Skill Test Pig-Piles

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Glorelendil
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Skill Test Pig-Piles

Post by Glorelendil » Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:38 pm

Another situation I've been trying to find a good solution to is the "pig pile": the party needs a single success at a test, such as Craft to open a lock or Hunting to find some tracks, and if the first person fails everybody else chimes in, "I'll roll!" Eventually somebody is going to solve it, so what's the point in rolling?

I can think of several solutions:
1) Just not allow it. One roll only. This "works" but it seems kind of arbitrary. After all why can't others also try? Besides, aren't we supposed to encourage team work?

2) "It's a test, not a task." Players describe what they want to do; LM/GM/DM adjudicates and calls for rolls if necessary. This is all well and good, but when the other players start saying, "I'll try to pick the lock" or "I'll also look for tracks" they're going to want to know why they can't also roll.

3) Prolonged Tests. One way of handling this is by requiring a certain number of successes, and letting multiple players contribute. There needs to be a maximum number of attempts, and/or a cost per attempt. It can work mathematically, but prolonged actions/tests are most applicable thematically to things that take time and have multiple opportunities for failure, like swimming across a river or staying mounted on an unwilling horse. It seems like overkill for something like picking a lock.

Those are the main options I can think of, but would love to hear other ideas. I have an idea for a house rule but want to see what's out there before I make a fool of myse....I mean, show my cards.
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mica
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Re: Skill Test Pig-Piles

Post by mica » Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:23 pm

Complications - increase the difficulty each time somebody fecks up - 1 level on a fail, 2 or 3 on a sauron or possibly increase the quantity of success to succeed.
Examples:
A lock after somebody have broken a few bobby pins in it and hammered the catch will be harder to open as will herding a bunch a sheep somebody has just scattered across the Trollshaws with their shouting and stamping.

All that said, it comes down to time or consequences. If there are none, then what's the point in bothering to roll in the first place? Consequences of failing to open a chest may mean an encumbrance of 10 instead of 1 for the whole trek back home or no food and restoring endurance before the next fight.

Glorelendil
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Re: Skill Test Pig-Piles

Post by Glorelendil » Fri Jan 20, 2017 2:45 am

Well, there are always situations where there isn't going to be time pressure, but they still might fail.

The other side of the coin is that I actually want to encourage my players to participate and cooperate: it's not much fun just watching other people (read: "the person with the highest skill") roll dice.

I just don't want it to be "roll until somebody succeeds".

Oh, and I'll add a 4th version to my first list: grant different aspects of "success" to different players. I.e., reveal a "clue" for each success that combined paint a full picture. The only downside is that it's only applicable in some situations and takes a lot of preparation.

So here's what I'm thinking of as a house rule that simulates group effort, not sequential attempts:
When a player has failed at a task that could benefit from a group effort, for each player with equal or higher skill who wishes to participate, pick one Success die from the original roll and re-roll it. You must keep the new result. (If the original roll wasn't successful then nobody is eligible for AP.)
So...what are the flaws?
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Re: Skill Test Pig-Piles

Post by Deadmanwalking » Fri Jan 20, 2017 4:03 am

My own experience doesn't find this to be too much of a problem, with few groups actually having huge numbers of people who are especially good at a specific skill. I mean, sometimes everyone makes a check (like Awareness), but rarely does one person try something and then another and another, a second try maybe, but seldom a third or fourth.

That said, a few possible solutions used in combination, other than major rules redesigns, do leap to mind:

1. Time pressure. For something like picking a lock, you usually lack unlimited time in my experience, that makes this sort of thing tricky.
2. Consequences for failure. Even when there isn't time pressure, failure can have consequences, and those don't go away just because someone else succeeded.
3. This one's sort of a house rule, but only allowing certain checks if the character has an appropriate Trait tends to strongly restrict who can make such checks. If only the guy with Fire-making can even try to make a fire in a blizzard, then other people sure don't get to try when he fails. This is best reserved for extremely difficult or specialized tasks, of course. Our LM does this and it's worked okay so far, for the most part anyway.

All can also be used in combination with more extensive House Rules, of course.
Glorelendil wrote:So here's what I'm thinking of as a house rule that simulates group effort, not sequential attempts:
When a player has failed at a task that could benefit from a group effort, for each player with equal or higher skill who wishes to participate, pick one Success die from the original roll and re-roll it. You must keep the new result. (If the original roll wasn't successful then nobody is eligible for AP.)
So...what are the flaws?
The big issue is that it has some weird synergies. If you have a guy with Riddle 5 and two with Riddle 4, you're better off with one of the Riddle 4 people making the check (since 4 dice plus two rerolls is better than 5 dice) which is counterintuitive and immersion breaking. I'd be inclined to let anyone with Skill 2+ or maybe 3+ (a flat number, anyway) let you re-roll a die instead of basing it on skill level that way, if going with the dice re-roll idea.

I dunno if even that version feels quite right, though. Maybe allow everyone to roll their success dice separately, but have them keep the same, original, Feat die result (as that represents luck more than skill)? That has some advantages, and allows for a perhaps fairer Advancement Point distribution.

Glorelendil
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Re: Skill Test Pig-Piles

Post by Glorelendil » Fri Jan 20, 2017 4:54 am

Deadmanwalking wrote: The big issue is that it has some weird synergies. If you have a guy with Riddle 5 and two with Riddle 4, you're better off with one of the Riddle 4 people making the check (since 4 dice plus two rerolls is better than 5 dice) which is counterintuitive and immersion breaking.
When I originally contemplated that paradox I thought it would be a feature, not a bug. I thought it would result in interesting options other than the obvious "let the guy with the highest roll go first".

But, unfortunately, it also turns out to be false. Rolling 4 dice and re-rolling the two worst is still not as good as rolling 5 dice. Same with 4 vs 3, 3 vs 2, etc.

Now...there may be some more complex scenarios where there is a statistical incentive to do something counter-intuitive, but it's non-obvious when that would be. So I'm fine with it.

As for it breaking immersion, that's always in the eye of the beholder. (I personally don't really believe that 'breaking immersion' even exists in that sense; it's a euphemism for 'fails to model the real world in a way that I think it should be modeled'.)

But if it *did* give a statistical advantage to have the lesser skilled person roll, what would that represent? Rolling a handful of dice is not in itself part of the "immersion"; it's a construct used to generate probabilities. If the probability distribution of teamwork is represented with a different dice pool than solo efforts, where's the lack of realism? (Presumably if the lower skilled hero goes first they are planning on cooperating; it's not an afterthought.)

Finally, if you want story to back it up...I could totally see any hero from Tolkien letting a slightly less skilled companion take a stab at something before giving some helpful advice.
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Glorelendil
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Re: Skill Test Pig-Piles

Post by Glorelendil » Fri Jan 20, 2017 5:01 am

That said, I could see tweaking it so that anybody with a skill one less or higher could participate. As it is the effect isn't so great, and is mostly useful for fishing for extra successes.

Or, to get really complicated but cool in a nerdy sorta way: anybody can try, but you can only re-roll Success dice equal to the difference in skill, or greater.

So if your skill is 2 less you can only re-roll 2's or higher. And, yes, 2's count as zeroes if the first guy was Weary.

(I'm not actually proposing anything that fiddly...it's just fun to think about.)
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Re: Skill Test Pig-Piles

Post by Dunheved » Fri Jan 20, 2017 11:59 pm

Glorelendil wrote:Another situation I've been trying to find a good solution to is the "pig pile": the party needs a single success at a test, such as Craft to open a lock or Hunting to find some tracks, and if the first person fails everybody else chimes in, "I'll roll!" Eventually somebody is going to solve it, so what's the point in rolling?
......
Just thinking a bit. Say you have five PC's and one has the best skill value i.e. craft = 4, and the others are on craft =2 or 1. The LM can ask anyone in the group to make a suggestion to lower the TN by a level: e.g. a Trait, or a Lore roll from one of the group (if it isn't too contrived).

Here's my offer for an idea:
A different way might be to look at who wants to offer support or advice. e.g. Dori the dwarf is trying the door with his skill of craft = 4, and Rimbo the hobbit craft =2 is listening to hear the mechanisms engage.
If somebody wants to Support a test, then for any well role-played description the LM increases the FEAT dice roll by one. This would mean that if Dori rolled an Eye of Sauron, it would be negated; or if he rolled a '10' then that a roll is improved to a Gandalf = automatic success. This is quite a powerful consequence of cooperation. (Too powerful?) However, I'd only ask one person, or allow one person to support an action.
I'd even consider giving both participants the advancement points.

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Re: Skill Test Pig-Piles

Post by Glorelendil » Sat Jan 21, 2017 2:07 am

I like the way your ideas were going. I especially like encouraging players to combine skills/traits in different ways, rather than just all rolling the same skill.
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Re: Skill Test Pig-Piles

Post by Falenthal » Sat Jan 21, 2017 10:41 am

I think there're two situations here:

1) How to manage the help a hero can receive from his comrades while testing a skill.
Dunheved makes a good point: The hero has to roll Craft to pick a lock. Before that a companion can roll Lore to help with knowledge of goblin mechanisms, another one Awareness to hear possible triggers, and someone else invokes the Burglary trait to give him some good quality lockpicks. All this extra actions lower the TN of the Craft roll.

It could be understood as that rule that appears in the Revised Book (I forgot the name) that allow to make more rolls for a single test, reducing the TN of each one, but at the cost of more time. In this case, you could also turn a singel roll into several ones, each one with a lower TN, but also it would be possible for different characters to take part in the action, and it wouldn't be necessary for everyone to roll the same skill.

2) What happens when two characters have the same interest in a certain skill (for example, Healing), but one has a higher skill than the other. How could it be managed so that the one with the lower skill still has some role when that skill becomes necessary.
Maybe the one with the lower skill can be considered a "support": he rolls his skill first, and considers his roll as a Preliminary roll that gives 1/2/3 extra dice (up to a maximum of 6) for the test. In this case, all dice can be rolled with the test, not only one.
OR
The Support roll allows the other hero to re-roll 1/2/3 dice.

In either case, to avoid abusing the support rule, I'd add that a Failure with an Eye results in forcing the main tester to roll the Feat die twice and keep the worst result.

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Re: Skill Test Pig-Piles

Post by Angelalex242 » Sat Jan 21, 2017 7:38 pm

Sometimes, players have to work together.

For example, a Woodman with a healing of 3 and my Noldor with a healing of 2 are trying to cure the effects of a Nazgul's black breath. Without the Noldor, the Woodman can't even roll, as the Noldor has to fight the infection on the spiritual plane with his fea. With the Noldor engaging the spiritual part of the infection, the Woodman's free to fight the physical effects, and together they save the victim.

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