Should Discipline overplay only apply (mechanically) to unusual feats of willpower and supernatural effects? Topic is solved

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Should Discipline overplay only apply (mechanically) to unusual feats of willpower and supernatural effects?

This post follows a discussion that was had on the Scalvoris Discord recently. It’s been suggested to me that the forums might be better for a more in-depth discussion. I hope that I’ll manage to express my points more clearly here.

The initial trigger: I was commenting on how Discipline is a weird skill, because it’s also a personality trait, and that one can’t really overplay it. To overplay it would imply that the character should have thought and reacted a different way, which I feel would give others too much control over one’s character. There were disagreements (I apologize for not listing the counter-points here, it’s simply easier to remember my own points. However, they changed my mind at least when it comes to magic).

My points are as follows:
[*]the nature of temptation is ambiguous
I think this is my least controversial point, given that it is in the skill description. But I would add more to it: often, there is little to distinguish between ‘temptation’ and ‘job one has to do’. Choices are not single-dimensional matters. As such, I believe that the outcome of a choice says little about whether a character succumbed to, or resisted ‘temptation’.

Examples from the skill description:
‘The guard who stands in the pouring rain whilst being quite sure that they could go home early, the shopkeeper who keeps standing stoically behind the counter even though they believe they have seen the last customer of the trial and the chef who makes the pastry from scratch, despite having some lower quality pre-made are all exhibiting Discipline.’
(Could it be argued that they exhibited Discipline by staying? Yes. Could it be argued that they would exhibit Discipline by leaving? Also yes, in my opinion. Perhaps the guard has a sick mother that she is single-handedly caring for, and she feels that doing so is important to the point of risking her job – in this case, one might see the ‘temptation’ as staying, since it would cause her fewer difficulties. Perhaps the shopkeeper decided that they are working too much and need to take better care of themselves – in this case, the ‘temptation’ would be to keep the shop open and lean into anxiety about not having enough money despite proof to the contrary, and the ‘job’ would be to stop working and relax. Perhaps the chef is feeling tempted to make pastries from scratch, since he truly enjoys cooking, but struggles to get over his pride and use lower-quality ingredients in order to be able to make more pastries in the same time, and afford to feed his family, or to send his children to a better school).

What I want to highlight, is that often there is no clear ‘temptation’. There are simply choices. Often they are difficult choices (in order for the word ‘temptation’ to be relevant); however, as with all difficult choices, which option has the moral high ground, and which option is more likely to result in a better outcome, is not clear. Maybe the chef will lose their customers due to the decreasing quality of their work; maybe they will have a successful pastry business that isn’t high cuisine, but makes many people happy.

Additional examples from my own writing:
My PC is a travelling painter, who isn’t very good at what she does, so she supports her income with odd jobs. It could be argued that she is being Disciplined by carrying on with her passion despite the difficulties she faces with being a poor artist (for example, an introduction to one of my recent threads was ‘It was finally getting warm enough for Darragh not to wear all her clothes at once.’). It could also be argued (and has been in-character) that she is a lazy bum coasting through life and that she should get a proper job instead of relying on other people’s good will.

In the same thread as the quote, she gets so into one of her stories, that she loses track of the world around her. Peg used this instance as an example of her not being Disciplined (which would be appropriate to my PC’s skill level). However, I might argue that in the context, she sees her mission of finding an (inexistent) gallery as her ‘job’; therefore, her dedication to the story, to the point of almost ignoring reality, is an expression of Discipline; the real world, with its disappointing lack of galleries, is a ‘temptation’, which she’ll have to fight by making her own gallery (starting with one painting).

In another thread, it is stated that my character followed a ship of stars across Scalvoris. Is this lack of Discipline, for allowing her to be distracted by the first supernatural thing to come her way? Or is it Discipline, to follow a dream with such stubbornness? It could be argued either way.

Overall, I feel that choices are complex matters, and because of this I feel like it’s impossible to overplay Discipline in most instances (the cases in which I think it can be overplayed are listed at the bottom). I feel that it would be incredibly wrong to tell a writer, upon review ‘no, your character has low/no Discipline, so they should have gone with the shady drugs dealer / been spirited away from their job by the pretty lady / eaten all of the cookies in the jar’, when choices are often about much more than willpower alone.

This ties into the following:

[*]the low-level skill ranks descriptions take away, rather than give
‘Discipline (Novice): However, Discipline at this level is not likely to succeed against bribes to a poor person, or the offer of something which the character really wants.’

My character doesn’t have Discipline as a skill. Does it mean that she is contractually obligated to take any bribe which comes her way, or fall head over heels for any person she finds attractive that flirts with her? Does it mean that if she is offered something that she really, really wants, she has to take it? Unless you’re walking into godmodding territory, I don’t believe so. Because if you’re treating Discipline like willpower, there are many reasons apart from willpower alone why someone might accept (or deny) a bribe.

-a character with high Discipline may accept a bribe because they very dedicated to their goal of being the top Corrupt Politician^TM
-a character with any amount of Discipline may deny a bribe because they disagree with the concept, or find the person offering shady, or are afraid of the consequences
Example: My character’s starter quest. My character was giving the opportunity to paint for money, a rare opportunity. However, it turns out that her employers were using her to spy on people. She has no Discipline, but I would argue that doesn’t mean she is obligated to accept the job. Having low Discipline shouldn’t make one amoral, or stupid. This is clearly a shady situation. If it wasn’t a shady situation? Then it wouldn’t be a temptation, it would just be a painting job.
‘But what if she was offered something she really, really wanted, even more than money?’ – Well then, what would be the risk? There has to be a risk, or it wouldn’t be ‘temptation’. What are the risk to reward ratios? A character may decide to take the safer option, or the riskier option, and I don’t feel that taking either of them is necessarily ‘succumbing to temptation’.

Overall, I feel like part of the problem is that, as-described, the lower levels of the Discipline take away abilities, instead of granting them. If we presume that the majority, or even the average of people in Idalos have at most Novice Discipline (considering the effort in gaining points), then…Are we assuming that most people would commit crimes? That most poor people would accept bribes? Because that’s insulting to poor people.

[*]Discipline and control over one’s emotions
Should high Discipline allow one to more easily control their emotions? Yes.
Does it mean that high-Discipline characters have to be stoic boulders? No. Maybe it means you have a character who is really in touch with their emotions, be it anger or happiness.
Does it mean that low/no Discipline characters should have no control over their emotional state? I sure hope not.
Overall, I feel that high Discipline could be used to explain responses to emotions (such as someone who was previously dealing with anger issues not giving in to anger), but that a lot of the same reactions should be achievable with low Discipline and a different personality. For example, my character just isn’t the type to get angry often.

[*]Discipline vs Seduction
Seduction is the one skill which can be most directly pitted against discipline. However, I would argue that skill checks should only be used when dealing with NPC vs NPC, and PC (Seduction) vs NPC (Discipline), but NOT PC vs PC or NPC (Seduction) vs PC (discipline), unless all the writers involved approve of it. Why? Because we are people, and our minds require more than numbers to be convinced.

A character might have 0 points in Seduction, but could still sweep another character off her feet if they said the right things. A character might have 250 points in Seduction, and be trying to flirt, but their attempts might sound unconvincing to the writer of the second character. In that case, I would argue that it is not the responsibility of the second writer to write their character as hopelessly enamored, if they do not wish for it. It is the same reason why my DnD group does not allow Insight/Deception/other Charisma-based skills between PCs unless they both want it, there’s fewer hard feelings.

‘But people should play to their Skill levels!’ – Why do those skills exist in the first place? To express what characters are good at, and to make it easier for us, writers. Does it really make our lives easier if we are forced to have our characters do things that we know are out-of-character for them? I would argue that there is a vast difference between writing an outside event, such as a character being weaker at swordmanship than another (regardless of how either writer writes), and being told ‘this is how you character should think’. The latter is very intimate, and vulnerable.

[*]When is Discipline still relevant? Discussing unusual feats, Magic and Marks
I believe that one should still be able to gain points for Discipline by showing feats of willpower, as is currently the case. I felt that high Discipline should still be used to explain remarkable feats, such as resisting Torture, or perhaps working for trials without rest, and in those cases it could still be overplayed. I believe that it could still be used to flavor less-extreme instances (such as working intensely on something), but in that case there shouldn’t be the issue of overplaying.

However, apart from the above, I feel that the only case where Discipline could be ‘overplayed’, is when outside influences affect the character’s mind in a supernatural way. This might include psychological mutations from one’s own Sparks, it might include being affected by Empathy, or Marks and Curses.

[*]Opinions?

I would like to state that I do not wish to belittle the skill, or the effort put into it and the rest of the system. I think Discipline is a neat counterpart to Endurance and should stay. However, I fear that as it is now understood by some I’ve talked with, it is not conductive to fun roleplaying. That’s because at the lowest level, it adds nothing, but rather takes away.

I would be more than happy to put the effort into re-writing it, if there is interest in this.
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Re: Should Discipline overplay only apply (mechanically) to unusual feats of willpower and supernatural effects?

Hi Darragh,

I'm going to be brief, because I think you're operating under a false premise.

1. Nature of temptation is ambiguous. Yep. Absolutely agree. It's down to story. The examples you give for why the examples in the skill description are wrong simply act as other examples. - you're presenting them as reasons why the existing examples are wrong. They aren't. They're just examples. No one is saying that you can't show Discipline lots of ways. No one is saying that. PCs are put in positions of choice - and the Discipline skill plays into what they choose. As part of the story.

2. To suggest that it's impossible to overplay Discipline is not the case. There have been examples of overplaying discipline. What you seem to be missing is that no one is telling you what the pcs must do. If you have a low discipline skill then the choice you make is likely to be impacted by that. You decide how. People are playing discipline all across the site. When I suggested to you yesterday that reading such threads would be a good idea -I stand by that.

3. The low level skill ranks. You're leaping to fantastic conclusions, but they're not right. No one is saying, no one has ever said, that having or not having a skill means "contractual obligation" to act in a particular way. You're correct that the example you used is indeed insulting to poor people - but it's based on your faulty premise and very much not what we would assume.

4. Your discussion on skill checks, etc, suggests to me that you're focusing on mechanics . At a story level, I'm sorry, but you've misunderstood the Discipline skill. I appreciate the effort you've put into this - but I would point out that it arises from your question for your Mage Mentor NPC. To quote your question then:
Darragh wrote: "I see the character as disciplined and would write him as such, it's not exactly something that people can go 'oh, you're overplaying it!' about."
That is the flawed premise you're starting from. Yes, you can - and our Peer Reviewers will - tell you if you're overplaying. If you want to see how and when, please go to reviews, capstones, etc.

Thank you for the offer of rewriting the Discipline skill, but I am going to say no, for two reasons .

1. We have a lot of players who play it as it is. Changing it to be what you think it should be rather negates their RP of the last however many years. As someone who has played a pc who's gone from 0 Discipline to GM in it, I can assure you, it was a lot of fun. I would again urge you to read examples of it in action - your points here are very clearly not understanding the skill. No one tells anyone "this is how your character should think" - but we have skills, this is one of them, and thus it is played.

2. We have a lot of skills that need a write up in the first instance. If you'd like to take on one of those - I'd point you at the Creating the World forum where there's templates.
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Darragh
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Re: Should Discipline overplay only apply (mechanically) to unusual feats of willpower and supernatural effects?

1-2 The fact that two characters in precisely the same situation with precisely the same background and context could make the same choice, and one would count it as low discipline and the other high, suggests that there is little to no correlation between outcome and Discipline level. By that argument, it is not the outwards result that matters, but the inner thought process.

But if it's the thought process that counts, then...I personally consider my character to show a reasonable amount of willpower/discipline despite having no points in it. By that argument she is overplaying simply by existing.

3 'very much not what we would assume' - but nevertheless, it is still written. Are we going by what is written, or by what is commonly assumed?

4 Yes, it absolutely is about the Mage Mentor. It is a character concept that I value more than I value my PC, and the lack of clarity in the skill description causes me a lot of anxiety. I can afford to write my character as disciplined despite having no points in it, as I have done since her inception, because the worst that can happen to her is me not writing her anymore. I cannot afford to do the same with a character which will be a city NPC and therefore not fully in my grasp.

I am not opposed to looking for examples, but would you consider expediting the process? Looking through the reviews thread specifically for examples of Discipline overstepping seems like a tall order.

I also feel that if the skill description is such that it requires intensive research to be understood as intended, it is not a good description and would benefit from rephrasing.
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Re: Should Discipline overplay only apply (mechanically) to unusual feats of willpower and supernatural effects?

Hey, there. As the Dev TL, the guy who's overall in charge of our mechanics and such, I'll be giving this a full reply in my usual style. However, unlike my usual SOP, I'll be starting with the thread title since it poses a question that needs answering. So let's do this, shall we?

Also, yes, I know some of this was covered by Pegasus, but I prefer to make my own points in my own words.
Darragh wrote:Should Discipline overplay only apply (mechanically) to unusual feats of willpower and supernatural effects?
No. Anyone with a high stress job, whether that be physical, emotional, or psychological stress, will tell you that discipline is a skill that needs to be actively practiced to help endure those stresses. Furthermore, it also applies to the ability to remain concentrated on a task during a high distraction or high stress environment, such as trying to track a single target in the middle of a battlefield or trying to keep things calm during a peace meeting between hostile groups. All of these require discipline to achieve as well as the skills needed to perform the task. As such, it is applied to regular IC occurrences across the site.

That's it, really, but we'll go through the rest as well.
Darragh wrote:Discipline is a weird skill, because it’s also a personality trait, and that one can’t really overplay it. To overplay it would imply that the character should have thought and reacted a different way, which I feel would give others too much control over one’s character.
This is not how the skill works. Discipline comes into play when your character has to resist their natural inclinations and no matter how stoic one is by nature, there are always times this comes up and it is always a skill that can be trained. Ask any competent member of the US or British militaries (and most others, but those two countries comprise most of our player-base as of the last metrics check) and they'll be able to tell you that discipline is very much a skill that can be trained and honed.

Your argument here is based on the idea that everyone always has control of their emotions and reactions, which simply isn't true. Discipline would be the skill that allows them to control their emotions and reactions.
Darragh wrote:[*]the nature of temptation is ambiguous
I think this is my least controversial point, given that it is in the skill description. But I would add more to it: often, there is little to distinguish between ‘temptation’ and ‘job one has to do’. Choices are not single-dimensional matters. As such, I believe that the outcome of a choice says little about whether a character succumbed to, or resisted ‘temptation’.
This, and everything that follows it until the next point, only works as an argument if the enforcement of overplaying is a purely binary decision with a universal standard. It is not, nor is any other skill. Reviewers always look at the context of the threads they review. What's the situation, who are the people involved, what are their natural personalities, what are their abilities? These are all things that reviewers have to look at when they review. You're right, in the basic sense, that the same situations can provide different temptations to different people. However, this does nothing to support your argument as this fact is taken into account when looking at overplay.

Using your examples at the bottom of this section, if a PC isn't naturally inclined towards substance abuse, lustful thoughts, or overconsumption, then they would not require Discipline in order to resist those particular temptations. However, a drug addict, a serial lecher, or someone with the appropriate eating disorder absolutely would require Discipline to overcome those temptations. All this would be taken into consideration by the reviewer.
Darragh wrote:[*]the low-level skill ranks descriptions take away, rather than give
‘Discipline (Novice): However, Discipline at this level is not likely to succeed against bribes to a poor person, or the offer of something which the character really wants.’
First off, if you wish to cherry pick examples from an easily accessible source to support your argument, make sure that the same source doesn't counter your argument. In this case:
Discipline Write-Up wrote:What are temptations? It is worth to consider this carefully, especially in relation to the Discipline skill. What is it, effectively, that one is being disciplined against? The short answer here is that it is different for each person, and each circumstance. In order to clarify, let us consider a situation, two people and then what a change in circumstances can do.
This, and the following three paragraphs of the write-up, are dedicated purely to establishing that what Discipline means will be different for each person due to each person having their own unique personality and that different circumstances will also changed what Discipline means to each person. This part of your argument honestly reads like you didn't fully read the skill write-up.

Secondly, this section of your argument has the same problem as the prior one, in that it only holds water if we assume that the peer reviewers completely ignore the context in the situations they're reviewing. Since we already covered this in the prior section, I'm not going to repreat myself.

Thirdly, this sentence:
Darragh wrote:average of people in Idalos have at most Novice Discipline (considering the effort in gaining points),
This sentence is incredibly awkward. In context to PC's, it's pure unadulterated nonsense. You can reach 30 Discpline in two or three threads if you want. Either two collabs for 30 EXP and 12 knowledge, or three solos for 30 EXP and 15 knowledge, and that's assuming the bare minimum of knowledge. In the context of flavor NPC's or city NPC's, it's simply not applicable. In the context of personal NPC's, it's still not solid, since you gain EXP for your NPC's by simply using them with some regularity. It's especially weird since your entire argument is based on PC's, not NPC's.

Fourth:
Darragh wrote:Are we assuming that most people would commit crimes? That most poor people would accept bribes? Because that’s insulting to poor people.
Ad hominem is not a skillful way to argue your position, nor is it welcome here.
Darragh wrote:Discipline and control over one's emotions
This section irritates me. Especially at the end, it indicates that you're entirely aware of the contextual aspects of discipline that you've spent the entire argument ignoring prior to this to bit. As I've already covered that our Peer Reviewers take discipline into consideration, I can only advise that your make sure your arguments are internally consistent going forward.
Darragh wrote:Discipline vs Seduction
This is one we actually see pop a fair bit, though usually only after we've had to intervene on some nonsense. However, you do have the basic point here. Skill levels aren't everything. The quality, and nature, of the writing counts for a lot, especially when PC's are involved. In the case of PvP scenarios, which are honestly rare, skills are used to give a basic outline to the abilities of those involved and to assist in cases of blatant overplay. While these are usually martial conflicts, discipline has come into play in these situations before and there have been cases of overplay of the skill.

However, another use for skill levels here is handle differences in regards to players reactions to IC events. We have had cases of players overplaying numerous skills because they disagreed with what was happening IC and essentially wanted to either ignore it or force it to change, even if this requires their PC to either do things they physically can't do or don't have the knowledge to do. There are also cases, far less frequent, where the player simply misunderstood the IC queue. In regards to the Seduction skill specifically, there's been a few cases of asexual players completely missing that something was supposed to be seductive as a result of their asexuality, even if their character would normally be receptive to it. Skill levels help iron out differences in player personality and writing styles for cases like that.
Darragh wrote:When is Discipline still relevant? Discussing unusual feats, Magic and Marks
I feel confident that I covered this in response to the thread title.
Darragh wrote:I would be more than happy to put the effort into re-writing it, if there is interest in this.
If it's decided that Discipline needs a re-write, I will be happy to accept player submissions for it. However, and I am far from convinced that re=write of the skill is needed.




Okay, so you replied to Pegasus while I was writing this, and I feel your second post merits some response as well.
Darragh wrote:1-2 The fact that two characters in precisely the same situation with precisely the same background and context could make the same choice, and one would count it as low discipline and the other high, suggests that there is little to no correlation between outcome and Discipline level. By that argument, it is not the outwards result that matters, but the inner thought process.
Yes, it is the inner thought process that would matter, not the outward results, because Discipline is a skill that involves going against your base personality and urges, either forcing yourself to do something that does not come naturally to you, or forcing yourself not to do something that does come naturally to you. What they actually physically do does have some correlation, obviously, but not as much as you seem to believe it would.
Darragh wrote:3 'very much not what we would assume' - but nevertheless, it is still written. Are we going by what is written, or by what is commonly assumed?
While this is an evolution from "ad hominem" to "pedantic ad hominem", it's still not a good argument, still not welcome, and is now getting to be really rather rude. However, because you're evidently feeling smug enough to try and nail us to the wall on a single sentence, I'll respond to this a bit more thoroughly. I have been very, very poor. I have twice had to live in places with a rampant cockroach infestation because I had no other option that I could afford. I have spent almost a year straight in homeless shelters. I have lost a house I helped build because we couldn't afford the mortgage payment. I have, multiple times, had to get food from church donations and poor outreach programs because I couldn't afford to buy it. I can tell you, from that very personal experience, that it would have been an almost impossible choice to resist a bribe when I was in those situations. Morals are a hard thing to stand on when sacrificing them can mean a good meal in your belly, or living in a home that doesn't have an insect infestation.
Darragh wrote:It is a character concept that I value more than I value my PC, and the lack of clarity in the skill description causes me a lot of anxiety.
Then your character concept is fundamentally flawed. NPC's are, by their nature, the supporting cast in terms of narrative. In terms of mechanics, they're an afterthought. Skills, Blessings, Magic, these are all designed with a focus on the PC's, never the NPC's. Frankly, I will never be convinced to make a mechanical change because it inconveniences NPC's unless it's specifically to the NPC mechanics. Since I have the final say in matters developmental, you'll have to make this about PC's and how they're negatively impacted in order for this to go anywhere, because I do not care if skills are awkward for NPC's to use if they work for PC's.
Darragh wrote:I am not opposed to looking for examples, but would you consider expediting the process? Looking through the reviews thread specifically for examples of Discipline overstepping seems like a tall order.
It's not our job to do your research for you.
Darragh wrote:I also feel that if the skill description is such that it requires intensive research to be understood as intended, it is not a good description and would benefit from rephrasing.
Given that the only person who's ever come forward with this level of misunderstanding is you, that your misunderstanding seems to be due to a lack of understanding of how context affects the Skill and how IRL discipline works, and that it seems to be focused on your NPC, I am still very far from convinced that this skill needs an update, much less a rewrite.
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