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Specialization Bonus for General Skills


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#1 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 11:11 PM

I'm trying to build a trade off between how players train skills. I've got about 40 general skills, things like Gunnery or Science or Survival, and each has a number of specializations which enhance the general skill. So Gunnery might have Light Arms, Science might have Biology and Survival might have Arctic. I'd like the player to choose between putting resources toward the general category or specializing in a part of it.

 

My question is what the bonus should be for specializing and how it should work. Initially I was just going to make specialization a cheaper way to add a +1 or +2 or whatever, but constrain it to a specific category, but that's pretty dry. Another thought was to remove critical failures, but again that wasn't very inspired.

 

I should note that skills are meant to be tested against the general category only, so that someone with the appropriate skill level should pass a test regardless of specialization, but should get a more favorable result for specializing. Skill levels are open ended, requiring geometrically more resources each time you gain a level in the skill, though without the more lazy +1, +2 etc I'm not sure about specializations.

 

Any ideas? What should you get for putting the effort into Light Arms as opposed to just Gunnery?

 

 


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#2 LorenzoGatti   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2762

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 01:39 AM

Let's limit examples to gunfight skills.

What should you get for putting the effort into Light Arms as opposed to just Gunnery?

 
First and foremost, there must be a supply of Light Arms, or the specialization is a wasted investment. Can the player predict how and when skills are going to be useful?

For Light Arms specialization to be a real choice, there must be other useful specializations (e.g. Sniping) and their corresponding weapons (e.g. a large caliber rifle). Are you including useless skills? Does the player know that they should be avoided?

Third, there must be a way to win the game with any choice of specializations, forcing you to avoid, among other things, unavoidable fights that are much easier with one skill choice. For example, you should allow the player to infiltrate an enemy base either through Light Arms friendly sewers and secret passages or by Sniping friendly extermination of guards from nearby buildings; offering only one of the two battles requires precognition on the player's part. Is character customization worth the difficulty tuning complications?
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#3 Meatsack   Members   -  Reputation: 1023

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 02:52 PM

The best system that springs to mind is the Shadowrun (PnP) skill web system.  It actually went 3 tiers deep with General Skill / Concentration / Specialization.  In that system, increasing General Skills cost more because everything under that skill benefited from the skill level increase.  Concentrating in a group up sub-skills costed fewer points since to increase since that level up only affected some sub-actions, but not all.  Specializing costed even less than a skill concentration since it raised only one action directly related to a specific weapon or action.

 

So it often happened that a Firearms skill would be at 4, Pistols skill would be at 6, and Baretta 9mm skill would be at 8.

 

In that case, to raise the skill levels, you would have to spend:

8 points to raise Firearms from 4 to 5 (2 x current level)

9 points to raise Pistols from 6 to 7 (1.5 x current level)

or 8 points to raise the Baretta 9mm from 8 to 9. (1 x current level)

(Each line is paid for and advanced independently after character creation.)

 

Consider that if you pick a favorite weapon, you can get deadly with it fast without being completely useless with everything else.

Or if you knew that your favorite weapon won't be available for a while, or would rather remain versatile, you can stay generalized, but less effective than a specialist.

 

So to summarize my answer to your question:

You should get more rapid advancement by specializing over the versatility of generalizing but at the added cost of being less diverse.


Edited by Meatsack, 12 July 2013 - 02:55 PM.

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#4 Telcontar   Members   -  Reputation: 917

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 03:17 PM

I actually rather like the idea of eliminating critical failures, assuming that critical failures are actually painful to the player. In many games it's just a single bad attack or damage roll, and that quickly gets lots in the thousands of attack and damage rolls you make in the game.

 

Are specializations a one-off cost? You either have it or you don't? Or is it a separate and more focused skill rating a la the Shadowrun system Meatsack described? If the former, then you can create unique abilities unlocked by each skill - for instance "Headshot" for sniping or "Lead Storm" for automatic weapons. However, if they are scaled abilities you'll need to keep the benefit more tame and scaleable. Increasing damage with the specific weapon category, or success chance, or whatever.

 

Hard to give more suggestions without knowing more about the specifics of your system. As a more general statement, I'd try to use the specializations to make the skills more unique and really give the player a reason to use them.


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#5 Khaiy   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1342

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 08:08 PM

I also like removing critical failures, but other ideas might be:

 

-Some weapons can only be used without major penalties if the character is specialized enough in that weapon's  type

 

-Weapons and other equipment can be customized, and more or better customization is only possible if you've specialized

 

-The player gets a bonus related to the specialization but that isn't an attack modifier, i.e. specializing in Pistols lets the player notice more easily if an enemy has a pistol, or confers a defense or dodge bonus against pistols

 

-Special attacks become available through specialization, while generalization just adds a plain bonus like a +1 firearms attack

 

Re-reading this, it's pretty focused on gunnery/light arms. I could probably come up with some more diverse ideas with more examples of skills and multiple specializations within them.



#6 powerneg   Members   -  Reputation: 1463

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 06:00 AM

You could custom-enhance general skills with the sub-skills, let's take gunnery as example:
1) accuracy(better hitrate or hitrate scales off slower at range, depending on your game)

2) Reloading(how fast do you reload a gun, very important)

3) maybe gun-maintenance(keep your gun from breaking down due to be worn out, or make it usable even in the rain, again depends on your game)

4) doublehanded(using two guns at the same time, on lower levels with big penalties, level up to cut the penalties)

5) and maybe a skill to increase the damage from guns(dunno whether it would clash with your level of realism)



#7 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 19324

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 07:52 AM

For the record, I also like the idea of removing or reducing critical failures.  If your system has a concept of critical successes, a specialist might also have an increased (but never guaranteed) chance of critical success.

 

 

Perhaps you need a larger score in a general skill to be able to use a weapon at all, while the specialisation allows you to use it more quickly, but obviously wouldn't be useful in other cases.  For example, +5 in gunnery might allow you to shoot any weapon, whilst just +1 in light arms would allow you to fire a pistol but wouldn't help you out with a mortar.

 

I also like the idea of a specialisation providing the option of a special attack (or special usage/ability for non-combat) whilst a more general skill would just allow basic usage.



#8 Waterlimon   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2634

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 08:21 AM

result = general + specialization

 

where specialization<=general, because how can one be highly specialized in arctic survival without knowing what this 'fire' thing is and that cold is bad and kills you.

 

This would also be realistic in a sense. When you have low general (learning how to aim a gun?), you cant really specialize much at that point. But when you master the basics, specialization is all you can do.

 

You could add some more depth by lets say having a specialization-tree with unlockables that require some level in the general skill.


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#9 wodinoneeye   Members   -  Reputation: 872

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 04:21 PM


My question is what the bonus should be for specializing and how it should work. Initially I was just going to make specialization a cheaper way to add a +1 or +2 or whatever, but constrain it to a specific category, but that's pretty dry. Another thought was to remove critical failures, but again that wasn't very inspired.

 

Any ideas? What should you get for putting the effort into Light Arms as opposed to just Gunnery?

 

 

 

Consider real world equivalents

 

Gunnery - you may have touched all the weapons you would commonly used and maybe fired it once to be familiar with it (my daya said in army they each got to fire a bazooka once  in training (and he was in signal corp)    just learning what the weaopon is used for and what it looks like and what its ammo looks like....

 

Light Arms - now actually firing many rounds and some aiming  with each relevant weapon  (going from competancy of  hitting a barn door to some guy maybe 30 feet away with a few shots)    basic handling/cleaning/familiarity

 

Specific weapon  - intense learning and targeting with serious instructors  (like a marine and his rifle)  speciific weapon to be extension of the man.

 

Marksman goes beyond that (usually only people with suficient inbuilt skills)

 

Now in your system how do you set attributes to reflect  those levels of abilities  (and each attribute may have a different stepped curve for each of those levels)

 

Training is likely a geometric progression, but likely turns out effectiveness with specific weapon may be close to same geometric stepping  (particularly with   probability-of-target-hit   at long range      (short range is on a different graduated scale as just about anyone could hit something 5 feetin front of them if they can manage to actually fire the weapon  -- loading it to get it into that firing state may be a different consideration)


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#10 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2797

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 04:49 PM

What about a system where you buy specialized skills with training points that are all part of single skills branch.  Your skill in that branch are determined by your total number of specializations.  Each specialization unlocks a useful bonus in situations that use it but your success is primarily determined by the points you have in that branch.

 

For instance shooting at unaware target might require a  3 success to hit, but if you have the sniper specialization then 5 success means a head shot that kills non boss enemies.

 

Or in the electronics tree I might have:

Lock Picking

Ciphers

Alarm Systems

Knowledge of Ares tech

Counter Surveillance

 

Which gives me 5 points in electronics to be used in all tests but most of my big bonuses are all around security systems.  I still might succeed at repairing a damaged laptop I'm never going to get any special bonuses for doing so.



#11 Meatsack   Members   -  Reputation: 1023

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 09:09 AM

You could add some more depth by lets say having a specialization-tree with unlockables that require some level in the general skill.

 

I like this idea!  Knowing that as the game designer you must plan out every step of every branch of that tree, having a special move/buff at certain levels of advancement can encourage specialization.  Deep knowledge of a specific weapon might let you know that every 5th shot of continuous automatic fire from that make/model has a high % chance to cause a jam.  This could translate into a bonus to reduce or eliminate that % chance because you know how to maintain the weapon to keep the jam from happening.

 

A bonus for the pistol line could be explained that by studying the use of the pistol so much, the character reflexively knows the proper forms and uses for that class of weapon. This leads to unlocking trick shots and advanced tactics available to them in gameplay at various levels.

 

I'm thinking that you are looking more for a system like (but not exactly like) Star Wars Galaxies where there was an overall combat class, but could specialize down certain weapon-type paths to get specific skills when using that class of weapon.

 

I'm just thinking out loud here...


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#12 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 01:38 AM

Thanks for the great replies! Definitely reconsidering critical failure elimination.

 

Quick background on how I'm thinking of doing skills to frame this better: All skill levels are open ended, as are specializations, raised either by paying for training or through use. Skills have levels, called Ranks, which are pitted against challenges that have a corresponding Challenge Rating. If Rank equals Challenge Rating, you get a 50/50 chance at success. Each Rank above confers a percentage bonus (not determined yet, may be +10% per rank up to a cap of 95% chance of success).

 

Example: You have Gunnery at 5 and a weapon that has a CR of 5 to use. This gives you a base chance of 50/50 at hitting a target (excepting other factors like range, evasion modifier of target, etc). 

 

I should mention also that it's for a party-based game possibly with a form of permadeath. I intend to discourage reloading by zapping a slowly building resource that powers character abilities if you reload anything other than the active game (which saves upon exit).

 


Can the player predict how and when skills are going to be useful?

For Light Arms specialization to be a real choice, there must be other useful specializations (e.g. Sniping) and their corresponding weapons (e.g. a large caliber rifle). Are you including useless skills? Does the player know that they should be avoided?

Third, there must be a way to win the game with any choice of specializations, forcing you to avoid, among other things, unavoidable fights that are much easier with one skill choice.

 

Honestly, I'm not really sure if the player's going to be able to predict how to use specific specializations other than by experimenting with different challenges. I'm trying to procedurally generate a lot of the game and may end up deriving the nodes of challenge from a mix of what the player has invested in skills (along with incentives to skill up) and somehow telegraphing a warning on the things the procedural mission will decide they need. But this is very good advice to keep in mind.

 


Shadowrun (PnP) skill web system...

 

Very helpful example. I was considering faster advancement for the specialization, but I'm not sure of what to do if you completely overpower a single specialization other than create situations where the player could flat out fail (which makes it a bit of an investment hazard). What did Shadowrun do to keep specializations from becoming overly powerful?

 


Are specializations a one-off cost?

 

No as mentioned above. The idea you propose for one off advantages would work well with the character special ability system, though, where you have to spend character points (earned only through missions and a few other sandbox activities) to purchase abilities.


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#13 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 02:11 AM


-The player gets a bonus related to the specialization but that isn't an attack modifier, i.e. specializing in Pistols lets the player notice more easily if an enemy has a pistol, or confers a defense or dodge bonus against pistols

 

I like this idea. It's unexpected, which is a nice touch.

 


I could probably come up with some more diverse ideas with more examples of skills and multiple specializations within them.

 

Not a complete list, but a sample

 

Gaming - For skill tests involving gambling or contests
* Strategy
* Chance
* Reflex
* Wager - Bluffing and strategizing to raise the stakes of the game
* Cheating - Gaining an extra advantage at the risk of being caught 
 
Detection
* Tracking - Seeing tracks
* Search - Searching an area for valuables or traps
* Surveillance - A wait action that allows you to remain hidden while observing activity in an area
* Awareness - A kind of 6th sense skill that allows the player to take action before a challenge to go into effect (getting to do something before being ambushed or detecting that someone is dangerous)
 
Covert
* Hide
* Disguise
* Lockpick
* Sabotage
 
Survival
* Shelter - Building shelter
* Weapons - Building primitive weapons
* Hunting - Finding and ambushing  game
* Pathfinding - Access to automapping and level of detail when in survival mode
 
Medicine
* First Aid
* General Surgery
* Neurosurgery - Removes critical medical status effects (coma, head injury, mindblast). Covers installation/removal of implants
* Revival - Cryonics restoration without skill damage, bonus to reviving party member from the dead
 
Persuasion
* Intimidation
* Seduction
* Impress
 
Business
* Barter - Basic trading
* Contract Law - Terms of missions (time, penalties) and effect of aborting missions
* Appraise - See degrees of value of an item / commodity
* Investment - Skill in roughly simulated stock market game that's tied into a random event system
 
etc.

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#14 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 02:16 AM


2) Reloading(how fast do you reload a gun, very important)
3) maybe gun-maintenance(keep your gun from breaking down due to be worn out, or make it usable even in the rain, again depends on your game)
4) doublehanded(using two guns at the same time, on lower levels with big penalties, level up to cut the penalties)
5) and maybe a skill to increase the damage from guns(dunno whether it would clash with your level of realism)

 

Thanks, I'll take these!

 

If your system has a concept of critical successes, a specialist might also have an increased (but never guaranteed) chance of critical success.

 

What about general skills having no chance for critical success but still including critical failure? Too harsh? Greater and greater specialization would unlock more abilities and a greater chance for criticals, which as you say would not be guaranteed but would go nicely with special character ability traits that could be domain specific, like criticals with weapons, criticals with computers, etc.


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#15 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 02:26 AM


You could add some more depth by lets say having a specialization-tree with unlockables that require some level in the general skill.

 

I don't have trees but you gave me the idea of maybe cross linking these open-ended skills with character abilities, which have to be purchased through character points you earn during play. Maybe abilities require specializations, something like "Lightning Draw" which gives a plus to initiative in gun battles when holding a pistol requiring a specialization of X in Light Arms.

 


For instance shooting at unaware target might require a  3 success to hit, but if you have the sniper specialization then 5 success means a head shot that kills non boss enemies.

 

I like this. I could see generalizing this to something  like "called shot" requiring a specialization of X against a given enemy or "fast hack" giving a bonus to only certain types of security  systems.

 

I also like the package system you're proposing but I don't think I can work it in with open ended skills.


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#16 Meatsack   Members   -  Reputation: 1023

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 08:44 AM

 


Shadowrun (PnP) skill web system...

 

Very helpful example. I was considering faster advancement for the specialization, but I'm not sure of what to do if you completely overpower a single specialization other than create situations where the player could flat out fail (which makes it a bit of an investment hazard). What did Shadowrun do to keep specializations from becoming overly powerful?

 

The game system itself did not handle that aspect.  It was up to the Game Master to keep things interesting.  Like if someone was rolling with 15 levels in their Musashi Samurai Sword specialization, they would be neigh-unstoppable within arms-reach.  So the GM (usually me) would add in a sniper from a few hundred feet away to give that character something to deal with creatively.  Teamwork would ensue as someone else would have to take out the sniper that was harassing the melee guy.  In their element, the specialist would be overpowered.  The trick was to moderate how often that element happened.  You didn't want to completely eliminate that element, though, because that's where that specific player had the most fun.

 

For video game mechanics, a simple solution would be to cap specializations at a certain level (10?).  The rationale is "you can only get so good at something."  Once you reach perfection, further practice only helps maintain the perfection.  You don't actually get any better at it.  Maybe make that last level "get rusty" over time if not used.  Say you plan for 10 specialization levels per weapon type.  The 10th level grants a super move for that class of weapon.  If that skill isn't used for 5 missions, the level drops to 9, and you lose that super move. You can earn that 10 again later, but at a reduced cost since you knew it once already.  

 

Shadowrun didn't limit how good anyone got at any particular skill, but hyper-specializing meant there were points not being spent in other skills.  And there were several dozen, if not hundreds, of skills.  That specialist might be awesome at hacking a computer, but couldn't dodge a spitball to save his life.  The best teams wound up being a group of five or six specialists that all knew their roles well.  Nobody could run alone and succeed at the tough jobs.  Kind of like a sci-fi Ocean's Eleven.


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#17 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3966

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 05:08 PM


So it often happened that a Firearms skill would be at 4, Pistols skill would be at 6, and Baretta 9mm skill would be at 8.



In that case, to raise the skill levels, you would have to spend:

8 points to raise Firearms from 4 to 5 (2 x current level)

9 points to raise Pistols from 6 to 7 (1.5 x current level)

or 8 points to raise the Baretta 9mm from 8 to 9. (1 x current level)

(Each line is paid for and advanced independently after character creation.)
Do these all add up to one "final skill value" (general + concentration + specialization) that is used as a skill check?

How the first level was handled (it should cost zero)?

 

An interesting system BTW...


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#18 Meatsack   Members   -  Reputation: 1023

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 06:16 PM

 


So it often happened that a Firearms skill would be at 4, Pistols skill would be at 6, and Baretta 9mm skill would be at 8.



In that case, to raise the skill levels, you would have to spend:

8 points to raise Firearms from 4 to 5 (2 x current level)

9 points to raise Pistols from 6 to 7 (1.5 x current level)

or 8 points to raise the Baretta 9mm from 8 to 9. (1 x current level)

(Each line is paid for and advanced independently after character creation.)
Do these all add up to one "final skill value" (general + concentration + specialization) that is used as a skill check?

How the first level was handled (it should cost zero)?

 

An interesting system BTW...

 

 

I am operating from memory here as it's been a long while since I've played Shadowrun.  Likewise, it's Shadowrun's ruleset I'm relaying.  I didn't come up with it.

 

The skill levels denoted how many dice were rolled in the skill test.  The separate lines do not add up when using the skill.  The most appropriate line was used.  For example:  if the character shot the Baretta 9mm, the 8 dice were rolled.  For a Desert Eagle, Pistols rolled 6 dice.  For a shotgun, Firearms rolled 4 dice.

 

On character creation, you had so many points to put in skills.  All the points were given to general skills.  After all the points were used, concentrations could be selected if desired.  The appropriate general skill would be lowered by 1 to gain a concentration under that generalization for 1 more than the original level.  Then a specialization could be selected under that concentration with the same process, but by lowering both the general skill and the concentration by another level.

 

To get the Firearms example above, the Firearms skill started at level 6.  Concentrating in Pistols, the Firearms went to 5 creating Pistols at 7.  Specializing in the Baretta 9mm, Firearms is reduced again to 4, Pistols is reduced to 6 (from 7) and Baretta 9mm is created at 8 (7+1).

 

If you had a favorite Baretta 9mm that you always carried around like a family heirloom (and enough ammo for a prolonged encounter), that's not a bad deal.  But if you rely on scavenging weapons and ammo from defeated foes as the adventure progresses, it might behoove the player to remain a generalist so that their effectiveness isn't diminished once they run out of ammo. 


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