Thursday, April 24, 2008

Problematic Arete

Several attempts have been made in the past to revise Arete. All (that I've seen, anyway) simply change the nature of the dice pools. They still keep the concept of "Greeks are just better at Skills" and don't branch out at all. Me, I think giving bonuses to skills is pretty narrow design space, not truly worthy of 10 levels of a Pantheon Purview.

There's numerous criticisms that have come up about Arete. Note that this is an attempt to just list everything I've heard/read people complain about it, both in person and on the forums. I'm including them in the same barely-sensible order I used on the Forum, so that I don't get confused and refer to the wrong letters later.

Here's the short version:
A) Not as good as Epics, for around the same cost.
B) Yet way too good in the late campaign, especially Legend 12.
C) Too many dice to fit in your hand. Too many rerolls, too.
D) Better than Abilities.
E) Very cost-prohibitive.
F) Not as flavorful as other Pantheon's Purviews.

G) If you do buy it to a high level, you get called a munchkin/twink.
H) The first dot is rather weak compared to the first dot of anything else.
I) If it applies to DV, Greeks are unhittable.
J) The rerolls are pointless.

Here's the long version:

Not as good as Epics, for around the same cost. Until your Legend gets really high, there's little reason to buy it. Investing the XP in Epics will pay off better. Since my campaign uses "Legend Rating by Storyline" not by XP, this isn't really a problem with my group. They aren't rushing to keep Legend and one or two Epics maxed, so therefore they have time and XP available to spend on little things, like Arete. Even if they were focused on maxing something, they'd get the Epic topped out, and then have to wait till the next time I felt a Legend increase was justified. In that wait-time, they'd be tempted to spend XP on Arete to further max out their pools. But for those who require XP to raise Legend, Arete looks pretty crappy. (And for the record, I think that's just fall-out from the truism that compared to Epics, everything else looks crappy as heck.)

B) In the late God-stage campaign, when it's finally worth spending XP on it, Arete gives the Greeks a huge bonus. Obviously, I'm not at this hurdle yet, but I'm not sure how it'll feel when the one Greek PC in my campaign is rolling 16 to 46 more dice than anyone else at everything. Greeks get all the die-adders the other pantheons have access to, plus Arete on top of it. The only cost is XP, which limits it in the early game, but at Legend 12 it's a sudden pump method.

C) No one really wants to roll +46 bonus dice. Nor do they want to roll +20 or 30 extra dice and a stack of emergency rerolls. Truth be told, there's really no reason to ever hold back more than 1 or 2 rerolls. Still, a Legend 12 Greek Character using their primary schtick will be rolling at least 60 dice total, with one reroll set aside just in case. Since you can't really get more than 20 dice in your hands at once, that's roll and pick out the successes, roll and pick, roll and pick, add them up, decide it's not good enough so you reroll and pick, roll and pick, roll and pick. Yuck.

D) Compared to Abilities, Arete is actually really good. Increasing your overall die pool from 9 to 10 is cheaper if you do it by getting Arete 1 than if you do it by getting Ability 5. It typically takes less XP, and gives a bigger benefit for what you do spend. This is a pretty minor complaint, and it's completely obliviated if the PCs take Fast Learner / Star Pupil / Teaching Prodigy. But still, it's just enough to make certain other complaints (E, H, and J) feel like unwarranted whining. ...which they aren't.

E) Maintaining Arete in more than one or two Abilities is very cost-prohibitive. I actually see this as a balancing factor, since Arete is so powerful at high-legend and/or a Legend by Storyline campaign. Yet it seems to be the #1 complaint by players of Arete, at least on the Forums. It requires them to become narrow specialists, not just broadly amazing at everything. I think that reinforces the concepts of Greek myth, but some folks feel it fails to capture the "We're just better 'cause we're Roman" concept. I suspect that "we're better" statement has been made by every culture in history, but it's just more familiar to us thanks to the heritage of our civilization. Mentioning such doesn't dissuade anyone on the forums, though.

F) Other pantheons get cool powers that have flavor, whereas the Greeks just get dice. As I said, bonus dice is pretty uninteresting for 10 levels of anything.
I also think that as far as dice-adders go, the current Arete does it in a pretty flavorless way. It's just "everytime you roll, add these dice" not something that allows for slightly rarer Heroic feats or truly memorable greatness. Even with 7 dots of Arete: Craft, you can't make a magic item, for example. Compare this to Animal 3 and Animal 5, or Tsukumo-Gami 3. All of those add dice to rolls, but do so in more interesting and flavorful ways. (Though, I'll admit, A3 and TG3 are broken. I've houseruled them in my campaign to solve that, limiting bonus dice by your Legend).

G) Arete is the one Purview that a player can't purchase to it's highest level without being insulted, at least on the Forum. For some reason, using an Avatar or Ultimate to rewrite the plot doesn't get you called a twink, but taking Arete above level 7 does. Using a mirror to talk to your followers via Heku 8 isn't twinkish, but rolling 60 dice (Arete 8 gives 29 dice, plus the 15-30 dice in most of your pools at Legend 9) is likely to unleash the verbal snipage. Sure, it being an impersonal forum makes that easier - but if people are saying that on the net, they must be thinking it when playing face-to-face.

H) The first dot of Arete is rather weak compared to the first dot of any other Pantheon Purview. You're not getting the same payout for your XP. Even original Jotunblut, which was frequently disparaged on the forums, gave you magic puppy dogs for the first dot, and brainwashing for the second! Compare that to +1 die on Animal Ken or Command, and it's clear which is best.

I) If applied to DV, Arete makes Greeks unhittable. The rules are a tiny bit unclear about whether or not it should apply to DV, and this causes big flaming fights on the forum. As I see it, the implication of the rules about bonus dice are that it should affect DV, though I can see why some would disagree (it's not spelled out terribly clearly and is lacking from the DV calculations of the sample PCs). As I said, if you do interpret it to apply to DV, it makes Greeks untouchable in combat somewhere mid-DemiGod (I'd say around 5 or 6 dots of Arete in Melee or Athletics).

J) The rerolls are pointless. This is no big deal, since Arete gives so much power just via the bonus dice. However, it's silly (and annoying to some) that the books mention you could have 23 rerolls with Arete 10. I can't really think of anything where 20 dice and 23 rerolls (so 0-40 successes, most likely a final result in the high teens to low 20s) is actually better than 66 dice (0-122 successes, but most likely a final result just over 30).

No comments: