ll. Skills.

          Talents tell you what a character might be good at, what potential abilities he has. Skills are what he has actually learned to do. They are used to represent any character trait that can be developed over time.

          Since game worlds cover such a wide range of possible settings, from classical fantasy to cyberpunk to space opera, a single list of skills to be used in all worlds would be both very large and most likely insufficient. Because of this, Alternacy breaks skills down into two classes. First are the Core Skills, which should be useful in any situation. Second are Custom Skills, which are general skill types that can be adapted for a specific world or character.

Core Skills.
Custom Skills.

          Core Skills.

          The following is a list of the Core Skills, grouped by the attributes that govern them:

          Awareness:
          Alertness: How aware a character is of his surroundings. Used to study one's environment, notice hidden objects or unusual activity, and so on. Helps determine how quickly one reacts to danger or surprise.

          Combat: Most of these skills show the character's ability with different weapons.
          Blades, Large: Sabers, longswords, two-handed swords.
          Blades, Small: Knives, shortswords, daggers.
          Blades, Thrown: Throwing stars, throwing knives.
          Blunt, Thrown: Rocks, grenades.
          Bows: Long bows, short bows, composite bows.
          Brawl: Boxing, karate, pistol-whipping.
          Grapple: Tackling, wrestling, choking.
          Hafted, Large: Battle axes, baseball bats, flails.
          Hafted, Small: Hand axes, clubs, nightsticks.
          Hafted, Thrown: Axes, hammers.
          Heavy Weapons: Weapons small enough to physically "point and shoot", but large enough they are typically secured in position. Mounted machine guns are an example.
          Long Arms: Crossbows, muskets, laser rifles.
          Maneuver: Ability to move about during a melee, forcing opponent into bad positions and avoiding them yourself.
          Shields: Bucklers, wall shields, kite shields.
          Sidearms: Miniature crossbows, revolvers, very sawed-off shotguns.
          Spears, Large: Pikes, pole arms, lances.
          Spears, Small: Javelins, rifles with bayonets, quarterstaffs.
          Spears, Thrown: Spears, javelins.
          Threaten: Ability to intimidate others on the basis of physical threat alone. A sort of "dangerous look" to a character.
          Whips/Chains/Ropes: Lassoes, bullwhips, morning stars.

          Dexterity:
          Acrobatics: Leaping, jumping, gymnastic maneuvers.
          Climb: Climbing trees, mountains, whatever.
          Coordination: A character's sense of balance and general agility.
          Dodge: The ability to avoid being hit in hand to hand combat, run over, etc.
          Pilfer: Picking pockets, palming items, etc. Sleight of hand theft.
          Quickness: Related to Alertness, how quickly one reacts physically to one's environment. Helps determine overall reaction speed.
          Run: Flat out speed, does not include endurance.
          Sneak: Ability to move about without being seen or heard.
          Swim: Ability to move and stay afloat in the water.

          Interaction: All Interaction skills represent how effective a character is at a type of social contact, but say nothing about how the character goes about that interaction. A leader can be benevolent or cruel, Entertain can be used to tell dirty jokes or discuss politics. The technique is entirely up to the player.
          Entertain: How amusing and charming the character is. Successful use means those he is involved with enjoy his presence, failure means he has made himself somehow irritating.
          Lead: How well the character commands followers and inspires their confidence and loyalty.
          Lie: How convincingly the character can tell lies.
          Persuade: The character's ability to talk others into thinking as she does. Can be used for anything from negotiating a treaty to bumming a cigarette.
          Seduce: Ability to influence others for romantic and/or sexual purposes.
          Understand: How well the character comprehends others. Uses body language, tone, and other subtle signals to get an insight into what people think and feel, especially useful for detecting lies.

          Physique:
          Brawn: Rates the character's overall physical strength.
          Endurance: Tolerance for fatigue, temperature extremes, etc. Similar to Stamina but generally involves long-term stresses.
          Health: The character's resistance to illness and general physical well-being. Determines how quickly one's injuries heal.
          Stamina: Capacity to absorb bodily damage.

          Survival:
          Navigate: Ability to move in a desired direction, figure out where one is by instinct and observation.
          Track: Shows how well the character can follow a trail and make deductions about who or what left it.

          Willpower:
          Bearing: Overcoming fear of the supernatural. While Courage deals with what is simply dangerous, Bearing deals with things that are frightening because they are alien or have some magical ability to terrify characters.
          Courage: Ability to keep from panicking in the face of "real world" fears, basically facing down one's fear of death or injury.
          Determination: Stubbornness, the character's ability to resist suggestion or coercion. Used against Persuade, Dominate, and possibly magical or psychic attempts to influence a character.
          Dominate: Pure strength of will, the ability to overawe others. Characters with high Dominate scores seem to have an aura of power and perhaps menace. Used to threaten or intimidate others, cannot produce the high morale and trust that Lead can.
          Resist Pain: Allows character to withstand pain. Refusing to break under torture is an example; a successful use of the skill would not stop the character from being harmed but would allow him to continue to resist his torturer. Also used to remain functional in combat. Differs from the Physique skill Stamina in that Resist Pain represents mental focus rather than physical resistance.

          Custom Skills.

          Now for the Custom Skills and a couple of notes on how to use them.

          First, Custom Skills come in two basic types. Those that are listed as "(Blank)" something or other are basic formats for making your own skills. Obviously, the blank is something that the referee, often with some input from a player, fills in with whatever is appropriate for the game world and the character. The blank can represent the name of a city, a profession, a kind of animal, a type of music, or many other things.

          In other cases there is no basic style for the skills. Instead, guidelines are provided to suggest what sorts of skills can be created with a given attribute, and what they will and won't cover. Again, the skills you actually come up with will be decided upon by the ref and players.

          When defining skills for your world and characters, it's usually best to make them fairly general. When you read the section on rolling the dice and deciding the effects of skill usage, you will find that there is a way to keep seemingly vague skills from being used too broadly. Also, if you define them too narrowly you may have to make up for it by creating more skills, which could result in players wasting time squinting at character sheets looking for the one that exactly fits a certain situation. However, the most important thing is that the referee and players know what a skill represents and what it doesn't. As long as everybody knows what's going on, you can make skills as narrow or broad as you like.

          Here is a list of suggested Custom Skill types. It is by no means complete and should definitely be adapted to your game setting and style of play:

          Academics:
          Knowledge of               : These skills are used to show what raw knowledge a character possesses. They need not be actual academic disciplines. As long as the area dealt with by the skill represents knowledge about something rather than the ability to do something, it should be represented by a K.o. skill. As an example, most "hard" sciences, such as mathematics, biology, or engineering, would not be K.o. skills, as possessing those abilities allows the character to do calculations, test samples, or design buildings. K.o. skills represent how much a character knows about a subject and his ability to remember information that may apply to a gaming situation. Examples: K.o. American History, K.o. Silent Movie Stars, K.o. Famous Criminals, K.o. The Roman Empire, K.o. Christian Theology.

          Administration:
                         Administration: Characters use these skills to operate in governmental, bureaucratic, legal, or business environments. They represent knowledge of what actions need to be taken to fulfill one's goals or duties and how to perform those actions; acquiring supplies, investing, organizing personnel, complying with (or circumventing) the law, etc. These skills aren't all offices and business suits; the supply sergeant who "creatively" fills out forms to receive unauthorized beer is using an Admin. skill. Skills can be named as blank Admin. or just the name or title of the position or profession. Examples: Gun Smuggler Admin., Naval Captain Admin., Police Chief Admin., Farm Admin., City Attorney Admin.

          Artistry:
          Because so much can be done with Artistry, no attempt is made to make a format. Basically, if a character develops skill in some form of visual art, just come up with a meaningful name for whatever it is that the character does. Skills cover the actual production of a piece of art; they don't tell the character where to sell it, what famous artist it's reminiscent of, or whether anyone else is going to like it. Examples: Graffiti Painting, Coin Forgery, Cartoon Drawing, Wildlife Photography, Whittling.

          Awareness:
                         Techniques: These can be some of the most useful skills a character can have. Basically, Techniques are the knowledge and abilities people develop through their jobs and hobbies that isn't covered by another attribute. They represent a vast amount of little skills it would be far too tedious to keep track of. For instance, a character could use Interstellar Scout Tech. to clean his weapons, download data from a probe, fire his ship's laser cannon, and use his hand scanner to search for mineral deposits. Caribbean Pirate Tech. tells you where the best targets are at different times of year, how to navigate, how to tie knots, and how to get the most speed out of your ship.
          A few notes about using Techniques skills:
          Techs are very individual and should be created on a case by case basis.
          Skills from other attributes often take precedence when things get highly complex; if the scout breaks his weapon someone will use a Handicraft skill to fix it, and while he knows that a certain scanner reading indicates the presence of gold, a character using Geology under Science would understand all the data and why the gold wound up there.
          Techs are often used for tasks involving technology. Basically, use them when the character knows what buttons to push to make something happen. This includes some military skills; the crews of catapults, howitzers, and torpedo launchers all use various Techs instead of Combat skills.
          Techs are often used in conjunction with other skills. A scuba diver would use Swim to move about, Diver Tech to calculate his remaining air.
          Examples: Student Tech, Infantryman Tech, Homemaker Tech, Chef Tech, Skydiver Tech.

          Biosystems:
          Ride               : The character's ability to control a living mount. Fill in the blank with the general type of creature. Examples: Ride Elephants, Ride Horses, Ride War Wolves, Ride Dragons, Ride Camels.
                         Agriculture: These skills are used for working with different kinds of plants. Their applications include knowledge of planting and harvesting times, dealing with pests and illnesses, creating good growing conditions, etc. Basically, how green a character's thumb is. Examples: Backyard Garden Ag., Wheat Farming Ag., Vineyard Ag., Forestry Ag., Herbal Garden Ag.
                         Healing: Used to represent a character's skill at improving the health of animals and people. When defining a specific Healing skill, the referee and players should come to a good understanding of just what it will cover. Neurosurgeon is a Healing Skill, but so are Paramedic, Acupuncture, and Rural Veterinarian; obviously, they all cover widely different areas. Whatever a character's area of expertise, he can use Healing skills to diagnose and treat patients with drugs, first aid, surgery, or whatever else is appropriate to the skill. Examples: Combat Medic Healing, ER Nurse Healing, Big Cat Vet Healing, Herbal Healing, Physical Therapist Healing.
                         Husbandry: Similar to Ag skills, these cover working with animals. Using them, characters can groom, breed, herd, harness, slaughter, and otherwise care for and utilize domesticated or captive animals. If a given animal is intelligent enough, this skill is also used to train it. While some medical treatment can be performed with a Husb. skill, it would only include simple things like removing ticks, getting them to swallow a pill, and helping deliver young. Anything more complex requires a Healing skill. Examples: Cowboy Husb., Tropical Fish Husb., Hunting Dog Husb., Shepherd Husb., Lion Handler Husb.

          Handicrafts:
                         Craft: Crafts are used by characters when they want to build or repair (or possibly sabotage) something. They include the knowledge of what parts or materials should be used in what manner, as well as the physical act of putting the stuff together. Crafts run the length of the technological continuum, from stone axes to faster-than-light starship engines. Usually, one skill should cover one job. For instance, Starship Engineer Craft would allow a character to repair holes in the hull, rewire the computers, adjust the engine settings, and get the food dispenser to spit out something vaguely edible, but might leave her stumped when she needs to fix a ground vehicle. The referee has final say on exactly what is covered by a given skill. Examples: Blacksmith Craft, Bricklayer Craft, Car Mechanic Craft, Gunsmith Craft, Carpenter Craft.

          Interaction:
                         People & Culture: P&C skills allow a character to interact with different parts of society. They represent the ability to fit in with different groups, whether this means knowing how to order a fine wine or which team to cheer for in the neighborhood sports bar. They also provide "who's who" knowledge; this can mean which gang rules which neighborhood, which nobles support the king and which don't, or the location of the best steak restaurant in town, depending on the particular skill. When defining skills, base them off whatever determines the character's social perspective. Also, keep in mind that a character can know people and some etiquette not obviously covered by his skill; a street cop knows something about gang members and their habits, a baron may know the names of some of his peasants, and so on. Characters can develop numerous P&Cs. Examples: 12th Regiment Grenadier P&C, State University Student P&C, Royal Court Courtier P&C, Elm St. Drug Dealer P&C, Andromeda Cluster Trader P&C.

          Linguistics:
          Speak               : Insert the name of a language here. A higher score allows better comprehension, faster conversation, the ability to imitate or disguise accents, and expanded vocabulary. You may wish to indicate regional or social dialects a character has. Examples: Any languages appropriate to your setting.
          Read/Write               : Literacy in a given language. Though they are listed as one skill, a character's reading ability will generally be slightly better than his writing skill. As with Speak, examples are simply the written languages of your campaign.
          Remaining Linguistics skills are handled in the same way as Artistry skills. If a character is creating documents or pieces of art of a written or verbal nature, just decide on an appropriate name for what the character is doing. In some instances the creation of the work will not be it's final format-a Speech Writer skill would allow the character to write the piece but not deliver it. Examples: Country Western Lyricist, Horror Writing, Freeform Poetry, Newspaper Writing, Propaganda Writing.

          Magic:
          Since it is so dependent on the world being played, Magic has it's own (upcoming!) rules section elsewhere.

          Performance:
          Performance skills are dealt with the same way Artistry and some Linguistics skills are. They represent a character's ability to have an effect on an audience. This most often takes the form of some kind of artistic display; playing a musical instrument, acting in a play, putting on a puppet show, etc. In other cases, skills will cover less obvious performances; participating in a public debate, speaking at a political rally, delivering a sermon, and so forth. At times skills from other attributes will be necessary to complete a performance, for instance, Trapeze Act would cover showmanship, but Acrobatics would be necessary to actually do the stunts. Examples: Shakespearean Theatrics, Stand-Up Comedy, Play Mandolin, Blues Singing, Radio Sportscasting.

          Science:
          No formats are used for Science skills, they are simply named for the sciences that exist in your game world. Using them, characters are able to attempt to understand phenomena they observe and possibly predict or even come up with ways to influence future events. While Academics skills are associated with raw knowledge about the human (or other races) world, Science skills are usually more concerned with the natural world. The usefulness of Science skills will vary from setting to setting; Alchemy in a fantasy world may allow one to make poison, Astrophysics in a space game may let a character come up with a plan to divert a dangerous asteroid. Examples: Biology, Physics, Geology, Chemistry, Paleontology.

          Survival:
                         Fishing: Similar to Hunting, but fish are the prey. Also includes cooking or otherwise using the catch, and is determined by environment or type of fish being sought. Examples: Shark Fishing, Largemouth Bass Fishing, Deep Sea Fishing, Amazon River Fishing, Lobster Fishing.
                         Foraging: This skill allows characters to gather food in the wilderness without hunting or fishing. Possibilities are gathering nuts, roots, insects, wild grains, barks from which teas can be made, bird's eggs, and so on. When necessary, Foraging skills include knowledge of how to prepare food for consumption. A character can also gather items with medicinal properties, but must have an appropriate Biosystems skill to administer them. Skills are defined by the terrain in which they are used. Examples: Alpine Foraging, Swamp Foraging, Seashore Foraging, Temperate Forest Foraging, Desert Foraging.
                         Geography: This shows how well a character knows the landscape of a specific area. Geography skills can be used along with Navigation to avoid becoming lost, to find the quickest or most stealthy route between two points, to choose ambush sites, to find a hiding place or lookout point, and so forth. They are designed for a specific region with which the character is familiar, and can represent a city, forest, trade route, or sector of outer space, though larger areas result in less detailed knowledge. Examples: Grey River Geog., Chicago Geog., Texas Panhandle Geog., Lincoln County Geog., Oregon Trail Geog.
                         Hunting: Knowing where to find game at different times of day or different seasons, how animals behave, how to skin and cook prey, etc. Hunting skills cover any attempt to capture or kill wild animals, from trapping carnivores for relocation to shooting dinner. Most successful hunts will require other skills as well, such as weapons skills, Sneak, or Track. A character will be at an advantage in well- known areas and at a disadvantage in similar but unfamiliar locales. If a character focuses on one type of game then define skills that way, otherwise go by the environment in which he hunts. Examples: Duck Hunting, Lion Hunting, Tallgrass Prairie Hunting, Beaver Pelt Hunting, Arctic Tundra Hunting.
                         Survival: A character's knowledge of how to keep body and soul together in the outdoors. Generally, this includes things like finding or improvising shelter, locating potable water, predicting the weather, and building fires. Depending on the specific environment a skill is designed for, uses could be avoiding flash floods, hypothermia, heat injuries, dangerous wildlife, or avalanches. Basic survival stuff, with the exception of those actions covered by Hunting, Fishing, and Foraging. Define skills by the environment in which they are used. Examples: Open Ocean Survival, Jungle Survival, Steppe Survival, Savannah Survival, Tropical Island Survival.

 

continued in III Character Creation

 

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