24 PM, Travis Casey <efindel@...> wrote:

                                    More generally, you're now getting into a meta-gaming issue.  The problem you're describing isn't with the rules so much as it is with the player who is willing and able to manipulate the GM.  When you have someone like that around, the most draconian "play balance" rules won't stop the abuse.  Indeed, my own experience has been that the more you attempt to box a player in and prevent him from abusing the rules, the more constrained he'll feel and the harder he'll push back, often turning to more and more creative forms of rules abuse in order to find a way out.

                                    There's more than one type of such player, though.  Yes, there are some who are out to dominate the game -- ultimately, with them, you either have to get rid of them or get them to change.  However, there are also:

                                    - Players who enjoy the meta-game of "how can I make the most effective character in this system".  These players, when encountering a system that doesn't have a lot of room for min-maxing, will often find something else to have fun with on their own.

                                    - Players who have been stuck in games with the first type too many times, and now try to min-max their own characters to try to keep from being overshadowed by such players.  Given a system where min-maxing doesn't have the huge effects it does in some, these players also will often relax about it and enjoy themselves.

                                    The latter two types are those who I find to "blossom" quickly given a system that's resilient to min-maxing.

                                    Please clarify what you mean by "resilient to min-maxing".  Incidently, one of the former players in my group definitely fits the last type you mention ("former" because he moved out of town, not because he got kicked out of the group); and to an extent, I myself am of the middle variety. 
                                     

                                      In other words, the infamous min-maxer is often the product of game balance mechanics: they encourage the player to think primarily in terms of point efficiency rather than character concept.

                                    I'd say that min-maxers are encouraged by *broken* game balance mechanics... but that's a debate in itself, and one that can take a long, long time.  ;-)

                                    True enough.  And it's a debate that I wouldn't mind having; just not in this thread. 
                                     

                                     My solution is to go the other way: give the player what he wants.  Make the boundaries that he has to work in pliable enough that they don't really constrain him all that much.  If he has been point-skinning out of necessity, you will see a shift away from character designs that focus on exploiting loopholes in the rules and toward character designs that focus on highlighting and emphasizing the character concept.  If you don't see that shift, you have bigger problems than game mechanics can address. 

                                    Sometimes that works.  Sometimes the behavior is so ingrained after many years of playing that way, that it takes years to get them to shift in such a way.

                                    Fudge (Fate's predecessor) has a "Subjective Character Creation" system that takes this approach to its limit.  It also has an "Objective Character Creation" system that's more akin to a traditional point-accounting character creation system.  I've always been bothered by how the mere presence of the latter tends to cause people to completely ignore the former. 

                                    My intent here, possibly a quixotic one, is to try to strike a balance between the two. 
                                     

                                    Second, regular Fate assumes that every skill is available to every character.  This is true in DF, SotC, and every other flavor that I've encountered.  it's mostly true in my version, too; ultimately, the bottom rung of your culture (or maybe I should call it your Background?) represents this sort of thing.  That said, if your culture is "primitive hunter/gatherer society" and the skill that you're looking at is "applied quantum mechanics" or "software design", you won't be getting it from your culture.  

                                    [Snipping the other two examples.]

                                    Sort of flipping things around here to me being the looser guy... that's the kind of thing where I'd leave it to GM discretion.  To me, the question of "how did you manage to learn this?" isn't that big a deal, as long as the player isn't going completely off the wall, or looking for some kind of advantage out of it.  GURPS tries to handle this sort of thing with the "Unusual Background" advantage -- making players pay extra points for the privilege of being able to buy skills that would normally be unavailable or very rare in the setting.

                                    I once quipped that in a GURPS game that doesn't enforce point totals, Unusual Background becomes pointless. 
                                     
                                    I'd be inclined to look for a way to limit it with Fate points, this being Fate, but nothing's springing to mind immediately.  Maybe require the player to take an Aspect that explains how they were able to learn these "extra" things, thereby making them use another type of resource for it....
                                     
                                    I did suggest the possibility of using an Aspect to permit an appropriate but off-the-wall Skill.  I'll talk more later; right now, RL is summoning me. 

                                    --
                                    Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang
                                  • Lisa Steele
                                    ... I m not familiar with GUMSHOE; but I can guess: GURPS recently released a mini-line called Monster Hunters that includes an in-game system for resolving
                                    Message 17 of 25 , Aug 8 7:12 PM
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                                      -----Original Message-----
                                      From: Jon Lang
                                      Sent: Aug 8, 2011 9:26 PM
                                      To: FateRPG@yahoogroups.com
                                      Subject: Re: [FateRPG] Careers and Specialties

                                      I'm not familiar with GUMSHOE; but I can guess: GURPS recently released a "mini-line" called Monster Hunters that includes an in-game system for resolving an investigation, which I suspect is similar in spirit to what GUMSHOE does.  The trick with such mental and social systems is to set them up in a way so that they facilitate roleplaying (e.g., by helping address player/character ability mismatches) without replacing it. 
                                       
                                      Disgression begins ---
                                       
                                      GUMSHOE is Robin Laws' system. 
                                       
                                      The gist is that in a typical RPG, you roll to find clues. And when  you roll, you can fail. Fail at a key point and you probably can't solve the mystery.
                                       
                                      In Gumshoe, you get basic cules virtually automatically so long as you have spent some of your skill points in the appropriate investigative skill. No roll, no failure. You then get a pool of points you can use throughout the adventure, much like fate points, to get additional details or clues. These can make it easier, faster, or safer (avoiding traps/well prepared foes, henchmen, etc.) to solve the mystery.
                                       
                                      I haven't had a chance to play with Gumshoe, but I really like a number of the concepts.
                                       
                                      -- Digression ends
                                       
                                      Now where this may come into  your ideas is here:
                                       
                                       
                                      The PCs choice of skills, aspects, what have you, tells you something about the kinds of adventures they want to see -- to take SotC, a character who's apex skill is Might is looking for something very different in an adventure than one who's apex skill is Rapport. Weaving an adventure around the various skills, finding an interesting way to use holes in character sheets, or to focus on an interesting minor skill, can be a lot of fun. Ideally, your ability system -- whatever you want to call it -- should give you some of those cues about what your players want and how to weave adventures for the characters.

                                      I I'm intending it as an in-house system, but with the option of eventually going commercial. 


                                      The one thing I will say here, having had friends that tried it, is that you need to playtest with folks outside your own social circle. We had a local GM put together a very interesting system that was fun, if he was GMing it or it was GMed by someone who had played a great deal with him. It turned out to be very hard to communicate some of the assumptions in rules and things broke down in interesting ways.
                                    • Robert Stehwien
                                      ... I agree and would add that in a fate game with skill improvement, they pyramid advancement becomes even more artificial and annoying (at least it did for
                                      Message 18 of 25 , Aug 8 8:27 PM
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                                        So that you know where I'm coming from: I hate the skill pyramid. It's too rigid and artificial for my tastes, and it strikes me as being contrary to the freeform, concept-first spirit of the rest of Fate. So I'd like to hammer out an alternative.


                                        I agree and would add that in a fate game with skill improvement, they pyramid advancement becomes even more artificial and annoying (at least it did for us).   My first fate 2 game had several people spend a ton of time trying to figure out hot to jigger around their skills to improve or add something.

                                        I'd suggest what I've done since my Talislanta Fate2 game years ago... drop the pyramid entirely.  Just convert the pyramid to a number of skill levels and let people buy whatever they want with a cap.  If you want some niche protection, enforce a skill hat (or top 3) rather than a pyramid... for example you can have a +4 and two +3s and everything else must be +2 or lower.

                                        No muss, no fuss, no need to add in professions, cultures, etc. other than just as aspects.  It has worked fine for me in a Fate2, SotC, Starblazers, Legends of Anglerre, and Dresden game (fairly short runs on all but the Fate2 talislanta game).

                                        Not all fate games use the pyramid (most mainline ones do) and I don't see the pyramid as essential to be called fate.  Some games use a column, some nothing at all (Agents of Swing, Strands, and I don't think the Kerberos Club one does), some do something different (there was a sorcerror conversion for fate that used something like attributes).

                                        The pyramid is a handy structure for quick-starts or filling it in as you play but just a structure and no more realistic than any other method.  Some will claim that it is realistic because in learning skill X you have to learn something else on the way.  Sure if you are mastering Weapons you are likely to gain Might, Athletics, Endurance, etc.... but nothing in the pyramid enforces it making any sense like that.  You could learn Art, Perform, Science, Deception, Engineering and somehow be a weaponmaster with the endurance of a normal joe (I'm sure someone could justify that to me, but it would be the exception not the rule of "realism").  Many pyramids I've seen made little sense.

                                        Freeform is just as "realistic" as I've known people who have focused so much on one or two areas of life that everything else has atrophied.
                                      • Jonathan Lang
                                        ... If I hate the pyramid and dislike the towers, I kind of like this option. Certainly, I m comfortable with it. That said, what I m aiming for is a bit
                                        Message 19 of 25 , Aug 8 9:28 PM
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                                          On Aug 8, 2011, at 8:27 PM, Robert Stehwien <rstehwien@...> wrote:

                                           


                                          So that you know where I'm coming from: I hate the skill pyramid. It's too rigid and artificial for my tastes, and it strikes me as being contrary to the freeform, concept-first spirit of the rest of Fate. So I'd like to hammer out an alternative.


                                          I agree and would add that in a fate game with skill improvement, they pyramid advancement becomes even more artificial and annoying (at least it did for us).   My first fate 2 game had several people spend a ton of time trying to figure out hot to jigger around their skills to improve or add something.

                                          I'd suggest what I've done since my Talislanta Fate2 game years ago... drop the pyramid entirely.  Just convert the pyramid to a number of skill levels and let people buy whatever they want with a cap.  If you want some niche protection, enforce a skill hat (or top 3) rather than a pyramid... for example you can have a +4 and two +3s and everything else must be +2 or lower.

                                          If I hate the pyramid and dislike the towers, I kind of like this option.  Certainly, I'm comfortable with it.  That said, what I'm aiming for is a bit more ambitious than this: I'm looking to devalue the skill point.  More on this below.  

                                          No muss, no fuss, no need to add in professions, cultures, etc. other than just as aspects.  It has worked fine for me in a Fate2, SotC, Starblazers, Legends of Anglerre, and Dresden game (fairly short runs on all but the Fate2 talislanta game).

                                          Note that my notion of Careers and Cultures is not just another way to "arrange your skill points". Nearly every other skill system that I've encountered (and certainly the other three options that have been mentioned in this thread) are based on a common assumption: skills are a limited resource; so choose them wisely.  

                                          On the surface, that sounds like a good thing.  But I have two problems with it: first, "choose wisely" generally translates to "don't waste your skill points on hobbies or housekeeping skills; save them for the skills that you'll need in an adventure". This is a form of the "do what's cost-effective instead of building to concept" mentality that I talked about earlier.  While my Careers system isn't immune to this sort of thing either, it's a lot more resistant to it.  

                                          Second, it doesn't cut you any slack if you overlook something: once your points are spent, they're gone.  If you realize later on that you missed something important, you have to get the GM's permission to rejigger the points to try to fit the missing skill in.  And heaven forbid that you overlook an expensive skill.  

                                          The Careers system largely bypasses both of these problems by letting you take any number of skills on each rung, free of charge.  You merely have to justify why the skill in question belongs on the rung on which you're wanting to put it.  

                                          I say "largely bypasses" because I do still use skill points in this system; but that's only if you want to take a skill at a level higher than the rung that it would normally appear on; there's a vast difference between that and not being able to get the skill at all due to a shortage of points. And then there's the bit about determining which Careers you have in the first place, which tends toward pushing characters toward adventure-friendly Careers.  I'm not as concerned about that side of things, because players generally have that tendency anyway, and because choosing your Careers is more about outlining your concept than it is about detailing it - so by definition, your choices at this stage can't break concept in favor of efficiency.  

                                          And the other benefit is that this system is exceptionally friendly to a "build as you go" character creation approach.  
                                        • Lisa Steele
                                          On the surface, that sounds like a good thing. But I have two problems with it: first, choose wisely generally translates to don t waste your skill points
                                          Message 20 of 25 , Aug 9 4:06 AM
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                                            On the surface, that sounds like a good thing.  But I have two problems with it: first, "choose wisely" generally translates to "don't waste your skill points on hobbies or housekeeping skills; save them for the skills that you'll need in an adventure". This is a form of the "do what's cost-effective instead of building to concept" mentality that I talked about earlier.  While my Careers system isn't immune to this sort of thing either, it's a lot more resistant to it.
                                             
                                            ---
                                            This is only an issue if the players know (or think they know) what will be valuable as adventuring skills. (This can be a problem in small gaming groups where one knows a GM's quirks and preferences.) One can assume a need for some combat skills, but after that, it can be hard to say. And one of the interesting bits about Fate is the use of Declarations, which can make other skills relevant. Folks loaded down with combat skills and no social skills -- run a couple of early adventures where they need to get information to help them in the fight scene. Or Survival/Endurance to get to/from the fight scene. Or Burglarly to open the safe in the middle of a raging combat.
                                             
                                            ======

                                            Second, it doesn't cut you any slack if you overlook something: once your points are spent, they're gone.  If you realize later on that you missed something important, you have to get the GM's permission to rejigger the points to try to fit the missing skill in.  And heaven forbid that you overlook an expensive skill.
                                             
                                            -----
                                            Only if the GM is rigid about CharGen. So far, for SotC, we've had GMs willing to let folks shift things around as they figure out what works best for the character, the adventures, and the game system. SotC encourages build-as-you-go.
                                             
                                            ======
                                             
                                            Again, not disagreeing with you about your ideas and desire to experiment, but saying that the system as it stands can support at least some of them.
                                            One thing to think about is scaling -- how do the PCs stack up against adversaries (how many foes will they see that meet or exceed their skills), how do they stack up against their world (what's a typical skilled guard, cop, soldier, detective, like)? And trying to avoid villain inflation. I've seen some problems creep in when the bad guys keep getting tougher, which makes the PCs want more skills, which makes the GM inflate the bad guys to challenge them, and so on. This is a good time to look at those minor skills and make some of the challenges encourage breadth and those housekeeping/hobby skills.
                                          • Jon Lang
                                            ... OK; here s a take on it, albeit a messier approach: When you attempt a task, you roll the appropriate Career. The GM adds a number to the Difficulty based
                                            Message 21 of 25 , Aug 11 10:29 PM
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                                              On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 8:35 AM, Frank Eastman <fjeastman@...> wrote:
                                              I mean, it sounds like you're creating a back-to-front skill pyramid is all.  You're saying:  "You are completely awesome at knight-ing ... EXCEPT ..."  The except being the specialties that they have that are "large penalties" instead of the specialties they have that are "small or nonexistent penalties".  They only get so many points to un-negative-ify their specialties and they get "experience points" to make their penalties smaller.

                                              Knowing what Fred's posted about in the past I think they tried to primarily work in positives.  You don't put a -2 penalty on the opponent, you get a +2 bonus to the attack, etc etc.  Thus setting skills at 5 or whatever and moving BACKWARDS seems backwards to most people, I imagine.  There's nothing inherently bad about it.

                                              OK; here's a take on it, albeit a messier approach:
                                               
                                              When you attempt a task, you roll the appropriate Career.  The GM adds a number to the Difficulty based on how suitable the task is to the Career in question, ranging from +0 to +4 or worse. 

                                              You can also develop Specialties which only apply to more specific sets of tasks; these provide an additional bonus to your Career where the Specialty is concerned, and are generally used to offset the aforementioned Difficulty increases. 

                                              This sets everything up in terms of positives.  But I think that it might be complicating matters too much in the process. 

                                              --
                                              Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang
                                            • GalacticCmdr
                                              Then why not just ditch skills and just use nothing but aspects and stunts? ... un-negative-ify ... penalties ... in ... Specialty ... Difficulty ... be
                                              Message 22 of 25 , Aug 12 5:30 AM
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                                                Then why not just ditch skills and just use nothing but aspects and stunts?

                                                On Aug 12, 2011 1:30 AM, "Jon Lang" <dataweaver@...> wrote:
                                                > On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 8:35 AM, Frank Eastman <fjeastman@...> wrote:
                                                >
                                                >> **
                                                >> I mean, it sounds like you're creating a back-to-front skill pyramid is
                                                >> all. You're saying: "You are completely awesome at knight-ing ... EXCEPT
                                                >> ..." The except being the specialties that they have that are "large
                                                >> penalties" instead of the specialties they have that are "small
                                                >> or nonexistent penalties". They only get so many points to un-negative-ify
                                                >> their specialties and they get "experience points" to make their penalties
                                                >> smaller.
                                                >>
                                                >> Knowing what Fred's posted about in the past I think they tried to
                                                >> primarily work in positives. You don't put a -2 penalty on the opponent,
                                                >> you get a +2 bonus to the attack, etc etc. Thus setting skills at 5 or
                                                >> whatever and moving BACKWARDS seems backwards to most people, I imagine.
                                                >> There's nothing inherently bad about it.
                                                >>
                                                >
                                                > OK; here's a take on it, albeit a messier approach:
                                                >
                                                > When you attempt a task, you roll the appropriate Career. The GM adds a
                                                > number to the Difficulty based on how suitable the task is to the Career in
                                                > question, ranging from +0 to +4 or worse.
                                                >
                                                > You can also develop Specialties which only apply to more specific sets of
                                                > tasks; these provide an additional bonus to your Career where the Specialty
                                                > is concerned, and are generally used to offset the aforementioned Difficulty
                                                > increases.
                                                >
                                                > This sets everything up in terms of positives. But I think that it might be
                                                > complicating matters too much in the process.
                                                >
                                                > --
                                                > Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang
                                              • Aidan Grey
                                                That s how I play it. Only not even stunts. Anything stuntly is just a specific kind of Aspect invocation. It s all just Aspects.
                                                Message 23 of 25 , Aug 12 7:37 AM
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                                                  That's how I play it. Only not even stunts. Anything stuntly is just a specific kind of Aspect invocation. It's all just Aspects.

                                                  On Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 6:30 AM, GalacticCmdr <galacticcmdr@...> wrote:
                                                   

                                                  Then why not just ditch skills and just use nothing but aspects and stunts?


                                                • Jon Lang
                                                  OK: I ve refined this idea, changing some terminology and adding some guidelines. Training is a type of character trait that s intended to provide a general
                                                  Message 24 of 25 , Aug 23 8:55 AM
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                                                    OK: I've refined this idea, changing some terminology and adding some guidelines. 

                                                    "Training" is a type of character trait that's intended to provide a general sketch of what your character can do in much the same way that Aspects provide a general sketch of who your character is.  To define a Training, choose a name (using guidelines similar to the ones for naming an Aspect) and assign a rating from the Fate Ladder to it.  As a rule of thumb, every character ought to have at least two areas of Training: a Background (rated at Fair) that represents the culture that you grew up in and the skills that you developed as you grew up, and a Career (generally rated somewhere between Fair and Superb) that represents the stuff that you're best at.  Any other Training your character has should have a rating that falls between your Career and your Background (if it represents a secondary Career), or at or below your Background (if it represents familiarity with another culture).  To get a sense of what I'm thinking in terms of the scope of Training and Skills, take a look at the Skills-and-Knacks setup in the Seventh Sea RPG.  Indeed, 7th Sea's skill list could be cribbed to act as a "standard" Training-and-Skill list for a swashbuckler-era Fate game. 

                                                    The primary purpose for Training is to generate Skills.  At any time, a player may add a skill to his character sheet.  He does so by selecting a Training to justify the Skill and a tier that describes how that Skill fits into that Training.  The GM can, of course, change the skill's tier or forbid the skill entirely.  The four tiers are:
                                                    1. Primary: "You must have this."  This level represents skills that are at the heart of the Training: you don't have these skills, and you can't do your job.  You get the skill at the same level as the underlying Training. 
                                                    2. Supporting: "You should have this."  These skills are not essential to the Training; but they're important enough that it's uncommon to find someone in this career who isn't proficient in it.  You get this skill at one level lower than the underlying Training. 
                                                    3. Elective: "It's nice to have this." Proficiency in skills at this level is helpful to performing your job; but if you lack proficiency in them, you'll still be OK.  You get the Skill at two levels less than the Training.  
                                                    4. Hobby: "It's possible to have this."  The skill in question doesn't really have anything to do with your job; but it's the sort of thing that you might pick up anyway.  You get the Skill at three levels less than the Training. 
                                                    During character creation, choose as many or as few Skills as makes sense for the Training.  It is recommended but not required that you pick one Primary Skill, one or two Support Skills, up to two Elective Skills, and up to two Hobby Skills.  Background Training tends to have fewer Primary and Supporting Skills and more Elective and Hobby Skills.  Note that these are rules of thumb, and not hard and fast limits: if your Career would logically have two or three Skills that are absolutely essential to the job, then by all means give it two or three Primary Skills; if you can't think of any skills that would qualify as Supporting, don't list any.  The GM should be more lenient the further down you go on this scale: he should be very careful about allowing additional Primary Skills (possibly even requiring the player to spend a Fate point if he wants to add a Primary or Supporting Skill after the game has started), but he should only forbid patently absurd choices for Hobby Skills (especially if you're dealing with Background Training).  In particular, the Hobby Skills from your Background Training are essentially equivalent to regular Fate's rule that any Skill can be taken at Terrible for free; and the only Skills that should not be available as Background-based Hobby Skills are ones that are alien to the standard setting (e.g., computer skills in most historical or fantasy settings). 

                                                    During character creation, one Phase should be used to select Background Training; another Phase should be used to select Career Training (with a level assigned by the GM to represent the level of competence that he expects to see in the campaign, though a player is free to lower this); and the remaining Phases can either be used to select other areas of Training (but at what level?) or to upgrade a handful of Skills - say, three or four Skills per Phase (this count needs to be playtested).  Each upgrade can bump one Skill up by one level, though generally not higher than the underlying Training level.  (If you do allow Skills to be upgraded beyond their underlying Training level, you might want to consider some sort of escalating cost structure for doing so. 

                                                    Another possible wrinkle: it should also be possible to select a skill that the GM agrees should be Primary or Supporting, and instead take it at a lower level, deliberately crippling your competence in an area that's presumably important enough that any compensation you get won't be a freebie.  Not sure of the details of how this would work, though. 

                                                    An alternate approach here would be to do away with individual Skills altogether, and to use the Training tiers (Primary/Supporting/Elective/Hobby) to determine levels for individual trappings and stunts as needed.  This would be useful for a "lightweight" version of the game, where a character's capabilities are summed up in a handful of Trainings (e.g., one or two Careers and a Background) and entire character sheets can fit onto 3x5 cards; you could also use this "lightweight" version to represent Extras in a game that otherwise uses the more detailed Training-and-Skills version - and if an Extra becomes important enough to turn into a full-fledged character, you can use the areas of Training from back when he was an Extra as a baseline for determining what his Skills are. 

                                                    Thoughts?

                                                    --
                                                    Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang
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