Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This Post Goes All The Way To 11

or, Of Numbers And Other Things...

In order for the numbers in a game to mean anything, the players must internalize those numbers. I was thinking about this primarily from a referee's perspective, but it's vital from the player's side too...

As referee, you need to have a grounded, consistent sense of what '+6' means in this game and this world. You need to be able to wield that modifier in comparable ways across the whole milieu. It's integral to the authenticity of your game that a door +6, a wall +6, might +6, speed +6 and intuition +6 are all of comparable value, even though you're comparing apples to oranges (and often to carrots or watermelons).

However, this also serves a vital role for the player. Most of us have internalized what 18 strength means, even though that number has no inherent value without the point of reference provided by the system.

These numbers also have to provide some granularity, and the way this scales has to be reasonable for the game's goals. Oddly, percentile strength added the granularity at the top end of the chart rather than at the low end, which is where it often falls; classic D+D (bonus wise) doesn't differentiate between the strength of the Human Torch, Invisible Girl or Mr. Fantastic; they may all have different ratings between 9 and 12, but they're all equally +0; at the top end, the heavy hitters may all have '18' strength, but there are 100 degrees of 18.

You already know the psychological impact this has on the player- and not just the power gamer either (although you know who you are!). When you roll that natural 18/00 strength, you can't help but cheer (I'd love to find out how many people ever rolled that... the best I ever recall 'naturally' rolling within the confines we were given by the DM was 18/91 one time)... my reaction to this was more along the lines of 'I want to arm wrestle a hill giant' rather than 'awesome! +6 damage!'. 

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