01 May, 2014

Using Verbs, Nouns, Adverbs and Adjectives as methods for defining character ability.

Maybe I need to rethink the whole notion of skills as verbs.

It made sense at first...describe your characters action with the verb they are using in the world.

"Jack will run to the car."
"Molly will sneak up on the guard."
"Lou will repair the generator."

It's simple, it's direct. A subject applies a verb to an object. But once I actually try to break it down and apply the fundamental concepts to play situations it gets tricky.

"Daniel will occult the room"
"Daniel will occult the prisoner"
"Daniel will occult the situation"

Is he appraising his target object from an occult perspective? Is he influencing it in an occult manner? These two would be better described as...

"Daniel will appraise the room"
"Daniel will enchant the room"

But even now, the concept of what Daniel is trying to achieve needs to be clarified. In his appraisal of the room, is he looking for something in particular. If he is enchanting the room, what will be the effects of that enchantment. Occult is a tricky example, but it's not the only fly in the ointment.

We could change the core mechanisms to define what kinds of objects a character is more capable of dealing with. Does a character have an affinity with rooms, with cars, with children, with abstract concepts like love?? Following this avenue with nouns leads to just as many complications, just as quickly.

Maybe verbs aren't the way to go when defining which tasks a character is better at performing. Maybe we should be dealing purely with adverbs. Can a character do things quickly, elegantly, mystically, savagely, athletically, or dramatically? Is it better to limit the way these adverbs can be applied to situations (possibly a lot of work to cover a wide range of situations and still there will be cracks to fall through), or do we simply allow players to resolve such things during the course of play (preferable)?

Can we use adjectives? Possibly, but adjectives are applied to nouns, and this means that they apply to the subject and the object. Adjectives applying to the subject might influence the way an action applies to a target, while adjectives applied to the object might influence the way the target reacts to the action being performed.

Noun - Subject (the person doing it) and object (the target of the action).
Verb - the thing being done.
Adjective - Something special about the subject of object that influences the potential result.
Adverb - Something that specifically modifies the action being done rather than the subject or the object.

"Stealthy Molly will sneak up on the oblivious guard."
"Wise Daniel will mystically appraise the arcane room."

Is it better to use two or three options to define the abilities and specialties of characters? No. That leads back to the very issue I'm trying to get away from. I'm thinking this is too complicated.  

It's a case of choosing a single grammatical element and using that for the focus of the system...words that don't fit into the system need to get discarded.

...

Thinking about it more critically, skills might not be a suitable way of describing characters at all in this system. Perhaps we should get rid of the notion of skills altogether and purely strip things back to verb components. Do you have what is necessary to accomplish this verb (ie. you need wings to fly)? Do you have proficiency with this type of verbal action (if so, you gain a bonus when doing it...if not, you can still do it, but there are no advantages from attempting the task through the use of this verb)?

This negates the whole "occult" or "athletics" problem. Instead of specific skills, they become categories of expertise filled with a variety of verb types, perhaps even class descriptors in themselves.

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