Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Skills They Didn't Even Know They Had

In preparing for my groups foray into the Weird Adventures in the City, I’ve been thinking about skills. Of course, this isn’t everyone’s old school cup of tea, but particularly in a more technologically advanced setting like this one, I feel like it has its place.

What I don’t want is a complicated system with a lot of different skills to keep track of like GURPS, or even d20, or the like. Instead, I’d like broad abilities that work well with a sort of pulpy not terribly realistic flavor, and won’t bog the GM (myself) or player’s down too much. Most of all, I want them to suggest things the characters can do that enhance role-playing, rather than have players over-concerned with scanning character sheets for what they can or can’t do. In I way, I may be thinking more broadly; maybe abilities is a better descriptor than skills.

I think I’m going to employ Delta's "Target 20" mechanic--not just for combat, but as a central mechanic for skills/abilities, too. Player’s will add the pertinent ability modifier (mostly intelligence) to a role of the d20, and then the GM will apply a modifier based on some determination of difficulty, and the result most be greater than or equal to 20.

This line of though got me thinking about the skills/abilities that character’s have that aren’t (at this point) clearly delineated. Certainly place of origin and social status convey some benefits. The same goes for the "adventuring profession" itself.

Classes would confer skills, too, which would improve with level. Here’s some examples of what I’ve been thinking of:
  • Fighters: assess quality of weapons, care of weapons, possibly some tactics, or even strategy
  • Clerics: theology, liturgy, performing rituals, church gossip/personalities/history
  • Magic-Users: magical history and theory, maybe a bit about magical creatures?
  • Thieves: well, thieves already have an array of skills. Maybe these should be moved to a similar mechanic.
I’m not sure that these skills all need to be individually defined. In fact, I’d prefer that they aren’t. Anything that a player can convince the GM that its reasonable for him to know because he’s a cleric, I think he ought to be able to have a chance at--the GM’s job would be to assess a modifier based on not only difficulty, but how much the GM judges the character’s likely to know just based on his profession.

Anyway, all somewhat theoretical at this point.  I’ll give some examples soon that I intend to use in my Weird Adventures campaign.


Unknown said...

I think something like is seems like exactly the right approach. I plan on doing something vaguely similar when I finally getting around to running an old school game.

BTW, have you seen the Akratic Wizardry sword & sorcery houserules for backgrounds? They seem like a good place to start, as well.

Aos said...

You might find this useful http://themetalearth.blogspot.com/2010/03/head-city-on-north-coast-of-xal-gordian.html although, if you are anything like me, you'll have to go your own way in the end.

Aaron E. Steele said...

Funny, althought I dont like to mix skills with my class-based game, I like Traveller, which is a class-based game, with skills.

Must be something about sci-fi games.

Word ver: gurgi - a character from the Black Cauldron.

Trey said...

@Risus & @Aos - Thanks for heads up on those links. I'll check those out.

@Paladin - I agree a bit in having trepidation about skills in class systems (though I have no problem with skill systems, or skills in more "archetype" systems), but sci-fi I would definitely see them and in this more 1930s world I still feel like they're of value.

Geoff Nelson said...

In Savage Worlds, there is a mechanic called "common Knowledge", which is similar to what you're talking about. In SW, attributes are a die type (ex: str d8) Your common knowledge is your smarts die. Your GM gives bonuses or penalties ad hoc, and allows rolls based on background. So, if your character is a backwoods fiddle player, there's no fiddle skill. Rather, you roll your Smarts to know stuff about fiddle playing and its mileu. So, you might roll a d8 -1 to call a square dance (possibly modified by your Charisma, which is a fixed value in SW), but a d8 -4 to play a once-heard concerto by ear. It helps to have a good description of your character's non-fighting abilities in the beginning, since they aren't covered by skills.

Trey said...

@Manifold - Interesting. I've never played SW, but that sounds like a good setup.