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 Post subject: Replacing rank 0 skills?
PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2020 1:36 pm 
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I just had an idea about rank 0 skills that I would like your feedback on.

I was thinking of replacing rank 0 skills with proficiencies. Instead of background skills, a character would receive broad proficiencies based on their homeworld, tech level and social status - so for example mine would be Garden World, TL 7, Urban Middle Class.

Any time the character encounters a task that someone with their background would be familiar with, regardless of which skill applies to the task, they´d get to do the task roll with +0 instead of -3 if they don´t have the skill. So if I, with the abovementioned background proficiencies, provide first aid to someone, I´d roll Medical with +0, but if I were to revive someone from Low Berth, I´d roll Medical with -3.

For the character´s prior history, any character who survives their first term in a career gets a proficiency for that career, which again covers everything someone in that career would be familiar with, even if they don´t know it well enough to warrant a skill rank.

This approach strikes me as more flexible than a list of specific skills a character has rank 0 in, while also reducing bookkeeping. What do you guys think?

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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2020 10:25 am 
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Do you have an idea of what kind of lists of proficiencies you would provide?

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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2020 11:22 am 
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Right now I´m thinking four lists for backgrounds.

The first "list" is simply the tech level - what level of technology the character would be familiar with. Not necessarily "higher is better" - a doctor from a TL 15 background would not necessarily be familiar with equipment from lower tech levels. Remember the scene from Star Trek IV where Scotty is at first stumped by a computer that doesn´t operate by voice commands?

The second ist ist the environment the character grew up in - garden world, desert world, space habitat and so on. This most covers environmental and survival things - a character from a space habitat knows how to use a vac suit, but might not have ever been in a forest in their life, or encountered a wild animal.

The third list is the general social background - street urchin, middle class, nobility, military brat and so on.

The fourth list covers late childhood and adolescence - did the character go to high school or work on a backwoods farm, or learn a trade, or serve as deck hand on their family´s Free Trader, etc etc.

I´d probably give a dozen or so backgrounds each for the third and fourth lists. Though, since that isn´t supposed to be a detailed and exhaustive list of possible backgrounds, there´s nothing stopping either the referee or the player from coming up with new ones - like "moisture farmer" for Luke Skywalker or "battlefield scavenger" for Rey for example.

For prior history, there´s simply one background per career.

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Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards. Sir Frederick Hoyle
Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Man has earned the right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone completely bat**** insane. xkcd #556
Just like people, stars can be very important without being terribly bright. Phil Plait, "Bad Astronomy"


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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2020 1:34 pm 
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Sir Chaos wrote:
This approach strikes me as more flexible than a list of specific skills a character has rank 0 in, while also reducing bookkeeping. What do you guys think?

I've been thinking about 0-level skills. For context, I favor a very old-school CT approach to skills: they help the characters perform actions (do things) rather than answer questions (know things).

First, I'm not convinced that this reduces bookkeeping. For me, anything that increases the number of bits of information I need to track is unhelpful. A list of proficiencies with their own definitions, on top of the existing list of skills, is more for me to have to remember.

Second, this creates a whole class of potential rulings I have to decide, e.g.: does "Marine" proficiency (one or more terms as a Marine) include driving grav vehicles? We have examples (Kinunir) of Marines units with grav vehicles, but we also have descriptions of Marines who spend their entire careers as ship's troops. Multiply that problem by every proficiency on the list, whenever it comes up. Grav Vehicle-0 is specific, at least.

Third, I think part of the problem you're seeing is overly narrow skill categories. If you have air/raft, Gcarrier, speeder, etc., as separate skills, there's a temptation to want 0-level skills in all of them. If the skill is Grav Vehicle, this isn't such an issue.

Fourth, are there things that proficiencies can do that skills can't? For example, does "Noble" proficiency grant the ability to get along in high society without embarrasing mistakes (equivalent of Savoir-Faire in GURPS)? What happens to other characters who don't have it? Some of this is already implicit in Traveller, for example in DMs to rumor encounters for having former Navy or Scout personnel in the party (Adv. 1, p. 7).

Fifth, have you considered how proficiencies interact with Jack-of-all-Trades? The primary benefit of J-o-T in most versions is that it gives you, in essence, Skill-0 in everything. Does that also now apply to proficiencies?

Sixth, I'm not sure that Skill-0 is always necessary, vs. just not rolling for routine or non-hazardous situations. Anyone (except a Barbarian fresh off the boat) can fly an air/raft -- that's the way they are designed. If you haven't had a specific, six-week training course, however, you may not react appropriately if you suddenly lose power to one of the four grav modules. You roll for 8+ at a -3 DM, and still succeed on 11-12.

I will probably stick with a combination of broad skills, implied proficiencies, and a limited number of 0-level skills (maybe one background and one career) to cover weird experience or hobbies. I think I may alter Jack-o-T from a blanket Skill-0 in everything to a DM+1 per level to offset unfamiliarity penalties. That makes a J-o-T-3 (as many skill levels as an MD) the "Skill-0 in everything" mark, while allowing J-o-T-4+ to offset even really deep penalties (for alien tech, say).


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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2020 2:25 pm 
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thrash wrote:
Sir Chaos wrote:
This approach strikes me as more flexible than a list of specific skills a character has rank 0 in, while also reducing bookkeeping. What do you guys think?

I've been thinking about 0-level skills. For context, I favor a very old-school CT approach to skills: they help the characters perform actions (do things) rather than answer questions (know things).

First, I'm not convinced that this reduces bookkeeping. For me, anything that increases the number of bits of information I need to track is unhelpful. A list of proficiencies with their own definitions, on top of the existing list of skills, is more for me to have to remember.


Ideally, all the background proficiencies should grow out of the character´s background that the player should be working out anyway. Like, Luke Skywalker grew up on Tatooine, living with his aunt and uncle on their moisture farm => "Desert World", "Backwoods" (for a sufficiently broad definition of "woods"), "Moisture Farmer".

The idea is not to narrowly define each background and make a list what a character with that background does or does not know. The idea is to draw a couple of prompts from the character´s bio that broadly describe the circumstances of their life - so you can draw on that during gameplay when needed.

Rather than, say, listing exactly what kinds of experience and knowledge a high school education entails, you just note that your character graduated high school, and when something comes up that your character doesn´t have the skill for, you ask yourself if the average high school graduate would have some experience with this.

Quote:
Second, this creates a whole class of potential rulings I have to decide, e.g.: does "Marine" proficiency (one or more terms as a Marine) include driving grav vehicles? We have examples (Kinunir) of Marines units with grav vehicles, but we also have descriptions of Marines who spend their entire careers as ship's troops. Multiply that problem by every proficiency on the list, whenever it comes up. Grav Vehicle-0 is specific, at least.


The problem with specific things is that they only cover the things they specifically cover. You can either give a long list of specific skills covering everything Marine training covers", i.e. loads of bookkeeping), or have a short list that leaves a lot of things out. That precise problem you present - include Grav Vehicle among the Marine rank 0 skills or not - is present with a specific list, too.

Quote:
Third, I think part of the problem you're seeing is overly narrow skill categories. If you have air/raft, Gcarrier, speeder, etc., as separate skills, there's a temptation to want 0-level skills in all of them. If the skill is Grav Vehicle, this isn't such an issue.

Fourth, are there things that proficiencies can do that skills can't? For example, does "Noble" proficiency grant the ability to get along in high society without embarrasing mistakes (equivalent of Savoir-Faire in GURPS)?


Among other things, yes. And it´s not really necessary to define those other things in advance - I just need to look at the situation and ask myself if this is something a Noble would be familiar with.

Quote:
What happens to other characters who don't have it?


They get a -3 to the relevant skill checks as soon as they go off the script the Noble hopefully gave them.

Quote:
Some of this is already implicit in Traveller, for example in DMs to rumor encounters for having former Navy or Scout personnel in the party (Adv. 1, p. 7).


That´s an excellent example for how a Navy or Scout proficiency could work - because a Navy or Scout service member would know where to go looking for rumors, without that being included in an actual skill they´ve explicitly acquired.

Quote:
Fifth, have you considered how proficiencies interact with Jack-of-all-Trades? The primary benefit of J-o-T in most versions is that it gives you, in essence, Skill-0 in everything. Does that also now apply to proficiencies?


Only JoaT-3 gives you rank 0 in everything. Which, from all the skill tables I´ve seen so far, is exceptionally difficult to get. I don´t think I´ve ever managed to generate a character who actually managed that.

Besides, I don´t see how this presents a new problem - JoaT-3 does not do anything to proficiencies that it does not already do to rank 0 skills.

Quote:
I will probably stick with a combination of broad skills, implied proficiencies, and a limited number of 0-level skills (maybe one background and one career). I think I may alter Jack-o-T from a blanket Skill-0 in everything to a DM+1 per level to offset unfamiliarity penalties. That makes a J-o-T-3 (ask many skill levels as an MD) the "Skill-0 in everything" mark, while allowing J-o-T-4+ to offset even really deep penalties (for alien tech, say).


+1 per rank (with a maximum of 3 ranks) is already how it works, isn´t it?

However, completely independent of the matter of rank 0 skills versus proficiencies, I could totally see JoaT being expanded to also apply to improvised equipment or using equipment for tasks it is not designed to perform, performing repairs without proper spare parts and so on and so forth. Like McGyver´s usual antics, or like a lot of the things Mark Watney does in The Martian, for example.

_________________
Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards. Sir Frederick Hoyle
Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Man has earned the right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone completely bat**** insane. xkcd #556
Just like people, stars can be very important without being terribly bright. Phil Plait, "Bad Astronomy"


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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2020 3:56 pm 
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I favor keeping skill-0 instead of proficiency as proficiency just adds another thing to remember, rules-wise, yet I don't think it would add anything significant.
But then again, I don't view 'skill' in the same way others might.
I don't see 'skill' as being how well a character can do something so much as it is a measure of hands-on experience a character has at the task; how good a character can do something is a combination of his knowledge (Edu) and experience together. A skill-0 just means that the character has actually done the task a couple of times before as opposed to just knowing how to do it from a book.
I guess your idea of proficiency is to give a clue as to what topics a character has specific knowledge in? but then again, I would think it'd be easier to just say they had at least some experience in those topics instead of just book-smarts. Formal training usually includes hands-on work. You might have a highly educated doctor with med-0 because he's working on his internship, as opposed to a crusty combat medic who does not have as much book theory, but tons of hands-on experience in patching sick and wounded people up.
I think this also matches well with how MT handles character advancement concerning experience for gaining skills.

I've also handled tech level differences in a way similar to MT, but with the idea that newer tech is easier to use, but harder to repair, whereas lower tech is easier to repair, but harder to use for the same effect.

( for the record, I haven't played in years, but when I did, it was with heavily house-ruled MT. )

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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2020 9:49 pm 
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Sir Chaos wrote:
+1 per rank (with a maximum of 3 ranks) is already how [J-o-T] works, isn´t it?

It very much depends on the version:

CT, 1st (1977) Ed.: didn't say.
CT, 2nd (1981) Ed.: "Jack of all trades can be considered to confer skill level-0 in every other skill (but never level-1)."
MT: "Jack-of-all-trades allows the character one free retry per level of Jack-of-all-trades on any task that fails." (J-o-T as Luck? I don't think I'd ever noticed that before.)
TNE: doesn't exist.
T4: "...apply Jack-of-all-Trades level in place of the other skill, and use the characteristic associated with the skill being substituted, but at half value, rounded up, as if it is a 0-level skill." (emphasis in the original)
GT (advantage, not skill): "Each level grants +1 to all skill defaults from attributes (but not other skills), to a maximum of +3..."
t20 (class feature): "Any class skill ... the character is not currently trained in may be treated as if it were an ‘untrained’ skill. This means the character may attempt to use these class skills as if they had a skill rank of 0. Each subsequent selection of this class feature improves the character’s effective skill rank in these untrained class skills by +1."
MgT SRD: "It reduces the unskilled penalty a character receives for not having the appropriate skill by one for every level of Jack of All Trades."
T5: "A person with Jack of All Trades can use that skill in place of any other skill. The skill level used is two less than the level of Jack of all Trades skill held (but never less than 0)."
CE SRD: "It reduces the unskilled penalty a character receives for not having the appropriate skill by one for every level of Jack of All Trades."

I was referring to the CT 2nd Ed. version.


Last edited by thrash on Sat May 09, 2020 2:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2020 12:21 pm 
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I´m most familiar with MgT and CE, and unconsciously assumed that the "core systems" (not including GT and T20) all handled it the same - JoaT being one of the unique features of Traveller.

It does exist in T20, FWIW. You can find it in the Scout and Traveller class descriptions rather than the feat lists, since it´s exclusive to those two classes. Take it once, and skill you cannot usually use untrained are treated as if you have skill rank 0. Every additional time you take it, you get a +1 bonus to all class skills you don´t have ranks in.

_________________
Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards. Sir Frederick Hoyle
Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Man has earned the right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone completely bat**** insane. xkcd #556
Just like people, stars can be very important without being terribly bright. Phil Plait, "Bad Astronomy"


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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2020 2:19 pm 
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Sir Chaos wrote:
It does exist in T20, FWIW. You can find it in the Scout and Traveller class descriptions rather than the feat lists, since it´s exclusive to those two classes.

So it does -- but not in the index, of course. GURPS Traveller is fiddly, but I can't help but think of t20 as deliberately arcane.

Thank you for that. I've updated my list for completeness' sake.


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