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I've got a pretty good understanding of how most of the skills work regarding mechanics on consumables. But I'm not 100% sure how Stealth and Sleight of Hand work in depth mechanically. So, We all know that when you increase your stealth, it makes you harder to detect (harder to see in the vision cone, harder to hear in the sound circle). I'm curious as to what exactly dictates this. Is it distance? is it an extended stealth "timer"? is it both? When you put a point in stealth, does it decrease the distance in which enemies notice you? or does it just slow the stealth "timer"? and most importantly by how much per point? Some enemies notice you quicker than others. Is our stealth compared against enemy/npc perception? Power level? Now for Sleight of Hand, it seems that so long as you are actively in stealth, you can view what's in the enemy's inventory regardless of your Sleight of Hand skill. Similarly, it seems you can put explosives in their pockets regardless of your Sleight of Hand skill. However, if they have a shiny item you want to steal, depending on your sleight of hand skill, you may not be able to steal it. Is this based off of the enemy/npc's perception or power level? or is it based off of the value of the item your trying to lift?
If you put a character in stealth mode and move to the shelf or npc you want to steal from, regardless if spotted, you'll easily pickpocket without much effort. How? Just pick another character and start a dialogue with any character in the map. Upon starting a dialogue, the cone of view / range of alertness is reset for any character, not only for the interlocutor, so you can just wait the alertness to drop, end conversation, pause the game, steal. Make sense if this work only on the interlocutor: you distract him/her so the lose of alertness can be a thing, but distracting someone from the other side of the map and steal between 3+ cone of view without points in stealth (you just need to be fast to pause the game at the end of dialogues) is a bit too much Edit. Sorry, already reported in this topic: https://forums.obsidian.net/topic/100374-bug-npcs-stop-observing-you-during-dialog/
So I saw the mention of stats relating to pickpocket and it got me thinking; pickpocketing is one of the most enticing things in an RPG - it's always super appealing in concept and whenever I play a thief I power level that particular stat because I just cannot wait to get my hands on what everyone is carrying. The downside is that the implementation is almost always the same - save in front of the mark, keep reloading until you are successful. Essentially the only reason to bolster the stat is to save yourself the tedium of loading your game over and over again. Couple this with the extremely stiff penalty of your target turning immediately hostile and you have, in my opinion, a broken mechanic. It shatters suspension of disbelief and introduces a grinding exercise. So here are my questions: 1. Can the pickpocket ability be implemented into the interface in a different way than we are used to (the thief/steal cursor on the map)? How can the mechanic be revised in order to make it more enjoyable, more flexible, and less upsetting to the flow of the game? 2. How can the mechanic be implemented in such a way that, ideally, a player never reloads, regardless of whether or not they fail? 3. Would there be any benefit to specialty pickpocketing? ========================= 1. Can the pickpocket ability be implemented into the interface in a different way than we are used to (the thief/steal cursor on the map)? How can the mechanic be revised in order to make it more enjoyable, more flexible, and less upsetting to the flow of the game? I'm of the opinion that the current style of pick pocketing in RPGs (the specialty cursor) doesn't really work. For one, it relegates the target to a static object on the board, an impersonal dice roll. Considering that the target of a pick pocket is supposed to be a living, breathing character, it seems a bit mechanical for something so intimate. Beyond that, the two executions we generally see are either 'NPC as chest', in which the mark has a specific object on him that can be lifted on a successful roll - or 'NPC as shopkeeper' in which we get a sort of inventory screen that has variable success rates for a whole mess of items (often everything that character is carrying).1 I don't really buy either of these and I've found that neither of them are particularly rewarding afterward. Pickpocketing should feel like a heist - you should feel like you got away with something, right?2 If you find something really rare or special, it should feel special. Beyond that, there's an emotional element to theft that hasn't really been explored in games. For example - just because you succeed in lifting someone's magic ring, who's to say that they won't suspect you after the fact? What if you were steal something from an NPC that was super important? What if the loss of that particular object was a death sentence? These are just a couple examples, though I shouldn't get ahead of myself. First, the steal: how to improve it? My initial impulse is to include more circumstantial opportunities within the context of dialog trees. If your pickpocket is high enough you can be granted the opportunity to snag something off a character during certain parts of a conversation. This can also implement a sense of temporality to the activity - what if you were to steal someone's ring off their hand when they met you for the first time, or during a specific interaction? This would make the opportunity a one-time affair, which actually solves a couple problems, namely: A - Players won't know they missed an opportunity if their skill wasn't high enough, so they won't feel deprived of an experience. B - Players would be encouraged to invest in the ability beforehand so that they are alerted to the opportunity when it arises. C - By tying the act into the dialog tree, you can have the player fail while still acknowledging what they tried to do (eg. a handshake goes on a little bit too long, and the target feels uncomfortable from there on out). It still doesn't solve the constant reloading issue (but we'll touch on that later). Despite that, I think it could be a decent system to incorporate without impinging on a preexisting mechanic. Another way to approach it would be to allow the pickpocket, upon reaching a certain level of proficiency, to sight and nab whatever he wants once he's achieved a high enough level (for example, when he walks near an NPC a little window pops up that shows him an item up for grabs). No dice rolls, no reloading, no chance of turning the 'NPC circle' that hostile red. He either can steal it or he can't, and he won't get the chance unless he can. This may seem to destroy the sense of danger from the experience, but when was it ever really a risk for the player? Who but the self-proclaimed masochist wouldn't reload after screwing up? The risk factor in respect to the pickpocketing mechanic is a red herring - due to mitigation done by the player it could be said that it essentially does not exist. But what could be introduced to replace it is the consequences of stealing from someone. That, arguably, is where things would get really interesting - were he to steal something extremely dangerous or valuable. A third angle could be the chance of guaranteed success, but items that are fixed based on your skill level. Initially your pickpocket will only manage to pilfer loose change and pocket lint, but as you level up he'll be able to pilfer more valuable items. So let's say the skill always works, but it only boosts from being used, and let's say you can only pickpocket an NPC once during the whole game. Then the challenge becomes picking your targets at the right time, and choosing who to practice on, and who to save for later.3 Then the pickpocket is encouraged to sneak around more (so he can steal from enemies and raise the stat) and must also decide if a particular mark will be around later, when his skill is higher. Consequence One thing that I think is completely under-explored is the consequence of theft. In most games if players can get away with it at the time then it essentially didn't happen. This is bogus and definitely rings false. After burgling entire towns in some games, I start to really loath the citizens for being so stupid - how else could I have robbed everyone blind? If the pickpocketing mechanic is made more intentional (as opposed to a dice roll) it offers up the chance for narrative engagement in the act. The opportunities are endless and I don't really need to get into the specifics as I'm sure you can imagine your own scenarios. Of the things which could be stolen: court documents, heirlooms, genie's lamps, royal seals, family crests, sacred relics, secret passwords, unlabeled tinctures, and on and on. The theft of any one of these things could spiral out into the narrative and offer up something for the player to engage in. The act of stealing it could have more importance than the thing itself (which is the basis for many great crime stories). This, granted, is a ton of work for the designers. But it would offer a certain facet of interest that I think games very much lack - namely the connection of items with the world the player occupies. I think that more acknowledgement of what the player chooses to take would do a lot to make the game feel more real, and help to add facets to the concept of ownership in games. Furthermore, it would add mystery to items in the game. These days so many items are completely transparent. As soon as you get them you know exactly what they are - "I give thing X to guy Y and get Z in exchange." Remember the thrill of grabbing something and having no clue as to what it was for? How much more exciting would that be if you stole it? 2. How can the mechanic be implemented in such a way that, ideally, a player never reloads, regardless of whether or not they fail? I touched on this earlier. My primary notion that I would want someone to take away is that idea of player risk - that when it comes to pickpocketing there is actually none - because they'll just reload to avoid the punishment. How can a designer discourage this, or make the player not even want to? One way is go straight Dark Souls - just lock down the action in the file and force the player to live with the fact that they didn't succeed. If they fail, too late! The game is saved and you can't go back. This may seem punitive, but depending on the implementation of the mechanic it wouldn't have to be so bad: if the whole town didn't turn hostile and try and massacre them, for example. Another would be to implement guaranteed success - sidestep the dice rolling for the particular mechanic and instead make it a proverbial door to open.4 Still another would be to downplay the punishments so that they are more subtle, and less obvious. Maybe the NPC won't talk to them anymore, maybe they take a hit to reputation (which happens in many games already) - maybe something happens that the player can't actually see until later on down the road. Depending on the style of the game, the pickpocket could be the only one who takes the rap, rather than the whole party. His poor reputation could be mitigated by player action using the other characters. 3. Would there be any benefit to specialty pickpocketing? This is more of a sidebar, but still fits in with the idea of revising the mechanic. Pickpocketing is a general skill, at the moment, but who's to say that we couldn't have specific kinds of pickpockets? Depending on the type, the player could have different opportunities presented to them. A cutpurse, for example, could always succeed at filching coins from characters. A sleight-of-hand artist could specialize in taking rings/watches off characters right in front of them. Pickpockets could have proficiency in stealing items relating to their other skill sets (weapons, amulets, etc) or their race (short guys stealing items off the bottom half of the mark) or other traits that would allow them to thrive in a specific environment. What if there were pickpocket teams? Criminals of all types generally work in groups as it is, how much more interesting could things be if crooks worked in pairs or even larger groups? Going too far could make the mechanic clumsy, but lets say you had one character with high charisma chat up an NPC while a pickpocket raids them for stuff. What if you had a high-minded cleric speaking with an NPC, and had the option of your rogue stealing something during the conversation? The upshot would be an item, but it could damage the relationship between the two party members. Conclusion This is all to say that I think the mechanic could be redefined to great benefit. I think that right now it occupies the dice-rolling side of CRPG design - the part that that deals with chance and probability. The numbers part of the game works great when it comes to battles and gameplay elements that aren't so binary, and offer the players a chance to correct their mistakes, mitigate a bad roll, or the possibility of moderate success/failure (as opposed to complete failure) - but I don't know if that mode really works so well for pickpocketing. It might be better implemented as the opportunity for player discovery - a reward system that doesn't operate on a strict success/failure dynamic, rather a door to be opened. If you made it all the way though, thanks! I welcome any thoughts or input. Cheers Owen =================================================== 1. I neglected to mention the gold you can lift off of peasants and other generics in CRPGs - I don't really consider this a full implementation of the mechanic, more of a bone thrown to the person who invests heavily in the skill. 2. Actually, my personal favorite implementation of theft in a game so far is Assassin's creed. Even though you're just stealing token amounts of spare change from NPCs, the physicality and slow intention of the action is extremely rewarding. The fact that it was easy didn't bother me in the least. 3. You may notice that most of these suggestions are based on the principle of guaranteed success. That hasn't slipped by. I think that failure in theft is a very compelling notion, however it doesn't really tie in with top-down style games for one reason in particular - the goal of a pickpocket who is caught is escape. Fleeing in CRPGs almost never makes sense and usually feels stupid. You're just watching a bunch of little dudes chase each other across the map in a slow mockery of pursuit. To incorporate an escape mechanic into the genre in any meaningful way would require a ton more work and I'm not even certain of the returns, to be honest. 4. I can totally see the opposition to pickpocketing being 'too easy' - but I think that if there were going to be risk involved without constant quicksaving there needs to be some opportunity for player remedy, or at least the notion of partial success/failure. Right now the mechanic works like a coin flip, and unless the player can somehow circumvent the punishment they'll just reload their save and break the system.