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Skill systems and blorb

The basic BRP/GURPS/Fudge abilities+skills+advantages engine is what I grew up with but that I really soured on over the years, because it uses the same mechanic for things that really should be different.

Talking, interacting, looking at things, opening chests, exploring, resource management and logistics… that shouldn’t be skill roll based.

Dice can be involved but the dice should be on the side of the “world” not the char—i.e. “OK, that’s gonna take half an hour”→which has impact on random encounters etc.

Jens writes in to say:

I get that point, but I also disagree somewhat.

It’s the same logic as D&D’s combat rolls: it’s not that you swing wild on a missed roll, it’s that your thrust and parry with the opponent didn’t land a solid enough blow to matter (unlike GURPS attacks).

Similarly, the skill in searching a chest isn’t that someone can’t do it, it’s that they may not find something that’s there.

But yes, GURPS is inconsistent here - like most systems.

I just think a bit of skill is realistic here.

[… It is] really a question of the guiding dimension you’re currently on.

Ok, so assume games are multidimensional things. In order to keep any kind of order to the actions of the players, you have to pick a dimension that is guiding all the others. In combat, that is usually time.

Varying movement speeds between characters is another way of saying that the space dimension is subordinate to time.

That is, you don’t change the time intervals (rounds), but you adjust how far a character can move in that fixed time slot. Same with the limit on actions.

Because combat needs to be tightly synchronised, that’s a good choice here.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s a good choice when synchronisation is not so necessary. As you say, searching is going to be successful eventually, so really you should determine how long it takes.

So if the “is there something in the chest”–roll is on the world side, I can use the three tiers of truth.

If it’s on the char side it’s always gonna be random. The world becomes random and ultimately decisions are gonna matter less.

So you’re right that you can sometimes move things across dimensions—I do this when running Cthulhu Dark, where skill rolls and encounter checks are combined—but there’s not always 1:1 isomorphism when doing so and there can be advantages to deliberately selecting a side/dimension on which to place a particular mechanic.

GURPSes ability focus basically never loses that time dimension as being guiding, which translates into degrees of success rather than amount of time as a result. It’s perfectly appropriate for in-combat searches!

Other systems are more explicit in saying rolls are only necessary in tense situations, which is another way of saying that events need to be synchronised at the moment.

I think it would be more meaningful to have a degree of outcome and apply it either to degrees of success when time is a fixed amount, or degree of time spent when time constraints are more fluid.

But that doesn’t really change anything about the abilities being the basis of the roll.

I do use a time-based data-structure for searching, the ten minute exploration turn from older editions of D&D (including B/X):

But which of the walls is trapped, or which of the chests hold the key, or w/e is determined world-side not char-side.

Clinton’s classic experiment “Donjon” shows what happens when the world is all generated from char-side stats. Basically it’s a return to the old no-myth vs blorb discussions on Forge and S-G—char-side originated world-building makes a precommitted explorable world more difficult to prep and execute; the benefit is that you need less prep because so much of the world building is generated by the characters.

For example D&D 4e or PF2e (if you aren’t using the bounded accuracy mod in the Gamemastery Guide) where you can improvise a heist or whatever because, since the world scales so strictly with the characters that the opposition is essentially given. You meet a barkeep or a goblin or a minotaur or whatever? Gonna be matched to your level. That’s an example of char-side originated world building right there. Quite unblorby. In #blorb, the world and its entities are first class data-structures.

What I mean when I say GURPSish is that often enough I prefer abilities as the pivot. That’s all.

Right♥︎, but that’s the one thing I like the least about GURPS. I find that the abilities become a lens, an interface in which the players interact with the world. I wanna search, I hit the “Search items” button, I wanna fight, I hit the “Shortsword” button, I wanna talk, I hit the “Fast-talk” button. I don’t want that.

I want a much more freeform and item-driven approach. Similar to what Knave later explored.

And no, you’re right, not everything is char side - I may have misunderstood what precisely you were bothered with. Your three tiers of truth are a very good point for where to strike that balance.

Yes, this “lens” is what is sometimes called verbs, though that might come too much from computer game design. Verbs are the basic actions you have available for interacting with the world.

They’re (almost) always there. Something like GURPS makes them very explicit.

Yeah, verbs. IF for the win—where’d’ya think I snarfed the word “blorb” from? Fun fun fun.♥︎

But I don’t want the verb-driven interface. I want a way more freeform interface. Here, you have these items, you have this situation. Say what you want to do. I’m not a digital parser, there’s not gonna be a “Verb not found”, I’m a human, I can listen (and translate it to rules).

I want to make systems that makes you to focus on the weight of the sword in your hand, which rooms to explore, whom to save and whom to fight. When you interrogate a prisoner, what do you say exactly? When you try to disarm a trap, what do you do exactly?

See also