Thursday, September 29, 2011

Refitting Star Wars d6 - Skills Part 2

For the earlier parts click here and then here.

Perception Skills

Bargain - I'd rather make it a specialization of either Businness or Persuasion. To keep it under Perception it would have to be a Persuasion spec. Let's do that.

Command - We will probably be thinking up new uses for it later, but is this really a Perception skill?

Con - seems a lot like Persuasion so let's make it a specializrtion

Forgery - it's pretty narrow for a Star Wars campaign but let's leave it for now

Gambling - sure

Hide - folded into Stealth below, gone

Investigation - Didn't we have Law Enforcement up there earlier? Oh well, let's leave it in just in case Space-Batman wants to play.

Persuasion - add Con, Bargain, and Intimidation as specializations, otherwise leave as-is

Search - Another skill that feels more D&D than SW to me but we do need something to oppose Sneak. This does seem like the default use for a stat named "Perception" though

Sneak - roll up all aspects of hiding, silent,  and hidden movement into this one skill

I'm also moving "Intimidation" here as a specialization of Persuasion. Even if you have a 2D Perception, throw 1 of your 7D for skills into it and all of a sudden you have 5D of Intimiadtion. That should get you off to a pretty good start.

Strength skills

Brawling - this is now the Strength-based unarmed combat skill and is used for both offense and defense

Climbing/Jumping - Incorporated into a new "Athletics" skill

Lifting - rolled into "Atheltics"

Stamina - fine as-is.

Swimming - rolled into "Atheltics"

New skill: Athletics - specializations include Climbing, Jumping, Lifting, Swimming

Why do this? Well, because of the hierarchy of how things work in D6. Abilities cover the broadest areas of expertise as they are the automatic default for all of the skills they cover (a nice change from most systems where there is a penalty for defaulting to a stat) but they are the most expensive thing to improve on a character. Skills allow a character to improve in a broad area under one ability and are easier to improve. Specializations allow a character to bump up a fairly narrow area of expertise but are the easiest thing to improve.When you move something from a skill to a specialization you are making it easier to stand out in that particular area of expertise. Characters begin (when they use a template) with pre-set Abilities and 7 dice to spend on skills. Thaqt basically means that they can pick no more than 7 areas to be "good" in. They can trade 1D of skills for 3D of Specializations though so by making some things Specializations we actually make them more likely to be take by characters because they cost less. With this change if I want to make a character who is really strong (but not necceassarily a better climber/jumper/swimmer/brawler) I can put a couple of dice into the "Lifting" specialization and have another 1D left to spend on another Specialization somewhere else and still have 6D to spend on Skills, whereas before I would have to burn 2D on Lifting and have only 5D left for other choices.

A lot of this is up to personal preference and should be driven by what you want to emphasize in your game. I think most of the Strength skills are not all that useful in a Star Wars campaign compared to say "Blaster", "Dodge", and "First Aid" but they do add some flavor to a character so I'm lowering the cost to encourage players to still take a die or two in them if they feel like it should be part of their character. I have a similar take on my changes to Ground Vehicle Operation. The vast majority of vehicles we see in the Star Wars movies are repulsorlift craft and that's where most of the emphasis should be. By folding Wheeled, Tracked, Hover, and Walker into GVO as specializations it means a character doesn't have to spend those valuable skill points on just one narrowly focused skill that's unlikely to come up much. Instead, a character with even a 2D Mechanical can throw 1D into this and be competent at all of these less common types, and then throw 1D of specialization into Walkers and you have a good walker pilot who can also drive the sandcrawler you picked up and one of those funky wheeled things like Greivous has in ROTS.

I really think that many of the non-combat skills should be bumped down to specializations because if you don't a lot of players will focus on those combat skills and end up defaulting to the non-combat stuff. By making these skills cheaper it's more likely they will be taken. We can also help in this area by combining things like offenses and defenses into one skill, meaning that those concerned about combat have one less skill that they "must" buy. That's 1D of skills that might just get spent on something interesting.

Moving on:

Technical Skills

Armor Repair - fine

Blaster Repair - fine

Capital Starship Repair - fine, we can keep repair skills for ships split as we did with piloting and gunnery etc.

Capital Starship Weapon Repair - fine

Computer Programming/Repair - lose the repair part, split it into a spearate Computer Repair skill - everything else is split, there's no reason this should be unique

Demolition - fine

Droid Programming - I'm OK with this being separate

Droid Repair - fine

First Aid - see below

Ground Vehicle Repair - covers same vehicles as GVO skill

Hover Vehicle Repair - rolled into GV repair

Medicine - see below

Repulsorlift Repair - fine as-is

Security - fine as-is

Space Transports Repair - rolled into "Starship Repair"

Starfighter Repair - rolled into "Starship Repair"

Starship Weapon Repair - sure

Walker Repair - rolled into GV repair

Alright there's a lot here and it's very tempting to roll everything into one giant "repair" skill and make all of those former skills into specializations. I don;t weant to do that because I think that makes it too easy. Instead I'm trying to stay consistent with the operational skills and have a comparable repair skill for each piloting type skill.That's why I'm keeping Droid and Computer stuff separate too - make a character pick one, or pick both at the expense of something else if they really want to be the programming guru. I see computers as concerning the type of things installed on ships and vehicles and bases while droid skills deal only with droids. They are different enough that I think making them separate makes sense in-universe and makes it more interesting.

The biggest change here  is First Aid/Medicine. The rules have First Aid as a regular skill that can only do limited things and to get better you have to take the "Advanced" skill of Medicine. Advanced means that it costs double. It also has a prerequisitie in that you must have X number of dice in First Aid to be able to take it. This is incredibly stupid and prety much the opposite of what I would call good design nowadays. One, it forces someone who wants to have decent medical skill to spend an incredible number of skill dice in it, more than any other area of focus, ensuring that A) they can't do much else and so reinforcing the Dedicated Healer curse we saw in D&D and B) MAKING IT HARDER TO KEEP CHARACTERS ALIVE! How stupid is this? Let's make players jump through a bunch of ridiculous hoops and be one-trick ponies if they want to be able to help severely injured PC's! Hye while we're at it why don't we just put in a level system while we're at it and give them Raise Dead at 9th level like a Cleric! This is a system where theoretically no player had to be a heal-bot but then for some reason they decided to add in a bunch of special rules and complications to make that extremely difficult. In a game where one bad roll can take you from "Fine" to "Dying" it seems to me that characters are going to want to be able to help each other the most when things are the most severe and that's where the Medicine skill should come in - but it won't, because no one is going to take it when it costs them a bunch of  other things. A player could put 1D into Piloting, Gunnery, and Repair for any type of ship for the same price as 1D First Aid and 1D Medicine.

So here's how we fix it: Medicine is a normal Technical Skill now. First Aid is a specializtion of Medicine and can do all of the things it can do now for any species in the game . Other specializations would be used for particular species like "human" or "wookie" and most planet-bound medics would have at least one species specializtion as I would guess that the wookie doctor on a Kashyyk sees 90% wookie patients. So now even a character with 2D in Technical could spend 1D on the skill and get 3D in Medicine, then spend 1D on specializations to get  +2D First Aid (5D) and +1D Human (so 4D when operating n Humans) and could easily represent basic combat medic or paramedic training on an otherwise non-technical character. Look, they are a fairly competent medic and still have 5D to spend on Blaster, Dodge, Martial Arts, Sneak, and Search.

Finally, let's talk about the Force. I love the three skill structure in place and think it's pretty much fine as-is. What I don't like is the overly expensive entry similar to what we saw with Medicine. Yes, I know Jedi are overpowered in some ways but let's remember that much of the story of Star Wars is about the Jedi! They aren't some interesting side-track like the Techno-Mages in Babylon 5 - they are the stars of the show! The more recent three movies and the Clone Wars stuff is full of Jedi - force-pushing, mind-tricking, saber-swinging Jedi! They do a ton of cool stuff and kick a lot of ace and players are going to want to play them and they should be allowed and encouraged to do so! Starting them out at a Padawan level of power is fine - most of the templates in Star Wars seem to be placed at a fairly beginner level for their profession anyway - but they shouldn't be gimped right out of the gate by having to give up attribute points for each force skill. Instead, we're going to say that being force-sensitive costs 1 attribute die and allows the character to buy Control, Sense, and Alter at the same cost as any other skill. They do begin at 0D, so putitng 2D into each one means that you start with only 1D left for other skills (Lightsaber!) but it's at least possible to start as something other than Wannabe-Jedi or Drunken-Jedi with partial training and delusions or guilt. I'll work up an Unfrozen Jedi Squire template and post it up this week. Otherwise I would say pick any existing template, knock off 1D of Attributes to make it "Jedi" and then go for it! I can see Brash Pilot working pretty well, among others.

A word on character balance and the Jedi: Not everyone wants to play a Jedi and they sometimes get jealous that the Jedi can do things that their more mundane character cannot. They may bring up "game balance" or "spotlight hogging". As far as balance goes, well, not all skills are equally useful. Compare Repulsorlift Operation to Ground Vehicle Operation - guess which one is going to come up more in most campaigns? Someone who puts dice into GVO instaed of RPO is deliberately making a mechanically suboptimal choice. They probably have good reasons for it, and I would not laugh at them for doing it, but they don't get to cry about balance later. The same goes for force skills - 4D of Control lets you do some pretty cool things, lots more than 4D of Business. However, if those Jedi are putting all those dice into the force skills they are probably not all that great at other things - so take those things! Medicine! Starship piloting! Blaster! (8D in Blaster lets you perform some pretty serious miracles of your own and from a safe distance). Han Solo would fit right in next to the young Obi-Wan from AOTC or ROTS! Make your character into something that you find interesting and that can contribute to the team and the spotlight hogging will be minimal and the game should run very well.

Alright, so we've sorted out Skills with an eye towards making them broader and more useful while keeping some backwards compatibility. Tomorrow, I will wrap up by throwing out a different approach that some people may like even better.

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