Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Evaluate Item Sucks

Now that I have your attention, here's an effective way to make Evaluate Item less tedious and more valuable for players.

Just buy a box of these!

I have never really seen a workable Evaluate Item system before. There's always some kinds of problems. Many systems use sheets to decode what something is worth. The problem with that strategy is that every NPC/Plot member has to know the system in order for characters with EI to barter.

Some just print values on the card and say "You need to find someone with Evaluate Item," but players cheese the hell out of it.

Instead, use the OOG convention of the little black envelopes!

  1. Only players with Evaluate Item can "see" black envelopes. This means that players without EI cannot pick up envelopes and hand them to their friends to identify. However, there's no way to completely remove metagaming, so players can alert others to something on the character. For example, if a monster had a black envelope and you didn't have EI, you could say "Why would this guy be carrying this worthless piece of crap? Joe, look at this ridiculous thing!"
  2. Players with Evaluate Items can remove the items from the envelope temporarily or permanently. This represents them shining, refurbishing, or simply pointing out the value of the item. Tags outside of the envelope can be seen by everyone, and everyone has an idea of the value (as it's written on the tag.)
  3. Black Envelopes carried on a person with Evaluate Item cannot be seen by players without EI, even in instances of theft. In cases where someone without EI steals a pouch or box with black envelopes, the first time they open the pouch and see the black envelopes, they're simply to drop them.
  4. Black Envelopes are still considered IG and are affected normally by destroy effects, such as an explosive trap, but cannot be targeted specifically. They are also left behind when a player dissipates, as with any other tagged item that is not spirit linked.
  5. It takes the amount of time to open the envelope and read the tag to identify that the value of the item. Like any other item, if a player doesn't want to show you the tag IG, then you cannot identify the item. Unconscious players, of course, cannot refuse to show you the tag.
  6. The tags in these envelopes can be either have a phys-rep or not. It should be shown on the tag when it's given out (and should come with a phys-rep if appropriate), and repped items should always be worth more than tags without phys-reps.
  7. Evaluate Item tags can be turned in at logistics for the value of the tag, which will be added to a player's bank total. The Phys-rep should also be turned in, if appropriate.
  8. If a spot-checked player has black envelopes but does not have the Evaluate Item skill, those items are destroyed and the player may be given a warning (depending on the circumstance).
Using this system, Evaluate Item now has a real IG value. You can move currency discretely with Evaluate Item tags, and having EI when going out on modules has the potential to increase the treasure from that module.

The obvious pros are that more people will purchase Evaluate Item, it will be easier for plot teams to implement that skill during plotlines, and it's simple enough for all players to understand (except the very new). The cons are that players can simply cheat and grab black envelopes without the skill and that it adds a little more up-front logistics.

What do you think of this system?


  1. Bill - that is very interesting, but is very rules/logistics intensive. I would prefer something along the lines of the following:

    1. Items have a "base value" printed on their card, and all characters can tell the base value of an item.
    2. Any character can turn in an item for base value at check-out
    3. Players with Evaluate Item can ascertain the true market value of an item by checking in with sources and validating the make and materials of the item (i.e. via a list kept in the NPC Shack). As a result the character with Evaluate Item can go to the NPC Shack at any point and acquire a basic knowledge of the true item value, and can trade the item in at checkout for the true market value as opposed to the base item value.

    I know this makes it more of a logistical skill than an adventurer's skill, but I really think that's where it should be. I think that the "base value" idea gives our item system the perfect blend of MMORPG-style "immediate knowledge" and the classic Tabletop-style of "I know this is worth something, but let's see what we can get for it back at town."


  2. Using envelopes to represent skills/knowledge only available to certain players? What a brilliant idea Bill :)

  3. " As a result the character with Evaluate Item can go to the NPC Shack at any point and acquire a basic knowledge of the true item value, and can trade the item in at checkout for the true market value as opposed to the base item value."

    The problem with this is that you are having people break game. LARP systems provide maximum atmosphere and emotion and provide the most intense experiences the more IG they are so having a system that requires an OOG break seems counter productive to me.

  4. I can say with absolute certainty that a chapter using this as written would be a chapter I would never play.

    My main problem with this, beyond it being very rules intensive and requiring breaking character, is that it essentially makes Eval Items into loot only for someone with the skill. And saying that they cannot even be stolen by someone without the skill is, IMO, contrary to the basic rules of the game. The item is either IG or OOG, and if it is IG it should be fair game for anyone.

    Lookup tables are not hard, and the system that a few chapters here in the south have used works quite well. Not to mention, it should be quite easy to give NPCs a cheat sheet if necessary, and takes very little to disguise it in an IG looking book that can be easily accepted as a ledger or some other prop.

  5. Speaking of lookup tables, the best one I've seen has a 4-6 letter code on the tag/item. Some of those may be dummy slots (typically 1-3), followed by one that denotes gold/silver/copper, and then the rest denoting values that are added together for a total.

    For each element (either a metal or a digit) you have 2-3 letters which represent it; you don't need to use every digit from 0-9, either; just pick 3-4 of them since you'll be adding several of them together.

    So, for example, you might have a code: AAZJRT

    The first two might be dummy and discarded. The Z might say that this was a value in silver. The JRT would be 3 digits, let's say 0, 3, and 3, which when added together give you a value of 6 silver.

  6. Mickey - Good point...I am a big "immersion" person, and agree that waiting until you got to the NPC Shack is a bit problematic, and making a special trip can be even more so.

    I certainly do not like lists of any kind. In my experience, lists often get lost or damaged during game play.

    I am intrigued by Ed's system, and will push to have something like it implemented after some consideration. Thanks for the thoughts, folks!

  7. Mike,

    Try to get in touch with Sarah Clark (Adrafae); I know she plays at VALOR these days. She did the version of that system for SC when she was helping run the game there, and I know Atlanta has picked it up and used a version of it as well.

    Yes, it still does have a list (as far as the codes), but you can still get a wide range of values with something as simple as values of 1,3,5 if you're doing three digits in a sum. And from my own experience, many of the people who run with Eval Item end up learning that code system fairly quickly just from use (those chapters put out quite a good amount of eval tags).

  8. I like the envelope idea, it requires the least application of "fun dispensers". Most of the work can be done before the event freeing up plot/staff/npcs to run the event.

  9. I like the envelope idea and the code idea. Though I would have to agree with the keeping them IG. Most people can tell when something is worth something or else how would anyone know what a formal component was... "oohh look at this bear tooth, it's perfect"... I would be all for an combination of them and making the envelopes IG but only able to be open with EI. If you want to put a face value card on the outside of the envelope thats another thing as well. Perhaps for smaller items that most would overlook the Envelope without a tag that way only someone with EI would even know it was worth something... Just an idea...

  10. "I would be all for an combination of them and making the envelopes IG but only able to be open with EI. If you want to put a face value card on the outside of the envelope thats another thing as well."

    ^-- This.

    Right now, we use a 3-digit chart system at NERO Elkins, but I like the code system as well.

  11. I like the folders idea. i think it reinforces the value of the skills and helps protect the integrity of the game.