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View Full Version : The Paradox of Flaws which do no Harm and Advantages which do no Good



Mr. Mask
2013-09-20, 01:45 PM
Ever had a player who took the Flaw, "Phobia: three-headed monkeys," claiming that their phobia does not extend to normal monkeys, nor other creatures with three heads--and knowing full well you have no plans to have three-headed monkeys in your campaign.

The quick solution is to just disallow this kind of power gaming... but... I don't think that fully covers the problem.


What say someone decided to spend points on traits like, "Sweet Talker," to deepen their character as more of a lover than a fighter. Then, they end up in a campaign devoid of diplomacy, where only swords and using them matters. Suddenly... all those points they spent on such traits are in effect, wasted.

This is the same problem as the above, but it lacks the same malintent.


I've heard a few methods to try and combat this problem--mostly the flaws. For example, making sure that at least one of your players' flaws is challenged each session. I'm interested in a mechanic I heard of, where you received points every time you triggered a flaw. I wonder if, somehow, it could be applied to traits... but I can't figure a good way of accomplishing such.


What's your opinion on this paradox? No doubt you have had a couple of characters whose flaws or traits never came into use?

Kurald Galain
2013-09-20, 01:49 PM
The solution is very simple. Flaws shouldn't give you bonus abilities at character creation, but rather give you bonus experience points when they hinder you in play.

Teulisch
2013-09-20, 02:14 PM
in L5R 4e, when one of your disadvantages comes up during play, you get one extra xp that session. this encourages disads that will happen during play. its a sidebar rule in the disad section of the core rules.

i have seen other systems do similar things. the problem here is in how evenly this can be applied in practice. also, what about flaws that you gain during play? in some cases you have to spend xp to buy off those 'new' flaws, making it a different kind of in-play risk.

the worst case i have seen of diasds that never come up, has been in champions- i took the hunted flaw, and never saw my archnemesis even once. after handing the GM an armload of story hooks for my character he told me 'the game is not about you', and then focused on one of the other PCs for the rest of the campaign. in other games i have seen GMs not even bother to look at the character sheet at all, and act surprised when something they didn't expect is used- even though they 'approved' the character.

the basic problem is communication. without that, or with people who refuse to even pay attention at all or care, you have problems.

DigoDragon
2013-09-20, 02:35 PM
I always involve myself when my players build characters for a new campaign. This helps keep their flaws and advantages in check, and it gets me familiar with their abilties. I keep those things in mind when I write adventures.

Jack of Spades
2013-09-20, 03:06 PM
I forgot which system, but there is at least one out there where you get XP any time one of your traits/advantages helps in a way none other could. Of course, it was a game where traits/advantages were roleplaying effects rather than a mechanical +/-.

Burning Wheel's Beliefs sort of work this way.. Although they're more there for the players to have agency in the direction the story takes.

CarpeGuitarrem
2013-09-20, 03:13 PM
Torchbearer and Mouse Guard traits work as follows: you can use the trait for a special bonus. However, you can also use the trait to mechanically hinder you to gain a resource called "checks", which work similarly to healing surges from 4th Edition, only you can also use them to take other helpful actions besides healing up, and they're limited to a certain phase of the game.

So a trait is always double-edged. Being Fiery can certainly help you get a nosy thief to back off, but it could hinder you as you're rushing headlong into a fight with no regard for important details.

Frozen_Feet
2013-09-20, 03:18 PM
All my games that have flaws have a fairly simple rule, which I informally call "bad karma": if you choose a flaw, the game will contort so that your flaw will be an issue.

This is not my own invention, though. I'm a bastard, but not that much. It it simply that all games I've used that have flaws also have a rule like that.

Noitahovi even rewards players for bringing their character's flaws to the fore.

kyoryu
2013-09-20, 03:25 PM
Yeah, I generally have come to prefer systems that reward flaws when they're applicable, rather than at creation time.

I've heard the argument against that that the presence of the flaw represents a narrowing of scenarios that the player will attempt to engage in, and so is restrictive even if it never "comes up" in play. I'm not sure that I buy that logic, though. If the character can get what they want by avoiding things that engage their flaw, then is it realistically a flaw?

CarpeGuitarrem
2013-09-20, 03:35 PM
Yeah, I generally have come to prefer systems that reward flaws when they're applicable, rather than at creation time.

I've heard the argument against that that the presence of the flaw represents a narrowing of scenarios that the player will attempt to engage in, and so is restrictive even if it never "comes up" in play. I'm not sure that I buy that logic, though. If the character can get what they want by avoiding things that engage their flaw, then is it realistically a flaw?
Well, it does narrow scenarios, but that doesn't mean that it will meaningfully narrow scenarios. A character in a dungeon fantasy crawler who has a pathological hatred of orcs and who therefore chooses to avoid any scenarios where the party has to be nice to orcs isn't really meaningfully reducing scenarios by a lot.

And while it's an interesting point, I don't think that "narrows scenarios the character will engage in" doesn't act as a good counterbalance.

Rhynn
2013-09-20, 03:47 PM
I always involve myself when my players build characters for a new campaign. This helps keep their flaws and advantages in check, and it gets me familiar with their abilties. I keep those things in mind when I write adventures.

This is the best and simplest solution. "You really shouldn't take Amphibious, the whole campaign takes place on space stations." And so on.

Also, like others have said, flaws are literally writing a check to the GM to use it to mess with you.

Someone was just describing FATE Aspects in another thread, and they seem to be exactly what you're looking for, Mr. Mask: as I understood they can be invoked by the player for benefits or by the GM for penalties.

However, this flaw/benefit invoking doesn't really get around the problem of choosing the wrong kind of flaws/benefits. Again, the best solution there is the GM paying attention.

Tengu_temp
2013-09-20, 03:53 PM
I like the nWoD/L5R/LotW/M&M approach where flaws give you XP when they cause a hindrance to the character, not during character creation.

In other games, it's the DM's role to make sure that flaws and advantages befome relevant. If someone picks the "phobia: emus" flaw, make sure the players fight an evil cult that worships emus. If someone picks the "cool-looking car" advantage, put in some NPCs who will be impressed by it and share useful info with the PC. And so on.

Scow2
2013-09-20, 06:02 PM
If the character can get what they want by avoiding things that engage their flaw, then is it realistically a flaw?Yes, it is a flaw because of the Opportunity Cost. Most people in the real world have flaws that "never come up" because they are aware of those flaws, and go out of their way to avoid them. Often, though, flaws are quite difficult to avoid.

Well, it does narrow scenarios, but that doesn't mean that it will meaningfully narrow scenarios. A character in a dungeon fantasy crawler who has a pathological hatred of orcs and who therefore chooses to avoid any scenarios where the party has to be nice to orcs isn't really meaningfully reducing scenarios by a lot.Actually, a Pathological Hatred of Orcs in a Dungeon Crawler can be a serious flaw, as it cuts the character off from the "Help the Orcs that don't want to be evil throw off the shackles of their evil kin" plots, and makes it harder to rationally deal with orcs in general.

Emmerask
2013-09-20, 09:47 PM
Ever had a player who took the Flaw, "Phobia: three-headed monkeys," claiming that their phobia does not extend to normal monkeys, nor other creatures with three heads--and knowing full well you have no plans to have three-headed monkeys in your campaign.

And why would you ever allow a player to have a phobia against something that does not exist?
Most sensible systems have very good rules regarding flaws and what constitutes how many points.

For example three headed apes phobia:
-if common species 75 points
-if uncommon species 25 points
-if not existent or a once in a lifetime thing 0 !!! points

Other good systems use a the more specific you get the less points
ie phobia against:
-primates// apes//three headed apes//three headed apes that drink coffee on Monday




What's your opinion on this paradox? No doubt you have had a couple of characters whose flaws or traits never came into use?

No, because see above, I actually use flaws very very sparingly with my characters... flaws are very serious business (though the bonuses you get via the extra build points are awesome too) :smallwink:

r2d2go
2013-09-20, 10:17 PM
I feel like the solution to this is very simple: Don't allow it!

You're DM, which comes with the power to ban-hammer. Yes, it should be used with discretion, but it can be used as frequently as your players try to do idiotic things - which harmless flaws are.

Next time some player tries to take "shaky" on their entirely melee character, just say "No, that doesn't do anything." Heck, UA says specifically "A flaw must have a meaningful effect regardless of character class or role. That way, a player can't reduce the flaw's importance through multiclassing. For instance, a flaw that only affects spellcasters might seem reasonable - but for nonspellcaster characters, the flaw likely proves meaningless."

Another way to do this is to simply give monsters the same things. Start throwing around pointless flaws, making them get an equal boost. However, try to get everyone on the same power level if you do this, and avoid super-powergame campaigns (Each combat is an average of 2 rounds long, but dice have to be fudged to prevent PC death more than twice a round :smalltongue:).

To fix the useless advantages, either again use the power vested in you as DM and make the campaign use it, or just give it to them for free as flavour (maybe at a slight penalty to something else equally unused?)

Anyway, that's my two cents. I'm a pretty new DM, but I think those are the easiest and least harmful ways to handle it.

Mr Beer
2013-09-21, 12:09 AM
I feel like the solution to this is very simple: Don't allow it!

This, I don't see the problem.

Player: "I want to blatantly take the piss with this (non) Flaw."
GM: "Ha ha ha ha ha!"

* pause *

GM: "NO"

Ekul
2013-09-21, 12:26 AM
Flaws are something that are intimately discussed with the DM in my group. Ultimately, the flaw doesn't count if it doesn't do anything. Traits are a little more lenient.

We once had a Druid who tried to optimize. He ended up taking the flaw hydrophobia, thinking that it wouldn't matter much since he planned to stay in the woods. That wasn't how things worked. We went into swamps and over seas, and he was incapable of braving either, so we just knocked him out whenever the time came. He couldn't even fly above water without chickening out.

Yes, he could become fish, but it didn't remove his fear.

The trick to making the DM not go out of their way to punish you is to make the flaw actually matter to the story, both from character creation and in the game proper.

As for making stuff that doesn't fit the campaign and ends up dead weight, I've never seen anybody be truly recompensed for building their character in a way that just didn't work. The burden of effectiveness is, sadly, on the shoulders of the player. The player can complain if the DM gave them the wrong idea, but there isn't much the DM can do about it after a certain point. Though it is completely the DM's fault if he robs the player of their use intentionally (Dead magic zones and the like).

Scow2
2013-09-21, 12:43 AM
I feel like the solution to this is very simple: Don't allow it!

You're DM, which comes with the power to ban-hammer. Yes, it should be used with discretion, but it can be used as frequently as your players try to do idiotic things - which harmless flaws are.

Next time some player tries to take "shaky" on their entirely melee character, just say "No, that doesn't do anything." Heck, UA says specifically "A flaw must have a meaningful effect regardless of character class or role. That way, a player can't reduce the flaw's importance through multiclassing. For instance, a flaw that only affects spellcasters might seem reasonable - but for nonspellcaster characters, the flaw likely proves meaningless."

Another way to do this is to simply give monsters the same things. Start throwing around pointless flaws, making them get an equal boost. However, try to get everyone on the same power level if you do this, and avoid super-powergame campaigns (Each combat is an average of 2 rounds long, but dice have to be fudged to prevent PC death more than twice a round :smalltongue:).

To fix the useless advantages, either again use the power vested in you as DM and make the campaign use it, or just give it to them for free as flavour (maybe at a slight penalty to something else equally unused?)

Anyway, that's my two cents. I'm a pretty new DM, but I think those are the easiest and least harmful ways to handle it.I've tried playing "Melee-Only" characters with the Shakey flaw. Do you have [i]any[i] idea how restricting "You must be within 5/10 feet of the enemy" can be?

Conversely, "Noncombatant" makes it difficult for a mage to land touch attacks, and nonmelee characters that get stuck in melee are MUCH worse off, because of how sticky melee can be in D&D.

Scow2
2013-09-21, 12:46 AM
We once had a Druid who tried to optimize. He ended up taking the flaw hydrophobia, thinking that it wouldn't matter much since he planned to stay in the woods. That wasn't how things worked. We went into swamps and over seas, and he was incapable of braving either, so we just knocked him out whenever the time came. He couldn't even fly above water without chickening out. Can't even fly above the water? What? Isn't the entire purpose of Hydrophobes to be so terrified of water that their bodies are perpetually thrust away from it, allowing them to be used as impromptu high-altitude hovercraft?:smalltongue:

As for making stuff that doesn't fit the campaign and ends up dead weight, I've never seen anybody be truly recompensed for building their character in a way that just didn't work. The burden of effectiveness is, sadly, on the shoulders of the player. The player can complain if the DM gave them the wrong idea, but there isn't much the DM can do about it after a certain point. Though it is completely the DM's fault if he robs the player of their use intentionally (Dead magic zones and the like).If a DM misleads players about the nature of the campaign, retraining should be viable (Unless the point was to put characters "out of their element")

spectralphoenix
2013-09-21, 12:59 AM
Ever had a player who took the Flaw, "Phobia: three-headed monkeys," claiming that their phobia does not extend to normal monkeys, nor other creatures with three heads--and knowing full well you have no plans to have three-headed monkeys in your campaign.


DM: Alright, time for a random encounter check...

*rolls dice behind screen*

DM: Wow, another squad of awakened three-headed monkey sorcerers. What were the odds?

Kol Korran
2013-09-21, 01:24 AM
Hmmm... I understand what the OP means. I have a few thoughts on that if I may:
1) While you can disallow stuff, make it come int oplay especially (benefit or disadvantage, you should try to tailor the adventure at least partially to the characters), I feel there is one more important thing to use: group maturity. You all know what the deal is about, what you're trying to achieve, and how the game is supposed to work, and what makes it fun to you. Talk amongst yourselves, and come to an agreeable solutions. back and forth conversation and a place to readjust builds and such is good.

2) I've recently started playing FATE core, and I'm still getting to learn it, but the core mechanic there revolves around aspects and fate points. Aspects are any concept that defines your character, really- anything, it's narratively based. Now, when a situation comes where your aspects can benefit you, you can use them, but that costs a fate point. but there is very little in the way of refreshing fate points, except in using aspects to your disadvantage, which grants you a fate point. This is supposed to make the game a flow of fate points as the character use the aspects to get into trouble, Gaining fate points), and then useing those fate points to excel in these situations. It's a matter of balance, which I haven't fully figured out yet, but most I've talked with seem to like it.

3) Another mechanic of fate which I like is the fluid character- a character isn't locked to it's build, but can change (aspects, skills, and such) about every session, adventure, and arc. This makes readjusting your character, fitting more suitable approaches, and feeling like the character is more alive much more easy and ready, so if some sot of advantage is no longer suitable, you can change it, and you can adjust to the changes in the game. You don't make an overhaul change, but enough to be to the game. :smallamused:

But really- maturity and talking things over in a level headed approach solves 90-95% of the problems.

NichG
2013-09-21, 02:19 AM
Here's an interesting thought for a combined system, but it'd take very meta-game minded players to work.

There's no 'flaw' or 'advantage' per se. Instead, you have something called a 'destiny'. This is some particular aspect or plot element that tends to follow you around. It can change only between completed story arcs.

Once a game, you can tell the DM 'okay, my destiny is coming into play now - there will be X thing in the next scene'. The DM then has to include it, but the price for doing this is that it will somehow be negative for that character (no such thing as a happy destiny) - either through some phobia/etc type thing, or literally the element shows up in a way that specifically disadvantages that character.

Why ever do it then? Well, there's nothing stopping it from giving an advantage to your allies or a disadvantage to your enemies.

It does kind of lend itself to a particular type of setting though. Its better if its an in-character 'power', like the chicken-infested commoner, then if 'suddenly falling sheep' just happens.

endoperez
2013-09-21, 04:20 AM
Ars Magica has an intersting take on things. Advantages (called Virtues) and Flaws have either mechanical effects or are used as story element.

The Virtues are pretty much the same as in any other game, with only a few exceptions.

The Flaws, however, are quite interesting. Many of the things that would just be the character's personality in most games are Flaws. Some of the Flaws would even be advantages in other games!

There are the normal things, that penalize you on various tasks. Being clumsy is a flaw - you drop things and take a big malus to any rolls where it affects things.

However, being carefree is a flaw - the whole description for the flaw is "You are unshakably cheerful and happy in all circumstances." It's not a flaw because it's a bad thing, it's a flaw because it's good for the game.
If you're designing an NPC, giving him a personality lets you add more Virtues, and it makes him or her more interesting than having a -3 on a roll would be.

There are lots of example flaws, and basically any big characteristic could be used as a flaw. Some of them, such as Envious, have a sidenote saying that it's not good for player characters, because trying to steal other player's stuff for yourself will lead to player conflict.

Besides personality features and mechanical things, there are also story-related flaws, or flaws that give the Storyguide more say in your character's doings.

One of the flaws is "Visions" - your character sees things, possibly oracular, perhaps just symbolic and confusing. Basically, the GM has your permission to feed prophesies and other weird stuff through your character. "The visions come purely at the storyguide's discretion, and reveal only what he wants to reveal."

This also encompasses other story elements. Having a love interest or a helpful mentor or an animal companion is a flaw! If a player wants to pick some cool new power, he can balance that off by saying that his character has a magical, speaking pet raven. Having a wise old mentor give you advice isn't a Flaw yet, but when you agree with the DM that the mentor will inevitably ask for a small favour or two, it becomes one. "The love interest may need rescuing occasionally, but more often he will involve the player character in his plans."

Aasimar
2013-09-21, 05:10 AM
Obviously, you tell your player that his strange phobia is the result of disturbing dreams he has had since childhood, with haunting images of this unnatural creature stalking him, gibbering maniacally.

It later turns out that he had some sort of connection to the cult of the Feral Trinity. (could be familial or mystical)

The group is attacked one night by a terrible three headed monkey with a curious glint of mad intelligence in his eyes.

They might brush this off as a freak coincidence, but later, a whole group of them attack in the night, some with clubs, others with spears, some with magic or psionics.

Eventually, if they wish the ever mounting attacks to cease, they must confront the cult in their headquarters, where they summon their god, a three headed monkey-demon.

The lesson is, tell players to be reasonable about flaws, and warn them that if they insist on something, they had better be prepared for it coming up in some way, if they want to receive any benefit.

PersonMan
2013-09-21, 05:37 AM
Next time some player tries to take "shaky" on their entirely melee character, just say "No, that doesn't do anything."

Yeah, if you're super lazy with encounter design, it's just easier to ban something, that's true.

Really, is it so hard to put a few encounters into the game where the melee guy goes "well, my inability to do things at range sucks, I need to solve this issue somehow"?

Plus, to be frank, it would be a horribly stupid idea to take something like Shaky on an archer. Why do you think Mr Melee went Melee? Because he can't use ranged weapons! In real life, if I'm good at math but terrible at writing long texts, I'm not going to become a writer. My Flaw (Sucks at Long Text Writing) won't come up very often, but it's already done its work - made me go for something where I can avoid writing long texts.



Another way to do this is to simply give monsters the same things. Start throwing around pointless flaws, making them get an equal boost.

Yes, going passive-aggressive (pro tip: monsters generally fight and die, PCs play an entire campaign, it's not the same) is a brilliant idea and always solves everything perfectly.

Or...wait, no it doesn't. You can make their flaws matter, they can't suddenly know "this orc is afraid of flying fish! I use Summon Flying Fish!" if they're up against an orc with Phobia (Flying Fish).


To fix the useless advantages, either again use the power vested in you as DM and make the campaign use it, or just give it to them for free as flavour (maybe at a slight penalty to something else equally unused?)

This is totally at odds with your "it's impossible to make your PCs' flaws come up! Ban them!" earlier, you realize that, right?

NichG
2013-09-21, 05:57 AM
Yeah, if you're super lazy with encounter design, it's just easier to ban something, that's true.

Really, is it so hard to put a few encounters into the game where the melee guy goes "well, my inability to do things at range sucks, I need to solve this issue somehow"?


Its basically just bad game design if the game is forcing you to plan encounters around 'make sure characters pay for their advantages'. Flaws aren't the only place this comes up of course. If flight is a common power, then soon the opposition has to be able to fly or lair in places with low ceilings or they become trivial. If invisibility is relatively easy to get, then ways to thwart invisibility are necessary or invisibility may end up being a guaranteed win. The case of flaws is usually a lot more mild than that since if someone gets an extra 'free' feat, its usually not going to completely dominate play.

But in general its not a good idea to have too many abilities or things in a game that forcibly constrict encounter design just by being there. If you can avoid that sort of thing in the design, then by all means you probably should.

The Rose Dragon
2013-09-21, 05:58 AM
In real life, if I'm good at math but terrible at writing long texts, I'm going to become a writer. My Flaw (Sucks at Long Text Writing) won't come up very often, but it's already done its work - made me go for something where I can avoid writing long texts.

So, you choose to avoid writing long texts... by becoming a writer. That's a very interesting way of doing things.

To use the same analogy, in real life, being "naturally bad at writing" (as far as such a thing exists) doesn't make you better at math than someone who is not naturally bad at writing, but spent the same amount of effort on math. It might affect your prioritization, but other people can have the same prioritization despite having other talents. In systems that handle flaws poorly, if two people spent 10 units on math and 0 units on writing before flaws, the person who "sucks at writing" can get ahead simply because he gets more units to spend on math by taking a flaw to something he already chose to deprioritize by not spending any units on it. That is the crux of the issue.

PersonMan
2013-09-21, 06:21 AM
Its basically just bad game design if the game is forcing you to plan encounters around 'make sure characters pay for their advantages'.

I disagree. No one can make a game that instantly customizes itself to your group. Well, they maybe could, but it wouldn't be anything that doesn't require absurd amounts of work. I'm imagining a massive checklist - "does your party contain someone with X? Then use Y, with Z, A and B modifications" and similar.


So, you choose to avoid writing long texts... by becoming a writer. That's a very interesting way of doing things.

Herp derp, that didn't work. :smallredface:

Sorry, I forgot a "not" there.


To use the same analogy, in real life, being "naturally bad at writing" (as far as such a thing exists) doesn't make you better at math than someone who is not naturally bad at writing, but spent the same amount of effort on math.

I only chose that analogy to show how people would choose to avoid their flaws - real life makes a poor one in many cases because, well, I'm over here with 70 points while that guy has 17 and the other one 121. It's not balanced, games are (generally) supposed to be.


It might affect your prioritization, but other people can have the same prioritization despite having other talents. In systems that handle flaws poorly, if two people spent 10 units on math and 0 units on writing before flaws, the person who "sucks at writing" can get ahead simply because he gets more units to spend on math by taking a flaw to something he already chose to deprioritize by not spending any units on it. That is the crux of the issue.

Yes, but 0 points means "you have no special training in it" whereas the sucks-at-writing guy is worse than 0 points. So when the first guy writes something, it's nothing special, but when the other one does, it's bad.

I'm not saying flaws always work properly, but saying "you can't take this flaw because it isn't related to your main focus" is absurd from an in-game perspective. No archer is bad in melee, no swordsman is bad with bows, no mage is bad in melee, etc. That was what my argument was related to, not whether or not flaws not related to your main focus can be made an equal trade.

It depends on the system and game.

The Rose Dragon
2013-09-21, 06:44 AM
Yes, but 0 points means "you have no special training in it" whereas the sucks-at-writing guy is worse than 0 points. So when the first guy writes something, it's nothing special, but when the other one does, it's bad.

And yet they are both equally likely to avoid writing, both equally likely to do math, and one of them is better at math than the other, because he somehow chose to deprioritize writing more than putting absolutely zero effort into it, even though he is unlikely to suffer more from being bad at writing than the other. That is the main problem with flaws giving resources upfront.

Several systems give such resources only if the character actually suffers from flaws, above and beyond such deprioritization of skills, which the character can then use to improve his prioritized skills. So, if the bad-at-writing-guy has to do something related to writing, and suffers significantly from it (mere failure isn't sufficient), he can then get resources to get better at math.

Neither system is realistic. But the latter is both more difficult (though not impossible) to game, and makes more narrative sense. Simply avoiding your flaws doesn't make you better at your strengths, but facing them can (in a "that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger" kind of way).

NichG
2013-09-21, 06:57 AM
I disagree. No one can make a game that instantly customizes itself to your group. Well, they maybe could, but it wouldn't be anything that doesn't require absurd amounts of work. I'm imagining a massive checklist - "does your party contain someone with X? Then use Y, with Z, A and B modifications" and similar.


This is sort of like saying 'because its impossible for a human to ever be truly objective, they shouldn't ever try'.

There have been ways stated in this thread already that let you do flaws that matter without having to specifically design encounters to force them to matter. Generally the solution is 'make the PC want to make them matter' - for example, systems where you get xp when your flaws significantly hinder you - and then let the players actually do the work to bring up their own vulnerabilities.

Or, if we're talking D&D, you can probably just ignore the flaws. As it stands, I would not say that flaws in D&D necessitate particular encounter design. The consequences of turning the game around just to make sure that the guy who took Shaky feels it generally outweigh the consequences of someone getting a free feat. You just have to be aware that allowing flaws gives the party as a whole a minor power boost.

endoperez
2013-09-21, 08:08 AM
Several systems give such resources only if the character actually suffers from flaws, above and beyond such deprioritization of skills, which the character can then use to improve his prioritized skills. So, if the bad-at-writing-guy has to do something related to writing, and suffers significantly from it (mere failure isn't sufficient), he can then get resources to get better at math.

Neither system is realistic. But the latter is both more difficult (though not impossible) to game, and makes more narrative sense. Simply avoiding your flaws doesn't make you better at your strengths, but facing them can (in a "that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger" kind of way).


Yes. Flaws can be used as tools for having a better game and more interesting characters, instead of just being tools for balancing numbers against other numbers. The first is more interesting.

Cerlis
2013-09-21, 08:30 AM
I'm a bastard, .

I'm going to quote this at every opportunity...


Just kidding ;)


---------------------------------------

Alot of the talk here is in regards to the subject matter but less to the exact point (benefit of traits, i guess).

I think with both flaws and traits either way the best thing is not to "bring it up once per session". Xp is intriguing under the pretense of "roleplaying XP"

But i think the best thing was making sure...eventually that everything eventually comes to a head, and when it does its dramatic.

For instance with a "sweet talker" you dont need a NPC in every encounter or every 3rd encounter that can be "persuaded" to not join the fight or turn on the enemy. The simplest thing would be to say, in chapter 2 or 3 (that is to say not the "first" adventure, but near the beginning somewhere) in order to get to your Door smashing kick in the door encounter you need to get information from some people at a bar (or w/e). Now anyone can get the information of the "where" and "who", but maybe only the sweet talker is capable of impressing one or two people there enough to divulge important information.

Sure anyone could find out WHERE the badguys are and anyone could scout out how many there are....But by impressing the bouncer or that One clever lady at the counter you find out that the boss-man lets most of his thugs go home after 10, and is usually pretty wasted by 11. and from the Lady that "I recommend you not crossing him.....but if you do get into a ruff and tumble you should know that his big bodyguard, Eric, has a bad knee. If you get my meaning"

If for some reason his own checks fail it doesnt HINDER the session, if he succeeds it doesnt auto win. You dont blatantly bring it up every session JUST to take advantage of it, but the one or two times it did come up it helped, alot.

----------------------
As for the monkey thing, Phobias arent so logical. You even say the word "spider' , have something that resembles a bug, or run your fingers up the back of someone with arachnophobia and they freak out.

i believe someone who is Totally freaked out by 3 headed monkies is at least somewhat freaked out by multi headed things, as well as anything remotely similar to a monkey (including apes and lemurs)

and by extension a 20 headed hairy monster with fangs, humanoid eyes, 6 arms with fingers and a thumb on each hand, and a prehensile tail would probably put him in a coma...despite not being a monkey. Cus its basically everything about a 3 headed monkey....but more.

Jay R
2013-09-21, 12:08 PM
In Hero Systems, the number of points a Disadvantage is worth is based on how often it will come into play, in the opinion of the GM. Also, a Disadvantage that has no bad effect gets no points.

Also, for the Disadvantage "Dependent Non-Player Character", there is an explicit roll the GM makes to determine if the DNPC is involved in this session's plot, based on the points the PC got for it.

If my player wants fear of three-headed monkeys, I would say, fine, that's a weird fear that affects your dreams. But will never affect play, so it gets no points. (An easy test for whether somebody wants to play a role or is using rp as an excuse for more power is to allow the disadvantage and not give points.)

Finally, I'm prepared to invent a race of three-headed monkeys, and introduce it as often as necessary to justify the cost of the Fear. This doesn't particularly distort the game; I'm going to be coming up with enemies for them to fight in any case.

In any event, I look over the players' sheets and backstory when planning an adventure. Why should I invent an arbitrary plot when they've already given me one tied to the character?

Mr. Mask
2013-09-21, 02:02 PM
Come to think of it... There are systems which reward players when their flaws cause them problems, when they do stuff which their flaws penalize them with. However... we don't reward the Klingon with no points in Stealth, when they decide to sneak into the prison rather than break in forcefully.

Mechanically, many flaws in games aren't that different from having no/low points in a skill. But, we don't treat it that way. It brings to mind whether we should consider treating it that way, or if it's too difficult for Pen and Paper.

Elder Scrolls kind of has it that way. The lower your skill is, the faster it levels up. Can't think of many games which offer more XP for doing things the hard way. It would give kind of the wrong incentive... encouraging the melee guy to use only bows, and the wizard to don heavy armour and hit things with a claymore.

Rhynn
2013-09-21, 03:05 PM
Elder Scrolls kind of has it that way. The lower your skill is, the faster it levels up. Can't think of many games which offer more XP for doing things the hard way. It would give kind of the wrong incentive... encouraging the melee guy to use only bows, and the wizard to don heavy armour and hit things with a claymore.

Use-based skill improvement is only like 35 years old in RPGs (RuneQuest), and in most versions (all BRP), you make an improvement roll trying to fail the skill, e.g. the higher the skill the slower it advances.

Effectively, this doesn't at all do what you suggest, because failure is usually too big of a deal to be worth the possible increase. In effect, RQ characters usually hyperspecialized.

Frozen_Feet
2013-09-22, 11:02 AM
I'm going to quote this at every opportunity...


Just kidding ;)


You better not. Someone might think I'm an "illegitimate child", instead of "insufferable rooster" I actually intended. :smalltongue:

Lorsa
2013-09-22, 04:49 PM
I've come to dislike flaws in general. For some reason they seem to rarely be used properly for a variety of reasons.

The problem with flaws that never see use is obvious but the GM can make steps to prevent taking such flaws (getting us into the veto topic).

The fixed advantage in character creation is if anything better than the nWoD's way of granting XP when the flaws come into effect. Not that nWoD is a very blanaced game in itself (which is why many people houserule character creation) but it seems an easy way to get a large number of XP more than the other players. Flaws, even though people might think contrary, actually gives time in the limelight as when it comes into effect focus is given to that character. XP also increases the amount of situations a character can solve, again potentially granting more time to said character. So in a way having a flaw is double good for the player (not to mention many flaws in nWoD are either cheapshots or game destroying.

The best thing, if you're having flaws, is to give some other reward for when they come into effect such as Plot Points in Serenity or Aartha in Burning Wheel. While Aartha can potentially make a character VERY powerful, it's very unlikely you'll get to spend enough on one skill to get it grey.

Even so, I don't think having flaws that only reward one character is a very good idea for the simple reason that one character's flaws often affect the whole group. All your problems won't simple be your problems in a group, the rest of the characters have to deal with your phobia or kleptomania or whatever. They'll be the ones that have to clean up your mess. So the best thing, in my opinion, is to reward all characters equally for any flaw taken regardless of which character it is on. Roleplaying is a group thing after all.

Luckmann
2013-09-24, 04:42 AM
From the viewpoint of 3.5, let's be honest; Flaws range from debilitating to a stubbed toe. However, so does the feats. Feats range from amazing to near-useless. Feats that you get a frightening low number of.

When I make a character, I want Traits and Flaws, and I want to work it into my character. But I also make my character and let it ferment in my head and mull it over with the GM.

In the end, I reach an agreement with my GM that I will take one or two of those Feats I otherwise would have been unable to take, even though I wanted to, simply because I would otherwise have been too feat-strapped.

I suggest everyone do the same. If you are a GM, allow your players to take Flaws on the condition that not only should you OK the Flaw, but you should also OK the feat they take, and the Feat should be flavourful.

If you are a player, take it up with your GM. Offer to take a feat that would make your character deeper or more interesting, or able to do something it otherwise wouldn't be able to do, instead of optimizing a single concept or thing.

For example, with my current concept, thanks to Flaws, I could take Nimbus of Light (from Book of Exalted Deeds). Would I have been able to take Nimbus of Light without Flaws? No way in hell.

The GM is there to monitor play and make sure that everyone is having a good time. It's the sole purpose of the GM. There's no reason character creation should not be considered a part of the game. A GM should give it's input and facilitate the creation of interesting characters, not munchkins.

No GM should allow anyone to take Flaw (Phobia: Three-headed Monkeys) in exchange for Divine Metamagic.

Krazzman
2013-09-24, 05:45 AM
I once was not allowed to take Lactose Intolerant (Allergy against Lactose) as a Flaw in SR. Yeah I get that it is no longer that common but seriously? It gave me like 3 points or something around that... and I wanted it to really affect gameplay... like being invited to dinner or getting a "normal" Pizza with real cheese or similar.

The fact is if it can come up I would give the points. If it will not even be near a real flaw then I would disallow it.

Lorsa
2013-09-24, 05:51 AM
If what you really want is to play a character that is lactose intolerant for the fun roleplaying oppertunities that will give then I'm sure you'd still be allowed to do so, flaw or not. I can't think of very many games when the flaw lactose intolerant would negatively impact gameplay considering it is so easy to work around. Unless someone is force-feeding you milk then it's just going to be a personality quirk and nothing else.

Rhynn
2013-09-24, 06:13 AM
If what you really want is to play a character that is lactose intolerant for the fun roleplaying oppertunities that will give then I'm sure you'd still be allowed to do so, flaw or not. I can't think of very many games when the flaw lactose intolerant would negatively impact gameplay considering it is so easy to work around. Unless someone is force-feeding you milk then it's just going to be a personality quirk and nothing else.

Yeah, it actually makes me think it'd be a Quirk in GURPS, for instance; you get up to five quirks, each worth -1 points, which are essentially just a tiny mechanical motivation to individualize your character. "Lactose intolerant" would fit just as well as "cracks knuckles" or "annoying whistler" ...

Lorsa
2013-09-24, 08:07 AM
Yeah, it actually makes me think it'd be a Quirk in GURPS, for instance; you get up to five quirks, each worth -1 points, which are essentially just a tiny mechanical motivation to individualize your character. "Lactose intolerant" would fit just as well as "cracks knuckles" or "annoying whistler" ...

I would probably have something like "sings or hums to himself a lot". I have a friend who really dislike it for some reason...

I haven't played GURPS, but that seems to be a lot better way to do it than having flaws that either does very little or far too much.

Krazzman
2013-09-24, 09:00 AM
The idea was that I would've liked an allergy with that character that would be "normal" in the terms of how the story of Shadowrun panned out. Quite a big chunk of people aren't adapt to properly digest lactose now and I still don't know why taking the Flaw: Allergic to a unlikely to encounter substance is that big a deal. I think it might have given me 1 to 3 points in the generating process. No big deal. I took a flaw after that that we never encountered once in around 5 10 hour sessions.

Beleriphon
2013-09-24, 09:03 AM
I'm fond of M&M 3E version of this. The flaw on a power is either a real flaw (like not being usable on yellow things) or a Complication. Complications are like more traditional Flaws but they can be anything at all the player can dream up. For example the Captain Marvel turning into Billy Batson is a Complication, Superman's weakness to Kryptonite is a Complication, Aunt May being at the bank at the same time as Doc Ock's robbery is a Complication. Essentially when the Complication comes into play the character gets a Hero Point (which have a variety of uses).

I like this method since it encourages the players to pick Complications, if hte player picks Complications that never come up then they'll almost never get Hero Points.

Segev
2013-09-24, 09:56 AM
In theory, I love the idea of "Complication" like mechanics that give "hero points." M&M has it for a number of things, including the DM deciding it's railroad time and handing a Hero Point to each PC to make up for it. (e.g., a bad guy can automatically get away, or the PCs can be automatically K.O.'d by the ambush trap, in exchange for a Hero Point). I believe the rules state the players can reject the hero point to avoid the problem, but that doesn't resolve the core issue other than through utter negation:

The problem, in practice, I've noticed is that Hero Points wind up being needed just to get out of the situation that "earning" one put you in. Sometimes, you even have to spend 2-3 Hero Points just to get back to the point that you can be considered "recovered" from the Complication. Escaping the death trap in which you woke up, finding where the villain's hideout is, getting to him in time to have a climactic fight rather than arriving too late... You wind up breaking even or behind on Hero Points.

Now, from a narrative standpoint, as long as you had some stockpile at the start of the adventure, the increased storytelling opportunities and heightened drama should be considered paying for themselves. But if we just wanted a pure shared storytelling experience, we'd free-form things with comic-book dossiers of our PCs' powers and just agree on resolution. From a game-play standpoint (and RPGs are games), it is unfair if the GM can simply trade, at will, 1 Hero Point to each PC in order to force them to spend 2+ Hero Points just to "break even" in terms of positional play. And, if you've got the "players can reject it to negate the GM's railroad effort" rule, then it just becomes a situation where the rule never occurs.

I suppose, ideally, the players could negotiate with the GM, or even ask the GM for a Hero Point in exchange for letting something happen without their full gameplay advantages being brought to bear. Negotiation would help calibrate what the true value, on both sides of the GM screen, of a Hero Point is.

But in practice, that's not how I've seen it work out.

One of the ways that Hero Points make things work well is with Power Stunts: a PC can use a power at a higher level than normal, or can draw on his fluff to have an incidental power he doesn't normally have, or can use an existing power in a narratively-appropriate way that technically isn't valid by the rules, by spending a Hero Point.

I think this mechanic could be useful for the flip-side of the coin the OP brings up: If you feel you really MUST take "amphibious" for your mer-man, despite knowing the adventure takes place in a space station, you could just note that your species is amphibious and spend no points on it. It's a sort of "anti-complication."

As a player, my worry when I choose to leave such abilities off my characters in points-based systems is that, despite it almost certainly not ever coming up, if it ever does come up, it feels really lame to have a mer-man who isn't amphibious (e.g. when the water reservoir leaks and floods the corridors between us and the engine room, and I need an environment suit rather than just being able to swim through it). But with this "anti-complication," my fluff backstory of being a mer-man says that I can spend a Hero Point to actually have that power of water-breathing that is normally so useless in this campaign that it wasn't worth spending points on.


So, in short, having flaws and incidental advantages that are just part of your backstory and don't give normal mechanical advantage could be made interesting, game-play wise, with "hero point" type subsystems that reward the player with a resource he can use when the flaw is invoked and actually complicates things, and which empower him to spend that resource on things he wouldn't normally spend "real" character build options to acquire due to their incidental nature.

shadow_archmagi
2013-09-24, 11:24 AM
in L5R 4e, when one of your disadvantages comes up during play, you get one extra xp that session. this encourages disads that will happen during play. its a sidebar rule in the disad section of the core rules.

This was one of my favorite things about L5R, because it had the players clamoring to make sure their flaws came up. "Oh, are we going on a boat? Because my hydrophobia would come up then, right? Is the lord governor drinking at the feast? That counts too, right?"

CarpeGuitarrem
2013-09-24, 11:48 AM
Come to think of it... There are systems which reward players when their flaws cause them problems, when they do stuff which their flaws penalize them with. However... we don't reward the Klingon with no points in Stealth, when they decide to sneak into the prison rather than break in forcefully.

Mechanically, many flaws in games aren't that different from having no/low points in a skill. But, we don't treat it that way. It brings to mind whether we should consider treating it that way, or if it's too difficult for Pen and Paper.

Elder Scrolls kind of has it that way. The lower your skill is, the faster it levels up. Can't think of many games which offer more XP for doing things the hard way. It would give kind of the wrong incentive... encouraging the melee guy to use only bows, and the wizard to don heavy armour and hit things with a claymore.
That's a very interesting notion there. Come to think of it, Burning Wheel provides just that, in a way--the only way to advance a skill is to attempt tests that are difficult to pass. Advancing your Rank 7 skill requires more (and harder) tests than advancing your Rank 2 skill, so low skills level faster and then get diminishing returns.

You have to consult a table when you make a test, but otherwise it works pretty straightforwardly.

Beleriphon
2013-09-24, 11:51 AM
The problem, in practice, I've noticed is that Hero Points wind up being needed just to get out of the situation that "earning" one put you in. Sometimes, you even have to spend 2-3 Hero Points just to get back to the point that you can be considered "recovered" from the Complication. Escaping the death trap in which you woke up, finding where the villain's hideout is, getting to him in time to have a climactic fight rather than arriving too late... You wind up breaking even or behind on Hero Points.

Hero Points in M&M are designed that way specifically. Other issues aside about how players get them (railroading for example, although I prefer to give them to players for the GM's use of a hero points by the NPCs since NPCs don't have any of their own) hero points reset at the start of every adventure/session depending on how you care to do that. So generally speaking it doesn't behoove the players to hoard them since they'll lose any unspent HPs by the start of the next adventure.

The lack of enough Hero Points is a good reason to make sure that the player has picked Complications that come up a lot or they have a bunch of Complications that can occur. Ideal though the GM should be giving hero points for more than just complications, they should be handed out for being awesome as well.

Jay R
2013-09-24, 11:58 AM
I suppose, ideally, the players could negotiate with the GM, or even ask the GM for a Hero Point in exchange for letting something happen without their full gameplay advantages being brought to bear. Negotiation would help calibrate what the true value, on both sides of the GM screen, of a Hero Point is.

But in practice, that's not how I've seen it work out.

Then make it so. Negotiate with your GM, or with your players.

Most of my free time for the last two weeks has been negotiating exceptions for my new campaign. In the introduction sent out to all the players, I wrote:

Reasonable exceptions to these rules are allowed, within certain bounds. I wonít necessarily explain the bounds to you. (If I plan to have you carried off by Vikings, I wonít tell you why your character canít speak Old Norse, for instance.) Ask for exceptions. Your character should be an exception to the general rules in some way, and Iím prepared to modify PC rules to let you play something unique. I want you to have a character you will enjoy, but who wonít mess up my plans or overshadow the other characters.

It will only work that way if somebody (you!) brings it to the table.

GungHo
2013-09-24, 02:06 PM
Ever had a player who took the Flaw, "Phobia: three-headed monkeys," claiming that their phobia does not extend to normal monkeys, nor other creatures with three heads--and knowing full well you have no plans to have three-headed monkeys in your campaign.
Yeah, that can be arranged. Don't look behind you!


The quick solution is to just disallow this kind of power gaming... but... I don't think that fully covers the problem.
Nah, I'm going to stat up an invading demonic force of flying three-headed monkeys. They will invade for one purpose... to get the people who are afraid of them. That's the price of Knowing What You Should Not Know. Once the character is dead (won't take more than a couple of rounds, cause I'm gonna send a lot of monkeys), he'll be free to roll a more reasonable character.

Another, more reasonable, way to do this is not allow flaws/advantages in exchange for stat points. That way the guy doesn't feel like he needs to game the creation system for some stat points with stupid flaws.

Some folks mentioned XP awards when applicable. Personally, I use flaws/advantages for RP guides... nothing else. Your reward for taking a flaw or advantage is that I'll help bring what makes your character unique to the table. Obviously, if you took the trait, it indicates what you want to do with the character. Including facing down the hordes of triple-headed monkeys.


What say someone decided to spend points on traits like, "Sweet Talker," to deepen their character as more of a lover than a fighter. Then, they end up in a campaign devoid of diplomacy, where only swords and using them matters. Suddenly... all those points they spent on such traits are in effect, wasted.
Yeah, that's your fault. You should provide a framework of the kinds of things you'll entertain beforehand so that people roll for what you're planning. Even if it's just a broad idea. You don't need to spoil things... but if you're gonna have them be vampires trying to deal with the politics of the Vampire Court, tell them that. If you have one guy who wants to be THAT guy, you're SOL no matter what you do, but generally people don't bring shoulder pads and football helmets to a tennis match.

Otherwise, I'd tend to frame a few challenges that will allow him to use his traits. Even in a combat heavy campaign... maybe the big bad's or one of his heavys' girlfriend has a thing for sweet talk and she's tired of being treated like crap. Or maybe there's a challenge that could use guile because the sessions' antagonist is a powerful wizard or a the general of an army who could crush your group in an instant, so stabbing everyone's out. You've just promoted him from being the weak link to the guy who saved the day. You can't do it all the time because then everyone will get peeved, but part of being the GM is working with what you're given.

valadil
2013-09-24, 02:54 PM
If a player takes a flaw in one of my games, I am obliged to activate that flaw. If I can't, maybe I'll tell him not to take it. But I'm pretty creative, so that's never come up.

Segev
2013-09-24, 03:15 PM
Hero Points in M&M are designed that way specifically. Other issues aside about how players get them (railroading for example, although I prefer to give them to players for the GM's use of a hero points by the NPCs since NPCs don't have any of their own) hero points reset at the start of every adventure/session depending on how you care to do that. So generally speaking it doesn't behoove the players to hoard them since they'll lose any unspent HPs by the start of the next adventure.

The lack of enough Hero Points is a good reason to make sure that the player has picked Complications that come up a lot or they have a bunch of Complications that can occur. Ideal though the GM should be giving hero points for more than just complications, they should be handed out for being awesome as well.
That's not quite catching the point of my qualm. The point is, "GM offers you a Hero Point in exchange for your Complication or for allowing him to Railroad you. You could resolve the situation with only a little more effort now, but the complication or whatever will prevent that. Getting back to where you can resolve the situation with a little more effort will take 2+ hero points."

It still winds up feeling like a punishment. From a game standpoint, it's bad/foolish play. Ideally, a well-designed system for this would have it be worth it or even feel you're coming out slightly ahead when you agree to the short-term complication interference.

NichG
2013-09-24, 05:24 PM
That's not quite catching the point of my qualm. The point is, "GM offers you a Hero Point in exchange for your Complication or for allowing him to Railroad you. You could resolve the situation with only a little more effort now, but the complication or whatever will prevent that. Getting back to where you can resolve the situation with a little more effort will take 2+ hero points."

It still winds up feeling like a punishment. From a game standpoint, it's bad/foolish play. Ideally, a well-designed system for this would have it be worth it or even feel you're coming out slightly ahead when you agree to the short-term complication interference.

This is probably because HP are too integrated into the internal mechanics of the game - they're a character power, not a player power.

I think conceptually you have to think of rewarding the player for having their character hold the idiot ball for awhile. Basically, the character should act from whatever irrational motivations cause them to suffer the complication, not because it charges up their Hero capacitors and lets them kick more ass later on. The player, however, can be still making decisions from the objective point of view of 'my character can survive this, but I as a player get to do a cool thing later'.

For example, lets say you have something like the plot cards someone made for 4e D&D. IIRC these are basically a deck of cards with things on them like 'introduce a friendly NPC' or 'pick an NPC - they're actually the real villain'. They're basically like little packets of 'you get to DM this or that detail of the game'. It seems like one of those would be a fair offer to exchange for a player having to give up some agency briefly.

Segev
2013-09-24, 10:06 PM
I think conceptually you have to think of rewarding the player for having their character hold the idiot ball for awhile.

(...)

The player, however, can be still making decisions from the objective point of view of 'my character can survive this, but I as a player get to do a cool thing later'.

For example, lets say you have something like the plot cards someone made for 4e D&D. IIRC these are basically a deck of cards with things on them like 'introduce a friendly NPC' or 'pick an NPC - they're actually the real villain'. They're basically like little packets of 'you get to DM this or that detail of the game'. It seems like one of those would be a fair offer to exchange for a player having to give up some agency briefly.

That IS how it is supposed to work, in theory. However, in practice, I've found that these "idiot ball" moments wind up requiring you to spend more of your "do something cool" points just to recover from them, denying you the actual ability to do something meaningfully cool as often as you could have without accepting it.

Knaight
2013-09-24, 11:46 PM
That IS how it is supposed to work, in theory. However, in practice, I've found that these "idiot ball" moments wind up requiring you to spend more of your "do something cool" points just to recover from them, denying you the actual ability to do something meaningfully cool as often as you could have without accepting it.

I suppose this depends on implementation. I rarely see this being the case, and even when it is the recovery is often more interesting than success would have been.

NichG
2013-09-24, 11:47 PM
That IS how it is supposed to work, in theory. However, in practice, I've found that these "idiot ball" moments wind up requiring you to spend more of your "do something cool" points just to recover from them, denying you the actual ability to do something meaningfully cool as often as you could have without accepting it.

Thats why I'm suggesting its better to reward a meta-game resource instead of an in-game resource. Basically, don't build the system with the expectation that these rewards will be needed just to survive. Instead, you get a resource you can't get any other way that lets you do something survival neutral but which transfers agency over the game.

Basically the point of the plot cards isn't to help you survive a fight or to win, its to help you say 'I think it would be cool if this happened, so it does'. You trade an increased game difficulty for increased control of what the game is about.