Here’s a quick example of putting the ideas in Game design musing: Pricing breadth in skills to work:
GURPS’ Wildcard skills (BS 175) allow purchase of multiple skills for the price of three; Talents (BS 89) allow a bonus to many skills (plus other minor benefits) for a fraction of the eventual cost of full levels in those skills. Both share fuzziness in common: There’s no stated limit on on how many skills a Wildcard skill covers (so why stop at 10 if the GM will allow 20?), and you can freely choose the number of skills a Talent covers, within the limits of its group size (gee, should I take one skill or six for the same 5-point cost of a small group?).
There’s no big problem in all that, but what if you wanted more varied costs to reflect the number of skills covered? The “Zeno’s method” suggestion in those breadth rules offer a solution:
Smooth pricing for Talents
A Talent costs 5 points (per +1) for 1 to 6 skills, jumps to 10 points for 7 to 12, and maxes out at 15 points for 13 or more. Obviously, the lower numbers of each range (like 7 skills) aren’t nearly as cost-effective as the higher numbers (like 12 skills). How could we set a cost that rises gradually from 6 skills to 7 skills to 8 skills and so on?
Assume you want to set 15 points as the maximum point cost for any number of skills included in the Talent. The question becomes: For any number of skills n, what is the multiple of the base cost (which is 1 point; we’re asking how many individual points the combination will cost) for that n, when the maximum cost is 15?
Input “15” into cell A2 of the spreadsheet, “1” into C3 (see article for the workings behind that). The results, rounding costs up:
cost |
# skills |
1 |
1 |
2 |
2 |
3 |
3 |
4 |
4 |
5 |
5 |
6 |
6-7 |
7 |
8-9 |
8 |
10-11 |
9 |
12-13 |
10 |
14-15 |
11 |
16-19 |
12 |
20-23 |
13 |
24-29 |
14 |
30-39 |
15 |
40-infinite |
So. A Talent covering 6 or 7 skills costs 6 points; 8 or 9 skills costs 7 points; 24 to 29 skills costs 13 points; 30 to 39 skills costs 14 points; and 40 or more skills costs 15 points.
A couple of things stand out. One: We’re handing out more skills for 10 points than GURPS does. Two: For 15 points, you get 40 to infinite skills! Actually, GURPS allows that too – it places no max number on skills other than GM fiat, and gives you 13 to infinite skills for those points. Still, one wishes for at least the suggestion of a logical limit.
Try this: Set costs to max out at 20, not 15. Bear with me a moment and look at the results:
cost |
# skills |
1 |
1 |
2 |
2 |
3 |
3 |
4 |
4 |
5 |
5 |
6 |
6 |
7 |
7-8 |
8 |
9 |
9 |
10-11 |
10 |
12-13 |
11 |
14-15 |
12 |
16-17 |
13 |
18-20 |
14 |
21-23 |
15 |
24-27 |
16 |
28-31 |
17 |
32-36 |
18 |
37-44 |
19 |
45-58 |
20 |
59-infinite |
Let’s see what we have here. A Medium-sized talent in GURPS allows up to 12 skills for 10 points. Here, too, those 12 skills cost 10 points. The cost keeps rising with more skills, reaching 14 points for up to 23 skills, and 15 points for up to 27.
What about the oddity of even bigger numbers, up to infinite skills? No problem: though the table was built on a max cost of 20 points, you don’t have to allow that expenditure. Just set maximum expenditure to 15 points, and you’ve created a new limit of 27 skills in a Talent.
Want to reduce that skill cap even more? Redo the table using a max cost of 25, and (as you’ll see if you change cell A2 on the spreadsheet) you limit the max expenditure of 15 points to buying 22 skills. Use a max cost of 40, and 15 points will buy only 18 skills. Experiment as you like; results are quite flexible.
Finally, what about numbers on the low end? Either of the above two tables says you get 5 skills for 5 points. That’s right in line with GURPS – but what’s up with 4 skills for 4 points, or 2 skills for 2 points? Isn’t that a point crock?
No – no more than Talents themselves are. Using our calculated method, it’s unavoidable – and sensible – that if 5 skills costs 5 points, 2 skills will cost 2 points. (Or thereabout; remember, we’re rounding.) But if that seems “wrong” for Talents, the solution couldn’t be simpler: Just as we set 15 points as the maximum Talent expenditure above, we can set 5 points as the minimum.
The end result: GURPS-like costs of between 5 and 15 points per level of Talent, but with costs in between those bookends that rise smoothly with number of skills covered. There you go, should you want it.
Smooth pricing for Wildcard skills
Wildcard skills don’t actually offer room for smooth pricing. What are the choices? If the price of one skill (logically) buys you one skill, and three times that single price buys you a big bunch of skills (per the rules), all that’s left to ask is how many skills you could buy for two times the single price. (Kind of a “Wildcard junior” option.)
Well, it’s not much of a question, but let’s ask.
First, what are we working with? Our base cost will be one again – though in this case, it’s not 1 point, it’s 1 multiple of the cost of a Very Hard skill. Different unit, but workable.
The maximum multiple, set by GURPS, is 3. Putting those numbers into the spreadsheet, we get…
1 skill for the cost of 1, 2 skills for the cost of 2, and 3 or more skills for the cost of 3. Bleah. Not too interesting.
The problem is poor use of the tool; there’s no space for cost to gradually expand over a large number of terms. Let’s try again, multiplying that max multiple in order to spread things out, and then divide final costs by the same amount. I’ll use a multiple of 4, meaning “12” goes into cell A2:
cost |
# skills |
1 |
1 |
2 |
2 |
3 |
3 |
4 |
4 |
5 |
5-6 |
6 |
7 |
7 |
8-10 |
8 |
9-12 |
9 |
13-15 |
10 |
16-20 |
11 |
21-28 |
12 |
29-infinite |
Very well. Now divide those costs by 4 and round them up. The result:
cost |
# skills |
1 |
1-4 |
2 |
5-12 |
3 |
13-infinite |
There you go: If your Wildcard skill covers 13 or more skills (and many do, when optional specializations, per-weapon skills, and so on are considered), it’ll cost 3x the cost of one Very Hard skill. But if it covers only 5 to 12 clearly-countable skills, it’ll cost you only 2x the cost of one Very Hard skill.
But what of the result that you can get up to 4 skills for the price of one Very Hard skill? You could of course disallow such a narrow Wildcard skill. Or, you could allow it – perhaps stipulating that all covered skills must be originally Average or Easy. GURPS also suggests Unusual Background, and of course such skills are restricted by the GM in number and content. With those limitations in place, such “Wildcard mini” skills could be interesting.
Wrapping up
None of the above is the least bit necessary. It’s just an exercise in putting the breadth-pricing tool to work on real examples. (Not an exciting example in the Wildcard skill case, true, as just making up something works as well.)
Mostly, the article was an excuse to play with a random thought and avoid actual work today. : / But the exercise is helpful to me as I set about putting the tool to work on some plans of my own; anyone else see interesting uses for it?
5 Comments
Kirbwarrior
For the ‘wildcard mini’ skills, I feel like GURPS already has some examples in things like Expert Skill, Biology & Physics (considering how much it makes sense to take a specialty for realistic reasons), Computer Hacking, Thaumatology (it’s basically the catch all science skill for anything magical and does more), and Throwing Art. A couple of those aren’t even VH!
An alternate take I’ve been considering on talent cost is to assume that 20pts would be equivalent to DX or IQ, then use an exponential curve to get something that ends at that point and starts at 5 for 5. I can never remember how many skills the system has, though, so another day.
tbone
“How many skills the system has”?
I just stop the count at “hundreds”. : )
(See this thread: http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?t=23331 . Hundreds. And if you count spells as skills, I believe the total exceeds a thousand!)
You’re right that a lot of skills have a sort of Wildcard feel. Those Expert skills are particularly wild in that they’re pretty unrestricted; a power gamer could have fun trying to see how much he can stuff into an Expert skill before the GM complains. (I opine elsewhere that an Expert Skills entry in the Power-Ups series would be nice, giving GMs advice on just how broad these should be. Not that “pretty darn broad” is a bad thing; anything that pares down the number of skills needed for a PC is welcome!)
Kirbwarrior
Definitely hundreds. IIRC spells are just over 800, with 300+ DX skills and around 240 IQ skills. Ignoring spells (because there’s so many things I find wrong with that system), we could say that a new talent that covers 200 skills is 20pts, 5 skills is 5pts, and 10 is like 12-15, and work out an equation from there. The problem is I don’t think those numbers are actually right, and more importantly, I don’t want to mess with 100+ long skill lists. I’d rather have nice and niche 5 and 10 point talents (maybe with the smooth costs), wildcard skills, then ‘chunky’ 15pt talents like Talking or Weapon Talent (which, considering that DX – Basic Speed is 15pts, Weapon Talent is technically overpriced).
I absolutely echo the power-ups for Expert skills. Like, the approach I’d want with them is ‘realistic bang skills’ where it covers an array of things that make sense to think of as ‘one’ skill as opposed to wildcard’s array of things that is an entire niche. And, yeah, I don’t really know how ‘wide’ Expert skills should be.
DW
It’s worth noting that the Power Up PDF for Wild Card skills suggests an objective form of pricing, with one Wildcard skill being the equivalent of 12 Average skills. That is, both these options would cost 24 points at attribute level.
The cost system goes something like 1/2 slot for Easy skills, 1 slot for Average skills, 2 slots for Hard skills and 4 slots for Very Hard skills. A full Wildcard would be 12-14 slots. There’s also a suggestion that very similar skills should be treated similarly – e.g., Karate & Judo would be 2 slots each but the other four unarmed skills are pretty redundant so worth no more than 1 or 2 slots.
However, there’s a couple qualifiers. If Skill A defaults to Skill B and both are part of the Wildcard skill, Skill A only counts as an Easy skill. Likewise, half the value if use of the skill is limited. And skills include all specializations at no extra cost. So if you combined Polearm, Spear & Staff in one skill, that would only cost 2 slots since they’re all Average but they all default to each other.
That might help if you’re trying to create a cost effective wildcard skill or a campaign where the only skills are Wildcard skills. It also suggests a way of pricing broader skills – e.g., a skill combining Spear, Staff & Polearm should be a Hard skill and one combining Axe/Mace, Two Handed Axe/Mace and Throwing(Axe/Mace) should also be a Hard skill. Etc.
Of course it gets more complicated if you add specific bonuses like Wildcard points, etc.
tbone
Another good analysis; thanks. I haven’t GMed a game that introduces Wildcard skills, so I only having passing familiarity with how they work (I understand the basic cost, and not much more), and have really only skimmed Power-Ups 7.
Taking a look at that book again now, it’s a surprisingly rich subject, a way to really reinvent GURPS’ skill system for a different type of game.
I think a campaign using all Wildcard skills (as you mention) would be fun to try! Your thoughts on finessing costs should come in handy there.