Thursday, April 03, 2014

[Eberron] Taking GURPS Over 9000: Wildcard Skills

One of the biggest complaints I ever had with GURPS was it's focus on realism. Anybody could take 50 points of their character, and make a very realistic character that would fit perfectly into a Horror story. Having played a taxi driver who had to survive in a haunted realm of magical zombies, I can attest to this realism.

Though when it comes to Heroic Fantasy and similar Genre's popular with dungeon fantasy, realism tends to take the back seat in favor of pulp action and high budget special effects. The question I asked myself, was it possible? Thankfully, despite the focus on realism (as detailed in GURPS Basic: Campaigns: page 488, also referenced as B488) GURPS can handle cinematic very well. And today I will share with you one piece of that: Wildcard Skills!

The Flavor of Eberron made even the most mundane enjoyable.

Class and Professions

Over the course of the last week and a half, I have been doing research on what it would take to really make my "Professions" stand out. Professions in the world of Eberron are fairly important, and when it came down to the Dragonmarked Society, everyone had their role and relative income. Magic was power, Dragonmarked (and the spell-like abilities) were more so. As such, a "class" in the traditional sense was more than just a Warrior, Rogue, and Wizard. They were Soldiers hired to defend against neighboring nations, Inquisitives intended to find Truth, and Scholars dedicated to the research of the Draconic Prophecy.

Every class had their place, and they were exceptionally good at them. So good in fact that one would say they had a talent for such things. So the first thing that came to my mind was simply giving every character a Talent that came with it an inherent reputation bonus. Though upon researching Talents more, I found out rather quickly how gimmicky such a thing was. Balance soon became a problem, and it went even further to see that people couldn't seem to justify using Talent with combat skills (which was forbidden in the Basic Set) but supplements came out that said one could do that, but only in situations that seemed to contradict other authors.

Generic and Universal, this RPS has more than I had ever realized.

Wildcard Alert!

Though one thing stood out to me. On page B175, there was a sidebar that jumped out to me due to the fact that it almost took up the entire page and had the word "cinematic" listed within at least 4 times. Closer examination proved enlightening as it worked almost exactly like a Talent, but in a way that proved that GURPS could indeed be very similar to Dungeons and Dragons.

Wildcard Skills are typically a themed collection of skills that are purchased together in bulk to be at the same level regardless of how easy or hard the skill is. The skill is bought as if at Very Hard difficulty, and then the point cost is multiplied by three. Like Talent, it does affect a large collection of skills, but unlike Talent Status and Increase Learned speed are not included. Where it is nice, is that like Dungeons and Dragons, for the skills of the "class" or in this case profession, they all start that the same level.

That means as long as you have a profession, there are a number of skills to which there are no default and are instead taken with one's professional skill! Given that, I could then allow players to buy up single skills in such a way that would reflect feats like "Skill Focus" and themed coupled skills at the normal cost of 4/level, and as I walk my players through my campaign I could reward them with another increase of their Wildcard Skill.

Wildcard Design

The way to build this Wildcard skill? Easy enough, I can use Bruce Grubb's wonderful conversion notes and any standard Dungeons and Dragons SRD, convert them into a pool of 13-15 skills, and as part of a character background include Savoir-Faire (Chosen Association), Area Knowledge (For their origin and local area).

Taking it a step further, I can allow the relative skill bonus to reflect a character's level, and associated limitations I want to impose using that same number. As players increase in level, their class skills increase accordingly, and those limitations become more loose. I can then use that same relative skill bonus to claim that players gain a minimum of 2 HP per bonus increase for free, and can limit their maximum hit points as a percentage of their strength every level. Suddenly, this wildcard skill, although almost identical to Talent (which requires one to purchase the skill to gain the full benefit of the Talent in the first place), becomes much more cinematic and enjoyable.

Final Thoughts

One more thing I would like to mention, is the fact that for it to be true to the style of the setting, combat skills will always be purchased separately. Also, the purchase of Talent must be forbidden, as allowing both throws things into such a level of crazy that purchasing skills as a skill focus becomes pointless. I will leave my thoughts there, but given this realization I must say I am becoming much more comfortable with the GURPS system as a toolkit. There are notes on taking things into the realm of cinematic all throughout the book, and one can be assured I'll be reading every single one in detail.