When you look at a gift using +gift, the "Bonuses:" line indicates one or more bonuses that are associated with this gift. If you're not the sort of person who has an obsession with the game mechanics, all you need to know for sheet-planning purposes is that bonuses marked "something-2" are superior to bonuses marked "something-1".
There's no efficient way to min-max the system. Don't bother to try.
We keep the details of the RPG system's +compare deliberately opaque, in order to discourage players from becoming overly concerned with mechanical details. However, we recognize that some players are inclined to obsess over mechanics, period, and that when looking at gifts, it's useful to get a sense of the magnitude of a bonus, in order to decide whether to pursue higher bonuses or just additional opportunities to get a bonus. Thus, we document some basic information about the gift bonus system here.
Some basic facts about bonuses to start:
- Stats make a big difference in overall outcome. The bonus tiers for tokens and gifts are approximately +3, +6, and the rare +9; by comparison, you will use two of your stats, which would be a minimum of 2 (two stats at 1) or a maximum of 21 (one stat at 10 and one at 11).
- The bonus granted by gifts, and the bonus granted by a bonus-token, are totally separate.
- There is no difference in the magnitude of bonuses granted by +compare vs. +challenge.
- Every bonus of a given name is the same; for instance, a broad-1 bonus on one gift is identical to a broad-1 bonus on any other gift that has that. Basic bonuses at a given tier are generally of an equal magnitude; for instance, a-1, broad-1, force-1, resolve-1, grace-1 and wits-1 are all of equal magnitude (and the same is true of their tier 2 equivalents, too).
- Your opponent always decides, OOC, if a gift is applicable, period. If he doesn't accept it in a +compare, you can't use it.
- You can stack multiple gifts in a +compare, as long as all of them are applicable, and the use of one doesn't contradict the other. Gifts that overlap (for instance, one that gives you a bonus with all weapons, and one that gives you a specific bonus with the weapon you're currently wielding) are legitimate combinations.
- If a gift has more than one bonus, the highest applicable bonus is chosen. (Sometimes, a gift may have bonuses with identical values for book-keeping purposes, i.e., a-1 broad-1, or scaling bonuses that change depending on circumstances. Only one bonus from each gift is ever used.)
- Bonuses from different gifts always stack in a positive way, but there are diminishing returns; i.e., the more of them you use, the smaller the improvement granted by each bonus becomes.
- There is no significance to the order in which gifts are chosen.
Bonuses can actually be arbitrarily named, but we use a naming convention to make it easier to keep track of which bonuses do what (and to ensure consistent pricing of gifts).
Bonuses are classified into tiers. Tier 1 bonuses are roughly equal to +3. Tier 2 bonuses are roughly equal to +6. Tier 3 bonuses are roughly equal to +9. (That parallels bonus-tokens, which are worth +3, +6, or +9, depending on how much Focus is in them.)
By convention, we usually name bonuses in the following way:
- a-N, i.e., a-1 - Narrow circumstantial bonus at tier N.
- broad-N, i.e., broad-1 - Broad circumstantial bonus at tier N.
- stat-N, i.e., wits-1 - Bonus at tier N which only applies when you choose stat.
- unstat-N, i.e., unwits-1 - Bonus at tier N which only applies when your opponent chooses stat.
- n-category, i.e., n-luck - Nullifies bonuses belonging to a general concept category.
There are bonuses which do not follow these naming conventions, usually because they combine these sorts of traits in some kind of unique way.
Which Bonuses are Used?
The first thing that happens after both you and your opponent choose and handshake gifts is a check to see if any gifts that have been chosen nullify other gifts that have been chosen. If so, those gifts are automatically eliminated from the bonus calculation.
Now, each gift is checked for what bonus (if any) to use. Each bonus on that gift is checked for validity:
- Does this bonus work regardless of what stat is chosen, or does it work only when YOU choose a specific stat (for instance, force-1 only works when you use Force), or does it work only when your OPPONENT chooses a specific stat (for instance, unforce-1 only works when your opponent uses Force)?
- Does this bonus require you to pass any pre-requisites at the time that it's used? (For instance, some gifts have multiple bonuses, each of which works at a different Doom level, thus granting a lower or higher bonus depending on a Doom.)
- Does this bonus require your opponent to pass any pre-requisites at the time that it's used? (For instance, some gifts have multiple bonuses, each of which is dependent upon some trait of the opponent's, thus granting a higher or lower bonus depending on the magnitude of the opposition.)
If multiple bonuses on gift turn out to be valid, only a single bonus is chosen — the valid bonus at the highest tier is used.
Calculating the Effect
The completion of the validity check means that for each player, we've derived a list of valid bonuses (a maximum of one such bonus per gift they've chosen). Now, for each player, we calculate the value of the actual bonus granted.
Here are some facts about this calculation:
- The calculation is essentially done by tier, with the total at each tier summed for the end-result value.
- Each tier is worth roughly +3.
- Bonuses stack at their own level and below.
- There is a random element to the value of the bonuses at each tier.
- There is a minimum and maximum bonus at each tier, regardless of stacking.
The random element is important. On a statistical, average basis, a single gift that grants a tier 2 bonus will grant a higher actual bonus value than stacking any number of gifts that grant tier 1 bonuses. However, on any single compare, a tier 2 bonus gift can result in a lower bonus than even a single tier 1 bonus gift. There's definitely a luck-of-the-dice component involved.
The random factor in bonus calculations is not influenced by gifts like Wildcard, which alter the random element used in the +compare or +challenge itself.