Character creation needs a revamp

I love Cataclysm, but I think the weakest area definitely lies within character creation.

The fact of the matter is, having a universal point system to spend across traits, stats, and skills is a balance nightmare. Trying to balance stats against other is hard enough, but you’re balancing stats against skills and traits as well.

Skills should get their own pool in which to invest in at the very least, because realistically, everyone is going to have some skills. And in doing so, you can better balance the skill costs against one another. Skills that are more valuable in the game will cost more vs. skills that don’t see a whole lot of use.

Traits need a good hard looking at. There are a lot of flaws that are too good for the points they give, and I think the point maximum for them needs to be lowered as well. There really isn’t a lot here that isn’t worth taking for extra stat points. As far as the perks, I don’t really understand the point of having a maximum you can take for these.

But honestly, I’d like to see traits relegated to their own pool away from stats too for the same reason skills should be. It’s much easier to balance the perks and flaws against one another than against your character’s attributes. The one exception would probably be Illiteracy, which should definitely give your stats and/or skill points a boost.

There is also the issue of social skills/traits. If you don’t have interactable NPCs in your game turned on, they do nothing. What I’d like to see is NPCs and skills/traits to interact with NPCs moved into a worldgen mod, bundled nicely together.

Coming from playing tabletop roleplaying games, I can tell you that universal point systems are probably the most difficult things to balance period. They require a lot of GM oversight to ensure players aren’t cheesing out their characters. That’s why I believe it’s far better game design to have pools of reach aspect of the character. I do hope this suggestion is taken seriously.

The game is not realistic. Don’t assume everyone wants to have to play like you. Even indulging in your “stop playing the way I don’t like” fantasy, reality doesn’t make everyone equal. If we’re going to make this game “fair”, the game should roll 1-12 points you have available, because some people are actually that much better than someone else.

On the NPC one, if you’re not capable of controlling yourself to not take them, don’t complain about them. At all. You are the problem there. If you don’t think the game is balanced the way you want, surprise! You can choose not to take points/skills, and you can even add/remove the max points available. There’s even debug menus where you can give or take anything you want.

Wow rude.

I think Adventurers points are all pretty well made.

Character creation is very strangely unbalanced, with very temporary boosts/penalties (starting skills / burning building starts) weighed against permanent game-changers ( stats / traits ).

It would be nice to take starting skills without feeling like I was deliberately nerfing a character by not taking stats instead.

Um this isn’t how fairness works btw.

well no, it is.

theresan arguement to be made that since everyone gets 1 roll its fair.

whether its an ideal or accurate portrayal of how humanity works is a seperate matter. you may not believe thats some people are inherently better, for instance. but thats really not a matter for ‘fairness’

The stat/trait/skill split sounds like a good idea to me.

Skills increase a lot. Putting too many points there will result in harder endgame.
Traits change moderately. You can gain some new ones, but you are unlikely to lose those you started with.
Stats barely change. Points there will not be wasted.

Scenario difficulty mostly affects the start, so it should only really give a lot of skill points, not stat points.
It would make the choices more balanced against each other rather than some of them being challenge ones. And no, those marked as challenge don’t need to be any harder - lab start can greatly decrease difficulty.

Yea, fair enough. There’s a ton of min-maxing that goes on with the character creation that you have to deliberately break yourself out of if you want the game to continue being interesting.

Since we have much more configurable difficulty settings, it would make sense to remove certain traits from character creation if they would do nothing. Mainly ugly, truth teller, and psychopath come to mind when it comes to NPC’s being completely disabled (although I get the feeling that might make weighting your character towards certain mutation paths a little harder, but I don’t really care about that for the most part, lol), since they are mostly irrelevant at that point. But also for things like forgetful if skill rust is disabled, and similar situations like that.

As for separate stat/trait/skill spending, I mostly agree that it’s a system that is too easy to min-max, but I would hate for character’s to become semi-homogeneous in how they are ultimately.

Basically if you had to spend your points equally or mostly equally between stats, traits, and skills, you’d end up with less variance in stats, because you would want to be able play a character you can take to the endgame without being way to impaired. I would guess (maybe wrongly?) that most characters would be melee focused, since the removal of craft able smokeless gunpowder will limit the ammo you can access (mainly happens at higher difficulty settings if the difficulty is increased in whole or in part by decreasing item spawns), but also because you need some decent amount of strength to carry more goods, which the amount of goods you have will be scarce anyway… Anyways, sorry. I’m getting off track.

Basically what I want to suggest here is that perhaps the stat and trait pools should be one in the same, since these affect what your character is capable off through most if not all of the game. The only instance of you losing traits permanently that I can think of is medical mutagen/serum… I think. I could be wrong on that., and most people don’t hit that until endgame anyway, and even then it seems like there are better ways to go.

This way, some of the points can be set aside for skills, while still allowing a decent degree of flexibility to play some interesting builds. Professions and skills could share the same pool. Lastly, because I’m a terrible person who wants to destroy everything, maybe the first point giving you a 2 level boost in skill should only apply if your profession doesn’t have any skill in that skill normally.

As an example, I often play as the computer hacker profession and if I put a point into computers, I go from level 4 to level 6. That seems okay, but it’s a tad bit of a jump for what amounts to 2 points spent overall.

So what I would be proposing instead would be that if I take the computer hacker profession, I start at 4 computers there, add one point and I move up to 5. And then if I wanted to take advantage of the discount, I would put in another point to move up to 6, instead of 2 points, then an additional point would cost 2 skill points from there and so on. But if I instead wanted to take my electronics up to 2, that would still only cost 1 point. (Since my electronics would normally start at 0).

It would make professions like the blackbelt, less broken because for 11 points you can currently have 10 melee, 10 dodging, and 10 unarmed with a free martial arts style, for the cost of bad temper, glass jar, and your 6 default starting points (also no starting knife, but you can beat one out of a zombie probably). With my proposed change, the same setup would cost an extra 3 points, so to make that work nicely, you need to either take a more difficult start, at least or make a real sacrifice.

Skills should get their own pool in which to invest in at the very least, because realistically, everyone is going to have some skills. And in doing so, you can better balance the skill costs against one another. Skills that are more valuable in the game will cost more vs. skills that don't see a whole lot of use.
There is also the issue of social skills/traits. If you don't have interactable NPCs in your game turned on, they do nothing.

I can get behind those two statements.

While it’s true that

universal point systems are probably the most difficult things to balance period

I must admit I have no idea how we’d balance skills against other skills and traits against other traits. Especially skills - trait balancing is more or less here already.

either by making them more even more expensive or byadding a seperate point system that is only granted for taking serious disadvantages or by instituting a diceroll style attribute allotment or by relying upon the player not to be OP.

CDDA has a bit of a tradition in allowing players to be as strong or weak as they please., and relies upon them to avoid the most broken paths. it can be hard to cater to all player’s preferences, but I imagine player discline is ultimately going to be involved. I think its worth mentioning that adding an option to turn on an enforced ‘permadeath’ mode where the game forces you to keep results 'by saving onexit or every so often and pointed out ‘unexplained crashes’ would help some players

For what it’s worth I know there have at least been some (I think pretty good) ideas of actually disallowing the “limit” on points totally and rather than displaying the numbers just display a rough estimate of how hard the game is expected to be with the currently selected traits/stats/etc. (which would be recorded in your memorial, of course). That way there’s a bit of an incentive for setting yourself up with a worse start to get a game on “impossible” or something similar (or avoid the dreaded “really easy” setting :P), the lack of actual visible numbers removes a bit of that “I have to use every last point” feeling, and it makes it a bit easier for the roleplayer portion of the community (which is a significant percentage) to build characters that are exactly the way that they want them to be without having to tweak starting point settings or break out the debug menu. (Could probably even throw in a special “min-maxer” “difficulty” if you take a huge number of both positive and negative traits. :P)

Lack of actual visible points is a good idea indeed.

However, about skills, Coolthulhu made several good arguments from both realism and gameplay points of view. Skills urgently need a separate point pool so that they are not viewed as useless and hence avoided at character creation (which leads to grinding for the first few days). When they have to compete with stats and traits for the same pool, they lose.

Skills don’t need a separate point pool, because a person who starts with no skills is not entirely “skillless” - he can still take apart furniture, fix clothing (badly), make quite a lot of stuff if he has the materials, etc. The problem, perhaps, with balancing, is that “zero skills” is not nearly as big a disadvantage as it’s probably supposed to be. It’s too easy to get a leg up on some fairly complex skills, without any points spent on kickstarting them.

The solution I proposed to alleviate this sort of thing, is not to have a separate points pool for skills - because forcing a player to take skills is just ridiculous, this is not a classic RPG, any scenario is possible. I’d rather see a significant penalty in place for starting with zero skill, and/or have the skills be cheaper to acquire than stats.

Of course they are currently as cheap as they can get, which is a problem that can be solved by upping the point pool total (say, tenfold), and increasing the costs of everything but the skills to match the relative value of them. Stats get a tenfold increase in price, and traits get rebalanced. That way you will still be able to put just as many points into stats as before, but for every one point you don’t put into stats you could kickstart several skills and maybe get a trait or two.

As for how to introduce a penalty for starting “zero skill”, perhaps make it so that the XP amount to progress from 0 to 1 is disproportionately large compared to going from 1 to 2 and further. I mean, if it’s literally zero skill, learning by doing should take a significant time. It will be possible to grind it up, of course, but any book on the subject will be much, much better for the purpose, and this intentional lengthening of excruciating grind combined with the decrease of relative cost between stats and skills, as above, should provide enough incentive for all but the most singleminded minmaxers to actually pack some skills at startup.

The chargen screen could even show a warning along those lines. A friendly reminder that any skills starting at 0 are going to take a while to bring up without books. It should alert any new players that skills are a thing they should consider putting points into, and remind old players that they’re going to have to deal with a lot more grind if they stick to their old ways. While, still, keeping the option to start with a skill-less character open.