Thoughts on a usage-based skill system

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Thoughts on a usage-based skill system

PostPosted by verdilak » Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:30 am

I was thinking about something that I, personally, have never seen in a rpg (though I am sure Nul has heh), and that is skills that increase due to usage.

For example, if you want to get better at using a sword, pick up a sword and start using it. Same goes for anything: Want to be a better lockpicker? Use the skill.

The games that i see either have skill levels raised through purchase points, like Tri-Stat, or as across the board, like PB, or pick a few skills to increase, like D&D. Which, as I think about it, doesn't really mesh with how gaming really works. In theory, it does, but in usage, not so much. If I have a character in a game that has a good number of battles but my character either is always missing for the combat (was too far away when combat started so spends all of combat to run to the group) or he gets knocked out in the first round and I have to sit it out. Now, lets say that outside of combat, my character is the one in the group that is designated to be the one to cook meals for everyone (everyone has a role within the group when it comes to chores). In most games, I'm going to be looking at how to increase my combat prowess and toughness/hp so that I can actually get through a fight. In the real RPG world, my character should instead be gaining an even higher level usage of cooking, which could, depending on the GM, increase what he can do in other arenas (gaining a higher proficiency in knives, shields, and bashing weapons due to higher cutlery skill, maybe even gaining higher toughness/hp due to the number of burns and cuts he's endured due to his cooking).

So my thoughts are like thus:

Take a simple dice mechanic. For this example, I am thinking of a d100, roll under mechanic since you are not only competing with others, but against your own knowledge and ability in a given skill.

Stats would be the normal ones, but I am not going to decide on which ones exactly to use just yet. But I am thinking of having a max on how high a stat can get depending on genre (like, 20 for where PC's are human, 30 for when PC's might be aliens or special in some way, 40 for supers, 50 for gods).

Skills.. well, they would all be player defined. Hows that work you say? Well, there should be no need to have a long skill list, detailing the generic/complexity of skills (fighting compared to brawling or archery, compared to kung fu or long bow, compared to monkey style or aluminum shafts). Instead, whenever a PC attempts to do an action that would call for a roll, a skill name is given to that action and is recorded on the character sheet with a level 1 on it.

Example: Bob, a new character, has the typical stats with varying degrees of ability and no skills (or you cal look at it as he has every skill at a base ability). Bob sees someone getting mugged, looks around only to see that everyone else doesn't seem to care, and so he picks up the nearest object he can find, which happens to be a lead pipe, and goes in to save the woman.

If Bob attempts to intimidate the mugger, he would roll d100, try to get under the related stat, and if successful, he would write down "Intimidation" on his character sheet with a "1" next to it for its level (if he failed that roll, he would not get said skill).

If Bob attempted to hit the mugger over the head, it would look the same as above, except he would write a different skill name.


Once you have a level in a skill, you make note of how many times you used it within the game and at the end of the session or story arc, you roll vs that skill to see if you gain some levels in it. My actually thoughts on the system for this is a bit more complicated than just that. Skill checks gain a penalty or bonus depending on the difficulty of the task at hand. The greater the difficulty of the task at hand gives a higher bonus to the after session roll if you succeeded at it. This may mean, if you used a skill quite a lot during an arc, that you might automatically gain a level in the given skill, or maybe even two.

Example: Bonus/penalty for skill usage ranges from -10 to +10, impossible to so easy you dont need to roll. When you use a skill you add/subtract to the target number and you write down the number of the bonus/penalty and apply it to your dice roll at the end of the session.

Bob rolls with a -4 to the Intimidation skill since he is scrawnier than the mugger and succeeds. At the end of the session, he rolls to see if the skill increases and adds a -4 to his d100 result.

Bob rolls with a +4 to hit the mugger from behind since the mugger wasn't expecting someone to play a Knight for the woman, he succeeds. At the end of the session, he rolls to see if the skill increases and adds a +4 to his d100 result.

What do you think?
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"I'm imagining Kiera Knightly, Katherine Zeta-Jones, Angelina and Meg Fox sitting around your map wearing bandanas vigorously shaking fists full of d20s." - Aval Penworth, in regards to a map I made
"We're talking about the GM that made us fight giant Fruit, Verd is totally unpredictable." - Nikurasu (one of my players)
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Re: Thoughts on a usage-based skill system

PostPosted by Pyriel » Sun Aug 29, 2010 6:39 am

I actualy *have* seen a game like that. It was a good idea, and trying it was a nice experience, but as i was passing through the phase where i was all like "i need a good system, not one super-unrealistic or super-unbalanced!" I found out that balance and realism problems in RPG systems are like a Hydra; chop off one head(=balance or logic/realism problem) and two more come out.

i know that picking up skills based on player want and not actual skill usage is not relistic (in a 'logical sense', not 'physics' sense, i dont care much about physics in magic/fantasy worlds); i.e. if you kill 20 orks, you cant use the xp to increase "knowledge(nuclear physics)". however, more logical systems face a whole different but huge pool of problems. two examples below:
-how do you define when someone succesfuly uses a skill? if i try cooking 30 times and fail 25 of them, do i get almost no skill increase due to only 5 successes?(=not exactly fair OR realistic)
-if actualy using a skill raises your stats, why not train skill usage 15 hours a day? real life has fatigue, and *need to relax/have fun except adventure and training*, RPGs dont have that. sure, any half-decent RP-ers would never act so metagame-ish, but any half-decent RP-ers wouldnt powerame their xp anyway, now would they? for example, in solar's VtM, i want to raise Melee so much, because its GREAT vs vamps(=lethal damage due to swords) compared to Brawl/Firearms(=only Bashvs vamps...half damage at best...) that my char trained in background, but guess what-i DON'T, because it makes no rp sense regarding what my character has done up to now. so while White Wolf is not the skill usage system i played once, it *effectively is the same* when half-decent rp-ers are concerned.

in general, whatever system we create i can think of TONS of ways a powergamer would abuse its rules-even a semi-perfect system that could never have unbalances, it would be abusable enough from a powergamer so as to look illogical. At the same time, ANY system offers a very good experience with the proper player mindset. so, since the means that can achieve the objective of fun is "player mindset" and not "great RPG system" i have long ago stopped my old years-long(from my 17 till my 21) quest for finding a truly good system, as its a parameter nearly irrelevant to the fun of the game.

HOWEVER, i still think searching for a great system (one that is skill usage-based, one that is more logical in its rolls, you name it) was a great experience in the sense of the "mental travels" that i did throughout various systems. for this reason, i truly think in the end you wont regret trying out this skill-usage-xp idea of yours, so i encourage it :s_thumbsup no matter what the results come out to be, i think you should try such an idea out.
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Re: Thoughts on a usage-based skill system

PostPosted by NulSyn » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:43 pm

I have seen it in several games. It's rather common in d100 based games. The way I have seen it the most is that every time a skill is used, or more often successful, the skill gets a check mark or something similar beside it so that after the session the player gets to make a roll for each mark to improve the skill. Such as in a d100 game the roll may need to be equal to or above the current skill rating, if successful the skill goes up so many points. I would figure it is so much more common in d100 games due to the large scale to work with. Gaining 1-6 points to a skill between sessions is a small jump than getting a +1 or +2 in a d20 or 3d6 game. I will be honest though this idea is on top of games based on a 100 scale often seem more exciting to me than most other games.

Off the top of my head, I believe Hackmaster 4th used it for skills and the new Runequest II, just to name a couple it.
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Re: Thoughts on a usage-based skill system

PostPosted by verdilak » Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:00 pm

I see what you are saying, and let me say what I am thinking...

Pyriel wrote:-how do you define when someone succesfuly uses a skill? if i try cooking 30 times and fail 25 of them, do i get almost no skill increase due to only 5 successes?(=not exactly fair OR realistic)
I dont see why you would ever need to roll for cooking that many times in a session. But, on the strange off-chance that you did, then yeah, only the successes would apply. Look at it this way, if I code html for a website wrong (failed my skill roll, so to speak), I won't know what I did wrong until I figure it out (succeeded in my skill roll). Successes help you learn your skills while failures give you an opportunity to try again and figure it out.
-if actualy using a skill raises your stats, why not train skill usage 15 hours a day? real life has fatigue, and *need to relax/have fun except adventure and training*, RPGs dont have that. sure, any half-decent RP-ers would never act so metagame-ish, but any half-decent RP-ers wouldnt powerame their xp anyway, now would they? for example, in solar's VtM, i want to raise Melee so much, because its GREAT vs vamps(=lethal damage due to swords) compared to Brawl/Firearms(=only Bashvs vamps...half damage at best...) that my char trained in background, but guess what-i DON'T, because it makes no rp sense regarding what my character has done up to now. so while White Wolf is not the skill usage system i played once, it *effectively is the same* when half-decent rp-ers are concerned.
I dunno what you are saying here, so I'll just tackle the first part: I didn't say how stats would be increased, I'm thinking that they would be increased in a similar way with skills, except you would have to use a stat and only a stat. If you wanted to punch someone, you might roll vs only your strength stat instead of adding in your bonus for hand-to-hand combat skill so that you can roll at the end of the session to try and raise your stat.

To the next part, if you were to tell your Gm that you are going to weight-lift/cook/practice sword forms for 15 hours, the GM would have you roll once for the entire 15 hours. Not having you roll 15 times or 30 times or even twice... you would roll once and you would get the effects of that roll for your end of session roll for skill/stat increase. You would get more than 1 for that.


Oh, and i was also thinking of rolling a critical success would give you a chance to roll for the increase in skill/stat level immediately, like you gained a sudden flash of insight on a certain situation.
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"I'm imagining Kiera Knightly, Katherine Zeta-Jones, Angelina and Meg Fox sitting around your map wearing bandanas vigorously shaking fists full of d20s." - Aval Penworth, in regards to a map I made
"We're talking about the GM that made us fight giant Fruit, Verd is totally unpredictable." - Nikurasu (one of my players)
Everyone is an atheist about some gods, we just went one god further. - Richard Dawkins
Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me."--Ferris Bueller, 1986
To the human body, a spoonful of flour and a spoonful of sugar are identical.
"Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn't believing. It is where belief stops, because it isn't needed any more." - Terry Pratchett, Pyramids
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Re: Thoughts on a usage-based skill system

PostPosted by verdilak » Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:05 pm

NulSyn wrote:I have seen it in several games. It's rather common in d100 based games. The way I have seen it the most is that every time a skill is used, or more often successful, the skill gets a check mark or something similar beside it so that after the session the player gets to make a roll for each mark to improve the skill. Such as in a d100 game the roll may need to be equal to or above the current skill rating, if successful the skill goes up so many points. I would figure it is so much more common in d100 games due to the large scale to work with. Gaining 1-6 points to a skill between sessions is a small jump than getting a +1 or +2 in a d20 or 3d6 game. I will be honest though this idea is on top of games based on a 100 scale often seem more exciting to me than most other games.

Off the top of my head, I believe Hackmaster 4th used it for skills and the new Runequest II, just to name a couple it.



Yeah, I thought about that, in that each time you use a skill you make a mark and roll, but I was thinking that the harder and less probably things you attempt with your skills should give you a higher bonus to trying to level your skill.

And thanks, I'll check out RQ2 and HM4.
ImageImage
"I'm imagining Kiera Knightly, Katherine Zeta-Jones, Angelina and Meg Fox sitting around your map wearing bandanas vigorously shaking fists full of d20s." - Aval Penworth, in regards to a map I made
"We're talking about the GM that made us fight giant Fruit, Verd is totally unpredictable." - Nikurasu (one of my players)
Everyone is an atheist about some gods, we just went one god further. - Richard Dawkins
Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me."--Ferris Bueller, 1986
To the human body, a spoonful of flour and a spoonful of sugar are identical.
"Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn't believing. It is where belief stops, because it isn't needed any more." - Terry Pratchett, Pyramids
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