Vague musings on skills and levels

I really like Leonard’s suggestion of consistently applying the notion that one gets better at what one practices. I am wondering whether it is practical to do away with character attributes as well as levels, and rely exclusively on skills, or perhaps I should call them aptitudes. There is an enormous list of these, and they are all organized in some sort of cluster network by how closely related they are. If you spend all day swinging a long sword, you get better at that; but you also gain a few points in closely related skills, like bastard sword and saber. You lose a few points in other skills like rapier and dagger; the notion is that you’ve got entirely the wrong habits for those weapons. The higher your actual practiced skill is in something, the less it’s affected by practicing other skills, even if they interfere. And, as queenpam points out while reading this over my shoulder, unpracticed skills decay.

Is this good enough to cover all the times when the computer’s got to pick a random number, is the question.

Responses to “Vague musings on skills and levels”

  1. madmanatw

    This was essentially UO’s old system. Though unused skills didn’t decay on their own, but only if you hit the cap of how many points you could have in skills. At that point if you raised one, another one went down. Anyway.

    This leads to the Quest For Glory syndrome- players spending an hour bored out of their skulls climbing a tree over and over to get their Climb skill raised, locking and re-picking the same door, etc etc. In theory it’s a great idea, IMO, but in practice it’s really hard not to create something where the powergamer feels obligated to bore himself to death getting skills up way before he needs them, just because they are available to be raised.

    Also, wrt unpracticed skills, keep in mind the time frame of the game. If you’ve been playing for a while but in character it’s only been a few days, you shouldn’t already be losing unpracticed skills.

    1. Leonard

      I envisioned the practice system as working like the skill-points system you see in a lot of Roguelikes, except that you’d only be able to allocate points to activities you’d done over the course of gaining that level.

      Another way of doing it is to have a typical skill-point system where practice improve your maximum skill. Real improvements in the numbers only come from level-ups or doing something to earn skill points. That should defuse the part of the powergamer’s mind that wants to see numbers increase.

      1. madmanatw

        That’s interesting. For example, in WoW, if you are a rogue, say, every level increases the cap on your lockpicking by 5, but then you need to get the skillups. You seem to be proposing a reversal of that- the use of the skill raises the cap, and then that means you can allocate points there when you level up.

        It strikes me as a good way to implement what you propose in the first paragraph—doing them to raise the cap would be, in essence, how you could tell that someone had done the activity enough to deserve being able to spend points in it.

        I would suggest that the limit to how high you can raise the caps be level dependent, so you cannot at level 1 raise your cap to a point that cannot be satisfied until you are level 15, pointswise. However, I wouldn’t bother restricting how many skills they can increase the cap on.

        To clarify: say your cap is 5*level. Say you get 20 points to spend each time you level. So while working on level 6, with caps currently at 25, you could cast a bunch of Nature spells (raising its cap to 30), pick some locks, fight with a sword, use a shield, hide in shadows, cast some shadow spells, and use a bow. You raise all 7 of those skills’ caps to 30, but when you hit level 6, you only get 20 points to spend, and it would take 35 points to have your actual values in those skills reach the cap.

        Now the next time you level up, you get 20 more points, and you can backfill in skills that you had previously raised the cap in. You would probably never go a level without raising the cap on something, since your primary skills you will always want to be matching your level progression, but you could spread the points more thinly among secondary skills.

        Sounds definitely doable to me.

        1. Pam

          In most games, level depends on combat experience. If someone is more interested in the non-combat skills (e.g. mining and smithing), having to go out and kill a bunch of monsters to level up so you can get better at the parts of the game that you actually find interesting seems a little strange. Of course, I’m talking in a more general game sense, in a classic roguelike I guess the going out and killing everything you see part is rather important…. But I think I still wouldn’t tie all skills to combat level.

          1. madmanatw

            Yeah, I’m specifically looking at a roguelike with the above comments. A roguelike is kinda by definition a kill monsters and take their stuff game.

            Avoiding that tie, you can go to a game that is entirely skill based (no levels, but you can’t improve your skills fighting stuff that is below your skill level beyond a certain point), or one that detaches the non-combat/magic skills from your level- the craft skills could be their own branch of the skill tree. And if you want to tie it to level or combat prowess without doing so directly, you say to improve your skill, you need this new kind of ore, which oh look only appears in this area with higher level monsters.

            Whether I would tie all skills to combat level in zwol’s roguelike-to-be depends on what the skills end up being. :)