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Chaot

Stripped Down Skill Lists and Careers as Skills...

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I'm digging into my BRP Ravenloft notes again and reorganizing a bunch of stuff. My goal is to simplify and one of the things I'm hacking away at is the Skill list.I've looked at it too much and need new eyes on it. I know I haven't been around much lately but this is definitely the best place to go for everything BRP.

Basic Skills
Acrobatics, Athletics, Art [varies], Craft [varies], Domain Lore [varies], Evaluate, Fast Talk, Handle Animal, Insight, Natural World, Persuade, Physik, Scribe, Search, Skulduggery, Stealth

Advanced Skills
Alchemy, Folk Lore, Herbalism, Mesmerism, Sorcery, Spiritualism, The Mists, Wizardry

Only 16 basic skills, 3 of them can be expanded by into specific categories. I tried to keep them as minimal as possible while still offering multiple avenues of tackling a problem and upholding character flavor. Is there anything that jumps out as you as redundant or as missing?

Alternatively...

I am also thinking about getting rid of the basic skills altogether and tying it to an Occupation Roll. A character could have multiple occupation skills.

Stefan Moldoveanu of Dementlieu
Minor Noble 57%
Artist 40%
Thug 25%

Skills: Mesmerism

Any of his basic skills can be folded into one of the occupation skills. Anything advanced or very specific to the character can be listed under skills. It's a bit more hand wavy but it's certainly simpler. The challenge I see is making sure that the occupations available both have the right flavor and offer a wide enough variety to be worth it.

I'm stuck and would welcome ideas and feedback!

 

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Representing "skills" in RPGs is something where I've never found a satisfactory solution.  Playable mechanics are unsatisfyingly over-simplified, and more-realistic mechanics are frustratingly unplayable.

===

I find "acrobatics" to be a subdomain of "athletics," FWIW.  Athletics have DEX-centric and STR-centric specific skills, but mostly want both things.  Often, CON/endurance is a key issue as well.

There's also body-type considerations -- baskeball players are mostly tall, gymnasts are mostly compact, linebackers (USAian) are big&strong, etc; all three will have a high Athletics score, but mostly won't be very good as competitors in the others' sports.  This is particularly hard to represent in a pure-BRP skills-centric mechanism.

One obvious thing, to me, would be to make "Athletics" into a "[varies]" skill -- Athletics[acrobatics], Athletics[climb], Athletics[swim], etc.

Maybe say that a PC with any Athletics[X] skill has 1/2X or 2/3X in all other Athletics skills not specifically excluded (e.g. a fit athlete from a desert culture just wouldn't have Athletics[Swim]; from a plains culture, they wouldn't have Athletics[Climb], etc; but in general, they're both "Athletic" overall...).

===

I'm increasingly fond of "Profession as skill" but... I have qualms about the generic-ness of it...  What distinguishes Stefan's "Minor Noble 57%" from, say... Aleksandra's "Minor Noble 57%"?  Are they both equally proficient at every element of being Minor Nobility?  Is neither one better at gathering rumors/gossip, or witty banter?  Do they dance equally proficient quadrilles?  Play the fortepiano equally well?   Etc etc etc...

I know that it's an unpopular POV here on BRPC amongst the grognards -- and given that you're looking at simplifying, may be totally off-track for you! -- but I'm eyeballing some sort of mechanism along the lines of feats/stunts/specializations/etc, as a way to represent this ...

I've also begun to consider deriving something from the HQ Keyword/Breakout mechanism.

Does any of this help you?

Edited by g33k
HQ mechanics
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Sure does help. It all helps.

I'm using Acrobatics and Athletics are kind of a place holder for 'things that you basically need to be strong for' and 'things that you basically need to be agile for'. Both of them incorporate some aspect of strength, sadly both terms I'm using also tend to be defined as games/sports competitive activities which is not quite what I'm going for. Unfortunately, no other overarching terms come to mind. I do that you for pointing out the issue though. I'm going to have to think about it more to see if I can find more accurate terms. The goal was to have two skills that take the place of the Climb, Jump, Ride, Swim and Throw skills.

___

Professions as skill
It's odd but after I posted the original post I picked up the latest Unknown Armies book. It just came in the mail today and it's the first time I've ever looked at the rules. There's a section about Identities. They are tied pretty tightly into the UA rules but the general structure is pretty cool. The concept revolves around the phrase "Of course I can _______, I'm a ________". You have the identity and then a few sentences on what that means. Then it also calls out some specific basic rolls you can adjust because of the Identity. Not exactly what we're talking about but at least it's a way of defining the occupation/skill group, which might be bridging on what you're referring to with the HQ keywords.

So maybe when the player picks the occupation they list a couple of key words that they specialize in. Alternatively, maybe Stefan and Aleksandra are both basically equal? It doesn't mean that they will always have an equal outcome. Sometimes Stefan will perform better then Aleksandra and vice versa just because of die rolls.

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2 hours ago, Chaot said:

I am also thinking about getting rid of the basic skills altogether and tying it to an Occupation Roll.

The way I see it there are three ways to go - revise the skills system as-is, go with characteristic rolls for everything, or base all task rolls on the character's background - and I say 'background' rather than 'occupation' because there's a lot more to people than the job they have.

I've only played it once and never read the rules, but my referee in FATE explained it to me as basically coming up with a character background, and hand-waving all task rolls based on that. It does require that both the player and the referee have a good understanding of the background. It's also a bit tricky to organically advance the character, because player and referee have to agree on what new abilities are acquired during play. Generally, this only works with a close, well-established group, definitely not convention gaming, for example.

I'm not sure it really simplifies the game until everyone gets used to the idea, though (and I didn't get the chance to get used to it).

The D&D 5E system has some interesting concepts along the lines of characteristic rolls, both in the default system as well as the alternatives in the DMG.

At the moment I'm still leaning towards the "fewer, broader" skills list as my preferred option.

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41 minutes ago, Chaot said:

... maybe Stefan and Aleksandra are both basically equal? It doesn't mean that they will always have an equal outcome. Sometimes Stefan will perform better then Aleksandra and vice versa just because of die rolls.

Personally, I find this profoundly unsatisfactory; but that's me.

As noted, there's a bunch of sub-skills involved in being a "Minor Noble."   "Working" nobles (who manage their own estates) will have a suite of skills not possessed by others who just leave it to a chatelaine/etc; Courtly etiquette might be broken further down into "formal occasions" and "social occasions."   I tend to think of this class of people having parties where the "young ladies" might play an instrument, or sing (and those skilled-enough might even keep it up as they move out of their parents' into a new home with a spouse; others might abandon the skill).  Many would dance at such parties, so knowing the steps and performing them well is a skill; the VERY skilled can even make a less-skilled partner look better.  Some may know dueling/fencing, etc.

Someone who -- for example -- dances well, but isn't particularly skilled at the whole "formal court etiquette" schtick, could well be a "Minor Noble 57%" and really very popular at social gatherings ("My, doesn't s/he dance divinely!") and have a lot of consequent social "clout," but no real political clout because their political counterpart (with 2 left feet, but also "Minor Noble 57%") has the attention and respect of all the people at court who lean in that direction.

There will be some variation from the dice, it's true; but someone with near Master levels of dance skill will be known as such, and will reliably be able to dance well; to stand out from their peers.

 

OTOH, if your game ISN'T court-centric, it's very likely none of that matters -- out in the countryside, on "adventures," both characters are likely equally known (or unknown), and equally able to impress the local Mayor-or-whatever, to whom the "Nobility" is really what matters, rather than the "Minor" or any Noble-centric subskills.

 

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1 hour ago, g33k said:

Someone who -- for example -- dances well, but isn't particularly skilled at the whole "formal court etiquette" schtick, could well be a "Minor Noble 57%" and really very popular at social gatherings ("My, doesn't s/he dance divinely!") and have a lot of consequent social "clout," but no real political clout because their political counterpart (with 2 left feet, but also "Minor Noble 57%") has the attention and respect of all the people at court who lean in that direction.

 

Well, let's look at Stefan again. He's got Minor Noble and Artist very high. He's also got a low Thug. Maybe this indicates that he is skilled is some of the finer points of being a minor noble but less skilled in hunting, light weapons and the more [physical aspects? I don't know.

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2 hours ago, Vile said:

At the moment I'm still leaning towards the "fewer, broader" skills list as my preferred option.

I'm currently wondering if there's a way to combine the broad skills with a vague 'background/occupation/identy' skill? The background skills as a supplement to the broad skill list?

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Hey! Don't forget characteristics! Maybe both have Minor Noble at 57% but one of the characters has a higher CHA, and more suitable for social interaction, and the other a higher DEX, and more suitable for Dancing and other physical aspects of the "occupation".

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You could go the HQ route for character concept/generation. 

Abilities based upon Keywords,  with specializations based on breakouts. All on D100 rolls using BRP Levels of Success. Characteristic could modify things, or function as fallbacks should no appropriate ability exist (normal x5, though I'm more partial to x3).

Hits could simply impose cumulative penalties to abilities, with Specials and Criticals imposing larger penalties or knocking someone out of the fight completely. 

SDLeary

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1 hour ago, Chaot said:

I'm currently wondering if there's a way to combine the broad skills with a vague 'background/occupation/identy' skill? The background skills as a supplement to the broad skill list?

Perhaps along the lines of competencies rather than backgrounds. Sort of a halfway-house between skills and occupations. A hunter might have 3 competencies such as "hunting" (incorporating relevant weapons, tracking, butchering, skinning, stalking), "survival" (finding water, making fires, making things out of found items, repairing equipment),  and some kind of personal "interests" (e.g. woodcarving, singing, embroidery, storytelling, schrooming, etc.). That's just off the top of my head, so it could probably do with more consideration.

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I quite like Revolution D100 approach : 12 to 16 skills, and "Traits" to help differentiate an expert climber from an expert jumper, which would give +30% to one or another.

http://www.alephtargames.com/en/?option=com_content&view=article&id=96:revolution-srd&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=1

Traits can also be used to put a restriction on one's abilities : you could design an "Elemental caster" that is required before you can learn to cast FireBall or IceWall, for instance. Or you can't use your generic Craft skill for anything beyond simple fixes without a proper art/artesan skill.

As for myself, I've been working on what was originally a simplified RuneQuest for several years now, and my original inspirations for my skill list were RuneQuest 3 skill categories and French game Légendes list of "Gifts". Respectively :

Agility, Communication, Knowledge, Magic, Manipulation, Perception,Stealth.

And :

Combat, Magic, Art, Communication, Mechanisms, Nature, Perception, Faith 

I blended the two, and added a few ones, to obtain :

Athletics, Aim, Communication, Education, Magic, Manipulation, Melee, Nature, Perception, Pilot/Ride, Resistance, Stealth

Just like RD100, I have a mechanism which allows to be better at some aspects of a skill, and restrict one's ability to perform some specialized tasks.

Edited by Mugen
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Let me step back for a minute and expand on some thoughts, and frame what skills do. First, the assumption of competency. My favorite BRP is Elric! so I take some basic skill assumptions from there. Skills over 100 are encouraged for PCs. What do the NPCs look like though and what does a skill % really mean.

This is my basic guideline.  

20 competent. This is basic for being able to get by in doing something. 
40 fluent. You can handle expert issues, troubleshooting as you go.
60 veteran. You are very experienced and can handle dramatically shifting situations as you perform the skill.
80 mastery. Everything above this is just shades of genius.

The second part is the current skill list I have does have room for breakout specialty skills. I wish I had thought to say this in an early reply, but let’s go back to Stefan and Aleksandra for a second. They are both Minor Nobles at 57%. They both have the basic skills that a Minor Noble might have.

But there are also the presence of an Art skill and a Craft skill that can be broken down into more specific specialties. Say Stefan picks up Art [Performance]. In situations where Aleksandra and Stefan are competing in either music or dance, Stefan will outshine Aleksandra. If Aleksandra picks Art {Courtly Manners], she can navigate social intrigue much easier than Stefan can. If neither of the characters pick up those specialties then they are roughly equivalent to each other in the basic Minor Noble abilities.

Additionally, say Yelena joins them. She is also a Minor Noble 57% however she has picked up Art [Fortepiano]. It’s a very specific skill, more so than Stefan’s Performance. Yelena is able to play the fortepiano much better than Stefan would be, although Stefan will still be able to muddle through a piece.

I’m worried that adding subsystems on top of skills will work to complicate a system that I’m trying to simplify. Part of this comes from my days of playing with the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, when basic questions came up the answer was, sure you can do that, you’re a fighter or nah, you really need some thief skills to pull that off. This was further cemented when I say how Barbarians of Lemuria tied in their Careers (though I admit it’s been years since I’ve read BoL and I might need to check and see if my memory is in any way accurate).

If you think of the Career/Background/Whatever skills as generic proficiency that are superseded by the skills in the Skill List, does this go a ways in answering issues of specialization?

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10 hours ago, el_octogono said:

Hey! Don't forget characteristics! Maybe both have Minor Noble at 57% but one of the characters has a higher CHA, and more suitable for social interaction, and the other a higher DEX, and more suitable for Dancing and other physical aspects of the "occupation".

That's also something I could use... I go back and forth on the Stat rolls. Right now I only have Idea and Influence from Intelligence and Charisma. I almost took those out too. I found that they become a crutch for players at my table. They are constantly asking to make those rolls. Maybe if I kept them in but made the % a  x3% instead of a x5%...

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9 hours ago, SDLeary said:

Abilities based upon Keywords,  with specializations based on breakouts. All on D100 rolls using BRP Levels of Success. Characteristic could modify things, or function as fallbacks should no appropriate ability exist (normal x5, though I'm more partial to x3).

 

8 hours ago, Vile said:

Perhaps along the lines of competencies rather than backgrounds. Sort of a halfway-house between skills and occupations. A hunter might have 3 competencies such as "hunting" (incorporating relevant weapons, tracking, butchering, skinning, stalking)

Can these be put under Arts and Crafts though?

Said Hunter would automatically be proficient in hunting, tracking and survival but if he was someone like Aragorn who easily spent extremely long timeframes in the wild he might have a Craft [Survival] skill. If he was able to track creatures like Gollum all across Middle Earth he might have a Craft [Tracking] skill. 

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3 hours ago, Mugen said:

I quite like Revolution D100 approach : 12 to 16 skills, and "Traits" to help differentiate an expert climber from an expert jumper, which would give +30% to one or another.

I backed Revolution and I agree there are some cool things in there but at the time I felt it was a little too fiddly for what I wanted. I should do a reread though. It was a good book. 

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1149589898_BRPRavenloftCurrentcharactersheet.thumb.jpg.2454e57999c380841a97595901f0645d.jpg

Above is the current mock up of the character sheet. I don't even have a section here for Background/Career skills yet. Still really up in the air.

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2 hours ago, Chaot said:

I backed Revolution and I agree there are some cool things in there but at the time I felt it was a little too fiddly for what I wanted. I should do a reread though. It was a good book. 

And I am making it even better, with a serious streamlining.

Another thing that Revolution D100 handles is that you can use the background itself as a Trait. You usually have your Language or Homeland as a Trait, so if the narrator agrees  that simply being - say - a Viking can help in the task you can use it to complement a base skill which lacks a necessary trait. Very simple, and does not need a special rule, just the same kind of player/GM agreement that you would use in an Old School game: "Oh you want to know something about this masonry? Well, you have the Dwarf trait and this will certainly matter".

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23 minutes ago, RosenMcStern said:

And I am making it even better, with a serious streamlining.

Another thing that Revolution D100 handles is that you can use the background itself as a Trait. You usually have your Language or Homeland as a Trait, so if the narrator agrees  that simply being - say - a Viking can help in the task you can use it to complement a base skill which lacks a necessary trait. Very simple, and does not need a special rule, just the same kind of player/GM agreement that you would use in an Old School game: "Oh you want to know something about this masonry? Well, you have the Dwarf trait and this will certainly matter".

That's how we do it in our currently-stalled Dark Ages game. Players can use the Background or Profession as a Trait, as well as their One Unique Thing and so on. 

It can be a bit confusing, as they are written in different places on the Character sheet and don't link to a skill.

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35 minutes ago, soltakss said:

It can be a bit confusing, as they are written in different places on the Character sheet and don't link to a skill.

That's one good reason to add a Background trait to characters. :) 

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On 5/23/2020 at 4:13 PM, Chaot said:

I backed Revolution and I agree there are some cool things in there but at the time I felt it was a little too fiddly for what I wanted. I should do a reread though. It was a good book. 

If you restrict yourself to the most basic chapters in RD100, there's nothing fiddly IMHO. The "advanced" combat system is too much for my tastes (even though its initiative system is very close to one I designed a long time ago), and I won't use it. Magic can also be intimidating sometimes.

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I really liked what I saw of RD100, but I think I hit my personal problem of having trouble reading through and absorbing systems from a PDF. I'm looking forward to the relaunch for streamlining, a better English translation, and a hardcopy version. :)

Back on the main topic, most of the systems I've seen that rely on backgrounds or careers as opposed to skills seem to use stats more heavily. Crossbreeding that with RD100's Traits and the character building system from Magic World, perhaps set baselines at a fixed percentage and then add stats based on the specific task? So Stefan would have something like Minor Noble 50%, +(Dex+Cha) or (Dex+Cha)/2 at a formal dance, +(Dex+Con) for a hunt, etc.

Edited by Armchair Gamer

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