Skills and Specializations
Your skills determine your general capabilities in a variety of tasks. Skills represent training, practice, and natural talent in common types of tasks associated with adventuring. Most skills function primarily outside of combat, with the exception of Aim and Melee, which are used when attacking, and Reaction and Focus, which are often used as special defenses.
Specializations are subcategories underneath skills. If you have a specialization appropriate to a specific task, then you add its value to your skill level when making any related checks.
Skills are typically paired with attributes and specializations in order to make a skill check. The notation this follows is Skill (Attribute). The same skill can be paired with different attributes for different uses, but specializations can usually only be applied to a single skill. For example, a Deception (Prs) check could be used to tell a convincing lie, whereas a Deception (Rsn) check might allow you to create a believable disguise, and a Deception (Prc) check would be used to discern another's lie. Certain checks also take Size into account, and can either add or subtract size. These are notated as Skill (Attribute + Size) or Skill (Attribute - Size), respectively. Additional modifiers may also be included in the parenthesis on occasion.
The GM sets all TNs for skill checks, keeping the following guidelines in mind. Just about anyone can handle a task with TN of 6 or less with almost no chance of failure. An average, untrained, unskilled person can succeed most of the time on tasks with a TN of 10, but will still have a decent chance of failure. Someone with a natural talent or small amount of training can handle tasks with a TN of 13 or 14 about half the time, but this would be very challenging for an unskilled person. A moderately skilled person can handle tasks with a TN of 15 or 16. Only a master can handle tasks with a TN of 20 or more. The most talented, most highly-trained human can handle tasks up to TN 25 most of the time, or 30 on rare occasions. Such tasks are generally considered to be impossible as far as most people are concerned. No human can succeed on anything with a TN above 30 without additional help or special abilities. The table below has additional guidelines.
|TN||Who Can Be Expected to Succeed About Half the Time|
|5||Anyone but the most inept|
|7||Someone who is particularly bad at the skill|
|10||An average person with no particular aptitude for this sort of thing|
|13||Someone who is naturally talented or has spent a few months training his skill|
|15||Someone with some natural talent who has practiced his skill|
|18||Someone who has spent considerable time training and building on his natural talent|
|20||A master who has spent years honing his craft and pushes the limits of human performance|
|25||A grand master who has trained to the point of surpassing what most people think possible|
Skills and specializations are improved by spending AP. The table to the right shows the cost of raising each by 1 point. No skill or specialization can be raised higher than 5. Remove your racial bonuses and penalties before calculating cost or determining if a skill is too high to raise.
Training (Optional Rule)
Improving a skill may require expenditures of time and/or money in addition to AP. Under this optional rule, training a skill requires a number of weeks of focused study and practice equal to double the level in the skill that you are trying to gain, with a minimum of 1 week. For example, improving from level 4 in Medicine to level 5 requires 10 weeks of training with access to proper facilities and equipment. Additionally, in order to improve a skill to a level higher than your Lore plus your Reason, you must find a trainer who has a skill level higher than yours. Most trainers will require a fee of 10-100 gp per week depending on the rarity of the skill.
The available skills are listed below with guidelines on when each can be applied. They can be used in multiple ways, and part of the fun should be in trying to find creative ways to make use of your strengths. In general, it is good to have at least one person in the party who is good at each skill, and everyone will usually want to have some skill in both Focus and Reaction and at least one of Aim, Arcana, or Melee.
Certain abilities can grant you access to new skills that are not on this list. In such a case, you treat the new skill exactly like any of the standard ones, including spending AP to increase your bonus in the skill.
Specializations are listed under each skill, but these are not exhaustive. With your GM's approval, you may create a new specialization, provided that it is of approximately equal power to those already listed. You may never apply more than one specialization to a single check.
You use acrobatics when attempting any feat of dexterity or balance, such as trying to walk along a narrow ledge, across slippery ground, or through a field of caltrops without stepping on one. You may also use acrobatics for flips, somersaults, tumbling, or similar displays. Your passive Acrobatics (Dex) is used to help prevent or reduce damage from falls. Most acrobatics checks use Dexterity, but some may use Strength.
- Balance: Applies on attempts to stay upright under difficult circumstances.
- Gymnastics: Applies on feats of acrobatics related to mobility or flexibility.
- Tumbling: Applies on attempts to reduce falling damage or avoid dangerous terrain while moving.
Aim is primarily a combat skill, allowing increased accuracy and damage with missile and thrown weapons. You might also use it to determine your score for archery tournaments or dart games, or to see if you can throw a ball into a basket. Most aim checks use Dexterity.
- Weapon Group: Select a weapon group, such as bows, crossbows, or daggers. Applies on all Aim checks using weapons in that group. You may specialize in multiple weapon groups.
Arcana is used to determine your familiarity with magic, be it a spell, object, creature, or location. It is used to increase accuracy or effect when casting spells, to identify the functions of magical items, and to recognize the effects of magic cast by others. Most arcana checks use either Lore to learn about effects in place or Reason to create a new magical effect. Certain types of magical abilities rely on Persona instead of Reason.
- Identification: Applies on attempts to understand the nature of nearby magic, whether as a spell, on an object, or in a location.
- Magic School: Select a school of magic, such as Blade Magic or Tome Magic. You must have the ability associated with a magic school in order to specialize in it. Applies to all Arcana checks related to that school. You may specialize in multiple magic schools.
Your athletics skill is used whenever you attempt feats of physical endurance or strength beyond simple raw power. You use it to climb, jump, or swim, and it also helps to determine your base movement rate along with Speed. Athletics is usually used with Strength, but could instead require Vitality if it is an action where endurance is a more important factor, such as swimming long distances.
- Climbing: Applies on any check related to climbing.
- Jumping: Applies on attempts to jump.
- Running: Applies when calculating your base local movement speed and when taking the run action. Does not apply to overland movement speed.
- Swimming: Applies on any check related to swimming.
Culture measures your familiarity with society's structure and rules, as well as general history. You most often use it in combination with Lore to determine your knowledge of common things that don't fit any other skill, or with Persona to see how well you can blend in with a given group of people.
- Etiquette: Applies when attempting to recall, learn, or follow rules of social etiquette, especially as related to high society.
- History: Applies on checks to recall information about general history.
- Linguistics: Applies on checks to match a dialect or manner of speaking or writing with a particular person, time period, social class, or other group, or to decipher languages you are not fluent in.
You use deception for any action that involves tricking or misleading others. You can use it to tell a convincing lie, keep a straight face in a game of cards, build an effective disguise, or forge a document. Most deception checks use either Persona when acting or Reason when creating a disguise or copy. Perception is used when attempting to notice if someone else is trying to deceive you.
- Disguises: Applies on checks to create a disguise, impersonate another person, or recognize someone else's disguise or impersonation.
- Forgeries: Applies on any check related to creating or discovering forgeries.
- Lies: Applies on attempts to tell a convincing lie or to conceal information through misdirection, nonreaction, or half-truths, or on attempts to recognize such deceptions.
Focus is mostly a defensive skill used to resist magical charms and other effects, to resist falling unconscious from wounds, or to maintain concentration when distracted by pain or changing conditions. You use Vitality when dealing with wounds, Persona to resist most magical effects, and Reason for other challenging circumstances.
- Concentration: Applies on checks to maintain concentration on spells or other mentally intensive activities.
- Willpower: Applies on checks to resist charms and other mental effects and to resist falling unconscious or to regain consciousness.
Your investigation skill allows you to learn additional information about something, whether through physical examination or asking strangers for rumors at the tavern. You may find the mechanisms to open secret doors or traps, recognize the handwriting on a piece of paper, or notice patterns in the footprints on the floor. You usually do not make an investigation check unless you take an action to specifically examine something. Checks involving gathering information from people use Persona, but most others use Perception or Reason.
- Examination: Applies when physically examining an object or area through one of the senses.
- Interrogation: Applies on attempts to gain information from questioning people, either through asking the right questions of the right people or picking up on the things left unsaid if someone is avoiding telling something.
You use mechanics when dealing with all sorts of devices and tools, from clocks and drawbridges to knots and wagon axles or even devious traps. Learning how the items function or figuring out what needs to be done to produce a desired effect usually requires Reason, while attempting to manipulate fine tools or disable or sabotage equipment usually requires Dexterity.
- Engineering: Applies on checks to devise or understand a feat of engineering.
- Manipulation: Applies on checks to physically manipulate objects to make them behave as intended, such as tying special knots in rope or working a set of delicate equipment. Does not apply to picking locks.
- Sabotage: Applies on attempts to destroy, disable, or otherwise hamper the use of a given device.
Medicine is used to treat all sorts of injuries and counteract toxins. It can also be used to identify plants useful for medical purposes. Most medicine checks rely on Lore.
- Diseases: Applies on checks to diagnose or treat diseases.
- Herbology: Applies on checks related to plants useful in creating medicine and to the creation of those medicines.
- Toxins: Applies on checks to diagnose or treat poisons and other toxins.
- Wounds: Applies on checks to diagnose or treat wounds of all kinds, including burns, lacerations, sprains, and so on.
Melee is primarily a combat skill, allowing increased accuracy and damage with melee weapons and unarmed attacks. It also grants increased defensive benefits from using a shield. Melee checks are typically attack rolls, and add Dexterity.
- Weapon Group: Select a weapon group, such as axes, daggers, heavy swords, or shields. Applies on all Melee checks using weapons in that group, and on all calculations to determine the defense bonus granted by a weapon. You may specialize in multiple weapon groups.
You use Nature whenever dealing with animals, plants, or the natural environment. It can be used to aid in riding mounts, calming angry or frightened animals, finding game trails, identifying edible herbs, predicting the weather, and so on.
- Animals: Applies on checks to identify, locate, interact with, or train animals. This can include identifying animal tracks, following their trails, and so on.
- Plants: Applies on checks to identify, locate, or safely interact with plants.
- Riding: Applies on checks related to riding or controlling a mount.
- Wilderness Survival: Applies on checks to predict the weather, recognize signs of natural hazards, determine directions, or locate the most likely place to find food or shelter.
Persuasion allows you to convince others to follow your suggestions or orders, whether by cunningly crafted arguments, subtle bribery or blackmail, or an intimidating show of force. Depending on your method of persuasion, it can use Reason, Strength, or Persona.
- Charm: Applies on checks to persuade through being likeable, witty, friendly, or charismatic.
- Debate: Applies on checks to convince others using logic, reason, and facts.
- Intimidation: Applies on checks to coerce through physical force, threats, or scare tactics.
Reaction is used to determine your starting initiative in combat and in other situations where reaction speed is critical, such as avoiding traps or explosions, or catching a falling object before it hits the ground. When used for initiative, it is paired with Perception, but for most other uses it relies on Speed.
- Evasion: Applies on checks to avoid dangerous objects or effects in an area.
- Initiative: Applies on initiative checks at the start of combat.
- Interruption: Applies on checks to react quickly enough to prevent something from happening, such as by catching someone or something that is thrown at you or about to fall.
Stealth is used to hide, sneak quietly, or subtly manipulate objects without being noticed, such as when performing a card trick. It is also used if you are specifically looking for others attempting to do these things. If you are the one being stealthy, you will usually use Dexterity, whereas to notice someone else, you use Perception.
- Hiding: Applies on attempts to remain out of sight or unnoticed.
- Observation: Applies on checks to notice someone else who is being stealthy or to locate hidden objects.
- Silence: Applies on attempts to remain quiet when moving or interacting with an object.
- Sleight of Hand: Applies on checks to make small movements while being observed without drawing attention, or to plant items on other people without them noticing.
Thievery allows you to pick locks, steal small items out of someone's pocket, and detect traps meant to protect against thieves and intruders. It also grants familiarity with the criminal underworld. Most thievery checks rely on Dexterity or Perception, but some may use Lore.
- Larceny: Applies on attempts to pick pockets, identify marks, or guess likely locations of hidden valuables.
- Locks: Applies on checks related to picking locks or open similar devices.
- Underworld: Applies on checks to locate a fence or other criminals, to recall information about criminal organizations, or to identify code words and symbols used by such groups.