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2.6.4 Defining Advantages & Disadvantages

Note that in the following discussion, and at other points in the manual, advantages and disadvantages are sometimes collectively referred to as `dis-ads': `a dis-ad' means `either an advantage or a disadvantage'.

You do not necessarily have to define advantages and disadvantages. If the strict_disads parameter is tuned to no, players may create and assign a point value to advantages in a `freeform' fashion, as discussed in Character Advantages and Character Disadvantages. Monitors will examine the dis-ads as a part of the character approval process, and ensure that they are reasonable, in terms of their definition, their integration into the character conception as detailed in the pubic and private background, and the point value assigned.

You may, though, wish to define advantages and disadvantages in the realm's database, for any of several reasons:

  • Providing dis-ads tailored to your world makes it easier for players to create detailed characters that are well suited to the theme.
  • Explaining to players exactly how the `freeform' dis-ad creation process works, and why the point values they have chosen are not appropriate, tends to be one of the most time consuming and frustrating parts of the monitor's job.
  • Defined dis-ads can have `triggered effects'... that is, selecting a defined advantage or disadvantage can modify other abilities. Triggered effects are discussed further below.
  • You would like to encourage players to take bundled groups of skills, either because you think they're nifty and well-suited to your world, or because you need more characters of a certain type for balance and completeness among the RP population. You could assign the `bundled skills' as triggered effects, so that a player who takes the advantage will get all the skills, and assign the advantage a slightly lower cost than would be required to learn all the skills individually. Players get a `points savings' — that is, they can start off with characters that are (in numeric terms, at least) more powerful — by developing characters of the type you would like to see. (You can acheve a similar effect with templates; see Defining Templates.)

If your primary motivation for defining dis-ads is to prevent players from creating unrealistic or inappropriate dis-ads during chargen, you should strongly consider tuning the strict_disads system parameter to yes, ensuring that players will only select defined dis-ads. This may prove somewhat restricting initially, as players come up with character ideas that reasonably require dis-ads you haven't defined, but in this case you (or any staff member) can define the required dis-ads `on the fly', when needed (this actually turns out to be easier and quicker than constantly renegotiating freeform dis-ads).

One other note before we look at an example: dis-ads are an exception to the rule that you must completely redefine a database entry in order to modify it. If you re-enter a defintion for a dis-ad, any triggered effects are added to the current list of triggered effects. This makes it a little easier to tweak advantages and disadvantages, finding combinations of triggered effects that do what you want, but it also means that you must be sure to +remove a dis-ad before redefining it if you really do want to redo it entirely.

Suppose that we do want to use strict_disads, and that currently our pulp fiction-esque, 1940's world needs more private eye and informer types. We've posted notices on the bulletin boards that this type of player is needed, and to sweeten the deal just a little, want to create a `Connected' advantage, that has Streetwise 2, Underworld Influence 2, and Police Influence 2 as triggered effects (these being skills that the two desired character types would need). Taken individually, these skills, at these levels, would cost 6 character development points. We can make the character type more attractive by making the Connected advantage cost less than this... 4, say.

>>  What is the category for this definition?
>> [Enter category, or .l to list choices, or .q to quit]

Advantages and disadvantages are defined in exactly the same way. In fact, they are stored in the database as a single category (dis-ads), the only difference between them being that advantages have a positive cost (you pay to take them) and disadvantages have a negative cost (you get points for taking them). So, enter `advantage' or `disadvantage' at this prompt. For Connected, we would enter `advantage'.

>>  How many points is this Advantage worth?
>> [Enter point value, or .q to quit]

We simply enter a number here, the character development cost or bonus for the dis-ad. The system references the category name (`advantage' or `disadvantage') to ensure that the cost entered in the database is positive or negative, as required. So, don't worry about whether a positive cost or a negative cost in the end raises or lowers the number of available points; the system will take care of this. Just enter a number. In the case of Connected, we will enter `4'.

>>  Does this Advantage have triggered effects? (y/n)

Dis-ads do not have to have triggered effects. Dis-ads that don't have triggered effects can still be useful, either as a prerequisite for other abilities, or as a means of tweaking and adjusting total point values of starting characters ("This `locksmith 2' skill you're taking seems unrealistic to me, for this barbarian character from a very low tech area", says the monitor to the slightly twinkish player. "Take the `Unusual Background' advantage, which costs 1 point, and include an explanation of how you learned this in your private background... Then I'll approve the character.").

In the case of Connected, we do want triggered effects. They are in fact the whole point of the advantage. So we enter `yes' here.

>>  What is the category of this effect?
>> [Enter stat, skill, spell, psiab, advantage, disadvantage, or .q to quit]
>>  Which skill is an effect?
>> [Enter skill, or .q to quit]
>>  What is the level of this effect?
>> [Enter number, or .q to quit]
>>  Effect added.
>>  Do you want to specify another effect? (y/n)

As the prompts above indicate, we can specify any category of ability as a triggered effect. Assigning triggered effects simply requires specifying the category, instance, and level of each effect. Of these, only `level' should require any explanation: the `level' is a number added to the player's existing level for the relavent ability. In other words, the level specified is relative to the player's current level, not absolute. For the Streetwise 2 effect, we will enter `skill' as the category, `streetwise' as the skill, and `2' as the level. If a player who does not have any levels for Streetwise selects the Connected advantage, he will then have the Streetwise skill at level 2. If a player who already knows Streetwise at level 1 takes the advantage, she will then have Streetwise 3. The level can be a negative number. This might be appropriate for disadvantages, or as an `offsetting cost' of an advantage with bundled triggered effect that overall are positive.

For Connected, we would enter `yes' to the final prompt (Do you want to specify another effect? until we had entered all three triggered effects.

Typing +info adv/concealment shows the final result:

    Point Bonus:       -4
    Triggered Effects: Skills: Streetwise (2)
    Triggered Effects: Skills: Underworld Influence (2)
    Triggered Effects: Skills: Police Influence (2)

Yes, the `negative bonus' is somewhat confusing: bottom line, this is an advantage, so it costs points... that is, unlike a disadvantage, it has a negative bonus.

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