Vll. Skill Adjustment.

          As characters interact with the world around them, they are bound to change. They will learn new things and hone the skills they practice frequently or train in. Conversely, abilities they neglect will diminish with the passage of time. This section explains how to represent this process in game terms.

The Basics.
Development Level.
Skill Deterioration.
Development Category.
Adjustment Points.
Adjustment Rolls.

          The Basics.

          Progression in each of a character's skills is determined individually; depending on the situation some skills may go up, some down, and others remain the same. Alterations to scores are dependent on three main factors. The first is how developed the skill already is; the more you improve a skill, the harder it is to make further progress. The second is how hard characters have worked and what opportunities they've had to better themselves. The third is the amount of game time that has passed since skills were last checked for improvement or deterioration.

          The referee can go through the process of altering scores as often or infrequently as he likes (and his players will tolerate!), both in terms of game and real time. Although the process becomes more time-consuming the longer you put it off, adjustments can be made on anything from a weekly to an annual (or longer) basis. This should be particularly useful for "time compressed" campaigns.

          Dice rolls are used when progression checks are made, but basic probabilities should allow for a fairly predictable and steady change in scores.

          Development Level.

          The closer you come to reaching your potential, the more difficult it becomes to improve yourself. Think of someone in training for a race. The first time she practices she gets an awful score. After a week or two of training she's cut five minutes off her time. Two more weeks and her time is reduced by three or four more minutes. After another month her time has only dropped by an additional minute, and in the following weeks she only manages to shave off another thirty seconds. This happens because she's getting nearer and nearer to her potential, and so has found it steadily harder to continue to get any better.

          In Alternacy, this is expressed by Development Levels (DL's). A DL is a number that represents how close a character has come to realizing his potential in a skill; they are the single most important factor in determining the rate at which improvement occurs. The smaller a DL, the more difficult it is to improve that skill and the easier it is for it to weaken.

          To calculate DL's, first subtract a character's score in any skill from 20. Next, apply the DL Mod (from the Talents and Initial Skill Levels Chart) for the Talent that covers that skill. For example, if a character has a score of 14 in Blades, Large, subtracting 14 from 20 results in 6. If that character's score in Combat is a 5, Average, no further modification is made. If the character has a Combat score of 9, Excellent, the DL Mod is +8. Adding 8 to 6 gives a modified DL of 14. If the character had a Combat score of 3, Very Weak, his DL Mod would be a -4; applied to 6 would result in a final DL of 2. Regardless of the modifier, no DL may ever drop below zero.

          Skill Deterioration.

          Just as skills can improve, they can also diminish. Abilities we don't practice or train in and knowledge we don't use become less and less effective as time goes on. When a skill is deteriorating, DL's have the reverse effect; the lower the DL, the more likely it is that a skill will worsen, while a higher DL means it is less likely a skill will decline. This is because it takes a lot of energy to keep oneself in peak condition, but there remains a certain "bedrock" of ability which is fairly easy to maintain. Think of a your own knowledge of, say, history; if you haven't kept up on your studies it's pretty easy to forget specific dates and individual's names, but you probably don't have much trouble recalling the gist of a war or period you may have studied years ago. Your skill level has decreased (and your DL increased), but it's dropped to a point where it's probably not going to get a whole lot worse any time soon.

          Development Category.

          The first step in skill adjustment is for the ref to decide how likely it is that any given skill will increase or decrease. There are eleven Development Categories (DC's) in Alternacy that refs can select from to represent this likelihood. They reflect the character's activity since either Character Creation or the last time you checked for a change in skill levels. While there are no hard and fast rules or charts to use when choosing a skill's DC, there are several points to consider:

Novelty: Has the character learned anything new about the skill? While practicing one's old techniques or devoting old knowledge to memory does help one to advance, it's not as useful as gaining new information. This is a factor where the "adventuring life" can actually work against characters; if you're using tried and true techniques to survive, you probably don't have as much opportunity to study and innovate. The more new material a character has learned about a skill, the better his category will be.

Attitude: How much does the character care about improving the skill? Greater dedication and effort should obviously result in beneficial DC's. On the other hand, disinterest, laziness, or even aversion to development (characters who forswear a life of violence, for example) will lead to slow improvement or an actual weakening of abilities.

Frequency: How often does the character get around to training or practicing? This isn't "How often did you intend to work-out/study/meditate?", it's "How often did you actually crawl out of the bar and do some work?" Frequency can help offset a lack of Novelty, in that as long as a character practices enough he'll see some slow improvement (to a point), even if he's using the same techniques or knowledge over and over. Conversely, being too busy or lazy to actually do some training will result in reduced skills.

Quality/Opportunity: This factor deals mostly with instructors and facilities. If the character is in a class or training program, or is studying books or similar materials, you need to take into account how well the people or items do their job of advancing the character's knowledge and abilities. Quality/Opportunity can also represent something as fundamental as the difference between characters who practice their Run skills on a track versus those confined in a cell without the chance to exercise.

Complexity: How difficult is it to advance in the skill? If the character has spent a month learning how to be a grocery-stocker, he's probably learned a greater percentage of all the relevant information and techniques than if he were studying, say, neurosurgery.

          Obviously, these factors will often overlap, and you will probably come up with others that should play a part in setting DC's for a particular character. They are only guidelines, and should be used as aids to your judgement in determining the chance of improvement for a skill; ignore those that seem inappropriate and include any of your own you find more fitting.

          When you're ready to select a Development Category, the first step is to decide whether you believe the skill will improve, worsen, or stay the same. If you think it will remain unchanged, categorize the adjustment as None. If the skill level should either increase or decrease, you need to decide how likely and/or how substantial the change will be. The alteration will be either Slight (meaning a barely noticeable difference), Minor (possibly noteworthy), Moderate (the skill has a good chance of going up or down), Major (change is very likely), or Drastic (excellent chance of a very noticeable improvement or loss).

          Once you've selected the Development Category for a skill, you're ready to go through the process of determining whether the skill actually increases, decreases, or stays the same.

          Adjustment Points.

          Check the Score Adjustment Points Chart. For convenience, the Chart provides listings for 3 time periods, but the listed values are all relative, i.e. the Monthly row equals 4 Weekly rows and the Yearly row equals 12 Monthly rows. Across the top of the Chart, find the Development Category you have selected for the skill in question. Go down the chart until you find the appropriate time period for the check you are making. The listed numbers are Adjustment Points. If the skill is slated to increase, the Points are positive; if the skill is expected to decrease, they are negative. Add or subtract the award from any Points listed on the Character Sheet (leftovers from the last time adjustments were made).

          If you are determining score alteration for a time period that is not listed on the Chart, you can either multiply the values from the Chart (Monthly times 9 for 9 months, Weekly times 3 for 3 weeks, etc.) or mix and match the Point awards. For example, if it's been 4 months since you last checked for a character's skill increases, you might say that 2 of those months qualified as Minor improvement, 1 as Moderate, and 1 as Major. It's faster to just multiply the listed value, but using different Categories for different periods is sometimes more realistic.

Score Adjustment Points:
None Slight Minor Moderate Major Drastic
Weekly 0 +/-1 +/-2 +/-3 +/-4 +/-5
Monthly 0 +/-4 +/-8 +/-12 +/-16 +/-20
Yearly 0 +/-48 +/-96 +/-144 +/-192 +/-240

          Adjustment Rolls.

          For every ten Adjustment Points a character receives, she makes one roll to see if her score changes. These are referred to as Adjustment Rolls. Rolls are either positive or negative; positive Points allow rolls that will result in increases, while negative Points force the character to roll to see if the skill decreases.

          Points may be spent in one of two ways: to "buy" rolls or to modify Difficulty Numbers. To make a positive Adjustment Roll, subtract the skill's current Development Level from 20. The result is the Difficulty Number for a 2d5 roll. When making the roll, allow Flukes only as additions or subtractions to the result (no Automatic or Spectacular Successes/Failures). If the character ties or beats the DN, her score in the skill increases by one. If the character rolls less than the DN, the score remains unchanged. Either way, reduce the number of Adjustment Points by 10. If the character has another 10 Points remaining, he makes another roll, but remember to raise the DN if previous rolls were successful to account for the change to the skill's Development Level. Continue in this manner until the character can not buy any more rolls. If there are any Points left over, record them on the Character Sheet; they will be added to the Point award the next time Adjustment Rolls are made.

          Negative Alteration Points are spent in the same way to make negative rolls. However, if the roll is successful, the score is reduced by one. If there are 10 or more points remaining continue to make rolls, keeping in mind that each time the character's skill is lowered the DN increases by one (because the Development Level has gone down by one). Leftover Points are recorded on the Character Sheet as a negative number.

          To modify an Adjustment Roll's Difficulty Number, characters may spend 10 Points to reduce the DN by 1. Up to 100 points (per roll) may be expended this way, for a maximum modification of -10. Characters making negative rolls may not use this option. Adjusting DN's will only really be useful to characters with low Development Levels, where an unmodified DN can require a Fluke to be beaten. Rather than making a large number of rolls with virtually no chance of success, they can instead choose to make a few rolls with, well, very little chance of success!


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