I got asked two questions in the comments so I'll take them here!
Poster Thomas5251212 Asks About Using Psychology Rolls on PCs in order to "make suggestions" to them about how an NPC might be coming across.
This is a key element of roleplaying: can I play a smooth guy if I'm not smooth? How about a sexy-vamp if I'm not real sure how to roleplay that (or just don't want to?). While there are some issues with "efficiency" of session wherein if the least smooth guy always plays the smooth-talker it may lead to some jarring results (especially if the play allows the player to say whatever they want and then make a roll to have it be convincing--this could lead, for example, to a case where a player verbally abuses an NPC and then rolls to make s/he respond in a positive fashion ... something that I wouldn't fault other players for finding distasteful*).
JAGS is very explicit about not hijacking your character: if for some reason the player's roleplaying is outside what seems reasonable or acceptable (a fantasy elf talking in modern-day vulgar street-lingo would be an example) then we think that's for the people to work out first and foremost. This also goes for your alcoholic player refusing to drink: if you're going to refuse to drink, why play an alcoholic in the first place? And if you play an "alcoholic but it doesn't really screw him at the wrong times?" Well, we're okay with that--that's one reason the negative Traits give fairly few points: they don't try to 'balance' the defect.
On the other hand, what if the GM wants to make an NPC a great leader but isn't quite sure how to pull it off ("He, uh, makes a speech like in one of those movies ... where, uh, it motivates everyone ..."). How about using the Psychology rules on PCs (something the rules don't allow) but doing it as a suggestion the way Traits work?
Short Answer: Yes. I think that's a great idea.
Long Answer: Yeeeesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss. I think that's a great idea.
Even Longer: This is exactly the sort of advantage that you get from treating the rules as a framework instead of as gospel. Reading that the GM can strongly suggest behaviors or motivations to PCs based on their Traits is in the rules. Expanding that to Psychology is a darn good idea (it's one we didn't think of--but when looking at it, to me, it makes perfect sense).
I'll go even further: although these rules are not fleshed out in the game as well as they ought to be, the GM could feel free to tempt players with Success Points for playing along with these.
We're considering having an optional rule where, when a player commits to a psychological manipulation as caused by the rules they can pick up SPs (subject to GM approval, etc.). This is meta-gamy in a way a lot of people won't like (hence: optional) but it can also lead to otherwise canny players taking risks they might not want to take (such as "being persuaded by the slick-talking guy who might be a con-artist") when otherwise they won't bite.
So, yeah--that works for me.
Is Intellect Worth Less than Other Stats?
This is also a good question: in a fight? If you aren't a Psi, magician, or Chi Fighter? Yeah: clearly less. And if you are then the pay-off is usually WIL and not MEM or INT. Also: what something is 'worth' is pretty heavily influenced in JAGS based on "what it's worth in a fight."
So why are they costed the same?
Firstly, they kind of aren't: You can get more MEM for the point than WIL or INT. But that's still not gonna fix things if you are looking at "raw effectiveness."
Secondly, there are some things you can get in the basic game (and there will be more in the Revised Archetypes book) that sort of "convert" WIL into combat ability (Will To Fight). However, paying a premium on top of buying the WIL isn't going to make it work for you either if, again, you are concerned about raw combat effectiveness.
So is it worth less? In one major sense, yes: objectively from a combat perspective, if you put points in INT (and sub-stats) you will tend to fight less well than other characters unless you are directly using those stats to fight (as in a Telepath or Magician). This is, as you'd expect, pretty logical.
So why not make it cost less?
Well, there are some purely technical reasons why we don't: do we charge differently based on if you're a Telepath or Mage? Would that result in games where most tough guys were smarter than magicians--or equally smart--or whatever? Would that make sense? I also want to note that we have rules in place so that characters can be powerful espers or whatever without buying up mental stats so you can be a powerful low-Willpower Telepath ... it's just an odd way to build the character and not that much cheaper.
There are some aesthetic reasons (having brains be cheap just seems ... off to me). Having one stat cost differently than the others would be ugly and would be another rule to learn.
But the real reason? Our play experience? Our play experience (and some people I've played with will disagree) is that players don't mind having smart/will-ful/etc. characters who pay the listed price for those things. In other words, where we play, the market-economy bears this out.
Let me make two points:
- The GM should be trying to facilitate a good time. If someone wants to play braniac characters and there's never anything for them to do in the games someone is probably failing somewhere (unless, somehow, the player and GM are fine with the braniacs never having anything to do--which would be weird). This doesn't mean that every adventure must include a logic puzzle that will be solved with RES rolls or anything prescriptive like that. It just means that if, given Drama rolls and science skills and WIL-based abilities, if players are buying that stuff and there is never any use for it, we think that there's room for improvement and the game system will support it.
- It's my feeling that it is better to pay points for some ability than get it for free--and if I pay a lot to be "smart" and I get to "be smart" (or whatever) in the game in a meaningful way then I'll feel supported by the system.
Let's look at that last one for a second. In a game created by a friend, everything about your character that wasn't combat was free. It was anime-inspired so we were all super attractive martial arts expects to begin with--but other things (being rich? Being able to play a musical instrument? Being a surgeon? Or a Scientist? All free). He felt this was the best way to go with the characters so they'd all be equal in combat.
I won't say it didn't work--but my feeling (and others--and to at least a small extent his) during playtests--was that having all that "color stuff" be "free" really did kind of make it "color." Except for one character's floating sailing ship--that was a hell of a freebee and he even went light on the cannons (something it wasn't clear he needed to back down on).
That same player plays a lot of scientists and has greatly shaped how I think about those characters in games (I'm not inclined to play a scientist most of the time). If those abilities were cheap it seems that, to my experience, it would somehow 'cheapen' the investment as well.
It'd be a little like if the character in my friend's game system solved all his problems with a cannon-laden flying galleon: that thing was free ... he could fight as well as our other characters ... and he also gets to hold towns hostage and fly around when the rest of us don't even have horses and so on (of course we could all get horses--or our own flying ships ... after all, they're free, right? We determined that wouldn't be good for the game either).
So the answer is two-fold:
(a) As I believe that a healthy gaming dynamic will give those characters stuff to do --and--
(b) It's my experience that the cost is right
I conclude that, to the question actually asked (about my experience) the answer is: the costs for those things work.
HOWEVER: people can easily disagree. I have considered (and may consider again) ways to increase those stats for games that do not include Psi, Magic, Chi, etc. It's the same issue with being very strong in a far-future space marines game: if everyone is wearing power-armor and using plasma cannons then being able to bench 350 isn't going to be worth a lot.
But that's also true in a game where everyone plays lawyers or accountants and I'd think that characters in those games might want more than just Strength re-evaluated for costs as well. I don't know any real way to do that without having some kind of computer system for character creation and a list of parameters entered by the GM--and that'd be ugly too.
* Note that I would expect the GM to have the right to intervene here and stop play until this was sorted out.