Germán Jakob
▶ Stars Without Number
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

About the ambiguity of SWN Revised skills...

While I welcome the simplification of the skill list, it seems there's an implicit need for specializations, but those aren't really covered. Pilot can cover anything from flying spacecraft to riding horses, Know can correspond to any number of fields, Connect to any number of cultures and societies, Perform to any number of arts, and so on.

Question is, how are we supposed to deal with these specializations?

I don't think someone with the Pilot skill and purely spacer experience should be able to naturally ride a beast as well as they can handle a starship's controls. At the same time, even if we accept the implicit specialization and restrict a skill's reach for a particular person's context, it's not unlikely the character will want to expand upon said reach eventually, validating the score (or portion of such) for a relatively tangential application. Not sure how to cover that, mechanically.

Josh Peters
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

I've been ruminating over this problem for a while myself. I have two solutions, and I think both work equally well.

1. Divide up Pilot into Pilot (aircraft and spaceships), Drive (vehicles, and beasts) and Navigate (which I like because Spike Drill Charts are so important to the game setting). Divide up Know into Know (Science) and Know (History). You might also want to use the "Work" skill as a catch-all for skills you miss from 1e SWN: Work/Tactics comes to mind. You'll need to award some extra skill points here and there. I think I managed to scale it so that at 3rd and 6th level characters get a bonus SP (5 for Experts and Partial Experts, 4 for everyone else). It seems to work alright, after two character building sessions.

2. A rule of organic growth is easy to crib from Mongoose Traveller (for example): After a number of weeks equal to the skill level in question, the character has gained proficiency in the facet of the skill he or she was missing beforehand. So, a spacer character with Pilot 3 will take three weeks to learn how to ride a horse. That's ok, considering how specialized the character was as a spacer with Pilot 3.

Conversely, a spacer character with Pilot 0 will need a day or so to figure out the controls of a horse, since they're not as specialized.

Germán Jakob
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

Thing is, it's not always just a facet. Pilot might be fine for aircraft, spaceships and ground vehicles, but I'd sooner attach beast riding to Survive.

As for skills like Know, Work and Connect, the specializations might well be separante instances of the skill, as there are many sciences, disciplines, professions and cultures out there. They'd be different enough that being proficient in one would only provide a small benefit towards learning further ones.

It just seems some catch-all skills are far too catch-all, and specializations might help but lead us back to the original SWN treatment of skills.

Kevin Crawford
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

By default, the assumption is that anything that would normally be considered a specialization is just part and parcel with the character's background. Space pilots don't know how to ride wibblebeasts, and wibbleritters don't know how to fly a shuttle. Most of the time this is going to be pretty obvious in play.

When it comes to expanding specializations, such as a barbarian archer with Shoot-2 skill learning how to aim a rifle, it's just a matter of however much off-screen practice fits the tone of the campaign. A grim-and-gritty campaign might never allow a wibbleritter to learn how to fly a starfighter without actually re-buying the skill, while a looser, more space-operatic game might let him pick up the tricks with a month of off-screen practice.

Josh Peters
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

+Germán Jakob yup, and I know how you feel. The skills in the new edition take a bit of getting used to. I'd put beast riding as part of Survive too, but it is lumped into Pilot for better or for worse. It does work, and so does making it a facet of Survive.

I wanted to avoid specializations that turn the skill list back into the 1st edition skill list. I looked at Savage Worlds for inspiration, and took a cue from my players: they liked lumping the combat skills together. They didn't mind Fix taking over 2 or 3 skills. They grumbled a bit about Know (we like scientists as separate from historians), and they didn't like Pilot. They had a few adventures tracking down and using old drill routes, and really liked the Navigation skill.

Also, I developed some mechanics for using the Tactics skill in combat, so we wanted to keep that skill in play.

Overall, it's fine. I gave them a few extra skill points here and there, and it works without overloading the new skill list.

I'll post the pdf of the document when I have a moment.

Germán Jakob
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

Thanks for your input, guys. I suppose some skills are less problematic than others (Fix, Combat skills, stuff like Exert, Notice and Talk). And Pilot just needs a little tweak to exclude beast riding from it: might house rule that as part of the Survive skill, as I mentioned earlier. But that's me.

But I realized it's important to point out that the really "troublesome" skills, like Know and Connect, are strictly part of a character's background and won't significantly diversify throughout the course of the typical campaign. I mean, you may learn how to shoot a gun, treat wounds or physically train in the months that most games last, but you won't be getting a university degree nor really immersing yourself in a given culture in the same time period.

PS: By the way, I figure Tactics would be part of the Lead skill, wouldn't it, +Josh Peters ? I suppose it'd depend on the situation: some low-level tactics could be represented by Shoot or another combat skill ("shoot the weak spot!"), while Lead would better cover the deployment and positioning of soldiers.

Josh Peters
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

+Germán Jakob Strangely enough, some of my players have raised their Science, History, Culture, and Tech/Pretech skills at the expense of all their combat skills. So it's not without precedent that they'd want to raise Connect and Know. Especially if they're trying to figure out ancient mysteries and get in good with local power structures and criminals.

Tactics... I was going to fold it into Lead, using Intelligence or Wisdom as the modifying attribute. But as I said, I have a game mechanic that gives Tactics skill use some mechanical advantages in combat that are decidedly different than the mechanical advantages from Lead. This is about what my players want, and how they like playing. So I am keeping the skill in.

But if I started with a new group, I'd probably only add Navigate and Know (Science) and Know (History), and fold beastriding into Survive, Tactics into Lead (with Wisdom, instead of Charisma).

Josh Peters
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

I'd recommend rebuilding the character's skills level by level.

Lilian Duault
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

I guess we can render the non-familiarity with a specific aspect of a skill with some kind of raised difficulty level.
And why not saying that after several successful checks in this aspect, the player can gain a breakout? For instance, if a player uses Pilot to ride a horse, after several successful checks with a raised difficulty (let's say -1 on his roll), he can gain a breakout of 0 (nullifying the raised difficulty), and later +1 if he uses it very often?

Josh Peters
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

+Lilian Duault That works too, as long as you give the players the job of the book keeping. I wouldn't give a bonus to the skill after the fact--just a penalty until the character is used to the new context of the skill, and then it works normally.

Josh Peters
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

Here's a link to the google drive pdf file regarding my skill list.

drive.google.com - SWN Revised Skill list ideas.pdf

What I've done is added a bunch of conceivable situations one might roll a skill check with that skill, and the attributes that go with the skill check. I haven't included beast-riding in Survive, but I'd make its linked attribute Dex for stunts, and Con for endurance riding.

Lilian Duault
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

+Josh Peters "just a penalty until the character is used to the new context of the skill"
Yes, sounds way better!

Germán Jakob
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

I think Know and Connect are still a bit of a pickle.

In a general sense, Connect might represent the character's ease to form webs of contacts within a given social environment, which is often the culture of a location. Still, the culture from Praxis III could be very different from Keystone's, and the GM/player needs to account for this to some extent. The character's original Connect might be related to specific cultures, but the higher the skill, the faster it could adapt to a new culture, and the more cultures it could encompass. I propose the following, experimentally:

* Connect level + 1 determines the character's culture familiarity capacity. That is, a Connect-0 character may only be familiar with one culture, while Connect-1 could be familiarized with two, and so on.
* Assuming culture capacity, it'd take the character 4 months divided by the Connect skill level to functionally immerse themselves in a new one. I suppose this can be sped up through adventures or some kind of active involvement.
* Until this familiarization is achieved, Connect rolls suffer a penalty in the context of an unfamiliar culture. -1, -2, whatever seems appropriate.

Know is trickier. A barbarian archer learning how to shoot a rifle is peanuts compared to a biologist trying to understand metadimensional astrophysics on an equivalent, post-graduate level within the timeframe of the average campaign. It's hard even compared to the alien native beastrider attempting to learn how to pilot a spacefighter.

I think it's the only case that would really warrant buying the skill from scratch, and require subskills like Know (Literature), Know (Geology), Know (History), etc. The real issue comes down to in-game advancement. The background can justify Know working in any plausible way, covering any number of topics, but I can't really see Know advancing beyond 0 or 1 when the subject is entirely unrelated to the character's background knowledge.

Josh Peters
2017-11-20T18:41:21.867Z

+Germán Jakob I think Science and History from the 1e rules were fine, despite being very broad. Honestly, there is going to be one PC with the Science background in a group, so specializing in different kinds of Science seems a bit much in terms of gameplay and where players are going to put their valuable skill points. Know is a little too broad, but easy to fix.

Connect is a really good skill. Most times, the Culture skills just sat there, and never improved, with the occasional exception for specific worlds that Far Traders might visit if running a Suns of Gold style trading game. Otherwise, possibly Culture/Criminal would get the most use. Lumping them all together with the added bonus of having the skill get the things a party needs is great for advancing plots and moving stories along.

If you wanted to be more specific about the number of cultures a character with Connect was familiar with, I'd go with the spread for Know (p. 24 of the new rules): Connect 0, one additional culture, Connect 1, 3 cultures, Connect 2, 6 cultures, Connect 3, ten cultures, and at Connect 4 (hahahah!) the character is familiar with all the major cultures in the sector.