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Rules: Skills

 

whitedot.gif (109 bytes) Once we have created the raw character by rolling his attributes, we can begin to determine what sort of character he will be.

The Character generation system of Eternal Soldier is a "Skills system". Most role playing games use a "Class system", wherein the character chooses to be a particular class (say "fighter", "thief", etc.) and the skills that come with that class are predetermined. This means that the character is greatly limited from the beginning in the way he or she develops. Most thieves are like all other thieves; most fighters are like all other fighters.

This is a simple system, and handy, but the characters that develop lack individuality. It also leads to characters that are constrained to special scenarios. In addition, if the player wishes to develop a character that steps at all outside the norm then many special rules become necessary.

With a skills system such as we will be using, characters are not defined by classes at all. Rather, they choose specific skills that they wish to develop, and their abilities in these skills advance according to their personal aptitudes and the amount of effort they wish to apply to that particular skill.

As a person you might decide to teach yourself weaving, and your development as a weaver would be affected by your ability to work with your hands, and the amount of experience you manage to pick up as a weaver. At the same time you might be teaching yourself physics, and this would be affected by your intelligence and by the amount of time you spend studying and working on the subject. At any time you might decide to pick up some new skill, tanning leather say. You might now be very experienced as a weaver and physicist, but you'll be starting from point zero as a tanner.

This is much the way skills are chosen for characters in E.S. A character may at any time begin studying any skill he or she chooses, and his or her aptitude in that particular skill will be drawn from that character's personal attributes. If a character were to choose to take up weaving (it's completely possible in the rules) his or her advancement would depend on manual dexterity. A character with a high dexterity will advance more quickly than a character with a low dexterity, though both will advance. Where there are two or more statistics that might come into play when using a particular skill we can use a weighted average.

A character can take up new skills at any time. A character might have advanced to the highest levels as a sword-fighter, and choose to take up accounting. This character will of course, be a beginning accountant. But if the determination is there, there is no limit to the heights that can be achieved as an accountant (especially one with a sword). By the same token, a gunfighter might also be a skilled picker of pockets and top-notch computer scientist. (Assuming that the skill of computer scientist exists in the period of the scenario.)

The Skill Percentage Defined

The skill percentage as applied in Eternal Soldier is generally assumed to be the character's chance to successfully perform an action that an untrained character has no chance to do. That is, it is the amount the character must roll under on D100 in order to succeed at whatever he or she is attempting.

In some cases, such as driving, the skill will come into play only when the character is doing something unusual in the area of driving, such as pulling certain stunts or trying to keep from crashing in unusually difficult driving situations.

In many skills the character's skill percentage not only determines how likely the character is to succeed at a given action but how well he or she succeeds. For instance, the amount a baker beats his or her skill by determines the quality of the baked good. Only the most highly skilled bakers can produce the very highest quality baked goods. There is a general chart supplied after the skills description that can be applied to most skills to determine the quality of an item produced.

It should be noted that the basic level of a skill may vary with the technological level. A chemist with five skill points in the the 12th century will not do the same as a chemist with five skill points in the 20th century. In this case it is important to recognize that the skill percentage operates on the technological level of the scenario and this should be kept in mind when determining what can be accomplished with the skill.

The authors have provided a large set of skill descriptions for a great many skills. These are descriptions of ways the skills can be used, outside details that affect them, and their limitations. More than anything, however, the skill descriptions are intended to provide general guidelines for developing other skills. It is certain that no matter how many skills are placed on the list, someone will want one that isn't there. This is completely within the spirit of Eternal Soldier. Players and referees are encouraged to develop their own skills. Individuality is the source of the game. As the Chinese say, "Let a thousand flowers bloom."

Determining Skill Percentages

A character's skill is determined by combining a character's aptitude for that skill with a measure of the character's experience in that skill.

Aptitude

Whenever a character chooses any skill the first step is find out what degree of ability a character has in that skill. This can be referred to as the character's "aptitude". It will be noted on the skill chart that each skill has certain multipliers based upon the character's personal statistics. The skill of "Hand-to-hand" fighting (which refers to the character's skill in basic fisticuffs) is shown to have an Agility multiplier of 3, and a Dexterity multiplier 2.

Staying with hand-to-hand, let's assume a very average character. He has an agility of 10 and a dexterity of 10. His agility multiplied by 3 is 30. His dexterity multiplied by 2 is 20. When these two numbers are added together we get a result of 50. We then divide this amount by ten. The result of (50/10) 5 is the aptitude of the character in hand-to-hand.

Let's give the same character an agility of 13, and a dexterity of 17. His agility multiplied by 3 is 39. His dexterity multiplied by 2 is 34. The two numbers are added together and we get a result of 73. Dividing this result by 10 shows the character to have an aptitude of 7.3.

The aptitude can be described as the character's ability to advance in a particular skill. For each degree of attainment achieved in that skill, the character's measured ability increases by the character's aptitude.

Skill Points

The measure of how much a character has advanced in a particular skill is that of "skill points". Skill points are bought with experience points. if a character chooses to advance in any skill, the character simply subtracts a certain amount from his or her acquired experience points, and takes one more skill point. Beginning characters are given an amount of assumed experience at the beginning of the game with which to buy skill points.

The cost of skill points in a skill is determined by the amount of skill points already acquired in that skill. The cost increases by 100 experience points with each skill point attained. The first skill point in any skill costs 100 experience points. The second costs 200, the third 300, etc.

In most starting campaigns, characters are provided with 2000 experience points at the beginning of the game with which to buy skill points. A character might choose to spend 100 on "animal training". The character wants two more, so he or she spends 200 for the second skill point, and 300 for the third. The character has now spent a total of (100+200+300) 600 of the original 2000 provided. He or she has the option of spending 400 for a fourth skill point in animal training, 100 for the first skill point in a completely new skill, or saving the remaining 1400 to spend at a later date.

Many skills on the skill chart have "bases". These are set amounts of skill points that cost nothing, that everybody has in that skill. The amount of base in a skill is shown on the skill chart. Bases are not counted when figuring the cost of new skill points. That is, if a skill has a base of 4, the character is assumed to have 4 skill points in it. If the character ever chooses to buy another skill point in that particular skill then it only costs 100 expeience points, as it is the first skill point BOUGHT by the character in that skill.

Bases are used for skills that everyone has some chance to perform, even if the character has absolutely no training in the skill in question. Bases might also be used for skills which are so terribly common that it is highly unlikely that you will encounter anyone without some degree of ability in the skill. Examples--driving and literacy in the twentieth century.

You don't need to figure out your percentage in each skill that has a base when you create your character. It is suggested that you only figure your percentage when you need it and then write it down for future reference.

Whenever necessary, a player may figure out how many experience points were paid for the last skill point attained. Let us assume that a character has 21 skill points in a skill. By multiplying this by 100 the player finds that the last skill point he or she bought cost (21 X 100) 2100 experience points. By simply adding 100 to this the character finds that the next skill point in that skill will cost 2200 experience points.

Finding the Skill Percentage

For every skill point attained in a skill, the character's skill percentage goes up by the amount of aptitude the character has in that skill. In our aptitude example we had a character with an aptitude of 7.3 in hand-to-hand. For every skill point this character gains in hand-to-hand, the skill percentage increases by 7.3. We could simply say that the number of skill points in a skill is multiplied by the aptitude, to achieve the skill percentage in that skill.

Our character with the 7.3 aptitude in hand-to-hand knows that there is a base of 4 skill points in hand-to-hand. This means he has a skill percentage of (4 X 7.3) 29.2 before he has ever bought a skill point in hand-to-hand.

This character decides he wants to buy 3 more skill points in hand-to-hand with his 2000 starting experience points. The first costs him 100, then 200, and the third costs 300 for a total of (100+200+300) 600 experience points. He now has (3 + base of 4) 7 skill points in hand-to-hand. This gives the character (7 X 7.3) 51.1% in hand-to-hand.

He has 1400 of his original 2000 left to spend. His last skill point in hand- to-hand cost 300; so his next will cost 400. He may choose to buy the next point, leaving him with 1000, spend 100 points for the first point in a new skill, or save the remaining points for future use.

Note that fractional skill percentages are likely (such as the .7 on the end of 65.7). These fractions should be kept on, for they could add to another fractional point down the road meaning an extra percentage point. Whenever the skill is being used in the game, however, ignore fractional percentages.

These rules apply to all skill percentages. They are all arrived at in the same way. The only difference in determining skills is in the multipliers used to arrive at them.

We should note here that although skill percentages above 100% are difficult to achieve, they are by no means unreasonable. It is quite common for powerful characters to have skill percentages well in excess of 100%.

This doesn't mean they can accomplish anything they choose but rather, can most always succeed at the skill at it's basic level (If you can read most anything you encounter in your daily life without difficulty then your literacy percentage is near or above 100%).

The GM may apply penalties to the character's chance of success which will bring it below 100% (for instance if the character is reading untranslated Chaucer, or Shakespeare written in Pig- Latin.) Also, the success chart remains meaningful well above the 100% level.

Figuring out your skill percentage may seem complicated at this point but once you've done it once or twice you'll find that its actually pretty easy to do. In fact, you may find that generating a character becomes faster than the role-playing games you may be used to.

 

Making the Skill Roll

As mentioned earlier, when a character wishes to use one of his skills, he rolls a D100 and compares that to his skill percentage. Generally speaking, if the number rolled is less than or equal to his skill percentage then he has been successful.

Often, a character may try something that is within his area of expertise but is unusually difficult or easy. In this case the GM should decide on a modifier and tell the player to apply it to his chance of success.

For example, a character with tracking skill wishes to try to track an elephant who just walked out of a vat of red paint and is now walking through freshly fallen snow (10 minutes ahead of the character). In this case the GM may assign a bonus of +99% (there is no reason he couldn't say +150% if he thought the situation warranted it.

Remember, other modifiers may apply) to the character's chance of success. Assuming the character has any skill at tracking at all, he is certain to succeed.

Note that characters that have no skill in tracking will have a 99% chance to track the elephant also.

This is a very useful guideline when applying modifiers. Remember that whenever you give a character a bonus to succeed at a task you are also giving that bonus (and hence that skill percentage) to unskilled characters for the same task.

In the case of more difficult actions penalties may apply. In the above example the GM may also assign a modifier of say -10% per minute if there happens to be a blizzard which is covering the tracks.

Choosing Skills

When first creating a character you are faced with many choices. There are many skills you could take yet each one you choose, in effect, uses valuable skill points you could apply to other skills.

Once your character's stats have been rolled, try to determine what kind of things he would be good at and get a handle on his personality. This will, in most cases, help you determine what sort of skills he should take.

Try to choose them on the basis of what you feel you want your character to be like without using the chart. This is not to say that you should avoid the chart but if you try to play the numbers too much you could be scratching your head all night.

Don't take too many skills or you won't be very good at any of them. Two or three is a good number for a starting character.

As you accumulate experience you can take new skills. Usually the characters can be assumed to have done whatever was necessary to learn their starting skills.

In the case of skills taken after the character has accumulated experience, there should be some reasonable explanation as to how the character was able to learn that skill.

Usually we are pretty lenient with this but, if desired, it could become one of the focuses of the game. There may be secret guilds that teach arcane knowledge or hermit masters on mountain tops. It's even possible that a copy of 'Chilton's Auto Repair' could become a valuable commodity in a post- holocaust environment.

SUCCESS, CRITICALS, and FUMBLES

Reference will be made to Criticals, Fumbles, and Skill Roll Differences. As has been said, success in attempting to use a skill is determined by rolling D100. A roll beneath the character's Skill percentage in a skill indicates success.

Often the degree of success will determine how well the character performed the skill. This is simply the difference between the roll and the character's Skill percentage. If a character has a skill percentage of 73 in a skill, and rolls a 45, the skill roll difference is (73-45) 28. If the character rolls above the skill, indicating failure, the skill roll difference will be negative. If the same character with a skill percentage of 73 had rolled a 91 the skill roll difference would be (73-91) negative 18.

The skill roll difference can be applied to a basic success chart for many skills. Skills that refer to the success chart mention the fact in the skill description. The first column, "produced items", refers to goods manufactured by the character. The number under "market value" is an amount to multiply the current market value of similar goods by to determine the market value of that particular good. The rest of the categories are just general indications of the level of success.

Alternatively, the skill roll difference is often used to resolve situations where two characters are using the same skill (or opposite skills) against each other. For example lets say that two lawyers face off in the supreme court arguing the merits of school prayer. The GM would merely have them make their skill rolls (perhaps after applying modifiers for public opinion or prejudice) and the lawyer with the higher skill roll would likely gain the favor of the court. (See "stealth" and "awareness" for an example of how two different skills can be compared against each other)

Lastly, many references are made to criticals and fumbles. A critical means that the character has performed the skill surpassingly well, and a fumble means that the character has completely muffed the attempt.

A character has critically succeeded when the skill roll is less than 10% of the character's total skill percentage. If the character has 63% in a skill, then a critical has taken place if the character rolls 06 or less on the attempt. If the skill is dependent on the skill roll difference to determine the overall quality of a success, the character may roll again and add any positive skill roll difference to the original skill roll difference. This gives the character a chance to perform a skill well beyond his potential.

A fumble is 10% of the character's chance to miss the roll. The character with the 63% skill percentage has a 37% chance to miss. This means a 3% chance to fumble. The attempt is a fumble if the roll to succeed results in a roll of more than 97.

Regardless of the character's skill percentage, A ROLL OF 01 IS ALWAYS A CRITICAL SUCCESS, AND 00 IS ALWAYS A FUMBLE.

SKILLS LIST

Here is a list of many of the skills that can be put to use within the game. This list is of course just an overview. Use it as a guideline to develop any skills that are not listed, but are desired by the players or referee.

The abbreviations are ST (strength),AG (agility), DX (dexterity), CN (constitution), IN (intelligence), WI (will), CH (charisma), CM (comeliness).

Skill Name

ST

AG

DX

CN

IN

WI

CH

CM

Base

Accountant

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Acrobat

1

3

1

--

--

--

--

--

--

Actor

--

--

--

--

1

--

3

1

2

Animal Trainer

--

--

--

--

3

2

--

--

--

Armorer

1

--

2

--

2

--

--

--

--

Awareness

--

--

--

--

2

3

--

--

4

Bard

--

--

--

--

1

--

4

--

--

Bionics

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Bowyer

--

--

1

--

4

--

--

--

--

Brewer

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Baker

--

--

1

--

4

--

--

--

--

Camouflage

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

2

Card Cheat

--

--

3

--

2

--

--

--

--

Cartographer

--

--

1

--

4

--

--

--

--

Climbing Walls

2

2

1

--

--

--

--

--

--

Climbing Mountains

1

1

1

--

1

1

--

--

--

Cobbler

--

--

3

--

2

--

--

--

--

Communications

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Computer Science

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Counterfeiting

--

--

1

--

4

--

--

--

--

Dancer

1

4

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

Demolitions

--

--

1

--

4

--

--

--

--

Disguise

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Driver

--

--

4

--

1

--

--

--

*

Endurance

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

Engineer

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Etiquette

--

--

--

--

2

--

3

--

--

Extra Language

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Farmer

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Fletcher

--

--

2

--

3

--

--

--

--

Forgery

--

--

2

--

3

--

--

--

--

Game Designer/Bum

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

Gold/Silversmith

--

--

4

--

1

--

--

--

--

Hanggliding

--

4

--

--

1

--

--

--

--

Hiding

--

--

--

--

2

3

--

--

2

High Jumping

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

Horsemanship

1

2

1

--

--

1

--

--

2

Hypnosis

--

--

--

--

3

1

1

--

--

Jester

--

--

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

Jet Pack

--

4

--

--

1

--

--

--

--

Jeweler

--

--

2

--

3

--

--

--

--

Lawyer

--

--

--

--

3

--

2

--

--

Literacy

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

*

Long Jumping

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

Mason

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Mechanic

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Medic

--

--

2

--

3

--

--

--

--

Merchant

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Mimicry

--

--

--

--

3

--

2

--

--

Miner

1

--

--

--

3

1

--

--

--

Misdirection

--

--

--

--

2

--

3

--

--

Musician

--

--

3

--

2

--

--

--

--

Navigator

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Orator

--

--

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

Picking Locks

--

--

3

--

2

--

--

--

--

Pickpocket

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

--

Pilot

--

--

3

--

2

--

--

--

--

Pharmacologist

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Poet

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Powered Armor

--

3

--

--

2

--

--

--

--

Priest

--

--

--

--

2

--

3

--

--

Psychogenetics

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Quick Draw

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

--

Robotics

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Sailing

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Scientist

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Scuba Diving

--

2

-

--

3

--

--

--

--

Security Systems

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Sex Appeal

--

--

--

--

--

--

2

3

--

Singer

--

--

--

--

--

--

4

1

--

Skydiving

--

--

--

--

-2

-3

--

--

--

Sleight-of-hand

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

--

Sociohistory

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Stealth

--

4

--

--

--

1

--

--

4

Swimming

1

3

--

--

--

1

--

--

--

Tailor

--

--

3

--

2

--

--

--

--

Tanner

--

--

1

--

4

--

--

--

--

Tracker

--

--

--

--

4

1

--

--

--

Weapon Maker

1

--

2

--

2

--

--

--

--

Weapon Technician

--

--

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

Weight Lifting

5

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

COMBAT SKILLS LIST
Skill Name

ST

AG

DX

CN

IN

WI

CH

CM

Base

Archery

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

4

Crossbowmanship

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

4

Defense

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

--

4

Hand-to-hand

--

3

2

--

--

--

--

--

4

Heavy Guns

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

2

One-handed Guns

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

4

One-handed Weapon

1

2

2

--

--

--

--

--

4

Polearms

1

2

2

--

--

--

--

--

4

Shield

2

1

2

--

--

--

--

--

4

Thrown Weapons

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

4

Two-handed Guns

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

4

Two-handed Weapon

1

2

2

--

--

--

--

--

4

Wrestling

3

2

--

--

--

--

--

--

4

EXOTIC COMBAT SKILLS
Skill Name

ST

AG

DX

CN

IN

WI

CH

CM

Base

Artillerist

--

--

2

--

3

--

--

--

--

Bolo

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

--

Boomerang

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

--

Fencing

--

2

3

--

--

--

--

--

--

Gunner

--

--

4

--

1

--

--

--

--

Judo

--

3

2

--

--

--

--

--

--

Karate

--

3

2

--

--

--

--

--

--

Mounted Lance

1

2

2

--

--

--

--

--

--

Nunchaku

--

2

3

--

--

--

--

--

--

Rocketry

--

--

4

--

1

--

--

--

--

Sai

--

2

3

--

--

--

--

--

--

Shuriken

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

--

Sling

--

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

--

Whip

--

1

4

--

--

--

--

--

--

NEW SKILLS

As has been said, GM's and players alike are encouraged to design new skills in order to fit their needs and desires. If you did not find a skill you desire in the list above by all means consider designing it. We would like here to offer some guidelines to consider in designing skills.

Let's look at how a couple of the skills from the list above were designed in order to see how other skills are designed. "Stealth" and "Picking Locks" are two good examples. We'll take stealth first.

First and foremost we must consider exactly what we wish to define this skill as. We might be looking for a thiefly sort of skill that will enable us to hide well and be very quiet. But first we must ask ourselves if these things really belong together. In truth they don't. They are very different things which rely on very different abilities. One is already listed on the chart, and well covered by the skill "Hiding". So what we need is a skill that will enable us to act as quietly as possible, and we could well call this skill "Stealth".

Now that we have defined our stealth skill we should ask ourselves what is involved in performing it. Let's go stat by stat. Does it have anything to do with strength? No, not at all. How about agility? Now there's something. It involves a lot of agility--overall physical coordination. We might be tempted to say it's all agility, but let's be careful to look at all of them. Dexterity? No, it doesn't involve hand-eye coordination at all. Constitution? Hardly. Intelligence? Perhaps in knowing when to be quiet, but not in knowing how. Will? Well, it does involve some degree of self control, so let's remember that. Charisma? Comeliness? We can rule out personality and looks so that's that.

A lot of body coordination and some self-control. We decide that it's almost all coordination so we put almost all of the emphasis there. It is important to keep the modifiers adding up to five for the sake of game balance. We'll put 4 multipliers on agility and 1 on will.

Now that we can develop an aptitude and therefore a percentage, we must decide exactly how it will be used. In this case it's pretty straightforward. The chance is the chance of performing an action silently.

The last thing we must ask ourselves is if this is an action that can be attempted by anyone, or if some degree of training is required. Anyone can try to be quiet and have a chance of succeeding. With practice they'll improve, but it doesn't require any training to try it.

The basic law of skill percentages states that the skill percentage represents the chance of a character to perform a task that an untrained character has no chance to do. So we're in a bit of a quandary here. On one hand we're saying that anyone has a chance to be quiet but on the other hand you must take the skill to do it.

There are two ways to deal with this situation. The first way is to redefine the effects of the skill to make it something truly special. The other way would be to assign a base to the skill. In this case we would probably (and did) determine that stealth will be used fairly often and that it would be useful to have a skill percentage for every character that they can increase.

The base for any physical action is best set at 4, so that's where we'll set this one. The question that begs to be asked is, "WHY is the base for any physical action set at 4 ?" Some consideration of the rules will reveal that a base of 4 gives the average person about a 20% chance of success. Experience and a lot of play testing (Oh God, a lot) have shown that this is just the fairest and most workable amount. Or to put it another way, it's arbitrary (Ok, so we admit it. Alright?) but it works.

Now we'll look briefly at picking locks. We want a skill that will enable us to use an understanding of mechanical locks so that we will have a chance of opening most mechanical locks that we might encounter. It involves manual ability and an education of what is inside locks. A fair amount of both, but mostly dexterity. We'll make it 3 dex, 2 int. Now the base consideration.

It is possible for anyone to try, but the chance of success is negligible, and that only on very easy locks. The experience is likely to benefit the person only if they encounter an identical lock next time. To be an effective lockpick is something that really takes training, practice, and experience. We would be wise to forget the base here. The chance is, of course, the chance to successfully open the lock facing the character.

There are two points that might be watched for in the design of any skill. The first is that there is almost no skill which will be altered by constitution. Constitution might affect the skill in terms of endurance, but this is better handled through fatigue rules than it is through using constitution as a multiplier.

The second, and by far more important note, is to watch for skills that are actually combinations of other skills. Example--there is no such skill as "Ninja". This is a combination of other skills (stealth, hiding, etc.). This is definitely something to watch for.

When designing skills try to write the best description possible at the start, but remember, it's your world, your skill, and your rules. You have every right to change the skill if your design doesn't give the results it was intended to. You're in charge, old boy. . . .

We're done now. Honest. On with the next chapter.

Next: Skill Descriptions
Previous: Character Generation

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