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Player characters use skills to describe the areas in which they have formal training, the languages they can speak and read, and the environments in which they are accustomed. Skills add to characters’ description, offering details about identity, occupation, and nature. In this way, a skill is more like a descriptor or a tag. It is something that a character has or doesn’t have. A skill has a negligible mechanical weight and usually functions as a story-telling tool.
Generally, player characters have skills. NPCs and creatures can have any skills the GM wants as appropriate to their role in the story and their description.
The most basic skills in the game are the language skills. All starting characters know how to speak in the Common Tongue. The game includes a list of typical languages and more languages are mentioned in the Bestiary. Having a language skill means your character can speak in that language and be understood. You either have the ability or you don’t. Note that the ability to speak in a given language does not automatically mean your character can read it. You can trade out one of your skills to become literate in all the languages you know or you might choose a professional skill that grants literacy in a language.
Most skills are professional skills. A professional skill describes the area in which a character is trained and how that character might normally make ends meet. Examples include Arcanist, Armorer, Locksmith, or Theologian.
Having the Arcanist skill means your character knows stuff about magic. When your character sees an unfamiliar magical effect, you might automatically know the spell’s name or what the effect does. Or, you might have to make an Intellect action roll to gain this information as the GM decides. If you don’t have the Arcanist skill and you encounter an unfamiliar magic effect, the effect is unfamiliar to you.
Some professional skills let you manufacture finished items from raw materials. The Armorer skill, for example, lets you turn raw materials into armor provided you have a space to work, tools, and raw materials equal to 1/4 the armor’s price.
Professional skills also enable certain activities. Having the Locksmith skill means your character knows how to use lock picks to unlock locks. Without the skill, your character must resort to other methods to unlock locked doors, containers, windows, and so on—using a key (obviously), brute force, or magic.
Many professional skills grant literacy in a language the character knows how to speak.
Finally, some skills indicate a special status such as Aristocrat, Criminal, or Drunk. Of all the skills, these are the “softest.” A character with the skill knows how to conduct himself or herself around other characters that fit into the described status. Aristocrats know proper etiquette, can probably recognize heraldry, and know the people of wealth and status in their homeland. A criminal has connections to the black market and criminal underworld, knows the major organizations, and likely has a contact or two. A Drunk knows his or her way around taverns, can consume vast quantities of booze without becoming too impaired, and can probably gather a few rumors from the regular haunts.
All characters begin with two skills (chosen or determined randomly) plus any skills gained from their ancestry. Characters gain another skill when they choose a novice path, an expert path, and a master path. Some paths grant additional skills.