Saturday, July 30, 2011

Skill System Candidate 2

I've been mulling over the skills system; in the current (prior) form, it's complicated, and also a lot of work. However, most of the ways I've attempted to simplify it only make it harder and harder to explain. This below system seems to be a good mix of strong mechanically and easy to understand, although if you have feedback, I invite it.

Augmented skills no longer exist. Instead, the same function will be folded into the skill system as a whole, without the d12 extra dice for "affinity". Additionally, you can no longer choose to use abilities at lower than your training level; instead, you will automatically use the skill at your current training level at all times. Additionally, there are no longer distinct abilities at every skill level; instead, if the skill grants abilities (actions you can take as a character), the abilities will be the same at every level, but they will be penalized or granted bonuses depending on your skill level.

Every skill is designated as being part of one of three tiers (a term no longer reserved for augmented skills). You can generically call these tiers "General", "Specialty", and "Super-specialty", although I may find better terms for them later. (Magic and other special skills may use different terms for the tiers, if they are appropriate). In order to get a higher-tier skill, you must meet certain requirements; usually, a certain training level in one or more lower-tier skills, and a minimum level in one or more ability scores. Gaining your first level in a higher-tier skill may also require a sacrifice of training levels in the prerequisite skill, unless you visit a skill trainer. Even then, super-specialty skills generally require some sort of quest to acquire. In the event that there are several specialties per generic skill, or multiple super-specialties per specialty, you may train in more than one, but you must train in each separately.

When you gain a higher-tier skill, you find that your abilities in that skill are improved. Abilities in general fall into one of six levels:
  • Untrained - You are severely penalized for using skills at this level
  • Amateur - You have a minor penalty using skills at this level
  • Journeyman - You use skills at this level normally
  • Advanced - You gain small bonus using skills at this level
  • Mastery - You gain a moderate bonus using skills at this level
  • Grand-mastery - You gain a large bonus using skills at this level

These ability levels are related to skill level as follows:

General tierSpecialty tierSuper-specialty tier
Skill Level 0
DC 5
Untrained - -
Skill Level 1
DC 15
Skill Level 2
DC 25
Skill Level 3
DC 35

It is in your interest to gain specialty skills for actions you perform most; this gives you better skills in the long-term.

However, as the name implies, specialty skills have a narrower focus than generic skills. For example, take three mental skills: General Education, Knowledge: Physics, and High Knowledge: Astrophysics. These three skills fit into the three tiers, from general to super-specialty. An HK: Astrophysics roll may tell you a great deal about how you need to maneuver your spaceship to avoid asteroids, capture high-energy solar winds, or avoid dangerous quasars. However, it cannot be used to substitute for a general physics question, and a Know: Physics roll will cannot be used in place of a general knowledge check (for questions outside the domain of physics). Similarly, there should be a drawback to every specialty and super-specialty skill, such that it has an ever-increasing blind spot at higher tiers. As you become more powerful, keep your weaknesses in mind; if you gain enemies, it will be simple work for them to find a way to nullify your advantages, or worse.

Note that the same general rules regarding tiers apply to magic and other (previously augmented) special skills; however, in a way, they are arranged backwards; the skills you have the greatest control over are the higher-tier skills, while at lower levels, you are pigeon-holed into doing a few very specific things.

Draconian magic has three main skillsets per element, corresponding to the three tiers; these three are called Cantrips, Mentalisms, and Spells. They are all psionic styles of magic; the only arcane magic is done with engravings and enchantments, and is not usually used directly. However, you have varying levels of control; with Cantrips, you are limited to instant effect abilities, or in general, ones that require only knowing the ability and having the skill to pull it off--you do not need to control it after it is cast. (You may need to maintain it, but only in an on-off fashion.) In the middle, Mentalisms involve very coarse control; you may be able to tele-kinetically manipulate the fire in the area, or slice with a blade of wind as though it were in your hand, but finer control eludes you. At the high end, you can do much with Spells; you can manipulate things freely and delicately, using light or heavy touches, or making complex shapes. Exactly how capable you are depends on your skill level, of course...

However, there are also other skillsets in each element, and you are free to take any or all branches as you wish by training in each in turn. (Understand, however, that you will typically lose training points in the prerequisite skill when you train in a higher tier for the first time) For example, instead of learning Cantrips for each element, you can learn Auric Effects; these affect your body and your surroundings and are typically used in conjunction with martial arts. You can also learn Dragon summoning skills at the super-specialty (Spell) level. There are other examples, but we'll leave it at that.

In sum:
* You always roll at your training level
* DC goes up with level, so be sure to raise your ability scores!
* Higher tier skills have prerequisites and blindspots, but are powerful
* Augmented skills are no longer special, and not quite as fixed