Thursday, March 15, 2012

T&T Gameplay: Showing Some Skills... (Talents)

Apologies Paul (G'noll) not the topic you inspired just yet.

A quick word on Talents. I am as fond of talents as one who is lactose-intolerant likes milk shakes, but I have allowed them since I started playing T&T 7plus. At first it was because I wanted to "play-test" them and see how well they worked. Later, after the play-test campaign, my rationale was more like, the burger joint that I like to go to keeps the customers coming in with them. Now that there has been some discussion of them over in the Halls, I've had to take a look at why I not only think they help Our Game appeal to other, less true T&T-heads, but why I have grown fond of them.

There is something to be said that Talents aren't just combat enhancers. As Talents are in the current 7plus of T&T, Ken's (Trollgod's) rule that Talents cannot enhance combat. I quote here, "What about a Talent for combat? Wouldn't that make the character fight better all the time? No!... ." I'm not going into the specific reasons that Ken St Andre ruled this way, I'll let others go into that wording and what is right or wrong about with the rule. I agree with it. I just agree that talents presented on the tabletop during a role-playing session should bring something more than a damage bonus or a foil to an attack, that's too much like wargaming to me.

Because of this, what Talents have done for almost a decade now for me in T&T has been to retain the convention of a role-playing game to have a rule that prompts something other than combat during a game session. At first, during the initial sessions, Robin (Peryton) would challenge herself to come up with a "Talent" versus a "Feat," a term from That Game. This meant that she would find something other than a tactical shortcut that could be used during game play, and often it had nothing to scenes where violence was occurring.

Now as any good TV watcher faked violence is not a problem, and it is a lot of fun for the audience; but there is a difference between a wrestling match and a good prime-time soap opera. And the wrestling only airs when the network doesn't have any money to show anything else. The T&T Talent gave me something else besides sexual titillation to help craft a fantasy melodrama along with my players. And as Robin and I are married, we don't do a lot of sexual titillation for the other guests at the role-playing session. We did have a nice sun set in Athebes where my main NPC and her Wizard character made it to the top of my version of Mount Kilimanjaro, but we just flirted as I revealed background information on the setting for everyone. Still Jonathan, Ziggy and Shelly stopped rolling dice to watch the scene unfold. Anyway... !

Later games, new players to the game were just flat-out intrigued by the Talents. Most I feel were just trying to recreate combat feats, unsuccessfully, from D&D 2e. Quite a few complaints arose with words like "subjectivity" and "idiosyncratic" came into play. But some did try to experiment. A few of these flexible few were able to move beyond describing acts that everyone else in their imaginary world should be able to perform, on a daily basis, at that. Almost half of these Talents didn't even come from Star Wars or Star Trek. It was fun to see a Rogue able to basically psychoanalyze the minotaur in the maze by the way he was munching on pistachios (Thanks Lumberjack!).

Most recently, a fellow by the name of Andrew at the BASHCon convention last February, was insistent on playing a Citizen. To define his character, he and Robin, as I was not paying that much attention to him as he was dead meat in book, came up with a couple Talents that a cook would have. Me being the every dutiful GM, came up with a reason as to why he would come hang out with a group of grave-robbing and Prone-to-Violence sociopaths that call themselves "Delvers." You guys want to know what, the Cook made the whole of the "Leprechaun Island" scenario work. Don't believe me? Ask Robin, Paul and Jerry (Jherri).

So these days, I give people insistent on having Talents some respect. They have some skills that can be shown. And they keep it about the story, not the "disarming" and "power surge" of combat.


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