Arcane Game Lore

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Designing Out Loud – Skill System – Skill List

Okay, now that we’ve talked about the skill resolution mechanic and skill improvement costs, it’s time to start looking at the skills themselves.  As I mentioned in the previous post, this system will have broad skills divided into even broader skill categories.

The Skills

This week’s post will just be the skill categories and the skills they contain.  Each skill will be listed in the category that it most likely applies to.  However, with a good justification, some skills may be available through different skill categories.  In the places where I’ve thought of them, I’ll mention it.  In play if a player can justify why a skill should fall under their skill category, the referee should give it a serious consideration and allow it.  So let’s dive in.

Agent with trenchcoat, briefcase, and gunAgent Skill Category

These skills are about activities that are often on the wrong side of established laws or customs.  They cover activities such as espionage, theft, coercion, and other deceptions.

  • Detective – Covers activities related to gathering and connecting information  like listening for and spotting clues, surveillance, searching, gathering information, reading facial expressions and body language, etc.
  • Persuasion – Covers any activity trying to convince others to do something that you want whether it is against their will or not such as bribery, charm, intimidation, cons, etc.
  • Stealth – Covers activities related to moving silently and unobserved such as hiding, concealment, shadowing a target, etc.  This skill may also be gained through the Scout skill category.
  • Thievery – Covers activities related to acquiring others property such as lock-picking, forgery, slight of hand, pick-pocketing, etc.  It also applies to knowing where to dispose of such ill gotten gains safely.

Female artist working at desk.Artisan Skill Category

This skill category covers all types of artistic endeavors, including creation, interpretation, and evaluation of the various expression forms.  Those who specialize in this area have an easier time learning a musical instrument, putting on a show, giving a speech, or creating things whether it be written, a sculpture, a painting, a song, or some other form of creative, artistic expression.  This category includes the following skills, although as a Referee, if you want the skills to be more specialized, feel free to adapt them for your campaign by adding more.

  • Composition – Covers the various forms of writing whether it be poetry, prose, screenplays, music, or something else.
  • Performance – Covers all forms of acting as well as singing, dancing, and public speaking
  • Sculpture – Covers sculpting in various media as well as areas such as pottery, woodworking, leatherwork, and metalwork.
  • Visual Art – Covers the visual media such as painting, drawing, photography, and holography

Language Skill Category

Someone with the Language skill category as their primary or a secondary category has the gift of tongues and learns and masters languages easily.  Each language (or maybe language group) in your game is a separate skill.  All characters are assumed to have a level 5 skill in their native language as well as a level 4 skill in the common tongue if one exists in your campaign.  The various skill levels represent varying levels of language mastery as give below:

  • Level 1 – Memorized phrases, can reads a few words.  Allows for limited/halted conversations
  • Level 2 – Slightly better conversation with greater vocabulary and limited reading/writing capability
  • Level 3 – Basic fluency but possibly with a strong accent.  Able to read and write the language
  • Level 4 – Full fluency and literacy in the language
  • Level 5 – Ability to detect, pick up, and imitate local dialects.  This is the level of a native speaker raised speaking the language and anyone who achieves this level in a language can be mistaken for a native speaker.
  • Level 6 – Academic scholarship – This level is reserved for those who have dedicated much effort to understanding the history and entomology of the language and its subtle and obscure corners.

The exact skill list for this category depends on the campaign but should include at least one skill for each alien race (including humans) and a common language.  If playing a single species campaign (e.g. just humans) the Referee may assign skills for specific language groups (Slavic, Germanic, Romantic, Asian, etc) or even individual languages if that suits the style of the campaign.

soldier with body armor and laser rifleMilitary Skill Category

This category covers all of the martial arts from unarmed combat through pistols and rifles and on up to starship weaponry.  Characters with these skills are effective at acquiring and eliminating their targets.  These skills include the use and maintenance of the weapons they cover.  This category contains the following skills:

  • Archaic weapons- Covers older weapons like bows, crossbows, atlatls, ballistas, and even trebuchets.
  • Demolitions – Covers the use of explosives as well as setting, detecting, and deactivating charges
  • Energy weapons – Covers weapons that emit a beam of energy such as lasers, electrostunners, and sonic weapons
  • Melee weapons – Covers any type of melee weapon from brass knuckles to swords to clubs to morning stars.
  • Projectile weapons – Covers any weapon that fires a physical projectile such as regular guns, gyrojet weapons, rocket launchers, and needler weapons.
  • Starship weapons – covers the operation and firing of starship based weapons whether energy or projectile based.  (Note: if the referee desires they may split this into two skills for the two weapon types).
  • Thrown weapons – Covers all weapons thrown by hand such as grenades, knives, javelins, and spears
  • Unarmed combat – Covers any combat using just a creature’s natural limbs without using additional weapons

Pilot with helmetPilot Skill Category

This category covers the operation of vehicles, both civilian and military, in stressful for dangerous situations.  Characters with good pilot skills can maneuver their vehicles through confined areas, across dangerous or treacherous terrain, and quickly recover if control is lost.  Each skill in this category covers a different type of craft:

  • Air – Covers any fixed or rotary winged aircraft such as helicopters, air planes, air cars, jets and blimps
  • Ground – Covers any vehicle that moves via direct contact with the ground such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, and tanks.
  • Hover – Covers any vehicles that move on a cushion of air such as hovercycles, hovercars, etc.  These vehicles may or may not be able to move across water.
  • Water – Covers any water going vessels such as boats, ships, or submarines
  • Systemship – This covers any short range or in-system spacecraft that do not have FTL capability such as shuttles, inter planetary vessels, or fighters.
  • Starships – Covers any spacecraft large or small that is capable of FTL travel

A midevial scholar surrounded by notes, books, and globesScholar Skill Category

This category covers skills about knowledge, whether “scholarly” or not.  Scholars are good at making connections between different areas and ideas and using that information to assist them in whatever situation they may find themselves in.  The skills is this category cover both basic knowledge of a subject (i.e. roll to see if you know the information) and the ability to do research in the topic to discover the information (i.e. roll to see if you can find/discover/research the data).  The scholarly skills in this category are:

  • Architecture – Covers the design, construction, and history of buildings and other structures
  • Economics – Covers anything to do with financial matters, markets, industry, etc.
  • History – Covers knowledge of the past, whether people, places, or events
  • Law – Covers the legal systems in use and how to work with existing laws and law enforcement agencies and the judicial systems
  • Literature – Covers knowledge of authors and their works both past and present
  • Philosophy/Theology – covers knowledge of the various religions and philosophies in the game
  • Politics – Covers the understanding of politics and bureaucracies both government and corporate, large and small
  • Pop Culture – Covers a knowledge of current events, people, and places
  • Xenotechnology (Species) – Covers knowledge of the technology of a single alien species. See full description under the Technology skill category

Doctor holding a vialScience Skill Category

This category covers all the sciences, both physical and biological.  Someone with this skill category has an analytical mind and is good at reasoning out problems and puzzles.  Scientists develop hypotheses, design tests, and prove theories in an attempt to understand and control the world around them.  Skills in this category include:

  • Earth Sciences – This covers items related to land, water and air sciences such as geology, chemistry, and meteorology.
  • Life Sciences – This covers things like biology, zoology, and other living things including eco-systems and the things that impact them.
  • Medical – Covers all aspects of medicine from basic first aid, to treating diseases and poisons, to major surgery.  As an optional variation, the Referee could require this skill to be species specific, i.e a Medical (Human) skill being need to work on humans and a Medical (Klingon) skill being needed to treat a klingon.
  • Psyco-Social – Covers the study of the mind, the psyche and and things like hypnosis and the unconscious mind
  • Space Sciences – This covers the sciences related to outer space and includes astrogation, space physics, and astronomy.
  • Xenotechnology (Species) – Covers knowledge of the technology of a single alien species. See full description under the Technology skill category

Note:  The skills here are very broad.  This is for ease of play.  For a more realistic handling of these types of skills, the referee could have individual skills for each science or application.  For example the Space Sciences skill could be divided into Physics, Astronomy, and Astrogation as skills that have to be learned independently.  This is more realistic but makes skill advancement harder and creates more skills that have to be adjudicated during the game.

Woman with backpack overlooking a mountain valleyScout Skill Category

This category covers the skills of an outdoorsman or someone skilled at working in and with nature.  A good scout can live off the land and survive adversity given the necessary resources (or time to find them).  The skills in this category include:

  • Animal Handling – Covers the care, training, and use of animals
  • Athletics – Covers such things as climbing, running, jumping, etc
  • Mariner – Covers such things as swimming, diving, operating terrestrial water craft, and navigating on water ways, including rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans.
  • Navigation – Covers all aspects of terrestrial navigation, cartography, etc.
  • Stealth – Covers activities related to moving silently and unobserved such as hiding, concealment, shadowing a target, etc.  This skill may also be gained through the Agent skill category.
  • Survival – Covers the ability to live of the land, find/create shelter, hunting, tracking, etc.

Engineers in clean suits standing around a piece of space technologyTechnology Skill Category

This final category covers all technical skills from basic machinery up through starship drives and everything in between.  Characters with this skill category are good with their hands and like to tinker and build stuff.  They can repair existing items and keep the running or make new things as needed.  The skills in this category include:

  • Architecture – Covers the design, construction, and history of buildings and other structures (e.g. bridges, railways, radio towers, etc) and includes civil engineering.
  • Computers – Covers all aspects of computer use from building them to programming them to repairing them and also includes how to create and circumvent computer security measures
  • Robotics – Covers all aspects of working with robots including repair, programming, and modification
  • Starship Engineer – Covers all aspects of spacecraft engineering from designing ships to building them to keeping them running and an understanding of all systems on the ship.
  • Technician – Covers all basic mechanical and electrical skills both for machines and vehicles.
  • Xenotechnology (Species) -  his skill represents studying the alien culture and understanding how it works in relation to how it creates and operates it machinery and is designed to help overcome the -20% alien technology penalty. This skill only goes up to level 2, and is harder to earn than would be normal, costing one extra XP to earn level 1 and two extra XP to earn level 2. The skill must be learned for each race individually but each level overcomes 10% of the penalty applied to using alien technology. Thus if a human had a Level 1 Xenotechnology (Klingon), when using technology specifically designed for klingons, that would normally carry a -20% modifier, he only suffers a -10%. If he raised his skill to level 2, the penalty would be removed. This skill would not apply to any technology designed for any of the other races.

Final Thoughts

Whew, that was a long post with a lot of information.  This system is very heavily influenced by a skill system that Bill Logan developed as an optional skill system for the Star Frontiers game which was published in the A Skilled Frontier article in issue 9 of Star Frontiersman magazine.  Many of the names you see here are the same since there just isn’t anything better to call them and the categories are very similar.  I’ve made some changes to some of the skills and where they fall based on what I think works better but the parallels are very strong.

These skills are not necessarily exhaustive.  Referees and players are encouraged to develop additional skills in the specified categories that apply to their games as needed.  There will probably be some tweaking to this as we move along but I thing this sets a good skill foundation for the game.

What do you thing of this skill system?  Too broad, to specific? Overly complicated? or just right?  Let me know in the comments below.


Categorised as: Game Design


One Comment

  1. Nymdok says:

    Thoughts on Defaults?
    Art might break down to
    Education – What you Know About Art
    Composition – What you’re trying to acomplish
    Performance – The action of your art (writing, painting, singing, sculpting)
    Presentation – Knowing how to show off your art.
    Marketing – Convincing People your art is worth money

    Science
    Id at least mention math here and maybe allow EITHER an ‘Eng/Exp’ specialization or a ‘Theory’ specialization. ONe for practical applications, on for understanding new unknown and conjecture. That might be fun.

    ‘Hard’ SCiences
    Math->Physics->Chemistry->Biology and its branches.

    ‘Soft’ Sciences
    Psych -> Sociology -> Other social Branches

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