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Ringworld Skill System


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A while ago I decided to use the skill system of the old Ringworld RPG for my next

science fiction setting, and since the Ringworld RPG has been out of print for a ve-

ry long time I thought that some of you might perhaps find a short description of

two concepts of this version of the BRP skill system interesting.

Single Skills and Root/Branch Skills

In the Ringworld game those skills which normally do not have any specialties are

"Single Skills", for example Bargain or Fast Talk. They have the usual base chance

and are handled like normal BRP skills.

The skills which can have specialties are "Root/Branch" skills, for example Biology

or Fine Arts. In addition to the usual base chance they have a "Root Maximum",

which depends on the skill category and is calculated by adding the two attribu-

tes which influence this skill category most, for example Intelligence and Educati-

on for knowledge skills.

The part of the skill between the base chance and the root maximum covers the

character's general knowledge in this field, any skill beyond the root maximum has

to be taken in a specialty of the skill.

For example, marine biologist Tashari has an INT of 13 and an EDU of 15, so his

root maximum for knowledge skills is 28 %. His general knowledge of Biology can

not become better than those 28 %, but he can develop any number of biology

specialties with higher skill values, for example Marine Biology and Microbiology.

Pursuits and Biography

The creation of a Ringworld character includes the creation of his biography, si-

miliar to the lifepath system of other roleplaying games.

There are a number of different pursuits for a character, for example Colonist, Ex-

plorer or Soldier, each with a number of related skills and a "wealth value" for the

savings from the time in that specific career.

For each year spent in a pursuit the character gains 20 occupation points, used

as skill points on that pursuit's skills.

For example, if marine biologist Tadashi spent 7 years as a Scientific Researcher,

he can distribute 140 skill points among the pursuit's skills.

This are of course just the bare bones of the two concepts, but I think it demon-

strates that there are many interesting ways to tweak the BRP system.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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That's some pretty good options that could have been included in the BGB, I wonder why they were left out? I like the life path concept and how that affects your initial skill points during character generation, but I can see how that is too specific for generic BGB rules.

The Root/Branch skills are a really good idea, and certainly one that would have made a great option in the BGB. I feel that the Root Maximum could be higher though, not out of realism but out of usefulness in game play. Something along the lines of INT+(EDUx2), INT+EDU+10, or even INT+EDU+5 may be a little better to me, which still leaves plenty of room for specialist knowledge. This concept is particularly important for modern settings and futuristic settings, given how professionals currently specialise within their own vocational backgrounds. Medicine doesn't cut the cheese anymore, but Medicine (Neurology) sounds more in keeping with the times.

You could even spread this out into all skills if you really wanted to calculate things like this. Combat skills could have Root Maximums of INT+DEX+Base %, for instance. You could then have Melee Combat (Swordfighting), Melee Combat (Bludgeoning) etc, or perhaps Swordfighting (Broadsword), Swordfighting (Rapier) etc. Might be a bit much to totally change everything though, although the Knowledge based skills would certainly benefit from having Root Maximum rules.

Thanks for posting these rules, I think I'll be porting the Root/Branch Skills concept into my swag of rules, except I'll probably calculate the Root Maximum as I previously described.

Good post.

Edited by Mankcam

" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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The Ringworld RPG also has a nice Research System, which I also intend to

borrow for my next setting - I already used a modification for a previous one.

There are four basic types of Research Steps, named Armchair Research (the

data evaluation and thinking part), Field Research (usually a short adventure),

Laboratory Research (working in a lab or workshop) and Library Research (loo-

king for useful informations in databases). Each of these steps takes time and,

in my version, requires materials to work with.

When a character wants to research, develop or invent something, the player

proposes a research plan with the number, types and sequence of the project's

research steps, and the referee accepts or modifies this plan and also secretly

assigns a difficulty for each research step ("absolutely impossible" is an option).

The character then spends the time and material and uses his relevant skills to

determine his success with each research step, if necessary repeating some of

the steps, and once he has succeeded with the last research step he has got

the knowledge he was searching for or a prototype of what he wanted to deve-

lop - and a percentage of the time spent on the project is treated as learning

time for the skills used during the project. The way I use it, a success with an

important project also increases the character's Status and even can earn him

some money.

This is a nice "downtime" option between adventures for engineer or scientist

characters, who otherwise normally have not that many things to do during a

"downtime phase", and the field research step is a good hook for smaller adven-

tures, especially when the project is about biology (e.g. capture a predator ali-

ve to study it, etc.). Plus, it gives the characters an opportunity to contribute

to the setting's development by inventing and introducing some new "cool stuff"

that is not on the setting's original equipment list.

Of course, as the referee I decide about the research's difficulty, and that su-

per weapon with the time travelling bullet which hits the enemy half an hour be-

fore the fight started will remain absolutely impossible ...

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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While I like the Root/Branch skill concept (and agree - it mostly fits with modern/future settings, actually almost a necessity), another approach, and one that also works well across all settings, is to split skills into Root/Branch trees, but have the Root skill determined by the Branch skills - i.e. the Root skill is equal to the sum of 1/10 or 1/20 of all the Branch skills under it, so that as the individual expertise in the Branch skills increase, so does the level of general knowledge in the Root skill.

Ian

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... the Root skill is equal to the sum of 1/10 or 1/20 of all the Branch skills under it, so that as the individual expertise in the Branch skills increase, so does the level of general knowledge in the Root skill.

I thought about such an approach, too, but considered it a bit too unrealistic

for my settings, because I doubt that the increased knowledge in specialties

really improves the general knowledge of the field.

For example, an astronomer who improves his knowledge in the specialties of

cosmology and stellar classification will not necessarily learn more about pla-

netology in the process, and a medic who improves his knowledge in cardiolo-

gy and proctology will not necessarily improve his knowledge of gynecology

by doing so.

However, this is just my take, of course. :)

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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We decided to go with very broad skill classifications for our Viking game (originally using RetroQuest rules). There is only one craft skill and a handful of fighting skills (melee, close, archery, thrown). Characters are proficient in all of the weapons they begin the game with. In the course of adventuring they will likely pick up new weapons. Any character fighting with an unfamiliar weapon will be at a penalty until he gains experience with it. The Craft skill is similar. A character starts knowing one craft at his skill level, but will be at a penalty to practice another craft until he gains experience with it.

The exact penalty assigned is up to the GM. Two very similar weapons may have only a -10% modifier, while wildly disparate crafts may have a penalty of 30 or even 40. A character’s skill should never drop below his base (e.g., the sum of his two controlling characteristics) due to penalties though.

Example: Thorfinn purchases a beautiful short sword from a Frankish merchant. The GM decides using the weapon is not much different than a seax and assigns a penalty of 10 when using the weapon until he becomes accustomed to it.. Later, on his return to Iceland his ship is damaged in a storm. Thorfinn is an accomplished Jeweler and wishes to help with the repairs. The GM has trouble fathoming the crossover between jewelry making and shipbuilding and assigns a -50% to his Craft skill.

A character may learn a new weapon or craft by gaining an experience check while using it. Each experience check reduces the penalty by 10. He may use Practice & Research or a Mentor to gain an experience check.

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Ringworld skills are over-complicated, in my opinion. While they have some good ideas, the skill trees and their implementation are over the top.

BRP has rules for using one skill to aid another, so I'd use them but perhaps apply some judgement on which skills would aid others. So, my PC has Science (Hyperspace) and Science (Mathematics), so he should be able to use Science (Mathematics) to aid his Science (Hyperspace) when navigating through Hyperspace, but his Science (ExoBiology) skill wouldn't be applicable.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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Ringworld skills are over-complicated, in my opinion. While they have some good ideas, the skill trees and their implementation are over the top.

Well, Ringworld's system was designed for a game where characters can be

several hundred years old, which made it necessary to introduce more skills

than usual to keep the average skill level under 200 %. For my setting I ha-

ve modified this system for more "normal" characters, but kept the Root /

Branch approach, mainly because it makes it easier to give each character

a specific niche where he can shine and get some spotlight with skills none

of the other characters has. I consider this useful because my setting has a

comparatively very narrow focus, there are not that many different professi-

ons available for the characters, and I therefore welcome any other way to

make the characters different from each other - other settings certainly ha-

ve other priorities.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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I looked at the rules again last night and they do make sense.

The point of them seem to be that a single character shouldn't have a skill "Physics" that covers all of known Physcis, as it is such a broad category. So, he has a base skill of Physics that cannot exceed a certain stat-dependant chance. If the skill exceeds that then it must be placed in a branch skill that has a specialisation. That makes sense, to a certain extent.

So, someone could have Physics 40%, Physics (Planetary Motion) 60%, Physics (Particle Physics) 55% and Physics (Wormholes) 45%.

Is that any easier than having Science (Physics) 40%, Science (Planetary Motion) 60%, Science (Particle Physics) 55% and Science (Wormholes) 45%? I'd just introduce a rule that to use a generic skill such as Physics in all situations requires a Difficult roll, not because the skill is difficult but because it might cover an area in which the character has no expertise.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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Is that any easier than having Science (Physics) 40%, Science (Planetary Motion) 60%, Science (Particle Physics) 55% and Science (Wormholes) 45%?

No, but I think it results in a slightly more plausible "biography" of a character,

because the player usually tends to base the skill improvements upon those

Root skills he has chosen during the character generation, leading to a some-

what more "organic growth" of the character than it would do with mechani-

cally unconnected skills. True, this is a very minor point, but in my view it ma-

kes the setting's characters feel a little more "realistic".

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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