How can you improve your Counteract check(s)?

Specifically for spells such as Dispel Magic, Restore Senses, Remove Disease, or Remove Curse, when you roll your Counteract check using your

relevant skill modifier or other appropriate modifier to your check against the target’s DC. […] the counteract check modifier is your spellcasting ability modifier plus your spellcasting proficiency bonus, plus any bonuses and penalties that specifically apply to counteract checks.

the results are based both on your success with the dice and the level of the ability/spell used when performing the Counteract

Critical Success Counteract the target if its counteract level is no more than 3 levels higher than your effect’s counteract level.
Success Counteract the target if its counteract level is no more than 1 level higher than your effect’s counteract level.
Failure Counteract the target if its counteract level is lower than your effect’s counteract level.
Critical Failure You fail to counteract the target.

This means that, against level-appropriate effects, you are spending one of your higher spell slots (or similarly powerful resources) for the attempt to overcome a negative effect, requiring you to roll in the range of 8-12 to get a Success. That means, without modification, you can expect to fail at least 1/3 to 1/2 the time. Against some effects that this would represent a quality of life increase, this is fine… but when attempting to overcome permanent Blindness or Mummy Rot (for instance) you may not have the luxury of accepting failure.

When out of combat, what methods are available to boost your Counteract checks, particularly for spells?

D&D 5e inspiration dice as currency for PCs to improve their characters? [closed]

Has anyone heard of, or thought out, or even used D&D 5e inspiration dice as currency for PCs to improve their characters? I allow PCs to accumulate them, so it occurred to me, "why not let them buy a skill, feat, spell slot, etc… for ‘x’ number of I-Dice? Thoughts? Possible costs in I-Dice for each?"

How to improve Oracle Standard Edition’s performance for testing?

There’s a great post on StackOverflow about improving Postgres performance for testing.

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/9407442/optimise-postgresql-for-fast-testing/9407940#9407940

However, there aren’t any resources on doing the same for OracleDB. I don’t have a license for Enterprise Edition, that has features like ‘In-Memory’ columnar storage that would almost definitely improve performance.

https://docs.oracle.com/en/database/oracle/oracle-database/19/inmem/intro-to-in-memory-column-store.html

I’m really limited in what I can try in Standard Edition. It’s running in a Docker container in a CI pipeline. I’ve tried putting the tablespace on a RAM disk, but that doesn’t improve performance at all. I’ve tried fiddling with FILESYSTEMIO_OPTION, but no performance change.

Would anyone know of some more obvious things I can do in OracleDB in a CI environment?

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How can I improve the social / mental combat system in Vampire: Requiem?

The Storytelling System has balanced traits, with power, finesse, and resistance attributes and skills for the physical, social and mental traits.

Still, until recently only physical combat was described, letting the social and mental ones fall on the shoulders of the storyteller and players. (Requiem for Rome and WoD: Mirrors recently introduced social/mental combat, but see below for the problems with them.)

This had at the very least the following consequences:

  1. A player with easy social/mental skills could shine while role-playing or solving puzzles despite the low social/mental skills of his character
  2. On the opposed side, a player with average-to-low social/mental skills would never be able to really play Mata Hari or Sherlock Holmes, despite having maxed out his social/mental skills
  3. Thus, it is more profitable to invest experience in physical combat skills – there, one is sure experience will be efficiently used, where in social/mental skills the points’ contribution is unsure at best
  4. Conclusion: You end up with combat-skilled characters

This happened to our group, because:

  1. Our mental challenges (i.e. investigation, puzzles, etc.) were failed or missed by the players. (Not to mention hours of useless and boring discussion to decide the course of action, which killed both the pace and the mood of sessions…)
  2. As everything social was “discussed” and not standardized, players could ignore anything that didn’t please them

The problem is we’re playing Vampire: The Requiem, and half the interactions between important the PCs and other vampires are simply social – Elysium stuff, etc.

So we (the two storytellers for our group of 6 people) are trying to bring social/mental combat mechanics into our games. Our first experiments were interesting (players were to throw dice to investigate), but we are still working on it.

My question is: Have you devised systems for the Storytelling System* for social and mental combat?

There are mental/social combat rules in Requiem for Rome (mostly rhetoric and reason debates) and in World of Darkness: Mirrors (Sway for generic social combat; and Anticipation, Setup and Declaration for mental “special effects”), but I’m looking for alternatives that merge everything interesting together. (For example, half of the rules for Sway are interesting, but the need for a simple roll and simple success is too easy for a “combat”.)

* Though we’re playing Storyteller System, answers for other systems (D&D, Shadowrun, etc.) would be interesting, too.