A quick question regarding the quality crew upgrade and fine tools/weapons.
It looks to me, after reading the pertinent rules, that fine tools and weapons are considered +1 quality, and this stacks with the crew quality upgrade. Does this then mean that if a Tier 1 crew member with a fine weapon AND the upgrade faces off with a Tier 1 NPC it would take the position/effect from Risky/Standard to Risky/Extreme?
Furthermore how would one deal with a fine weapon obtained before the quality crew upgrade? For example, the Cutter in my crew has had a fine sword for some time now. The crew recently purchased the quality crew upgrade. Is the sword now considered a Tier 2 quality weapon despite the fact that nothing has changed about the sword?
First off, Tier isn’t really one-to-one like that, necessarily. As i understand it, you’ve got it right as far as the stacking effects go (i.e., a T2 crew’s cutter’s fine sword would be Q3), but two tiers isn’t necessarily exactly two levels of effect, though that might be how your game world works. Personally, i generally look at whether a tier difference is lower or higher (one level of effect), or a LOT lower or higher (multiple levels).
As far as upgrading the crew goes, well, it certainly does change something about that sword! It increases the quality of every single item. I’d personally think of it more as “fine” representing ‘a cut above everything else we’ve got’ rather than a static descriptor - it’s a fine sword, not a tier 2 sword, after all.
I generally assume that Quality is a sign not just of simple materials and make, but also maintenance. Once you’re hitting Tier 2-3, you can expect to have regularly sharpened, oiled, and well-maintained blades, possibly (as the quality increases further) with little customizations by the user. That’s, of course, assuming they don’t just trade up.
I generally don’t go 1:1 quality:effect, either, as a matter of tone; I don’t want gear to be the major factor in efficacy so much as the fictional actions they take. I think if I had to put a soft rule to it beyond just “eyeball it,” I do roughly Warhammer 40K strength vs. toughness rules: Unchanged effect with the same quality, one step of change for higher/lower quality, and a second step away if the quality is 2x/half.
But, of course, making much more of a difference is the nature of the weapon and context of its use. A tier 4 Crew’s +quality +fine bolt-action or breech-loading rifle is still not going to be as effective as a Tier 4 gatling gun against a cavalry charge.
I’m a little confused about not using quality as a quantifiably step in effect level. The examples in the book seem to do so. My players read the rules and specifically took the quality upgrade assuming that would be the case. It feels like not adhering to the rules examples would cheat them out of the upgrade. But maybe I’m either underthinking or overthinking it. I’d be interested to know how you square this with your players.
Further, does “fine” equal “quality”? Or are those two separate things? When the crew has the quality upgrade do their items become fine? Or no? I feel like I am missing something fundamental here.
I generally consider “Fine” to be the +Quality, as given on CBR p24, but also a little more than that. All of the Fine items in playbooks mention being a little above and beyond. For instance, a
Fine bottle of whiskey: A rare distillation from your personal collection, potent both in its alcohol and its ability to impress. [1 load]
This is, to me, more than just “If you’re Tier 0, your whiskey is Tier 1.”
The main issue I have with 1:1 correspondence is you end up with a table that looks like this for something starting with Standard effect:
Whereas I prefer more like one of these:
This is mainly because I don’t like having vast swaths of “No effect” even for fictionally appropriate actions. I very much lean on fictional relevance as the primary anchor, then tune for tier.
Another reason is to stop someone from looking at this and going, “Oh, well the obvious thing is to pump 10 coin into crafting a Tier 8 sword/gun while the crew is Tier 1 to have extreme effect in every fight forever.”
This is, mind, more art than science - how much Quality matters doesn’t follow those charts strictly for me, because Quality becomes most relevant for actions that make it relevant. A key example of that is my Leech’s alchemicals have a Quality of the crew’s Tier, but that rarely matters because they have fixed effects that are usually only conflicted with by other alchemicals.
In short, for me, Item Quality is about resolving when two pieces of gear come into fictional conflict about which gets to impose its will on the world.
I am still having a hell of a time wrapping my head around this. Please forgive me for beating this horse.
Heres the thing: I don’t have a problem with Quality being an abstract concept that is judged on a case by case basis by the GM (which is what I’m getting out of these replies), but I still have to justify that to my players who took the upgrade expecting the mechanical benefits laid out in the book. I might be able to get away with saying that a quality knife vs a sword doesn’t effect Effect, but there are plenty of cases where I’d have to explain myself.
For example: a Tier I player enters into a swordfight with a Tier II opponent. The player has a Fine sword and the Quality Weapons crew upgrade. They are on basically equal footing as far as environment, etc. I might look at position/effect as starting at Risky/Standard, then take the difference in Tiers into account and drop it to Risky?Limited. The player then reminds me about his sword (Fine + Quality) and assume the effect will then raise to Great.
Is he wrong? If so, why? How do I explain it to him? It feels like, if I tell him that his Quality level isn’t high enough then I’m basically house ruling after the fact, and he has every right to call foul.
On the other hand, I agree with the statements above in that I don’t want Quality having such a huge impact on play. In the example I give, a jump from desperate to Great based solely on the sword seems a little much. By that logic the worst Effect they’d ever get would be Standard, and that seems like gaming the system. For that matter it would make achieving Extreme Effect relatively easy, and I feel like that shouldn’t be the case.
So either A) that’s just how the rules work and I need to be ok with it, or B) I’m missing something.
In your example, you’ve got it right. Normally, the rival swordsman would be difficult to beat (risky/limited against a four-clock say.) But given your truly exceptional sword, you’re able to bring a serious advantage to the fight (risky/great against the same four clock).
Where tier sometimes complicates things is that tier doesn’t trump fictional position. A single off-duty bluecoat isn’t the same situation as a squad of them kicking in the door, even if the tier is the same.
In your example, a lot of stuff is assumed. You say tier 2 opponent, and that otherwise nothing is a factor. My above response assumes a tier 2 swordsman, not a tier 2 accountant. They’re dueling, they both have similar intentions and equipment. The PC in question is a swordfighter, etc etc.
As a counter example, if the opponent was a tier 2 hull, as a GM I don’t care about the quality of the sword. Similarly if they bring that same sword to a gunfight. Or to a court case. Or to the bar. Or a dark ritual…
Your unstanding of how tier, quality and fine is sound. However, when setting position and effect, the most important factor is always always always the specifics of what is happening, who’s doing it, who’s having it done to them, etc.
How you read these situations sets the tone of the game.
If the quality matters here at all (enough to factor it as a disadvantage earlier) then yes, great effect is reasonable to ask for. On the other hand, if he’s against someone unarmored with a gun, I’d say the sword’s quality matters minimally - a guy is only going to be so stabbed.
If they’re trading blows while armed and armored, of course, the sword might matter more - every glancing hit counts then, and every cut makes the foe bleed out a little faster.
Also, it shouldn’t be easy to attain great effect all the time because it’s not encouraged to go up against people of similar tier to your crew. Aim high, punch upwards. Make them struggle for great/extreme effect and leverage their crew and PC specialties.
This is a tricky part of the game system, and one that I’ve wrestled with myself.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that because the roll is dual duty (resolving the effects of both parties involved), having great effect doesn’t matter as much as it seems like it would on paper. A PC with great effect will only get that without cost if they roll a 6. On a 1-3, the PC’s effect doesn’t matter at all, and on a 4-5, while the PC gets what they want, the GM gets to bring the opponent’s goals/interesting story elements into the mix. Maybe that fine sword gets caught in the guy’s ribs as he topples over the stair rail, or maybe his friend comes through the door as he dies, alerted by the scuffle and with his pistol in hand. (Both of those options could make the fine sword’s quality moot as the action progresses.)
The player can resist those consequences, but they’ll probably pay some stress – and that’s the real cost. A central question of the game is how long the characters can hold off the ravening jaws of trauma and eventual retirement. A few bad rolls can quickly fill a character’s stress meter, and there are constantly bad things around the corner waiting to manifest – so let the players have the great effect that they paid for.
As it says in the book, sometimes the crew will blow through a score with no troubles, and other times it’ll all fall apart. Both results are interesting stories, and sometimes it’s okay that the crew just gets their way – because they won’t always. The dice guarantee that.
Something to remember is that “Quality” is only one component of determining Effect. You also factor in Potency, Scale, and Dominant Factors, per “Assessing Factors” in the core book. Realizing that an item has higher Quality doesn’t automatically mean adjusting the Effect up one level.
Tier also doesn’t strictly apply to physical Faction assets, like weapons and armor. “Other resources,” such as training, are bound-up in the Tier abstraction as well. A T1 PC might have what is essentially a T3 blade in their hand, but their opponent could have T2 weaponry and a history of T2 sword-fighting practice. (Ever see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? The Green Destiny sword is possibly the finest blade to exist, but in a swordfight mere possession of the Green Destiny doesn’t make up for a lack of training or experience.)
That said… I think you pretty much have it. If all else is equal, in a contest like your swordfight the PC with the higher Quality blade should probably have Great Effect. Your job as GM is to assess if “all else” really is equal, and to engineer situations where things won’t be equal (because danger is dramatic).
I give out at most +1 effect step each for Quality, Scale, or Potency, no matter how much of an edge the PC may have. I also only penalize PCs by -1 effect for inferior quality no matter how badly they’re outclassed. When the PCs are seriously outclassed on Scale or Potency I sometimes use the “dominant factor / impossible actions” rules, but I’ve never treated quality as a dominant factor. I’ll let a PC with a tier 0 weapon or lockpick have limited effect on any lock or human target.