Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Free and Clear to Astrogate...

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I get that the classes in X-PLORERS seek to cram the greatest capability into the least number of classes, but I find the original classes to be too capable in regards to their function and sometimes puzzling in their skill spread. This is why, as mentioned before, I am revising the character classes from X-PLORERS; also I’m looking for my grand sci-fi epic to allow players more choice and a little customization.

Let's start by looking at the basics of each class; every class provides a character with four skills representative of their area of expertise. Each of these four skills also provides a starting target number that the player rolls a d20 against looking to equal or exceed that target number to determine if the character is successful when using that skill. The target numbers are a spread over the four skills, ranked from 13+ (or better) for the best skill to 16+ for the worst; if you're interested in the math that represent a success range of from 40% for the strongest skill down to 25% for the weakest. While one could presume that skills that start at a higher target number represent a more difficult skill, I don’t believe this is the case.

To see what I mean let's compare the two skills that overlap across classes, Pilot and Computers. Pilot is the same (14+) for both Scout and Technician and so doesn't reveal anything useful to us. However, Computers is different for the Scientist (15+) and the Technician (13+) even though the skill for Technicians represent the ability to perform more and, in my mind, more difficult tasks. The rules state: “This is the same as the Scientist Skill, except that the Tech can also repair the computer, install new programs, and modify existing ones.” So, even though a Technician can perform all of the same data manipulation and security (hacking) tasks as a Scientist as well as maintenance or repair tasks, parts swapping and modify existing code (programs) as well, the skill is still easier for them. Why is that?

I believe this suggests that the basis of a skill's target number might be more a measure of the character’s expertise, or proficiency, rather than being based on the perceived difficulty of that skill. Presuming (which I like to think of as a portmanteau for presumptuously assuming!) such is the case, my first step in changing up the classes will be to allow the players to assign one each of the initial scores (13+, 14+, 15+ and 16+) to their class skills to determine their individual levels of expertise. In this way one Scientist can be different from another by being better at a common skill.

Then, while pursuing the train of thought above, I stumbled on a forum post by John Adams of Brave Halfling Publishing from the beginning of last year in which he talks about plans for the conversion of X-PLORERS to Goodman Games’ DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSICS (DCC) RPG engine and in outlining his classes he does something I thought was brilliant, to – in his own words – “help reflect the diversity and adaptability of all core X-plorer Team members” he introduced the concept of a ‘bonus skill’, with which the character gets one free multi-classing option. By ‘free’ I mean that there is no extra experience cost associated with the selection, as there is later in play (see the Multiclassing rules in the X-PLORERS rule book, page 10. John also tightened up the skills a bit so I decided to follow his lead.

Inspired by that, each class now gets three class-related skills (and the player distributes the expertise levels 13+, 14+ and 15+ among them as desired) and an Elective Skill of the player’s choice to increase the team’s flexibility. This Elective skill is part of the character’s class and advances along with their other class skills every time they level. However, this Elective skill starts at an expertise level of 16+ for success representing its nature as cross-training or a hobbyist pursuit. This change lets all classes have role-defining common skills but still allows for individualization of a character.

But now I've reduced the number of skills available to allow a class to get it's job done. Considering I already thought that some of the skills are too all-encompassing I might be in trouble... Guess we'll find out!

Up Next: Thinking about skills

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