Wednesday, June 1, 2011

PA - Skills

With Stats must go Skills.

I'm a little torn on Skills. On the one hand, I'd kind of like to do "define your own" skills, like Unknown Armies. On the other, since I am introducing Aspects, that would severely blur the line between Aspects and Skills. Probably not a good thing.

So, here's some rough thoughts on how to do Skills.

First, we know that Skills will be rated from 0 to 10. Zero ranks is untrained. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that the character cannot use the skill. What it does mean, however, is that the Skill side of the roll will always fail (meaning the best you can generally hope for is a partial success, and critical failures are very possible).

Rank 1 is "hobbyist" and Rank 2 is "talented amateur." You don't know enough to make a living at the skill, but you know enough to use it reasonably reliably. Keep in mind that 1 rank essentially takes TN 5 tasks from "nearly impossible to do right" to "routine".

Rank 3 is where you know enough to get by as a professional. Ranks 4 through 6 take you from "skilled professional" up to "expert professional."

Rank 7 is the next big break point. You have gone from being simply an expert to actually being known for this skill. Your Renown is increased whenever you increase a skill beyond 6 ranks. Other people who have more than 3 ranks in that skill have likely heard of you, and are anxious to hear your opinions on various problems in the field.

Rank 8 sets you as a grand master, acknowledged as one of the best in your field. Rank 9 is a perfect master, acknowledged as not only expert, but historically significant to the field. Rank 10 is legend, on par with Isaac Newton in mathematics or Jesse Owens in running. At rank 10, your name is likely known by schoolchildren. and is nearly synonymous with your field of expertise. Of course, many people may also doubt that you are, in fact, the living legend of whom they've heard. Until they see you in action...

In addition to simply being able to use a Skill better, each rank you purchase also brings two important benefits along. First, you can pick a new proficiency. This is a particular area of expertise within the skill that you have mastery over. For instance, the Craft skill may have proficiencies in Pottery, Weaving, Graphic Design, or even Forgery. Melee would have proficiencies in different weapons. Note that lacking a given proficiency does not mean one is untrained. There is enough overlap from one area of expertise to another, and enough exposure to other methods while training for any one, that the base Skill applies to all. However, a proficiency indicates a specific field of focus. The basic benefit is a +1 to all Skill checks with that proficiency, but there are also more complex and case-specific benefits from stunts and the like.

Which would be a good time to mention stunts. These are taken from FATE, and represent tricks you can do with your skills. I'm planning on keeping most of them simple. Many of them will have prereqs (other stunts, minimum Skill ranks, a certain proficiency). If you aren't familiar with FATE, think of them as being similar to feats from d20, but linked to specific Skills. Each time you gain a rank in a Skill, you also gain a stunt for that Skill.

A sample list of Skills follows. This is by no means final. In fact, this list itself is just spewing out of my head as I type. But, much of it has been rattling around in my head for some time.
  • Melee (includes unarmed, armed, and improvisational weapons)
  • Firearms (includes pistols, rifles, bows, slings)
  • Tactical Weapons (any weapon that can not be held and fired, primarily not anti-personnel)
  • Athletics (pretty much any physical task where strength and endurance are more important)
  • Acrobatics (as above, but where grace and control are more important)
  • Survival (different proficiencies are typically different terrain types)
  • Stealth (not only hiding and sneaking, but palming objects and pulling off disguises)
  • Vehicles (many military vehicles require proficiency to use, most civilian vehicles do not)
  • Tech (includes both hardware and software)
  • Craft (any activity, not covered by Tech, that creates a useful object)
  • Art (any artistic activity, including Writing, such art that creates purely decorative objects, and performances)
  • Trade (getting something for something, includes Business, Politics, Haggling, and Appraise)
  • Persuade (getting someone to do what you want, includes Diplomacy, Lying, Bribery, and Seduction)
  • Impress (using raw force of personality to get your way, includes Intimidate, Enchant, Overawe, and Taunt)
  • Observation (profs include the five or more senses, plus things like Surveillance, Tracking, and Forensics)
  • Lore (knowing is half the battle. some special rules regarding profs and penumbras.)
  • Science (like Lore, but with practical application. most profs required. Medicine, Chemistry, Astrophysics, etc.)
  • Language (each language is a prof, prof implies basic fluency, see special rules for checks)
I'm not crazy about the Athletics/Acrobatics split, as it goes against the grain of "any Stat for any Skill." But, lumping them together creates an uber-skill.

I'm torn on the concept of penumbras (similar to d20's synergy). On the one hand, I like them. On the other, they pull the system further and further toward the crunchy end. I think I'll stick with profs inside Lore having penumbras. Also, allow a proficiency that applies to multiple skills (e.g., Disguise applying to both Stealth and Persuade) to only need to be bought once (using either skill).

So, what skill do I use for thrown weapons? Do I make a Throwing skill, that is much narrower than all the other skills? I dunno.

Lore is going to be tricky. I imagine I'll go through several drafts on that. I want people to pick things like Lore: History of Italy in the 15th Century. I think that's very cool. But, it then becomes damned hard to make it come up in game without being terribly contrived. So, penumbras. History of Italy in the 15th Century can also spread to any history of Italy or any history of the 15th century with a small penalty, or any history with a large penalty. But that only works if the guy who just picks History as a prof is operating at the same penalty. So, reverse it, and give bonuses based on proximity to the specific prof. For discussing the assassination of JFK, "History" and "History of Italy in the 15th Century" are equally useful. When discussing the rise of Mussolini, the specialist has a slight edge. When discussing the influences and examples of Machiavelli, the specialist gets a big edge. There's lots of GM fiat in there, but I think it can work.

With Language, each prof chosen gives you basic fluency in the language. You can carry on a conversation, but are occasionally confused by idioms, and speak with a strong accent. A successful Skill check lets you either communicate in a language you don't have the prof for (using a pidgin of similar languages, and universal hand signals), or communicate better in a language you do have the prof for (covering your accent, mastering idioms, understanding local dialects).

That's the basic framework for skills. Are there any that I may have missed? Any that are too narrow, or too goofy? Again, I would expect serious revision in this section. Especially as I still only have the vaguest notion how stunts are going to work.

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