3.2 – Skills

Skills are activities against which characters apply their attributes. The limitation on the range of skills is determined by the game setting, and the narrator should set up a standard set, with additions being worked out ad hoc with the players.

The key difference between attributes and skills is that attributes are inherent to the character, while skills are learned. This does not necessarily involve the character’s mental attributes, as the body and social instincts also have a form of memory.

GENERAL vs. SPECIFIC

Certain skills can be specified by tool or situation. For example, hunting in a specific habitat or fighting with a specific motion. This specification can be seen as limiting, but it also benefits advancement, as specified skills are easier to advance and it makes neighboring skills easier to learn.

Double or triple specification are also possible.

KNOWLEDGE

While attributes are assumed average unless modified, a character’s knowledge of a skill is assumed to be complete ignorance unless he or she has had some sort of exposure to it. However, unlike attributes (which are unmodified when average), skills suffer a -5 penalty when the character is completely ignorant of the skill.

There are eleven levels of knowledge in regard to skills. See the chart at right.

At character creation, the player selects four skills to enjoy competence in. The narrator may explicitly grant levels below competence in other skills, based on the game setting. These may also be implied and worked out during game play.

Advancement beyond competence is part of the experience dynamic, at the discretion of the narrator.

LIST OF SKILLS

The skills listed in the following sub-chapters are but a sample of possible skills. Not all of them may be available in every game setting, and new ones can be worked out between the narrator and players.

Skills are organized by type: vital, physical, social, mental, crafting. They are also tagged, using three-letter abbreviations, according to whether they only exist in game settings containing EXCeptional forces (magic, psychic abilities, superpowers) and according to technological level. Of course, the advance of technology is not a neat series of revolutions; certain technologies that characterize later stages appear first in earlier ones.

Certain skills overlap different tech levels. For example, most combat skills. For a more telling example, metal, casting which was confined to bronze, copper, gold, and silver in the ancient age but expanded to iron and steel in the Medieval period. Learning a known skill with another era’s technology enjoys bonuses.

Although the periods loosely borrowed here have traditionally been applied to Western cultures, they are intended here to describe universal technological stages.

Primal (PRI) What we call the Stone Age, based on the fossil tools most likely to provide evidence. Of course, Primal cultures also used wood, plant fibers, bone, and leather. They had rhetoric, composite weapons like the bow and atlatl, art, medicine, astronomy, money, spycraft, Later in the Stone Age, they herded and farmed. They brewed alcoholic drinks and made dyes.

Ancient (ANC) The ancients had hammered tools of bronze and iron, cast bronze, lived in cities, had complex diplomatic relationships between states, written languages, parchment, financial book-keeping, banking and loaning, primitive cryptography, organized labor, large armies, catapults and crossbows, the wheel, the potter’s wheel, watermills and treadmills, locks, looms, irrigation, the plow, communal granaries, sailing vessels, road building and street paving, masonry, mathematics. Some ancient cultures (China) had paper, although it did not reach saturation until the Middle Ages.

Medieval (MED) The Middle Ages saw the rise of cast iron (with the help of the blast furnace), the magnetic compass, artesian wells, chimneys, cranes, windmills, stirrups and spurs and horseshoes (although there is no reason they could not have arisen earlier), matches, piston pumps, spectacles, porcelain, hourglasses and mechanical clocks, chartered corporations, and universities. Positional numerals and the concept of zero revolutionized mathematics and commerce. Bound codices (what we now call books) replaced scrolls. They wore the first clothes with functional buttons, used vertical looms and spinning wheels. They distilled liquors, although this did not reach saturation until later.

Enlightenment (ENL) The Enlightenment saw the full rise of gunpowder, paper money, mechanical printing, and many other technologies. In fact, beyond this point, the number of individual novel technologies becomes too cumbersome to list. The growth of organized knowledge characterizes this age, science which became increasingly specialized and compartmented.

Industrial (IND) The Industrial Age saw the rise of steam power (including steam ships and railroads), mechanization and factories, repeating firearms, modern chemistry, gas lighting.

Telecommunications (TEL) The Telecommunications Age saw the rise of the telegraph and then the telephone, the phonograph, photography and then cinema, electrical power, the internal combustion engine, aviation, rocketry, radio, and radar.

Atomic (ATM) The Atomic Age saw the rise of atomic weapons and energy, television, jet propulsion, guided missiles.

Cyber (CYB) The Cyber Age saw the rise of space travel, genetic engineering, lasers, robotics, computers, the internet, social media, artificial intelligence.

Space (SPC) The Space Age saw the rise of interplanetary colonization, interstellar travel, and all of the trappings of space opera and science fiction.

Note that all skills rely partly on mental attributes, as they are learned. Thus, they are organized in the sub-chapters below by the attributes the action of which they modify.

VITAL SKILLS.

PHYSICAL SKILLS.  Combat and movement.

SOCIAL AND MENTAL SKILLS.

CRAFTING SKILLS. Acquisition, Processing, and Creation.