Thursday, April 10, 2014

[Eberron] GURPS Wildcard skills Explained.

Wildcard skills allow players to purchase a large collection of skills to the same relative skill level to each other. When using it for what I wanted in my game, I needed to do it in such a way that rewarded creative thinking and allow players a level of customization outside directly purchasing the Wildcard! skill directly. When thinking about this, I thought about Skill Focus and the linear progression of skills in that other game's 4th edition. Below is my conclusion on how to do exactly that.

Due to how vast Combat skills are and how they will likely be a focus on the game, the Wildcard skills that come purchased in any given pool are limited to non-combat skills only. This typically involves skills that influence or require a combat skill to use. Example of combat skills are skills that apply directly to advantages, spells, unarmed strikes, or armed attacks.

Now when designing Professional Wildcard Skills, I decided to divided up each profession into four different types, each with three lenses relative to key aspects in the world.

The four types of professions will include: Combat, Social, Skilled, Studied.

Each type of profession will have a polar opposite: Mystic (Studied) to Sentinel (Combat), Inquisitive (Skilled) to Scion (Social). Each profession type will then be given three lenses each, involving a Martial/Mundane Lens, Divine Lens, and an Arcane Lens.

To qualify for a Profession, a player must have a minimum investment in profession appropriate combat skills and advantages reflective of their professional mastery. Given that all players will be on the same relative "Adventurer" profession with identical incomes, players may obtain additional/limited income in the form of independent income, laziness, charity, and patrons so as to represent how the players spend their contracted rewards. Due to this fact, Income can not be purchased/penalized directly as dictated by Wealth and Influence found on B25 of GURPS Characters.

Given that adventurers in this world exist outside normal economy, and need different rules for such. I will do a spotlight on how I intend to implement this bit during character progression, though one can assume reputation and reaction roles will play a fairly big role here. Making those of the Scion persuasion pretty crucial when obtaining resources for their respective adventuring parties.

Every character will have their role, even the cook!

Profession! Skills

Core Skill + Savoir-Faire (Instituded Association) + 13-15 Supplemental skills + Area Knowledge (Area of origin and starting area). Typically speaking, every profession will have between 6-8 skills shared with others of their type, and another 6-8 skills shared with their focus. Common and one additional Language (Humans get to chose from any other secondary language as a ratial feature).
Cultural Familiarity with chracter's Origin and Starting local. Game Masters are of course open to change the "pool" of wildcard skills as it relates to any given character's background and campaign setting.

Example of a Martial Sentinel

Required Advantages: Combat Reflexes [15], Weapon Mastery (One set of paired weapons) [25]
Savoir-Faire Skill: Choice of Military Institution.
Profesional Skills: Animal Handling, Armoury (Body Armour), Climbing, First-Aide, Forced Entry, Heraldry, Intimidation, Leadership, Riding, Soldier*, Strategy, Tactics.
Area Knowledge Specialties: Area of Campaign, Area of Origin

Example of Arcane Sentinel

Required Advantages: Combat Reflexes [15], Fit [5], Weapon Mastery (One specific one handed weapon) [20]
Savoir-Faire Skill: Choice of Thaumatological Institution.
Professional Skills: Alchemy, Climbing, Flight, Hidden Lore (Any), Literature, Research, Speed-Reading, Study, Swimming, Symbol Drawing, Riding, Thaumatology*, Writing.
Area Knowledge Specialties: Area of Campaign, Area of Origin

Example of Divine Sentinel

Required Advantages: Combat Reflexes [15], Higher Purpose [5], Weapon Mastery (one specific two handed weapon) [20]
Savoir-Faire Skill: Choice of High Society or Religious Institution. 
Professional Skills: Animal Handling, Armoury (Body Armour), Detect Lies, Diplomacy, First-Aide, Heraldry, Physician, Religious Ritual, Riding, Theology*.
Area Knowledge Specialties: Area of Campaign, Area of Origin

Skills listed in italics and with an asterisk dictate the profession's core skill.

Advancement and Customization

Players may purchase additional ranks in any give Wildcard skill at 4/level. Additionaly, any player may spend a maximum in any skill of twice their PL! relative skill level + 2.

For example, a PL! 2 Sentinel would start with all skills in the pool at their base attribute +2 relative skill, and could increase it through skill focus to a relative skill of +6 for a max of 16 additonal points. The 16 points are derived from a product of 4 points for every +1 relative skill beyond the base PL!'s relative skill (in this case +2).

Please note that given the prominent use of relative skill, it is fairly ideal for skill to favor over ability score advancement, though the Game Master's insight and preference is always king here. Regardless of choice when deciding to break ties relative skill will always rein supreme.

Players may also invest into combat skills as well to this same cap, though since the Wildcard skill does not pay for them, they are charged the normal rate for purchasing skills based on Easy/Average/Hard/and Very Hard skills. Though in such a case, they need only keep the relative skill cap in mind when determining limitations. Since the PL! is intended to be capped around PL! 4, we can assume a maximum relative skill cap of +10, which honestly isn't that bad at all (GURPS as a default rule suggests no more than a total skill of 24 with 32 being legendary!).

Though, honestly, changing this to simply saying Relative Skill can not exceed three times the PL! seems a bit more reasonable and less math heavy. Using that instead also plays into the Rule of Three that seems to be propping up a lot. This would make relative skill cap out at around +12. Not too bad!

As I delve more into the details of combat, relative skill, and spells, I can easily utilize the Wildcard skill in place of a Talent for purposes of Magery and Divine Investment. For purposes of a relative conversion, players and game masters alike can assume that each Profession! Level is equal to around 5 levels in that other game. GURPS is great for being generic, though given that the scale is drastically different in regards to mechanics (with that other game doing great for chasing the proverbial carrot on a stick) this 1-4 "level" advancement may seem small but the impacts are fairly significant.

Overcoming option Paralysis in GURPS is serious stuff. But every source book is golden!

Challenges and Final Thoughts

I do suspect that I need to look into the "maximum" I want to have each character to have point wise before I start thinking about rewarding increases in Profession! Levels. Add in the fact that PL! is supposed to represent the player's Deeds, I may simply use it as a motivator and allow players to spend as they see fit and see where it takes me. GURPS is a great sandbox system, and although I want to emulate the feel of Eberron, it by no means needs to be exact mechanic for mechanic.

When choosing a profession, each professional template and associated lens will come with minimum Attribute scores and suggested skills and advantages to help further provide players with inspiration as to how to advance their character. Given the Cinematic level of the game, there will be no requirement for study/advancement in attribute scores, advantages, and skills. Additionally, due to the death spiral often derived from GURPS, I may do away entirely with Shock in combat, or simply replace the Basic Speed and Move penalty at 1/3rd of health with shock instead. There are a lot of things to consider, though at this point I feel I am making some good progress.

For all those Dungeon Fantasy adventurers, I am always curious to hear what elements do you enjoy the most and draw you in? GURPS is great for the potential risk of death, though many if not all games I have played revolve around extremely high point level characters. Additionally, since I'll be starting off with relatively "beginning" adventurers who's level will likely be in the 250 point range, has skill and attribute caps really limited/enhanced your game at all?

For those following along, thanks again for all the great support and input. As I continue my development, I'll be looking into Magic, Martial Combat, and how Divine Purpose fits into the mix.