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"How much of a skill system do you need?" Topic

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658 hits since 29 Nov 2011
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infojunky29 Nov 2011 10:55 p.m. PST

I picked up Blasters and Bulkheads a couple of days ago, interesting from the roll playing point of view. Couple that with a holiday re-reading of The Fantasy Trip and I am pondering the need for skills at least in a separate quantifiable value from the controlling atribute.

Meaning both mentioned games use "Talents" or "Special Traits" etc… to define skill sets or professions and then refer a controlling attribute for any tests.

To be honest GURPS and some other skills heavy RPGs use a simular system, but they tend to be very specific in the breadth of a skill or talent. I tend to paint with a much larger brush.

I have often thought that a lot of what are considered skills in games with their own cost and levels to be a bit over blown. For example VaccSuit and Battledress in Classic Traveller, wouldn't these be better served with just a "Talent" or "Feat" with just a proficiency? the same goes with most things that are skills in bigger games?

Angel Barracks Inactive Member29 Nov 2011 11:28 p.m. PST

Depends on the style of play you like I guess.
Amber worked well as did Everway for storytelling and ROLEplaying.
Rolemaster works well for ROLLplaying.

I like the Chaosium system, where a skill is a simple % stat.
For the most part these skills are not related to the main stats such as Strength, Intelligence, Stamina etc.

infojunky30 Nov 2011 12:00 a.m. PST

When I use the term Roll Playing I tend to mean combat heavy games over in depth characterization sorts of games like Amber. Less about the specific details of an individual character and more about the missions.

Part of this is my goal of the character sheet on a index card. The other part is being able to play a group instead of a individual character.

This is a reductionist exercise in design and play, not and indictment of more complex systems. I love me some GURPS and I have fond memories of both Chivalry and Sorcery and BRP, not to mention the Hero System. Though I have admit that I love me some Classic Traveller. I just am looking at other ways of doing things, heck I started with Comparing and contrasting 40K:RogueTrader with Traveller.

mad monkey 1 Supporting Member of TMP30 Nov 2011 7:10 a.m. PST

Savage Worlds.

skippy0001 Supporting Member of TMP30 Nov 2011 8:13 a.m. PST

I agree-Savage Worlds-Good balance between skirmish and ROLEplay, uses 'edges' and 'hindrances'. Divides Common Knowledge skills and Specific Knowledge Skills. Probably what you're looking for and campaigns/genres easily convertible to it.

Personal logo Ed the Two Hour Wargames guy Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Nov 2011 8:28 a.m. PST

5150 New Beginnings uses only four and a Challenge system.
Fitness – Physical Challenges
People – People related interaction Challenges
Savvy – Smarts but not science related.
Science – Science related knowledge

Option for specialty skill in the four to get a modifier to success. Tried to keep it simple to keep the game moving.

Space Monkey Inactive Member30 Nov 2011 10:36 a.m. PST

I like them at the level BRP does them, weapon skills are not down to a specific model of equipment, academic skills are fairly broad. I don't like/want stuff like ads/disads, feats, quirks, stunts, edges, kangaroos, bennies, fate points or corn nuts in my rules.
I've always, since my first days of RPGing, made a list of traits on my character sheet… roleplaying cues. No need for special rules to address them.

Mikhail Lerementov Inactive Member30 Nov 2011 10:42 a.m. PST

This is going to sound snarky but isn't meant to be. You need the level that makes you enjoy the game the most. A friend and I both play .45 Adventure, a pulp game. I like the initiative system in the .1 version as it feels right to me. My friend however, likes the .2 initiative system. I feel that .2 takes away the differences between the levels, he feels that it speeds up the game. So you pays your money..etc.
Find a level that suits your view of the world and that you enjoy playing.

RTJEBADIA30 Nov 2011 12:59 p.m. PST

I liked Traveller's system to an extent, but mostly because it combined attributes with skills quite well and kept the number of skills to a usable amount.

I have similar feelings towards the Firefly RPG. I like that rolls are about combining skills with attributes in different ways depending on the situation, which allows the skills and attributes to be both detailed and also fairly simple and vague at the same time.

5150 NB is kinda similar, actually, at least the way I use professions. The profession kinda provides that bonus for certain situations (and you can have more than one profession), while specialties are similar but only more so. Attributes (different than the 4 "skills" which are kinda like statistics in most RPGs) help flesh out a bit more, in a somewhat similar way. The end result is that you basically have stats that define your general capabilities, but a few other traits that change that in certain situations. And it all fits on a notecard!

28mmMan30 Nov 2011 2:47 p.m. PST

That is an interesting thought.

I would think it comes down to the style of play that most suits your theme and players.

A vanilla answer, but it is what it is.


I like a skill heavy system because it answers questions before they are asked.

For me just because a character has rifle or pistol skills should not mean equal skill with any and all rifles or pistols…they are not all the same by any measure.

Now if it works to say rifle, pistol, sword, etc. then I am with you brother!

If it works to further define automatic rifle, shotgun, knife, crossbow, etc. then I am again with you.

For me I like to define the skills that mean something to the game…if it is a combat game then the non-combat skills could be a bit more broad to cover bases.

But in a combat heavy game I would look for general skills that allow familiarity and thus no minuses and then specific skills to define expertise.

Joe…USMC, rifle familiarity, pistol familiarity, shotgun +4, assault rifle +5, mechanic, hand to hand familiarity, rear naked choke +3


Hope that helps in some way…I like broad skills for generalities and specific skills that can create change in the game.

infojunky30 Nov 2011 5:15 p.m. PST

So at best we are saying scalable or stackable feats/skills might be an idea that could work?

Meaning Say Guns for the very basic tallent with stacked specialized "feat/skill" added on to denote specialization in a form? With multiple levels?

28mmMan30 Nov 2011 6:13 p.m. PST

Sounds fair.

General or Familiarity skill

Specialty or Specific skill

Feat or Talent could be related…

I see Feats and Talents as being those abilities that are one in a million…perfect balance, no off hand, eidetic memory, innate sense of direction, etc.

billthecat Inactive Member01 Dec 2011 10:24 a.m. PST

I don't think it is 'skills' that are the issue, but certain tasks which should be 'stat based' being represented by one or more skills. Some skills will be based on 'stats' (innate qualities), others not so much, and some tasks simply defined by a 'stat' (innate quality).

The decision will hinge upon a) how much complexity/detail you want in a game, and b) what qualifies as a skill? For example, do we have a 'language' skill, a skill for each language, or a skill for each written and spoken dialect according to intended audience? A shooting skill, skills for 'types' of weapons, or a skill for each model of laser- pistol in the universe.The scale slides both ways.

IMHO, RPGs without SOME sort of skill system are little better than combat-storytelling. Not every quality or ability is innate, after all.

infojunky01 Dec 2011 10:00 p.m. PST

Guys i appreciate the willingness to bash ideas, I just pond ideas around here. I have played and run some very complex game systems over the years.

Recently I have been more lets throw the figures and dice out on the table and play. thus looking at simple build able games that allow for some character development. Trying to streamline the characters to be playable from a single index card.

Which Classic Traveller(CT) (and by extension the Mongoose edition [MGT]), The Fantasy Trip (Which wouldn't be too hard to convert to SF), Blasters and Bulkheads, 40K:RogueTrader and the related games…

Really what I am kinda looking for is a Miniatures Game with lots of RPG elements.

Right now Savage Worlds is the system of choice.

But that doesn't stop me from some reductionist thought…

So Since I asked about skills, How about Statistics/Attributes? how many are needed? Any at all?

Or could they be rolled into a Trait/Feat sorta system with only remarkable one being noted?

Psyckosama Inactive Member12 Dec 2011 1:52 a.m. PST

The system I'm working on has a somewhat unique system. Points cost for skills is almost exponential so high skill get expensive REALLY fast, but the moderator for that is focuses and specializations of those focuses which count as new skills for skill cost, but at the cost of being more narrow. Also, you can never have a skill higher than its parent skill.

The 5 main skills that are extremely board but as you specialize they get more and more narrow.

28mmMan12 Dec 2011 8:32 a.m. PST

So a skill with Guns is a general or broad selection including rifles, pistols, machine guns, etc.

Guns skill cost (for example)
1pts level 1
3pts level 2
7pts level 3

So how and why would you specialize?

Jimmy has three levels in Guns, why would he need to specialize? He could get up to three specialty levels to match the core value.

What is the advantage for the specialty levels?

infojunky12 Dec 2011 5:51 p.m. PST

With much thought a lot of this depends on the skill/task resolution system for the number of "skill" levels required.

Couple this with what the limits exist for characters.

In The Fantasy Trip IQ limited the number of "Talents/professions/spells" a character could have. Couple that with a task resolution system of throwing a number of dice for task difficulties trying to get a result under the attribute rating.

Traveller limited the number of Skills a character could have to the combination of Intelligence and Education.

It seems Like I am asking about character classes as a skill set when I step back and look at it to some extent.

So maybe it is really a question of breadth of skill coverage.

28mm the point of Psyckosama's system depends on the cost of advancement and is in direct relation to the number of character reward points awarded as experience.

Psyckosama Inactive Member13 Dec 2011 5:08 a.m. PST

Lets go into guns like you said. You have a Fancy new Blaster Master 4000 Heavy Plasma Pistol you want to get the most out of and 10 points to spend.

Lets assume you're kinda light on your feat when it comes to your Dex so you have a Dex of +2. Because ranged weapons are dependent on how fast you can react, your dex is the connected stat.

Ranged weapons are a Coordination skill.

So first you'd up your coordination.
Lets say you get up to level 3, which would cost 6 points total.

So far your roll 2d6+3+2 when shooting. But that's not good enough.

Now, you don't have points to raise Coordination any more, but you want to be a better shot. So you put 3 points into your Pistols skill at rank 2.

Now you roll Coordination + Guns which is 5… so you roll 2d6+5+2 when using pistols.

But that's still not good enough, and since you have a point left you put it into Heavy Plasma pistols.

Now when you shoot your plasma pistol, or a plasma pistol like it, you roll Coordination + guns + Heavy Plasma Pistols added to your dex. Or 2d6+6+2 as the adding will probably be already on your sheet simply because only an fool does it every time.

The way the system works is using parent skills. Theoretically, unless its an exotic trained skill which means you need a trait that says you know it to use it, you're considered to know every skill in the game… at 0 which is the base stat on everything. Poor stats and ineptitude at skills are negatives, high skills and stats are positives.

People have a pretty solid breadth of knowledge we pick up through sheer observation and talent. You might only know a lot about a couple things, but there's a lot of things you know very little about.

A super average character in this game with a flat stat line has Zero in every skill and stat meaning that when they do something its a flat roll of the dice.

Make sense now?

Though I'm thinking of changing to 3d6 considering how high the bonuses can get but I think the problem is that flattens out the bell curve too much. I also want to avoid "exotic" dice and stick to D6s. What does everyone think?

infojunky13 Dec 2011 6:31 a.m. PST

Well in RPG terms it really depends what y'all are rolling against, what is your threshold?

With all the additions, what are the subtractions?

Psyckosama Inactive Member13 Dec 2011 7:20 a.m. PST

Depends on range, activity, cover, size, and environmental conditions.

Lets say you're shooting a running man sized target at medium range, at night on a decently well lit street.

+0 for size because he's the same size as the attacker, +0 for cover because he's out in the open, -2 for range, -1 for poor lighting conditions, and -2 for the fact he's a relatively quickly moving target.

Lion in the Stars Supporting Member of TMP13 Dec 2011 9:37 a.m. PST

The lowest number of skills/attributes any character of mine has ever had was 4. It was a homebrew system, and you'd look at having a 'combat' descriptor, a 'professional' descriptor, a 'social' descriptor, and an 'other' descriptor.

This was VSF, so I was playing a 'retired' (read: cashiered) Royal Engineer. He was a big game hunter, a military (railroad) engineer, a vocal egalitarian, and a bit of an alchemist at the start of the story.

For published systems, I think Qin or White Wolf is about right. 5 or so character traits, plus skills/abilities.

infojunky15 Dec 2011 11:31 p.m. PST

Which now has me pondering how many core attributes does one need….


The reductionist in me says 3, Physical, Mental, MetaPhysical…. But I am not convinced totally of the third….

Psyckosama Inactive Member16 Dec 2011 2:56 a.m. PST


They already use those three in the Tristat system: Mind/Body/Soul.

infojunky16 Dec 2011 12:40 p.m. PST

Yes I know…..

By establishing a minmum then we can explore what the upper limit is…

i.e. what needs to be fractionated out as a functional sub-set.

There is the obvious trio of Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution as a subset of the Physical.

I have always like the split of Intelligence and Education for the Mental.

The Meta-Physical is rougher, but generally Charisma and Will…

But there are bunches of other splits and concepts to play with…

Say a broad Skill tree where physical characteristics are treated specialized skills/traits.

Lion in the Stars Supporting Member of TMP17 Dec 2011 5:40 a.m. PST

White Wolf uses three core groups, with three attributes per group.

Physical: Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina
Mental: Perception, Intelligence, Wits
Social: Charisma, Manipulation, Appearance

And then skills built off of the attributes. Manipulation could also be described as 'Empathy'.

Qin uses 5 attributes: Earth (mystical), Water (physical), Wood (mental), Fire (social), and Metal (martial arts).

Skills were all associated with an attribute, and some skills had required specializations, too. You had to specify which language you spoke, for example.

D&D uses 6 or 7 attributes, depending on whether you include Comeliness. Personally, I think that a character's physical attractiveness should at least be described, if not given an actual stat. I hate to sound shallow, but someone's appearance *is* their first impression.

The homebrew system suggested that you have a professional talent, social talent, combat talent, and a special talent. No skills in the homebrew, just talents. At the end of that storyarc, I ended up with something like 7 significant talents, including a couple that were utterly maxed out.

I think that even if you use a small number of characteristics, you should have a description of how your character is strong in that field. In Tristat, is your high physical score because you are strong like Ah-nuld, or are you quick like Jackie Chan? Is your high mental score because you know everything like Hermione, or because you think quickly like a con man? etc.

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