Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dissecting a Problematic PC/Player Issue: Tobias

So, I'll start with Tobias' character sheet.

Note: Due to how the character sheet program renders, two of his Electronics Repair skills aren't showing their specialties- Electronic Warfare, Computers,  and Sensors.

For a 300 point character, Tobias has a decent chunk (123 points) slotted into skills. This is great, however I'm sure all of you noticed that he has five different types of Electronics Operation somewhere between skill level 14 and 17. This goes along with also have almost every specialty of Electronics Repair as well. That's 11 skills, 35 points, all with significant overlap. Even with the harsh default of -4 between specialties, Tobias would be rolling at IQ (13) for most Electronics Operation checks (before familiarity penalties and similar circumstantial factors that are largely mitigated by being Cross-Trained).

So there's some hyper specialization going on, and it gets worse when you consider his computer skills. Between Computer Operation, Programming, Cryptography, and Mathematics, he's got another 24 points spent.

59 points in Tech related skills, over half of his budget. Now don't get me wrong, this is a very kick-ass suite of skills for a character, but it has issues:
  • With Cyrptography 17, there's almost nothing Tobias can't crack given enough time. Babysitting a laptop for three weeks while it chugs through encryption keys isn't glamorous or fun. A lot of the information gained isn't immediately relevant or is attainable through social prowess.
  • Tobias' other capabilities with technology are also frightening, approaching skill levels nobody else will conceivably hit as a complete package, ever.
  • That said, with few exceptions, most places don't have tech people savvy enough to deal with a character like Tobias. His real problem is gaining physical access to most machines- past that having him roll is almost a waste of time.
  • Opposed rolls would be great- except I can't justify too many people being as exceptionally skilled as Tobias is at such a small segment of skills.
  • Things become very binary- either he breaks into a system or doesn't. The information is immediately relevant or not- and if it is immediately relevant it's like the players acquired it too easily.
  • An unimaginative player might have difficulty knowing how best to use the character
A character like this is awesome, but only in the hands of a player who brings the right cards to the table:
  • A team player who is okay working out of the lime light in a supportive role
  • It's well suited for someone who frequently has issues playing due to scheduling conflicts. It's very easy to hand-wave their PCs actions compared to somebody, say, trying to schmooze with an oil executive.
  • Even with the above point in mind, this skillset requires a lot of awareness of what is going on.
  • Being able to improvise and think of tactics to achieve a goal is definitely a must.
  • It's well suited to a player who wants to be good at something who doesn't feel compelled to constantly roll dice
This really first came to my attention when Tobias' player was blatantly rolling just too well to actually be rolling. Too many crits, not enough failures, even on tasks rolled at default or against relatively low skill levels in the 10-12 range.

I've spoken with him and offered him the chance to respec things around to something that might fit his preferred play style better, although it would not be campaign ending to lose a player given that the other three are excellent in all regards.

I'm interested in feedback, as I'm definitely not doing a full analysis, mostly focusing on the character's primary niche.

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