Struggling background

<Split from “How Exactly does Resolve work”>

Not disagreeing with the core of your statement, but I did want to point out something minor…

100% disagree. :blush: Some of us purposefully pick our background (and other choices) based on the character we have in our heads that we’re trying to create and not on the dice/stuff that they grant us. :wink: And that’s one I don’t think could really be “balanced” and still reflect that reality. :confused:

Not saying one way of approaching character generation is better than another. :wink: But I wanted to make sure you understand that different people build characters different ways, and I get the impression they are trying to accommodate as many folks as possible.

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Actually I agree - struggling can provide a very interesting narrative. What bothers me is that the said narrative translates directly into game effectiveness (=die size), effectively punishing the player (=not the character), which it shouldn’t. Commonly, you would expect a tradeoff that, while reflecting less resources, keeps playability in the balance. Like, offer more versatility (more of the small dice, an additional principle, a unique luck/improvisation schtick… whatever.)
As it is, it feels a lot like ‘you want to play a loser? Ok, you lose!’
Which means, as a player your choice will permanently weigh down the group; instead of being a different twist on a hero, your character simply is not much of a hero at all.

But this is most definitely a topic for another thread now :slight_smile:

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You are correct, that this is a topic for another thread. I will point out, however, that playing a struggling background character is far from making the character not much of a hero. I’m currently playing a character who is Struggling background and Training power source. They have exactly two dice on their sheet above a d8: One quality, which isn’t really used in combat, and their green status die. So you could argue that they are in fact at an even worse disadvantage than most Struggling characters.
They are very much a hero in their own right, despite their lower dice, and have proven to be able to hold their own in action scenes and social scenes. And more importantly… The lower dice don’t hold them back to nearly the extent you seem to be implying that they should.
Actually, maybe I should just share their sheet. So that you can see someone who is, in your words, not much of a hero.

Quick sheet errata though. Green Zone Ability Stimulus Strike should read as follows:
Stimulus Strike (A): Attack using Illusions. Hinder using your Min die.


Another thread, you say‽ :smiley:

Yeah, in my experience, SCRPG doesn’t have the kind of dependency on specific stats / values for a character to be “effective”, and most characters aren’t going to be more or less effective because they have a couple of dice that are lower than other folks’. :slight_smile: It might look like something of concern, but in play it hasn’t felt that way.

But that has just been my experience. Other folks might have a different experience, and I won’t invalidate that. :+1:t2:

It might not matter so much if the math of the game were different. But Overcomes in particular are a real problem for such a character. You have a 30% chance to roll an 8+ on a d10, a 41.7% chance on a d12, but only a 12.5% chance on a d8. If the best die you have is a d8, or even if you’re rolling 2d8+1d10, you’re going to be incurring a lot more minor twists, and being a liability to yourself and your team.

Combine that with the fact that you’re only going to be picking Struggling for roleplaying purposes, and more roleplaying-heavy games use more Overcomes and fewer combat abilities and, well… hopefully your GM goes easy on you.

So, how much you notice a die size difference of one step is going to depend a lot on what sort of actions you use. For ease of math and because I can’t do complex AnyDice functions, I’m going to use spreads of 3d6 against 3d10.

Overcomes: MindWander already covered this, but rolling 3d8 you’re looking at a 31% chance of a major twist, a 64.7% chance of a minor twist, and only a 4.3% chance of no twist. If you can use a Principle to use your Max die, you are instead looking at only a 5.3% chance of a major twist, a 61.7% chance of a minor twist, and a 33% chance of no twist.

If you have three d10s, your chances change a lot. Your chances of a major twist drop to 21.6%, with a 56.8% of a minor twist and a 21.6% chance of no twist at all. Get your Principle aligned and you drop to a mere 2.7% chance of a major twist, 31.6% chance of a minor twist, and a jump to a whopping 65.7% chance of no twist.

So, over the course of ten Overcomes using your Mid die and ten Overcomes using your Max die, a character with straight d8s is netting around 3-4 Major and 12-13 Minor twists, while a character with straight d10s is netting only 2 Major and 9 Minor twists. That’s a pretty big difference for a single die step.

Boosts and Hinders: In the case of Boosts and Hinders, I’m just going to quickly divide by Min, Mid, and Max and give you average results, because there’s a lot of math behind it.

On average, three d8s gives you a bonus of 1.25 with your Min, 1.73 with your Mid, and 2.27 with your Max. Three d10s gives you a bonus of 1.37 with your Min, 2 with your Mid, and 2.6 with your Max. So over the course of rolling with five each of Min, Mid, and Max, you’re looking at a rough total of 26 points of bonuses and penalties with your d8s, and 30 with your d10s. Not a huge difference, and probably low enough to vanish into the static if you’re not looking for it, but with the potential to mess things up.

… Okay, am I the only person who doesn’t see Twists as a bad thing? Sure, they mean something isn’t going straight according to plan. But actions having consequences is part of storytelling.

As for Overcomes, here’s a few dice pools that I actually calculated the odds for. I wrote a program on my calculator a while back for getting the probability of any given min/mid/max combination on a straight roll of three given dice. Basically, the fact that there are three dice being rolled in a pool makes the math just a little bit complicated (and favorable) than examining any single die would imply.

d8/d8/d8: 33% chance of a Full Success
d8/d8/d10: 46% chance of a Full Success
d8/d8/d12: 55% chance of a Full success or better
d8/d10/d10: 57% chance of a Full success or better
d8/d10/d12: 64% chance of a Full success or better
d8/d12/d12: 70% chance of a Full success or better
d10/d12/d12: 76% chance of a Full success or better
d12/d12/d12: 80% chance of a Full success or better

Gee, those numbers might not look so good, huh? Remember though; You have hero points! To use your assumption that a roleplaying heavy game uses more Overcomes, presumably people in the party have been using Principles, and thus earning hero points. So let’s assume that you have a +2 hero point reward that you can use, to bump things up to a full success or better. How does that change the math?

d8/d8/d8: 75% chance of a Full Success
d8/d8/d10: 80% chance of a Full Success
d8/d8/d12: 83% chance of a Full success or better
d8/d10/d10: 84% chance of a Full success or better
d8/d10/d12: 86% chance of a Full success or better
d8/d12/d12: 89% chance of a Full success or better
d10/d12/d12: 91% chance of a Full success or better
d12/d12/d12: 92% chance of a Full success or better

Gee, that’s odd. It’s almost like having and using hero point rewards, the things that are supposed to reward you for roleplaying to your charater’s strengths, makes smaller dice not matter to nearly the extent you imply they should. Especially when just a measly +2 hero point reward is able to make a d8/d8/d8 dice pool pretty close to equal to an unboosted d12/d12/d12 in terms of avoiding Twists. I wonder if working as a team, and playing to Principles to get hero points, is meant to be a major part of the system.

Yeah, that +2 bonus you can get at most two of out of the dozen or more so rolls you’re going to make sure helps a lot.

And yeah, twists are a bad thing. They can be used to develop storytelling, which is fine, but they can also deal damage, incur penalties, introduce challenges (which are the worst, IMO, because you either ignore it or you’ve effectively wasted your action because now another action is needed to make up for it). They can be interesting, but if you get a lot, your GM needs to tune down the difficulty to compensate, or else you’ll fail more scenes.

Two additional factors I think folks are also missing in this situation:

  • Struggling balances by giving you three qualities (instead of the usual two), letting you be involved / deal with more situations than other backgrounds do
  • You can also build your character so that the lower-die qualities aren’t key to your primary abilities/powers, and thus will be less likely to impact play. Yes, d6 mathematically is going to be lower than a d10, but are you actually going to need to roll the d6 most of the time? :wink:

Having said that, I don’t expect I’m going to convince anyone here. We’re really debating from different starting positions, which is fine. :slight_smile: We all have different ways of playing and focusing on the game, which can make things much more interesting! :smiley:

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Even without a +2, Major Twists are still very uncommon unless you are hindered. An unboosted d8/d8/d8 dice pool gives you a 5% chance of getting a Major Twist. If Twists are that big of a problem at the table, then as you said, the GM might need to change the difficulty of the scenes that they are designing.
I guess that I’ve gotten used to playing with lower dice pools on my characters, and as a result of that, I’ve learned to work around the limitations that you are suggesting they have? Pessimism doesn’t make the game more fun, and teamwork is intended to be a large part of the system as far as I can tell. Rabit hit it on the head that we’re approaching this from different positions, and probably aren’t going to convince one another.

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Sure. It’s either “dice matter because you want to be successful” or “dice don’t matter because you want to tell a story.” It’s pointless to even argue because the goals aren’t the same.

catDreaming, would you be able to share your math? Because your results are substantially different than what AnyDice gave me for a d8/d8/d8 pool, which means that one of us has done something dramatically wrong.

For example, your unboosted d8/d8/d8 is giving out a 33% chance of a Full Success, whereas mine is giving out a 4.3% chance of a Full Success. That’s a literal order of magnitude or more difference.

These are both valid notes, but my counter-notes from my experience are:

  1. Struggling doesn’t only penalize your Qualities for that extra d6, it also penalizes your Powers, granting you a sixth die at d6 at the expense of stepping downfour other dice (three if you assume that Struggling is competing against the less powerful Backgrounds to start with.) I really like the idea of “have a few more dice, but they aren’t as strong”, but compare to Medic, which gives you three Qualities and also gives you a d10 each for Qualities and Powers.

  2. The second problem with Struggling is that it gives you no d10s for your Power Source, which means that half of your key Abilities are required to key off d8s and d6s. This is a problem that Struggling shares with four other Backgrounds, but they have d10 or d12 Qualities to balance that out.

I’m assuming they were looking at Max die rolls instead of Mid.

If you’re looking at Mid and need a result of 8 on rolls of d8 that means you need at least two 8 results out of the three dice. There are only 22 results out of the possible 512 that have more than one 8.

I was specifically looking at Max die, under the assumption at people were using Principles, as WalkingTarget correctly ascertained. It seemed like a reasonable assumption, although I will admit that it’s not always a correct one.

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In my opinion, both goals are an integral part of the game.
For the narrative part, the imbalance does hardly matter, and thus no problem at all - I totally agree with you there.

But another part of the game is also to quite mechanically overcome challenges and defeat opponents, and that is where die rolls do matter quite a bit. The fact that it is possible to mitigate the statistical disadvantage - by adapting your group logistics, or the GM simply giving you training wheels - isn’t really a consolation, because I think you shouldn’t have to, and it also seems quite unneccessary.

My trouble here, from the conceptual perspective, is that “what the character can do” and “what the player can do” are mixed up: Not all heroes are equal, and that’s intended. But all players should be - that’s where the idea of balance come in.

More concrete:
Of course, a (narratively) weaker character shouldn’t have the same grand manoeuvres at their disposal that a straightforward powerhouse brings - I think we can agree on that.
But it would seem quite easy to provide the player with a different set tools instead of simply cutting their options down; and most other RPGs I know do that in some way or other.

As an example - just to throw something in that’s maybe a little more creative than die sizes - you could maybe say “pick any two principles instead of the regular one” - that would reflect how a character has gone through a lot more formative experience than those with a straighter vita; and it would also provide a the player with a broader array of situations to use a Principle.

I suppose I would care much less if SCRPG wasn’t, at its core, a game setup I’m finding absolutely brilliant. It really shines in so many aspects that I want it to be as perfectly flawless as can be.
And it thus irks me all the more that there are those few parts that seem to blatantly say “ah, let’s not bother with tedious math; we’ll simply postulate balance doesn’t matter - that’s good enough, happy weekend everyone”.
It doesn’t really make the game less great by any means, but I still feel it would have deserved better, and the potential was so close!


Yeah, I feel exactly the same way. The core system is really smooth and elegant, but the content is a mess. That’s why I’ve been screwing around with a homebrew system for a while that takes the SCRPG system and puts everything I want mechanically in it. Wish I had the time to put more work into it… or the friends who would actually play it with me and give me an incentive.

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Not familiar with the SCRPG in particular, but I think there’s enough on this topic that I can weigh in on from just a general RPG-and-cooperative-gaming perspective.

When the game is about everyone collectively achieving an objective of any sort beyond just amusing each other with Monty Python quotes or lame Dad-joke-tier puns (possibly about trains, but either way), that brings with it a certain degree of shared responsibility. (I get very tired of people abusing that phrase, as it’s a commonly-resorted-to one in this day and age, and frequently used for some extremely cringeworthy government propaganda, but I think it’s applicable in this case.) If someone is in the mood to intentionally saddle themselves with a handicap, “because that’s how I’m playing my character”, that can potentially damage the fun of other people at the table. If I’m sitting down to a game of Enhanced Edition SOTM, I might be willing to just go up against Baron Blade and let everyone else do whatever they feel like…but other times, I might be going “oh I just bought Wrath of the Cosmos and I hear Progeny is super hard, I really want to try him out”. And if one of my fellow players then decides they want to play Setback or Guise and be a total goofball the whole time, and it ends up costing us a victory which we could have achieved if they hadn’t messed us up…it is not okay that that one person got to achieve their goal of having some silly fun, when it completely destroyed three other peoples’ desire to earn a victory over an extremely challenging foe. The same principle applies in an RPG scenario, if that scenario is even somewhat focused on combatting a foe or otherwise achieving an objective.

This modern attitude of “oh just do whatever your character would do” is not the ultimate answer to everything which it is often treated as being.

I understand the sentiment that people have a responsibility to bring a playable or appropriate character to the play table. However, speaking as the person playing a character with said ‘handicap’, I don’t think that you lack of experience is helping. Despite what this thread has been implying, a Struggling background character is far from unplayable or inappropriate in the majority of cases. And in the SCRPG, unless you’re in a one-shot, everyone knows what everyone else is playing beforehand.
In addition, there aren’t that many Backgrounds that give access to Respnsibility Principles. Four, out of the twenty, to be exact. There are only three Archetypes, another thing selected during character creation that can give access to Responsibility Principles. Believe it or not, most of the options that offer Responsibility Principles? Tend to be just as limited as Struggling, albeit with slightly better dice.

That concept of bringing a playable character? Struggling characters are just as playable as any other. And if you don’t want anyone’s character to be Struggling… just don’t make it an option during character creation. Surely for a higher power game, pruning options during character creation would make sense?

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Question: have other folks played a character with the Struggling background? Because I haven’t seen it be an issue when I’ve had folks play it, and with the exception of catDreaming, I haven’t seen anyone talk about the experience – just the theory. :confused:

Not saying this proves anything, but it is usually good to get actual data for these situations. :grin: