Design Concept – Removal of Strain Skills

This is going to get love and hate, and after having a great weekend to refresh my batteries, I think I am ready to have a conversation about an idea I have for the Strains for Dystopia Rising: Evolved. This is without a doubt a conversation, and not something that is set in stone, because I am not sure about it yet myself.

Before I get into the reasoning, I am going to ask that if you choose to reply that you do so with some sort of substance to the response. I would love to talk about the ideas, concepts, and drives behind design decisions… but I can’t do that with responses that are focused on emotional response without solid thought processes explaining an opinion. If you say, “I feel…” and then provide no explanation as to why you feel a certain way, I have nothing to work with. Don’t get me wrong, you can feel however you like and I in no way am telling you that your feelings or opinions are wrong to have. You are entitled to all the gut feelings you would like. It’s just that if you say “I feel…” something without any full thought out structure behind it, it doesn’t help with design process at all.

So, let’s get down to it. Shall we?

 I have mixed feelings about this Retrograde teacher...

I have mixed feelings about this Retrograde teacher...

I am proposing that in Dystopia Rising: Evolved (3.0) we take all the Strain Skills out of the game in 90% of the Strain applications.

The original purpose behind Strain based skills was for early development of the game world where we didn’t have a robust mythology and publication set for people to reference. The Strain based skills were to show a pre-disposition towards certain avenues of role-play and mechanical design for each of the individual Strains. In a way, they were the building blocks for how we wanted the culture to develop until we could provide resources and an existing player culture to support what the Strains represent. In many instances this succeeded, in a handful of others they did not.

In removing these skills from the Strain lists the skills will be added instead to a number of Professions and the open lists to ensure that any skill that was on a Strain list now exists on a MINUMUM of three different professions and on average will exist on six profession lists. This is being done with all first-tier skills (example: Prepare Meal but not Disguise Content) to give more options for design and focus. As an aside, this is also the reason for a number of new Professions to be added. More on that on another post.

Skills that are a part of genetics instead of a part of culture will be kept, but mechanically represented differently in the Strain advantages (since they all need an adjustment or rework anyway). As an example: Unborn being able to have access to basic psionics, since that is a part of their genetic design, will remain however all Yorkers having the ability to be Entertaining will go away. While all Unborn have the potential to learn basic psionics, not all Yorkers are by default Entertaining in their core design. Don’t get me wrong, I live in Connecticut which is effectively the suburbs of New York City. I love ya New York, but not everyone in the hustle and bustle is entertaining. Guy shitting next to the newspaper machine in the subway? Not entertaining.

The second thing this will provide is more open application for how the Strains are represented by the players. The mechanical advantages of the Strains can be adjusted to give a bit more advantage based on genetics while focusing less on “seeding culture” into the mix. Not every single Merican needs to shoot a gun, or have it innately part of their genetic design to be a gun user.

The third reason for the proposed removal of Strain skills is an adjustment to base costs for buying skills in Professions. Right now in 2.1, the number of skills and the cost of skills across a number of professions varies greatly. It is part of the intent of redesign to have skills cost a standardized 3,6, or 9 XP to purchase based on if a skill is a primary focus of a profession, a secondary or unique skill to the profession, or a second-tier skill on the open list (like defenses like Mind Resist). This fine tuning assists with the process of rebalancing some professions with the collapse of certain lesser skills together.

While one option is to remove the Strain skills, another is to keep them for the self-teach aspect and keep the cost of them at a 3 XP level. This doesn’t give an advantage to Strains in regards to XP, but would provide the ability for self-teaching. At this point, with the number of players in play, self-teaching isn’t anywhere near as much of an advantage as it once was. Now you can walk around and find a teacher for most things just by engaging and roleplaying with others. I can see an advantage to keeping the self-teach aspect to Strain skills for brand new players who don't have connections yet, but I can also see longer term advantage of having a design system that encourages them to talk to others to learn skills.