Authors: Robert Donoghue and Fred Hicks
Editors: Fred Hicks, Lydia Leong
This document is Open Game Content, as described in section 1(d) of the Open Gaming License.
The character's rage simmers just below the surface, awaiting opportunity to burst.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Vent his frustration, usually through explosive action towards whatever he's mad at.
The GM might invoke this to: Cause the character to lose his temper at an inappropriate moment. Interfere with any action that requires calm.
The character is an academic, well versed in all manner of obscure lore. His knowledge, unfortunately, is almost entirely from books, and theory is not always the same as practice.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Dig up an obscure fact or other bit of knowledge at the right. Research like a fiend.
The GM might invoke this to: Cause problems when the character is faced with the need to apply his knowledge under the stress of "Real World" conditions.
The character is a firm believer in the better part of valor, either out of meekness, deep self interest, or some other motivator.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Run, hide, or otherwise get away from something dangerous.
The GM might invoke this to: Inspire the character to flee when he really needs to stand his ground.
Curse of Toads
When the character tells a lie, a live toad pops out of his mouth.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Gross someone out, or convince someone who knows of the curse that he is honest.
The GM might invoke this to: Complicate things when lies would be more convenient.
The character owes a duty to some one or thing which should come out of creation. Alternately, the character may simply take all of his responsibilities very seriously.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Perform an action which directly upholds the duty.
The GM might invoke this to: Present a player a choice between upholding his duty or doing something more practical. Raise an issue of responsibility at an inconvenient moment.
The character is smart, simple as that.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Know useful things, or find them out if they aren't known.
The GM might invoke this to: Unless there are monsters that specifically like eating big brains, there's not much the GM can do with this.
The character is very thorough in his approach to almost everything.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Get a bonus to any task where he has the time and resources to do a thorough job, "discover" that he packed just the right tool.
The GM might invoke this to: Interfere with the character being spontaneous.
A curved blade carved from the purest Moonstone, this sword has been passed down through generations of heroes. In the hands of the unworthy, its edge is dull and its balance shoddy, but in the hands of a true (or potential) hero, it strikes sharp and true.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Swordfight, or have the sword conveniently available.
The GM might invoke this to: Steal the sword. Require some ritual to renew the sword's magic.
Panasta Dados is the Master of Thieves of the city of Alverado, and at some point he took the character under his wing and taught him some of what he knows.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Perform a thiefly task, "Here's a trick Old Pan taught me." Get some information about Alverado, get information directly from Panasta.
The GM might invoke this to: Have Pan call in a favor. Have Pan's enemies try to strike at him through the character.
The character is a member of the priesthood, and is expected to support the appropriate dogma, as well as accept whatever duties, responsibilities and powers come with the position.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Give a stirring sermon. Resist the powers antithetical to his faith. Attempt to use the resources of his church.
The GM might invoke this to: Deliver inconvenient orders from a superior. Present temptations that contradict the Priest's Dogma. Raise the ire of opposed religions.
For whatever reason, the character seeks his own destruction, though he is unwilling to take direct action to do something about it. Instead, he throws himself wholeheartedly into dangerous situations in the hopes that this time will be his last.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Do something stupid and dangerous.
The GM might invoke this to: Keep a character from doing the safe, reasonable thing.
The character's family estate, it is a place of rest and refuge from the troubles of the world.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Draw upon the resources of the house.
The GM might invoke this to: Threaten the house.
The character has a knack for betrayal. He's the one who shows up on the movie screen and everyone watching knows that he's the one who's going to whisper lies in the king's ear and try to seduce the naive princess. Betrayal comes easily to the character, and while he may be steadfast and true in the end, it would be so easy not to be.
A player might invoke this aspect to: Lie, spy or generally connive.
The GM might invoke this to: Incite suspicious reactions from NPCs, especially when the character is telling the truth. Offer opportunities to stab comrades in the back.
The character is the survivor of many battles, and the experience has shaped him. This is appropriate for a seasoned campaigner who has seen many battles (in contrast to Veteran of Gishal Falls, below).
A player might invoke this aspect to: Keep his wits about him in a fight. Assess a tactical situation. Pitch camp in unfriendly country.
The GM might invoke this to: Invoke flashbacks. Introduce old rivals from the other side of the battlefield.
Veteran of Gishal Falls
The Battle of Gishal Falls was fought over the course of 4 months in the swampy, disease-infested valley below the falls. Both the Nadulians and the Asts consider the battle a defeat, and the casualty rates on both sides were obscene.
A player might invoke this aspect to: As Veteran, but also to resist disease or carry on activities in a swamp.
The GM might invoke this to: As Veteran, but the GM now knows who the opposing side was, and what people think of the battle. Some may consider the character a reminder of the Army's embarrassment, or resent them for surviving while a loved one did not.
Amnesia -The character has a hole in his memory of some size. The good and ill of this are somewhat subject to GM whim.
Banjo -The Demon Horse. He's fast, tough and smart, but he also eats meat. Especially rabbits.
Barbarian -Raised in the wilds, this character may be good at hunting and fighting, but lacking in social graces.
Courtier -Experienced with the ebb and flow of courtly intrigue, this is useful for dealing with those intrigues, but less useful for convincing an angry mob that you're really one of them.
Delusional - The character has some firmly held delusion. This tends to be useful on those occasions the delusion is useful (think Don Quixote), but otherwise problematic.
Fae-touched - The character knows something of the ways of Faerie, but this comes with some drawbacks, such as an aversion to Iron, the necessity of an invitation to enter a home, or just the attention of faeries.
Famous - The character is well known, which is useful for dealing with people who like him, but less useful when trying to avoid attention.
Holy - The character's convictions run so deep as to be a beacon in the darkness. This beacon may provide illumination, but it also is likely to draw attention.
Fop - A cultured gentleman can turn to excess. While Fops are usually skilled in social arts, they are also prone to a variety of vices, and have a most unwholesome reputation.
Gambler- Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, but very rarely know when not to play the game.
Hunted - Someone (or something) is after the character. Useful for evading or confronting pursuers, but with obvious drawbacks
Irish - Useful for drinking, brawling and spinning yarns, less good for stopping drinking and keeping your temper.
Kind - Kindness is a virtue treasured by healers and those who bring succor, but it is ill-suited to many of life's cruelties.
Large - Useful when being big and strong comes in handy, but less useful when trying to do things like hide (or buy clothes that fit).
Ninja - Can you ever really have enough ninjas?
Rich -Outside of the events of play, the character has significant wealth, which is useful in many ways. Sadly, what he has, so many others want...
Rival - The character has a rival who he wants to defeat in some fashion. While this aspect may help with the rivalry, the rival himself is likely to cause problems.
Strong - Break things!
Vengeful - The character's been wronged, and seeks to make it right. This is useful for pursuing that revenge, but such focus can often turn into tunnel vision.
Weapon Master - The character kicks ass with weapons. People who kick ass this much tend to draw attention from others out to prove how much they kick ass.
There is no one skill list that can apply to all games. The nature of the game should shape the skill list to reflect what sorts of activities are important in the game. Skills are measures of how characters distinguish themselves. The idea of "party balance" hinges on the idea that each member of the group contributes something unique to the whole. The idea was originally couched in purely tactical terms, but it's more broadly applicable. If each character in a given group has a particular area in which they excel, everyone is given an opportunity to take the spotlight from time to time. Naturally, there is also the question of genre - a computer programming skill will be out of place in a game of sword and sorcery.
When creating a skill list, it's important to keep two key elements in mind: there must be enough skills to allow each character an arena to excel in, and skills must be more finely defined in areas that will be important to the game. In the absence of a defined skill list, it's often useful to look at skills in terms of a few broad categories, and whether you want the skills in those categories defined in a broad, general or specific fashion.
The most general categories of skills are Academic, Artistic, Athletic, Combat, Criminal, Magical, Perception, Professional, Social, Survival, which break down as follows.
Academic skills are generally oriented towards knowledge, research and learning.
Specific academic skills tend to be refinements of the general skills: History becomes French History, American History and so on. Science becomes Chemistry, Physics and anything else appropriate. At this point, the advanced sciences are very similar to the roles of magical skills. They reinforce the specifics of the genre. In a science fiction game, for example, stardrive engineering might be a very important skill. Often, a game will have a specific selection of specific skills in conjunction with a more general list.
The issue of languages is often a tricky one. The role of language is near and dear to many people's hearts, and there are a number of ways they can be treated.
When using broad skills, the Languages skill measures what languages the player knows: each rank over mediocre equates to one language when play begins. When using general skills, Languages are split into Linguistics (spoken languages) and literacy (written languages). Languages are learned in the same fashion as with the broad skill.
In Broad and General cases, languages are fairly binary: either they're known or not. A poor grasp of a language may be played out, or considered a temporary hindrance, but is mostly in the realm of GM interpretation.
Under specific skills, each language or language family is its own skill. Skill level measures the character's fluency: Average means a heavy accent, Fair is faintly detectable, and Good and better is flawless. At the GM's discretion, the character may be forced to used the lower of a character's language and social skill when attempting to use social skills in another language.
Artistic Skills cover the gamut of artistic expression.
Athletic skills cover the general range of physical activities.
Combat Skills are the meat and drink of most games, so they get a somewhat richer treatment than many other skills. Broad combat skills are simple enough: Melee, Ranged and Unarmed. Specific skills are simply one skill per weapon type (Sword, Bow, Longsword and so on). Broad skills are where there are a few more options.
Any of these three options can work as broad combat skills. No one option is really better than any of the others, and the decision should hinge upon whichever approach the GM considers most thematically appropriate.
Option 1: Weapon Category Combat Skills
This list treats the category a weapon falls into as a general skill. In many ways this is potentially the most comprehensive list.
Bows - Bows, Crossbows
Brawling - Improvised weapons
One Handed Edged - Swords, Knives, Axes
One Handed Blunt - Maces, Clubs
Polearm - Halberd, Spetum, Staff
Shield - Facility with a shield - grants an additional +1 if used as skill for an all out defense
Thrown - Knife, Shuriken
Two Handed - Two-Handed Sword, Greataxe
Unarmed Combat - Boxing, Wrestling, Martial arts
Option 2: Style Based Combat Skills
This list is based off fighting styles, with the reasoning that a sword and shield fighter is not much different from a mace and shield fighter, practically speaking.
Archery - Bows and crossbows
Fencing - Fighting with light blades, knives, possibly cloaks and canes
Haft Weapon - Any weapon with a long haft, such as a spear, staff or polearm.
Improvisational - Fighting with whatever happens to be on hand.
Mounted - Fighting from horseback.
Single Weapon - Fighting with a weapon in one hand and nothing in particular in the other.
Thrown - Throwing things.
Two Handed - Non-hafted weapons large and heavy enough to require two hands.
Two Weapon - A Weapon in each hand. Other than looking cool, the main advantage of this style is the difficulty in disarming it.
Unarmed - Fighting unarmed, be it bare knuckle brawling or some manner of martial art.
Weapon and Shield - A one handed weapon in one hand, a shield in the other.
As an example, under this model, a character with archery at Good would be Good with any bow or crossbow he picked up.
Option 3: Thematic Combat Skills
This list is divided along more stylistic lines, with each skill representing a group of weapons of combat styles joined by their thematic elements rather than any real tactical similarity.
Archer - Bows and daggers
Brawler - Improvised weapons and unarmed attacks.
Cavalry - Mounted use of swords and bows.
Cutthroat - Knives, saps, garrotes.
Duelist - Use of fencing weapons
Footman - Use of swords, shields and polearms
Knight - Mounted lances and swords, as well as swords afoot.
Martial Artist - Unarmed attacks and weapons like staves or oddly curved blades.
Pirate - Cutlasses and belaying pins.
Ranger - Bows and swords.
There are many more possibilities for skills, but they should be tied to the world in some fashion - for example one school of duelists may have a different skillset than another.
Criminal skills are exactly what they sound like, skills related to crime.
Once again, the specific skills take the general skills and render them appropriate to a particular area or area of expertise. Skills would include things like Streetwise (New York) or Safecracking, Electronic Security Systems, Counterfeiting Money and so on.
Magical skills are probably the most genre dependent skills of them all. Some games will have none at all, some may have only one, and some many have many.Ultimately, what skills are needed for the magic system is determined by the magic rules being used.
Perception skills are important in almost any game, with the distinction being what it is important to notice in the game.
Levels of Perception
The main difference between many perception skills is a matter of when they're applicable. At the broad level, Observation is used to spot things the character is looking for, and Awareness is for things that he's not looking for, like surprises, or things he might happen to notice in a room. The general category breaks that down further. Awareness fills the same role, but Observation has been split into Search and Spot. Spot is used for quick checks, when the character is trying to take in details at a moment's notice. Search is used when the character takes the time to look for something. The specific breakdown is similar, but many specialized tasks (like finding things that have been hidden) have their own skill.
Professional is a catch-all category, which includes most domestic, craft and professional skills, as well as most day to day skills.
Obviously, there are an almost infinite number of specific professional skills. Thankfully, there's rarely any need to figure out what they all are.
Social skills govern human (and non-human) interaction.
Survival skills are generally outdoors skills, though there are a few exceptions.
If a game revolves around courtly intrigue and deceit, it's appropriate to have a wide array of social skills, and perhaps only a small set of combat or craft skills. Similarly, a game with a lot of combat should have a decent range of combat skills to chose from.
Planning for a fantasy game, Lydia considers what kind of skill list to put together. She's looking to have a gritty, urban sort of game. Looking over the various categories:
Academic skills aren't going to be terribly important with a few exceptions, so she opts for the broad selection with a few specific additions.
Artistic skills are also not critical, but since the city has its share of artists, and some of the players may be interested in that, she opts for a general list.
She anticipates a lot of running about on rooftops, but it's not so important that it requires a specific list, so she opts for general athletic skills.
Combat will play a fairly major role in the game, but she has no desire to keep track of the minutiae of a specific system, so she wants a general option. Since she likes the general style of the thematic groupings, so she opts for:
Maybe others, if someone has a particular concept.
Criminal skills are also central enough to merit the general list, but not so critical to require specifics.
Magic has already been decided, as Lydia has opted to use Pyromancy (see "The Great Lighthouse")so there's only one skill:
Perception skills are actually going to be critical, so Lydia opts for the specific list. However, she doesn't like Locate Hidden or Surveillance, so knocks them off the list.
Professional skills aren't going to matter that much, so she goes for the Broad list. However, she likes the rope use skill for various grappling hooks and piracy activities, and sailing is going to be common so she adds them to the list.
Social Skills are going to be similarly important, so she opts for the specific list.
Survival skills just aren't going to matter much in an urban game. However, the scrounge skill is a great street urchin skill, so she tosses that in.
Sometimes you need a detailed character on the fly and don't want to mess with the headache of tracking the pyramid. In those situations, the following guidelines may come in handy. These examples represent pyramids optimized to get high skill levels as quickly as possible.
|1||2 Average, 1 Fair|
|2||4 Average, 2 Fair|
|3||5 Average, 2 Fair, 1 Good|
|4||4 Average, 3 Fair, 2 Good|
|5||4 Average, 3 Fair, 2 Good, 1 Great|
|6||6 Average, 4 Fair, 2 Good, 1 Great|
|7||7 Average,4 Fair, 3 Good, 1 Great|
|8||7 Average, 4 Fair, 3 Good, 2 Great|
|9||6 Average, 4 Fair, 3 Good, 2 Great, 1 Superb|
|10||8 Average, 5 Fair, 3 Good, 2 Great, 1 Superb|
|11||7 Average, 6 Fair, 4 Good, 2 Great, 1 Superb|
|12||7 Average 6 Fair, 4 Good, 3 Great, 1 Superb|
|13||8 Average, 5 Fair, 4 Good, 3 Great, 2 Superb|
|14||7 Average, 6 Fair, 5 Good, 3 Great, 2 Superb|
|15||8 Average, 6 Fair, 4 Good, 3 Great, 2 Superb, 1 Epic|