Skills for Dark Ages Game

Shattercrack

Great Sage Equal of Heaven
Validated User
#1
I'm working in a Dark Ages game, about holy knights fighting against various gribblies in a dark land. I'm playing with my list of skills, to make sure it captures everything required for knightly monster hunting adventures (apart from combat/defense skills which are separate). My preference is for a decent length of skills (25-30), perhaps what you'd see on a BRP spreadsheet (as opposed to RoleMaster or Gurps). Do have any thoughts on the list below? Could I streamline it, or is there something I'm missing?


Academics
Acrobatics
Advocacy
Alertness
Animal Handling
Athletics
Church Lore
Communication
Craft
Deception
Demon Lore
Direction Sense
Etiquette
Geography
Heraldry
History
Horsemanship
Intrusion
Literacy
Logistics
Medical Lore
Movement
Natural World
Navigation
Occult Lore
Performance
Rapport
Seafaring
Sleight of Hand
Stealth
Swimming
Tactics
Tracking
Traps
 

Alban

Registered User
Validated User
#2
It seems to me the skills in your list tend to overlap.
There is also some skills that seem to have a broader focus than others.

For instance, it seems to me Acrobatics and Swimming should be better treated as specialized aspects of Athletics.
Same for Seafaring and navigation.
 

John Out West

Registered User
Validated User
#3
I tend to agree with Alban. I'd rather have four skill points with 12 options than 12 points and 30 options. I always organize my skills into packages that fit themes. Acrobatics, move silently, and balance fit into the Poise skill; while hiding, sleight of hand, and general skulduggery fit into the Furtive skill.

Something I did, which I found worked really well, was mix Skills and Feats together and allow players to buy Skill Packages and Combat/Utility/Social Feats with one currency. Worked super well and I recommend it.
 

SMHWorlds

Registered User
Validated User
#4
I like BRP style lists as well and games with a heavy skill use. A couple of questions come to mind:

What Skills are the Most Important?
What Skills will be everyman Skills?
What Skills are fun to have?
What Skills are forbidden to have?

And from those, start putting categories together. Weed out the duplicates (Demon Lore and Occult Lore can be one skill for instance) as others have mentioned.

You might want to look at Pendragon for ideas on why things a Knight might need to know. That could also inform your Skill choices.
 

Alon

Registered User
Validated User
#5
When you say Dark Ages, do you mean the actual Early Middle Ages, or the sort of Early Middle Ages depicted in pop culture Arthuriana? Asking because heraldry didn't exist until the 12th century.

A few of the skills on your list are a bit weird. What does Tactics do? What does Logistics do? What does Advocacy do? What does Intrusion do?

Might be easier to conceptually lump them into combat skills (weapons, dodging, maybe tactics if that's relevant there), other physical skills (acrobatics, stealth, seafaring, alertness, etc.), social skills (etiquette, performance, etc.), and intellectual skills (various lores).
 

kenco

Registered User
Validated User
#6
I'm working in a Dark Ages game, about holy knights fighting against various gribblies in a dark land. I'm playing with my list of skills, to make sure it captures everything required for knightly monster hunting adventures (apart from combat/defense skills which are separate). My preference is for a decent length of skills (25-30), perhaps what you'd see on a BRP spreadsheet (as opposed to RoleMaster or Gurps). Do have any thoughts on the list below? Could I streamline it, or is there something I'm missing?


Academics
Acrobatics
Advocacy
Alertness
Animal Handling
Athletics
Church Lore
Communication
Craft
Deception
Demon Lore
Direction Sense
Etiquette
Geography
Heraldry
History
Horsemanship
Intrusion
Literacy
Logistics
Medical Lore
Movement
Natural World
Navigation
Occult Lore
Performance
Rapport
Seafaring
Sleight of Hand
Stealth
Swimming
Tactics
Tracking
Traps
The list seems pretty thorough, although the meanings of some of the skill names (communication, intrusion, performance) are not very obvious. I'm wondering how you cover:
Law/ legal wrangling
Spoken language ability
Seige engineering (or engineering, machinery, pioneering and construction generally)
Craft/ artisan-type skills
Farming/ food preparation/ household management skills
Bureaucratic?
Outdoor survival (perhaps in Natural World?)
Personal leadership

Probably some of these are captured in your existing list, but under names I might not choose. Others might be irrelevant to the kinds of characters you envisage.

Would a character's religiosity/ doctrine/ spirituality/ inspiration be captured under 'Church Lore'? Or is that about understanding how the church itself works?

One of the others questioned which version of the dark ages you are interested in, and I think that's very pertinent. Is this the dark ages as viewed from the high medieval era (as viewed from today) i.e. King Arthur etc.; or is it germanic kingdoms thrashing about in the remnants of the Western Roman empire? or something else?
 

mindstalk

Does the math.
Validated User
#7
When you say Dark Ages, do you mean the actual Early Middle Ages, or the sort of Early Middle Ages depicted in pop culture Arthuriana? Asking because heraldry didn't exist until the 12th century.

A few of the skills on your list are a bit weird. What does Tactics do? What does Logistics do?
I want to snark that the Dark Ages are distinguished by not having logistics.
 

Shattercrack

Great Sage Equal of Heaven
Validated User
#8
The time period I'm thinking is equivalent to around 750-800AD, Charles Martell's to Charlemagne's era (so yes, there would be logistics involved!) Points of light, dark forest everywhere, an empire struggling to maintain its borders against multiple fronts. Lots of dark sorcerers, witches, strange beasts; there's a strong Clark Ashton Smith influence.

Current skill list is looking like this. I've got a seperate system for weapons; this is more about the general non-fighty abilities of knights and their retainers. Languages would be based on intelligence scores - you either speak it or don't (mainly based on gameplay purposes).

I've put in comments to clarify what I mean by the sky and to link it back what kenco is saying above.

Academics<---various lore skills
Acrobatics<---Dexterity based feats; agility,
Advocacy<----- Legal wrangling, law, legal codes, courtly codes
Alertness<----What's that over there?
Animal Handling<-----Managing other animals that aren't horses e.g. dogs, falcons
Athletics<---Climbing, swimming, sport
Command <---Personal leadership, knowledge of how to command armies, some tactics/logistics. Lordship. Maybe also the household management skills go here?
Communication <---- General persuade/talk without being authoritative.
Craft<--- General crafting, or farming,
Culture<---How to behave with different cultural groups
Deception<--- Being deceptive
Endurance<---Feats of toughness
Engineering <---based on the comment above - it would cover seige weapons, road construction
Horsemanship<---Riding a horse
Intrusion<----breaking and enter/burglary, as locks aren't a big thing yet but PCs like ending up in places where they aren't supposed to be.
Legerdemain<----slight of hand, stealing things, fine motor skills
Medicine<---Restoring from injuries
Merchant<----Managing funds, knowledge of trade routes and goods, taxation
Might<---Feats of strength
Natural World<---Knowledge of plants, herbs, animals
Occult<--Knowledge of the supernatural
Performance<--Performance art - dancing, juggling, singing.
Rapport<----Determining if people are being deceptive or illusive, understanding how others are feeling
Stealth<----Sneaking
Survival<---Outdoor survival - more of practical sense. Hunting, trapping fishing.
 

Alon

Registered User
Validated User
#9
I'd merge academics with advocacy. This isn't a setting with a complex legal system or intellectual life; it's 800, not 1600. Someone who knows Latin and remembers a smattering of Roman law is far ahead of everyone else in both skills. If you want to be realistic then you should merge medicine into that too, but that assumes actual medieval European medicine, i.e. quackery, and if you want to handwave something better than Galen to avoid random TPKs then it's understandable.
 

kenco

Registered User
Validated User
#10
The time period I'm thinking is equivalent to around 750-800AD, Charles Martell's to Charlemagne's era (so yes, there would be logistics involved!) Points of light, dark forest everywhere, an empire struggling to maintain its borders against multiple fronts. Lots of dark sorcerers, witches, strange beasts; there's a strong Clark Ashton Smith influence.

Current skill list is looking like this. I've got a seperate system for weapons; this is more about the general non-fighty abilities of knights and their retainers. Languages would be based on intelligence scores - you either speak it or don't (mainly based on gameplay purposes).

I've put in comments to clarify what I mean by the sky and to link it back what kenco is saying above.

Academics<---various lore skills
Acrobatics<---Dexterity based feats; agility,
Advocacy<----- Legal wrangling, law, legal codes, courtly codes
Alertness<----What's that over there?
Animal Handling<-----Managing other animals that aren't horses e.g. dogs, falcons
Athletics<---Climbing, swimming, sport
Command <---Personal leadership, knowledge of how to command armies, some tactics/logistics. Lordship. Maybe also the household management skills go here?
Communication <---- General persuade/talk without being authoritative.
Craft<--- General crafting, or farming,
Culture<---How to behave with different cultural groups
Deception<--- Being deceptive
Endurance<---Feats of toughness
Engineering <---based on the comment above - it would cover seige weapons, road construction
Horsemanship<---Riding a horse
Intrusion<----breaking and enter/burglary, as locks aren't a big thing yet but PCs like ending up in places where they aren't supposed to be.
Legerdemain<----slight of hand, stealing things, fine motor skills
Medicine<---Restoring from injuries
Merchant<----Managing funds, knowledge of trade routes and goods, taxation
Might<---Feats of strength
Natural World<---Knowledge of plants, herbs, animals
Occult<--Knowledge of the supernatural
Performance<--Performance art - dancing, juggling, singing.
Rapport<----Determining if people are being deceptive or illusive, understanding how others are feeling
Stealth<----Sneaking
Survival<---Outdoor survival - more of practical sense. Hunting, trapping fishing.
Okay. That's a bit clearer. Thank you.

I am still not quite clear on what I would roll 'intrusion' for. Anticipating patrol cycles? Breaking down doors? Digging under walls? Knocking out guards? Disguising yourself as an onion seller? Bribing the gatekeeper?

Engineering might also cover fortifications, mining/ tunnelling, bridging, building construction; there might be some overlap with crafts.

Mapmaking/ drawing/ illustrating?

Is 'Craft' a) a single skill covering a raft of 'everyman' working with your hands skills; b) a single skill covering all 'common man' crafts/ industrial occupations: Farming, mining, swordsmithing, weaving etc.; or c) a placeholder for a list of distinct occupational(?) skills e.g. Craft: Farmer, Craft: Miner, Craft: Vintner?

I take it 'Deception' means deceptive in a social/ conversational (lying) context? Or are we talking about disguise, ambush, military strategy, poker playing as well?

No categories for feats of courage, willpower, moral rectitude, self awareness, memory (Academics?), verbal reasoning (Academics?), calculation (Academics), flexibility (under Acrobatics, I guess?), enduring pain (Endurance?) etc.

Household management possibly doesn't belong in the same place as military command (if I am thinking about e.g. what a farmer's wife might do). I see that there are similarities though, if e.g you are talking about what a castellan or abbott might do.

Food preparation skills might almost come under one or more crafts. I am thinking about the myriad ways of preparing and preserving foods - an important skill in this era, but not so much a hands-on job for a knight?

There is some overlap between these e.g. Natural World, Survival, Medicine; or Stealth, Survival, Natural World; or Merchant, Customs, Law, Command; or Rapport, Communication, Command; or Etiquette, Performance, Communication, Customs. I don't have much concern about that, so long as you don't have any pairs of skills that it makes no real sense to buy/ choose separately.

E.g. Stealth and Survival? I think these are often separated in RPGs because a) they are both useful; and b) to distinguish the urban stealthy from the rural stealthy (who ALSO have Survival, Archery etc.). In this setting there might not be much in the way of an urban environment to be stealthy IN. Soldiers need to be stealthy sometimes, but they tend to do a lot of that outdoors. You have an 'intrusion' skill that might potentially cover sneaking about in that context. So maybe you could fold Stealth and Survival together. Except they are both useful skills in their own right.

Someone else mentioned that e.g. Medicine might belong inside Academics. I understand why you might pull out a critical skill like Medicine (assuming it actually helps characters survive/ recover from fighting) as a separate skill so that players have to PAY for that privilege. As long as it doesn't leave you with a lame parent skill that no-one would ever really want to buy*.

*The exception would be if you also want the skill list to work for NPCs that have game roles the PCs are never expected to fill. 'Crafts' often ends up being used as a catch-all for this.
 
Top Bottom