Friday, 13 January 2012

Better The .... Treasure (Appraise Skill)

This week I want to introduce one of the ways I am expanding the skills for the game. In the past, whenever I have played a game, be it from my pen and paper days through to gaming on the computer, there have always been some skills that seem a little underplayed compared to others, and they tend to be forgotten by most players ... or categorised at not very useful. I hope to redress some of the balance, and while I may not succeed, I hope some of the alterations I have made will make the game a little more entertaining at least. When I have made an alteration (or addition) to a skill usage, I have tried to keep as close to the original rules and intentions as possible. This week, I would like to talk about the Appraise skill.

Junk or Treasure?

You know what it's like ... You wonder into some "deserted room" and you happen to stumble upon a gaudy piece of artwork and you begin to wonder .... is it just junk or some priceless piece? After all, what's the point of dragging something around with you, weighing you down, if, when you eventually get to sell it, it was not worth anything like what you expected.

Knowing how much something might be worth could be the difference between carrying one piece of artwork out of a building compared to another. Having an ability to tell the worth of something is what the appraise skill gives you.

Appraising In Action

First and foremost, if you do not have at least one rank in the skill, you will not recognise a valuable piece of art from a piece of tat! Although, at the very least, you suspect it may be worth something. So, unless you are strong enough to be able to carry every potential treasure item you find with you, then you will have to be a little more discerning in your choice of carried items. Or, if weight issues are not a problem to you, then simply knowing how much something may be worth to an interested party is worth knowing in itself. NB: Using the appraise skill this way only applies to larger objects of art and miscellaneous items. It does not apply to general smaller items, such as gems or jewellery. (Unless the gem or jewellery is a unique item and considered an art piece itself.)

Appraising an item is an automatic process for anybody with the skill. The moment a PC picks up an item (where the PC is said to be examining it more closely), the weight, the general quality, and gold to Weight Value are instantly calculated (appraised) by the carrier. Accuracy of the gold to weight value is calculated by the DC of the item to appraise against the PC's appraisal skill score. If the PC makes the skill roll, then the appraised value is more accurate than if they had failed.

Within a few seconds of appraising the item, the PC will give their estimated gold value for the item, along with their level of confidence. The additional feedback at the time of appraising can be Confident, Uncertain or Unconfident, which gives the player some indication of how accurately the PC has appraised the item in question. (All calculations are based on the 3e rules.) Note, however, the item in question can then be given to another PC in the party (if they have a higher appraisal skill score) and another appraisal attempt will be made. Simply dropping the item from the current PC inventory onto another PC will give new appraised feedback about the item without having to change PC to enable it. This is useful if the second PC has a higher appraisal skill than the former and is more likely to give a more confident valuation. (See the expanded chat window in the image to see the differences in appraising between the PCs.)

In the example here, the item had originally been appraised with a gold to Weight Value of 34%, but was then passed onto another PC (with a higher appraise skill) who appraised it at a higher value, reflected in the 50% WV and their valuation was an uncertain 388 gp. The same item was then handed over to yet another PC, who had the highest appraisal skill in the party, who calculated a 37% WV value, which equates to 293 gp value, and with which the PC was confident with their appraisal. A couple of things must be noted here: 1) The first PC who picked up the item (whose appraisal skill was the lowest in the group) was actually closer to the mark with their 34% WV estimate than the PC (with a higher appraisal skill) who checked it after them. This shows that there is a degree of luck when making such valuations, although generally, someone with a better appraisal skill will be more accurate (reflected in confidence level) than one with less. 2) Recognise that a higher confidence is the preferred result for valuation accuracy.

What Is Weight Value?

One of the most important benefits of knowing how much something is worth, is whether it is worth carrying it along with you due to its weight. After all, if something is worth 20 gp, but weighs 20 lb, it may not be worth the encumbrance to carry along. Each player will decide their own criteria of whether it is worth it or not, but knowing the weight value is where this can help a player decide. Basically, the percentage value given for a Weight Value (WV) is its comparative worth in gold against a bag of 500 gold coins weighing 10 lb. E.g. If a treasure item weighed 10 lb, and was estimated to be worth 500 gp, then the WV value would be 100%, because it was "worth its weight in gold!"

There are two things worth noting here though: 1) The valuation is based upon the appraisal skill of the PC and so the WV is only as accurate as their confidence in such. 2) Not every merchant will give you its total worth in gold, even if they are interested in such items in the first place. Therefore, a truly worthwhile treasure is one that calculates to at least around 120% WV, which estimation is more likely to recover its equivalent weight worth in gold.

It should be noted, however, not to quickly dismiss a treasure simply because it scores a low WV, because it may still be worth quite a bit of gold, but will require humping around with you until you can sell it to retrieve what it's worth. And if general worth is all that interests you, a player should keep an eye open for an item's appraised quality, which can be any of the following: Poor; Mediocre; Reasonable; Good; Grand or Exceptional. It should not take too long before a player recognises what kind of reward they can expect from each category.

For ease of play, all such information about each treasure item (which shares the same in game icon for ease of recognition) will contain important information within its name that can be accessed simply by hovering over the item in the PC's inventory. At-a-glance information includes the important WV information along with the weight, so a player can instantly do a mental sum in their head to recognise its worth. I know I could have given the gold value as well, but I did not want to include this as it may be misleading. Instead, if the player examines the item in question, they can see the estimated gold value there alongside the confidence level of this estimate.

Exploit Protected

As regular readers of this blog will know, I like to include a degree of exploit protection with respect to certain items and actions to give them a degree of permanency. As these treasure items can be randomly generated, I decided to include them within this remit. What this basically means is, if a player saved a game just prior to picking up the treasure and the game handed them a poor quality item, reloading the game to try to gain a more valuable item will not help the player, as the same value item (and weight thereof) will be returned. There will be no advantage to reloading a game, except for one reason: They get to reappraise the item. If they want to reload the game for this, then so be it. :)

Your Comments

Lastly, please leave comments on your opinions about including such additions to the game, and let me know if there are other skills you have already altered, or would like to see altered to imrove the game. I am not talking about complete skill system rebuilds, but maybe some odd tweak or such that might improve the game for you.

Don't forget to vote on either/both of the two polls currently running if you have not done so already!


Kamal said...

Have you seen my generic foraging system on the vault? It allows you to check any skill or combination of two skills in order to determine somethings worth. It also does a combined skill DC, so you can have a player with very high skill A succeed, a very high skill B, or moderate in both and succeed based on synergy between two skills.

With it, the appraiser may not recognize the painting, but the lore skilled player may recognize the subject matter to be an depiction of the dwarven creation myth, and extremely rare. It allows you to make any skill you want useful for this type of discovered loot, high craft weapon may allow the party to recognize heirloom quality or unusual alloyed weapons for instance (party high for a skill is checked by default, user skill only is built in and left as a commented out option).

I also allow my player to use appraise to bargain over quest rewards, getting better stuff or more gold out of quest givers who can be bargained with. I have a very old post on my blog about alternate skill usage. Crimmor has pseudo feats The pc can learn allowing use of intimidate and/or diplomacy with merchants instead of appraise (for those merchants that could reasonably respond to such).

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Kamal,

That does sound interesting. I will have to check it our and see what you have done. Shame I did not realise it before doing this one.

I also like the idea of using skills like the way you say in convs.


Kamal said...

generic foraging

skill usage. I see you commented, it was a year ago.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Kamal,

Thanks for the foraging link.

See, I said we had a lot in common! :) Now that I have that link to your blog again, I will double check to make sure I am not duplicating anything that you may have alreay done, and may be useful. :)

By the way, I am still having problems seeing your blog and/or comments with IE. (I can see other peoples blogs OK.) I currently have to use Firefox to view your blog comments.


Kamal said...

Hmmm... I'm not doing anything strange with my blog, it's a generic template from blogspot. I tried it in IE on my computer and it seems to work fine. I user firefox myself generally.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Kamal,

Just to let you know that the problem accessing your comments is not restricted to your blog. Since reporting the problem, I have found others with the same problem, and I have found that I cannot access other people's comments *after* I have accessed one other comment. It's as if a variable is being set when viewing a comment that then prevents any further comments being seen, until I close IE and reopen and go back to a new comment. Most strange, but as I say, it has been reported now.


Master Changer said...

Lance, I like this approach. It makes treasure acquisition much more exciting with the element of surprise.

Still, keeping this system exciting also requires keeping gold meaningful. By this I mean that things should be expensive but that more gold should continue to be useful throughout the campaign. You don't have to be able to buy uber equipment from the village smith, just have some way to make investments with your gold.

Also, one minor point: "uncertain" and "unconfident" don't seem all that different to me, and I like to think my English skills are pretty good. I'm recommend a clearer distinction for your so-so and negative results. You could use "ambiguous" for the middle result, or "doubtful" for the negative result. Just something to keep in mind.

When I have built, I always think I'm being crystal-clear until someone else's feedback makes me realize it's only because I already knew what I meant! ;-)

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi MC,

Great to hear you like the sound of this. :)

Gold, its acquisition and worth are something that I have taken strives to ensure it is as well-balanced as possible. There are two things in my design that I wish to avoid:

1) Gold becoming meaningless due to the large amount of it.

2) Shops that supply all manner of uber equipment to spend such uber amounts of gold on.

Therefore, I do appreciate what you are saying, and I hope you will be greatly pleased at the final result. So far, I believe I have managed to keep almost every shop with equipment that is worth looking at ... no quick scrolling past too expensisive or boring items. And the gold will not be found in every barrel.

My concern at the moment is if there is not enough gold - even though the economy has been structured to reduce the prices to something more "realistic". i.e. The most expensive item (ever) will be no more than 10000 gp (if I am recalling correctly). Maybe I will put up a post on the economy in a future blog (that I have already written for the game manual).

Uncertain/Unconfident ... Yes, there is a very subtle difference, and the ambiguity is deliberate. Here is the reason (tell me if you think I should still reconsider): Firstly, "Uncertain" is used for two possible results: A "poor" pass, and a "small" fail. i.e. An uncertain result may or may not be reasonably accurate. Whereas the "Unconfident" result is used only for a failed result, and is a *definite* no confidence in their estimation.

Therefore, a player can only glean definite feedback from "confident" and "unconfident" results, whereas an "uncertain" result could go either way. Does that help explain it some more?

Your English is excellent. Your usage of "ambiguous" could also be used in place of "uncertain", but uncertain has a more "neutral positive" feel to it that I was after, whereas "ambiguous" was too "neutral" for my liking. Does that make sense?

Great comment ... and one that touches upon the very aspects I am working at!


Master Changer said...

Glad to hear that you have these big-picture economic issues in mind.

Regarding the terminology: if unconfident means that the character thinks they are likely to be wrong, that would seem to be the perfect usage of "doubtful." This captures that we've moved beyond lack of certainty of something being true to a likelihood that it is false.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi MC,

I may try to do a blog about some of the economy changes in the future.

I suppose "doubtful" could be used as the negative response here ... as that can also mean "not established as genuine", which may be a good way of saying the same thing ... and it avoids use of a word that is just the negative of the positive response.

OK, I'll change that for clarity. Thanks!