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Interview with Josh Sawyer on Design and Mechanics

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For P:E, lockbashing would add yet another way of opening a chest, at the expense of some of the items inside. And the problem with bashing open doors could be solved by making locked doors sturdy enough that you can't bash them open. That would make more sense too - why would someone lock a weak door in a dungeon if a trespasser can simply break the door down?

 

Alternatively, bashing a door could alert whatever is on the other side - if possible. Otherwise, I think you're pretty spot on.

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Well there were other games where fighters could try to bash open a lock or mages had a spell for opening locks.

I have nothing against other classes opening locks as well if it comes at a cost and does not work with all locks (and thus building up lockpicking for the rogue does not get redundant). I think this is hard to balance though.

I would very much like to see all classes having some non-combat advantages like lockpicking with the rogue. I always liked to play rogues in other games, because they usually have more non-combat-abilities than other classes (picking pockets, pick locks, sometimes seduction or speech-advantages), allowing you to see more of the game, get more loot and having more advantages in dialogues. I have nothing against that appearing here as well, so I know what class I will choose, but maybe it could also be better balanced between classes.

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If mages can use their magic to open locks/conceal themselves, there are no need for thieving skills and rogues. The same thing goes to thieving tools. If the party can buy/gain non-consumptive thieving tools, it will replace the thieving skills. It's similar to asking for allowing fighters to use powerful magic spells. In the first place, why do systems divide characters into classes/categorize skills?

 

I agree that realism/believability is important but allowing some options often messes up with game-balance as well as making the game-play out-of-focus. If you play as a game master for gamists, it often makes a game of a GM and the players try to outsmart each other rather than a role-playing game. In this case, a GM might make a deathtrap for an empty chest/room occasionally, for example. However, players also come up with different ideas to outsmart the GM - This "game" will continue till either of them quit. Some people seem to find this amazing but I think it gets absurd or boring pretty quickly, even destroying game systems, at times - There must be other interesting things to be explored. Indeed, some GMs appear to dismiss any creativity from the players' side but what I mean here is infertile and vicious circle of meta-gaming. While GMs have to react to the players feed-backs, they are also responsible for preventing some activities from derailing the game-play experiences. After all, why should the rule-sets be needed?

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If mages can use their magic to open locks/conceal themselves, there are no need for thieving skills and rogues. The same thing goes to thieving tools. If the party can buy/gain non-consumptive thieving tools, it will replace the thieving skills. It's similar to asking for allowing fighters to use powerful magic spells. In the first place, why do systems divide characters into classes/categorize skills?

Well, that's part of the reason why people have suggested "damage" as a consequence of lock bashing. KOTOR2 and NWN2 had such a system. You can bash open a locked chest, but some of its contents won't survive the blow.

 

Personally, though, I'm not a big fan of total class exclusivity on stuff like this. (ie. you must have a thief to open locks otherwise GTFO) The benefit of certain classes having certain skills should just be that they're the best at doing those skills, not "they're the only ones who can!"

 

Also, semi-off topic: Traps should be a team effort. They should be easier to detect if your rogue and your Dwarf (with his stone sense) for example, work together to look for them. And disarming traps should be easier if your Rogue and, say, your high intelligence mage are pooling their mechanical knowledge

Edited by Stun
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Yes! I think team synergy could be explored much further than it has so far in games.


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I approach the design of mechanics with a desire to create an interesting choice for the player. Standard pass/fail checks (randomized or threshold) don't typically involve any element of choice; the choice you made was part of a character building process that took place far removed from the challenge currently in front of you. In most circumstances, this means that once you're at the challenge, you either can make the check or you can't. There's not any choice to make. If you have a consumable resource that can cover a marginal shortfall, then you do have a choice.

 

Realism is important to me, but it is of secondary importance to producing good gameplay and choices within gameplay. Realism is valuable because it can a) provide an intuitive basis for how a mechanic works and b) it can prevent the player from being distracted/annoyed by something that doesn't make sense. I keep verisimilitude in mind when designing mechanics, but I generally try to "back" the realism into the gameplay rather than trying to make good gameplay out of a realistic simulation.

But what would stop the player from packing a stack of 99 lockpics every time he goes to the local blacksmith?

 

Let's say, for argument's sake that the stronger mechanical lock in the game is 100% and the treshold for using lockpicks is 10%.

Everyone would simply stop at 90% lockpicking skill with their thief character and pack a full stack of lockpicks.

It seems a no brainer to me.

 

For what we know though, you may have already planned something to counterbalance this but, may I suggest to make lockpicks very rare?

Like for example they sould be sold only by fencer or shady merchants. Surely not from every blacksmits. And their supply should be limited.

And if they end up being craftable by the player, it should be a high level schematic, since lockpicks are precision tools.

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You don't know how the skill works yet, maybe it's a static number and not a percentage and the roof of the skill is unattainable simply by levelling the skill.

 

take BG for instance. I don't know how the mechanism in that game worked, I never played a Thief in D&D 2E P&P so I never had to pick a lock.

 

But lets say that a lock requires 145 lockpicking skill to unlock, but as a max level character in P:E1 you can only get 100 in the skill, you need to make the rest up with items, feats.

 

People will always carry as many lock picks as they can no matter what anyway. Same as with arrows, potions etc.

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Well, that's part of the reason why people have suggested "damage" as a consequence of lock bashing. KOTOR2 and NWN2 had such a system. You can bash open a locked chest, but some of its contents won't survive the blow.

And that's why I didn't touch them in my previous post - after all, if everything is balanced out, I don't have any problem.

 

Also, semi-off topic: Traps should be a team effort. They should be easier to detect if your rogue and your Dwarf (with his stone sense) for example, work together to look for them. And disarming traps should be easier if your Rogue and, say, your high intelligence mage are pooling their mechanical knowledge

Some skill/ability synergies to tackle with obstructions seem to be underconsideration in the game although even whether they work in a concrete or an abstract way is yet to be revealed. Rather than independent mini-games, I think this kind of implementation is more suitable for a party-based system.

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You don't know how the skill works yet, maybe it's a static number and not a percentage and the roof of the skill is unattainable simply by levelling the skill.

 

take BG for instance. I don't know how the mechanism in that game worked, I never played a Thief in D&D 2E P&P so I never had to pick a lock.

 

But lets say that a lock requires 145 lockpicking skill to unlock, but as a max level character in P:E1 you can only get 100 in the skill, you need to make the rest up with items, feats.

 

People will always carry as many lock picks as they can no matter what anyway. Same as with arrows, potions etc.

I know, my numbers were just for argument's sake.

 

Anyway, I'd expect the most difficult standard lock to be at the same level of the maximum you can reach with your skill.

Anything above the "humanly possible" should be magical and require a different kind of "process" to be forced (I don't expect to be able to force a 50% difficulty magical lock with a lockpick. That should need a magical approach to be breached).

 

This would be my preference, just to be clear.

Edited by DocDoomII

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Why not just have different types of lockpicks for different challenge levels and demand that the character have a lockpick to pick a lock. A character who can tap a lack with their fingernails and have it unlock is the Fonz or Elminster (or called ahead for reservations). It sounds to me as if lockpicks were going to exist as crutches rather than necessary tools for picking locks.

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If think about how things would really be like, if you are below a certain skill level you wont be able to pick the lock. Then as you get increasingly above that level you'll be able to pick the lock with less sophisitacted tools and in less time. However in a game that wont always work so well. Time typically isn't that important to a player and if lock picks/tools are consumable the player will just get as many as possible, or if they are not a consumable but instead an upgradable item thats effectively just the same as giving as skill bonus depending on the level of the tool. Not being able to open a lock because you are 1 point too low is annoying. Needs to be a nice balance with various levels of chance.

 

Thinking it would nice to have a system where you could choose to either chance a dice roll or pay a defined cost of lock picks to open a lock. Maybe below 50% chance you have to chance it vs dice roll but at 50% or above you can pay the cost.

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Standard pass/fail checks (randomized or threshold) don't typically involve any element of choice; the choice you made was part of a character building process that took place far removed from the challenge currently in front of you. In most circumstances, this means that once you're at the challenge, you either can make the check or you can't. There's not any choice to make.

 

OTOH it make the choices during level-up more meaningful.

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Marginal! Marginal! Reading comprehension is key people. He said marginal. You don't use 99 lockpicks. That isn't marginal. You use 1 lockpick for a 1-5% increase. That's it. Marginal. MAR-GEEE-NAL.

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Marginal! Marginal! Reading comprehension is key people. He said marginal. You don't use 99 lockpicks. That isn't marginal. You use 1 lockpick for a 1-5% increase. That's it. Marginal. MAR-GEEE-NAL.

 

No, he said you use 10 lockpicks for a 10% increase:

E.g. if you need a 75 to pick a lock but you have a 65 Lockpicking skill, you can still open the lock for a cost of 10 lockpicks.

Which means if you bring 99 lockpicks with you to, say, the endless paths, it'll take only 10 such locks to use them all up.

Edited by Stun

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I don't really understand how using 10 lockpicks helps me to pick a lock better. Does using 10 spoons help me to eat a bowl of soup better than 1 spoon would, or would the extra spoons not just get in my way and make the task harder?

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Marginal! Marginal! Reading comprehension is key people. He said marginal. You don't use 99 lockpicks. That isn't marginal. You use 1 lockpick for a 1-5% increase. That's it. Marginal. MAR-GEEE-NAL.

 

No, he said you use 10 lockpicks for a 10% increase:

E.g. if you need a 75 to pick a lock but you have a 65 Lockpicking skill, you can still open the lock for a cost of 10 lockpicks.

Which means if you bring 99 lockpicks with you to, say, the endless paths, it'll take only 10 such locks to use them all up.

 

Hey, if it takes 9-10 locks for the fact that your lockpicking is almost there but not quite to sink in...

 

:)

 

I have a hard time seeing the expendable consumer part being universal, but I do get the point that the skill checks are supposed to be a bit more grey than just a flat number. Kind of like if you fail the skill check to convince an NPC about something based on skill alone, you are given an option to try to bribe (throw in 10*x coins) or perform a service for the NPC to sweeten the deal.

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I don't really understand how using 10 lockpicks helps me to pick a lock better. Does using 10 spoons help me to eat a bowl of soup better than 1 spoon would, or would the extra spoons not just get in my way and make the task harder?

I think it might be sorta like how D&D 3rd edition does it with "take 10" and "take 20" checks. Consuming 10 lockpicks merely represents the notion that you finally got the lock open after trying 10 times.

Edited by Stun
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I don't really understand how using 10 lockpicks helps me to pick a lock better. Does using 10 spoons help me to eat a bowl of soup better than 1 spoon would, or would the extra spoons not just get in my way and make the task harder?

 

Abstraction of the number of tries (and broken lockpicks) it'd take to take for a "closely" skilled character to hit the right combo on a lock that's slightly harder than their current skill set would allow them to pick otherwise?

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Hmm, so it's similar to taking 10 or taking 20 (or any number in between), but instead of burning time, you are burning money by using up numerous consumable items. I guess that could make sense, in an abstract sort of way.

 

I personally prefer the "interesting choice" to come at character creation and character level up, by making my character more and more skilled at particular tasks (with perhaps the option to purchase some nice non-consumable master work items to aid in those various tasks (MW lockpicks, MW disguise kit, etc). But that's just me.

 

EDIT: And as for taking 10 or 20 with this approach, I can always retry opening such locks multiple times (that's certainly a choice). Once I finally get that difficult lock open, I will really feel rewarded at the accomplishment.

Edited by Marceror

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Hmm, so it's similar to taking 10 or taking 20 (or any number in between), but instead of burning time, you are burning money by using up numerous consumable items. I guess that could make sense, in an abstract sort of way.

Essentially, Yes. Which is why I like the idea. The consequence is tangeable and in-game. Rather than being laboriously real-life tedius to gameplay (ie. hey, kindly waste 10 minutes of your playtime staring at this door and trying to get it open. Fun! fun!)

 

 

 

I personally prefer the "interesting choice" to come at character creation and character level up, by making my character more and more skilled at particular tasks (with perhaps the option to purchase some nice non-consumable master work items to aid in those various tasks (MW lockpicks, MW disguise kit, etc). But that's just me.

If I had to make a baseless guess, I'd say there *will* be highly coveted magic items to be found in this game that will, in fact, boost your lockpicking skills so that you won't be needing to haul around massive amounts of lockpicks (masterwork or otherwise) in the first place.

Edited by Stun

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If you have a consumable resource that can cover a marginal shortfall, then you do have a choice.

 

He said 10 lockpicks. But he also said marginal. I don't think he actually had the specifics worked out when he said 10. Perhaps, he was trying to make a bigger point: that marginal shortfalls can be made up with items that can be used up.

Edited by Hormalakh
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My blog is where I'm keeping a record of all of my suggestions and bug mentions.

http://hormalakh.blogspot.com/  UPDATED 9/26/2014

My DXdiag:

http://hormalakh.blogspot.com/2014/08/beta-begins-v257.html

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EDIT: And as for taking 10 or 20 with this approach, I can always retry opening such locks multiple times (that's certainly a choice). Once I finally get that difficult lock open, I will really feel rewarded at the accomplishment.

Yeah, until you come to the next difficult lock, then the next one, then the one after that, and the one after that. Next thing you know, the mini-game has clubbed you to submission and you're off to check Nexus for mods to let you just bash that lock open with one hit.

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EDIT: And as for taking 10 or 20 with this approach, I can always retry opening such locks multiple times (that's certainly a choice). Once I finally get that difficult lock open, I will really feel rewarded at the accomplishment.

Yeah, until you come to the next difficult lock, then the next one, then the one after that, and the one after that. Next thing you know, the mini-game has clubbed you to submission and you're off to check Nexus for mods to let you just bash that lock open with one hit.

Or... I make another smart choice and increase my lock picking skills so that I can open those locks more easily. And I will really appreciate the increased ease with which I can open those locks, because I better understand their difficulty.


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Or... I make another smart choice and increase my lock picking skills so that I can open those locks more easily. And I will really appreciate the increased ease with which I can open those locks, because I better understand their difficulty.

That sounds more rational, IMO. The idea in terms of game-balancing is that, basically, you need a character who is skilled at lock-picking to beat quality locks but, if the margin between his/her skill and the difficulty level is not so wide, the players can fill the margin by spending some money or resources. So, if you build a character with high lock-picking skill, you won't need such resources or even try higher locks with the consumables. Simply, designers shouldn't make unbeatable locks even for such characters. Rather, the question here is, I thinnk, how to maintain system balance while keeping believability.

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