Sunday, April 14, 2019

"Unskilled" Skill Attempts In Cryptworld/Timemaster/Rotworld

So you're playing Cryptworld (or Timemaster or Majus or Rotworld -- any of the Pacesetter-brand RPGs) and you want to perform an action you're unskilled at. For example, someone needs immediate surgery, but your character doesn't have the Medicine skill. Or the pilot is killed and you're the only one who can land the plane, but you don't have the Pilot skill. Well, the section on "Exclusive Skills" (CW rules, pg. 16) makes the consequences clear:
EXCLUSIVE SKILLS
Characters can use most weapons without having skills for those weapons; they just use their Dexterity or Unskilled Melee score as the base chance for success. Not all skills work this way; many cannot be used unless characters actually have the skill. Such skills are called exclusive. Characters without exclusive skills may never, under any circumstances, attempt to perform actions that require these skills.
Sounds pretty dire, doesn't it? So, in the examples above, the patient dies and the plane crashes. Even the original Pacesetter games have similar limits under the section "Unskilled Attempts to Perform Skills.". But that's kind of a hardline approach, and it's a rule I've had to work around in play.

"So none of us took the Pilot skill!?"

An "exclusive skill" simply means that the PC was never properly trained in that field. They didn't go to school, they have no training, and they've never practiced. But can they try it? Sure, but the odds will be incredibly stacked against them. Here are a few ways to approach it though:

METHOD 1: DOING A LOT OF MATH
In Chill 1e (page 14), they suggest calculating the skill base for the unskilled character, adding adjustments for skill levels, then dividing by 10 (rounding down) to give a percentage for the PC to fumble their way through it. So, for example, the History skill is calculated by PCN plus WPR divided by 2. So someone with a Specialist-level Skill with PCN of 60 and WPR of 70 would have a History skill of 80 (60+70/2=65, then +15 for Specialist level.) But for someone who is unskilled in History, the chance for that PC would be only 6. (60+70/2 = 65, then 65/10 = 6.5 or 6). So they'd have a 6% chance to recall something they may have heard on TV or in a classroom about the historical information at hand. Pretty rotten odds, but it beats "never, under any circumstances".

METHOD 2: USE ABILITY AND LUCK SCORES FOR MINOR ROLLS
I've used this system for non-life-threatening skills, such as Forgery, Investigation, Tracking -- something where there is no chance of injury in case of failure. For these I'll allow the PC to roll a check versus an appropriate Ability, so Forgery might use DEX, Investigation and Tracking might use PCN, etc. However, behind the screen, I would make a hidden roll versus that player's LUCK score. That roll would determine how well they fake their way through the unskilled task. So if they succeed their roll, but the LUCK roll is a failure, they may not realize that they still failed until it's too late. (The forgery is discovered to be fake; their investigation gives them incorrect info; they follow the tracks in the wrong direction.) If the LUCK roll is a success, I treat it as a specific check to determine just how well they succeed. The lower the roll, they better they did.

METHOD 3: USE A SKILL YOU HAVE IN PLACE OF A SKILL YOU DON'T HAVE
This is the system I use at home and at conventions. I stress to my players if they can JUSTIFY how one of their skills is appropriate to a situation, I’ll allow it. So instead of a Demolitions skill roll to cobble together some makeshift explosives, I’ve had a player use their Chemistry skill. Need to get past that keypad-locked door, but you don't have the Security Devices skill? No problem, as I've allowed players with the Computers skill or the Electronics skill use their abilities for that same situation. Heck, I’ve given accountants a chance to discover clues using Accounting, as they explained, "My highly analytic mind can find patterns where others may not see them." If the player can describe how their skill can be used in any situation -- as long as it makes sense in some way --I’ll allow the roll.

For your next game, don't be so hung up on the exclusivity of skills. Allow the players some leeway, and use one of the systems I've described to give them a chance to succeed. Otherwise, this may be the end result if someone doesn't take the Stunt Driving skill...

3 comments:

  1. Ok, looks like anonymous posting works.
    I would use all three of those methods in a game, depending on the situation. I would also limit the success. That unskilled pilot might land the plane and survive, but the wings would probably be torn off...

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    Replies
    1. Agreed. Even if the roll were successful, I wouldn't make it a clean success. There should still be some kind of consequence for the brazen attempt.

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