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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.