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Tywyll

Reducing Skill Lists

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Sometimes I think that the skill list in Hero is waaaaaaay to large. It's clearly the creation of a multitude of additions and genre books adding new material over the years.

 

If you were going to cut the skill list to somewhere around 12-20 total skills, what would you cut it down to? 

 

I think the list from 4th Edition D&D would be a good start as one that covers most 'adventuring' skills. If you absolutely needed specialised skills, you could always buy levels with limitations.

 

Obviously, CSL and Skill Levels would be added to this list, as well as Penalty skill levels. 

 

Acrobatics
Arcana
Athletics
Bluff
Diplomacy
Dungeoneering
Endurance
Heal
History
Insight
Intimidate
Nature
Perception
Religion
Stealth
Streetwise
Thievery

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1 hour ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I think the skill list probably is too long, particularly with the sub-categories for stuff like survival.

 

 Those are campaign optional by Genre.

 

I'd actually eliminate PSL's and  2-point Combat levels. That includes the bonuses listed in individual powers.

 

Make Professional Skill/ Knowledge Skills a one point adder to each other. So that 3-points would make you a scholar or a professional but 4-points makes you both.

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On 12/6/2019 at 5:04 PM, Scott Ruggels said:

I would have to disagree. Skills become a decent point sink for characters, rather than more OCV/ DCV.

I guess what I'm finding is that players have zero interest in buying new skills because they are so use case specific...even the ones they have used and failed out they are extremely begrudging in spending points on. If the list was smaller and the skills more broadly useful, I thought maybe that would encourage more investment. 

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Hunh. 

 

You're beating my drum.  :lol:

 

 

The problem for me is that while I really dislike the micro-specific nature of Skills that has developed over the years, it is ultimately the fault of the system itself, as it encourages you to come up with your own skills for things not listed in the book. 

 

However, there is another way to look it, and it's the direction I personally tend to prefer:

 

The skill list gets broader and broader as the specificity you deman in your game increases. 

 

So back up.  Back up until you (and your players) are happy. 

 

Think of skill specificity as a one of those "switches" or "dials" we talk about throwing when you are designing your campaign. 

 

Are you okay with "I can save him; I'm a doctor!", or would you prefer "I can save him; I'm a surgeon!"?  Maybe you insist on "I can save him; I'm a cardio-thoracic surgeon!" 

 

Now if you go even deeper that that, you end up with something along the lines of "if someone can tell me specifically what's wrong him, and if it means he needs cardio-thoracic surgery, and someone call tell me what needs removal or repair, and it's not tto near a nerve bundle, then I can save him, because I am a caedi-thoracic surgeon, but not a neurologist or diagnostician! "

 

At that point, who can tell him what's wrong?  A" doctor? "

 

Or a GP? 

 

Or a cardio-pulmonary specialist?  Or a straight-up" I only know about hearts-and-blood-vessels super-specialized cardiologist? 

 

How specific do you need your campaign to be?  For me, it's not particularly "heroic" - - or even remotely fun for me or my players-- to be able to save a man with an intercranial bleed because when I demanded specifics, they rolled the dice on nephrology... :(

 

How sciencey do you want your scientists?  Do you want the guy from fantastic four, who can build giz. Is to open dimensional rifts and whip up nuclear bazooka and instinctively recognize a fleck of a shiny new element in a fallen stone and explain to natives of a savage lost land about keystone arches and calculating loads and designing suspensions for a rope bridge to carry them to cleaner water?  How to turn those worthless river reeds into cloth? 

 

Or will you require six degrees and two specialties to get there? 

 

It's a dial.  Call it "breadth of skills" if you want.  And why not? Try to isolate every little thing that you know how to do into familiarities, professional skills, etc. 

Take what's left-- things you just knoe- and buy _all_ relevant Knowledge Skills. 

 

We're not done yet! Now take all the things that you know _about_--- all of them, Sir!  No cheating! - - and buy your familiarities.  Don't forget the useless crap like Fantasy Football and the history of the NFL, all the various RPG rules stuck in your head, etc. 

 

Now take what's left of that 75 points and build your larger than life adventurer.  Or your indentured servant, hoping to live long enough to pay off that massive EP mortgage he took out to buy the skills that you're non-larger-than-life-adventurer self already has. 

 

 

Now if you back that up a bit-- or even a lot-- it becomes a lot more reasonable: KS:football, period.  It covers all that.  Or even KS:sports.  It covers all that. You even know how to play, if you want, and a few game-related tactics, why not?  Let the GM assign modifiers for popular or obscure bits as he sees fit. 

 

Does an architect just figure loads and draw stuff, or does he have a chance to Find Weakness versus ancient cathedrals and the like on a really good roll?  Does he know how to hew stone and stack it because he's a damned good architect? 

 

It's your call, and it boils down to how helpless your characters should be in a related-but-not-the-same situation. 

 

Honestly, we have _two_ skills books now, and _two_ character creation manuals, and I have yet to see a really thorough discussion of this aspect of skills.  :(

 

 

Anyway:

 

Special dial: Breadth of Skills.  How good are you're characters supposed to be when it falls just to the left of center? 

 

Enjoy. 

 

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Nothing wrong with trimming the Skill List for a specific game/campaign. The Hero System skill list is designed around maximum flexibility but is not necessarily great for every game (Computer Programming in Fantasy, for example - and yes I know there are extreme closet cases where this might be appropriate but for most campaigns, it would not).

 

The important thing is to come up with a list of skills that have a narrative "attractiveness" for the game you are running and don't duplicate existing mechanics. The Perception skill from your list could be retooled to represent Enhanced Perception from the Enhanced Senses power, but you should probably just stick with Enhanced Senses. Similarly Endurance is already covered by the Endurance characteristic. If you want to handle Pushing, then use the existing Pushing rules. I think I have a fantasy Skill List around here....found it. Looking at it though, I would trim mine even more.

 

For example, Mimicry and Ventriloquism can be rolled up into one skill. Acting and Disguise into another. I suppose my list would look something like;

  • Acrobatics [Acrobatics, Breakfall]
  • Acting [Acting, Disguise]
  • Analyse
  • Climbing
  • Combat Skill Levels
  • Crafting (category) [Examples: Crafting (Weaponsmith), Crafting (Brewing), etc - mostly replacing the clunky Professional Skill catch-all]
  • Cramming 
  • Defense Maneuver (if you allow it)
  • Diplomacy [Charm, Conversation, High Society]
  • Espionage [Cryptography, Forgery, Lip Reading]
  • Expertise (category) [Examples: Expertise (Arcana), Expertise (Religion), Expertise (Demonology) - mostly replacing the clunky Knowledge and Science Skills]
  • Fast Draw
  • Gambling
  • Infiltration [Concealment and Stealth]
  • Language 
  • Mental Combat Skill Levels
  • Mechanics [Lockpick, Mechanics, Security Systems]
  • Nature [Survival, Tracking]
  • Persuasion [Interrogation, Intimidation, Persuasion, Trading]
  • Rapid Attack
  • Riding
  • Sleight of Hand (for Picking Pockets and minor prestidigitation)
  • Streetwise
  • Teamwork
  • Two-Weapon Fighting
  • Weapon Familiarity 

If you require your Wizards to pass a Skill Roll before casting spells, you might add Power in there. You could rename it to something like Sorcery or Spellcasting or whatever. The above list should be pretty manageable. 

 

Skill Levels and Skill Enhancers would no longer function exactly the same. Or rather, because so many skills have been condensed into single skills, the costing structure would be off. You might very well just dump Skill Levels/Enhancers altogether and have each skill be improved singularly. Combat Skill Levels would not be affected.

 

Everyman Skills would change too. Again, so many condensed skills would increase the value of any given Everyman Skill. On the other hand, having a fair bit of the Skill List as Everyman Skills would be similar to the Trained/Untrained skills for D&D. YMMV.

 

 

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10 hours ago, Nolgroth said:

Nothing wrong with trimming the Skill List for a specific game/campaign. The Hero System skill list is designed around maximum flexibility but is not necessarily great for every game (Computer Programming in Fantasy, for example - and yes I know there are extreme closet cases where this might be appropriate but for most campaigns, it would not).

 

The important thing is to come up with a list of skills that have a narrative "attractiveness" for the game you are running and don't duplicate existing mechanics. The Perception skill from your list could be retooled to represent Enhanced Perception from the Enhanced Senses power, but you should probably just stick with Enhanced Senses. Similarly Endurance is already covered by the Endurance characteristic. If you want to handle Pushing, then use the existing Pushing rules. I think I have a fantasy Skill List around here....found it. Looking at it though, I would trim mine even more.

 

For example, Mimicry and Ventriloquism can be rolled up into one skill. Acting and Disguise into another. I suppose my list would look something like;

  • Acrobatics [Acrobatics, Breakfall]
  • Acting [Acting, Disguise]
  • Analyse
  • Climbing
  • Combat Skill Levels
  • Crafting (category) [Examples: Crafting (Weaponsmith), Crafting (Brewing), etc - mostly replacing the clunky Professional Skill catch-all]
  • Cramming 
  • Defense Maneuver (if you allow it)
  • Diplomacy [Charm, Conversation, High Society]
  • Espionage [Cryptography, Forgery, Lip Reading]
  • Expertise (category) [Examples: Expertise (Arcana), Expertise (Religion), Expertise (Demonology) - mostly replacing the clunky Knowledge and Science Skills]
  • Fast Draw
  • Gambling
  • Infiltration [Concealment and Stealth]
  • Language 
  • Mental Combat Skill Levels
  • Mechanics [Lockpick, Mechanics, Security Systems]
  • Nature [Survival, Tracking]
  • Persuasion [Interrogation, Intimidation, Persuasion, Trading]
  • Rapid Attack
  • Riding
  • Sleight of Hand (for Picking Pockets and minor prestidigitation)
  • Streetwise
  • Teamwork
  • Two-Weapon Fighting
  • Weapon Familiarity 

If you require your Wizards to pass a Skill Roll before casting spells, you might add Power in there. You could rename it to something like Sorcery or Spellcasting or whatever. The above list should be pretty manageable. 

 

Skill Levels and Skill Enhancers would no longer function exactly the same. Or rather, because so many skills have been condensed into single skills, the costing structure would be off. You might very well just dump Skill Levels/Enhancers altogether and have each skill be improved singularly. Combat Skill Levels would not be affected.

 

Everyman Skills would change too. Again, so many condensed skills would increase the value of any given Everyman Skill. On the other hand, having a fair bit of the Skill List as Everyman Skills would be similar to the Trained/Untrained skills for D&D. YMMV.

 

 

 

That's a good looking list of skills right there. I might quibble over one or two of them, but overall, I think they look good.

 

I don't know that everman skills need much changing. Honestly, anyone who is taking the 'adventuring' life ought to be broadly capable, so most of the above skill probably should count as everyman I would think (with some obvious exceptions like language, the combat ones, crafts, etc). 

 

I think I would probably drop the 3 point skill levels, but otherwise leave the structure as is.

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Looking at first edition FH, there are 39 'skills', though the list includes Talents and skill levels as well, so if probably closer to 30. I think this is pushing the limit but probably a good place to start. 

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6 hours ago, Tywyll said:

 

That's a good looking list of skills right there. I might quibble over one or two of them, but overall, I think they look good.

 

I don't know that everman skills need much changing. Honestly, anyone who is taking the 'adventuring' life ought to be broadly capable, so most of the above skill probably should count as everyman I would think (with some obvious exceptions like language, the combat ones, crafts, etc). 

 

I think I would probably drop the 3 point skill levels, but otherwise leave the structure as is.

 

All good ideas. I might quibble with a couple on my list. :) Seriously. I took an already trimmed list and trimmed and condensed it even more. Some skills, like Cramming, Defense Maneuver and Rapid Attack, might fall better into the Talents category than Skills. Streetwise in an outlier. It functions almost like a combination of Expertise and Diplomacy. Might drop that altogether and require both of the previous skills for a street smart character. So yeah, no list begins with perfection. I was merely tinkering with the idea for the purpose of contribution.

 

I have no arguments against your Everyman and Skill Level points. 

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The main thing to watch out for when reducing the skill list (combining multiple skills into one) is the relative usefulness of skills.  If you combine Acrobatics, Breakfall, and Climbing into one skill (for example), it's now about three times as useful as any one of the skills was before.  Should it still cost the same as a single skill that wasn't combined with two others?  Like say Contortionist?  And if some skills are more useful than others, they should probably cost more than others.  In some long-ago edition, the skills did indeed have different costs.  Acrobatics costed 10 points, and included Breakfall and Climbing (IIRC).  So they broke it apart so that all skills would be roughly equally useful and would all cost 3 points for the base CHA-based roll.

 

Yes, simplicity is a good thing, and a fine goal to strive for.  But which kind of simplicity do you want:  the simplicity of all skills having equal utility/cost, or the simplicity of having fewer skills on the list?

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37 minutes ago, PhilFleischmann said:

The main thing to watch out for when reducing the skill list (combining multiple skills into one) is the relative usefulness of skills.  If you combine Acrobatics, Breakfall, and Climbing into one skill (for example), it's now about three times as useful as any one of the skills was before.  Should it still cost the same as a single skill that wasn't combined with two others?  Like say Contortionist?  And if some skills are more useful than others, they should probably cost more than others.  In some long-ago edition, the skills did indeed have different costs.  Acrobatics costed 10 points, and included Breakfall and Climbing (IIRC).  So they broke it apart so that all skills would be roughly equally useful and would all cost 3 points for the base CHA-based roll.

 

Yes, simplicity is a good thing, and a fine goal to strive for.  But which kind of simplicity do you want:  the simplicity of all skills having equal utility/cost, or the simplicity of having fewer skills on the list?

That supposes that skills are currently equal.  Breakfall can be counted on to be important multiple times a superfight if Knockback is in use.  Is that as valuable as Lockpicking?  Combat Driving?  Contortionist?  I'd say no, I'd be amazed if those skills came up once per session outside specific genres.  HERO makes some blind assumptions about frequency of use that are likely to not hold true for any given campaign but probably be vaguely accurate if averaged across all genres. 

And for that matter, genre says a lot about what skills are even useful.  Take Climbing, is Climbing worth giving the time of day when you could buy Cling-Grips (FRED page 143) for 4 points?  I'd say most certainly not, but if it came packaged with Acrobatics and Contortionist it'd be more tempting.   Is the ability to drive mundane vehicles well worth charging for when the party is The Flash, Superman, Iron Man, and Thor?  Of course not, getting in a car would just slow those heroes down! 

 

If Knockback isn't in use, merging it with Acrobatics lets people have Breakfall for the once-a-campaign time it's needed but not be overcharged.  If locked dungeon doors are commonplace, Lockpicking shouldn't be merged with anything since it's already great.  So on and so forth. 

I'd suggest looking at how often a given skill gets used in your campaign (or prior games with the same genre even if they're different systems), and trying to merge similar underused skills. 

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The flip side to this is, "Are these skills sufficiently useful to be worth three points each?" From Phil's example, Breakfall is almost certainly worth three points. Characters get knocked down all the time. Is Acrobatics as useful?  If not, maybe they should be combined.

 

I feel that there has been a lot of, "splitting skills for concept" without analyzing if the resulting parts are actually worth the extra cost.

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On 12/14/2019 at 7:32 PM, Scott Ruggels said:

Never quite understood the difference between skills and talents. But then it was all skills when I started.

 

The line IS blurry. I draw away from the mechanical and go into narrative reasons for my own judgment. If you have to learn and train, it is a skill. If it is innate, it is a talent. Of course, that is not an easy thing to distinguish and there are examples from both sections that could easily cross over into the other. Defense Maneuver, for example, could represent either some mystical martial arts training or Spiderman's preternatural awareness that constantly saves him from unexpected attack. Ultimately, it really falls onto the individual GM to determine what shelf to put any mechanical construct in the game. For me, throwing everything under one category or another is...messy. The Hero System already resembles a weighty textbook and Hero characters are often more complicated than some legal contracts* I've read. Anything that helps me organize the flow and presentation of information is something good.

 

 

* Yes, that's hyperbole.

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On 12/14/2019 at 7:32 PM, Scott Ruggels said:

Never quite understood the difference between skills and talents. But then it was all skills when I started.

The difference between skills and talents (lower case) for your character(s) is whatever you want it to be.  The difference between Skills and Talents (upper case), is the way the Hero System constructs them.

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Just now, PhilFleischmann said:

The difference between skills and talents (lower case) for your character(s) is whatever you want it to be.  The difference between Skills and Talents (upper case), is the way the Hero System constructs them.

Still don't understand. But then assume my experience with the system stops at 4e.

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13 hours ago, Scott Ruggels said:

Still don't understand. But then assume my experience with the system stops at 4e.

The difference is now that if you need a Skill to act as a Power you can. Example of this is Cybermind. He has a really high Computer Programming skill to represent his innate connection to computers.  And I just read a Dr. Solar comic where he did the same thing. You buy a Power as a Super Skill say Super Climbing is now Clinging with appropriate limitations and though it’s a Power it still acts as a Skill. In short if the GM feels that a Skill or Talent or Power works better as something else then he can use it as he needs it and isn’t stopped by the label of Skill, Talent or Power.  It took me awhile to wrap my mind around it.  

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1 hour ago, Ninja-Bear said:

The difference is now that if you need a Skill to act as a Power you can. Example of this is Cybermind. He has a really high Computer Programming skill to represent his innate connection to computers.  And I just read a Dr. Solar comic where he did the same thing. You buy a Power as a Super Skill say Super Climbing is now Clinging with appropriate limitations and though it’s a Power it still acts as a Skill. In short if the GM feels that a Skill or Talent or Power works better as something else then he can use it as he needs it and isn’t stopped by the label of Skill, Talent or Power.  It took me awhile to wrap my mind around it.  

Okay, I sort of get it, though I am still stuck in a 4th and earlier frame of reference.   A Talent is a Power that requires a skill roll?

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33 minutes ago, Scott Ruggels said:

Okay, I sort of get it, though I am still stuck in a 4th and earlier frame of reference.   A Talent is a Power that requires a skill roll?

Only if you want it to. Consider Bump if Direction is technically bought as Enhanced Sense which has a roll associated with it. It still described to function as is without a roll. 

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On 12/6/2019 at 9:47 AM, Christopher R Taylor said:

I think the skill list probably is too long, particularly with the sub-categories for stuff like survival.

I'd say for any skill that has sub catagories

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This is what I am thinking about doing with the FH skill list:

 

1.  Start with the 1E skill list (I like the flavor of the old FH skill names . . .).

 

2.  Conform the skill costs to the 4E norms (for example, Stealth becomes a 3 pt. skill).

 

3.  Convert general skills to CHAR-based skills per 5E.

 

I am assuming 75 point base characters with appropriate disadvs per 1E FH.  If you are going to cut down the list, then IMO, you might need to adjust the point base . . .

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