Neithernor: RPG - Skills

Originally published at: https://ackerlygreen.com/2020/06/18/neithernor-rpg-skills/

We discussed Aspects in the last NN:RPG post and we’ll circle back to them and how they’ll work in our game later, but today I want to focus on Skills, which is the next step in creating a character after Aspects and share what Mike and I have been working on to make them fit into the Briarverse.

First, here’s a list of the default Fate Core skills:

  • Athletics
  • Burglary
  • Contacts
  • Crafts
  • Deceive
  • Drive
  • Empathy
  • Fight
  • Investigate
  • Lore
  • Notice
  • Physique
  • Provoke
  • Rapport
  • Resources
  • Shoot
  • Stealth
  • Will

Most of those work great for an RPG set in the Briarverse, but a few don’t. Drive, for example, isn’t really something I imagine getting used too much, and I thought there could be a better, more encompassing skill that Drive could fall under.

Likewise for skills like Burglary, Provoke, and Shoot. Mike and I spent a week adding, changing, and removing skills, until we had about 24 skills.

But the more we thought about it, the more we realized 18 skills felt right, balance-wise, and 18 is also a significant number in the Briarverse.

So, we took on the challenge of molding the existing 18 skills to better fit the Briarverse by tweaking, removing, and combining a few to give us room for new ones. Here’s what we did:

  • We removed Resources because the focus on that skill was the accumulation and management of monetary wealth, which doesn’t really feel critical in the Briarverse, especially since it takes place in “our world.”
  • In place of Resources, we added Academics. We felt that Lore would be more Arcane history and knowledge, whereas Academics would be the mundane equivalent.
  • We merged Fight and Shoot (Melee and Ranged Combat) into Fight
  • In place of Shoot, we added Wit. Since we have two “Intelligence” skills in Lore and Academics, we felt it was essential to have a skill dedicated to “Wisdom” to cover quick-thinking, insight, and improvisation.
  • Burglary became Sleight (to encompass all Sleight of Hand skills like repairing, lock picking, hacking, prestidigitation, etc.) 
  • Contacts became Connections to include research and databases, both mundane and magimystic (and because we like the word Connections more.)
  • Deceive became Influence to cover all kinds of manipulation, benign and malevolent, mundane and magical, and to cover some interesting guild-bearing concepts we will be revealing very soon!
  • Provoke became Incite because Provoke, even in the Fate Core handbook, is considered “the jerk skill,” and we wanted it to be broader and more encompassing. It’s the one we’re still not 100% sold on because Incite can also sound pretty negative. We are still working on finding a word that can be more neutral and cover the positive and negative. A term that could encompass both Incite and Inspire.
  • Drive was replaced with Survival, which could include “street smarts,” evasion and escapes, or even foraging.
  • Physique became Might because… I like the word Might more, and Might doesn’t focus as much on the body as it does the concept of physical strength.

So the final(ish) Neithernor RPG skill list is:

  • Academics
  • Athletics
  • Connections
  • Craft
  • Empathy
  • Fight
  • Incite
  • Influence 
  • Investigate
  • Lore
  • Might
  • Notice
  • Rapport
  • Sleight
  • Stealth
  • Survival
  • Will
  • Wit

Now here’s where things get pretty exciting… 

Guild-Augmented Skills:

Guild-Augmented Skills are the first custom mechanic that we’re adding to Fate Core to build the Neithernor RPG:

In traditional Fate Core, you would choose 10 skills at character creation to fill your “skill pyramid.” You’d pick one skill that you’re great at (and would receive a +4 on a skill roll), two that you’re good at (+3), three that you’re fair at (+2), and four that you’re average at (+1).

We’ve kept that mechanic completely intact, but I wanted to show how your character’s chosen guild affects your life in mundane and magical ways.

In the NN:RPG you will also choose two skills from the skills you selected to “augment.”  These augmented skills will not only provide you with whatever default bonus comes with their place in your pyramid, but they will also allow you to roll twice for a skill check with that skill, once per session.

We’re not sure if an augmented skill will just be a re-roll of a lousy roll outcome or if you would say that you’re rolling twice and taking the better result on a critical roll before you actually roll, (thoughts?) but we think it adds exciting flavor and a cool guild-related mechanic to character creation.

Now, you may be asking, how will you choose augmented skills based on your chosen guild? 

Well, we’ve broken the skills down into six sets of six clusters, with each guild getting a unique collection of skills that you can choose to augment!

Here, this might make it easier to understand (and if you’re confused about how we chose skills for each guild, stay tuned!)

Weatherwatch: Athletics, Rapport, Sleight, Stealth, Survival, Wit
Gossmere: Connections, Craft, Empathy, Lore, Rapport, Sleight
Flinterforge: Academics, Craft, Fight, Investigate, Might, Wit
Ebenguard: Athletics, Fight, Incite, Influence, Might, Notice
Thornmouth: Academics, Connections, Investigate, Lore, Notice, Will
Balimora: Empathy, Incite, Influence, Stealth, Survival, Will

You can choose any of the 18 skills for your character, no matter what guild you are, but any skill you choose that falls under the guild’s list above can also be augmented by your guild affinity. 

After choosing your character’s guild affiliation, you can choose skills from your guild’s list of potential augments to boost two skills in your pyramid! We’re also toying with ideas to “level” these augmented skills and to add additional mechanics to them, but for now, they allow you to better ensure a successful roll once per game session.

You can augment your most powerful skill, boost skills you’re good at with an augment to better round your skillset or add a “Hail Mary” extra roll to an average skill at the bottom of your pyramid. The choice is yours, and we think it helps to make more interesting characters and even more interesting connections to your chosen guild!

Now, back to how we chose the skills for each guild…

Some of the slightly confusing ones (Sleight for Gossmere? Stealth for Weatherwatch? Fight for Flinterforge?) will make sense when we get into what we’re doing with guild-bearings, but a lot of the decision-making behind the choices came down to…

Archetypes:

A big challenge for us was how to not only make this an entertaining game for those well-versed in the world of Ackerly Green, but also have it make sense to those who know nothing about the books, or are being introduced to it by existing Mountaineers, which we think will often be the case…

So, I spent some time boiling the guilds down into essential archetypes that will help newbies understand what each guild represents, and will help us better define what each guild is good at in the game so that there’s a balance among them. 

These archetypes don’t serve an in-game mechanic, but they help distill each guild’s “high concept.”

Weatherwatch is the Explorer
Gossmere is the Caretaker
Flinterforge is the Creator
Ebenguard is the Champion
Thornmouth is the Scholar
Balimora is the Empath

Let’s take Weatherwatch’s Explorer archetype as an example and explain why we chose Athletics, Rapport, Sleight, Stealth, Survival, and Wit as their skill sets.

Some iconic Weatherwatchers might be Indiana Jones, Jack Sparrow, Captain Picard, Lara Croft, or even Doctor Who. Some are more Athletic and Sleight of hand like Lara and Indy (who also use Stealth to avoid triggering traps, alerting enemies, or disturbing isolated civilizations), and some have great Rapport and Wit (though they use them in different ways) like Picard, Sparrow, or the Doctor. Yes, these characters could also have skills like Academics, Lore, or Connections, but what makes them quintessentially Weatherwatch is their innate sense of experience, adventure, and discovery. In building a Weatherwatcher, those should be important to your character too (and should probably appear somewhere in your Aspects!)

Next week, I’ll offer more clarity on why we chose these augmented skills for each guild when we get into our work on guild bearings, and we’ll be asking for some serious help with those, but until then, I would love your thoughts on our custom skill list, our new augmented skills mechanic, and how we might use augmented skills in-game and for leveling up as your characters grow!

15 Likes

What about “Oratory” or “Rhetoric”? I don’t know if those are too overlap-y with “Influence” though. (If you’re looking for suggestions, that is).

I think the augmented skill mechanic is really cool and illustrative of the “me-but-magic” concept of Briarverse characters in our world - bringing a sense of heroics into the mundane.

10 Likes

Invoke or Elicit might be options, too. Cite or appeal to, or to draw out a response.

12 Likes

“Invoke” had a more magimystic connotation. I don’t know if that’s what you’re looking for with this skill in particular.

12 Likes

Evoke might do the trick.

11 Likes

Provoke/ incite both feel like manipulation skills, would they not really fall under influence?

4 Likes

Influence (which replaced Deceive) is used predominantly for non-combat manipulation, Provoke (which we’re trying to find the right word for its replacement) is used predominately for combat-oriented “Fight or flight,” to either force an opponent to hit first, inspire an army to charge, or challenge an enemy to run. I think Evoke might be a good catch all for that.

7 Likes

Possibly me asking stupid question, but why is that separate from influence which you said covers all mundane and magi mystic manipulation?

Would influence only work 1-1 and incite work 1-many?

Sorry I haven’t played RPGs before, or at least not enough to do more than a skim of the rules and wing it. I think I must be missing something as I can’t see the difference between influence and incite

6 Likes

Not a stupid question! Influence is trickery and deception. How well you can get away with a lie or a disguise, or affect someone’s mind with magic or suggestion.

Evoke is not deceptive. It is a verbal or physical act to provoke action, either fight, flight, or rallying in battle. An Ebenguard Shoalwarden may give a rousing speech to his coven to spur them on against a formidable enemy, but it would be inspiring, not deceptive.

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Thank you for explaining. It makes more sense now and I can see how they’re different :hermanthumbs:

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I REALLY appreciate you asking! Especially when we’re designing new bits, it’s good to ask these kinds of questions and really pry open our design. :cjheart:

9 Likes

I was also thinking “Stir Up.” (“Arouse” might give people the wrong idea.)

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