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Last week I talked about the specialization rules for Edges that I’m hoping to start playtesting soon. Just as a reminder, there are 3 levels of Edges: The Edge itself, which gives you a number of die bonuses equal to the rating and cost 5 points; A Tag, which gives you an extra die bonus and costs 2 points for the first, 4 for the second, etc.; and a Focus, which lets you add a bonus die equal to your (unmodified) Hero Die and costs 1 point (and is limited to 1 per Tag). The idea behind specialization is to reward (or at least not penalize) players who take Edges that better describe the character rather than Edges that are more useful. There were two lingering questions from last week: (1) Does it just encourage a different kind of power gaming; and (2) Do the specializations actually solve the problem if you keep skill selection freeform?
In order to attempt to answer the first question, let’s look at the die rolls. The table requires some explanation:
- I’m assuming here that everyone has 15 points to put into their Edges.
- Inigo/Fezzik are our specialists, and have focused on fencing (Melee 2→ Swordsman→ Fencing) and Wrestling (Melee 2 → Unarmed Combat→ Wrestling), respectively.
- Westley #1 is an all-purpose badass who puts all his points into Melee Combat.
- Westley #2 has decided to specialize in both Fencing and Wrestling Tag/Focus pairs for his Melee 1.
- Westley #3 had decided to power game and figured out a way to get both specializations while still getting 2 Edge bonuses. He took Melee 1→ Swordsman→ Fencing but also took Athletics 1 → Unarmed Combat→ Wrestling. Since bonuses stack, assuming he can convince the GM that Melee Combat applies to Wrestling (obvious), Athletics applies to Fencing (reasonable), and Wrestling applies to hammer fights (maybe the biggest stretch), he gets to add the bonus for both Edges to all rolls and gets the benefits of Tags and Foci when fencing or wrestling. This requires 1 point more than the players have, but Westely #3 is a weasel so if he can find that point somewhere he’ll just cheat and hope the GM doesn’t check his math.
- The “Hammer Fight” entries show how the characters do in a fight where their Tag and Focus doesn’t apply.
The first two Westleys work out about as expected when compared to the Fezzik. The generalist (Westley #1) has a slight advantage in a fight with anything but swords and wrestling, but suffers about a 3-point disadvantage when he’s fighting a specialist with their chosen weapon. The double major (Westley #2) has an advantage over the generalist, but still isn’t as good as the characters who chose to specialize in just one thing. He’s also at an disadvantage when he gets into a hammer fight with anyone. The optimal use of character points is to specialize in one thing, which is what I was hoping for. The weasel (Westley #3), as expected, is a problem. He’s evenly-matched with the specialist and has a marked advantage over the other Westleys.
Looking at the numbers, the benefits of specializing are significant enough that I don’t think we need a “price break” for the first specialization. You get higher rolls with a specialization than you do with an extra point in the main Edge. Also, there’s no need to increase the price for additional Tags (and Focuses); The dwindling benefits compared to someone who spends the same number of points to specialize de-incentivizes specializing in a bunch of stuff within a single Edge. After a certain point (if my quick math is correct, 3-4 specializations, depending on Hero Factor), the guy with a bunch of Tag/Focus pairs even loses ground to the generalist. Also, as Westley #3 shows, you can get around the escalating cost for multiple Tags by choosing overlapping Edges and/or having a weak-willed GM.
So how about we make the cost of a Tag/Focus pairing the same 5 points it costs to increase your main Edge rating by raising the cost of both by 1 (3 for a Tag, 2 for a Focus)? That makes the Tags and Focuses more about characterization and less about saving a few character points. It also helps solve the question of how to fit Tags and Focuses into the quick-start character creation rules, since you can just trade in one of your points for Edges for a Tag/Focus pair.
That took longer than expected, so I’m going to save the 2nd question for next week.