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I'm sure "This is an idea I came up with" has become an automatic eyeroller of a phrase for many people on here, not least the developers themselves. Nevertheless, this is an idea I mentioned in a thread on the Wasteland 2 boards that almost immediately struck me as a good fit for PE, and people seemed to like it a lot over there, so I think it's worth copy-pasting.

 

Probably worth noting that I was here assuming a hard threshold-based system of Speech checks, as in New Vegas. That may or may not be the case for PE, but I think at least some of this is still salient regardless. Oh, and Fallout obviously has a classless skill system and PE doesn't, so.

 

I'm also going to censor some of the curse words, as I'm not yet sure of this forum's policy regarding them.

 

Regarding the skill check debate:

 

I've thought a lot about this, because it's one of those eternal problems with cRPGs that nobody's ever managed to solve for both the people who want hard thresholds and the people who want skill check rolls every single time. Furthermore, I'd argue that neither type of interaction is entirely satisfying even for the proponents of each.

 

Skill thresholds are a clear attempt to make the mechanics behind dialogue checks less obtuse for people without a PnP background, and in this, they succeed. However, in making the mechanics transparent and fixed, they render said mechanics dull as dishwater.

 

If I have 75 Speech in New Vegas, and I talk to somebody and see a [speech 50] dialogue option right there, I know immediately that A) I am going to pass that check, B) that the check's result will always be a positive one for my PC, and C) that I'm not going to regret passing the check in any way later.

 

That system is, I think, a better one for video games specifically, because every player instinctively understands why he or she failed and how to remedy said failure. If someone's never played a PnP game before, they're going to be angry at the game when they arbitrarily miss a check, because all they understand is what's on the screen. If their Speech is 90, and they fail a Speech check, they don't understand it as a roll that went askew, because there's no die rolled in front of them and no DM to argue with. It simply reads as the game deciding to f**k them over. And even if you are a player who, at the least, understands intellectually that dice are your only measure of success, I'd argue that it's still aggravating as hell, because all other video games train you to expect your failures to be your fault. In an action game, when you appear to connect and don't, you blame the game for being cheap and call it bad design.

 

(Sidebar, skip if tl;dr: This is why I'm always preaching the gospel of good visual feedback (and let's face it, most old-school RPGs had crap visual feedback, even if you understood intellectually what was happening); if the die roll is hidden, it might as well be imaginary, and that means the game ends up feeling unfair, even when you know it isn't. That, more than anything, is the barrier to new publisher-funded "old-school cRPGs." You can argue all you like that it doesn't matter, but when everything else on the market is designed to be grokked in a WYSIWYG manner, and the genre we're all fans of works on a principle that is inherently not WYSIWYG-friendly, the fact that publishers want it to be a WYSIWYG thing makes complete sense. My feeling is that they're right about WYSIWYG, but wrong that the only way to achieve WYSIWYG is through real-time action-game mechanics. If you have visuals that clearly communicate success, failure, and why the success or the failure occurred, the player won't feel cheated. It's the lack of same that makes even many PnP players long for real-time or RTwP combat in their cRPGs.)

 

ANYWAY, the threshold system eliminates all of these problems, but it introduces a new and, depending on the player, equally aggravating problem; there's no sense that you've actually overcome a challenge, because there's never any risk involved. You don't have the required points, you don't succeed. You have the required points, you succeed. In New Vegas specifically, you can't even have the chance to succeed taken away from you, because failing the check nets you little more than a goofy "That dog won't hunt, fella!" line from an NPC, and you can retry it whenever you want. This renders diplomacy naturally inferior to combat as a means of conflict resolution, because combat has emergent possibilities and diplomacy doesn't.

 

Some would argue that this is an inherent problem with dialogue trees, and those people are right, to a certain extent. However, Wasteland 2 will presumably have a dialogue tree mechanic, and rightfully so, I say, because most interactions in an RPG work best when handled through a big, diverse dialogue tree. We'll also have a text parser, but I think that's best used for passwords and name-dropping. Most complex interactions should be handled through dialogue trees, just because of the granularity of character definition you get with them.

 

Let's assume for the sake of argument that not one bit of my long-winded analysis above is wrong or even particularly disagreeable. I'm sure the truth on both counts is exactly the opposite, but please grant this lunatic his myriad hypotheses for the moment. :lol:

 

So, how do we confer the advantages of thresholds and the advantages of random skill checks while eliminating or minimizing the disadvantages of each approach? Well, I can't say with any certainty that these solutions are remotely definitive, because I am an armchair designer who is crap at math and middling at logic, but here are a few tentative suggestions:

 

1) Assuming there are hard thresholds, in all instances where a threshold exists, allow us to roll a skill check that has a percentage of success that goes up as we level up in that skill until it hits one hundred percent. Let's use New Vegas' transparent thresholds as an example: when your skill wasn't as high as the threshold you needed to pass, it showed a fraction like this next to the goofy little skill failure line of dialogue:

 

[speech 45/50]

 

That is converted easily enough into a percentage out of one hundred, and that percentage could be used to determine our chance of success. Using the example given, that would mean we would have a ninety percent chance to pass the skill check despite not having the required skill. This is easy to understand, it makes every rank meaningful, and patently ridiculous bulls**t like someone with 100 Speech arbitrarily failing the speech check doesn't happen.

 

2) The result of a successful speech check should always be successful for whoever is speaking, but they don't have to lead to an optimal outcome for everyone involved. For example, say you are attempting to convince a, I dunno, bandit to let the hostage they're holding go. In New Vegas' model, a failed check would mean the hostage would not be released. In my proposed system, even if the check itself is an automatic pass, what if you then have to negotiate the terms of the hostage's release? Just because the bandit agrees to let the hostage go, that doesn't mean that he's not planning to shoot the hostage in the back. This is where something like Spot Lie comes in handy, and also some ingenuity on the part of the player. Negotiations should not begin and end in a single dialogue tree anyway.

 

Having multiple different skill checks in a single negotiation that all have a chance of succeeding makes for a much more intense game without compromising the roleplaying mechanics or player agency, and it requires not one bit of twitch gameplay to work.

 

3) The possibility of extra rewards that SniperHF [a guy on the W2 boards] mentioned could be accounted for by using the PnP mechanics of Nat 20 and Nat 1. To wit, you might automatically pass the hard threshold of success whenever you try convincing someone to lower his gun, but there's still a roll in the background to determine the outcome. So if you roll a natural twenty on that roll, the guy gives you his gun, but if you roll a natural one, the guy's gun accidentally goes off as he's lowering it and hits a party member in the leg. There's no need to make any of this clear to the player who doesn't read the manual, because for all anyone knows, that's what was supposed to happen anyway.

 

4) Hide the non-combat skill thresholds in the game unless the player uses an "Analyze" ability that requires some sort of Perception check, maybe PER + INT. This would be an abstraction of a PC's deductive reasoning abilities ("I don't think he means to let that girl go, fellas. See how his hand's at his side, ready to draw?").

 

5) This one might be somewhat controversial, but I think it could be interesting. I'm not beholden to it, but it could make for an enjoyable mechanic if done correctly. Have to-hit chance work on hidden skill thresholds like the non-combat skill checks. However, those should be capped at a ninety-five to ninety-nine percent success rate, Fallout-style, to allow for the occasional miss. That way, you get the verisimilitude of the occasional missed shot in every encounter, but you aren't missing a f**king rat you've killed thousands of and have long since ceased giving a s**t about, as in Fallout. The threshold percentage could be modifed by distance and maybe degree of cover.

 

There, those are a few ideas for a threshold-based system that I believe addresses a lot of the problems people raise, but confers a lot of the advantages of a threshold-based system. I could, of course, be wrong.

 

Feel free to use or discard any of this as needed, inXile [or, in this case, Obsidian]. Apologies for the tl;dr nature of this post. I didn't mean to witter on forever, but, you know, I never do... :lol:

Now, obviously, this isn't something I think PE should adopt wholesale, but there are some interesting ideas in there that could be adapted to PE's systems. I would never claim it's perfect, but it's a good starting point.

 

What say you, PE forumgoers? I'm open to any reasonable criticisms.

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Yeah, a multivariate check against several possible thresholds would help obscure the influence of a specific social skill. Sure you might succeed, but in the process you may gain a prerequisite mini-quest that will elevate your favor with the faction by the necessary amount. Plus you might have to kick in a variable financial contribution (bribe/gift) of some amount.

Edited by rjshae

"It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats."

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if a high speech related skill (whether that's diplomacy, intimidate, bluff, the more abstract "speech" or something else) would give you extra conversation options, not necessarily better options, and not marked options, then you gain the benefit of extra dialogue options while still allowing the player to role-play his choices. A high speech skill is then no longer an auto-win, now is low skill an automatic loss. Whether persuasion works should not be based on a variable which may change whenever you try it, despite nothing else having changed. I will argue against dice rolling for speech checks, because ultimately that will mean that a large part of your success is based on luck, rather than skill.


Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
---
Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

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This thread again????  Your idea is okay and all in theory but it seems a tab bit overly complex and I am not sure is a good idea.  If conversations need be skill based at all then that is what it should be.  If you have a "speech" of 10 then option X opens up, 20 you also have option Y, and so on.  They should also likely be unmarked or at least not particularly advantageous over the non skill check options in most situations.

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@rjshae:

 

Hmm, interesting.

 

@JFSOCC:

 

Fair point. The attempt is to emulate the variable nature of PnP while allowing for guaranteed successes, but you're correct that simply giving more varied options can also mitigate the "auto-win" feeling.

 

@Karkarov:

 

Someone has posted a similar thread? I'm new here.

 

As to your argument, I understand it, for sure.

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This thread again????  Your idea is okay and all in theory but it seems a tab bit overly complex and I am not sure is a good idea.  If conversations need be skill based at all then that is what it should be.  If you have a "speech" of 10 then option X opens up, 20 you also have option Y, and so on.  They should also likely be unmarked or at least not particularly advantageous over the non skill check options in most situations.

 

Sounds like the PS:T way, in which it works great!
 

Displaying skill values in dialogue lines would be an immersion-breaker.

And a gameplay-breaker, telling the player which line is the "best" one.

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The "best" choice is up to the Player.

Currently playing The Elder Scrolls: Arena and I really like the "Generate" option when creating a character. You are asked an intelligent intricate question (me and a friend analyzed it a little bit) and then you get to pick your answer between 3 choices (A, B, C). 10 Questions. It is all depending on what type of character you want. Likewise, you'd be surprised when you want to make a Mage and you pick a choice you think is Mage and you get Soldier instead.

If I want to make a more intimidating character and there are 3 choices:

[intimidate] "You should get out of the way"
[Appeal] "You should get out of the way"
[Jedi-Mind Trick] "You should get out of the way"

I'll always pick [intimidate], if that's the character I want to make. There is nothing wrong with having obvious choices for obvious characters. Similarly, if I want to [Charm] my way forward that's the choice I will always pick. It'd frustrate me to no end if I try to make an intimidating character and it transforms into something completely different. For TES: Arena I had to create several character before I understood what is a Rogue option and what is a Soldier option, and it makes lots of sense (some of it raises an eyebrow still though). Highly recommend TES: Arena.

EDIT: Dialogue choices are like "Doors" (metaphorically), different paths to different rooms. I still think that a general [speech] Skill should be the base factor, but perhaps a Barbarian investing points in [speech] transforms it into [intimidate] and a Cipher investing points in [speech] transforms it into [Jedi-Mind Trick] or [Read Thoughts]~

Edited by Osvir

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Sounds like the PS:T way, in which it works great!

It does work well.

 

Displaying skill values in dialogue lines would be an immersion-breaker.

And a gameplay-breaker, telling the player which line is the "best" one.

Did you play New Vegas?

 

@Osvir:

 

I agree.

Edited by Ffordesoon

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The "best" choice is up to the Player.

 

[intimidate] "You should get out of the way"

[Appeal] "You should get out of the way"

[Jedi-Mind Trick] "You should get out of the way"

Yeah it is that topic again...

 

We have been over this Osvir, there are better ways to do it such as...

 

Option 1: "I think you want to step to the side of the path."

Option 2: "You had better move out of my way ... now."

Option 3: "Please sir I am merely passing though, could you allow me to pass?"

 

I wonder which one was a Jedi Mind Trick?

 

 

 

@Karkarov:

 

Someone has posted a similar thread? I'm new here.

 

As to your argument, I understand it, for sure.

Eh it's okay, we have a thread around somewhere that literally went like 15+ pages on this one thing. 

Edited by Karkarov
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@Karkarov:

 

Someone has posted a similar thread? I'm new here.

 

As to your argument, I understand it, for sure.

Eh it's okay, we have a thread around somewhere that literally went like 15+ pages on this one thing.

 

 

more like several threads.

Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
---
Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

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If you can't make it concise it's probably not a very good idea. Plus all I see is you're proposing to just bring dice rolls back and proposing a bunch of peripheral ideas that don't actually address the core mechanics of speech checks.

 

You're also making the fallacious assumption that most P:E players are going to be unfamiliar with die rolls and RNG outcomes when that's been the dominant mechanic in video game RPGs for decades, from cRPGs to JRPGs. Fallout 3 blatantly told you your percentage chance of success in a speech check, meaning the mechanics were clearly presented to generations and groups of people who otherwise may not have been aware of the concept.

 

And idea of having to use your Tricorder on every NPC in order to access skillful dialogue options is just stupid extra work. Unless your character is an autism spectrum "new Sherlock Holmes" incapable of reading people's emotions and body language it's a nonsense idea and the sort of wasteful extra step that the old IE games were overpopulated with.

Edited by AGX-17

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@AGX-17:

 

Well, admittedly, I would like to see PE gain traction outside the target market without compromising any of its mechanics. I'm a pretty staunch advocate of growing the RPG market without simplifying the games in the genre, as you may have noticed.

 

You're right that I should have cut the post down a lot, though, as the only idea in that whole thing that's of interest to me in terms of its applicability to PE is the dice-roll mechanic, and chopping most of the extraneous material would've been a good move. The post was very much a first-draft, brainstorming-on-the-fly piece, and those rarely work outside the context of the original discussion which spawned them. I confess it was pure laziness on my part not to simply restate the idea in a more concise fashion. I might rectify that shortly.

 

In my meager defense, I was only able to use my smartphone at the time I posted it, and editing a large piece on a smartphone is a poor choice.

 

Upon further reflection, the mechanic seems like a much better fit for a sequel to or improvement upon the mechanics of New Vegas, not PE. The Torment method works just fine for it, methinks. :)

 

Still, I hope the idea at least provides some food for thought.

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Still, I hope the idea at least provides some food for thought.

*gasp*... What in God's name possessed you to attempt to evoke THOUGHT on a FORUM?!

 

8)


Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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You don't have the required points, you don't succeed. You have the required points, you succeed.

Is combat exciting? Would combat be exciting if, before the fight started, you were told whether you had succeeded or not? Alternatively, would combat be exciting if every combat was decided by a single die roll?

 

Skill thresholds and skill check in dialogue trees are binary and immediate. Binary in that you either fail or succeed with no incremental progress. Immediate in that there is no back-and-forth and no animations or other "action".

 

Good gamemasters make dialogue skill checks an evolving "conversation". The choices you make while talking determine the possible outcomes (good and bad) and you roll to push towards the better outcomes. Dialogue choices might give you a +2 or whatever to your ultimate check but also cut off certain options. I don't think computers can handle that.

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