View Full Version : Player abilities beyond characters: Good or Bad?

Realms of Chaos
2013-11-01, 12:30 PM
For about a year, I have been working on a large mega-project out of making a mundane magic system. While creation is still far off, I have run into a potential issue that I wanted to ask you guys about.

Namely, do you guys consider it essential that players can only affect the world through the actions of their character?

In D&D and Pathfinder, this seems to be the assumed norm. Magic can do whatever it wants because it is magic but players of mundane characters are only capable of what can be done mundanely.

Well, you may wonder, what is the alternative? Well, the basic idea is that through the proper "spells" or class features, a player could "know" or "notice" things in the world, making them true in the process. Here are a couple of specific examples:

An ability that lets you state a minor fact (following some pretty harsh restrictions) and makes it true (obtained at very high level).
An ability that lets you notice certain details about any nonliving climbable surface to make climbing the surface more interesting.
The ability to read certain flaws in the stance of your opponent to grant you bonuses in combat.
Abilities that allow you to hone in on the location of sources of food and water (early level) or on the location of natural planar portals (high level) in the environment, though you may still have to search a large area to find the desired object.

I don't think that any of the abilities are broken or that they inherently derail adventures more than spellcasting but they rely on the player putting something into the world beyond what the character does directly.

Would you allow that type of class feature in your games? :smallconfused:

2013-11-01, 12:44 PM
Yes. I'd be more inclined to include the world-building ones than the combat ones, though.

2013-11-01, 12:45 PM
A number of games do this.

Wushu, for example.

In a given scene, you have one or more goals.

It has the principle of narrative truth. Using it, you get to narrate what your PC does, and *it happens*, unless the DM or another player (!) vetos it. The veto is not related to how well you roll the dice.

You then roll the dice, and that determines *how close what you narrated got you to your goal*.

So one of the veto rules is you aren't allowed to narrate "you achieved the goal", you can only narrate getting closer to it. If the goal of the scene is to get to the king, you can narrate beheading the captain of the guards, as an example. If the goal of the scene is defeating the captain of the guards, you cannot do that until the dice say you can.

That is probably going too far for your tastes, and probably won't mesh well with D&D like mechanics.

But the idea that knowledge checks let you narrate weaknesses of foes could work really well. Skills like Tactics, Strategy, Dueling -- all could let you roll knowledge checks against foes (against their "passive" tactics/strategy/dueling skills, for example) and invoke weaknesses in their positioning etc.

Because, *everyone* has weaknesses in their positioning.

If you want to keep things relatively simulationist, the types of flaws could change as their skill grows. A grandmaster swordsman might have a dueling flaw that they seem to believe your tendency to fake a riposte on the third parry is real (ie, they seem to be falling for a fake tell -- they underestimated you), and you figure you can exploit that. A novice might simply have a bad habit of leaving themselves open on the left.

Mechanically these two things might be quite similar: but maybe not. Using dueling skill to get an advantage on the novice might be a single-round action, while on the grandmaster might require more than one round.

The "flaw in the opponents style" did not exist in this case before you rolled the dice, except implicitly by your ability to notice it after one or more checks.

The same can be true of using knowledge skills to find portals to other planes. Depending on the situation and the plane, this might be more or less involved. A world or region with common portals would make it an easy, quick check -- a world or region where such portals are mythical might require a long, drawn out check that ends in an adventure.

Monster knowledge could go the same way. If your monsters are not set in stone by a MM, players might make monster knowledge checks to learn of weaknesses in certain kinds of monsters that are not well known. Your MM might contain such weaknesses to be discovered, but it doesn't have to.

Having mechanics for this that isn't like a spell is tricky.

Realms of Chaos
2013-11-01, 12:46 PM
The combat one was just an example. Truth be told, the system that I'm working on has very, very few combat abilities at all. It's... pretty odd.

2013-11-01, 12:55 PM
The combat one was just an example. Truth be told, the system that I'm working on has very, very few combat abilities at all. It's... pretty odd.

Nah, that's what I mean, though. D&D 3.5 (which I play) already has enough to keep track of in combat without adding another dimension.

Besides, world-building powers are awesome.

2013-11-01, 12:58 PM
So... scene-editing via stunting/description?

I think pretty much every system produced in the last 10 years other than 3.5 and a few others has something like that.

So I wouldn't be adverse.

Realms of Chaos
2013-11-01, 01:05 PM
So... scene-editing via stunting/description?

A combination of scene-editing with some lesser world-building at high levels, yeah.

2013-11-01, 02:21 PM
SIFRP has something similar - you have destiny points, which can be spent to add a minor detail to a scene. For example, if your sword were broken, you could pick up a hammer or hide behind a fence which wasn't mentioned before. This was mainly for the immediate benefit of the character, though.