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What is the degree of skill complexity that you, as a player and/or GM prefer?

I have seen systems that break skills and attributes down into basically mental, physical and social blocks (although I would posit that Spiritual should be in there as well) so that a PC would basically only be rated numerically in those 4 areas.

Also there are games that are attribute based like AD&D where skills basically acted as attribute modifiers of +1 or +2 on a roll of a D20, although interestingly enough weapons and magical skills and capabilities were very well defined and far more integral to the game.

There are games like Cyberpunk that make attributes and skills equal in value.

Then there are games that fix skills to attributes and attributes modify skills such as in D20, where having bad stats can be overcome with enough training...

Then there are skill based games like BRP and Palladium, where skills are far more important that attributes in most cases.  Attributes in this case serve as minimal baseline combat attributes like damage and hitpoints and possibly giving a very small bonus to certain skills.

With regard to number of skills a character has, we have:

The three or four big categories of mental, spiritual, physical and social, or

Large swathes of capability like Science, Firearms, Melee, Engineering, Technology, etc., or

More specialized skills like rifle, pistol (both firearms), dagger, polearms (both melee), physics, biochemistry, (both science), automotive repair, computer hacking (both technology), pilot helicopter, pilot space freighter (both piloting) etc., or

Even more specialized like katana, bastard sword (both hand and a half swords), pilot F-18, pilot Mig-17 (both jet aircraft) shoot M1911, shoot Single Action Army (both pistols), computer network attack, computer forensics (both computer hacking?)

The third part of this is how many skill slots a PC should have depending on the skill breadth...for the first option it would be 3 or 4 since that is all a PC has...or the big skill categories maybe about 10?  For the smaller skills (dagger, physics, pilot jet) maybe 20, and for the most specialized version maybe 40?

There is the option of building out a skillweb like Shadowrun where big skill categories are progressively necked down into more specialized skills such as Physical (27%), Firearms (31%), Pistol (43%), Single Action Army (62%) and with each level of focus the skill increases...

Thoughts?

-STS

 

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I've always preferred the Legend/RQ6 and my own Eternity Realms way of doing skills. It's specific but generalized enough to make it simple to understand. As well, there's enough skills that when advancing your character you have to think strategically so that you can be good in certain areas, but not necessarily in others if you focus on  one aspect.

BRP is neat too as the skills you actually use are the ones that go up and those skills are a little more specific to certain situations but over all are easy enough to use.

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On 3/26/2016 at 1:15 PM, sladethesniper said:

What is the degree of skill complexity that you, as a player and/or GM prefer?

[CUT]

 

This is a great topic, and one that I have wrestled with as a GM while refining BRP to my tastes through my house rules.

I prefer systems that emphasize the importance of Attributes without making them necessarily equal to points/ levels invested into skills. I think OpenQuest/ Legend/ Revolution do it best, with Attributes determining a modest base rating (very modest for some more difficult skills in OQ) and skill points being necessary to raise skills to a usable level. I think Savage Worlds and World of Darkness do it well too - each in their own way rewarding characters with better skill ratings or skill access with matching higher attributes while not pushing characters to only increase attributes. I dislike systems that ignore Attributes impacting skills, and shy away from systems that put Attributes and Skills on an equal footing. Despite my penchant for more cinematic gaming, I always feel there must be that element of realism with the Attribute/ Skill relationship.

In spite of my initial gaming background of Palladium and GURPS, I am drawn to games with a moderate list of available skills. GURPS, especially its 4th edition, just wracks the character generation process and forces players to overspecialize. OTOH, games like Savage Worlds and D20 can feel like the skill lists are too broad for my tastes. To that end I like to see skill lists somewhere between "Large Swaths" to "More Specialized" from @sladethesniper's discussion above...around two to three dozen skills seems about right for me.

A couple of fiddly tenets I have tried to purvey with skill generation/ management: 

1.  I HATE "skills" that aren't skills. Abilities that aren't the result of sustained study or practice. Skills like Lift, Persistence, Resilience, or the like seem like they should be handled by another mechanic, like Characteristic Rolls in BRP.

2.  I like sub-specialties, but it’s tough to find the right balance between allowing a player to determine a character's niche of being a Private Investigator vs. over-specializing a character so they can only shoot S&W Model 36 .38 revolvers, look up information in two-story New Jersey libraries, or seduce 28-year old seamstress widows. I can easily see how to sub-categorize with weapons; In my games I allow Firearms (Energy Weapons, Heavy Weapons, or Small Arms) and Melee (Blade or Blunt Weapons). I have yet to figure out the perfect way to specialize skills like Knowledge, Drive, Repair, Craft, or Technology. About three sub-categories feels right for me, but again I run into the issues of over-generalizing, especially with Knowledge. To date, I've just hand-waved specialties to fit the character concept and it works okay (ie: a Spacer would have Repair: Star Drive and Repair Structural and be able to fix anything on a ship). It's not perfect, I can't fit everything onto a list, but it works for now.

I wonder if anyone else has found themselves pondering these issues?

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21 minutes ago, Akerbakk said:

2.  I like sub-specialties, but it’s tough to find the right balance between allowing a player to determine a character's niche of being a Private Investigator vs. over-specializing a character so they can only shoot S&W Model 36 .38 revolvers, look up information in two-story New Jersey libraries, or seduce 28-year old seamstress widows.

That made me laugh, thanks!

IRL it does seem like you can only get so good at a thing as a generalist but the upper levels of skill require specialization... so I'm inclined to have a limit on some skills that require specialization to get higher levels. But, it depends on the setting and what wants emphasis. If I were running a Medical Center game where Dr. Killdare and his chums were all surgeons I'd break the medical skills into lots of specialties... but there'd be little reason to have anything more than a basic 'handgun' skill.

If I were running a cavemen & dinosaurs game I might have a lot of specific crafting and survival skills... but not much refinement to medicine.

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I am thinking of doing something like this:

Attributes can contribute up to 25% in a skill to represent just raw talent.

Taking a large swathe skill can get you up to 50%.

Regular skills can get you up to 75%

Specialized skills can get you up to the vaunted 99%...

That way you could have Physical 25%, Team Sports 50%, Football 75% and Quarterback at 99% or something like that to simulate that mix of talent, general knowlege, experience and specialization that allows true experts to be competent.

As another example Mental 25%, Science 50%, Biology 75%, Penguins 99%...

Granted it is a rough idea and too complex in game, but I think I might cogitate on it further.

The basic stat might be basic % and thn have a cascade skill list like old school Traveller or a skill web like Shadowrun (ugh).  Again, I am probably not going to do anything with it unless I could do something that would be easy like 4 attributes, each with a swathe, two skills and two specializations...for a total of 4+4+8+8 =24 numbers on a character sheet.  I think that might be doable...

-STS

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Just doing some napkin design notes.

Character Dimensions are Mental, Physical, Spiritual and Social.  Dimensions are rated from 1 to 10.  

Next are Attributes, and they are rated from 3 to 25 (human max, but starting human max is 18).

Next are skills, and they range up to 50...

And finally are specializations, which max at 99% for realistic humans.

Dimensions x 2.5 = Attributes x 2 = skills x 2 = specializations.  All of these are default percentages.

I'll have to wait till I get home to check my math and make sure it makes sense...and build out some characters using it.  I plan on keeping the entire BRP rule set the same, but just want to see if it can be made more...intuitive.

-STS

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2 hours ago, sladethesniper said:

Just doing some napkin design notes.

Character Dimensions are Mental, Physical, Spiritual and Social.  Dimensions are rated from 1 to 10.  

Next are Attributes, and they are rated from 3 to 25 (human max, but starting human max is 18).

Next are skills, and they range up to 50...

And finally are specializations, which max at 99% for realistic humans.

Dimensions x 2.5 = Attributes x 2 = skills x 2 = specializations.  All of these are default percentages.

I'll have to wait till I get home to check my math and make sure it makes sense...and build out some characters using it.  I plan on keeping the entire BRP rule set the same, but just want to see if it can be made more...intuitive.

-STS

Sounds like a somewhat expanded Root/Branch system from Ringworld.

SDLeary

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It's worth noting that some skills need specific training or practice.  Someone CAN, for example, drive a car without training (unskillfully, and only in non-challenging circumstances) just from observing others.  Neurosurgery... not so much so.  Anyone can learn to SPEAK a language just from exposure, and if you know the alphabet / sounds (which is usually taught), you can read it, too (n.b. ideogram based languages need more training); and can record some rough ideas via the written word... but to write skillfully (not just "penmanship") usually takes instruction & study,  Anybody can throw a rock; range and accuracy and power come with practice; special "training" is probably not going to add a huge amount to the "Thrown Rock" skill.  This sort of variation needs to be included, IMHO; ideally, something a bit more nuanced than a binary "DOES / DOES NOT" need special training.

Also, it's worth noting that sometimes an apex specialization can be "hothouse trained" or otherwise achieved, without actually having much of the "broad swath" skillset or even the specialized skills that would normally be part of getting that apex specialization; but almost always, realistically, one "specializes" from already having the broader base of skills.

Finally, it's worth noting that many skills provide overlapping/interlocking abilities, and include being good at "related" skills even if never specifically trained.  Someone who is adept with both the "knightlty" sword and the pole-axe will be a dangerous opponent from the very first time they pick up a classic German Zweihander...  Granted, not so dangerous as with one of their more-familiar weapons; but far more than if their background had been gladius-and-shield plus shortspear-and-shield (but that guy in turn will be adept at axe-and-shield... more-so than the guy who trained knight-sword and pole-axe).

All of these are things I've seen in different RPG's, and/or experienced in real life; and in revising or creating a skill-system they are thinks I "like" and "want."

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g33k,

Noted.  When I get back home, I'll expand out the idea a bit, but what you are asking for, I think I am trying to make.

So, for a character with Physical 7, everything physical has a default skill of 7%.  With a Con of 12, Str 11, Dex 14, Speed of 9, each of the skills using that attribute defaults to that skill %...and it continues in that progression for skills and specializations.  I want to explain it better but phone touchpad typing sucks...

-STS

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The breakdown of Dimensions to Attributes would be:

Physical: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Size, Speed

Mental: Intelligence, Education, Perception

Spiritual: Wisdom, Power, Resolve (Willpower?)

Social: Appearance, Charisma, Manipulation? Composure?

I was hoping to have an equal number of Attributes per Dimension, but it is just too easy to break out Physical attributes without overlap...while very hard to have other aspects of a person be neatly placed into a box.

For some people Speed is a non- issue, but in my experience, sprinting speed is very important as is Constitution...but so is Strength and Dexterity...Size is less so, but it feeds into Hit Points, so not too sure how to remove stats in the interest of aesthetic symmetry...

Oh, well.

-STS

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For what you want, I think "Size" & "Speed" should be derived characteristica.  "Height" should be a fixed quantity (barring magic or super-science or the like); plus some "weight factor" indicating where on the spectrum they fit:  lanky/skinny ... normal ... bigger/heavier (this seems to be something some people can adjust (via diet/exercise) easier than others; on some, a "muscular" build is just the way their body IS, whereas others are naturally "lean").

For "speed" then, runners have more endurance if they are lean (and don't have to carry 'round the body mass -- but long strides make up for higher weight), whereas a more "normal" (albeit muscular!) build is better for most sprinters.  "Strength" obviously plays into both sprinting and endurance-running, so Height + Build + Strength all impact your "speed".

If realism/simulationism is a goal, at least...

Similarly, "Education" is easier to improve (via "training" aka "education") than is "Intelligence."

I think a quest for "symmetry" or "parallels" between your phys/ment/sprt/socl "Dimensions" is probably not worth much effort...

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For me I think it depends on the setting. In general I prefer detail with multiple skills, specialties and degrees of success. But, in settings where the characters are supposed to be very capable, I prefer shorter and more broadly defined skill lists.  

 

Slade,

How many Attributes do you want in each "dimension"? If you wanted to keep four for each you could add Memory to Mental and Piety to Spiritual. Education might be questionable since it ps probably much easier to increase than any of the others. It's more like a meta-skill than an attribute.

Another approach might be to give ratings in the "Dimensions" and then allow characters to adjust the sub-stats a few points, provided the average of the stats remains the same. For example, somebody could have a 12 Physical, but big (Siz 14)  but not as Healthy (Con 10). This could allow you to avoid defining all the attributes, as a player could add some new aspect without needing to revise the attribute system. 

 

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