Monday, March 20, 2017

Non-Fighter Training and More

The following is an answer to Vlad Malkav's three questions in the previous post.  Starting with the training of non-fighter characters.

I'll be addressing the matter from the original starting-age tables in the DMG, back from 1977.  I don't know what other age tables exist or what numbers they give, but I have always felt the original numbers were well designed and rational, for the classes they were supposed to represent, at least as far as humans are concerned.  I treat every races' lifespan as the same as humans, as this makes sense for history in my game. I don't need any elves around talking about their personal friendship with Julius Caesar.

A fighter starts with a minimum age of 16 (15+1d4).  This suggests that there is little mental prowess that is necessary, which fits with our conception of history.  Boys have always entered armies as young as 12; just look at juvenile combatants in Syria, Zaire and Afghanistan right now.  The principle requirement for a medieval-concept fighter is a weapon, some experience in using it and comprehension of the battlefield through observation.  A 16-year-old fighter is believable.

However, the paladin begins 1st level at a minimum of 18 years while a cleric or druid starts at 19.  Again, there is a 4 year window (the paladin is 17+1d4), but the key point here is the 2-year difference between paladin and fighter.  What is that two years spent doing?  What slows the cleric or druid down three years?

The latter seems plain.  They have to learn spells, gain an understanding of either the secular or non-secular world and in general obtain a certain clarity where it comes to their professions.  With the paladin, the question is one of faith.  The paladin needs to become more mature in order to comprehend how the world works (and how the paladin fits in it).  This can't be gained by just more fighting.  We can imagine the paladin becoming a fighter first, but then the character needs to "drop out" of the daily grind of living and acquire insight through prayer, contemplation, study, ordinary labor (to gain perspective and humility) and in all likelihood a great deal of time spent alone.

This can't be bought or taught, except in the most cursory of terms.  The paladin must be the sort of person able to "see" the way clear to being a paladin.  Thus the necessary wisdom and intelligence as well as strength and constitution.  The high charisma is then gained because, through humility and comprehension, the paladin has gained a greater understanding of what people need and what they want to hear.  The paladin is empathic.

When we roll up a character, we're seeing the result of this training, the accumulation of the stats that we're setting down.  The matter is settled at the beginning of the game.  We roll a 17 and slot it in under charisma without a thought for how that charisma is acquired.  It simply is ~ and the tendency is to think it is a natural, born-in-the-womb trait.  Actually, it is an indication that this character spent those extra years profitably.  An ordinary fighter with a 14 charisma, not so much.

So to "train" a paladin would be to make a fighter the way I described in the previous post, then let go.  After a few years (if we sent off a 16-year-old to be a paladin, could take as long as 5 years before the reunion occurred), we'd get the revised fighter back or we'd get a fighter that failed.  It wouldn't be up to us.

Similarly, the cleric or druid would probably interrupt the fighter track before becoming a 1st level fighter (less proficiencies, a THAC0 that upgrades more slowly, very little interest in fighter-based knowledge), just enough to gain the requisite combat abilities for the class, before ditching anything more to spend years either in a seminary or in the wild.  Again, both would be a matter of time, not expense.  The seminary might cost a stipend, but that wouldn't make the time go by faster.  The same follows for the druid, who would likely follow a teacher but the skills gained have little or nothing to do with combat.

The thief also begins at 19 (18+1d4).  The thief's combat abilities are different, less trained and more streetwise in technique.  But we can still assume that a greater thief could train a would-be ordinary person to obtain their first level, like Fagin in Oliver Twist.  The thief track could work almost exactly like the fighter, except that a non-fighter would be the instructor.  Thus I created the sage skill disciplinarianship - about which I've written nothing, until now.  That's because, like the fighter, I had absolutely no idea how it would work until 1:30 AM in the morning last night.

The assassin starts with a minimum age of 21 (20+1d4).  There is no disciplinarianship for assassins because I don't see an assassins' school as a concept.  Murder, or killing as we like to say, is taught in the army; and with my recent change of seeing the assassin as a fighter and not a thief, we need to see the principle combat training/sage ability knowledge for that assassin coming out of the fighter instruction that we've postulated.  However, like the paladin, the assassin is someone who drops out.  Not to become more pious, but more likely because they don't get along with others.  With a higher strength, intelligence and dexterity than ordinary fighters (again, the ability stat prerequisites), they learn more quickly, get bored, leave before they gain their necessary 1,200 experience and begin living a misanthropic lifestyle.  They do mercenary jobs, pick up knowledge from thieves on the streets and gain a natural aptitude for killing more effectively and coldly.  We can argue that the assassin takes less experience to get to second than a fighter does because it takes perhaps 1,700 x.p. for the assassin to gain their 1st level.  I'm don't know for sure.  All of this postulation needs the creation of firm guidelines for what each 100 x.p. gained produces.  I don't need to do that at this time, so it can wait.

The ranger also starts with a minimum age of 21, like the assassin.  The high intelligence, wisdom, strength and constitution all assume this time was spent hardening the ranger to the wilderness.  Less interested in how nature works and more interested in how to survive it, we can presume rangers also manage their fighter training handily before departing from the urban environment for the wilderness, where they are happy as individuals.  There they accumulate another 500 x.p. surviving, getting to know specific environments, acquiring ranger sage abilities (most of which are exactly like a fighter's) until reaching an age where they accumulate the skills, hit points and hardiness to be a first level ranger.

The monk begins at age 22 (21+1d4).  Like the paladin, the monk has meditated.  Unlike the paladin, the combat training is wholly unique and intrinsically different from that as a fighter.  More of the combat training is managed through precision and repetition, so that is must be gained like a cleric learning spells in a seminary.  It can't be gained through casual combat as a non-leveled individual.  It is rigorous and requires total commitment.  The monk begins somewhere in their early teens and doesn't appear at all in the real world until they have become a 1st level.  Therefore, one doesn't encounter a non-level monk anywhere but a dojo or a monastery ~ where, we might suppose, there are many students with partial monk abilities that could be a formidable challenge for even a high level party (a hundred "part-monks," with the skills I've recently proposed, would be strangely dangerous, even if they had few hit points).  Naturally, all the monks in any particular school would be following a specific "path" in the "way" of the school's design.  This school would be full of "claw"-trained monks while that school would all be "tranquility"-trained monks.

This leaves the mage and the illusionist.  The mage's minimum age is 26 (24+2d8).  Because a bell-curve results from the two dice used to determine age, however, only a very few mages would be that young. Most mages would start as 1st levels between 32 to 34.  The illusionist's minimum age is 31 (30+1d6).  A slightly worse average.

This suggests the training to accumulate cantrips and spells is exhaustive and time-consuming.  In a typical campaign, therefore, training an ordinary NPC from scratch to become a mage would be impractical.  Considering the response I received from the post I wrote about jumping time ahead, I don't think this plan will interest most players.  Who wants to wait around for a 15-year-old to enter a magic academy to reach the unlucky age of 40 before hitting 1st level as a mage?

Okay, let's put that down for now.

Part 2

Vlad asks about my civilization technology concept from 2015.  In brief, for those not familiar, this is the idea that more densely populated parts of the world would have a higher tech level than parts less urbanized.  The tech level measure is based on D&D equivalents to the video game Civilization by Sid Meier.

The explanation for why more people would be leveled in a higher tech region is simple: there are more teachers.  A given teacher should be able to teach more than one protege: most of the time training and learning is spent in repetition and practice, meaning that a single teacher is only needed for 10-15% of a student's actual learning window.  One teacher, then, can manage up to 8 students, rotating between them, getting rid of students who require too much time when the full complement is being educated.  A teacher with less students can manage more time for hard-to-teach individuals.

In a dense culture, teachers are everywhere and there are plenty of would-be students.  This enables the creation of mass-production schools that would be impractical in largely rural cultures (where there aren't the teachers and fewer students).  This allows for the greater number of leveled persons, as the experience gained would be fruitful and not lost to an x.p. ceiling, as I proposed in the previous post.

Vlad's second question regarding tech cultures is about where does the experience come from?  I rush to point out that the 30 Years' War post describes a war taking place in the highest tech areas possible for my world.  Virtually everything in the heart of Europe has a tech between 15 and 18.  Remember, the tech is based on population density alone.  All those city states are very densely populated ~ and all of those city states (Ulm, Mulhouse, Pisa, Milan, Augsburg, Florence, Padua, Nuremberg) were rife with war, uprisings, rebellions, religious clashes in the streets and ~ like the modern era ~ excessive crime.  By no means does an educated population indicate a calm, peaceful population.  Given our humanity's propensity for fighting over ideas, an education actually gives us a lot more to fight about.

Therefore, a technology-rich region might shield themselves from harm on the outside, but everyone inside already has all the available tech and are more than willing to use it.  As well, population density tends to fit the agricultural richness of a river valley, so if our country is well off and educated, the chances are the other country across the river will be also.  Finally, we know that greater technology massively increases the potential for devastation and destruction, rather than decreasing it.  The evidence of the 30 Years' War indicates this was as true in the 17th century as it is now.

True, they were using muskets and gunpowder.  But they didn't have magic, and a high tech culture would have much more magic than a low-tech culture.  The paradigm holds.

Thank you again, Vlad, for such good questions.  For the general reader, Vlad lives in that part of the world that was knee-deep in the 30 Years' War.  Without giving the exact location, he's well-acquainted with the city-states of Alsace, those of Wurttemberg and the upper valley of the Rhine.  He's close enough to walk to places that I would give my i-teeth to visit.

Lucky bastard.


Vlad Malkav said...

Hello Alexis !

Thanks for this very thorough answer, couldn't wish for more ^^.

Part 1 : training of non-fighter characters

"All races share human lifespan" goes against some of the tropes of fantasy, but it's so much better if going for a world based on our history ... We can hardly imagine how a (very) long lifespan would affect our mental views, how that would in turn affect the world, and it's only cascading fromt here.

The idea that the starting ability scores of a 1st level character are coming from their "base" prior to training, and from said class training, is not new here - but it needs repetition, because it's a great one.

I very much like that the starting age not only represent "formal training", but also the "personal time" needed to attain the "mental state / prowess" necessary (which, by essence, cannot be bought).

A number of classes seems trained as "start training as a Fighter, then live your life like X or Y for needed time" - which is quite nice because it feels right, natural. Of course, you'd need a strong, robust framework on what the XP progression from uneleveled to leveled give. There was some ideas in the comments of the previous post, looks promising.

Questions :
* If 1st level ability scores are partly from training, shouldn't there be scores ranges "before" / "after" training, and unleveled NPCs be on the "before" track ?

* If someone unleveled want to receive training, how do we know the "Training Duration" ? Is there a "Minimum Training Age" for class-training, that we could remove from each class' starting age to get the class "Training Duration" ? For example, if we take 12 years old as the base, then a Fighter need 3+1d4 years of training, a Paladin 5+1d4, etc.

* Can "mental prowess" be gained out-of-training, so that maybe an unleveled 15+ years old training to become a fighter won't have to wait for 3+1d4 years (following our previous example) but only 1d4 years, and an unleveled 17+ years old with sufficient stats could become a Paladin in, for example, 1d4 years ?

* Note : Seeing what you said about the monk (starting at early teens) and mage (15 yo enter a magic academy), I think that "Minimum Training Age", "Training Duration" and life-experience reduction (reducing training duration for older persons) do probably vary for each class.

* You mentioned that Paladins are "Drop outs" - but would there be a way for a full-fledged 1st-level Fighter (by way of no other choice), with Paladin ability scores, to retire from the world and follow Paladin training to become a 1st level Paladin (with or without XP wipe) ? I understand it's not something a PC would do, but I can see NPCs wanting it - and PCs wanting their followers to, maybe. I won't touch the subject of becoming non-fighting classes for now, but that's something to keep in mind there.

* For what I saw, you seems to only allow multiclass at level 1 (although I sense a framework could be made from your rules allowing for later level access), but I'm also wondering about the case of a classed character wanting to gain a level in another class - like a retired Fighter, now wiser, wanting to become a Cleric and help those in need in other ways. Would it be possible ? Would he gain any ability score increase ? I'd guess not, seeing as the "first training" is something that is vastly more formative than the subsequent ones.

* How does a Mage / Illusionist gain the precious Experience Points needed to go to Level 1 ? Which of their mandatory training activities is hurtful enough to give them XP ? I know they must be combat-trained (all classes are, nay ?), and have 1 weapon proficiency, and they have a hit-dice, so they have a minimal combat-readiness, but I have trouble seeing them gaining meaningful XP before level 1.

Vlad Malkav said...

Part 2 : Civilization Tech

Notes :
* More people => Higher Tech => More teachers and students => More leveled people, got it.
* I had the 30 Years' War in mind when writing my question - I know that in such a situation, XP is plentiful. In fact, in any situation of conflict and physical suffering (which are numerous), there is XP - possibly massively more so.
* My questions was to assure myself that there is no way for XP to appear from nowhere, so that an ideal "no conflict" nation would not have anyone with XP / class level - and I think what you said support that, but also wisely point out that More Tech in no way provoke Less Conflict (just, maybe, better shielding of the general population, that'd then stay unleveled, but also making the ones making the shielding assuredly leveled).
* Yes, the paradigm holds very well !

Last question, linking to Part 1 : Is the Class Training in High Tech areas comprised of "controlled" fighting / danger / hurt, like harsh sessions (your damage-for-wilderness could be a base here), mock combat that still hit, and other strenuous things ? Inflicting harm on one's students and trainees is surely a trope that we see often, after all.


Conclusion :
* Note that my previous questions have been spurned by the quality of your blog and your work - and the level of expectations one can have towards your answers (like this one :) ). So, shared thanks.
* It was a damn good read, and a treasure trove of inspiration ! So, more and more questions from me ... Feels free to cut short those that don't lead to anything in your world.
* Very sorry for the size and lack of formatting of my answer ...
* Lucky bastard I am, I can look at History with my bare eyes ^^ . I went to the Ch√Ęteau du Haut-Koenigsbourg / High-Koenigsbourg Castle ( ) last year for the first time, and it was a marvel of discovery - and the sight from the highest towers, overlooking the valley of the Rhine and seeing the Black Forest on the other side, it really was moving ...
* Damn you, you rekindled my desire to make an historical game set in the 30 years war !!! One day I will ...

Alexis Smolensk said...

I don't know if I dare answer, Vlad. I returned three questions and you come back at me with seven more. It is like fighting the Lernean Hydra.

Okay, but quickly.

1) Score ranges before gaining levels should be based on an unmodified 3d6 roll. Then, increases can be minimum: 1-3 points, say, or from a starting 18 strength, three rolls of 20, 30 & 50, added together - and these would be gained only if the character was able to roll a 1 in 12 or a 1 in 20 chance, once per 100 x.p. gained. In other words, a good chance of not gaining any ability at all.

Thus a starting 16 could conceivably add 1, then 1 again, then a d20, ending with a strength of 18/05 +1 to hit, +3 damage. [I swear, I just put up a list of strengths from AD&D, on a blog or the wiki, but I can't find it]

2) I think the system could tolerate an existing leveled person deciding to kick in the years and becoming something more. I can see this happening in game, with classes needing only 2-5 years. But that's my way of thinking. There would be a minimum training age, since before a given age your stats would have to be less than 3d6. I once had a system for stat generation for children year by year. I could resurrect that, then argue that once you accumulated the minimum stat requirement to start training, you could start training. It would mean a second set of stat minimums: one before training and then the one we know.

3) I would be absolutely against gaining ANY stat in a manner other than maturity from non-class to class or from age/race.


Alexis Smolensk said...

4) I think that any character with the minimum for another character class could rush off and go be another class. But they'd have to spend the time [I started to answer question 4 when I was still on question 2].

5) I have long considered rules for becoming multi-classed at a different level; but with penalties based on your present level's x.p.

For example, at present, if you want to be a fighter-mage, you have to gain 4,501 x.p. to become a 2nd level character (I don't split x.p. between the classes, I lump the classes together and produce a new threshold to get across).

If you were a 7th level fighter with 81,000 x.p. and you had the minimums, you could accumulate for a few years and be a 7th level fighter/1st level thief. But you'd have to add the 2nd thief level to the total amount needed for the next fighter level: so that you would become an 8th level fighter/2nd level thief at 126,251 x.p.

You can reduce the fighter to thief ratio by as much as 1:4 (I don't allow a greater ratio). This would mean that you'd go up 4 levels of thief for every 1 level of fighter. If you started at 1st, you'd need 1,751 to go up to 2nd level thief, and then you'd get 1/4th of the fighter skills. You'd need 3,501 to be a 3rd level thief, getting you another 1/4th of the fighter skills. Eventually, at 12,001 x.p., you'd be a 5th level thief/2nd level fighter.

In the example above with the 7th level fighter, you need 44,000 x.p. to be an 8th level fighter. So we could argue that you might split that by four, add the thief and say you'd be a 7th level fighter/2nd level thief by 11,000 + 1,251 + 81,000 = 93,251 x.p. BUT ~

That leaves room for some clever fellow to decide to become the multi-classed thief just as they're a tiny bit away from the next level of fighter, so I think I'd have to jury rig it so that becoming a multi-classed would automatically reduce your experience to the minimum for the original level and class. Therefore, before you started as a thief your x.p. would be dropped to 70,001, so there couldn't be any playing with the numbers.

A discouragement? Damn straight. If you want something like this, you better really want it.


Alexis Smolensk said...

6) The mage/illusionist may need no x.p. to gain the level. That's the fighter track. The mage/illusionist could be entirely about time and passing tests, making their intelligence and wisdom checks, perhaps avoiding getting themselves burnt up in the laboratory or frying themselves with their own spells.

Or we could give them a little bit of combat training, which gives that one weapon proficiency they start with, then argue they get a few hundred experience in the process of properly throwing spells and causing damage to targets. Getting hurt themselves through spell use could be the critical factor, particularly if we argue that "everyone" hurts themselves. [what's the line? "Everyone falls the first time"?]

7) No. Actual damage has to result. Either no x.p. is necessary to levelling in that particular class or some x.p. is somehow gained through fucking up (which is basically what getting hit in a combat is).

First rule in game design: Don't change any previous rules. Unless absolutely necessary.

Vlad Malkav said...

Hello Alexis !

Apologies for the Question Hydra, it will sleep for now. And thank you for having taken the time to answer me nonetheless.

* "I once had a system for stat generation for children year by year" . Funny, I did the same, and I also added class-training to it, but it never occured to me that I could use it to get a minimal training age - then again, I play 3.5 so no stat requirement. But maybe I should ... By the way, did you post the system somewhere ?
* Having 2 sets of stat minimums, one before training and one after, is a definitely great idea.
* Your rules on multiclassing are definitely more punishing than those of later versions, but they fit well in the paradigm used for your world, make sense, and allow for some customization. All is good.
* "The mage/illusionist may need no x.p. to gain the level. That's the fighter track." : maybe each class need a certain amount of x.P for 1st level, based on the amount of "fighter" in it, the rest being time trained in the specifics of the class (gaining the mindset necessary to continue gaining meaningful x.p for the rest of their lives). Thus, the Fighter is the "base" class, needing almost no special training except fighting (seems logical). I like that one. And mages/illusionists don't need to hurt themselves.
* "Actual damage has to result" : some fighting schools must be very painful and dangerous - but your x.p framework is robust enough for natively support it !

I won't dig deeper into the whole "class training" thing, be it from unleveled to leveled, of once leveled. Suffice to say that you provided more than enough data, very good insight, and I could get a nice working framework out of that !

Alexis Smolensk said...

Children system: Noodling with Stats way back in 2008/.