Monday, April 3, 2017

Fixing the Bard's Ability to Transfer X.P.

Coming back around to the bard.

Some might remember that way back in January, I wrote a proposal that a bard's artwork could work as a transference of experience from the bard to the audience, effectively putting one's soul and experience into that work so that a part of it would then be given - in a firm, practical, game meaningful way - to the person who saw or heard the results of that artwork.

A few days ago I put up a table on my wiki that would try to codify this, to propose how long it would take an artist to make an artwork vs. how effective the artwork would be.  The table looked like this.

Let me start by saying there is a big problem with the table, one that took two days to sink in.  First, however, I'll talk about how it was supposed to work.

The bard starts by stating what degree of artwork they want to make.  We'll say that our bard Henri is an authority-level bard, meaning he is unable to make illustrious work or better but he can make anything up to excellent.  Henri is a painter and he decides he's going to make a fine piece of art that will take him, according to the table, 19 weeks.  It would take less if he were an expert or a sage, but he's an authority so there it is.

Each week, Henri makes a check to see how he is progressing.  Note that the heading says "weeks of success" ~ which means Henri must be successful 19 times to complete his work of art.  It could take him many more weeks to actually finish it, which accounts for going over and starting from scratch, going through blue periods and moments of crisis, struggling with the method and so on.  Each week, Henri throws 2d20, one against his wisdom and one against his intelligence.  If he succeeds against both, he has had a successful week and he can move on.

Finally, when the painting is finished, others who view it gain the benefit of 5-8% of Henri's experience.  We'll say that Henri is 6th level and has 30,000 x.p., and we roll a 5 (poor Henri), so that others gain 1,500 x.p. upon seeing the painting, adjusted according to what level they themselves are.  All of that is covered in the link that started this post.

This is fine, except it's broken from the outset.  We'll start that even 38 weeks of work seems a little short for giving someone ~ even an equal level ~ that much experience.  I messed around with the table in all sorts of way and I can see that's still an issue.

A much bigger issue is the question, why would Henri EVER make anything except creditable works?  It takes less time and the payoff is much, much better that working for a long time on something fine.  Henri can make better than 6 creditable paintings in the time it takes to make a fine one, with more than three times the probable payoff.  So the table's concept is garbage out of the gate.

Finally, there's no adjustment here for the artwork being a fail.  Henri knows if he works all this time on the painting, eventually it will be finished and eventually it will pay out.  So there's no stress here, either.

[there is another issue having to do with the viewer/audience, which some of you will have guessed, but I will discuss that in another post]

Now, there's nothing about the table above that can't be salvaged without dumping the % column, so let's start there:

Let's keep Henri having to choose the level of artwork, only let's have that choice mean something. Let's also keep Henri having to roll under his wisdom and his intelligence for each week, in order to be successful.  But let's skew those rolls in a way that rewards MORE work instead of less.

Suppose that Henri's intelligence is 10 and that his wisdom matches the bard's minimum for my game, 13.  And we'll say, for the heck of it, that Henri decides to create a creditable work.

This means he has to succeed at 3 rolls (2d20 per roll, against the two stats).  That's easy.  But now we're going to say that for the artwork to have any value, one, two or three of those rolls must be a double.

That is, the number on the wisdom check and the number on the intelligence check must match; if they do not match, the artwork progresses towards completion but, in fact, adds nothing, zip, zero to its value.

Once Henri has rolled three times, if there are no doubles, the artwork is finished and can't be continued.  Henri might sell it for some income, but it is worthless for experience transfer.

Let's spend a moment talking about rolling doubles on 2d20.  There are 400 possible combinations in rolling two 20-sided dice, just as there are 36 possible combinations in rolling two 6-sided dice.  With 2d20, there are 20 possible rolls in 400 that will result in a double.  With 2d6, there are 6 possible rolls that will result in a double.  Therefore, there's a 5% chance of rolling doubles with 2d20, just as there is a 16.67% chance of rolling doubles with 2d6.

[Please forgive these comparisons. People are more familiar with the odds on 2d6]

However, for our success to count, the doubles that Henri rolls for making an artwork must also be equal to or less than both his wisdom and his intelligence.  That means there are only 10 possible doubles that enable Henri to give his art value: a mere 1 in 40 chance.  So yes, Henri is going to produce less valuable art than someone with an 18 in both intelligence and wisdom: just as a fighter with an 18 in both strength and constitution is going to do better than one with a 10 strength and a 13 constitution.

But okay, so what?  Roll a double, not, Henri can spend 19 successful weeks making six so-so paintings or he can spend it making one so-so fine painting.  If every double produces the same bonus to the experience he can transfer, what difference does it make?

Ah.  Obviously, we have to look at that bonus.

Henri attempts a credible painting and, lo and behold, he rolls a double in his third week.  Yes!  How much transfer does Henri get?

Well, I have to base this on someone spending 6 years working on the Mona Lisa (Da Vinci painted a lot of similar paintings that never amounted to a thing except to art historians) giving a 20-30% transfer.  That's a masterpiece, 305 successful weeks from a sage, by someone who probably had a 19 in both intelligence and wisdom, so six years and a bit to roll an average of 15.25 doubles.

If we allow each double to generate 2%, that works out.  But I have another idea.  A better idea.

Suppose that for a first double, we offer 0.3-1.8% of the bard's experience available for transfer (3d6 x 0.1).  If Henri rolls a 10, that's 1% of his 30,000 x.p., or 300.  Not bad, since it would take Henri an average of 13 credible paintings to get a single double.

But what if he gets a second double?  Is it 2 x 0.3-1.8%?  No, I don't think so.  A second double on one art work means either it is an ambitious project or the bard really was on fire.  The second double gets a 0.1% bonus!  Yes, I know what the reader is saying: big deal.  But what if every subsequent double gets a similar bonus?

Very well, look at the table on the right.  With each cumulative double to be obtained in a given artwork, the overall average of that particular double increases. At best, a credible work can manage three cumulative doubles before the work is completely done.  This doesn't mean it can't be a pretty amazing work; but the chances of rolling three doubles on 2d20 in a row, all of which are below one's wisdom and intelligence, is pretty low.  Henri has a much, much better chance of getting three (or even two in one work) if he tries for longer and longer works.

And if it is an immense project, something that really will take years (including the destruction of failures or merely the attempts before hitting the mark - like Michaelangelo's multiple attempts at David) has the chance of really mounting up points with a lot of doubles.

Am I making bard transfer artwork incomprehensibly difficult?  Oh, you bet!  I want it to be the Holy Grail, not something a bard character churns out without reflection or suffering.  The mere fact that a bard could waste 20 weeks of their life and game time trying to create a juggling move or forty stanzas of epic poetry, only to fall flat on their face audience-wise, will really make a bard pause before making the effort.

Remember, we want the player bard to have the artist experience.  That includes failure, just as it does for a fighter.  But it also includes the very, very rare piece of incomprehensible genius that causes the world to stop and take notice.  That takes time, it takes suffering . . . and it takes risk.

There's a reason why a lot of artists are prone to suicide.