Supposed Problems with APs (Long post)

From: t.s.baguley_at_...
Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 12:44:04 +0100

I don't have a problem with APs - here is my take on most of the disputes. Please skip if you really hate the AP resolution system, because this will probably just annoy you!
  1. First actor advantage

First actor advantage requires i) you act first with a must-resist attack
(combat, social skill in social context etc.), ii) you have perfect
knowledge of your target's abilities, iii) your target has a glaring weakness, iv) you can predict your target's response to the attack.

There also is some hint (by some posters) that selecting an ability to attacxk with mandates a response with that ability (or a heft improvisation penalty). There is no such implication in the rules (that I can discern). A well planned surprise attack on an opponent you know well will usually give you a hefty advantage if you can exploit a genuine weakness. If your knowledge is flawed, first attacker advantage is trusting to luck. Even with perfect knowledge it is reasy in Hero Wars to be surprised by the target's response (players do this to Narrators/GMs _all_ the time). For example, a warrior with no social skills is verbally attacked when visiting a rival clan. She uses her "Loyalty to clan" to stand firm and resist the insult (possibly augmented by Heortling culture - pointing out the attackers lack of hospitality). I'd allow this with no improvisation penalty.

I can only see first actor advantage being a problem if players create _very_ unbalanced characters _and_ can't think of good defenses (serve them right), or if the narrator abuses his knowledge of the players _and_ prevents them using creating (but appropriate) defenses. If these apply you could alter the rules, but other solutions would be more effective.

2) Low roll wins (also mastery vs. non-mastery)

This discussion merged with the "hard to get enhancements" discussion. This is unfortunate because there is a big difference between losing (say) 30% of simple contests and 30% of exchanges in an extended contest being minor losses. In the latter (even with a mini-max bid strategy) the low ability character will not win 30% of exchanges. Winning the contests depends on bid size, number of actors, edges, AP totals and contest results (not to mention hero points). Most characters will not mini-max bid sizes. Players will mini-max more often (but role-playing will likely intervene). The free parameters are sufficiently large that without extensive Monte Carlo simulation the optimal mini-max strategy will not be obvious to most people. NPCs will rarely min-max because it would be implausible. First, the obvious tactic (bid all APs every exchange if you have lower ability than the PC) is unlikely to be appealing to most low ability NPCs. It requires immense bravery ("I hurl myself sword-first at the big guy in the armour in an attempt to kill him in one play). It requires fairly precise knowledge of the opponents ability level before the first bid ("OK, they look scary, but there are 8 of us and only four of them ..."). It requires them to be more concerned with winning than surviving or not being hurt
("If I get a lucky blow or two I might take him out, but I'm probably going
to die if I do that, maybe I can get ransomed?/run away/put up token resistance).

3) Non-linearities in the system

Several people have pointed out (local) non-linearities such as sometimes being able to beat up a low skill opponent faster than a high skill one, or low skill opponents getting too many x1 forfeits. An assumption ssems to be made that linear increases in skill/experience produce linear increases in performance in all circumstances in the real world. This is a false assumption. I make no claim that HW precisely simulates real-world non-linearities, but I would claim the these quirks map reasonable neatly onto the kinds of real-work non-linearities that occur with increased expertise.

Anecdotal evidence: Good fencers hate fencing beginners more than intermediates. Why? Beginners are unpredictable and don't react to as expected. This can manifest in beginners scoring hits on good fencers more often than intermediates, taking more time to beat and so on.

Research on skill and expertise: However, using skills in context quite often shows non-linear effects. For some cases, novice radiographers perform consistently better than intermediate experience radiographers (who know a lot more). Similarly, even on quite simple tasks knowing less increase performance (a classic task is judging which of two cities is larger; many people are as good or better at this task for for foreign cities than domestic ones). The main reason for these non-linearities is that knowing less will depend to make decisions easier to make (e.g., I have heard of Hamburg, but not Duisburg, so Hamburg is probably bigger; I know both Nottingham an Oxford ... which is larger?). Increasing skill and knowledge increases the evidence and/or options available without necessarily given you the strategies to use them (in radiography - knowing lots of rare conditions can be confusing, because you may not know how to correcly factor the base rates of the disease into your decision).

Anyway, occasional non-lineararities aren't necessarily a bad thing
(provided they are infrequent and occur in plausible contexts).


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