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Ubiquity is really easy to min max
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The GIT!

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2012 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I understand Nestor's stance on how he likes characters to be designed through "social engineering" but I also feel it is a little unfair to assume that a player who is maximising his numbers through character build and experience is not "entering in to the spirit of the game" as it were.

The whole point of having generation points to build a character is to have a method of creating characters of equivalent power and ability while avoiding the possible min/maxing that can occur with random systems. If the system can be abused then it hasn't achieved its aim and to criticise a player for doing what the rules allow seems wrong to me. Far better to tweak the rules and reestablish the desired balance.

In real life many people will strive to be the best they can be at something. Whether it be (to use CanuckAlchemist's examples) Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Chris Hoy etc they have effectively min/maxed the Ubiquity system and that should be applauded not criticised.

I like having players run characters that are exceptional in specific fields and I want to run games that will allow them to excel and be truly heroic but, at the same time, to be challenged so that they know they've earned the accolades they receive. At the moment Ubiquity seems to allow one without really offering the other but, with some minor adjustments, can very easily do both.

Looking back at the James Bond 007 RPG I continually develop a deeper respect for what the game designer achieved with that system back in the 1980's - there is a game that balanced the character generation very well and introduced a very good Hero Point mechanic. It is a good example of how a game can be designed that allows inexperienced characters to run alongside experienced characters and not be left behind.
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Nestor

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2012 6:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The GIT! wrote:
The whole point of having generation points to build a character is to have a method of creating characters of equivalent power and ability while avoiding the possible min/maxing that can occur with random systems. If the system can be abused then it hasn't achieved its aim and to criticise a player for doing what the rules allow seems wrong to me. Far better to tweak the rules and reestablish the desired balance.


*shrug* To me, the whole point of having generation points is to be able to build the character you want to play, as opposed to what a bunch of dice rolls decide.

At the same time, the rules are not the boss of me. I don't care if the system allows a player to create a godlike character; if it's not what I want to be in the game, it's not getting in.

The sad fact is that, in my experience, rules tweaking never solves the min/maxing issue. The player will always find another loophole to exploit.

I experienced watching a simple enjoyable system to which I devoted years of gaming slowly turn into the textbook example of rules bloat as the author attempted to cover every possible contingency and have his system "do it all". Razz

Quote:

In real life many people will strive to be the best they can be at something. Whether it be (to use CanuckAlchemist's examples) Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Chris Hoy etc they have effectively min/maxed the Ubiquity system and that should be applauded not criticised.


And I think that paragraph pretty much sums up our differences in playstyle. A hero is defined as much by his weaknesses as by his strengths. Creating the paragon character that cannot fail may be fine as an ego boost, but in the end it's not entertaining to me. Wink

I look forward to seeing the results of your experimentation, even if I don't find a use for them. To mangle a quote from a favorite movie, we may travel on different paths, but we all arrive at the same place. Smile
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I admittedly don't have as much experience with Ubiquity as most of the people here, but couldn't some of the issues of routinely succeeding at nigh-impossible tasks be solved by making it harder to take the average? Say, for example, the GM rules that you have to roll for any task Tough or higher. Which isn't unreasonable...there are tasks out there too tough for anyone to do routinely. Having a 12+ dice pool isn't so insurmountable when you have to worry about rolling only a handful of successes.

As I said, I'm pretty much armchair quarterbacking this. So, I'm sure there's a reason this won't work...heh. Wink
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The GIT!

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nestor wrote:
The GIT! wrote:
In real life many people will strive to be the best they can be at something. Whether it be (to use CanuckAlchemist's examples) Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Chris Hoy etc they have effectively min/maxed the Ubiquity system and that should be applauded not criticised.


And I think that paragraph pretty much sums up our differences in playstyle. A hero is defined as much by his weaknesses as by his strengths. Creating the paragon character that cannot fail may be fine as an ego boost, but in the end it's not entertaining to me. Wink

No, not my point at all. I want a system that allows people to have the choice of making a character that is reasonably good at a broad range of tasks or a character that is particularly good in a stated field but, at the same time, also challenges all those characters with a solid and consistent set of game mechanics. Ubiquity is nearly there, but still needs some smoothing out.

You say you're not bound by the rules - that implies you chose which game rules you will follow and which you ones you won't; that's just another method of house-ruling. All I want is a way for the players to know what to expect and not feel cheated at any point.

I see no problem with running a deeply involving narrative campaign with strong dice mechanics included. We obviously have different views on this subject but I suspect we are really coming at this from different angles and, if we were to persist, would likely meet somewhere in the middle Razz
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Nestor

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suppose the distinction is whether one sees min/maxing as a goal or a tool.

I do admit I am a seat-of-the-pants kinda GM. I try to minimize the amount of rules-checking I do when running because I see it as counter-productive to maintaining the mood. So it's not so much choosing which rule to use as it's coming up with stuff on the fly to keep the action moving. Smile
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The GIT!

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nestor wrote:
I suppose the distinction is whether one sees min/maxing as a goal or a tool.

I do admit I am a seat-of-the-pants kinda GM. I try to minimize the amount of rules-checking I do when running because I see it as counter-productive to maintaining the mood. So it's not so much choosing which rule to use as it's coming up with stuff on the fly to keep the action moving. Smile

Well this is something we can definitely agree on. Despite the long discussion on min/maxing and the robustness of the Ubiquity rules it still comes down to flying by the seat of your pants Wink
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Runeslinger

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am not fond of this sort of discussion as I find (and your discussion so far shows) that many things can be put down to how your group handles a situation, and whether you favor rulings or rules.

I find Ubiquity rocks as a system that lets you focus on action and leave the other details vague. I think it is amazing at getting out of the way without leaving you hanging or forcing you to go the pure narrative route. I can't find a better system for this, actually.

If you take the characters as points, and overlook things like the variable meaning of X and 0 in Resources, or forget that the GM controls the rate of XP earnings, the point at which they can be spent, the accessibility of instruction from mentors, et al, and the starting maximums, or choose not to supervise or edit characters submitted for the game, then the result will be needing to add in rules to curtail things which those decisions have allowed.

The use of positive and negative modifiers is a key part of the game, and the ratings given are benchmarks for average characters. Pulp characters typically do do the impossible with regularity. Challenging them will be with tasks which are considered impossible, not just nigh impossible. Challenging them will be in endurance over long hard courses full of extended rolls with screaming hordes of penalties. Challenging them does not really include denying them their genre-given prowess over multiple opponents or nigh impossible shots.

Characters can go in two ways, really, specialists weak in many areas who over time may earn the Talents to negate those weaknesses one by one, or generalists who must work toward defining strengths. Both balance each other, and it seems to me that the trick is to build a story environment where the character shines as what they are while wrestling with problems, not facing problems aimed at what they are.
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Nestor

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2012 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Couldn't (and obviously hadn't) said it better myself, Rune. Very Happy

If the forum had a rep system, I'd be throwing some your way. Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Embarassed Thanks, we do seem to be on the same page~

I think a lot of good ideas and assessments have been raised in the thread, and I also agree with The Git that some of them are just different flavours of the same Snake Surprise. Where I would like to draw a line though is in staying away from adding rules that limit what people do, or raising the stakes so that Heroes are challenged by common in-genre game situations. Perhaps the area which is lacking is examples which address the realities of experienced characters and players.

The nature of Ubiquity seems to be in defining what PCs can do, and allowing the rest to not matter so much mechanically. A 2 out of 5+ is an average attribute for example, and no Wealth Resource doesn't mean no money, it means no extra money. Keeping this focus on the positive is not always easy, and finding the balance between pace and threat and capability is a challenge. Examples of that might help everybody, no matter which way their adjudication tendencies lean.
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The GIT!

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 2:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Runeslinger wrote:
Where I would like to draw a line though is in staying away from adding rules that limit what people do, or raising the stakes so that Heroes are challenged by common in-genre game situations.

You seem to be missing the point that has been raised a number of times that Ubiquity very quickly gets to the point when you're not really challenging the PCs with the nigh impossible tasks either. Sure, you can add in negative modifiers but you're just as likely going to have to add positive modifiers just as quickly. I just don't believe the difficulty levels of Ubiquity are sufficient to cover the range of inexperienced and experienced characters evenly.

Runeslinger wrote:
The nature of Ubiquity seems to be in defining what PCs can do, and allowing the rest to not matter so much mechanically.

Not really sure what you're saying here by saying "allowing the rest to not matter mechanically". Ubiquity is hardly a unique system by defining what PCs can do - all RPG rules explain what a PC can do and Ubiquity also has rules that are supposed to cover all the rest as well.

Sorry Runeslinger but, unlike Nestor, I don't agree with you on most of your points.

I will agree that Ubiquity is an excellent system but I believe it has flaws and these can be fixed quite easily. For those who like to say that they don't let such issues concern them and just wing it so to speak - that's just house-ruling. The only difference is that you're not likely to be creating a consistent rules environment for your players. For things such as AFOs very flexible magick system I just feel that can be a recipe for disaster later on.

I admit that the main issues of disagreement in this topic are to do with playing styles but, once again, that's nothing new. We'll have to agree to disagree and, hopefully, respect each others point of view. At the end of the day though, Ubiquity can very easily be min/maxed and for some who are new to the system it is something they should be aware of.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In all of this I have not added in that the task resolution system allows for a +10 dice pol to be added in with magic, for any skill the magician can think of, assuming his tradition allows it. So the easiest way to min max is to have a party that accepts magick and have a magician or alchemist on side.

I've posted a lot of threads about the magic system, and skill boosting is the easiest way to turn a weak person into an amazing person. The key is preparation of course. These advantages take time, lab time for alchemists or chanting time for casters. The Ubiquity magic system as written is very easy to 'game' and would result in an arms race of disaster for the players and GM. The Idiot Savant could go to +20 dice pool to then select tricky manouevers and end with a +10 pool to his roll.

This does not make for a fun game, and the players accept this and agree not to destroy game balance. This is done with either table side rulings on the fly, or with a set of written house rules that act the same way as tableside rulings, but are written down so there is a consistency from session to session. Every game has a set of rules or conventions that they follow, that is nothing new. The aim is to have fun and share a story that interacts with each person at the table.

Ubiquity does that very well, but there are elements to the game that deserve a second or third look to prevent unbalancing elements from making a game stutter or worse yet skid to a halt because things escalate to the point where it ceases to be about the story and more about running out to the store to buy extra dice.
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Runeslinger

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 10:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The GIT! wrote:

You seem to be missing the point that has been raised a number of times that Ubiquity very quickly gets to the point when you're not really challenging the PCs with the nigh impossible tasks either.

Runeslinger wrote:
The nature of Ubiquity seems to be in defining what PCs can do, and allowing the rest to not matter so much mechanically.


Not really sure what you're saying here by saying "allowing the rest to not matter mechanically".

...I will agree that Ubiquity is an excellent system but I believe it has flaws and these can be fixed quite easily. For those who like to say that they don't let such issues concern them and just wing it so to speak - that's just house-ruling. The only difference is that you're not likely to be creating a consistent rules environment for your players. For things such as AFOs very flexible magick system I just feel that can be a recipe for disaster later on.

...I admit that the main issues of disagreement in this topic are to do with playing styles but, once again, that's nothing new. We'll have to agree to disagree and, hopefully, respect each others point of view. At the end of the day though, Ubiquity can very easily be min/maxed and for some who are new to the system it is something they should be aware of.


I can certainly agree to disagree. Life is pretty boring if we all think the same thing. Not only that, but we do disagree, and that disagreement does stem from play style, so... no problem. Cool I understand your point that things get easy too quickly, but I have a different take on it - even with Magic.

I will try to clarify the points you ask about in your reply, but I can understand if this discussion has run its course.

For gamers like me (OGRes), Ubiquity's framework allows us the support of a clear and functional rule system which covers all the basics and lets us rule on the rest. For those who favour putting the GM's capacity to rule consistently and fairly over an increase in rules, this is a feature not a flaw. It doesn't matter that the magic system is open-ended and left to GM arbitration because I have a vision for magic in my game world and I would rather use Ubiquity's coherent framework of implementation than a chapter that intends to prevent players from gaming the system. It's part of my role to prevent that, and no rule or set of rules can if the intent to do so is there.

I do not miss the point that the challenge fades too fast, I simply do not agree with it. I will concede that perhaps this is because I have not had to deal with it, although we have some pretty experienced characters in our group now. I control when players can Take the Average, I set reasonable difficulties for actions in line with the genre and do not scale them to make things harder for the sake of challenge. I challenge the player and by extension the character with events in the game which arise naturally from what has come before. I allow them to shine in their specialty areas while making the point of the campaign something else.

I want them to be able to do impossible things in their specialty area. I want my swordsmen to be like Zorro, but will settle for Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. The extra dice from experience, when they come, enable the group to become more and more flamboyant, and keeping a good flow of Style chips moving back and forth (which was not easy to judge or learn) rounds that out. The challenge of the game comes from the ethical, spiritual, political, emotional, and survival choices which characters and must make. I think it misses the point of the genre if we make the difficulty ratings for action higher so that starter characters fail more often and experienced characters are challenged longer. I think the game has rules which support building dice pools to assure possibility of successes on impossible rolls is a part of what it is trying to do. The thrill comes from deciding to act or not, and how.

I have not found that players advance all that quickly in my games. That is another reason why we may not see eye to eye on these points. My players certainly want to add Talents to their characters, but it is a very rare thing to happen so far. I typically provide XP at the end of a story, and each story runs three or four weeks. That means it takes 6 to 8 sessions minimum to have enough XP to purchase a Talent, and that requires hording from the first batch. Desired XP-based purchases are pitched to me and I approve some for immediate adoption as being the benefit of experience in game, and I require others to be the result of training in downtime. This only matters if there is no downtime between stories, but it sets a tone for finding and keeping mentors and patrons. Players do not spend XP as it comes in, they spend it at natural rest and reflection spots in the campaign. Rarely do players horde XP and when they do it is a percentage of the lot, taking even longer to earn those big ticket items. The plus side of that is that the talents appear in smooth progressions after a lot of play, making for a more believable change, and mixing things up when a plateau might get reached otherwise. Most of my players recognize the benefit of buying up their weak areas so that they can handle a broader range of routine tasks in their secondary or tertiary skills.

What I meant about Ubiquity allowing somethings to "matter less" is that when we build characters we do not have to cross every T and dot every i. You are not destitute if you have no Resource for Wealth. A lot of things work this way. In the system, you focus on buying the things you want to focus on mechanically, and you explain away the rest of your character by giving it a plausible 0-sum benefit to the character. A person is not without contacts if they have no Contacts rating, they simply do not pay dividends of favours and useful information. Alternately, a person with no Resources or Contacts can be as bereft of wealth and friends as the player likes. The openness to interpretation is a feature.

Further supporting a level of heroic play, you are average if you only have a 2 in an Attribute, or a 4 for a Rating. Playing a Holmesian genius does not mean you have to forego being able to defend yourself. Avenues exist to allow you to use your strengths as strengths and obviate some of your weaknesses. It is a system designed for larger-than-life pulp characters. Characters always being great at something in particular is a part of the package.

Magic can throw that off and no amount of rules will really fix that. That is precisely why I feel that it is left in the hands of the GM. If the GM cannot handle it, normal social interaction will demand their improvement, or end the game. This is a setting that requires overt action, somatic and verbal spell components, and wraps it all up in a period of investigation by the Inquisition. Alchemy in particular tasks the GM with many choices, and making them is not easy - but I prefer that and the freedom to try different levels and tones of magic in my campaigns to the opposite, where I might have to 'argue' with both book and player. Ubiquity runs with no rules changes at my table and I enjoy that a lot.

A classic example that different play styles probably see very differently is in what to do with a magicly enhanced musketball fired at a castle wall...?

Wink

If a new GM is being pressured by too many choices in the game, I might suggest setting longer durations for spell casting, voiding on-the-fly magic altogether in an extreme case, and strictly adhering to the idea of using components, circles, gestures, and chants in order to cast. The durations in particular should make good use of the Fatigue rules.

Anyway... with the primary example of difficulty levels making things seem too easy, or forcing the GM to focus on negative modifiers in a sort of arms race against bonus-hungry players, what can we say? Does it all just come down to play style? I do think it is a huge part of it. The culture of gaming has shifted perceptibly over the three decades I have been at it, and it is entirely possible that what I see as strengths of the system are viewed as flaws even by its creator~ Who knows?

I think the answer is to not focus on making the source of tension in the game be the success or failure in a duel or gunfight with competent and super-competent combat characters. I think it lies in providing interesting combats on the road to solving a mystery, uncovering an ancient secret, helping a lackey find true love despite the machinations of a despicable noble, and protecting the King in both word and deed.
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Althalus

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I want my swordsmen to be like Zorro, but will settle for Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.

That imposes a key question: Which one? Twisted Evil
What kind of Zorro do you have in mind? The literary? Tyrone Power? Alain Delon? Antonio Banderas? All interpretations of this character differ in the things they can and cannot do.
The same goes for the musketeers. The 1948 version got totally different possibilities for their characters than the 1973 version, or the 2011.

So, the question we have to ask before tempering with the system has to be: What kind of swashbuckling adventure do I want to happen?
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Runeslinger

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is indeed an important question!


Which sort of Zorro is not so important to my point: the popular conception of Zorro is essentially a solo character, while that of the Three Musketeers is essentially a group.

Wink
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 1:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A few semi-random thoughts for the discussion pot.

All the talk has primarily been about succeeding too easily in die rolls. Ubiquity does have the added feature that sometimes you need more than one success to truly succeed. Combat aside, 1 success in an Investigation roll might learn very little compared to 5 successes. Of course, you can elect to take more time for a higher pool, but sometimes time isn't on your side.

There's no reason Ubiquity can't have varying difficulties for genres/playing styles, either. In a gritty game, difficulties might be higher (or Skills limited to Level 3, or whatever), in addition to fewer Style points being awarded. In an over-the-top heroic game, where you actively want to encourage crazy stunts, then difficulties might be lower.

The above point also boils down to playing style, which, as we all know, is a bugbear. Smile If a player wants to try a cool stunt but its constantly told it's difficulty 6, he'll likely stop trying unless he has the right Skill at a high rating. Then you risk getting the boring "I shoot, I hit" mentality of certain other games, rather than "I swing on the chandelier, kick a thug as I'm passing, and land leaning on the fireplace in a nonchalant pose as I check my fingernails for dirt."
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