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Just 15 Skills (aka Shortened Skill Lists)


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I've noticed about 50% of my players don't like dealing with skill lists or assigning points to skills during character creation. Many see it as a chore more than empowering describing a character concept. Usually these are the casual or new RPG players, but honestly even I tire of trying to keep lengthy skill lists in memory. My last few games run using FATE Core has shown that my game sessions don't suffer at all with just 18 core skills.

So with FATE Core as inspiration I took a shot at whittling down the BGB skill list down to 15 skills that I'm thinking may be a good way to streamline whatever game I try next. It's aimed at settings roughly late 19th-present century.  Labels in parentheses are the Fate equivalents.

Communication

  1. Fast Talk (Deceive)
  2. Persuade (Rapport)

Manipulation

  1. Art
  2. Fine Manipulation (Burglary)
  3. Craft (Craft)

Mental

  1. Medicine
  2. Science / Knowledge (Lore)

Perception

  1. Insight (Empathy)
  2. Spot (Notice)

Physical

  1. Dodge
  2. Athletics (Athletics)
  3. Stealth (Stealth)
  4. Pilot/Drive (Drive)

Combat

  1. Firearms (Shoot)
  2. Melee (Fight)

The only non-native BRP skill in the above list is "Athletics" which is what I would lump jump, swim, climb, and other feats of physical daring into.

I suppose I could really condense things down to just 6 skills by using the categories, but I do like having things finer grain than that. Anything else not covered I'd just boil down to characteristic rolls. Anyone else play with a greatly reduced skill list? If yes, how have you adjusted the starting point allocations?

Edited by dieselpunk
Explain athletics; grammar.
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12 hours ago, dieselpunk said:

Communication

  1. Fast Talk (Deceive) MANIPULATION (G)
  2. Persuade (Rapport) also MANIPULATION(G)
  3. COMMAND (A)

Manipulation

  1. Art no equivalent except maybe CULTURE (A)
  2. Fine Manipulation (Burglary) TECHNOLOGY (A)
  3. Craft (Craft) also TECHNOLOGY (A)
  4. DATA DJINN (A) -- basically cyber hacking

Mental

  1. Medicine MEDICURGY (A)
  2. Science / Knowledge (Lore) SCIENCE (A)
  3. SURVIVAL (G)
  4. CULTURE (A)

Perception

  1. Insight (Empathy) no exact equivalent, but there is MYSTIC POWERS (A)
  2. Spot (Notice) OBSERVATION (G)

Physical

  1. Dodge DEXTERITY (G)
  2. Athletics (Athletics) probably also DEXTERITY (G)
  3. Stealth (Stealth) INFILTRATION (G)
  4. Pilot/Drive (Drive) PILOT (A)
  5. FORCE (G) basically a strength check

Combat

  1. Firearms (Shoot) RANGED COMBAT (G)
  2. Melee (Fight) MELEE COMBAT (G)

 

Interesting. For comparison, here are the 16 skills listed in the space game Coriolis, which is not a BRP game -- but neither is Fate. In Coriolis there are 8 General skills (G) and 8 Advanced (A) skills, where you can't succeed without some training. As you can see, there is some crossover; I guess that's inevitable when you try to condense the skill lists. Of course, it's a sci-fi game so there are some things you won't find in the 19th century.

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Free League have tweaked their approach to skills in the Year Zero engine (the underpinning rule set for Coriolis also used in their Mutant: Year Zero games, Forbidden Lands, Vaesen, Aliens, Tales from the Loop, Things from the Flood and, heavily tweaked, Twilght: 2000) - but in general have stuck to the basic idea of sixteen skills, and in more recent games linked to one of four stats such that there are four skills for each stat... IIRC WotC were similarly restrained / abstracted with skills in the edition of Gamma World they did based of D&D 4e.

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11 hours ago, Roko Joko said:

You could check out OpenQuest (26) and Revolution D100 (13).

For starting values it sounds like a Fate pyramid would be good for you.  The specific values could be anything.

I did glance through RD100, but they also have traits to expand the skills which I'm not interested in doing as it just moves the problem around. In fact, I'm annoyed by Knowledge and Science being somewhat duplicative, but kept the 2 to have some more ways of differentiating characters. 

The point allocation "problem" is closely related to reducing the skill list. The one thing with BRP that's bugged me is that points have to be distributed across so many skills that it's easy to be crappy at everything (e.g. No skills of at least 75%). I need to test, but hoping the standard number of points will work fine. Having characters with multiple high skills encourages people to try things. I'd rather see (and play) a character who has a high chance of success at a skill doing difficult things then feeling like I only have 30% chance of success at a normal skill check. But this is another topic.

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23 hours ago, dieselpunk said:

I suppose I could really condense things down to just 6 skills by using the categories, but I do like having things finer grain than that. Anything else not covered I'd just boil down to characteristic rolls. Anyone else play with a greatly reduced skill list? If yes, how have you adjusted the starting point allocations?

Since the sweet spot for BRP games is generally* reckoned to be 50-75% why not:

70

65 65

60 60 60

55 55 55 55

50 50 50 50 50

 

* with the ever-present provisos that all generalisations are rubbish and there's no such thing as consensus on the interweb

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On 9/22/2020 at 3:19 PM, dieselpunk said:

I suppose I could really condense things down to just 6 skills by using the categories, but I do like having things finer grain than that. Anything else not covered I'd just boil down to characteristic rolls. Anyone else play with a greatly reduced skill list? If yes, how have you adjusted the starting point allocations?

If you wanted too, you could reduce it down further by just using characteristic rolls. Skills, if you want them, could just apply a modifier or multiplier to the attribute rolls. It all comes down to just how much you want to abstract things. 

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My own aptitudes list :

Aim

Athletics

Balance

Education

Melee

Manipulation

Nature

Perception

Pilot

Social

Supernatural (Magic/Psi)

Resilience

I add lspecialties" and "skills" on top of it. Specialties only add a bonus in specific circumstances. Skills are a category of specialties you need to have in order to do some tasks. Magic, crafts and knowledges are Skill examples.

Some actions related to a Skill are possible with a malus, at the GM's discretion.

 

 

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Basically what I'm doing right now for my Ravenloft game.

Acrobatics (dex)
Athletics (str)

Art
Craft

Evaluate
Insight

Fast Talk
Persuade

Natural World
Physik

Search
Skulduggery
Stealth

Then I have a bunch of advanced skills. Alchemy, Hypnosis, etc.

 

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Tweaking/Pruning/Tuning the skill list is a great way to communicate to your players what the game is about. Modern GURPS has a lot of good advice about how you're explicitly not supposed to use ALL those different skills, and that granularity should be dialed up or down to suit the game at hand. (RoleMaster could stand to learn a thing or two there.)

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On 9/27/2020 at 8:42 PM, Chaot said:

Fast talk

Persuade

The way I understand it, Fast talk is for confusing people, and Persuade for convincing them your arguments are right.

As for myself, if I wanted a game with two Communication skills, I think I'd have one to speak with an individual, and another for crowds.

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My latest revision based on some tests creating a Pulp Cthulhu swashbuckling aviator. I made the character first using normal rules and then tried to see about recreating it under my latest version of the abbreviated skill list. I used the CoC7e Option 5 Quick Fire Method (i.e. 70, 60, 60, 50, 50, 50, 40, 40, 40) to get the starting skill percentages.

Having fewer skills and a pre-made point pyramid definitely made things faster. The character after starting assignments looked like this:

Skill

%

Persuade

60

Fine Manipulation

50

Repair

40

First Aid

30

Knowledge

20

Science

20

Science (Navigation)

60

Insight

5

Spot

40

Dodge

50

Athletics

40

Stealth

10

Drive

20

Pilot

70

Firearms

20

Melee

50

He is reasonably competent across the board with an emphasis on piloting, navigation, and people skills (inspired from the swashbuckler archetype in Pulp Cthulhu). I'd throw in another 100 personal interest points for customization with a starting skill cap of 80% on any particular skill.

The biggest deviation from normal BRP/COC is how I'm choosing to handle Knowledge and Science. The default chance for someone succeeding at any knowledge or science skill is INTx2. This is my attempt at heading off the problem of "Does anyone have Science (Botany)?" because no one thought that would ever come up in play. If you do want to be a Botanist then take Science (Botany), write it in, and assign points (with INT x2 as the base).  Functionally, Science and Knowledge are the same, but I kept the terms as a helpful way for players to think about specialties.

For more precise builds, each skill has a starting base percentage (with ties to certain characteristics likely to be higher than the normal BGB starting levels). I haven't tested this, but it seems like a starting pool of 560 points (sum of the CoC quick start pyramid + 100) would yield an appropriate start for a pulpy character. Since the skill list is short, I wouldn't bother with occupations other than as RP concepts.

Skill

Base

Notes

Persuade

APP X2

Includes Fast Talk and Intimidate; Charm is a charisma roll

Fine Manipulation

DEX x2

As in BGB

Repair

10

As in BGB

First Aid

30

As in BGB; medicine is a specialty in Knowledge or Science

Knowledge

INT x2

Base chance for all knowledge ; can only be improved by taking a specialty

Science

INT x2

Base chance for all science; can only be improved by taking a specialty

Insight

10

As in BGB

Spot

20

As in BGB

Dodge

DEX x2

As in BGB

Athletics

CON x2

Includes swim, throw, jump, climb in BGB

Stealth

10

As in BGB

Drive

20

As in BGB; add pilot skill with base of 1%+POW if needed

Firearms

DEX x2

As in BGB but no specialties

Melee

STR x2

As in BGB but no specialties

Not sure when I'll get to play test this. For a campaign and players that enjoy the system I really don't have many issues with running char gen RAW. But for a one shot, quickly making competent characters, NPCs, or introducing new players this may be an alternative. 

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On 9/27/2020 at 2:42 PM, Chaot said:

Basically what I'm doing right now for my Ravenloft game.

...

Search
Skulduggery
Stealth

Then I have a bunch of advanced skills. Alchemy, Hypnosis, etc.

Bonus points for using the term Skulduggery! I might have to steal that. :P

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On 10/2/2020 at 1:51 AM, Mugen said:

The way I understand it, Fast talk is for confusing people, and Persuade for convincing them your arguments are right.

As for myself, if I wanted a game with two Communication skills, I think I'd have one to speak with an individual, and another for crowds.

Yeah. Fast Talk is for short term gain and is used to confuse, take advantage or pressure people into doing something that may be against their best interest. It is also a quick skill and often will leave the person who you Fast Talked unhappy. Persuade involves laying out a position and trying to change a person's mind about their opinion or stance. This is a long term diplomatic skill and takes a longer time to accomplish. The person must be willing to listen to your words as well. Fast Talk and Persuade can both be used against individuals and groups.

 

On 10/4/2020 at 10:27 AM, dieselpunk said:

Bonus points for using the term Skulduggery! I might have to steal that. :P

It's such a lovely word that conjures up all that thievery stuff. I'm going back and forth on whether to leave the basic skills of Search and Stealth and put Skulduggery into the specialty skill category.

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