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Author Topic: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them  (Read 1053 times)

kronovan

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So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« on: 29 March 2018, 17:17:18 »
I have to admit that after building some PCs with the Life Stages technique, I'm a bit overwhelmed by the shear number of skills they end up with and the total skills in this RPG. My impressions are no doubt influenced by my GMing and playing in a variety of other RPGs, for which the trend has been to consolidate and broaden skills in recent editions, with the end result of shorter skills lists. Someone commented in an earlier thread I started, that one of the selling points of AToW over earlier MW editions was a longer skills list. TBH that seems a bit strange to me and at odds with what I'm seeing as a general trend in tabletop RPGs. I thought maybe it's just me and the crunch of a long skills list might be the ticket for players attracted to this RPG, but the regular CBT players in my group have also said that AToW has too many skills for their tastes. Some of those players are also currently playing other RPGs.

So I'm wondering what the other GMs and players of AToW thoughts' on the length of the skills list are?

Hythos

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #1 on: 29 March 2018, 18:11:13 »
Having condensed skills from 3rd Edition helps a little.

I think there's still an adequate number now, though it doesn't mean a couple additions or reductions wouldn't also be OK.

Having some specific skills (particularly those for leadership roles) define capability, and the absence of within a Unit can be problematic... So overall, roles within a group are important, vs something like DungeonWorld where characters have far fewer (but broadly generalized) abilities.
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Daryk

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #2 on: 29 March 2018, 19:08:11 »
BattleTech role playing went through it's "short list of skills" phase with 2nd Edition, and as Hythos pointed out, AToW is somewhere closer to the middle after 3rd's explosion of skills.

Lamont-Cranston

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #3 on: 29 March 2018, 22:39:07 »
The martial arts specialties in 3e was a nice way to distinguish skills between characters and give them particular abilities.

guardiandashi

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #4 on: 29 March 2018, 23:06:04 »
with battletech (MechWarrior) skills in most cases I don't really feel there are too many skills, and in some cases I think having some additional listed suggestions as to specializations (for flavor) might make sense.

for instance look at melee and or hand to hand combat, there is brawling essentially semi skilled back alley fighting vs martial arts (pick the form) I would actually say some more forms might sense, on the other hand mw3rd had gunnery skills down to the vehicle type, and weapon category being required specializations which IMO is rather ridiculous, I mean if someone wants to take gunnery battlemech (laser) I am ok with the laser specialization, but I don't think everyone should have to have gunnery: battlemech: humanoid: and then Laser, Ballistic, and missile, just to fire the guns on a battlemech without penalty.

monbvol

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #5 on: 29 March 2018, 23:31:28 »
Personally I don't mind splitting the big gun skills up by ballistic property but by unit type/propulsion method too does seem a bit much.  That does seem to be the sort of thing you could accomplish as a specialty.

Likewise I do think some skills that say they are supposed to have subskills could instead be specializations.  Survival is my prime example of this.  As written each terrain type is supposed to be a distinct subskill but with what I know of actual survival skills specialization makes way more sense.

But yes I do understand the too many skills thing.  I do prefer my characters to be able to fit on one 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper and even with my spreadsheet I fail to accomplish that at times.

Paul

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #6 on: 30 March 2018, 02:17:19 »
The days of killing MW3 skills were merry and bloody.
But we were not aggressive enough. More should've died, but yet still live.

A second culling is welcome. Let each venture forth and be found worthy... or wanting.


hive_angel

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #7 on: 30 March 2018, 16:45:08 »
I like all the skills and prefer a broad range of non combat associated skills versus a small list of non combat and the majority combat. In fact my ATOW games thrive off non combat skills to esssentially role play your way through the game campaign.

However I do find some skills and maybe a small handful are extremely situational at best and cannot be used in multiple angles of approach to a situation.

If you give players a puzzle you want multiple ways for players to think outside the box instead of just shooting their way through. Variety in my opinion makes campaigns last much longer than what feels like a constant stream of easily solvable disquised pickup games.
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kronovan

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #8 on: 30 March 2018, 17:10:08 »
Thanks for all the replies. And YIKES - had no idea that MW3 actually had more skills! Glad CGL did some pruning.

Apart from my players and I being a bit overwhelmed by the long list, another reason for my query is because I'm considering homebrewing a flavor of AToW that has a more pruned/consolidated skill list. I've done similar in the past to the lengthy focus (skills equivalents) lists for Green Ronin's AGE RPGs. That experience has made me less shy about dabbling in such homebrew projects - mostly because I'm well aware they end up being much more work than 1st thought, but c'est la vie. I've also done my share of reading ambitious RPG homebrews that are touted as vast improvements by some players, which are anything but. so I'm cautious about how you approach this and well aware it's possible to homebrew a truly crappy concoction.

Something else driving my urge to simplify, is that some of the local BattleTech fans have asked me to run AToW sessions at local events/CONs that are much more for the miniatures gaming crowd. Some of those events are far too noisy to run a typical RPG session with exploration and social encounters in which a lot of talking needs to take place. Those venues are more gaming environments where combat-heavy scenarios would be more appropriate. Faced with that, I really don't want to slap down typical AToW PC sheet in front of players, with lots of skills their PC's are almost certain never to use.

That got me thinking of ways to homebrew something that would be friendlier to playing with tabletop, character-scale miniatures, while still containing some of the role playing flavor. In a sense a sort of lowering of the crunch of AToW similar to how Alpha Strike does for Total Warfare. Similar to Monbvol's sentiments around specializations Vs subskills, I started considering possibilities for turning some existing skills into specializations for a smaller set of broader-based skills. On my first pass I was able to reduce the skill list to 20 parent skills and come up with an outline of a simpler RPG, in which players could quickly become familiar with their PC's character sheet.

That dabbling kind of led me done a rabbit hole though, where I started seeing ways to simplify the entire RPG - started toying with Attribute consolidation and simplifying the PC point build system. So I'm finding the need to reign myself in a bit. ;) Anyhow, I'm wondering if others think such a project holds some merit?
« Last Edit: 30 March 2018, 17:24:56 by kronovan »

Daryk

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #9 on: 30 March 2018, 17:43:58 »
I hate to say it, but your project sounds a lot like 2nd edition...

kronovan

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #10 on: 30 March 2018, 18:21:02 »
I hate to say it, but your project sounds a lot like 2nd edition...

But, but...a number of my players keep telling there was nothing wrong with MW 2nd Ed. :D

Your feedback is appreciated and the above is a truthful comment some of my players have made to me. I never played 2nd Ed, so I'm not so sure on how it compares or lines up. I did however recently come across a cheap preowned copy, so maybe I need to take the time to give it a thorough read. My understanding is that the biggest complaint with 2e was the Intuition Attribute, which resulted in PC's that became too OP. As well, on my quick browse of the book I'm fairly certain I counted in excess of 50 skills, so a considerably longer list than what I've come up with for my homebrew.
Is it possible that those who disliked MW2, disliked it for something other than skills?

I should probably mention that I've previously run a BattleTech campaign using a fan-made adaptation for the Savage Worlds RPG, which was very successful and my players enjoyed. That system has 23 broad-based skills in entirety, with no specializations unless the GM and players opt them in - which we didn't. There are are some Knowledge (subskills), but those rarely amount to more than 5 for a PC. The adaptation we used only added a Mech Gunnery and Mech Piloting skill to SW's 23 core skills. Admittedly that positive experience with more broad-based skills does influence my impressions of the AToW skills list. That said, I've had similar sentiments before about the expanding skills list in WEG's d6 Star Wars SE and WotC's D&D 3e, which I didn't feel were improvements.

Despite liking how the BattleTech universe played with Savage Worlds, I do think the core dice mechanic and damage system of AToW is better suited to a military-themed MechWarrior campaign. As well, with some of my players being CGL demo volunteers, there's an appeal to campaigning with CGL's own RPG. Hence my wanting to explore ways to simplify it.
« Last Edit: 30 March 2018, 18:42:22 by kronovan »

Daryk

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #11 on: 30 March 2018, 19:11:32 »
From the player perspective, there really wasn't anything to dislike about 2nd edition.  Character creation could be done in about five minutes, and yes, great skills were easy to obtain, mainly through taking a 6 Intuition.  As a GM, though... those very characteristics made power creep palpable, and quickly.

guardiandashi

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #12 on: 30 March 2018, 19:36:31 »
in second edition a character can get by with in the neighborhood of 8-10 skills or so, granted they are pretty useless outside a narrow focus but that's life with that focused of a person.
in MechWarrior 3rd edition I would guess an equivalent char would need roughly 16ish skills to be really functional.

in ATOW its somewhere in between.  now arguably there is skill bloat, especially as compared to 2nd edition but IMO the majority of the extra skills are in at least some ways necessary and really you could argue that the trimming would make most sense as a way to consolidate some skills into a more general skill with "optional" specializations /focuses.
to use survival as an example, survival should be IMO 1 skill IE survival with terrain as a focus that you are "specialized in dealing with"
so rather than survival desert as the skill have  it be survival +2 desert +4 and arid +3
IE you are better at dealing with survival in most terrains, better at dealing with arid areas and really good at dealing with deserts.

Tai Dai Cultist

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #13 on: 30 March 2018, 19:39:53 »
Well unlike most RPGs, ATOW tries to be a universal game.  You know, in Shadowrun you don't play anything, you're playing a Shadowrunner.  In D&D or Pathfinder, you're an Adventurer instead of a scribe or blacksmith.

ATOW gives equal attention to news correspondents, cops, and technicians as it does to mechwarriors.  Even if you weren't doing a project to prune skills, you'd still have to define what sorts of characters you're allowing into your campaign to really identify which qualities need to be addressed for balance. (We're playing a bunch of street gangsters in Solaris during the Blakist Occupation?  Great, I know I don't need to waste points on Rank, etc).

You can identify what role the PCs are all presumed to be for your campaign, and boil down everything else not directly related.  Are you not doing an adventuring archaeologists campaign?  Great.  Boil down all the sciencey skills into one "science" skill.  It'll make no difference in your typical band of adventuring mercs.  If you ARE playing adventuring archaeologists on the lookout for LosTech.. then boil down all the weapons and military skills into one or two skills.  Etc.

kronovan

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #14 on: 30 March 2018, 20:55:25 »
Well unlike most RPGs, ATOW tries to be a universal game.  You know, in Shadowrun you don't play anything, you're playing a Shadowrunner.  In D&D or Pathfinder, you're an Adventurer instead of a scribe or blacksmith.
I agree that AToW does allow for a variety of character archetypes with its 57 skills and 30+ traits. It should be noted though, that there's a number of universal RPGs that feature less than half that number of skills. The Savage Worlds I mentioned earlier has only 23 core skills, but the systems creator publishes SciFi, Horror and Fantasy companions for it, all 3 of which add little more than 1 or 2 skills to the core. As well, there's in excess of 30 1st & 3rd party settings available for it that cover every genre imaginable. True20, another RPG I've run Mech campaigns with, has only 27 skills yet it's core rule book provides chapters dedicated to running campaigns for the Fantasy, Horror, Modern and Space genres. The soon to be released Cortex Prime, a universal evolution of the Cortex Plus used in RPGs like Firefly, Smallville and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying among others, will feature only19 skills. FATE Core, another RPG that has universal application has only 18 skills.

Quote
ATOW gives equal attention to news correspondents, cops, and technicians as it does to mechwarriors.  Even if you weren't doing a project to prune skills, you'd still have to define what sorts of characters you're allowing into your campaign to really identify which qualities need to be addressed for balance. (We're playing a bunch of street gangsters in Solaris during the Blakist Occupation?  Great, I know I don't need to waste points on Rank, etc).

You can identify what role the PCs are all presumed to be for your campaign, and boil down everything else not directly related.  Are you not doing an adventuring archaeologists campaign?  Great.  Boil down all the sciencey skills into one "science" skill.  It'll make no difference in your typical band of adventuring mercs.  If you ARE playing adventuring archaeologists on the lookout for LosTech.. then boil down all the weapons and military skills into one or two skills.  Etc.
Well I'm following the lead of those RPGs I mentioned above, which effectively support just about every character archetype and genre imaginable. And since those RPGs don't have lengthy lists of skills or their equivalent of Traits,  you don't have to "boil down" anything to avoid overwhelming new players. IMO supporting universal archetypes isn't so much about the number of skills, but whether skills with broad-based usage are allowed as opposed to skills with a narrower, more specialized focus. Either can work, but the current trend in the RPG biz definitely seems to be towards less skills with broader usage.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying AToW with its emphasis on narrow skills and specializations is the wrong approach, just that it's not the best approach for the players I can get to play it. Meanwhile, there's features about AToW I really like and don't want to leave behind by adapting the BattleTech verse to another RPG.   

BiggRigg42

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #15 on: 31 March 2018, 14:21:01 »
Yes, AToW has a lot of skills. However, AToW also has no magic spells. Compare the list of AToW skills to the list of D&D skills and the list of D&D spells combined; the amount of skills in AToW suddenly appears to be smaller.

The large number of skills compensates for this being a magic-less game.

kronovan

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #16 on: 31 March 2018, 14:55:53 »
Yes, AToW has a lot of skills. However, AToW also has no magic spells. Compare the list of AToW skills to the list of D&D skills and the list of D&D spells combined; the amount of skills in AToW suddenly appears to be smaller.

The large number of skills compensates for this being a magic-less game.

Oh for sure not having magic helps lower the overall crunch. Personaly, I wouldn't compare or contrast AToW to D&D, because that RPG is stricty designed to support campaigning in a Fantasy setting. Although the publishers of Ultramodern 5e and the earlier D20 Modern would like us to believe otherwise - IMO neither does an adequate job for SciFi adventuring. The universal RPGs I mentioned earlier are all capable of running without magic and in fact magic has to be homebrewed in for both Cortex Prime and FATE Core . Your point is well taken though,  and not having the overhead of magic is a lot of the motivation for my wanting to homebrew AToW into something lighter that can better suit my group of players.

I have to admit that I could see Comstar Acolytes possessing low-level Psionics (not exaclty magic, but close) working in a BattleTech campaign, but I'm admittedly far from the most respectful GM when it comes to honoring the existing canon.  ;)

Daryk

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #17 on: 31 March 2018, 15:04:40 »
If your players are all for 2nd edition, why resist?  It's actually pretty easy to pick up...

kronovan

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #18 on: 31 March 2018, 15:50:12 »
If your players are all for 2nd edition, why resist?  It's actually pretty easy to pick up...

The main reason being that some of my players are CGL demo volunteers and they want to campaign with CGL's latest & greatest, even if it's heavily houseruled. As well, one of the local events I'll run sessions at is officially sponsored by CGL, so I'll have to run full-on AToW at it anyways. I also have 2 players that GM'd MW2, who aren't nearly as enamored of it as my other players who just ran PCs with it. Not to mention I payed almost $50 for my AToW hardcover, so I'd like to get a little bit more mileage out of it before I toss it.

Having read a bit deeper into MW2 now,  I find its skill list almost as complex as AToW's. There is only 5 skills with subskills and no 2-tiered skills, but 55 skills still seems like a bit too much crunch for my gaming scenarios.  I'm actually surprised there seems to be a common impression that it had a shorter skill list than AToW, because I only count 2 less. I'm going to go as far as running a session with MW2 though, and see how it runs in actual game play.

Daryk

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #19 on: 31 March 2018, 16:14:47 »
Ah, I see.  The reason 2nd edition is commonly thought to have a shorter list is you got relatively fewer skill points to spend, so on your average character sheet, you had fewer skills.

Hythos

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #20 on: 31 March 2018, 23:55:26 »
Take a look at the NPC creation list...
It defines the number of skills of a typical Boss (more powerful than a PC), and of an "Everyday" commoner (less powerful than a PC).

If having quick-start options, pregenerated AToW characters can be made in a minute, and still carry a small amount if customization.
The NPC rules will capture a finite amount of Attributes, Traits, and Skills... But to simplify that into pri-gen'd Char's, working off of an Archtype means only needing to select the Skill level (green, regular, vet, elite, etc), and have a few floating skills beyond those typical for the Archtype (taken from the skill-fields list).
Players can customize their characters a little further by taking more positive/negative traits.
While a typical MechWarrior will have all of the expected skills, having the player choose 3-5 additional skills makes it a bit more defined.

Also, untrained skill-use isn't that difficult;  players can still do most anything they'd want (with limited results) - so having all the skills isn't necesssry (in my opinion). Selecting the skills they DO want to be better with makes it faster.
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skiltao

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #21 on: 05 April 2018, 13:37:36 »
On my first pass I was able to reduce the skill list to 20 parent skills and come up with an outline of a simpler RPG, in which players could quickly become familiar with their PC's character sheet.

That dabbling kind of led me done a rabbit hole though, where I started seeing ways to simplify the entire RPG - started toying with Attribute consolidation and simplifying the PC point build system. So I'm finding the need to reign myself in a bit. ;) Anyhow, I'm wondering if others think such a project holds some merit?

I think it has merit, and I'd be interested in seeing your first-pass skill list. I've sometimes thought it was unnecessary to detail skills below the "skill fields" level.
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Dunia

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #22 on: 10 June 2018, 16:02:48 »
I love that there are so many skills, makes it easy for people to make characters of the same profession to be very varied.
In my group we have Three mechwarriors, a technician, a spy and a doctor., The three mech pilots are so varid because of their skills, even if two of us comes from the same district in Kurita sphere.
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Maelwys

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #23 on: 10 June 2018, 17:18:50 »
I'm sort of mixed on some of it. I've been looking them over recently and I wonder if some of the subskills are needed.

Like take Acrobatics for instance. Do you really need "Acrobatics/Free Form" AND "Acrobatics/Gymnastics"? Wouldn't simply "Acrobatics" have worked perfectly fine? If you wanted to specialize, you could do that, but it seems like forcing two different skills there is a bit much.

Medtech is similar. Sure, treating animals and humans is two different things, but why not rely on the GM for that? "Okay, you've got MedTech, and your background is that you're a Doctor from the DC who ran afoul of the Yakuza, so yeah. You've got some medical idea about treating that Branth that stowed away on the DropShip, but you're going to take penalties for trying to figure out the correct dose of the tranquilizer." or "Okay, your background is that you're a farmer from the FS Outback that raised livestock. Sure, you can treat the noble's son that got gutshot, but you're going to be taking penalties. And no. Human stomachs don't have 4 chambers."

While ATOW seems to have cut back in the skill section (I think), there is some bloat in the fact that each Subskill is effectively its own skill, so the pruning isn't as complete as it seems. On the other hand, some things I could see a completely different skill for (like Gunnery)

Actually...how's this for a suggestion for a fix? Eliminate most (if not all) subskills, but force those skills that previously had a subskill to take a free specialization, choosing between the previous options.

So Medtech is now a single skill, but when you create a character with it, you have to specialize in either Veterinary medicine, or General. But you get that specialization for free. You can buy the specialization off during the course of the game.

It may skew things a bit, but since everyone is getting them, but not for every skill, it isn't too bad. I think. Maybe. Just a thought :)

monbvol

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #24 on: 10 June 2018, 22:44:08 »
Yeah there are certainly a number of skills/subskills that I think really should be that way.

Dunia

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #25 on: 11 June 2018, 00:53:02 »
I have made a rule when I GM that if you have say Technical/electronics, you get a discount what starting up other Technical skills by 10 xp
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kronovan

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Re: So....about Skills - There Sure is a Lot of Them
« Reply #26 on: 12 June 2018, 18:02:27 »
I agree that specializations in many cases would be preferable to a subskill. A subskill is for all intents and purposes another skill and there are many subskilled skills in this RPG. I'm fairly new to GMing this system, but based on my experiences with other RPG's with similar skills crunch, I've been allowing my players some maneuvering room around subskilled skills. Particularly Technician and Communications subskill, which has come up a fair amount in our sessions. I don't have a problem with Driving, Gunnery and Piloting being subskilled.

On the other hand, I've put some constrictions on Protocol and Streetwise, as the default of them applying to the breadth of an entire successor state seemed too broad.

 

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