Monday, February 28, 2011

Rating Player Skill in RPG's... How?

Given Bulletsorm's recent release and the awesome Demo that I played over the weakend, followed up by my post of the trailer this weekend, I thought I should bring up an interesting topic that happened to randomly pop into my head yesterday.

How does one exactly measure the "skill" of a RPG player?  I am in some ways at a loss for exactly how to do this...

A lot of RPG's have a huge luck factor involved in them.  It is part of the nature of the beast really.  Because Pen and Paper games use dice, rather than some type of computer interface or video game console, there isn't an easily accepted way to talk about gaming skill in our hobby, but I did think up a few ways that you could potentially evaluate player skill using these frameworks below:

Powergaming Mentality
As a powergamer, I think one of the easiest ways that you could rate skill is through the effectiveness of your character, or your group, in dealing damage.  This especially works well in 4e where party optimization has become the new power gamer craze in some respect.  Don't just optimize yourself, optimize everyone else with you.  Then, using this powergamer mentality, you have a pretty easy way to rate how well a character or group of characters perform. 

How much damage did you do in the encounter?
How much damage did you take?
How many monsters did you kill?
How many players were killed?
How many rounds did the encounter last?

Answering questions like these gives a pretty easy way to evaluate how powerful a given group is.  But, even if you are evaluating based on these rubrics, it is still difficult.

The Success Mentality
I recently read Revenge of the Iron Lich by Save Vs Death.  The delve is very interesting in that it presents a tournament style rubric for scoring the players as they attempt to navigate a potent and dangerous dungeon.  I thought that this was a really cool thing to have in an adventure/delve like this one, though it does seem like their scoring rubric is pretty intense.  It would require a very hardy group of adventurers to go through a dungeon like that one.  This adventure is part of a design methodology called fourthcore - a type of dungeon design created to challenge the living daylights out of a group of near mad players/PCs.  I really like the methodology behind the design of this adventure as well as the actual adventure itself.

One of the core principles behind this success mentality it seems is rating skill of characters/groups based on their success or failure in performing certain tasks.  Did they find the treasure?  How far along the adventure did they progress?  Did they defeat X?  These questions get a little bit further away from each individual combat and instead look at player skill from a bit of a larger scope.

The Roleplay Mentality
I don't really know how well I could evaluate skill of a roleplayer in this area.  Evaluating a player based on his or her abilities at roleplaying seems like I would be holding a little Oscars of my own right at the game table.  I don't know if I would have the talent to judge a roleplayer based on this criteria.  Might have to call in the Academy...  the award goes to... Natalie Port... wait.... Jerome the Bard.

The problem with evaluating player skill based on a roleplay mentality is that you really can't do that.  It would be impossible to provide any actual point based system for scoring or analyzing.  To me, this mentality seems a little bit like a lost cause.

What do you think?

How would you rate a player's skill?  Do you have a way to do it that is based on a single encounter rather than an adventure or delve? 


  1. I use the ol' Likert Scale:

    Quality of Performance
    5 points - excellent
    4 points - good
    3 points - acceptable
    2 points - poor
    1 point - terrible

    I multiply this by a factor of 50 per level of difficulty.

    Difficulty of Situation
    5 points - Almost impossible
    4 points - Difficult
    3 points - Normal
    2 points - Easy
    1 point - Can do it with eyes shut

  2. Interesting. Is that a method for rating people's RP Skills or there ability to slay evil monster and take their treasure?

  3. RP skills. It can fluctuate depending on the playing group. There can be great rolls and lousy RP, or lousy rolls and great RP. Both should be recognized.

  4. Gotcha. Seems like a pretty good rubric to me. I might have to use that to award XP at my table for good RP. I think some of my players would really appreciate that.