I've seen a lot of attempts to merge the skill and art systems by forcing the magic numbers down. Has anyone ever tried it the other way? That is, has anyone ever tried scaling skills on a 1 to 40 basis? I'm guessing it wipes out the effectiveness of the dice roll and that Characteristics need to be rescaled, but it seems a way to merge the experience systems.
The way I see it is this: a competent swordsman has, say a 15 in his Sword skill. His attack could still be
Dice (rescaled) + Characteristic (rescaled) + Skill vs Target number (rescaled).
I did a mild attempt to do it with our combat system. The system worked around 2 stats + 2 abilities (str+dex+WS+brawl) added together to get your attack/defence total and your soak using 2 stats (sta +qik) as well. It was only for combat, granted but it was OKish as an end result. Not as smooth as I wanted it to be, though. I keep polishing it, though
Upscaling all abilities could be done for sure. It is just that I prefer lower numbers. If you go for lower numbers you only need to reescale the arts. As you say, if you go the other way around you need to reescale pretty much everything. Not only the difficulties, but the bonuses provided by arcane stuff to spellcasting as well, alkl the supernatural abilities that are not accelerated (ie: Hex) and other stuff. It is easier to scale the arts dowen than the abilities up. Specially since any reescaling system tends to be designed towards a lowering of hermetic power (or keeping it the same as per the original Arts as Abilities articles) so the advantage of doing it that way around escapes me. I do not see much advantage in it.
If you want to reduce the impact of the die, use a D6 instead of a D10. Botch on 2 consecutive 1s (roll a 1, roll again; if another 1, check the severity of the botch, but you already botched), and additive dice if you roll a 6 under stress. Pretty easy, really.
I like the way that reduces randomness but I think you're right that the characteristic effects would need to be scaled up.
Anyway, I don't think I'd want to unite the systems that way because my main concern is high Art abilities, not the somewhat excessive random component of Ability rolls that your suggestion does help with.
This system would mean that there is a much greater disparity between somebody who is "skilled" and somebody who is "green".
Under the current system a "skilled" character usually has an Ability Score in the 4-7 range, and a "green" character in the 0-3 range. Which is a 1-7 point disparity. If, in the proposed system, translating those same XP totals across a "skilled" character would have an Ability Score in the 10-17 range, and a "green" character in the 0-7 range. Which makes a 3-17 point disparity.
So, for fixed target number tasks (Area Lore rolls, say), then if you don't scale the target number, everything becomes too easy for the "skilled" character, but if you do scale, then things become much harder for the "green" character. In my experience, making things too hard for "green" characters tends to suck for players, because it means attempting to use Abilties outside a character's core schtick usually results failure. So eventually the players learn not to attempt things outside a character's core schtick, and play becomes boring.
For opposed rolls (combat, say) it means that the skilled character (on average) "wins" the roll by a much greater margin. Which, even if you start messing around with the Protection value of armour, and the Wound thresholds, is going to make combat involving "skilled" characters vs "green" characters much more lethal for the "green" character. Personally, I think ArM5 combat is already lethal enough for unskilled characters.
My read of it is whichever way you go, the question is how much impact you want the dice range to have as opposed to statistical impact.
Ars Magica is already a fairly dice-light game, in that the die rolls don't tend to be make/break rolls that often - especially for spellcasting. A big part of this is because the modifier ranges tend to be much bigger than the die range, so having rolls where the chance of failure (or of success) is less than 10% is, in my experience, relatively frequent.
Making the modifiers bigger will only exacerbate this. Making the numbers smaller gives the die a larger role in determining the outcome of events.
My basic problem is that Ars used to have one XP mechanic, now it has three, and I think itm ight be easier to get people into the game if there was just one again.
Now, my impression is that the unique value of the game is the magic system. Therefore the magic system is the non-sacrificable mechanic. I think that it should be possible to rework everything else to suit a single mechanic using Arts.
I'm not fussed by dice, or Characteristics actually, since they are clearly just Virtues by another name. My one point is that I'm looking for ways to do an Ars Light for new players at CDons, and I think that the best way of doing that is to insist on a single skill system.
I have both played in such a game and been storyguide in a subsequent one. They were both played using heavily house-ruled 4th edition rules, but the main points I learnt from the games should apply to 5th edition too:
It suits Heroic/High Fantasy more than grim and gritty. The monsters need to be seriously ramped up so they can use both magic and physical combat, the more powerful characters (npcs and pcs) can & will take on (faerie) gods, Archangels and Princes of Hell. You get pc mages with combat scores over 20 quite quickly, to go with their amazing magic spells.
Companion class characters get swamped/made obsolete by the mages, since it becomes worth the mages' while to learn combat skills, rather than decide that their xp is better spent on learning higher Arts, since they are the same cost. (This doesn't apply if the Arts become more expensive instead, unless the players get 5 times as much xp).
Overall, if you want a simpler version of the game, omitting companions so newcomers can learn how the game works, then it's fine. But I recommend switching back to the full system as soon as possible for longer term games.
Arts, Abilities...what is the third? Do you mean buying spells in character generation?
Do players at a Con need to know about the XP system at all? It is great if you have some Con games where there are Long-Term-Events, as that is where ArM5 is great, IMO, and it is tricky to do Long-Term-Events in a Con. As players are not typically used to scenarios where the PCs can stop doing the "dungeon", go home, and work in the Lab for a season/year/or two, and come back with the solution to whatever the problem is.
Oh, are you talking about a Con game where the players make up characters, rather than run with pre-generated ones?
I can see how that might be a bit of a grind, but even then, I'm not sure that the problem is the XP system. "You spend XP on Art and Ability Scores. There is a different price structure for each. Here is a table to look up." That's not too hard to understand. The problem, I feel, is more deciding what to spend the XP on, adding up all the numbers, and not missing important things, and then integrating the characters properly into the story. I think I would just steer well clear of trying to make up characters in a Con environment, even with experienced players.
No, the third experience system is made up of the modifier points earned toward Virtue acquisition using the Mysteries system. It's an experience system hidden as a dice mechanic, but it really is an experience system regardless.
In a con game I would say that the experience system does not need to be known at all. It tends to be a one off adventure/session, so not much advancement to be done. Except if you want to make them play an adventure spawning several seasons (and THAT can be an idea...). There is also the labor points experience system, but again, no point in drowning them with excessive mechanics in an intro game where what you want to demonstrate is spontaneous and formulaics, problems of The Gift to interact with people and the presence of the faeries or demons in the game world (and the power of the church, maybe).