Mar 29, 2011

Dream Pod 9's Silhouette System part 2

When we last left our intrepid system, I had graphed probabilities of success at various difficulty thresholds for different skill levels, holding attributes constant, and I made the claim that the system encourages min-maxing.  Let us follow up on that.

This table shows the probabilities of succeeding at tasks with a difficulty threshold of 6, which is hard, for various combinations of skill and attribute.  It also shows the character creation point cost of each skill/attribute combination, and the point cost per percentage change of success.

We see that costs mirror each other across the center diagonal, and it is a more efficient use of points to buy a high attribute than a high skill.  Even more important to note is that Attributes are applicable to many skills, and are sometimes used to determine secondary traits (Health is the average of Fitness, Psyche, and Willpower).  So, not only would it be more efficient to buy a high attribute for just one skill, there is compound efficiency for buying a high attribute in general and with multiple related skills.

This table shows the average probabilities of success across tasks with difficulty thresholds from 1 to 7.  That should be a relatively standard distribution, since a threshold of 4 is considered average.

A notable difference here is that it is actually more efficient in some cases to buy a lower attribute than skill, but only when the average probability of success is less than 51%, which is not usually desirable in a heroic simulation.  At the useful levels of success, it is still more efficient to buy a high attribute, even for a single related skill.  We also see that an attribute of 2 and a skill of 3 is a kind of sweet spot for good success at a moderate price.

There are many available skills, but the overwhelming majority of them are based on just three attributes: Agility, Knowledge, and Creativity.  As far as skills go, this means there is a strong incentive to min-max, and just pick one of the three areas to focus on while taking negative scores in the other two.  If you don't care about having a lot of skills, and want more of a brute character, scrap all three and raise the Build, Fitness, Psyche, and Willpower attributes instead.

Since those three attributes apply to so many skills, it would be more appropriate to make a new version of each of the above tables for each number of desired skills, adding in only the average attribute cost per skill.  I am not currently inclined to make a dozen more tables.  This would make it drastically more evident that a high attribute score (a 4 is possible for a starting heroic character, but a 3 is practically as high as even a min-maxer should go) allows for the most success at multiple skills for an efficient price.

Something that I did not highlight is the fact that the same point pool is not used to buy attributes and skills.  It is impossible to use a huge number of points on attributes and then buy a bunch of low level skills as it is in GURPS.  This system guarantees a set block of points for skills.  If you don't want a lot of skills, use your attribute points to build a brute, and buy high levels of the couple skills you do want.  If you want a lot of skills, pick one of the three polyskill attributes to focus on, crank it up and buy many low level related skills.  I am glad that Dream Pod 9 split the pools this way, as it does slightly limit min-maxing and forces characters to have skills, but the system still does encourage attribute min-maxing within its point pool.

Also interesting is that it is incredibly difficult to increase attributes during play.  The experience point costs are  different than the character creation point costs, and strongly incentivize buying skills during play instead of saving up to increase an attribute.

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