Thursday, 30 June 2022

1-to-5 relative reference system

(This is a quick post expanding from my old comment, just so to keep it in one place)

It still strikes me interesting how easy it is to use 1 to 5 range as reference for being's stat / skill level in a number of systems, despite the systems themselves then using a widely different mechanics. "1" won't be the same in each of those systems and won't be mathematically equal across them, but it will mean the approximately same level of competence/power in each system. 

Systems I can think about where it applies:

– dot system of WoD-like where it represents the number of 1d10 dice rolled against a threshold for successes; average PC has 1-to-5 dots in attribute and / or 1-to-5 dots in skill.
– proficiency modifier in 5Ed, shifted up by one so it becomes +2 to +6.
– "Savage Worlds" dice steps (1d4 as "1", the weakest, 1d12 as "5", the strongest).
– comparable with 'Lamentation of Flame Princess' pip skill system, with X-in-6 chances to roll success on 1d6 die.
– comparable range for GloK sum/dice investment system, shifted down by 1, to become 0 to 4.
– comparable with 'Cats RPG' system, where PCs have 1 to 5 d6s to roll and count even/odd successes.
– stretchily comparable with 'Dark Souls' weapon scaling, with S being 5, and D being 1 (and E being 0 because nobody is thrilled about E-scale weapons)

Technically 1-to-5 is 0-to-6 with exceptional cases going below and above, but 1-to-5 seems to be a good range to reference. I am curious in how many other systems it might be also applicable.

6 comments:

  1. Traveller typically has most skills being in this sort of range. 1 is typically enough to get a job at something on the frontier, even though a 2 or 3 (depending) is more the level expected of a professional. But on the frontier you take what you can get. Skill levels of 5 and 6 are generally rare, but they do happen, They’re notable though.

    I saw an actual skill classification for real life job descriptions that was based on 6 levels. I used to have a copy of it to use with traveller 8-). Misplaced it though.

    Even d100 games often got broken down into categories of 5 or 6 categories when I played them a lot. It just helped to turn a 01-100 scale into something more manageable. 15-20% per level was a conversion I often saw and used - I preferred 20% per level. So 1 = 20%, 2=40%, 3= 60%, ...6 = 120%. For those d100 systems that allowed you to go over 100% with a skill.

    I think it is a human thing, a natural expression of how many things we can easily grasp at once, and how many grades of something can be easily distinguished or codified such that a description of any one grade is meaningul, and also meaningfully different from the grade above and the grade below.

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    1. Thank you for the note about Traveller.

      There is a number of mechanics that aren't easily translated to this scheme of reference. DnD 3rd edition has numbers going however high they might, Roll-and-Keep (as in 7th Sea), Ryuutama even.

      I wonder if "easily grasp" could be literal in this case, as we have five-fingered hands.

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  2. It's like with Likert Scales as well (i.e. strongly disagree through strongly agree surveys), and also 5-7 is about the maximum most people can hold in working memory. So it's intuitive and easy to mentally track; you can roughly track 1-5 to very weak through very strong without much thought. I hadn't necessarily considered this idea that it also often works as a relative reference across systems that use it, that's an interesting point as well.

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    1. "5 stars" reference scale is surely used as lot, but what is curious to me is that how many of the systems directly or almost directly translate to 1 to 5 in numbers they use when we appraise character's relative power or proficiency, and how different are the mathematical paths they take in how they handle these numbers later.

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  3. This is a great point! There's a whole coherent rpg ruleset implied in just the words: "1-to-5 relative reference system" imo. Its got my head swirling with ideas.

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    1. Thank you. I am very curious to see what you do with this idea.

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