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Author Topic: The future of "A Time of War"  (Read 7408 times)

Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #90 on: 08 January 2021, 20:14:37 »
Tier skills actually make sense to me.  Some things are complex enough that it takes innate talent to continuously improve.  For everyone else, they need just a bit more training to achieve the same level of performance.  But once the less talented masses get past the "hump", they improve just like the gifted.

monbvol

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #91 on: 08 January 2021, 22:40:09 »
Plus keep in mind that in every case where such a bump exists depending on your attribute modifiers you'll probably now have a net gain to make accomplishing tasks even easier.

Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #92 on: 08 January 2021, 23:08:48 »
It's definitely a "rich get richer" situation.  But AToW appropriately costs being "rich".  Attribute scores of 7 (not to mention 10) are expensive.

Carbon Elasmobranch

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #93 on: 09 January 2021, 19:21:04 »
Tier skills actually make sense to me.  Some things are complex enough that it takes innate talent to continuously improve.  For everyone else, they need just a bit more training to achieve the same level of performance.  But once the less talented masses get past the "hump", they improve just like the gifted.

They strike me as akin to the acerbically patronizing one-dot descriptions for skills that you could find in the early days of World of Darkness games, like Computer 1 being "you can boot up a video game" or Drive 1 being "you can drive an automatic". Eventually, the writing moved past that and noted that you didn't need the respective Ability to do either one of those tasks; this is where I'm used to actual ratings in a skill being with regard to character competence. I'm not approaching things from the standpoint of which Attribute or Attributes you can pull in for bonuses (let's face it, the talented are always going to be talented, there's no point in using that as a measurement), but the basic difficulty of the activity in question.

Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #94 on: 09 January 2021, 19:30:21 »
I think AToW got after that aspect with 0-level skills.  And for reference, the tiered skills are: Art, Computers, Interest, Martial Arts, Melee Weapons, and Prestidigitation.  All of those make sense to me.

monbvol

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #95 on: 09 January 2021, 21:23:44 »
I'm pretty well with Daryk on this.

Computers is a really good one.  There are people who struggle to even use a search engine.  There are people who can dabble with e-mail and various productivity suites.  Then there are the true masters of the craft that can write scripts, program new applications, hack, and get computers to talk to each other.  Yet I would absolutely say they all use fundamentally the same skill.

Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #96 on: 09 January 2021, 22:15:48 »
Thanks Monbvol!  :thumbsup:

I forgot to mention that I added another tiered skill in my AToW Tweaks thread (linked in my sig block): Gun Kata.

Sharpnel

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #97 on: 10 January 2021, 05:27:09 »
Thanks Monbvol!  :thumbsup:

I forgot to mention that I added another tiered skill in my AToW Tweaks thread (linked in my sig block): Gun Kata.
I wholly approve this tiered skill. Equilibrium is one of my favorite films.
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Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #98 on: 10 January 2021, 07:30:44 »
Thanks!  It was fun to put together.  :thumbsup:

Carbon Elasmobranch

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #99 on: 12 January 2021, 00:14:26 »
I'm pretty well with Daryk on this.

Computers is a really good one.  There are people who struggle to even use a search engine.  There are people who can dabble with e-mail and various productivity suites.  Then there are the true masters of the craft that can write scripts, program new applications, hack, and get computers to talk to each other.  Yet I would absolutely say they all use fundamentally the same skill.

By the description of the Computers Skill, those basic tasks don't require having even a +0 in it. Explicitly, ready-made applications don't count. Hence, my confusion at why such tier changes exist, as other skill descriptions don't quite match up with that scheme, either, but less from the description specifically calling out the "low tier" examples as specifically not things that the skill does and more because it's odd that, in a game where specifically-trained super soldiers were wrecked by soldiers recruited from the far and wide expanse beyond those of said super soldiers, there would be such a bias against "crude streetfighting" or "rudimentary knife-fighting".
« Last Edit: 12 January 2021, 00:18:05 by Carbon Elasmobranch »

monbvol

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #100 on: 12 January 2021, 00:48:28 »
Yes and no.

Writing scripts, applications, and actually establishing a connection to an information network are all explicitly something you need to have the computer skill for and AToW backs that up in the description.

Relevant citation:
Quote from: AToW page 145
The Computers Skill has no subskills, but the tiered nature of this Skill helps
mark the difference between computer operations and computer programming.
Skilled computer operators can take full advantage of the computer’s capabilities,
including the ability to quickly navigate the memory and storage devices attached
to the computer to find hidden data, hard-to-reach network sites, and even diagnose
software and hardware problems. Programmers, meanwhile, can create, alter and
manipulate software, or even hack through software security and firewalls to dig up
ultra-sensitive data.
Tiered Skill: To reflect the difference between casual computer operations and more
sophisticated programming and hacking, the Computers Skill is represented in A Time
of War as a Tiered Skill, progressing from simple computer operations at the Basic four
levels (0 through 3) to more advanced programming levels where the user can create
and manipulate programs rather than simply running them, and bypass virtual security

As someone with a BS in Computer Networking and having lots of experience helping people do simple tasks I'd say a much better break down(and how I'd run it at my table) that isn't too far off that description would be:

Untrained: How much the character struggles to do rudimentary tasks depends on dice rolls and relevant attributes.
0-3: The character can do the basics on up to being able to do some basic trouble shooting.
4-10: Now the character can start putting together your own applications, circumvent virtual security, establish new connections to information systems, and even assemble a computer from relevant parts.

Also I do have some slight experience with the differences between hand to hand combat and using a weapon.  The skills/techniques are actually really quite different.

Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #101 on: 12 January 2021, 05:22:01 »
The funniest thing about that is that those genetically engineered super soldiers get Attribute bonuses, but Attribute modifiers to skills are specifically excluded from the conversion to TW level play.

Maelwys

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #102 on: 12 January 2021, 13:07:31 »
The attribute modifiers doesn't, but the Field Aptitude does...

Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #103 on: 12 January 2021, 18:34:18 »
That can be chalked up to intensive training, I think.

victor_shaw

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #104 on: 12 January 2021, 21:29:02 »
Have to say, I am not a fan of the Tier system.
But it's not one of the major issues with the game.

Carbon Elasmobranch

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #105 on: 12 January 2021, 21:35:21 »
Yes and no.

Writing scripts, applications, and actually establishing a connection to an information network are all explicitly something you need to have the computer skill for and AToW backs that up in the description.

...Yes? That wasn't what I was talking about. Were you? Because I thought it was entirely about use of ready-made applications.

Quote
Relevant citation:
As someone with a BS in Computer Networking and having lots of experience helping people do simple tasks I'd say a much better break down(and how I'd run it at my table) that isn't too far off that description would be:

Untrained: How much the character struggles to do rudimentary tasks depends on dice rolls and relevant attributes.
0-3: The character can do the basics on up to being able to do some basic trouble shooting.
4-10: Now the character can start putting together your own applications, circumvent virtual security, establish new connections to information systems, and even assemble a computer from relevant parts.

Here's where we get to a vital disconnect - my perception and preferences of game design have it so that the skill just covers everything, rather than siloing off certain functions by skill level, because that eats up word count and cognitive load, and given the superhuman skills sidebar, the progression isn't even guaranteed to go up all the way in every game. Better to say that the basics don't require the skill, and that the skill involves complicated applications of the field. For people that want a character to be really in the dark, use Gremlins?

Quote
Also I do have some slight experience with the differences between hand to hand combat and using a weapon.  The skills/techniques are actually really quite different.

Not what my gripe was in this instance, and a number of other people on the internet have given dissenting opinions on that matter. I'll break it down as such:

Neither skill as they are now seems to present the kind of comfortable learning curve where tiering them differently would make sense (though, as noted above, this setup is rather a bit of an alien approach to me). Especially not given the textual description, which seems to dump on certain methods of gaining experience in fighting in favor of some nebulous formal source that couldn't have existed if there weren't some way to get there without it existing in the first place. The game only cares about the bonus size, anyway.

(in this context, it seems like the window of tiering can be moved toward whether or not you have an aptitude in a skill or not).

Moving on to the other gripe I had addressed earlier regarding fusing the two together, we have a number of very disparate weapons combined into various ranged skills. I'm fairly certain that a laser is going to be very different from a slugthrower, which in turn is drastically different from a gyrojet, sonic stunner, min-flamer, or gauss smg. It doesn't matter; they're all under Small Arms, and their bigger versions are under Support Weapons or a vehicle-based Gunnery concentration.

This is not strict reality*; it is often reality-checked, but reality doesn't get the most say in it. Game design does, and game design is mostly concerned with character niches. That's why we have separate divisions of Piloting and Gunnery for different vehicles, and why, in past editions, there was substantially less differentiation in things not 'Mech (one Gunnery skill for any type of conventional vehicle, for example), and why there was a holistic Technician/'Mech to handle any systems commonly found on 'Mechs instead of different callouts for Myomer, Jet, Nuclear, and Weapons.

That's why you combine Unarmed and Armed into just one. It's a particular niche common to infantry and spec ops, and maybe some intelligence operatives. It's used to incapacitate or kill people without alerting guards immediately due to explosions or muzzle flashes, and to that end, it matters very little exactly what means a character uses to do it, much like how the game just wants ground pounders to get out and shoot, hence one Small Arms skill.

*Much like most of BT.

Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #106 on: 12 January 2021, 21:43:54 »
So.... someone with a 0 level of Computers skill would be able to program a mainframe?  ???

monbvol

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #107 on: 13 January 2021, 01:38:10 »
So.... someone with a 0 level of Computers skill would be able to program a mainframe?  ???

The rules could actually be interpreted that way.

And I think that is the crux of the problem.

...Yes? That wasn't what I was talking about. Were you? Because I thought it was entirely about use of ready-made applications.

That is where the Yes and no comes in for Computers.  No you don't have to roll for ready made applications by the rules unless there is some factor at play.  AToW gives examples.  I only add Untrained to the list for why a character needs to roll to use a ready made application.

Quote
Here's where we get to a vital disconnect - my perception and preferences of game design have it so that the skill just covers everything, rather than siloing off certain functions by skill level, because that eats up word count and cognitive load, and given the superhuman skills sidebar, the progression isn't even guaranteed to go up all the way in every game. Better to say that the basics don't require the skill, and that the skill involves complicated applications of the field. For people that want a character to be really in the dark, use Gremlins?

Computers does.

I think the disconnect we're having is because I completely failed to explain myself properly.

It's less that I'm gating functions or that AToW is and more trying to explain that at some point there is a threshold that separates the true masters of their craft and those who haven't put in the dedication to get there yet.

Also Gremlins is way over severe for my tastes to represent someone in the dark.  I worked in a computer lab during college and part of that was tutoring senior citizens who were still what AToW would consider Untrained and I never had one actually wreck a computer but man did they struggle with some pretty rudimentary stuff.  So like I said Gremlins would be an extra step beyond Untrained in my mind.

Quote
Not what my gripe was in this instance, and a number of other people on the internet have given dissenting opinions on that matter. I'll break it down as such:

Neither skill as they are now seems to present the kind of comfortable learning curve where tiering them differently would make sense (though, as noted above, this setup is rather a bit of an alien approach to me). Especially not given the textual description, which seems to dump on certain methods of gaining experience in fighting in favor of some nebulous formal source that couldn't have existed if there weren't some way to get there without it existing in the first place. The game only cares about the bonus size, anyway.

(in this context, it seems like the window of tiering can be moved toward whether or not you have an aptitude in a skill or not).

I myself tend to think of it this way:

Untrained: Anyone can throw a punch or hit someone with a stick but if the other person is actually trained you're at a huge disadvantage.

0-3: The character is flailing about less now and is able to hold their own better.  The character can even try some of the fancy stuff like limb locks or half swording but they're still really coming to grips with such things.

4-10: The character is really starting to get the most out of the skill now.

Quote
Moving on to the other gripe I had addressed earlier regarding fusing the two together, we have a number of very disparate weapons combined into various ranged skills. I'm fairly certain that a laser is going to be very different from a slugthrower, which in turn is drastically different from a gyrojet, sonic stunner, min-flamer, or gauss smg. It doesn't matter; they're all under Small Arms, and their bigger versions are under Support Weapons or a vehicle-based Gunnery concentration.

This is not strict reality*; it is often reality-checked, but reality doesn't get the most say in it. Game design does, and game design is mostly concerned with character niches. That's why we have separate divisions of Piloting and Gunnery for different vehicles, and why, in past editions, there was substantially less differentiation in things not 'Mech (one Gunnery skill for any type of conventional vehicle, for example), and why there was a holistic Technician/'Mech to handle any systems commonly found on 'Mechs instead of different callouts for Myomer, Jet, Nuclear, and Weapons.

That's why you combine Unarmed and Armed into just one. It's a particular niche common to infantry and spec ops, and maybe some intelligence operatives. It's used to incapacitate or kill people without alerting guards immediately due to explosions or muzzle flashes, and to that end, it matters very little exactly what means a character uses to do it, much like how the game just wants ground pounders to get out and shoot, hence one Small Arms skill.

*Much like most of BT.

Ah now I understand a bit better.

I'll admit this is a tough one for me now that I understand the logic.

I like that unarmed and armed is separated at the RPG level but you raise a good point about internal consistency.

Also I've said a few times myself that I wouldn't complain if Survival and Thrown both lost their subskills and instead used them as ready made example skill specializations.

But I can understand Small Arms being the way it is because fundamentally it's only as factors start mounting that all those Small Arms being fundamentally 'point and shoot' starts to evolve enough for the difference between a laser rifle and a gyrojet to matter.

Which goes back to my first hand experience that if you have even so much as a knife how drastically different the techniques(or skill if you prefer) is from if you don't have one.

Which ultimately makes the question where does one draw the line and make it consistent?

Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #108 on: 13 January 2021, 19:17:10 »
I could see Thrown making the subskill to specialization leap, but Survival is too much, I think.  There is nothing at all the same about surviving in a desert or a jungle.

Carbon Elasmobranch

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #109 on: 13 January 2021, 21:17:11 »
I just don't get why the tiered skills didn't have a higher TN and a bonus to simple tasks. That seems like a much less wordy way to get any of those goals done.

(And while the rules technically could allow a +0 character to attempt program a mainframe, it would either be highly unlikely to result in usable code, or take a very, very long time to work.)

I could see Thrown making the subskill to specialization leap, but Survival is too much, I think.  There is nothing at all the same about surviving in a desert or a jungle.

That would fit better in a BT RPG where skills went Beam Weapons, Slug Throwers, and Missiles instead of Small Arms, Support Weapons, and many different versions of Gunnery, each specific to a vehicle, even when the vehicles would probably use very similar approaches, like BattleMechs and ProtoMechs or ASFs, VTOLs, and Conventional Fighters. I mean, in the latter case, VTOLs and CFs are just using the atmospheric version of what ASFs have to deal with when in-atmosphere. All three of those units can carry hardpoints and strafe, if you take the optional VTOL rules in TacOps as a reflection of in-setting technicalities. And, once upon a time, they all did use the same Gunnery skill, but not in AToW.

In general, my preference is for as few skills as possible covering a broad range of tasks. Skill lists from 1980s games that felt the need to pull everything apart just seem needlessly cumbersome... especially since I got in on the second editions of SR and MW, where the skill lists were quite pared down compared to fare like CP 2020 or D&D's ever-expanding proficiency lists. SR even combined all of the separate physical activity skills into Athletics, which MW1 also did. I'm told that's generally a good policy; the only case for it I can see in the heavily vehicle-based BT is that it wants to make sure that infantry sweat from the exertion of learning somewhere between five and seven such skills, but even if that's the case, why should their players have to join in when the object of the game is to have the players and GM have fun? There are other ways to partition that sub-niche; most SPAs that want to establish that kind of rarefied expertise require specializations, for example, and MW2 had different specialization effects for Running based on long-distance or sprinting.

Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #110 on: 13 January 2021, 21:32:36 »
MW2 was unarguably simpler.  But it had a horrible power creep problem partially as a result.  Complication in the skill list is one way to fight power creep.  I think MW3 went too far in that direction, and AToW was a step back from it.  With the limited number of tiered skills in AToW, I don't see it as a problem for the vast majoirty of players.

monbvol

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #111 on: 13 January 2021, 22:05:57 »
I could see Thrown making the subskill to specialization leap, but Survival is too much, I think.  There is nothing at all the same about surviving in a desert or a jungle.

Watch some Bear Grillis.  He gets about some pretty varied terrain and yet he's using fundamentally the same techniques.

The most I'd go for as a compromise then would really be is force a specialization on Survival.

Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #112 on: 13 January 2021, 22:09:40 »
The counter argument I have to that is BT Survival includes some non-Terran terrain.  There's more variety out there than Bear has had to deal with.

victor_shaw

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #113 on: 13 January 2021, 23:20:35 »
One of the biggest issues with the Tier system is character creation in general.
It's hard to make a pc that has both the linked attributes above +0 and still have them be viable as their main role.leading to a sudden drop in skill bonus that feels unnatural.

monbvol

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #114 on: 14 January 2021, 01:12:38 »
The counter argument I have to that is BT Survival includes some non-Terran terrain.  There's more variety out there than Bear has had to deal with.

My counter to that is if the character is in an environment where the same techniques Bear uses won't cut it then it is highly probable that the character will be dead before even having to roll Survival becomes an issue.

One of the biggest issues with the Tier system is character creation in general.
It's hard to make a pc that has both the linked attributes above +0 and still have them be viable as their main role.leading to a sudden drop in skill bonus that feels unnatural.

It is a little difficult at 5000 XP yes but it is possible and happens quite a bit in my group and has yet to be an issue keeping characters from being good at their main job.

A lot of it comes down to how many skills are linked to Dexterity, Reflexes, and Intelligence.

To correct Daryk a little the passage in AToW doesn't say never ever do characters get their link attribute bonuses when converting over to TW or AS but that the default is they don't and the GM can allow it if they so desire.

victor_shaw

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #115 on: 14 January 2021, 02:24:20 »
MW2 was unarguably simpler.  But it had a horrible power creep problem partially as a result.  Complication in the skill list is one way to fight power creep.  I think MW3 went too far in that direction, and AToW was a step back from it.  With the limited number of tiered skills in AToW, I don't see it as a problem for the vast majoirty of players.

I have multiple issues with this depiction of MW2.
1.termanolagy: Power creep has nothing to do with level. It refers to when a games source books (mostly Rifts) have progressively more powerful classes and abilities to drive new book sales
2. GM: having played with multiple GM and run the game many times myself, the issues of fast advancement for what I've seen tend to be due to GMs awarding to many AP and skill points between sessions and player not being driven to take skills other then gunnery and piloting because the GM is basically running a battletech board game with RPG stats.
3. Philosophy: Call me old-school, but to me RPGS are about playing heroes not the average Joe. You don't play star wars to play trooper number two. You play to be the new Han Solo. RPG characters are suppose to be larger than life. And not the average grunts.

Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #116 on: 14 January 2021, 05:26:25 »
Monbvol: Belters with the right packages would absolutely need to know how to survive on an airless rock.  And I can see even regular spaceship crew learning techniques to stretch their life support.  Planets with native life forms could have a whole catalog of "don't eat that" completely outside of terraformed stuff.  Those are the kinds of things I'm thinking of.

As for it being a little difficult to get more than one attribute of 7, that depends on if you use the aging rules.  They make stuff like that MUCH easier

And while you're right about that rule being optional, the default is to not use them, and I confirmed with TPTB that was a deliberate decision, not an oversight.

Victor_shaw: You're correct on #1, sorry for being imprecise.  On #2, the problem comes from using the recommended awards in the book. I lay that at the feet of the system more than the GM.  #3 is a matter of taste.  As I've said before, in my opinion, NPCs are people too.

victor_shaw

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #117 on: 14 January 2021, 12:52:38 »
As for it being a little difficult to get more than one attribute of 7, that depends on if you use the aging rules.  They make stuff like that MUCH easier
This is another issues to me when it comes to AToW. IMHO the system in place in AToW seems to make age the only "real factor" in determining Skills/Attributes/Traits.
For example: Wayne Gretzky didn't take 40 years to become "The Great One", in fact his career was over by then. He was naturally skilled and while he dedicated a great deal of time to honing his skills, he was 19 when he started in the NHL and was 40 when he retired. The point and issues is that AToW does nothing to reflect this. For a more in universe example Kai Allard-Liao was only 23 when he became the Solaris Champion. Again AToW does nothing to reflect this natural ability, where it is totally possible to reflect this in MW2.

You're correct on #1, sorry for being imprecise. 
NP as I assumed you meant it was easy to powergame.  Which some may see as a failing, but I see as true to life to the setting. Lets face it, Prodigies are ramped in the Battletech Universe and fiction. Also, just wanted it to be clear as the wrong word choice can give a game a reputation that it didn't earn.

On #2, the problem comes from using the recommended awards in the book. I lay that at the feet of the system more than the GM. 
When looking at it that way, most if not all RPG have the same issues (especially in new editions) of the developers overestimating what awards the players should receive. The Issues IMHO is the perceived play hours vs. actual play hours. It has always appeared to me that developers design games rewards with the 4 hours once a month time in their heads. Where in my group for example its more like 6 hours once a week. There is also the issues of when you distribute AP. The rule tell you to distribute it at the end of a mission, then go on to say in longer missions, ones more then one session (which is most of them) to distribute some of them after each session. The book is also confusing on just how much to award as it contradicts itself in the award section. First it tell the GM to award them based on a combination of difficulty/performance (group)/performance (individual) then goes on to give a group performance chart awarding way more AP. The uses of "Mission" seems to be another sticking point for most GMs. Where I see it as one big overarching group of sub-missions to accomplish a major goal, others may see getting into a barfight as a mission.


#3 is a matter of taste.  As I've said before, in my opinion, NPCs are people too.

I also see an NPC as different from a mook.
NPC: Big baddy, His Lieutenants, Major players
Mooks: Average soldier, guard, farmer, etc.

The Average soldier/guard/farmer IMHO should not be on par with the PCs.

monbvol

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #118 on: 14 January 2021, 13:03:56 »
Monbvol: Belters with the right packages would absolutely need to know how to survive on an airless rock.  And I can see even regular spaceship crew learning techniques to stretch their life support.  Planets with native life forms could have a whole catalog of "don't eat that" completely outside of terraformed stuff.  Those are the kinds of things I'm thinking of.

As for it being a little difficult to get more than one attribute of 7, that depends on if you use the aging rules.  They make stuff like that MUCH easier

And while you're right about that rule being optional, the default is to not use them, and I confirmed with TPTB that was a deliberate decision, not an oversight.

How to conserve air would already be covered by situations where air is at a premium, like say high altitude survival for when someone is stranded on a tall mountain range.  Likewise recognizing what is safe to eat and what is not is largely already covered.  There are plenty of plants on Earth you do not want to eat if you want to survive.

Even if that is not a compelling enough argument I'll also toss in if the fundamentals are really that different maybe a different skill should be called for instead of Survival.

Daryk

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Re: The future of "A Time of War"
« Reply #119 on: 14 January 2021, 18:28:04 »
I contend TPTB had a similar discussion, and the compromise was subskills.