Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Level of Detail

A discussion arose recently in RPG-Create regarding how to deal with a particular event wherein a character has used his Safe Cracking Skill only to find that the safe did not hold the treasure map (or whatever) he was hoping for. The discussion revolved around some issues related to that event and how one might Gamesmaster it. The discussion engendered the following thought...

Maybe this is a question of Level Of Detail. You could, if you arranged your Skills in Sets of hierarchical groups change the level of detail as you go. So Ransack can be a high level Skill Categoryin which Safe Cracking is a specific Skill within the set. Lets say that the characters are on a world spanning hunt for the lost treasure of Mumbu and they think there is a map in the apartment. The adventure, the GM knows, will take days if they do everything at the detail level, so he and the players decide to run this part as a specific Scene, "Then they ransacked the apartment" and so the character goes in, and does a Ransack roll. That roll is done by some generalized accounting of his overall skill level, perhaps the average of all of his Ransack Skills. The roll is made and he either wins or loses. OR, conversely, the group can decide its worth the time to be specific. They check everything in the room in detail, in which case the character rolls a Safe Crack, which perhaps is a higher level roll than his Ransack because he actually knows that one better. With this you could have a kind of sliding Skills Usage rule that lets you focus in or not depending on the level of detail people want to go to. On the question of the meta game, I'm not too fond of the notion that the map can slide around depending on the roll, because I think it should be prepped by the GM where it is, if it's important. He should know who has the map and where they put it. On the other hand for minor items where the story doesn't hinge on it, sure, why not cut to the chase and put the thing in or out of the scene based on a roll. Either way works, but I lean towards prep because it indicates that the GM has really thought about what's going on and knows the scene well.
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