Musings on Etiquette

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Toby Pilling
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I was idly browsing the rulebook the other day when my eyes alighted upon the Etiquette (Soldiers) Talent available for my character (a soldier) to take in the second level of his career. To do so he'd have to spend 100XP and I pondered whether it is worth doing so - a cost benefit analysis, basically. The more I thought about it though, the more it occurred to me that all of the etiquette talents are things which are hardly ever consciously learned, but are usually accrued over time, almost by osmosis. I suppose that the Etiquette (Nobles) is the one that most people think of, and dozens of period dramas have drummed into us the time spent by young ladies and gentlemen learning the correct ways of doing things. Even then, though, I'd suggest that one learns those things throughout one's youth - in WFRP terms, by the time you're ready to adventure, you're familiar with them.

Certainly, the rules as written seem to imply that one could reach the rank of sergeant in the army, or rise high up the ranks of criminals, without becoming familiar with their slang, speech and ways. This is, to my mind, blatantly ridiculous. In WFRP, one option would be to insist that PCs take the Talent when it becomes available before they can progress further in the career, but that then makes it a 'tax', as they say in RPG groups, which I think is unfair. This is a problem not just in the current edition, of course.

I think in future, when I next run a game, I will grant any character the appropriate etiquette talent for free if their starter career contains it as an option. If it is in a further level of a career, they will get it for free if they have either entered it from the directly lower level (an Initiate moving into the Priest career, for example), or when they complete that career if they entered it from a different one (a Scholar who moves over become a Priest of Verenna would have to spend time getting to know the social norms, for example). I suppose if that character wished to speed up the process, they could buy the talent as normal.

What do people think? I realise that the instant answer is 'It's your campaign , you can house rule what you like', but that doesn't really provoke much debate or offer feedback.
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Totsuzenheni Yukimi
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I'm less familiar with fourth edition but thinking in more first edition like terms: couldn't there be a percentage chance of having the skill to start with?
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Toby Pilling
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I suppose there could be a percentage chance of just getting it at start. I just think these social nuances are mostly something one picks up with time, rather than formally learns.
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Orin J.
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the etiquette talent is one of those things that i feel was dropped into the book without much thought (probably used in some adventure testing to good effect due to the way the group was playing) and then never properly balanced or developed for the game. as something for very restrictive groups where there's a lot of pomp and insular knowledge (chaos cults, knightly orders, specialist branches of engineering) such a talent could make some sense, but it's just sort of haphazardly thrown in with "scholars, soldiers and other groups" as though most groups are very much a hodge-podge of people with fairly little unique social customs.

for the most part i'd assume that general ettiquete comes part and parcel with the career selection and the talent is meant for more selective matters, but the developers seemed to have a different opinion on this- or simply didn't find the time to properly finish it.
Shambler
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I think the OP's idea is a good one. I would maybe even lean towards granting the corresponding etiquette talent always at the second level if the first level was completed (so removing the etiquette talent from 1st level careers) to symbolize that the character "arrived" in his profession. Of course, other careers could still offer career-foreign etiquette talents for 100 xp (e.g. Charlatans).
FasterThanJesus
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To me this is an inherent feature of the career. A relevant test would be something like an easy (maybe very) Fel test for a solder or an automatic pass for a character with more completed careers. For anyone else, it would be suitable harder and perhaps tested under charm or bluff.
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Toby Pilling
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FasterThanJesus wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 2:37 am
To me this is an inherent feature of the career. A relevant test would be something like an easy (maybe very) Fel test for a solder or an automatic pass for a character with more completed careers. For anyone else, it would be suitable harder and perhaps tested under charm or bluff.
I suppose that it an 'etiquette effect' could be an intrinsic part of some careers - those that have an etiquette talent listed somewhere in their career levels. It would be a bit like the effects of status in the rulebook on gossip, charm and intimidate tests. I haven't really got a problem with etiquette being a talent, though, just the way it is acquired. As you say - it is an inherent feature of the career.
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Toby Pilling
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Shambler wrote:
Thu Oct 15, 2020 11:36 am
I think the OP's idea is a good one. I would maybe even lean towards granting the corresponding etiquette talent always at the second level if the first level was completed (so removing the etiquette talent from 1st level careers) to symbolize that the character "arrived" in his profession. Of course, other careers could still offer career-foreign etiquette talents for 100 xp (e.g. Charlatans).
I actually like your idea more than mine - a Recruit level soldier won't have garnered all the nuances of a soldierly life until he has served some time. He'll still be mocked by the grognards for a period. The only exception I might make is with the noble career, where I think certain training would have been given early on in life. I suppose though that first level nobles could be a bit wet behind the ears and think they know it all, when they don't.
Shambler
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Thanks. I can see it work both ways with a noble.
SigmariteOrWrong
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For the most part Etiquette rules are forgotten at the table, but I'd like to see them in play more. The character I am grooming for eventual Spy/Grey Order career is busy learning various Etiquette skills so they can blend with any crowd.

I think the Etiquette rules are most important in play when Masquerading in some role or other. Your manners show. Learning the right skills and styles for interaction help with disguise.

I almost convinced myself that PC Classes might be a good way to divide Etiquette skills, so... Scholar, Courtier, Burgher, Peasant, Riverfolk... etc.

Then, their might be cultural divides too... Mootlander, Averlander, Reiklander, Tilean, Bretonnian... where colloquial behaviour and turn of phrase might show up an impostor.
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Toby Pilling
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SigmariteOrWrong wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:21 pm
I think the Etiquette rules are most important in play when Masquerading in some role or other. Your manners show. Learning the right skills and styles for interaction help with disguise.
That's a very good point, actually. I could see why a PC who wants to impersonate someone or infiltrate an organisation might spend time and effort (XP) leaning different forms of etiquette. Would you agree though that it should be freely acquired (possibly after completing a career level) for PCs in those careers (soldier, noble, etc)?
SigmariteOrWrong
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IMHO Etiquette talent unlocks familiarity with jargon, language and customs of that social group. An obvious mechanical option would be to have the Etiquette Talent mitigate penalties for working outside your normal class structure (as covered on pp50-51), if you have the right talent. So Soliders understand how to talk to each other better, Criminals respect each other a bit more, Nobles know which one is the shrimp fork, and how far to bow...

I'd be applying penalties to acting roles for covertly pretending to be outside your current status (likely -1SL per step), on-stage performance I'd leave alone (it's just theatre). For Careers that feature a Etiquette talent, I'd potentially limit access to higher tier levels without taking it. You just don't get ahead unless you bow to the higher power structure. It would take some talented roleplaying, good rolling, or very fortunate plotting to get past that (say, a superior suddenly dying in a time of great need for the role to remain filled). One of our current GMs has had my Cavalryman character jumping through hoops to get anywhere in their career, enough that they are considering other career options, as they feel the brass are all against them.

I wouldn't give those talents out freely, but I'd potentially grant extra-career access to relevant Etiquette Talents if the story warranted it. Another of our GM's offered PC free access to One talent after our last session. It's also likely we are all going to get some basic black powder training soon, as we came across several Blunderbusses.
adambeyoncelowe
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You could just say the PC gets +5% in Etiquette (Whatever) for every Career tier they complete?
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Sword of Solkan
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I’m the GM of the game in question. While we haven’t discussed the value of the Etiquette Talent at the table yet, I thought I’d throw in my initial thoughts here.

I agree that asking players to spend 100 XP for a Talent that essentially allows them to pass as a member of their own Career doesn’t really add anything to the game. If a player were to purchase an Etiquette Talent then I’d be more inclined to give them a bonus to rolls when interacting with members of the group in question. For example, one of the PCs in my last game was a Charlatan with Etiquette (Merchants), and I generally gave him a bonus on his Charm and Gossip Tests when interacting with NPCs from mercantile backgrounds.

I might take a different line if I were running a heavily military campaign where these distinctions were more important . For example, watching the Sharpe television series, you might say Richard Sharpe has the Etiquette (Soldiers) Talent as a consequence of having worked his way up from the ranks. This allows him to connect with the soldiers under his command in ways that most of the other officers depicted in the series cannot. At the same time, we might say he doesn’t have the Etiquette (Nobles) Talent, which most of the other officers do, and is therefore something of an outsider when dealing with others of his own rank.

More broadly, as others have noted, 4th edition differs from previous editions in that it starts PCs right at the bottom of their respective career paths. For example, a Soldier PC starts off as a “Recruit” and needs to work their way up to being the fully-fledged “Soldier” they’d have started as in 2nd edition. I’ve tended to hand-wave that in my games so far where I’ve had players who’ve come up with different backgrounds (e.g. I had a “Watch Recruit” PC in my last campaign whose background was that he was an veteran Watchman with thirty years’ experience). But it’s perhaps a point for players to consider when conceptualising the level of competence of starting characters and their backgrounds.

I agree that a new recruit might not have mastered barrack room lingo etc. The question then is, at what point a PC might be assumed to have simply absorbed these things by osmosis in the course of their adventures. Take Pilger as an example - he’s travelled alongside a few caravan guards, and had a brief stint as a mine guard himself, but he’s not been spending any time around other soldiers in a barrack-room environment. This hasn’t been particularly important in my game so far: the group background the players came up with was that they’d served together in the Storm of Chaos and I’ve generally had NPCs with similar military backgrounds respond to them accordingly. That said, if Pilger hadn’t been familiar with military language and customs when he entered play, I’m not convinced those are things he‘d necessarily have picked up without working at it.
Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.
adambeyoncelowe
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I usually start PCs with 2200 XP, like the pregens in the Starter Set, so they're less sucky at the start.

My guess is that, as you can end up with lots of XP now, the devs wanted more things to spend that on, including the Talents whose only function is to remove penalties.

However, I prefer to make all the Talents count, so I give Etiquette an effect like Schemer, where you can automatically get key insider knowledge related to your area of expertise. That seems to work well.

E.g., general Gossip in the inn lets you know that soldiers have recently started arriving in town from Altdorf, but you're not yet sure why. The player with Etiquette (Soldier) has good contacts, however, and she heard something about a maniacal general who was using his soldiers as cannon-fodder against an Orc Waaargh! Could the two things be related?

And hey presto, it's a much better Talent. If the same PC were to use the Talent while gossipping among soldiers, I would probably also give her a bonus to do so.

Another alternative would be to allow you to mingle with those of *higher* rank rather than the general rank and file. E.g., a lowly soldier who knows all the procedures and stuff, so regularly gets to mingle with the generals.
Shambler
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Different but thought-out as well!
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Toby Pilling
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Sword of Solkan wrote:
Fri Oct 23, 2020 8:12 am
More broadly, as others have noted, 4th edition differs from previous editions in that it starts PCs right at the bottom of their respective career paths. For example, a Soldier PC starts off as a “Recruit” and needs to work their way up to being the fully-fledged “Soldier” they’d have started as in 2nd edition. I’ve tended to hand-wave that in my games so far where I’ve had players who’ve come up with different backgrounds (e.g. I had a “Watch Recruit” PC in my last campaign whose background was that he was an veteran Watchman with thirty years’ experience). But it’s perhaps a point for players to consider when conceptualising the level of competence of starting characters and their backgrounds.
I keep forgetting that 4th edition characters virtually all start out as apprentices in their career areas - absolute beginners. I think therefore that I'd make completing that initial career the pre-requisite for a free award of the Talent, if they choose to continue in that career path. That would sort of reward them for persisting. If the Talent exists in the initial career - well, it's their choice if they take it as their initial starting talent or not.
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Toby Pilling
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adambeyoncelowe wrote:
Sat Oct 24, 2020 2:53 am
Here's my Etiquette fix: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gor ... p=drivesdk
That certainly makes the talent more useful and worth purchasing. I suppose it should require one house rule or the other - something to make it worth spending valuable experience points on, or something that is just acquired with time served.
adambeyoncelowe
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Toby Pilling wrote:
Wed Oct 28, 2020 3:35 pm
adambeyoncelowe wrote:
Sat Oct 24, 2020 2:53 am
Here's my Etiquette fix: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gor ... p=drivesdk
That certainly makes the talent more useful and worth purchasing. I suppose it should require one house rule or the other - something to make it worth spending valuable experience points on, or something that is just acquired with time served.
Agreed. The easiest fix for any Talent is to throw in a free reverse. You could do more with it, if you want to, as well. Suggestions I saw included extra cash when negotiating contracts, etc, and access to favours.
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