Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Food for Thought #26

Role-playing Game Theory - What is Proficiency?

While I haven't been posting much, that doesn't mean development on various projects of mine has stopped. Though I will admit to being very behind on many of my projects, especially the writing projects, I have not completely stopped.  Sadly, with the end of the school term and with it my tutoring gig, I'll have a lot more time on my hands... when I'm not sending out more job applications anyway.

One of those projects that I'll have more time to work with is Project Roll-Play, my attempt to make a universal D20 level based RPG game system.  For inspiration, I've been going through and looking at the various D20 derived systems (Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, D20 Modern, Star Wars: Saga Edition, and a variety of others). Since one of my friends said something about a 5th Edition campaign for Dungeons and Dragons, I took a look at the system.

For those that are unfamiliar, Dungeons and Dragons has gone through a plethora of changes over the years... each major change is a different 'edition' of the game.  While some of these changes are little more then the equivalent of patching a computer game (look at changes from 3.0 to 3.5) others are massive overhauls and changes to base mechanic systems.  The transition from 3.5 to 4th edition is jarring, unless you look at some of the experimentation Wizards of the Coast did with Star Wars and Star Wars: Saga Edition.

The latest version of the Dungeons and Dragon game is interesting in that the designers started with a couple of rather jarring concepts compared to how mechanics had worked in previous editions.  Among these concepts is the idea of 'bounded accuracy'.  In 3.0, 3.5, Star Wars: Saga Edition, D20 Modern, and so forth the base attack bonus of a character increased between 1 to 1/2 point a level.  A 20th level fighter had a base attack bonus of +20, while a 1st level fighter had a base attack bonus of +1.

5th Edition dramatically reduces the maximum base bonus for an attack roll.  Base attack bonus has been replaced by a 'Proficiency Bonus', ranging from +2 to +6.  As a result a 20th level fighter has a bonus of +6 and a 1st level fighter has a bonus of +2.  Since AC bonuses to armor haven't really been affected that much, this means that basic armor is more effective.

I have very mixed feelings on this, it makes 20th level a bit more... ordinary.  However, there is one thing about this change that I actually love...

They made proficiency a bonus.

D20 in general has usually ran with the idea of proficiency allowing you to use a weapon without penalty (usually a -5 penalty), the thing with this is that when you're rolling a D20 +0 vs. an AC10 target, someone that's proficient with a weapon only has around a 52.5% chance to hit. Now... I challenge you to go to your local pistol range, and watch.

Most people that are using guns on those ranges aren't supermen... but, unless you've got a total beginner in a lane, most of them will hit the paper target just about every time.  So assuming an average human silhouette is an AC 10 target, most people will have around +10 to attack?  Even that idiot in the lane with a silhouette target at 5 feet blazing away with rapid fire is going to hit more than 50% of the time.  The only people that have a real 50% accuracy for a weapon tend to be those that aren't proficient with the weapon.

The same is perhaps even more true for melee weapons, as a thrown punch or club swing is pretty likely to contact the target, even if you have no idea what you're doing.  If you are proficient with a weapon... well, there's a reason most kendo and fencing matches are so short. Really proficienct combatants rarely miss.

So what does this mean for my Project Roll-Play, design.  Well, I've decided to change up quite a bit of things recently due to thinking about proficiency and standardizing my level bonuses.

Almost all rolls (with a few exceptions) will be granted a bonus equal to their level. So a level 10 character will have +10 to their various defenses, +10 to skill rolls, and +10 to hit from their level.  A character's base attack bonus will be 5 + their level, which actually matches the way that training skills grants a +5 bonus to the roll.

Being non-proficient still incures a -5 penalty to the attack roll, and grants the defender an attack of opportunity.

Overall this results in higher defenses, skill DC numbers, and armor classes after I've calibrated the DCs to reflect this.  Ironically when I plotted out the capabilities, I've found that the old 4E guide of 'Heroic levels', 'Paragon levels', and 'Epic levels' actually fit this quite well.

Levels 1-10 are Heroic Levels - At 5th level, the character is roughly equal in skill as a fully trained professional, be that soldier or accountant.  Normal (human) individuals will not usually exceed 10th level in their lifetime.  Most teenagers, conscripts, and those that topped out as a high school graduate are around 4th level.

Levels 11-20 are Paragon Levels - By 11th level the character has exceeded the capability of the vast majority of the population. Elite forces, commandos, and other well trained or skilled individuals may exist with levels this high.  A Delta Force operator would be a Paragon Level opponent, so would a Top Gun instructor.

Levels 21+ are Epic Levels - By 21st level the character has exceeded what is generally considered the peak of human performance. This is the realm of the best and most dangerous opponents. This is the realm of historical top aces, legends, and so forth.  While a typical german ace might be a Paragon challenge, the Red Baron or Japanese top-ace Saburo Sakai would be an epic level foe.  Beyond anomalously good humans, this is the realm of otherworldly foes and the paranormal - demons, devils, demi-gods.

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