Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

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Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  ZamuelNow on Fri Apr 18, 2014 10:46 pm

So...I'm contemplating some GM material.  One of the things I'm wondering is what people here think are the top five most difficult abilities for a GM to deal with.  I know people have fairly varied views of the system and how things are handled.




Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities for a New GM


Last edited by ZamuelNow on Mon May 05, 2014 1:28 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Zarhon on Fri Apr 18, 2014 11:18 pm

I'd say...

1) Sweet & Elite - Mostly cause you need to provide the player a benefit, otherwise the player is wasting points. Depends on what benefit the player expects, and somewhat setting reliant.

2) Pinkie Promise - It's hard to set up a situation where this ability is useful/needed for the PCs. It's also likely to cause arguments if you exploit any 'loopholes' to get around a promise, which you may need if its used against a BBEG. Plus the vagueness of 'cosmic retribution'.

3) Teleportation - A DM has to go to silly lengths to prevent every obstacle/challenge from being easily bypassed or broken in half by the teleport upgrades (especially the one that allows items).

4) Read Thoughts - Mostly if caught unprepared, or used against an NPC with completely non-important thoughts.

5) Nine Lives - Cause it sort of requires the DM to suddenly become murder-y against the player (otherwise, what's the point?), and/or causes said player to be (more) suicidal.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  A1C Bronymous on Fri Apr 18, 2014 11:34 pm

Besides the ones like "Challenging Fate", whoch are designed to make life miserable for the DM?
Call Animal, which requires the DM to define what is and is not an animal, and come up with a reasonable answer to what animals there are nearby and how long they take to get to the player. This can cause arguments because it's either going to be unfair for the player (Zarhon), or unfair for the DM.

Along with that and Read Thoughts is Animal Speak, which can be difficult if animals are inherently uncooperative, or just dumb animals and don't have coherent thoughts.

And along with THAT is Speak with Nature, which is just silly.

Another one is heart of courage, because it makes challenging DC's harder to place.

I personally dislike Untraceable, as it tends to be spammed on every single NPC that happens by (also memory to mist, but that's only once a day).

I guess that's 5. I have more though, and they aren't in any particular order. Most of them can be summed up with "magic", though.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Crystalite on Sat Apr 19, 2014 1:23 am

Agreed on Nine Lives and Pinkie Promise. I'm working on a mini supplement for Sweet and Elite, so hopefully that becomes easier.

Phase Step can do a lot more than you might think. I also agree with Teleportation being hard to work with, but not undo-able.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Sat Apr 19, 2014 3:16 pm

This is an awesome thread. Please keep it up, this is really valuable feedback.

Can you go into more detail about why teleportation is such a problem and provide some specific examples? There's been a lot of debate in the design team on what to do with teleportation for the new system.

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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Xel Unknown on Sat Apr 19, 2014 4:10 pm

Sweet & Elite are mostly depends on what the Player and the GM talk about and decide to do for what rewards they give. Personally I'd love to see more "Personal Boon" types of things in this system for there to be options, both in gifts the GM can give their players and in stuff the players can wanta try to use. I had a character that used that talent and requested to basically use it to have my character play a Mr Moneybags type of character to have an unknown amount of money yet I had also just not wanted any of the "fame" side of things. Things went alright and personally found it fun to play. Still, does majorly need some guildlines or suggestions on how best to play it regardless of any and all minor tweaks a Player or GM would wish to give it. An optional add on dealing with ideas for how to use this Personal Boon and others like it (if any are made) would be wise.

And only time I've ever seen Nine Lives used was with epilogue session that was built to be a high-risk murder trap dungeon crawl. Was fun... But yeah... That only seems to have any real use until you have high chance of death in the campaign. And it's not used in a "shit's going down" type of tone. but more just anyone can die and die POINTLESSLY type of thing. Which can easly be a really mean thing to do if sprong on the players in the wrong mood. Or as it was commented the player with Nine Lives would try more risky and suicidal options that otherwise wouldn't have been tried because of extra lives. This talent might be better used in more of it's own suplement talking about what can be done with an extra lives option and what ways to price such things for the players.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Sat Apr 19, 2014 6:51 pm

I'd put Flight up there for a lot of new DMs. If you're used to thinking about the world in terms of walking, running, jumping and all that - 2 dimensional thinking - it can be really hard to make traps and obstacles for flying characters that get to move on a whole other axis.


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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Xel Unknown on Sat Apr 19, 2014 6:55 pm

Flight's the same to deal with for players... Cause both sides are used to 2d thinking and don't always realize the power to fly when needed.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:00 pm

Indeed. However, there are usually more players than DMs at a game, and they each have fewer things to keep track of - so it's easier for one of the players to think of flying solutions to existing obstacles than for DMs to design their obstacles with flying in mind (in addition to all the other things they have to keep in mind).

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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  DrownedChampion on Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:51 pm

As a player, oftentimes the most problematic abilities are Freaky Knowledge and Heart of Courage. Why? For one thing, the GM shouldn't have to handle the calculations but the player can't handle them. Not to mention open-ended DCs.

What I mean is that the GM gets to decide if it applies. If I'm making a net, does my fishing FK apply because making fishing nets is a thing? If 25 on the check will get me a good net, but 30 will get me a great net, do I get to apply Heart of Courage? If I have the player apply these, then the answer is always yes. Always. But the GM is trying to handle everything, and even with a checklist, its not very kind to them to have to consider the bonuses every single time.

Rerolls are also terrible. They're boring. The concept of a Luck specialist or Fate manipulation sounds cool, but all the flavor seems to fall away in the face of "Okay, roll it again". They also necessitate a lot of Player/GM information that isn't necessarily beneficial, and it can be confusing with Soft DCs like "25 gets you good, 30 gets you better".
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Xel Unknown on Sat Apr 19, 2014 8:11 pm

Well I've only ever seen HoC really only need to be factored in if you get a roll of 25 or higher... Cause it's basically only then is it really goin' matter. FK only matters if you can argue that is applies to the task at hand. Never really seen the soft-DCs thing that you talk of in the games I've played.

Also I've found the rerolls to be basically vital to some campaigns.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Sat Apr 19, 2014 8:15 pm

I'm also not a fan of reroll abilities being too common for the reasons Drowned Champion mentions. There are some reasons they're helpful too, but when they're this common at low levels they can make the actual rolling a lot less relevant.

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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  DrownedChampion on Sat Apr 19, 2014 8:17 pm

Xel Unknown wrote:Well I've only ever seen HoC really only need to be factored in if you get a roll of 25 or higher... Cause it's basically only then is it really goin' matter. FK only matters if you can argue that is applies to the task at hand. Never really seen the soft-DCs thing that you talk of in the games I've played.

Also I've found the rerolls to be basically vital to some campaigns.

Mostly just what I've personally seen. Both of those things can break flow in a really frustrating matter.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  ZamuelNow on Sat Apr 19, 2014 9:58 pm

I'm mostly staying out of this as I read the responses but Speak with Nature and Animal Speak have a separate concern they overlap with and that's setting flavor. Some things are more fitting for settings that might seem pretty abnormal in others. Probably also showcases some of the pony vs Living Legends divide.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Copper Rose on Sat Apr 19, 2014 10:37 pm

Xel Unknown wrote:Never really seen the soft-DCs thing that you talk of in the games I've played.
Soft DC's are more common than hard DC's in the games I DM (mostly because I don't want to decide on a number I may forget later, or the roll was unanticipated) so you've come across them all the time. I just don't usually tell you guys the DC, and 80% of that is because the DC's are soft (often when I decide DC should be about 25 and someone rolls a 24, I give them something that almost works, but just isn't quite what they wanted).
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Sat Apr 19, 2014 10:42 pm

Soft DCs rule my games. It's very helpful to have a wide range of a task that is likely to weight toward a positive or negative outcome for the players - so you can plan around it (and it's more realistic) but the degree of success or failure helps accentuate the positive outcomes and reduce the negative outcomes. For example, my players in a room filling with poison gas might roll endurance checks. I want the poison to have an impact, so only the very best possible rolls will ignore any negative outcomes. Good rolls might suffer minor injuries. Terrible rolls might suffer massive injuries.

Similarly, if I put a mountain out with the bad guy on top of it for players to climb - I want my players to be able to get there to continue the story. Success is expected. Terrible rolls for climbing will result in injuries and lost time on the way up, but won't fail to climb the mountain altogether. Great rolls will still succeed, but will be able to help out other players avoid the consequences of terrible rolls and similar benefits.

This way, rolls still matter but the dice don't derail the adventure... Unless it's hilarious.

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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Xel Unknown on Sat Apr 19, 2014 11:01 pm

Ah... Then I am mistaken... That is basically what's happened with my games. Still have never seen such problems with FK and HoC... >.>
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  DrownedChampion on Mon Apr 21, 2014 3:22 pm

Xel Unknown wrote:Ah... Then I am mistaken... That is basically what's happened with my games. Still have never seen such problems with FK and HoC... >.>

It's entirely possible that it could be just my problem and really not a big deal to anyone else. The people I play with have a rather unique take on FK, anyway.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  ZamuelNow on Mon Apr 21, 2014 6:39 pm

DrownedChampion wrote:The people I play with have a rather unique take on FK, anyway.

What's their take? It might be worth it's own supplement since views on FK get kinda varied at times and it often gets bent a bit.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  ZamuelNow on Tue Apr 29, 2014 3:34 pm

Sweet & Elite will be getting its own supplement. Pinkie Promise might get its own supplement.  Freaky Knowledge may or may not get added to this supplement pending on increased feedback.



Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities for a New GM
May potentially change the name.  This is a first draft but I'm looking for feedback on the structure.  Some stuff was left out as stated above.  Some things were fused since their topics seemed to overlap.  Tried to set this up in a format that would encourage discussion instead of commanding GMs to do a specific thing.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Tue Apr 29, 2014 3:49 pm

This is fantastic. Great work.

Can I add True Sight to the list? A lot of DMs have complained about that being difficult. Twitchy Tail and its LL equivalent can make DMs nervous too.

I would like to see more definite reccomendations for things like Heart of Courage though. Even if the reccomendation is simply, "ban from the campaign"  - simply suggesting that the DM might maybe want to try to get the players to consider taking something else isn't much  help int he actual game if the player decides he really wants the ability. Unless it's talking about an outright ban, I'd like to see some logistical advice in-game as well.

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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  ZamuelNow on Tue Apr 29, 2014 3:59 pm

Stairc -Dan Felder wrote:"ban from the campaign"

This is interesting because I was under the impression that this is one of the first things a GM should understand. I'll probably add that clause in here but I figure that was assumed from the start. That said, I felt HoC warranted mention but truly didn't know what to say about it. Mildly surprised it made it into the Abilities documents considering the multi page discussion surrounding it for Utility Talents.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:04 pm

In practice, it's not hard to deal with. The player simply informs the DM that they have HoC and the DM secretly applies the bonus to that particular player if it's relevant. If a DM wants a DC to be unbeatable, a difference of 5 shouldn't be a big deal. If they want it to be beatable, then the bonus of 5 hardly matters to a min/maxer (who should already be within the range to succeed).

That said, there's no way in pony-hell that HoC is making it into the new system. We're going to finally get rid of most of these number-gamey abilities.

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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  A1C Bronymous on Tue Apr 29, 2014 5:01 pm

I wish my players would use Twitchy Tail, and Unreliable Narrator. Those are just fun for me.
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Re: Toil and Trouble: Problematic Abilities

Post  Zarhon on Tue Apr 29, 2014 5:58 pm

Bronymous wrote:I wish my players would use Twitchy Tail, and Unreliable Narrator. Those are just fun for me.
Problem with these two are that, for one, they can lead the players into doing or assuming the wrong thing (which might make things harder for the DM) from faulty or unreliable information - there's little way to confirm things until they happen.

For instance, they assume the BBEG is in a tall tower-like structure after confirming he's in a 'high place', when they're in fact on top of a mountain, or in 'high society'. Or in the case of unreliable narrator, he might in fact be underground. Leading to a tangent the DM didn't plan for and now must improvise, and sometimes even punish the players for (since actions have consequences), or the players being adamantly stubborn about their 'concrete facts' and eventually getting frustrated when it proves the opposite.

Secondly, the DM ends up in the position where he's blamed for the above situations, or sparks arguments of bitterness in the players for 'pulling the wool over their eyes'. And when there are big stakes on the line (e.g. the life of a likable NPC, or the BBEG advancing his plan), it's extremely demotivating for the players to do the wrong thing/waste their time, and dissuades further use of the abilities (lest another mistake be made/exploited).

It may be fun or amusing for the DM to play the 'exact words' trope, or even expected (when foolish/poorly worded questions are asked), but its not for the PCs who take consequence for actions made from such information.

Thirdly, the abilities are nothing more than a 'safety blanket' for the PCs. DMs usually get sufficient creative/technical leeway to make things have double-meanings, even for the carefully constructed questions. Which can allow a DM to prevent the ability from revealing too much information when it should, usually to avoid the PCs 'taking a shortcut' through the plot.

Fourthly, the ability requires the PCs to overly invest in careful question-asking. Live games just don't have time for that in an emergency, and it stalls the game as people try to get an agreement as to what to ask, and it's generally boring.

Overall, the abilities stall the game, can lead PCs into mistakes/blunders the DM didn't plan for, discourage their own (frequent) use, and make the DM seem/feel like a jerk if the PCs get an unfavorable answer.

DMs might like it and prepare for it, but PCs might hate it or be overly distrustful. Or PCs might overly rely on it, and the DM ends up hating/sabotaging it to keep the plot a challenge.
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