View Full Version : Merits and Flaws

2009-06-02, 03:08 PM
Whatever they're called--Merits and Flaws, Qualities and Drawbacks, what have you, these are pretty much the bread and butter of point buy systems--the miscellaneous bonuses you pay points for, and the various weaknesses and troubles that give you points back and provide roleplaying opportunities. So what's a DM to do when he wants to run a game where the whole party shares a a merit and/or flaw?

To get into the specifics: I'm planning to run a game this summer using the Cinematic Unisystem of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. The concept would have the party as a group of teenage monster slayers in Oregon, empowered by Native American animal totems. This means that I would be asking all the players to create characters with the Totem Warrior Quality, and the Teenager flaw. This raises for me the question: is it fair to count the points spent or gained against the normal limit if every member of the party is required to have it?

With the Totem Warrior merit, my instinct would be to say that they would have to pay normally, since it gives a nice suite of abilities, and to give out free points would likely be unbalancing. Another deciding factor is that the Totem Warrior quality has a variety of different sub-types based upon the Totem in question. Would the players be justified in asking for a party-wide merit for free if it provided the exact same bonuses to everyone who took it?

At any rate, I'm relatively certain about charging them for the required merit. I'm less certain about giving them points for the shared drawback. A player can only gain up to 10 points from drawbacks, and if the entire party are Teenagers, then it seems that the drawback is not hindering any one of them uniquely.

What's the Playground's opinion?

2009-06-02, 03:13 PM
I would most likely grant them points for the drawback, regardless of whether it something the entire party faces, if you intend to run it as an actual penalty. I'm not familiar with the system in question, but my gut instinct would also be to not apply the drawback to the drawback point limit, so they are not stifled from choosing their own unique ones as well.

If they want to take the full 10 points of drawbacks + Teenager, just make sure they pay the price for it.

2009-06-02, 03:14 PM
I'd say give them the points from teenager, and don't charge them for the Totem merit. Them being teenagers is a drawback, so it seems...not unfair, but questionable, not to give them a benefit for accepting it. The merit is something that they wouldn't necessarily want for their characters, so wy charge them.

The advantage, however, of pt-based systems is that you as DM can just choose to give them a boost or reduction to starting points to move their power to where you want it anyways after charging them for a merit and not giving them the benefits of a drawback.

2009-06-02, 03:28 PM
Depends on how powerful you want them to be. If you want to give them points for taking the flaw, just decrease the starting amount of points by its cost and they'll break even anyway.

2009-06-02, 03:32 PM
Just a bit more information would be helpful, especially since I think a good deal of people are unfamiliar with your system, specifically.

What is the point disparity between the benefit and the drawback? For example, does the Totem Warrior Merit cost them 2 points, but the Teenager flaw give them 5 for a total of 3 extra points for the PCs? I ask this because if they don't add up, and the flaw takes more points than the merit, it might hurt their characters if you did not allow them the extra points.

That aside, I think that you should count their points toward their limits, unless every enemy/NPC they are going to encounter will also have Teenager/Totem Warrior.

2009-06-02, 03:49 PM
Sounds like "can only wear light armor" as a disadvantage in D&D, but grants a +1 to choosing another advantage type thing.

Anything bad must balance out something it gives, for what it takes away.

That would be what I would do.

2009-06-02, 03:58 PM
I'd probably just let them have the totem warrior thing for free. Point based systems are easy to throw around fluff abilities without significantly altering power levels. I wouldn't charge them points for it unless it is exactly balanced out by the bonuses they'd gain from teenager, in which case I might just call it a day.

2009-06-02, 04:30 PM
All right, let's see if I can clarify how the system works...

Every character will recieve 20 points to put into their basic attributes--Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Perception, and Willpower. This is bought on a one for one basis up to level 5, and three points for each increase after that. Strength six costs eight points at character creation for that.

They then get 20 points with which to buy skills, on a similar system. Another 20 points are provided to purchase Qualities (the merits.) They can also take up to ten points worth of Drawbacks. Each point gained from Drawbacks can either go to purchasing more qualities, or to new skills.

The Totem Warrior Quality costs 12 points and provides a suite of abilities which is moderately customizable based on which Totem the player selects. They get, as part of the Quality, a couple other combat related qualities, a small combat skill boost, and attribute boosts, Acute Senses, and a miscellaneous situational bonus determined by the totem in question. They also have some problems dealing with animal urges, and get the adversaries that come with being Mystical Chosen Warriors.

The Teenager drawback grants two points, and brings with it the RP difficulties of the character still being a kid. If I give the players points for it, they're limited to eight points worth of drawbacks to choose for themselves, and it doesn't really seem it would disadvantage one of them over the others. If I don't give them the points, then they've been forced to take a drawback without any benefit. If I give them the points, and don't count it against the limit, there seems to be a potential for unbalance.

2009-06-02, 04:33 PM
Just follow the usual rules, and adjust the rest of the world so that the challenges they face are appropriate. (I like to keep things simple.)

2009-06-02, 04:38 PM
The standdard approach, according to the Let's build a Demon rules from Angel is to calculate the different package qualities - like the different species and the like - include the costs of all drawbacks, and do not count against the overall drawback limit.
And Balance shouldn't be the main issue in a Buffy campaign, but how awesome the campaign can become; we are talking about a system that grants Action Points for quipping cool oneliners.

2009-06-02, 04:40 PM
I doubt 2 extra bonus points are going to unbalance a game. If all else fails, you can always bump a few stats on their opponents up.

2009-06-02, 04:48 PM
It's not pricing the qualities that I'm having trouble with; the qualities come right out of the book. The question is simply, if I am requiring everyone in the party to take a Quality, should I give it for free, reprice it, or let them take it as normal? If they're all required to take a Drawback, should they get points for it, and if so, should those points count against the limit?

2009-06-02, 04:55 PM
When I give wizards Read Magic in D&D, I give it in addition to anything else they get because it help the game.

If I have a thing they cannot get then they don't get it because of the game, even if it seems odd in the rules.

If you want to give them a Quality, that does not hurt your game, but they must have for the world/game you are running, you can just give it to them as a freebie. Same with the drawback denoting this world/game is a bit harsher than normal.*

*Giving Quality doesn't mean the world/game is easier than normal, or vice versa, but just represents how things work in your vision of the world/game you are running, and they agreed to play in.

2009-06-02, 04:55 PM
If you're requiring them to take it, I'd say probably negate the cost. At the most, "reduce" it and call it even with the drawback they're also being forced to have. I wouldn't charge them normal points for it regardless. In this case, I'd say to not dock the 2 points from their 10 flaw cap.

You'll have a slightly higher-end system, but they're not losing out on making characters to their own ideas with 60% of their "Quality resources" tied up in predetermined material.

If you want a bit higher end, give them the Quality for free and the bonus points, but go ahead and count it against their 10 point cap.

My $0.02.

2009-06-02, 05:11 PM
"Unbalancing" means that one player has an advantage over everyone else.

If they ALL have totem warrior, and ALL have teenager, who cares? You're tailoring the encounters to them, anyway. So they might be slightly more powerful than the basic character of the system, so just give them a slightly more powerful enemy.

I'd say just don't charge them or give them points for either one. Have them make their characters, with all the normal limits, and then slap on the teenager/totem thing.

If they're into powergaming, you can charge them the two points for being a teenager, but I don't think it'll be necessary.

2009-06-02, 06:08 PM
The standdard approach, according to the Let's build a Demon rules from Angel is to calculate the different package qualities - like the different species and the like - include the costs of all drawbacks, and do not count against the overall drawback limit.
And Balance shouldn't be the main issue in a Buffy campaign, but how awesome the campaign can become; we are talking about a system that grants Action Points for quipping cool oneliners.

This. Make it a package Quality, they pay the net cost out of Qualities and still have the full limit for Drawbacks.

There's no reason to give it for free, really. If you want them to be X points more powerful, go ahead, but there's no need to do it. It won't make a noticeable difference either way.