Skill Ratings: How Good Are You?

The Skill Rating (Base Rating from the Attribute added to any skill pluses) can be used to gauge how competent a character is in a specific skill:

2-5 is a Novice employee, a raw recruit or an inexperienced beginner. Part-time employees, like the teen who flips burgers at a fast food joint, are Novices, as are interns.

6-10 is Skilled, someone employable in a field at an entry level. Telemarketers and Tech Support employees are typically Skilled, as are people just graduating college with a Bachelor’s degree.

11-15 is a Professional, possessing a post-graduate degree or equivalent in on-the-job experience. Your general physician is a Professional, as are the vast majority of movie sergeants.

16-20 is Accomplished, a standout in the field, cited and respected by their peers, but typically unknown to the general public. Writers of specialized books (such as textbooks or reference works) are usually Accomplished.

21-25 is World Class, one of the best in the world. (As the name implies.) Olympic athletes, for example.

26-30 is Grand Master, “The Best There is at What I Do”. Grand Masters are luminaries in their field. Physicist Stephen Hawking, as a real-world example.

31+ is Legendary, one of the best who’s ever lived. Legendary figures are those who dominate history. Their works live on long after they die and their names become synonymous with their field of expertise. Shakespeare, Robin Hood, Einstein: these are all Legendary figures.

The Skill Ratings are normed against the Challenge Rating chart, which gives basic guidelines for how difficult a Skill Challenge is. The next post will cover Challenge Ratings.

Happy Torg Anniversary!

20 years ago this month, I began running my first Torg campaign. (Having first played Torg in 1991.) The “Ronin’s Daishi” campaign later gave birth to the “Glory’s Warriors” campaign, and together they would last for three intensive years.

This campaign had a huge impact on my life. It affected my tastes in RPG settings and mechanics (which I carried with me into other games), and the experience provided the impetus for the past 12 years of Storm Knights (which began as an effort to rewrite Torg for that group of friends, to revitalize the game and make it new again).

Thanks to Storm Knights, I’ve plumbed the depths and meaning of genres and genre fiction, learned massive amounts about ancient technology and culture, formulated a wholly new approach to categorizing magic, and spent much time building and rebuilding settings (learning tons about world design along the way). Torg prompted all that.

Destiny only exists because of how great that first campaign was. So thanks to all those involved.

Here’s to the past and to the future. May Destiny someday prove a path to recapturing that magic. Or maybe a path to magic all its own.

Skills and Training

For Destiny 0.2a, I’m adding preliminary character creation and advancement rules. Before I post those, I need to elaborate on what Skill Ratings actually mean, starting with pluses.

Skill pluses represent a character’s level of training or experience in a specific skill. The higher the plus value, the more trained or experienced they are:

+0 = Unskilled. You haven’t even the slightest hint of training in this area, and no experience either.

+1 – +3 = Minimal training. You have learned the very most basic concepts of the skill. There are large gaps in theory and application.

+4 – +8 = Beginner. You have learned all the basics concepts well enough to do the job, but not spectacularly. You make mistakes that other beginners or amateurs won’t catch, but anybody who know what they’re doing will.

+9 – +13 = Proficient. You have a solid grasp of the theory and practice of the skill. Advanced concepts can be challenging. (The oft-cited “10,000 hours of practice”.)

+14 – +18 = Expert. You are very skilled, thoroughly conversant with even the most obscure subjects in your field. If they know of it, your skill impresses people.

+19 and higher = Master. There are few more knowledgeable than you.

The above categories are descriptive, they allow players and GM’s to roughly gauge how one character matches up with another. (Useful for creating foes or converting characters from other systems.)

Destiny Progress Report

Here’s the latest progress on Destiny:

  • The next session in the playtest campaign is being written. Like the previous, this will focus on combat.
  • The next rules revision (0.2a) is still moving forward, at a brutal slog:
    • Preliminary character creation and advancement rules are sketched out, but not written up. (That is, they currently exist as notes only.)
    • Revisions to the Initiative Rules are sketched out, but not written up.
    • Rules for Character Traits are partially written up.
    • Rules for actions and movement are being mulled over.
    • The existence of combat maneuvers and conditions is mostly theoretical at this point.
    • The core play style of the game is being written up and clarified (see the previous two blog posts).
    • The rules have been grouped into Chapters, and a rules overview (for new players) has been recreated. A Table of Contents can be said to exist.
    • Various sections of the rules have been rewritten. In some cases this was to clarify the rules, in others to replace bad writing or punch up the text.
    • Suggestions and comments from various and sundry sources have been incorporated.
  • The feedback from the first playtest session has been received and processed (and has materially improved the game). Questions raised by playtesters and Alpha Readers have been answered (in the form of the three FAQ’s on the subject). There are a couple of questions outstanding, which will be answered ASAP.

In other words, progress is being made. As various new/revised rules are finished, they’ll be posted.

Thanks for the feedback, comments, typo reports, and playtesting. All involved have my sincere gratitude.

Trouble is a Good Thing

The first rule of the game is this: we’re in this to have fun. This is a pastime, a hobby.

And what’s fun, in an RPG? Encountering challenges, and overcoming them.

There’s a deep dungeon, full of traps and monsters. Raid it. There’s a mob boss, trying to put the squeeze on honest shopkeepers. Bring him down. There’s a starship, tumbling from orbit, a dozen doomed passengers aboard. Rescue them.

There’s a term for all these challenges: TroubleTrouble Fuels the Action. Trouble makes the game interesting. Trouble provides the challenges you must overcome.

The entire point of the game is player characters getting into Trouble and finding their way out. It’s why the game is exciting and fun.

Trouble is a good thing. When offered a chance to get into Trouble, take it. Choose five Difficulties. Play the Subplot card. Poke your nose in where it doesn’t belong.

That’s what makes the game fun: landing face-first in a big pile of Trouble, fighting your way out, and winning. Outlast it, convert it, defeat it: it doesn’t matter how you win.

What matters is that Trouble will find you, and that’s a good thing.

[Some more advice to players on how to get into the spirit of Destiny.]

Destiny: Playing the Game

Destiny is an Action-Movie RPG, and the player characters are action movie heroes. This means one thing above all: Expect Trouble.

The character’s Hindrances are Trouble, Doubles are Trouble, Disasters, Mishaps, and Complications are Trouble, Failing at a Challenge means Trouble. There are bad guys galore, all enemies of the PC’s, and they are most certainly Trouble.

What will save the character’s life are his skills, his ingenuity (the part the player is responsible for), and his Luck. Action Points are Lucky, Destiny Deck cards are Lucky, and Spectacular Success is Lucky.

Between his Luck and his Trouble, a character’s life can get very interesting. (In a strictly “Chinese curse” kind of way.) Which makes for fun and involving play, which is why we play the game.

[Part of the “System at a Glance” Chapter of the 0.2a release, intended to introduce players to the mechanics of the game (or, in this case, the expected style of play).]

Use Failure to Fuel the Action

[A sidebar on Failure, from the in-progress 0.2a release of the Destiny Gaming System.]

In most games, the default assumption for Failure is that the character doesn’t succeed, and nothing else happens. Sometimes, this is what Failure should mean. But not all the time. Especially not in an action-movie game.

Action movies are about excitement and fun. Things should be happening. And that won’t occur if most Failures bring the adventure to a grinding halt.

Instead of nothing happening, Failure can mean that something happens (just not something good):

  • Consequences for failing (bad things happen).
  • Success (1 SR), but at a price (loss of resources, injury, offending a friend).
  • Success that causes problems (immediately or later).

The gamemaster has the authority to decide what Failure means. And, as much as possible, it should offer new avenues of action.

Example: A character is looking for a rare piece of gear (using the streetwise skill). Failure can mean he doesn’t find it. Period. 

But it can also mean he finds it, but it’s owned by an enemy or the Mob. Maybe obtaining it obligates the party in detrimental ways. Maybe he has to buy it illegally or steal it. Maybe he has to do someone a favor to get it (now or later). Even better if the favor involves noticeable risk to himself or the party.

All of these problems represent Failure, but in ways that fuel the action.

As much as possible, Failure should drive the adventure forward. It should introduce new complexities, new challenges, new opportunities.

Failure should Fuel the Action.