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> Dice Pool vs. Actual Skill
Beetle
post Jan 27 2009, 12:39 AM
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I had a "small" issue come up over the weekend regarding a character's dice pool vs. his actual skill level. My players came across a bomb with a timer and a variety of other sensors. They discovered it after they had gathered almost all of the pertinent data they needed from the warehouse. The timer was reading 22:52 and counting down. It was really meant to be a minor distraction and motivate them not to linger around. The team hacker asks me if he can disarm arm it. I say "Possibly, what's your Demolitions skill at?" he replies with "1, but I've got 10 dice to disarm it!" (He has a Logic of 9). I tell him he isn't skilled enough to defuse it, and gets stuck on the whole idea of "I've got 10 dice." To which I reply, just because you're smart enough to recite Pi to 2,000 places, you still have a skill of 1 in Demolitions. You've got enough skill to know holding a lit M-80 is a bad idea and your highschool chemistry teacher showed you that dropping a big piece of potassium into a bucket of water was a bad idea under most circumstances.

Insert more arguing, even after we break open the BBB and I point out Skill 1 = beginner. "You're going up against a very sophisticated piece of tech, you just don't have the skill or understanding to pull it off." I might have allowed him to do it if he spent an edge, but he's burned(permanently) through all of it at this point. None of my other players seem to give it a second thought when I've made similar judgement in the past. Everyone else took to my side of the situation, but the player just wouldn't let it go, even after the Sams decided to drag his characters ass out of the warehouse, citing they had what they came for, no need to visit the morgue to identify his remains if we don't have to.

Am I being a hard-ass or do you think I should have let him roll flat out? Or should I have let him roll and blown him up regardless of the result to a) get the point across that he wasn't skilled enough and b) not to argue on the point when I've made a ruling and everyone else agrees with me but you. I just hate cheese killing characters out of annoyance. But when I've given them plenty of opportunity to run away and fight another day, dropped plenty of hints that this may be a bad idea, sometimes it's really hard to resist.

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Rotbart van Dain...
post Jan 27 2009, 01:07 AM
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If you really want to go there, make 2xSkill cap hits like suggested in the main book - unless Edge is spent.

Otherwise, you simply got the wrong angle:
The character isn't barely trained and smart. He's not very smart, either. He's inhumanly smart. Even with his bare grasp of the fundamentals (even no grasp at all), he most likely would simply wonder: "..and people really need to train for years to do something so trivial?"
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ElFenrir
post Jan 27 2009, 01:14 AM
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Well, Thresholds typically show how hard something is. Now, some optional rules cap the thing at skill x 2, but I'm not a fan of this. I like low skills being perfectly viable.

Technically speaking, take the old master bladesman(6 blades, 2 agility due to age), and the super-fast but still learning guy(7 Agility, 1 Blades.) They have the same number of dice. The old master fights with sheer skill and such(and probably has martial arts maneuvers like parry and disarm at his disposal, which the other guy doesn't,), but the other guy is just so bleeding-lightining fast that the slower guy may have a little trouble handling that...but in sheer SKILL, the top guy has him. Low skills should be viable, otherwise, why even have them? Why even bother letting someone take something under 3, if you won't let them use the skill for anything? Attribute takes half of it; logic 9 might well be bright enough to figure things out.

Look at a mental one-Languages. These are linked to Intuition. The person with an Intuition of 2 but a German of 6 speaks basically fluent german. However, the Intuition 6 German 2 person still can roll the same number of dice. This latter example is explained that the quick-thinking can probably fill in the holes that his knowledge lacks. He might remember little linguistic tricks with the language, etc, and still make himself be understood like this. I mean, it will be pretty apparent the guy isn't fluent, but he can still get around due to his sharp mind.

The Logic 2, Auto Mechanic 6 guy knows that engine inside and out, by the book, but he isn't necessarily the brightest guy in the world otherwise. But he knows his mechanics. Logic 6, Mechanic 2 guy is a novice; but he's a freaking genius that he's able to put two and two together and possibly find his way around the engine.

Just in my games-I'd never tell someone ''you need more than a 1 to do this''. If they want to try it, pop some Edge on the roll or whatnot, they should be able to. If they make it, they got lucky. Even without Edge, they may have gotten lucky. it happens.
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Browncoatone
post Jan 27 2009, 01:16 AM
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Half of being "smart" is knowing what you don't know. Your tactic was all wrong. When he insists that he has 10 dice for the task you reply, "Yes, 1 die for demolitions and 9 dice for logic. Luckily for your character, he's smarter than you are."

If the player persists, make him roll a willpower test. If he fails completely his character is involuntarily frozen due to emotional stress. If he makes a few successes tell him he has a penalty on his agility rolls because of involuntary shaking of his hands.

If he persists further, let him blow up.
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Muspellsheimr
post Jan 27 2009, 01:46 AM
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A character with nine Logic, even with a mere rudamentary understanding of Demolitions, Mechanics, or whatever, would very likely be able to identify what is needed & decide how to apply it.

I am quite intelligent; in Shadowrun terms, probably 4. If I have a basic understanding of something, I can almost always figure out how it works, & alter it successfully. Granted, this usually takes me a bit of time, but it is easilly doable.

In your circumstance, you should have allowed the player to roll as normal, against the normal threshold. However, I do agree that there should be some form of penalty associated with having a low skill. Going over this, I believe I may have a new system for Glitching, which I will post in a new thread now.
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Topper
post Jan 27 2009, 02:39 AM
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The way I've always played it, is that what the GM says, goes. I much prefer allowing the GM some flexible creative control rather than being a rules bitch. It feels way too much like D&D or Magic to be haggling obnoxiously with the GM over something.

You could also just let him roll his 10 dice, and simply set the threshold really high...
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hyzmarca
post Jan 27 2009, 02:43 AM
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99.99% of all bombs are designed to be extremely user friendly, because they're designed to be handled, set, and in some cased removed by people with the bare minimum of training.

If it is a sophisticated piece of technology than he should be able to download the manual from the matrix, and the manual will have explicit instructions detailing how to turn it off, because the people who made the bomb know that it is only a matter of time before some dumbass arms it by accident, possibly while drunk and probably while trying to get laid.

Things become a bit more tricky when dealing with a homemade bomb, though this depends on the sophistication of the bomb maker. Most sophisticated bomb makers use simple and easily disarmed devices, because they don't want to blow themselves up by accident, and because they're going to be handing these weapons off to goatherds with elementary school educations and strong religious beliefs. Simply separate the detonator or fuse from the primary and the primary from the secondary and you're good. When dealing with unsophisticated bombmakers, such as teenagers mixing up pipe bombs in their bathtubs, it is a crapshoot. They're probably using very simple fusing systems that can easily be removed, the classic burning wick being fairly common, but you don't know how stable their explosive is, or even if it is explosive at all. Bathtub chemistry is rarely consistent and has terrible quality control.
But those crazy Macgyver bombs with the red wire and the blue wire and mercury switches and complex circuit boards and stuff like that, they only exist in movies, and in the workshop of really motherfucking insane people. The Unabomber used mercury switches on his devices to thwart disarming attempts. But that's simply because he was insane. It is a small miracle that he didn't blow himself up by accident. Sane bombmakers don't do that sort of stuff because it is just too dangerous.

And then you've got land mines and unexploded ordinance.

UEO can't reliably be disarmed. It was supposed to blow up and it didn't, that means that there is something very wrong with it and the only safe thing to do is blow it up when it is.

Land mines, on the other hand, when dealing with them you need to be able to identify the model with some accuracy. Many landmines can be disarmed fairly easily with a wrench or screwdriver, because there is nothing more annoying than your landmines blowing up while your transporting and laying them. Others, however, are substantially more sensitive and cannot safely be manipulated. When in doubt, just blowing it up is the best solution.

And if you know this very basic innformation, and are smart, you can probably avoid getting yourself blown up and can probably disarm the bomb.


Me, I'd have had him role his demolition skill x2 to identify the model of bomb when he asked if he could disarm it. If h succeeded, I'd let him grab the manual off the matrix and make a disarm attempt. If he failed I'd tell him that he doesn't recognize the model of bomb and thus does not know if disarming it is even possible. And if he tried anyway I'd let him roll all 10 dice.
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Cain
post Jan 27 2009, 03:09 AM
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Sorry, but I have to agree with just about everyone else. He had a dice pool, he deserved a roll. It doesn't matter where that dice pool comes from; it could be an impressive default. If you didn't think he should be able to disarm it, you should have given him a high Threshold instead of disallowing the roll.
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GrinderTheTroll
post Jan 27 2009, 05:27 AM
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@Beetle :
If I've learned anything from being a GM, its that players *love* to roll the dice. Give em a shot, it's not like it was a plot killer or unbalancing (was it?) ... if nothing else, he thinks he can do it again ... then consider this:

His high Logic might tell him that such a device might have a tamper device ... multiple attempts to disarm (glitches aside) might cause "a problem". I'd even argue, with just Logic and little skill, his own speculation might psyche himself out to try such things without more training or tools. Have fun with it! (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)

The ability to think on my feet and deal with my players throwing me a curve ball is why I like being a GM.
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Glyph
post Jan 27 2009, 05:35 AM
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Personally, I think people should pay more attention to dice pools, and less attention to the skill ratings, which are given arbitrary descriptions that don't at all match the results, since there is only a range of 6 points, making the difference between a mere professional and the best in the world a piddling single success, on average. Instead of saying "A skill of 6 is really good", people should be saying "A dice pool of 15 is really good".

But if you don't like that, and want skills to be more meaningful, then take Rotbart's suggestion and cap hits to skill x 2. A clear, quantifiable optional rule from the book is much, much, much better than GM fiat. He sat down to play with a character that he assumed had a decent dice pool to perform a certain task, an assumption based on an understanding of the rules, and you essentially told him, "No, you can't do that, because I said so!" I would be upset myself, if, for example, I had a character with negotiation: 1 and Willpower: 7, and the GM told me "You do what the face says, because you only have negotiation of 1!" instead of letting me roll.
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IceKatze
post Jan 27 2009, 05:39 AM
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hi hi

There are two schools of thought on this subject that I've heard from players. One has already been covered. On the other side of the coin, however, there are cases where events move at the speed of drama times plot and it can really slow the game down and hamper player enjoyment when someone does a bunch of rolling on something they really cant accomplish without a small miracle.
QUOTE
Why did we waste all that time running around and fighting when it didn't make one bit of difference?
- Irate player, when bad guys got away after a particularly one sided fight.

When something that almost certain happens, I usually just say it happens. If the players really want to roleplay the 94.5% chance of failing they're welcome to as long as they don't get upset and accuse me of railroading them anyway. Usually though, people enjoy it more when you tell them straight up the drek that has gone down and let them get to the part where they can be winning again.

Sure, its possible that the player might have just rolled his dice and moved on, but from the sounds of it, he wasn't about to let it go...much to the ire of the rest of the team as well as the GM.
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Warlordtheft
post Jan 27 2009, 05:40 AM
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By raw he should have been able to roll. How he got his attribute that high...diferent matter entirely. I think it is ok to allow the roll. Consider the PC, an extremely bright person, who has the intelligence to get a doctorate in just baout anything. Yes he lacks the knowledge, but he does have the basics. The rest he just figures out on the fly because he is that smart. It is a quirk, but as one person posted the high attribute, low skill person can be just as effective as the person who is high skill, but low in ability.
That being said, a high skill person with a mediocum attribute is better than both.
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Adarael
post Jan 27 2009, 05:50 AM
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I'm with Cain on this one. I'd have given him a roll, because if you start disallowing rolls because of insufficient skill regardless of what the total dicepool is, you start inviting questions like, "Well, why did Blowback get to shoot at that guy? It was a difficult shot, and he only has pistols of 1,but his dicepool is 11." Or what about someone just 'failing' at negotiation because they have a negotiation of 1, but Charisma 8, Improved Phermones, and a software suite aiding them?

The pool is the ultimate arbitrator of success or failure, because the pool is what determines the number of successes you get. If you want to suggest they need more demolitions, set the threshold higher. Don't just tell them they can't roll. Someone with Demolitions 1 and Logic 9 is a genius with little training. As a genius, they will be able to make highly educated guesses about how the bomb is put together, regardless of knowing the subject matter, because they're smart enough to infer from what they do know.
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pbangarth
post Jan 27 2009, 07:28 AM
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In both this thread and the "I'm Confused About Stats" thread it has been suggested that the dicepool is a better indicator of the ability of the character than the Skill rating by itself. Particularly telling is the point that the difference between a Skill rating of 1 and a Skill rating of 6 is basically one hit, whatever the descriptions in SR4 may suggest. Not much difference.

In my work as an archaeologist, I have met and benefited from the expertise of examples of both extremes discussed here: the kid with high natural ability but little practical experience, and the old amateur who has spent a lifetime building up a corpus of knowledge through love of the subject more than through talent. I was glad for both of them.

As should any party in Shadowrun be for their equivalent. The reality of the game is that dicepools range from nil to 30, 40 and more. That's a range that can accomodate the continuum from 'rookie loser' to 'best of the best' and have the range of hits to prove it.

So I think the player's dicepool should have been respected. He should have had the chance to garner a tiny bit of glory, or blow himself and his party up.

And I think the player sounds like a pain for arguing so long with the GM. The GM was told in this thread that the roll really didn't matter, and so he should have let it happen. But the player should have caught on to the same point during play. And he should have acceded to the GM's desire to keep the pace up.

Let the game flow, and argue over beers afterwards.
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Fuchs
post Jan 27 2009, 08:18 AM
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I think the issue is not so much the actual test, but the importance (or lack thereof) of skills in game. From a min-max perspective, rasing skills is, past the "need rating 1 to avoid the default penalty", often very inefficient unless one is going to hard max something. Raising attributes and getting modifiers through gear is where your karma and BP is spent best. If that's a good or bad thing depends on personal preference, in my opinion.
If you want to make skill matter more, you could house rule that you can only add as many dice to a test as you have rating in the skill. Stats would still matter a lot (representing talent), and gear would still help a lot in adverse conditions, where you also get negative modifiers, but the skilled character would have an advantage. Of course, it'll also mean that adepts will be even better, relatively, at almost everything, but I think no one can deny that SR4 is very magic-centric.
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Glyph
post Jan 27 2009, 09:01 AM
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There are so many dice pool modifiers that I consider it part of the theme - sure, skill and natural ability are important, but technology or magic can make someone with minimal skill and ability the equivalent of an expert, or make that expert absolutely superhuman.

At least, I hope it's intentional, because otherwise, it's damn poor design. Combat skills get muscle toner, improved ability, reflex recorders, smartlinks, weapon foci... don't even get me started on social skills. It's all of the modifiers that lead to the real dice pool inflation.
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Beetle
post Jan 27 2009, 09:23 AM
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I understand everything being said, I truly do. I didn't word the entry correctly and include the important details like the detonators for the bomb. I'll own up to that as my fault. My group and I have dinner together every monday and we talked about the entire situation, and I included some of the input from you guys.

So here's the crap I left out
I had designed the bomb to raise the warehouse to the ground, and utterly destroying everything inside. Using the IED table from page 95 of Arsenal. (Bomb, blast 1/2m, ap -4) It was also equipped with a Timer detonator, a pull detonator(rigged to the front panel if he decided to pull it off and open it up if you must know) and a r6 anti-removal device on each detonator.

QUOTE
From Arsenal pg87 "The character removing the detonator rolls Agility + Demolitions in an Opposed Test against the antiremoval device’s rating x 2; the Build/Repair modifi ers from p. 125, SR4, apply to the character’s roll. If the character rolls more hits, the detonator is safely removed from the charge; but if the anti-removal device scores more hits or the character rolls a critical glitch, the charge is immediately set off . In case of a tie, the charge does not explode but the detonator is not removed, either.


His Agility + Demolitions pool is only 4. If I added in the fact that he did not have a demolitions tool kit, a -4 modifier it completely reduces his pool completely (should note it says if the tools are unavailable a die modifier of -4 applies or it's not allowed at all). He didn't even have a screwdriver on him, per the Build/Repair table is enough to deny him flat out by RAW regardless of skill or dice pool. In hindsight I probably should have included tools in my whole "You lack the skill to defuse the bomb." I blame the breakdown entirely on myself from the proper die pool screw up to how I handled the situation. Something was just screaming in the back of my head that mechanics wise he shouldn't be able to do it and I cited the wrong reasons. Probably wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't 3am, but nothing we can do about that now.

I explained my reasoning to him and the group. We had a laugh at my expense, but after a crunch session with the books we sat around wondering, well how the fuck do we actually defuse a bomb or a booby trap? There's really only rules for removing of the anti-tamper device, which will make the thing explode if you don't beat it in an opposed test.
The problem is that though we have a million and one rules for calculating charges, setting and detonating explosives, but finding rules to defuse the explosives are a bit difficult to find. Actually, we couldn't figure anything out except for the anti-removal device rules for detonators.

But once we all looked at the anti-removal device rules again, everyone agreed that by not letting him make the test, I saved the whole lot of them from having to make new characters since little Tommy Hacker would have been reduced a dice pool of zero. It's a little water under the bridge now. I appreciate the input from all of you though and would still love to be clued in on how we're supposed to properly defuse explosives.


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Beetle
post Jan 27 2009, 09:31 AM
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QUOTE (pbangarth @ Jan 27 2009, 02:28 AM) *
And I think the player sounds like a pain for arguing so long with the GM. The GM was told in this thread that the roll really didn't matter, and so he should have let it happen. But the player should have caught on to the same point during play. And he should have acceded to the GM's desire to keep the pace up.

Let the game flow, and argue over beers afterwards.

Besides the variety of screw ups on both our parts for the ordeal *see previous post* I'm just as much to blame for the back and forth crap. I think what made it worse in my mind is this player had up til then never argued with me on any call in any game system I've run with them. I think I must have had some imperative that he must see things my way. The issue has been squashed at this point and we had a good laugh over things after a cram session in front of the rule books.
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Rotbart van Dain...
post Jan 27 2009, 11:28 AM
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QUOTE (Beetle @ Jan 27 2009, 10:23 AM) *
His Agility + Demolitions pool is only 4. If I added in the fact that he did not have a demolitions tool kit, a -4 modifier it completely reduces his pool completely (should note it says if the tools are unavailable a die modifier of -4 applies or it's not allowed at all). He didn't even have a screwdriver on him, per the Build/Repair table is enough to deny him flat out by RAW regardless of skill or dice pool.

Then, obviously, Bettle, you have a communication problem.
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Earthwalker
post Jan 27 2009, 01:19 PM
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I am not inclinded to say a direct no to players when they ask to try something.

in this example I would tell the guy that yes he can have a go. I would also tell him that it was a very difficult task and he hadn't the proper tools and that gave him a -4 dice pool modifier.

If he insisted on trying I would let him roll first to examine the bomb and with a simple success tell him he will need to roll.

Agi + demo to open the bomb

then

Log + demo to disarm the bomb.

I would warn him a glitch will set off the bomb and see what he wanted to do. If he wanted to roll 4 - 4 dice I would give him 1 die and see what he wanted to do.

Seems like he would quit as soon the test got to Agi.
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Cain
post Jan 27 2009, 02:54 PM
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QUOTE
His Agility + Demolitions pool is only 4. If I added in the fact that he did not have a demolitions tool kit, a -4 modifier it completely reduces his pool completely (should note it says if the tools are unavailable a die modifier of -4 applies or it's not allowed at all). He didn't even have a screwdriver on him, per the Build/Repair table is enough to deny him flat out by RAW regardless of skill or dice pool. In hindsight I probably should have included tools in my whole "You lack the skill to defuse the bomb." I blame the breakdown entirely on myself from the proper die pool screw up to how I handled the situation. Something was just screaming in the back of my head that mechanics wise he shouldn't be able to do it and I cited the wrong reasons. Probably wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't 3am, but nothing we can do about that now.

I have to agree with Earthwalker. The guy's whole argument was that he had a huge dicepool due to his Logic score. Once things went to Quickness, he'd probably have backed off on his own.

As far as it goes, though, I'd have allowed him the test even if he only had one die left, regardless of what his skill was. With one die, he stood a huge chance of blowing himself up; and I'm a firm believer in natural consequences. The other players should have run for it, for the same reason. This could have been the big, tension-filled, Longshot roll of the game. It might have been the fun roll that everyone would talk about for weeks afterward. I hate to spoil moments like that with a flat: "You can't".

Generally, I go with the thought that you don't say "No", you say yes or let them roll.
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InfinityzeN
post Jan 27 2009, 03:36 PM
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I would have let him long shot roll it and possibly kill everyone. Of course, knowing some groups, he would have been shot in the back of the head before he reached the bomb if the rest of the players were in the warehouse next to this *HUGE HONKING IED*.
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Aiolos Turin
post Jan 28 2009, 02:01 AM
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As an alternative, you could always (and I mean always as being Lucky is irrelevant to it being a complex bomb or a simple aim and shoot) in such circumstances put a cap on his logic based on his edge.
If he's an incredibly lucky human (8 edge) with 9 logic, then he will get to use almost all his dice. If he's incredibly unlucky with only an edge of 1, then he gets to roll 1 demolitions + 1 logic (capped by edge).
Because honestly... if you have no idea which wire to cut... no matter how smart you actually are, a good dose of luck truly needs to be on your side.

As another alternative, you could rate it as a "bomb so complex, it requires atleast a [3] demolitions to attempt disarm without a Longshot test"

Or just combine both ideas!

"This bomb is too complex for you to disarm based on your limited knowledge, but you're pretty smart...and lucky...so you can go for it (Demolitions + Edge) without using an Edge Point.



Because in reality: It doesnt matter how much of a genius you are. If you dont have the knowledge, your limited to a very small bonus of not being stupid (obviously you shouldnt cut ALL the wires) but really you dont know enough to know if you need to cut green wire...or the blue wire. Not that you cant remember, but you do not know.
Another alternative is to give someone an equal Knowledge skill in addition to Demolitions (they are paired, A "Demolitions" of 2 gives a "General Bombs" of 2. More specific or specializations cost and must be learned normally.)
Then you can tell the player "This test is limited by your knowledge of explosives, not your skill (which includes logic)" and even pass off "So it's Knowledge + Intuition, not Demolitions + Logic, since the former is lower)

If the character's demolition skill is SPECIALIZED in disarming- I'd always let him take the full dice 1 Demo + 9 logic. It's only fair since he specializes in this area.

Or just like everyone else said, just increase the threshold based on the situation (normal 2, but since he doesnt have THIS much knowledge of bombs, it's a 4)
Or make a composure test, and the hits he gets are how the cap of his logic bonus. (Under the stress...your brain is stressed, confused, and at half power (5 instead of 9 logic)

There's an infinite number of ways. If you wanted, you could also make all rolling obsolete and meaningless.


"You score 6 hits with your bajillion dice! You success disarm the bomb! ........no wait! The clock is still ticking!! You suddenly realize- "FRAG! He switched the wires on purpose!!!" and in a panic, you throw the bomb out of the window, barely escaping the explosion.
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pbangarth
post Jan 28 2009, 02:48 AM
Post #24


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QUOTE (Beetle @ Jan 27 2009, 02:31 AM) *
Besides the variety of screw ups on both our parts for the ordeal *see previous post* I'm just as much to blame for the back and forth crap. I think what made it worse in my mind is this player had up til then never argued with me on any call in any game system I've run with them. I think I must have had some imperative that he must see things my way. The issue has been squashed at this point and we had a good laugh over things after a cram session in front of the rule books.


It seems as if the whole lot of you dealt with the messy situation very well, afterwards. A good laugh is a good sign.

With the aded information you give, it would indeed seem right to have given the player a chance to roll LOG + Skill to determine exactly how fraggin' dangerous it would be to try to undo the bomb. Live and learn.
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Dwight
post Jan 28 2009, 04:12 PM
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QUOTE (Beetle @ Jan 26 2009, 05:39 PM) *
Am I being a hard-ass...

Even more than that, you were resorting to railroading because you didn't fully think out the situation of this set piece you put in. A Dungeonmaster In Complete Kontrol.
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