Skill System By Michael J. Watson aka Tolknor
Skills in ADRPG
A basic concept in ADRPG is that if an Amberite wants to know how to do something they can go into shadow and learn it. Drive a car, pilot a plane, do sleight of hand, build a house, practice medicine, flip n omelet perfectly, use an alligator as a war mount, all can be learned if they find an instructor and take the time enough to learn. So Amberites and their ilk can have a wide range of things they know how to do if the need arises.
However; learning a skill is not mastering it. It isn't being an expert. It isn't necessarily being good at it. Its being able to do it.
An Amberite who has never flown an airplane sits down in the cockpit, there is a fair chance their intelligence and native cleverness, and a player's ability to describe flying a plane in terms of Warfare or Psyche to their Gm, will let a PC get the thing off the ground. It might also mean the GM lets the PC cartwheel the thing on landing and survive his injuries through superior Endurance.
But Amberites seem to be great at so many things? What differentiates them from being able to accomplish an act and being able to do it like a master? Time and experience in an activity develops a Skill in it.
Allow PCs and NPCs to allocate points toward mastery of a skill. ADRPG tries to limit the amount of hard rules in favor of role playing, but having a general idea of what things a character of NPC has founf important enough to really study is useful.
In a general way consider the following suggestions:
- 1 Skill Pip makes them an expert, but there are quadrillions of experts at things in Shadow.
- 2 Skill Pips makes them great, but there are trillions of people who are great at things in Shadow.
- 3 Skill Pips makes them rare, but there are long lists of people with rare abilities.
- 4 Skill Pips makes one a virtuoso. Someone noted for a skill and able to use it better then nearly everyone.
- 5 Skill Pips is a nearly unique skill ability of a kind seen rarely across Shadow.
Example 1-Guitarist: Learning how to play the guitar, even spending a couple years playing, does not make an Amberite able to show up Jimmy Page. A person spends time with a musician, learns a few chords and how to string them together and they can be said to play the guitar. But there is a difference being knowing how to play a guitar and having people consider them a guitarist. 1 Pip Skill Level: A person who has spent a bit of time with the guitar, learned some composing, played on stage for a time might be considered to have 1 pip in guitar. They can be expected to be able to pick up a guitar and make music. But would others think of them as a guitarist considering their other talents? 2 Pip Skill Level: This person would be expected to be able to make use of a guitar in most circumstances. Probably keeps one handy. They might make a living as a guitarist in a band. They probably could pick up a cello, violin, or a ukulele and make music with them at the 1 Pip Skill Level. When people ask about them, one of the things that gets mentioned is that they are a guitarist. 3 Pip Skill Level: Rolling Stone published a list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. Anyone on that list is least a 3 pip guitarist. Arguably anyone on the top 1000 list could be 3 pip guitarists. This would translate to playing most stringed instruments similar to a guitar, like mandolins, balalaika, sitars and ukuleles at a 2 pip level, and probably even pianos and harpsichords at a 1 pip level. Familiarity and expertise might also translate to being able to play any musical instrument at least a respectably.
4 Pip Skill Level: Anyone in the top 20 of the Rolling Stone list might be 4 pip guitarists. In that list Carlos Santana is number 20. Perhaps he is 4 pip player just a nudge, just one more perfect solo away from being a 5 pip player. But perhaps his most recent performance moved him from the 3 pip zone into that rare group of 4 pip players? That would be for the GM to decide.
5 Pip Players: Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton are all 5 pip players. Feel free to disagree. The GM might have a particular love for Frank Zappa or Brian May and they would be 5 pip players in their campaign.
Example 2-Horsemanship Most Amberites know how to handle a horse. Certainly riding them in battle is something they probably can do if they are a militant character. But if they put a pip into Horsemanship they have invested part of their life and interest into specifically being well versed in dealing with and riding horses. 2 pips might mean they are knowledgeable with breeding, training, and teaching. 3 pips is circus and trick riding level. Its masterful cavalry combat expertise.
Benedict may be the best warrior in Amber but Julian has 5 pips in horsemanship. He spends a great deal of time in the saddle every day. He is amazing at managing breeding for the horses his rangers use. Benedict comes to him for advice on horses and animals. Julian has melded his combat style firmly into treating his horse as a partner as well as a weapon. And most of all, he found and befriended one of the greatest horses in shadow.
Skills & Roleplaying The thing to impress on players is that the more pips they put in a skill the more it needs to be represented in their role playing. The higher the points, the greater the obsession, the more a part of the character's persona the skill has to be. If a skill is neglected in the PC's role-playing the GM should not be shy about downgrading a skill in the way neglected hobbies can be forgotten over time. 1 Pip in a skill like card magic & tricks means the character probably always has a deck of cards on him. 2 Pips means he often has a deck of cards in his hands. 3 Pips means he may not realize he has a deck of cards in his hand and is going through card passes and riffs while talking about other topics. 4 Pips include the behavior from 3 pips but also includes using them as weapons and to punctuate conversations. A 4 pip skill dominates the PC's life and other people's perception of them. 5 Pips.....is obsessive.
Players and NPCs can express themselves in these skills. A person with a pip in motorcycles and a pip in pool is more likely to ride a motorcycle then a horse and are more likely to be found around a pool table if someone goes looking for them. Skills give a lot of spin in character creation and development. It gives players a chance to think about what direction they want their PC to go. In general if they have spend 2 to 4 pips either in one skill or in a small collection they have developed an idea of the PC's personality. During character creation don't let a player go deep in skills. Four to six pips in 1 & 2 pip skills is enough to flesh out a PC's interests without starting them too strong in any one skill. Let the PC role-play the skill enough for you the GM to think they have earned that rare third pip. Players need to be dedicated to a skill for it to go to 3 or 4. A GM should consider long and hard before allowing a PC to take a 5th pip in a skill. It should be the prize at the end of a long adventuring career with the skill as their defining aspect. Skills from the GM's point of view The other thing the skills are good for, from a GM's point of view, is that it tells them what kind of scenes and scenarios a PC might be interested in. 1 pip in motorcycles means down the line they run afoul of a biker gang. 1 pip of poker tricks and they might get in a big card game with high power cheats. 3 Pips in Sculpture means their home will be filled with their work. They will be fiercely protective of their work space. They might be interested in a series of games to find powerful materials to work or powerful tools. Also, they might have to deal with powerful thieves stealing their favorite creations.
Since a GM has an idea what skills the elders have it gives you a hook for getting the PCs involved. A PC is fanatical about horses with a 3 pip skill, might work well with Julian. 2 pips in cooking? Maybe he and Flora would get along. A pip in singing, maybe she and Corwin can sing duets. So a GM learns a bit about the player's interests in what they hope to see in what is their game too.
Skill Examples What follows below are some very loose ideas for how to view a skill in use. While a lot about skills are going to be how a Player or the GM uses them and expresses them in game play, these examples give a basis for a general level of proficiency for PCs and NPCs.
1 Pip Skill: Skilled Amateur. An expert in a particular activity. College level or semi-pro baseball player. (Athlete) An experienced guitar player. The difference being between people saying "He plays guitar" and "He's a guitar player". A small room professional card or coin magician. Better then a kid's birthday party magician A semi-professional artisan. painter, sculptor, carver. A good sense of the arts. A low level bard. An amateur expert pool player. Good enough to hustle drinks and pocket money at any bar. General Practitioner Doctor
2 Pip Skill: An experienced professional in a particular activity Minor and major league baseball player. (Athlete) An professional guitar player making his living regularly with his playing. A big room professional card,coin, and stage magician. Magic Castle member. A professional Artist. Painter, sculptor, carver, artisan able to make a living with their craft. A medium level bard. A professional pool player. Able to hustle big money and win big tournaments. General Surgeon. Specialist.
3 Pip Skill: An extremely well-respected professional in a particular activity Major league baseball player. All Star. MVP. Big money professional. Reggie Jackson, Wade Boggs, Jackie Robinson. An professional guitarist, one of the best ever. Top 100. Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Paul Simon. A big room professional magician. Magic Castle Performer. A professional painter, sculptor, carver, artisan able to make a living with their craft. Georgia O'Keefe, Renior, Edward Hopper, Max Ernst A high level bard. An professional pool player. In danger of being killed for hustling pool. A name able to win world class tournaments. Surgical Specialist. Transplants, Vascular. Trauma. Cyberware Implantation
4 Pip Skill: A nearly incomparable talent. Famous or extremely well-regarded world wide. Major league baseball player.(Athlete) Hall of Fame. Yogi Berra, Cal Ripkin, Sandy Koufax, Pete Rose An professional guitarist. One of the best ever. Top 20. Prince, Brian May, Frank Zappa, Carlos Santana A world class professional magician. Las Vegas residency magician. A world class artist famed beyond their time. Georgia O'Keefe, Renior, Edward Hopper, Max Ernst A 23rd level bard. A Crowned Bard. An professional pool player. Too well known to hustle pool.
5 Pip Skill: Legendary professional in a particular activity Legendary baseball player. Legendary Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, , Lou Gehrig Undisputed renowned guitarists. Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendricx, Eric Clapton, B.B. King Legendary magicians. Harry Houdini, David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, A historically renowned Artist. Salvador Dali, Michaelangelo, Leonardo di Vinci. A professional pool player unable to get a game from someone unwillng to lose. Willie Moscone, Epic Surgeon. John Heysham Gibbon (first open heart surgery)