Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

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iuvenis
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Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

#1 Post by iuvenis » Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:08 pm

So I've been wanting to get into the Harnmaster rule set (mostly HMG so far but I don't think it makes much of a difference here) for a while and played a few sessions already but I've always been kind of fuzzy about how to interpet the degree of success in a number of skills particularly in the lore/craft category, meaning things like agriculture, woodcraft, alchemy and so on.
Of course the rules give you a clear way to calculate the ML but this tends to be a very low value for most of the character's life. Hell, even if you're a farmer and son of a farmer and have been growing oats your whole life so far HM3 would give you an OML in agriculture of 5*SB, so as an average Joe you'd have an EML of around 50-60. Does that mean that if this highly specialized Joe Farmer Farmerson were to announce that he wants to grow some oats during a break of adventuring I should roll agriculture for him and give him an almost 50% chance of plain failure to produce any oats? Obviously not, that would be a bit ridiculous and it quickly gets a lot worse than this example if the skill is not the absolute main focus of your character. So what sort of degree of difficulty are the unmodified skill checks in these skills supposed to represent and are there any guidelines I missed somewhere on how to modify them? As it is I'm finding the skill system of Harnmaster a bit disappointing - I'd expect a system that's supposed to discourage the players from solving everything with combat to supply more detail on how to employ their non-combative skills productively than the likes of Dungeons & Dragons (which always gives you a list of example tasks for each skill with the corresponding difficulty rating to give a point of reference).

I'd love to hear any thoughts from more experienced Harnmasters (?) on the matter, hopefully I just missed something :)

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Re: Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

#2 Post by Rothesay » Tue Apr 18, 2017 2:51 am

Well, to take the oat example, it's not some much a 50% chance of failure as a quality indicator. (That having been said I don't think I've ever asked for an agricultural roll on planting. :wink: )

Consider the four outcomes: CS, MS, MF, CF.

In the case of critical success, I'd say the famer got a bumper crop, and perhaps increase the yield by 25%.

In the case of marginal success, nothing unusual - oats grow as expected.

With marginal failure the crop would suffer in some fashion, with the yield correspondingly reduced. I tend to be a little harder on the downside, so yield reduced by 50%.

With critical failure, something really went wrong and there is no usable crop. Could be blight, or planted wrong, or some other explanation.

As to modifiers, land quality, weather, condition of the field can all be modifiers. There might also be one for advice from an old hand, etc.

This could easily be extrapolated to other types of produce/manufactured items. Hope that helps. 8)

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Re: Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

#3 Post by MDMann » Tue Apr 18, 2017 3:38 am

Also that's the opening skill of that farmer at age 14 or so. That same farmer after 20 years could easily have a mastery level in the high eighties. They could also specialise in say cereals or even rye if they practiced that to gain even more proficiency.
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Re: Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

#4 Post by Krazma » Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:03 am

There are a few things you should consider when it comes to modifiers and skill checks.

First, if the skill use is something appropriate to the Value Enhancement rules (see HM3, Skills 20; or HMGPE, Skills 5), then by all means apply those. For a farmer trying to grow a crop of oats, for instance, a ML of 50-59 would be a SI (Skill Index) of 5. Thus, on the VE Table, a 1.0 might be taken as the basic yield of the crop, nothing more, while higher values represent increased yields.

Secondly, growing oats is not ordinarily a crisis use of a skill. Non-combat tasks can be given situational bonuses and penalties just like combat rolls. For example, simple agricultural activities might be a +20 or more, while harder ones might get no bonus, or even a penalty. Things like weather, pests, and disease can make life difficult even for a farmer with ML90+. Note, also, in HârnManor, different crops have modifiers; oats are +15, while wheat is -20, for instance.

Finally, agriculture is often a team effort, and the lower ML folks are going to be working under the guidance of the more skilled folks.

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Re: Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

#5 Post by Derfman » Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:06 pm

My pHarn

Non-crisis skill use 'mostly' has minimal or zero dice involved.
A craftsman working for a given month will usually achieve Marginal Success results for that month.
This is true even in many 'situational factors' help or hurt the craftsman's business that month.
Weather, for example, could destroy a manor's crops, but in most cases, AFTER I decide weather damage, the Reeve will then get the usually default Marginal Success for how well he manages to deal with the remains of what can be salvaged.

Again using an agricultural example, a skill that would be most appropriate for non-crisis use would be weatherlore at harvest time. Most agriculture tasks are long term affairs, the combined results of daily work over a long period of time. Defaulting to Marginal Success in such cases feels appropriate to me.
But a single bad weatherlore decision at harvest time can spell ruin for a harvest.

My heaviest use of non-crisis dice is in 'special tasks'. A PC weaponcrafter making a special weapon for example. (For day to day normal work, I give him the default MS).

But even more importantly, dice rolling should involve the story.
Having said that, even if the story is involved does NOT mean dice are needed a lot, but it does justify at least some use of dice.

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Re: Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

#6 Post by MThurston » Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:23 pm

Remember that non combat skills get a roll to improve after a certain amount of time. I can't remember if it is 8 hours or 40 hours of work.

So if you made a 14 year old farm boy and advanced his life 4 year's to 18, he would improve his skills by the amount of hours worked.

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Re: Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

#7 Post by MDMann » Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:36 pm

40 hours is about a weeks work at a full time occupation with time left for other chores, working a 60 average hour week.
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Re: Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

#8 Post by pokep » Wed Apr 19, 2017 4:16 am

If I could change one thing in the way the rules are presented, I would do this.

I would present the Value Enhancement table and explain skills in terms of this table. I would give all sorts of examples of how an ostler breeds more valuable horses, farmers get better crops, merchants negotiate better prices. Then I would put in a sidebar in small print that says, "There are occasional situations where you want a hit-or-miss outcome (see Combat). In such situations you can roll a d100 and interpret it like a weapon attack. But this is usually stupid, because few things in life have cut-and-dried outcomes like that and for players, failure isn't fun."

When I GM, I use the Value Enhancement Table even for weapon skills when weapons are used out of combat - e.g. an archery contest. I use it to determine whether the party gets past the guard. (I give the guard a (secret) value that the party has to exceed, and track the results as party members hand over bribes and make VE rolls on their rhetoric, seduction, and other skills.) That table is my default mechanic in any non-combat skill test. I wish it had been presented as more than a sidebar.

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Re: Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

#9 Post by zrayaan » Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:33 am

Pretty much as everyone stated, and I second using the VALUE ENHANCEMENT table. The one thing you should take away is that, despite calling it "marginal or critical failure", rarely is an outcome pass or fail (otherwise you'd roll a simple d100 and not generate a degree of success).
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Re: Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

#10 Post by Salman » Thu Apr 20, 2017 4:04 am

I tend to view them as pay grades. More ML, more pay and responsibilities. Sometimes when roll is needed CS means more than daily/weekly etc. quota. MS business as usual. MF less than daily/weekly quota and minor equipment failure/injury. CF cluster foul with no or little quota, serious equipment failure and/or injury and material loss. Normal and substantial failures can be used to mellow down the effects. Work in medieval times was hazardous but not % dice hazardous.

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Re: Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

#11 Post by pokep » Thu Apr 20, 2017 11:35 am

Salman wrote:I tend to view them as pay grades. More ML, more pay and responsibilities. Sometimes when roll is needed CS means more than daily/weekly etc. quota. MS business as usual. MF less than daily/weekly quota and minor equipment failure/injury. CF cluster foul with no or little quota, serious equipment failure and/or injury and material loss. Normal and substantial failures can be used to mellow down the effects. Work in medieval times was hazardous but not % dice hazardous.
That sounds suspiciously like the Value Enhancement Table . . . except without the actual, you know . . . table.

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Re: Interpreting ML for non-combat skills

#12 Post by Salman » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:27 pm

True that. I just don't want to crush numbers. It kills the flow. Besides thanks to my father I'm sort of expert at clearing land, carpentry, small scale fishing, hunting small game, and other crafts. All useful stuff for Harn GM.

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