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Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

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  • Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

    We've talked before about the pros and cons of Abilities, but I feel they've been badly implemented in 3e and would like to see them eliminated in 4e or vastly expanded on. To me, they either need to serve a direct purpose or they should go.

    What do the Abilities currently do? Mostly serve as the base for skill(s), attack (close/ranged) attack bonus, and Defenses (Dodge/Parry; Toughness, Fort, Will).

    My first premise is this is bad design for an effect-based game.
    • STR: Damage and Lifting, each can be bought separately and it's those individual aspects that power checks are made with. Your're not making a STR check, e.g. Grab effect, but a Damage check.
    • STA: Fort and Toughness, each bought separately. There is NO STA check in the game.
    • AGL: Bonus to two skills (one of which can not be used untrained, i.e. more points invested in it), plus an Init bonus. Rarely have I ever seen AGL used for anything other than breaking Init ties. Links Dodge.
    • DEX: A needless distinction in a game that became less granular, giving a base for Ranged Attack and adding to two skills which cannot be used untrained. The only mention I've ever seen for a DEX check was to catch something, and that was only in the Superboy combat example. Never had a GM call for one (and I think it should be subsumed under an Athletics check). And for melee fighters this has potential for being a real point dump.
    • FGT: Not only a needless ability, but a stupid one because it engenders confusion between it and Close Attack and the intersection of [linked] Parry.
    • INT: Potentially a point dump or it becomes too good when you buy a ton of INT skills. INT checks feel like an artifact from another system and aren't operationalized compared to where it intersects with skill checks.
    • AWE: Base for two skills (can be used untrained) and Will. There are no AWE checks.
    • PRE: The base for three skills which can be used untrained. There are no PRE checks

    You could eliminate damn near everyone of these Abilities and not feel it at all, maybe with the exception of AGL (Init bonus) and INT (for those players with lots of cheap INT skills). Everyone else would be point neutral or even save points. And this isn't a min-max exercise, e.g. if there were actual PRE checks in the game, I'd be happy to buy the ability but what would PRE 10 get you? Nothing but a waste of 5pp (20pp for PRE 10 vs. 15pp for the three base skills).

    Alright, so instead of elimination, what about expanding on them?

    INT. I'd rather see skill checks than base INT checks. Intelligence is vastly complicated even within the comic book milieu. If you're going to keep it, there should be a difference between ranks in a skill and base INT supplied ranks. There's not, so someone with 10 ranks of Expertise: Science is identical to someone with 9 ranks of INT and 1 rank of Expertise: Science. If there's no difference why have two ways of getting there?

    PRE. I'd like a PRE check to make a difference, but at low ranks the system isn't granular enough to account for it without the d20 being the real determiner. I think an initial reaction roll would be helpful, and that would intersect with the Attractive Advantage. As it stands you aren't really Attractive in appearance, you're only better at using your appearance (because you still have to interact). This prohibits someone responding only to your appearance, e.g. reacting to you from a distance. And this is a consideration for a comic book game, since having a god appear in front of you might be something to engender you to cower. Currently this can only be achieved through Intimidation (Demoralize) or an Affliction and has no bearing on your actual PRE rank.
    Penny's Build Party - Playable builds - M&M 2.5 featuring Damage Roll combat

  • #2
    Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

    My concern with eliminating ability scores in future editions -- and considering everything currently on the docket for 3e, I'm hoping future editions are still a ways off -- is that ability scores provide a good shorthand for what an unpowered version of a character should be like. Sometimes characters need to get by as their regular human selves, and Attributes are a fairly handy way to know what those regular humans look like.

    Granted, I don't think the Attributes as they're presented in 3e are perfect, but I prefer having them as opposed to not.

    Also, why are there no Awareness or Presence checks in your game?
    Punching For Justice

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    • #3
      Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

      I note that you feel more comfortable with the system in 2E and that you considerd 3E bad design.

      However, the fact that Abilities are used in a game-based effect is simply because it is also a descriptor, which is on "default."

      Someone could build a character wich can hit with his barehands inflicting damage, and is capable of lifting heavy objects based on the descriptor "athletic strength."
      It is much easier to handle the number from one Ability of STREGHT with you 3 benefits: Damage, Lift and Parry to cost 2 points rather than one each benefit.

      Also, as I said there are runs that use force (not damage, not lifting) to escape a grab.
      "Nothing is more painful than the betrayal of an angel"

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      • #4
        Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

        Abilities to me are more like bundles than attributes. They make character creation simpler from a mechanical perspective and makes the game more inviting to newcomers. Telling some one new to buy strengh is easier than telling them to buy damage, lifting, and grab for a superstrong character. Another benefit is they provide a catch all for off the wall stuff not neatly covered by other aspects of the system. The bundles aren't perfect, such as presence, but it is a valid tradeoff between complex character creation and allowing for focus on descriptors. Ditching them because they are flawed seems a little extreme to me.
        [url=http://roninarmy.com/threads/46-mrdents-menagerie-of-characters]My characters past and present[/url]

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        • #5
          Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

          Originally posted by Kyle View Post
          My concern with eliminating ability scores in future editions -- and considering everything currently on the docket for 3e, I'm hoping future editions are still a ways off -- is that ability scores provide a good shorthand for what an unpowered version of a character should be like. Sometimes characters need to get by as their regular human selves, and Attributes are a fairly handy way to know what those regular humans look like.
          I totally disagree. What does having AGL 1 mean? Nothing. AGL 1 doesn't allow you to do anything. Unless you spend points on Acrobatics, all you have to show for it is a +1 Stealth and a +1 Init. There are no game mechanics for letting Agility do anything for you. Same goes for PRE 2. How much more charismatic is someone with two ranks than one rank? DEX 3? Where does fine manipulation come into the game? DEX doesn't even give you useful skills without investing in them.

          If I'm being asked to invest in DEX, it should give me something that's worth 2pp/rank. That's way too expensive just so I can hang a descriptor of "great manual dexterity" on the PC.

          Also, why are there no Awareness or Presence checks in your game?
          First, I've been playing MnM since 2008 and have never made an WIS/AWE or CHA/PRE check. And as a GM, I've never called for them mainly because I don't know how to operationalize them. When are they called for? What are the effects? Are their opposed AWE checks?

          Same goes for PRE checks: when are they called for? What are the effects of a PRE check?

          There are no guidelines for them and I'm going to assume that's why GMs have never called for them.
          Penny's Build Party - Playable builds - M&M 2.5 featuring Damage Roll combat

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          • #6
            Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

            Originally posted by Hellhound View Post
            I note that you feel more comfortable with the system in 2E and that you considerd 3E bad design.
            I never said that. There are less Abilities in 2e, but they also don't pay for themselves and there are just as many gaps in how to operationalize Ability checks.

            However, the fact that Abilities are used in a game-based effect is simply because it is also a descriptor, which is on "default."
            You shouldn't have to pay for descriptors. And they're not even good ones if you can get to the same effects another way. FGT 10 or FGT 0 and Close Attack/Parry 10 get you the same thing. Who's the better fighter?

            Someone could build a character wich can hit with his barehands inflicting damage, and is capable of lifting heavy objects based on the descriptor "athletic strength."
            It is much easier to handle the number from one Ability of STREGHT with you 3 benefits: Damage, Lift and Parry to cost 2 points rather than one each benefit.
            I disagree. You might have STR 10, but Power-lifting 2 and STR-based Damage 3. You don't just look at the Ability. You have to check the powers block to see if they have an effect modifying base STR. All kinds of builds could feature STR modifying effects. Maybe your Grab is stronger than your base STR, as per lifting.

            STR is just Lifting and Damage and that's it. Grabbing effects are base Damage effects (whether it's actual Damage or the Grabbing effect).
            Last edited by badpenny; 10-17-2014, 07:43 PM.
            Penny's Build Party - Playable builds - M&M 2.5 featuring Damage Roll combat

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            • #7
              Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

              So I'm guessing you've never had your players use your Awareness to modify something like Technology or some Expertise to notice something without necessarily studying it in-depth then. Off-the-cuff observation as opposed to having time to think about something to notice and analyze is what I'm getting at, which is generally how I use Awareness. Or maybe using Presence with Close or Ranged Combat to do a 'weapon display' to intimidate, letting the minions know that they really don't want to mix it up with this hero and encouraging them to run away instead. I'm not sure if it's that White Wolf Storyteller background of mine, but I find myself using abilities a lot to modify all sorts of checks when I think it's called for. To each their own though I guess, but I'm perfectly happy with the Abilities as they stand.

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              • #8
                Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

                The only thing I really would like to see is either something like a Mental Defense, rather than Will which is a Resistance, though I couldn't figure out a trade off that would work with the balanced nature.

                I would just like to see Mental Powers not be Perception Range, and therefore be able to be modified by Combat Advantages. Something like Presence being tied to a Ego value or some other term.

                I do feel Agility & Dexterity could be modified into a single stat, but other than that I see the value of keeping attributes as a sort of benchmark for character builds & NPC's.

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                • #9
                  Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

                  Will is actually a defense as well as a resistance they just didn't make a attacks will thing to target it instead of dodge or Perry

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                  • #10
                    Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

                    Originally posted by badpenny View Post
                    I totally disagree. What does having AGL 1 mean? Nothing. AGL 1 doesn't allow you to do anything.
                    It means my character is 5% more likely to succeed at a task requiring my character to be agile than a character with AGL 0.

                    Originally posted by badpenny View Post
                    Unless you spend points on Acrobatics, all you have to show for it is a +1 Stealth and a +1 Init. There are no game mechanics for letting Agility do anything for you.
                    If I was running a game where the characters found themselves in an impromptu dance-off for the fate the universe, I imagine there'd be some untrained Agility rolls being made. That's what the get for laughing at my suggestion to invest points in Expertise: Dancing, the fools!

                    There's all sorts of situations I can think of where'd let players make an unmodified AGL check. Jump out of a moving vehicle, and trying to mitigate potential damage by rolling with the fall? AGL check. Chasing down an opponent across the rooftops, and want to avoid some obstacles without slowing down? AGL check. Fighting a villain in a plane that keeps banking through heavy turbulence, and need to keep your footing? AGL check.

                    Those sorts of situations are under the purview of the Acrobatics skill, but I'd say it can't be used untrained in the same way that Vehicles can't be used untrained. Your character doesn't instantly fall down the moment they need to keep their balance because they don't have Acrobatics, just like your character can still drive even if they don't have Vehicles.

                    Originally posted by badpenny View Post
                    Same goes for PRE 2. How much more charismatic is someone with two ranks than one rank?
                    5%.

                    Originally posted by badpenny View Post
                    First, I've been playing MnM since 2008 and have never made an WIS/AWE or CHA/PRE check. And as a GM, I've never called for them mainly because I don't know how to operationalize them. When are they called for? What are the effects? Are their opposed AWE checks?

                    Same goes for PRE checks: when are they called for? What are the effects of a PRE check?
                    The last time I called for a PRE check, one of my players was trying to have his character get the attention of an NPC across a crowded room without attracting too much notice. I decided on a difficulty, he rolled, was successful, and his character was able to get the NPC's attention, and communicate a simple idea using mostly just eye contact supplemented by subtle gestures.

                    Another GM might have done something completely different in the moment, but it worked for me and my group, so I'm going to consider it a success.

                    So long as everyone at the table is more or less happy that's cool. I was just a bit surprised that you don't use AWE or PRE checks, because I can't imagine not using them. However, to each their own.

                    Originally posted by Praetorian Guard View Post
                    The only thing I really would like to see is either something like a Mental Defense, rather than Will which is a Resistance, though I couldn't figure out a trade off that would work with the balanced nature.

                    I would just like to see Mental Powers not be Perception Range, and therefore be able to be modified by Combat Advantages. Something like Presence being tied to a Ego value or some other term.
                    You can build all that as you like. I'm sure there's plenty of builds for Psylocke's psiblade or Superboy's tactile telekinesis in the Role Call forum. And if you want to build a defense against mental powers that's not based on Will, a Reaction based Nullify might suit your needs, though that could get expensive.

                    Originally posted by Praetorian Guard View Post
                    I do feel Agility & Dexterity could be modified into a single stat, but other than that I see the value of keeping attributes as a sort of benchmark for character builds & NPC's.
                    I like keeping Agility and Dex separate. Characters who are good at one tend to be be good at the other, but that's not always the case, so I like having the option open. Which I think is the core of my perspective on this topic; Mutants & Masterminds is all about giving players and GMs options to create the characters that they feel best suited for their games, and removing Ability scores feels like removing an option.

                    The only Ability score I'd phase out is Fighting, because I do agree that it's really the one which doesn't seem to fit with the others. I do prefer 2e's method for determining attack modifiers. In its place, I'd like to split Awareness into Wisdom/Willpower and Awareness/Intuition. However, I suspect that might not be a very popular idea.
                    Punching For Justice

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                    • #11
                      Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

                      I don't have time to get into a detailed forum debate, though it would be fun.

                      But I'll just drop into the thread to say I disagree with the OP. I love everything about 3e. Its just about perfect for me and that includes the way it handles ability scores. I'd rather not see a 4e anytime soon, nor do I think the game needs one. In contrast, I never liked 2e. Way too much d20 cruft that got in the way.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

                        +1 to this
                        "Nothing is more painful than the betrayal of an angel"

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                        • #13
                          Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

                          3E and 2E both have there good and bad qualities for me. Due to starting out in 2E and preferring more nuanced and less super hero type character, I am partial to 2E. 3E still works though. As the abilities go, just because they are there doesn't mean you need to use them to achieve a desired result. There is nothing stopping a character from acting agile with 0 Agility yet having a high dodge and acrobatics for instance. Similarly, someone can be a super charismatic character with 0 presence by buying the presence skills as high as they can. As for the bonuses conferred by the abilities, they are decently weighted depending on the character concept although they are poorly named.

                          Strength: +1 melee damage with fist, clubs, swords, etc. +1 Athletics and +1 for lifting/throwing. In addition, it helps on grabs. Altogether it is useful for power houses who would need to buy all that stuff separately.
                          Stamina: +1 toughness +1 fortitude. Both go with a tough character concept. Not too useful for speedsters and the like, but still worth it for tough characters.
                          Agility: +1 dodge, +1 init, +1 acrobatics, +1 stealth. This is probably the best deal if you discount INT and helps reduce the cost of fast and stealthy characters. Even if the concept is not too stealthy it is probably worth it to buy it up to at least 3 or 4 for moderately quick concepts.
                          Dexterity: +1 ranged +1 sleight of hand +1 vehicle. While this is not the most useful at first glance, if the concept is an underpowered person or highly skilled it might be worth it.
                          Fighting: +1 close +1 parry. For a fighter, its a pretty easy mechanic. Others can use it to boost the parry or close attack base while they are the same to avoid buying two things.
                          Intellect: +1 Expertise +1 technology +1 treatment +1 investigation. For a genius type character this is great, for others not so much. Than again, if a concept calls for a subset of the bonuses only the subset can be bought.
                          Awareness: +1 Will +1 Insight +1 perception. Granted, the bonuses here are stretching, but if the point was to give a concept who is highly aware of its environment and strong willed one thing to buy instead of three it makes sense.
                          Presence: +1 deception +1 intimidation +1 persuasion. For what it gives, the math doesn't work out unless the raw ability is used in the game the character is used in.

                          In summation, the abilities serve the purpose of making some concepts easier mechanics wise. Like powers or skills, they aren't for every concept. Just because no one uses time travel movement or slither very often doesn't mean the effects should be removed. That said, having negative abilities give -1 is a bit strange but if they boost it makes sense they would hurt.
                          [url=http://roninarmy.com/threads/46-mrdents-menagerie-of-characters]My characters past and present[/url]

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                          • #14
                            Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

                            Abilities are expensive, irrelevant in practice and limiting. No GM has ever given me fair value for the 10 Int I paid to have on my super genius character, and the Presence 2 I bought for her might as well not be there. The heavy cost and the high threshold of superhuman ability (as high as 7 by some sources) makes it difficult to play concepts that demand superhuman levels of abilities that are not Strength, Stamina, Awareness or Agility. I'd be happy if abilities were eliminated so I don't have to pay the concept tax, but I'd like it even more if they were more relevant, more fairly priced and more affordable, especially at the superhuman level. It's a superhero game; it shouldn't be hard to be the World's Greatest Detective or the Strongest One There Is.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Eliminating Abilities (or what I'd like to see in a Fourth Edition)

                              I think all that's needed is a prominent note stating that the game will play just fine if you ignore Abilities. That way they can exist but the people who play RAW have an official excuse to consider them optional.

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