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skill list for a sci-fi game

Willy Elektrix

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I'm writing a sci-fi game where the players are alien mercenaries and spies in a futuristic society. The game mostly takes place on the surface of a planet, and space travel is not an important part of the setting. A lot of the game is about infiltration. In fact, it's a little bit like Shadowrun. Technology is handled somewhat abstractly and things like computer hacking or repairing technology are all handled by the "technology" skill. Some of the game will take place in a hostile wilderness environments, so survival skills are also an important part of the game.

Each skill has a suggested attribute, but it is okay for the GM to combine different skills with different attributes.

I want some advice on my skill list. I think that I have the right level of granularity, but I wondered if any skills were missing or (more likely) redundant. Also, I am open to new names for these skills, especially the two-named skills like "acrobatics/contortion".

As always, thank you folks!

Strength
Climbing
Fortitude (saving throw)
Lifting/Forcing (basically, brute strength)
Running/Jumping
Swimming

Dexterity
Acrobatics/Contortion
Piloting
Reaction (saving throw)
Sleight of Hand/Concealment
Stealth
Wrangling

Intelligence
Academics (history, politics, etc.)
Commerce
Crafting
Demolition
Gaming
Investigation/Research (finding clues, interpreting data, making deductions)
Medicine
Science (chemistry, biology, etc.)
Streetwise
Survival/Navigation
Technology
Warfare
Willpower (saving throw)

Perception
Artistry (painting, dancing, playing music, etc.)
Awareness
Impersonation
Forgery
Security
Sense Motive
Tracking

Charisma
Barter
Bluff
Charm
Leadership
Intimidation
 
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SyrusHix

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I'm also doing a game in the more or less same setting as you. ) and got more the 150 skills already. )

Not gonna give you my list but may be throw you some ideas on how to expend it.

1. Weapon mastery? each weapon could have its own skill
2. Speechcraft vs conversation type. Example: Bluff and Intimidation is a speechcraft skill. Interrogation is a conversation skill. you can do an interrogation and use bluff charm intimidate in it.
3. More knowledge skills like Streetwise. Politics? Art? Psychology? Religion? Herborism? Festing?
3. i have an issue with acrobatics and reaction being in Dexterity. i would put the into Agility.
4. I don't really like fortitude and reactions being a skill. Reaction saving throws could be done using your attributes? like Agility + Perception?
5. Also i would add more attributes if possible and split/add skills to them. Agility? Wisdom? Willpower? Cunning?

I hope it helps you :)
 

CharonsLittleHelper

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Is the entire game skill based? (Including combat etc.)

If no, you should probably have a max of 20ish skills, if yes maybe as high as 30. But both of those numbers would really be pushing it. That much or more and you're going to start to have a lot of overlap and skills that get very little if any use.

To be blunt, I think that your list is probably too long. (At least for my taste - and for most others'.)

For example:
1. If you already have a Strength attribute, I don't think that "Lifting/Forcing" is actually needed. Just use Strength checks.
2. How often is "Artistry" going to come up in play? Is being an artist a major part of the setting and needed for schmoozing? Because I don't see it being used much/any in most settings. I don't see shadowrunners sitting down to paint as part of their run.
3. Do you need Medicine & Science to be separate skills?
4. What sort of thing will "Leadership" be used for? I don't think that it'd fit most mechanics. (not saying that it couldn't for yours - just that you should think about it)
5. Combine "Swimming", "Running/Jumping", and "Climbing" into "Athletics"? Swimming is one of those skills which rarely sees play/use and will likely never be taken by itself (maybe in a high seas pirate game), and I don't think that climbing is probably worth its own skill in a sci-fi setting where someone could just get a batman style grappling hook to pull them up.
6. In terms of your gameplay - how different are "Commerce" and "Barter"?
7. What is "Gaming" used for in play?
8. How useful is "Survival/Navigation" in a sci-fi setting where they can just get a GPS or its equivalent?

Sorry to be nitpicky - but I've found that one of the hardest but most useful things in any writing, but especially in TTRPG design is "kill your darlings".
 
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SyrusHix

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Is the entire game skill based? (Including combat etc.)

If no, you should probably have a max of 20ish skills, if yes maybe as high as 30. But both of those numbers would really be pushing it. That much or more and you're going to start to have a lot of overlap and skills that get very little if any use.

To be blunt, I think that your list is probably too long. (At least for my taste - and for most others'.)

For example:
1. If you already have a Strength attribute, I don't think that "Lifting/Forcing" is actually needed. Just use Strength checks.
2. How often is "Artistry" going to come up in play? Is being an artist a major part of the setting and needed for schmoozing? Because I don't see it being used much/any in most settings. I don't see shadowrunners sitting down to paint as part of their run.
3. Do you need Medicine & Science to be separate skills?
4. What sort of thing will "Leadership" be used for? I don't think that it'd fit most mechanics. (not saying that it couldn't for yours - just that you should think about it)
5. Combine "Swimming", "Running/Jumping", and "Climbing" into "Athletics"? Swimming is one of those skills which rarely sees play/use and will likely never be taken by itself (maybe in a high seas pirate game), and I don't think that climbing is probably worth its own skill in a sci-fi setting where someone could just get a batman style grappling hook to pull them up.
6. In terms of your gameplay - how different are "Commerce" and "Barter"?
7. What is "Gaming" used for in play?
8. How useful is "Survival/Navigation" in a sci-fi setting where they can just get a GPS or its equivalent?

Sorry to be nitpicky - but I've found that one of the hardest but most useful things in any writing, but especially in TTRPG design is "kill your darlings".
I would agree that his list should be more structured and with most of your points. But i would argue that 30 is a max. let him have 100000 of them if he want. but only a limited quantity that he can train in, like 30? why not. The other could be just be used on a basic level.
 

AnEristic Principle

Formerly 'AnEristicPrinciple'
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I have to agree with [MENTION=164578]CharonsLittleHelper[/MENTION] for the most part, but it does depend on context. My own system for example:

39 general skills
6 combat skills
6 social conflict skills

No attributes, all skill based and barring a few general skills that require a specialisation (Knowledge: <something>) everything has its place (for now - playtesting may further pare it down).

For example not everyone knew how to swim in Victorian England (my setting) and the theme has water as an element (excuse pun), however almost everyone can (instinctively) climb, so I separate Athletics from Swimming (for reference, Climbing was a separate skill previously and I bundled it into Athletics). This is a deliberate design decision, not just for the sake of having two skills. Combat and social conflict skills are linked to a very specific game mechanic, hence being separated. But I don't see the need to split, for example, flintlock pistols from rifles from bows: they're all "ranged" weapons as far as I'm concerned, as combat isn't a focus of the design.

It depends somewhat on your theme and mechanics. If you have skill specialisations, sure, knock yourself out with hundreds of skills that narrow as you focus on one skill area ("Firearms > Bolt Weapons > M9 AutoPistol" or whatever). Hundreds of general skills? I'm not convinced it'll work or is worth the micromanagement unless - and this is kind of my point - micromanagement is one of your core design decisions.

-- An
 

SyrusHix

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well in my project i have:

8 Physical skills which are auto exclusive - a bodybuilder with high Strength will never have a high Agility or Speed. Same as a nimble guy not having great Strength
8 Mental skills (with the same auto exclusivity system)
8 Personality skill ( for social interaction purpose - intimidate, charm and so on.... also auto exclusive. An Aggressive personality will have high intimidation, low negotiation skill)
37 for firearms (each type of attack is a skill for me (single shot or suppression fire would be 2 different skills for me, as general knowledge of how to use a pistol - an other one).
54 for melee weapons combat
16 in martial art
81 other skills (from spying, camping, engineering, lockpicking and so on)

Like this i can make different classes (or profiles as i call them). And as a soldier, a detective office and a outlaw gunslinger will have different firearm trainings, this is why I don't want to make a generalized range weapon skill. Also this way i can create very specific profiles a soldier can be a sniper, a recon, a demolition specialist, combat medic, a team leader and so on. with a set of skills he can level up. as for all the other skill they will stay at the lowest level. so you can attempt to use them but with a low % of success.
 

CharonsLittleHelper

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well in my project i have:

8 Physical skills which are auto exclusive - a bodybuilder with high Strength will never have a high Agility or Speed. Same as a nimble guy not having great Strength
8 Mental skills (with the same auto exclusivity system)
8 Personality skill ( for social interaction purpose - intimidate, charm and so on.... also auto exclusive. An Aggressive personality will have high intimidation, low negotiation skill)
37 for firearms (each type of attack is a skill for me (single shot or suppression fire would be 2 different skills for me, as general knowledge of how to use a pistol - an other one).
54 for melee weapons combat
16 in martial art
81 other skills (from spying, camping, engineering, lockpicking and so on)

Like this i can make different classes (or profiles as i call them). And as a soldier, a detective office and a outlaw gunslinger will have different firearm trainings, this is why I don't want to make a generalized range weapon skill. Also this way i can create very specific profiles a soldier can be a sniper, a recon, a demolition specialist, combat medic, a team leader and so on. with a set of skills he can level up. as for all the other skill they will stay at the lowest level. so you can attempt to use them but with a low % of success.
That many skills would have me avoiding a system. There is too much overlap so that the differences are pretty meaningless - or the system is so complex as to be almost un-learnable.
 

SyrusHix

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That many skills would have me avoiding a system. There is too much overlap so that the differences are pretty meaningless - or the system is so complex as to be almost un-learnable.
Don't know where you have found some overlaps, specially without me giving a full list. :)
And its not really of a complex system at all. my system is just large and diversified fitting any type of possible character.

Its just a question of tastes. one would argue that even 20 skills are just to much. and me, personally i would not play with a system with some vague skills that let you do millions of things just for the sake of not overlapping as you are saying.
 

CharonsLittleHelper

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Don't know where you have found some overlaps, specially without me giving a full list. :)
Logic? You have 54 different melee weapon skills. Either there is overlap between what the different weapons do, or it's freakishly detailed and complex. Those are the two options.
 

SyrusHix

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Logic? You have 54 different melee weapon skills. Either there is overlap between what the different weapons do, or it's freakishly detailed and complex. Those are the two options.
Well, your logic skill is not that high :p

12 different weapons
26 specific attacks which are weapon specific. some of them are available for multiple weapons some are available only to one specific type of weapon.
16 attacks which are available for any weapon

And all attacks are pretty different.
 
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