Saturday, September 28, 2013

All-Out Concentrate - Yes, But With Concerns

Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch mentioned an interesting house rule the other day - the idea of All-Out Concentrate giving a +1 or +4, depending on what skills it is used on.

The whole thread is here:

but the specific posts in question are these two:

So, All-Out Concentrate (and give up your defenses) for the entire series of Concentrate maneuvers you need, and you get a +1 or +4 to your roll.

What is the concern?

Here are mine.

Need to Accumulate Rulings - What I'm concerned about is that effectively ruling some physical/touch/melee type skills get a +4 and others get a +1 is that I'll need to decide which ones those are. For some - Power Blow, Breaking Blow - it's pretty obvious. For others, it's not so clear.

Spells - I'm also concerned that I'm basically saying non-combat spell use is at a +1. After all, why wouldn't you All-Out Concentrate out of combat? So all Seek Earth, Seeker, Lockmaster, Dark Vision, etc. spell uses are at +1. Always - no one ever has any reason not to do it. So I will try this tomorrow if everyone is okay with it, but I'm on the fence - I might just say no, there is no AOC for spells. Or rather, just say AOC works for Will-based actions, not IQ or DX based actions. Seems a little unfair, perhaps, but +1 to all spells out of combat and +1 to spells in combat when nothing can attack you is a big deal. Players cast many spells in my games, and the margin of success or failure is often 1 point, so this is essentially pushing a lot of the iffy spell casts into "Yes, it works" territory.

But for Will-based powers, maybe a +4 (physical, touch stuff) or +1 (stuff that works at range) isn't a bad idea. We'll see. I'll see how everyone reacts to it tomorrow (and how I feel at game time), but I'm persuaded to at least give it a fair shake!


  1. I have divorced magical and divine energy from physical fatigue in my gameworld so if PCs want to cast a spell at +1 they need to spend a magic point or a faith point to do so. Likewise a wizard or cleric can not concentrate more to get a bonus to skill because spernatural energy must be spent to achieve any bonus to skill, reduction of time or whatever. Supernatural energy always has to be spent and replenished.

    But for the other skills the concentrate maneuver is fine.

    1. How the spells are fueled is kind of a tangent, though. I played a whole campaign with spells with their own separate power pool. I played another where you could do solo ceremonial magic, which meant you could trade time, power, and skill off against each other for the effect you wanted.

      I can see the logic in saying you can't do something to gain extra skill without paying extra power, but you can already do that - raise the skill with character points, or buy more Magery. So the idea that you can raise your skill permanently is embedded into the basic rules of the game. Raising it temporarily is almost impossible right now, which is kind of odd. But at the same time, I'm just a bit concerned with what giving an effective +1 to non-combat spell use will mean in play.

    2. Maybe you could say that you can only do the concentrate maneuver when there is a life and death situation like combat. Maybe routine looking for metal or gold spells don't fire up the mind up enough if there is no emergency.

      As far as the way I feel magic works best in DF is if is like a battery and the wizard has to deplete a charge to use it. I like the Threshold mana a lot and it allows a wizard to cast spells but not to cast them endlessly like with fatigue. I say that paut can recharge spent mana points so that is one reason why wizard go delving. But I really would like there to be some rules for spending mana points to increase spell level temporarily and also to make casting faster in emergencies.

  2. Shouldn't Concentrate be an All-Out action in the first place? I'm thinking of the fictional depictions, where people typically close their eyes and scrunch up their faces (and maybe put their fingers to their temples). That doesn't fit well with GURPS's assumption that they can also parry and dodge. So perhaps making it so that a character Concentrating gets no defenses at all would be workable? Or am I missing something important there?

    1. Just that GURPS doesn't assume closed eyes and total concentration. Skills are based on being used under stress, while (potentially) able to defend. This maneuver does assume the closed eyes and scrunched up faces.

      This is generally why GURPS gives skills bonuses in optimal conditions (including "attacking without caring about your defenses) - you get straight rolls in stressful situations like combat, action scenes, etc.

    2. OK, so why not give a penalty (whatever seems fair - perhaps a -1 or -4, depending on the specific action) for a "Quick Concentrate" that allows defenses, while making Concentrate an All-Out action. This would seem to be in line with the Ritual requirement for casting spells, for example, where hand and body movements are combined with vocalizations in order to cast spells - all of that activity would seem to preclude defense!

    3. Because basically I agree with the core idea of GURPS that deprecates penalizing the standard use of a skill. The standard use of spells is in combat.

      What concerns me is giving what is effectively a blanked bonus out of combat. Not all skills benefit from a non-pressure circumstance. But giving all spells a -1 in order to allow this +1 to balance it out is off the table - it's basically giving a blanket malus to a skill that's had unpenalized use until now. So that's out. The question is, is this maneuver in or or?

    4. Given those parameters, I would not allow it at all in my games. The rules as written are perfectly suitable (and this is where I come down on the subject, in the final analysis). The automatic benefit to non-combat use of All-Out Concentrate makes it too much of a benefit, since the majority of spell use, in my opinion (and not necessarily what is done at the table, but among all spell-users in a given typical game world - this is meaningful because it affects the verisimilitude of the interaction of rules and game world, which is a whole other discussion - consider the discussions regarding the effects of spell use on economics in GURPS Fantasy), is non-combat. That is, I think that the standard use of spells is non-combat, despite what might happen at the table*, just as the non-combat use of almost all other skills is the standard use, but I can be flexible on it.

      However, if one assumes that the All-Out Concentrate is the default (both in combat and in non-combat situations), but that a Quick Concentrate would allow defense (similar to a Move and Attack allowing both a movement and an attack action at a penalty) and perhaps other actions, then it would fit. The difference in concept here is making Concentrate a default All-Out maneuver, as opposed to giving a blanket malus to a skill. What I'm saying (in modern gaming terms taken from computer games) is that sometimes you can nerf one thing rather than buffing everything else. The proposal is nerfing the Concentrate maneuver, rather than providing a buffed Super-Concentrate which would be applicable all over the game world.

      Again, though, for myself and my games, I'd just stick with the rules as they stand, and not allow this buffed Concentrate.

      * This is a bit of game design philosophy, of course. Are the characters the center of the world (as opposed to being the center of the game, which they almost certainly are, unless the GM has a "my precious NPC/encounter" attitude or the game is a story-centered one), or is the world something that happens around the characters? Gygaxian Naturalism or Story First (or somewhere on the continuum between these poles)? This assumption can shape design choices (such as the ones being considered here), so it is actually important in this context.

    5. Ah, see, to me, it doesn't reduce the versimilitude of the world. It makes the PCs more exceptional on lower point values. If you assume caster skill X for NPC spell use (20 for master enchanters, say, or 15 for general professional casting), a +1 for AOC drives down the Magery and IQ and skill point investment needed to get there. It makes the casting easier for lesser skilled mages, which means they don't have to be as exceptional to pull it off.

      And yeah, I'm the other way on nerfing something - my concern is, if I add AOC, what does that do to my game? I can't giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other in the -1 to combat use of spells sense. I'd be saying, here is a great way to get a +1, but by the way, everything you've been doing in the game so far is now at -1. Or, put it another way, to make a mage at the power level you expect you need 10 more points for another level of Magery or 20 for another level of IQ. Instead of giving another option for game play, I'm merely pushing up the height on the "must be this tall to ride this ride" sign. That's not something I'm willing to do without setting that parameter from day one and getting everyone to agree it's how they want to play the game.

      In any case, AOC didn't break anything on Sunday, and it make Chi powers much more useful (from special case into specially useful, if tiring), so it's likely to stay.

    6. Yeah, that seems fair. It looks like an aesthetic matter in the end. I don't much like the aesthetics of AOC either way (buff or nerf), so I probably wouldn't use it at all. Other people's mileage can vary considerably.


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