Now we've entered the "adventure" for our Bushido game. I think you'll see a definite influence of Circle of Hands on all the players' concept of what a fantasy adventure even is, and how characters relate to the society and to local communities. I think this perspective is very well-suited to this game in terms of the core book's presentation. How well it's suited to the hobby expectations of a fantasy adventure is another question.
But today I want to talk about numbers. I do not care for the designers' concept of probability. I think they confused combining percentages with making things more effective, when it actually racks them down.
For example, Trance itself doesn't have any listed effect. To use it to do anything, I have to make its BSC roll using the average of Trance and Meditation, and then make a Yoga roll. I spent all those weeks training to bring up Meditation, so my averaged BSC for the first roll is a pretty good 12 (rolling 12 or less on d20). But my Yoga is 4. That means 60% x 20% = 12%. You can read the rules up, down, or sideways, and the only possible reading is that Trance doesn't do anything but knock down the Yoga's chance in action.
It's not just the magic but also most of the social activities. My highest skill is Rhetoric, but I have to make its roll first and then succeed at something else in order to say anything important, i.e., the rhetoric itself is about how I say it, so missing the second roll means my character fails.
Finally, bear in mind that all the above values are calculated without opposition, any of which knocks the final percent down by 5% per point.
This double-roll method contrasts markedly with anything to do with combat, which I consider to be beautifully tuned and fun to do - even when one's chances drop quite low for one or another reason. In our brief Discord conversation about this, David and Greg both observed that any successful combat roll does something, even if you miss the chance for a secondary effect.
So let's look at how people mess up math like this all the time, especially for activities in a game for which most of the design attention concerned slicing each other up. In fairness, in the late 1970s, the notion of rolling an individual character's interactions and influences upon one another was very much in development and I suspect a lot of this design is evidence of desperation devices from very few instances of play.
- The Nirvana Fallacy means the failure to distinguish between a high probability and certainty. I see it in role-playing quite a lot: if someone perceives their character to have a "high" percentage to do something, perhaps because they strategized for a bonus or were clever in building the character, they they think it's right and fair and expected for them to succeed in doing it. Strangely they think the dice agree with them and "went wrong" if they fail the roll.
- Although everyone agrees in the abstract that combined percentages are multiplied, i.e., result in a probability lower than any of the contributing values, it's evidently very easy to reverse this in one's mind when you're doing a specific thing. [For example, let's take early RuneQuest, and say you have a 50% chance to hit. But the opponent only has a 25% to parry, so he's a crap defender, right? Your attack is higher than his parry, so it should be easier to hit him, right? No. The chance to hit him is 0.75 x 0.50, which is 0.375, or 37.5%. If you think this was obvious, watch people at the table some time.]
- A lot of games - and you can see this in Bushido with the magic and information-gathering - include the principle that if a given action does X, and X's effect is really big or really cool, then it should have a lower chance to succeed than other actions, as a "balance" of some kind. The usual default is non-magical guy hits with a non-magical attack, so my magical guy's offbeat magical attack needs to be less reliable or less repeatable in a very significant way. The result of this design is emphatically not any sort of parity; it only makes the more exotic or more social character far less competent.
On a more positive note, the personalities among our three characters (Gin, Mitsu, Rokuro) have come together in a very strong, very enjoyable psychological network. I like it when any of us says something, because the other two provide subtle or unsubtle responses which bring the growing alliance and liking among them into fuller view.
The video link goes straight into the YouTube playlist for the whole game, and the first post and comments regarding the previous three sessions is here: Keizoku chikara nari.