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Basic Game Mechanics: Handling Skills
Published by Dragavan on 2006/10/12 (6908 reads)
Basic Game Mechanics
The LoK System is a skill-based system, so most of the system is devoted to skills. Some skills are so vast they actually encompass an entire group of skills that all work together. Some larger groups of skills even have their own sets of rules and explanations, taking up entire sections of their own. Magic and Combat are the main examples of these included with the Basic Version of the rules. Basic skill use and learning rules are explained in this section and a little in the skill list section.
Skills are the backbone of this system and they represent the things the characters have learned to do, trained in, and are able to perform at some decent level. Usually skills fall into groups that symbolize the chosen profession(s) or career(s) the character has taken in life and possibly some hobbies they have as well.
There is no limit to the number of skills a character can learn over their lifetime, but the skills themselves do have limits. Each skill has a maximum level (listed on the skill list) and no character can ever naturally exceed these maximums. Magic and other supernatural means can push them higher.
This section deals with most aspects of skills, from how they are used to how they are learned. For the complete list of all basic skills and descriptions of them, see the Skills sections. More skills are added in other sections (like Magic), but these are special areas of study.
When a character wants to attempt to do something that involves using one of the skills they either have or can perform they have to follow certain basic rules. Basically, this means they try and do something they know how to do (or at least know about). This doesn’t mean they automatically succeed in that attempt.
How skills are used depends on the type of skill being used and the situation they are used in. Quite often, these attempts are affected by some modifiers or other effects. This makes them either more or less difficult to perform.
Types of Skills
Most skills fall into one of three types of skills: Basic Percentage skills, Combat skills, and Specialized skills. Some of these also have Skill Bonus or Sub-skill parts, but these are not exactly skills of their own.
Basic Percentage Skills
Basic Percentage skills are the majority of the skills in the game. They are always based on a percentage chance, where you want to roll as low as possible to succeed. All attempts are made using percentile dice against the characters current skill level (with any modifiers figured in). A roll equal to or under the modified skill level is a success and a roll over it is a failure.
No basic Percentage skill attempt can ever go above 95% or below 5%, even with modifiers figured in. If the character's current level or attempt total with modifiers is above 95% it has to be dropped to 95% for the attempt. If it is below 5%, it has to be raised to 5%. This means a roll of 1-5 is always a success and a roll of 96-100 is always a failure.
Combat skills are actually the most common kind of Specialized skills but they are large enough to deserve a description of their own. They are mostly non-percentage skills used during combat that help in the actions of combat one way or another. Most of these are special actions you take or they give bonuses to actions you already have or can take. Combat skills that require a roll usually use a D20, as with the rest of combat.
See the combat section for full details on how to use combat skills in combat.
There are a few skills that either don’t have percentages or are used in very special ways. How to use these specialized skills is explained in the sections dealing with what they do. General ones are explained in the Skill Description section, Magic based ones are explained in the Magic section, etc.
Common Knowledge Within A Skill
There are many skills that once you have learned the basics and have a good grasp on them you no longer even need to think about it to perform it in simple or common situations. If what they are attempting to do with the skill is more difficult (as decided by the GM), they will have to roll. This is most common with languages, knowledge based skills, and simple physical activities, but not limited to them. What exactly falls into this depends on the GM’s and the situation.
For example: A character who can speak Dwarven fairly well doesn’t need to think about what “Hi” means or to order a beer at the local pub. They only need to think about it if they are trying to say or understand something more complex, like an legal document.
When a character has one of these skills at 50% or more they don’t need to roll to do something common with that skill, but the trade off is that they don’t get a chance to learn from it if they don't roll. What exactly is considered a common or easy thing is left up to the GM and the situation. Other percentages can be used if the GM sees fit, like 25% if it’s extremely easy or 75% for less common but not impossible ones, but only the 50% level is standard for the system.
For example: A character with Horse Riding at 55% knows how to do the basics, so they can ride a horse fine without rolling. However, if the horse bucks, jumps, or they try and ride fast or do some other stunt they do need to roll if they can pull it off and not fall off the horse.
Since almost no skill attempt is ever average, under average conditions, and by an average person, a modifier of some kind can affect almost skill attempts. Some modifiers are due to the difficulty of the type of skill being performed. Some modifiers are due to the difficulty of the situation the skill is being performed in. And others can be for almost any reason the GM deems needed.
The most common type of skill modifier is the difficulty level of the skill being attempted. Just because a character has a skill doesn’t mean that all attempts of that skill are equal. Sometimes they are attempting to use that skill to perform something much easier or harder than normal. This is most common with information-based skills (like all the Lore skills), where the information they looking for is more or less common knowledge. Some other common types of skill modifiers are based on the situation the skill is being performed in and the state of mind of the person performing it. All of these are always up to the GM to decide and are often not even told to the player.
These modifiers affect the skill numbers themselves, not the roll. They increase or decrease the skill number itself before the roll is even made. Quite often (since the world is never simple) these modifiers are combined and stacked onto one skill attempt. All skill modifiers to one skill attempt are cumulative and combine to make the final attempt (even if some increase and some decrease).
Sometimes the GM will tell the player what all their modifiers come to and lets them roll against the modified skill, but this is not always the norm. Quite often the GM will simply have the player roll the skill as normal and have them tell the GM how much they succeeded or failed by. The GM will then figure out if they truly succeeded or failed by applying the modifier after the fact and let the story unfold without the player being sure if what their character did was truly a success or not.
For example: Maglosh Ooran has the Cook skill a 60% and is going to make three meals today. Remember, the exact quality of the meal depends on how well he succeeded or failed the attempt by and is not a simple success or failure roll.
For breakfast he wants to make a pot of oatmeal over a well-managed campfire. Since oatmeal is extremely easy to cook, and next to impossible to mess up, the GM gives him a +40% modifier. That would make his modified skill a whopping 100%. Since no attempt can be made above 95% this gives them a 95% chance to make it.
For lunch he wants to make a pot of beef stew quickly in the back of the cart while traveling home. This is a fairly average meal so there is no modifier for difficulty, but since he is traveling in the back of a cart at the time the GM gives him a -10% due to the situation. Also, since he is in a rush the GM puts him at another -10%, for a total modifier of -20%. So he has a 40% chance of making a good meal.
For dinner he wants to make his party a nice Frenal Quiche VooGrandal in the kitchen of his home, taking all the time he needs and following a written recipe. Since the meal is a very difficult one to make (but really tasty when done right) the GM gives him a difficulty modifier of -25%. Since it is being made is a fully equipped kitchen (with all the extras) the GM also gives them a modifier of +10%. Also, since they are taking their time and following a well-written recipe, the GM gives them another +10%. That gives it a total modifier of -5%. So they have a 55% chance to make it good.
Critical Skill Use
Not all successes or failures are the same. Some of them are critical, meaning they are extremely good or bad. With percentage rolls (which is what this section talks about) these are the top and bottom 5% of the range. Combat criticals are explained in the Combat section. Spell casting criticals are explained in the Magic section.
Critical Success (A roll of 1 to 5): This means you did a perfect job for your skill level and everything works far better than expected. With this the skill automatically goes up 1%. This bonus point can not can not cause the skill to go above the character's natural maximum for the skill (found on the skill list). This also can not be traded in for Earned Skill Points, but a normal ESP can be had if the normal criteria is met. See the Improving Skills listing below for more.
Critical Failure (A roll of 96 to 100): This means you couldn't have done a worse job (perhaps even if you tried). Everything failed and you have no idea why, so you have no chance of learning anything from this. You also suffer 2 SP damage. You can not improve the skill from this roll.
Improving Skills and Learning New Ones
Characters grow and advance through improving their old skills and learning new ones. After a character has been created and has their list of skills and abilities, you can still improve them and learn new ones during the game. Old skills can be improved through use or using skill points of some kind and new skills can be learned by spending points. Earned Skill Points (ESP) and Combat Skill Points (CSP) are used for increasing and learning skills in different situations depending on how your GM runs their game.
Increasing Basic Percentage Skills
Almost every time you make a percentage skill roll (depending on the roll) there is a chance the skill can go up. Critical successes and failures are handled differently. To determine if you learned anything from it (and you are allowed to) take your roll you made for the skill and reverse the numbers. This means the die you used for the tens is now the ones and vice versa. For example: If you had rolled a 42 the reversed number would be 24. If this reversed number is Above the unmodified skill number (maximum of 95%) you can do one of the following things:
1. Raise that skill by one point (as long as it doesn’t go above it’s maximum for that character).
2. Gain one Earned Skill Point (this is only available as a choice if the skill is at least at 75% and the GM allows it). These are used to learn new skills, in games where the GM uses this form of learning.
3. Gain some other bonus for the type of skill (if it was a special case), which would be explained in other sections or by the GM.
Increasing Combat Skills
Every time you are directly involved in a hand to hand or weapon combat situation you have a 25% chance of gaining a Combat Skill Point (CSP) per melee round (10 seconds) of combat. Each combat round is rolled for separately but multiple attacks in one combat round (even if they are against multiple targets) only gets you one roll.
Using magic to aid a battle does not count as being directly involved, but ranged weapons like bows do. If magic is used but they also get directly involved they will get a roll. Blocking or dodging does give the character a roll even though they never struck out against their opponent, since they were directly involved. Basically, any time a combat skill is used.
For example: Attempting to hit or defend against an opponent in close combat gains a roll for that battle, but firing a fireball into the battle does not.
Also, as a bonus, any time a natural critical is rolled for a strike or defense roll the character gains one CSP. This only counts for natural criticals, not ones gained through bonuses or secondary means. Only natural rolls of 20 on a D20 count as a natural critical.
Spending Combat Skill Points
Combat Skill Points (CSP) can be spent on combat skills with bonuses, to increase these bonuses. Only these bonuses can be purchased with the CSP and only up to the characters maximum. The CSP costs of these bonuses are the same as with character creation (in the Cost column). Earned Skill Points (ESP) can also be used to purchase these increases (or even combined with CSP to purchase them) if the GM allows it in their game.
Learning New Skills
The full rules of the Land of Karn: Fantasy Role-Playing Game includes in-depth rules for how to learn new skills through game play, involving training and even finding teachers to get better skill levels. It allows players to play out every aspect of their characters in interesting way, but also can slow down or interrupt the action at times, so it's not for everyone.
To make this Basic Version much simpler I have only chosen to include the Skill Point version of learning new skills. This method is designed as an option for games with less character story or to fill in long gaps between parts of the story with "off camera" training. This method uses Earned Skill Points (ESP) to represent the difficulty and time needed to train in skills.
Earning Earned Skill Points
As explained above, ESP can be earned by choosing to gain a point instead of increasing the skill (if the skill is high enough already). The GM may also hand out ESP as rewards for good play. These rewards can be given once per session, once per adventure, or even whenever they feel someone deserves it. Both of these methods are the best way to go, since they reward players for doing good and using skills.
A GM may also hand out a number of Earned Skill Points to each character when downtime is encountered, but the amount is up to them. It is usually based on the activity level of the character and how much time they have to train before the next active part of the storyline or the next adventure begins. This is a way to fill in those gaps in time with something that represents activity, even though it's not being played out.
The following are some examples of possible average ESP reward amounts, but any GM may choose their own amounts:
Per deed: 5 ESP
Per session: 25 ESP
Per week of downtime: 25 ESP
Spending Earned Skill Points
Once a character has earned a number of ESP they can spend them to gain new skills. When they are allowed to do this depends on how the GM is handling things. Some allow new skills to be added at any time the character would have a chance to learn it. Some require it to be done during down time. Some even require it to still be played out in game, even though ESP are being used to buy it. Talk to the GM to find out how they are handling it.
Even though ESP are being used, the character still has to follow the rules of prerequisites and skill groups. The skills are then purchased using ESP just as they would be for starting characters using Creation Points. Once purchased, the skills start out at the listed level for starting character with that skill. From that point forward they have the skill and use it however they normally would.
The Land of Karn: Fantasy Role-Playing Game Basic Version 0.3.5
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