Monday, August 16, 2010

Should Average-Rank Remain 0?

One of the first changes to I made to standard Truth & Justice (and PDQ as a whole) was to alter the point at which someone "zeroes-out" i.e. loses a conflict.  This change predates the idea of Heroes of Industry and was something I put into my T&J House Rules those many months ago when I thought that I was just doing a simple house-rule document.  Ha!

Anyway, I love the term "zero out" for taking an opponent out of fight.  But what always confused me both practically and philosophically is that actors actually aren't out when all their Qualities go to zero (which is Average Rank), but rather when they all go to -2 (Poor Rank) and then lose one more Rank.  I would screw that up in play over and over again.  Thus my simple little change.

But that simple change brought with it something more significant.  It meant that one couldn't just give every unexceptional person, place, or thing  the Quality "Average [Person, Place, or Thing]".  It meant that the Average Rank could only be an effective, rather than base Rank (which is to say, some Quality could be ranked Average only as a result of damage or downshifts).  You couldn't say, "Oh, he's just an Average Goon" or "I dunno - it's an Average car".  Any Quality that is worth representing will have a rank of at least Good +1.  Average-ranked Qualities represent all those infinite things that a character can do (Walk), think (Knows Addition), and be (Internet Surfer) that are utterly unimportant and, perhaps more meaningfully, cannot be used in a conflict.  To stat something up this way, you pick the one thing (or two or three  things) that make you unique and call that Good.  So, the cheap hoods are Good +1 Goons and the plain old car is a Good +1 Car with all other Qualities as invisible Average Rank.

But I'm wondering if that terminological shift is  more confusing than it is worth?  By comparison, FATE uses the term "Average" to describe the +1 rank and calls the zero rank "Mediocre".  In that system, you can describe someone as Average.  That is more intuitive in some ways.  The trade-off is that I, at least, tend to associate the modifier of zero with the descriptor "Average" and think any bonus (positive number) should have a positive-sounding name.  By the same token, in FATE you assume that everything is Mediocre +0 except for those few areas where you are Average +1.

So, I think that I have made the right choice in not using the FATE-model, but I'd be curious to hear anyone else's thoughts on the matter.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know much (indeed anything) about the systems in question, but I agree on the conceptual issues there. It seems like to me that the easiest fix is just not having "average" be zero. I understand the allure of the average 0, but it seems to cause more mechanical problems than its worth.