Jeweled Amber Skill Points

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Rationale on Skills in ADRPG

One of the base concepts in the game is that if an Amberite wants to know how to do something he can go out into shadow and learn it. Drive a car, pilot a plane, juggle, do sleight of hand, cook pasta right, build a house, manage a elephant as a mount. They find a shadow and find someone to teach them. Do it awhile, and they can manage it. 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 even being an expert. It isn't necessarily being really good at it. Its being able to do it.

So “Skills”.

I allow my PCs and NPCs to allocate points toward mastery of a skill. 1 pip makes them an expert, but there are lots of experts at things in shadows. 2 pips makes them great, but there are lots of people who are great at things. 3 pips makes them rare, and there are long lists of people with rare abilities. 4 pips makes one a virtuoso. And 5 pips is a nearly unique skill coming along once in a generation.

  • Example-Sewing:I can sew well. I've even made some excellent looking costumes for SCA wear. I've done it off and on for 30 years. I might, possibly, have 1 pip in sewing. But i'm not an expert. I know experts. Nearly all of them would fall in the 1 to 2 pip zone. Someone who has worked for years in a sweatshop sewing clothes all day is solidly a 2 pip seamstress. A professional costumer who makes their living sewing and creating costumes for theaters, TV, and movies is a 3 pip seamstress. An academy award winning costume designer is 4 pips. Edith Head is a 5 pip costume creator.
  • Example-Guitar:Learning how to play the guitar, even spending a couple years in shadow getting good with it, doing shows even, does not make even an Amberite able to show up Jimmy Page on stage. Nor Carlos Santana, Brian May, Muddy Waters, or Johnny Lee Hooker. Certainly not either Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix.

Rolling Stone published a list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. The list is daunting. So call anyone on that list having at least 3 pips in Guitar. 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 little. So i'd call anyone on the list at least 3 pips. Anyone in the top 20 might be 4 pip guitarists. People like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendricx, Eric Clapton, Kieth Richards, B.B. King, and George Harrison are all 5 pip players. Carlos Santana is # 20 on that list but I would put him in the 5 pip zone personally but maybe he is a 4 pip player, a nudge away from being a 5 pip players. Just waiting for one more perfect solo to join the 5 pip players.

  • Example-Horsemanship: Most Amberites know how to handle a horse if it was some part of their past. Care and feeding, grooming, riding, even racing. Certainly riding them in battle is something they probably can do if they are a militant character.

But if they put a pip into Horsemenship 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. In my games Benedict may be the best warrior 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 horse 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 the greatest horse in shadow.

The Place of skills in a PC's life

The thing I impress on players though 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. 1 Pip in a skill like card magic/poker 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 does not realize he has a deck of cards in his hand and is going through card passes and riffs while talking to other people about other topics. 4 pips include the behavior from 3 pips but also include using them as weapons and to punctuate conversations. A 4 pip skill dominates the PC's life. 5 obsessive.

Players express themselves in these skills. A person with a pip in motorcycle and a pip in pool means that they are 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. It gives a lot of spin in character creation and development. It has given players a chance to think about what direction they want their PC to go. In general they have spent 2 to 4 pips either in one skill or in a small collection. More then that starts making me question their devotion to a particular skill. I generally don't allow more then one 3 pip skill at the start. As game play goes on if they make a particular effort at using that skill I may at some point let them take a 4th pip. I've yet to let a PC allocate to a 5 pip skill. They would have to be really dedicated to making it a big part of who the PC is, how he reacts, and what people think of them.