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.
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.
following is a list of the Core Skills, grouped by the attributes that
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.
Most of these skills show the character's ability with different
Large: Sabers, longswords, two-handed
Small: Knives, shortswords,
Thrown: Throwing stars, throwing
Long bows, short bows, composite
Boxing, karate, pistol-whipping.
Large: Battle axes, baseball bats,
Small: Hand axes, clubs,
Weapons: Weapons small enough to physically "point and shoot", but
large enough they are typically secured in position. Mounted machine guns
Arms: Crossbows, muskets, laser
Ability to move about during a melee, forcing opponent into bad positions
and avoiding them
Bucklers, wall shields, kite
Miniature crossbows, revolvers, very sawed-off
Large: Pikes, pole arms,
Small: Javelins, rifles with bayonets, quarterstaffs.
Ability to intimidate others on the basis of physical threat alone. A sort
of "dangerous look" to a
Lassoes, bullwhips, morning stars.
Leaping, jumping, gymnastic
Climbing trees, mountains,
A character's sense of balance and general
The ability to avoid being hit in hand to hand combat, run over,
Picking pockets, palming items, etc. Sleight of hand
Related to Alertness, how quickly one reacts physically to one's
environment. Helps determine overall reaction
Flat out speed, does not include
Ability to move about without being seen or
Ability to move and stay afloat in the water.
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
How amusing and charming the character is. Successful use means those he
is involved with enjoy his presence, failure means he has made himself
How well the character commands followers and inspires their confidence
How convincingly the character can tell
The character's ability to talk others into thinking as she does. Can be
used for anything from negotiating a treaty to bumming a
Ability to influence others for romantic and/or sexual
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.
Rates the character's overall physical
Tolerance for fatigue, temperature extremes, etc. Similar to Stamina but
generally involves long-term
The character's resistance to illness and general physical well-being.
Determines how quickly one's injuries
Capacity to absorb bodily damage.
Ability to move in a desired direction, figure out where one is by
Shows how well the character can follow a trail and make deductions about
who or what left it.
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
Ability to keep from panicking in the face of "real world" fears,
basically facing down one's fear of death or
Stubbornness, the character's ability to resist suggestion or coercion.
Used against Persuade, Dominate, and possibly magical or psychic attempts
to influence a
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
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.
Now for the
Custom Skills and a couple of notes on how to use them.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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,
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
notes about using Techniques
are very individual and should be created on a case by case
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
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
are often used in conjunction with other skills. A scuba diver would use
Swim to move about, Diver Tech to calculate his remaining
Student Tech, Infantryman Tech, Homemaker Tech, Chef Tech, Skydiver Tech.
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
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
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
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.
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.
& 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.
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
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
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.
it is so dependent on the world being played, Magic has it's own
(upcoming!) rules section elsewhere.
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.
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,
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
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,
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.,
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
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
Alternacy, The Roleplaying System, is an Alpha-Zulu Game.
1997-2004 by Kizig. Permission is granted to download
this material for personal use.