A few skill concerns

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Urthdigger Urthdigger's picture
A few skill concerns

Hi everyone, used to post here quite often and had an itch to get back to playing. There's just one little matter besides my schedule though... I have a few issues with the skill system. I hope it's more a case of me misunderstanding things, but in any case here's the issues I've noticed between reading the books and playing in a few campaigns:

1: You will never train new skills. I've only ever had one campaign where I even spent any rez, and that was a monty haul campaign that handed it out by the relative truckload. All others I was lucky to even see 15 by the time the campaign ended. On the plus side, Slow Learner is thus a free 10 CP everyone should take.

2: Task difficulty is non-existent. Well, the rules say they're there, but in practice every skill is just used at average difficulty regardless of the actual action being performed. This winds up meaning that your skill rating is basically your chance of performing any given task, which is a tad at odds with what the original book lists the skill ratings as equating to :P

3: Any skill you intend to use on even a semi-reliable basis should be 80 at MINIMUM. Previous characters of mine tended to have a lot of skills at 60, and I feel downright sorry for the people I played with for how ineffective I was at, well, everything. While bonuses CAN help, the few things you can stack bonuses out the wazoo onto also tend to get a lot of penalties as well. Things that are meant only as complementary bonuses are fine at 61 (Basically the knowledge skills)

4: The previous note, along with the list of absolutely required skills (One ranged weapon, fray, Infosec, Investigation, Networking, Perception, and Scrounging), does not leave you with a lot of spare CP to branch out further.

5: Thankfully, the vast majority of skills are completely useless. Animal Handling, Palming, Medicine, every last knowledge skill, you won't see them called for unless you or the DM specifically go out of the way to create a situation that requires them in a vein similar to this trope: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ThisLooksLikeAJobForAquaman

6: Movement skills in particular are a weird case. They sound useful, and I usually ran with them, but like social skills you'll likely need all of them if you need any of them. On that note however, in all the time I spent playing I used Freefall once and none of the other movement skills. I found more alternate routes by virtue of being two feet tall rather than any skill application. Also people don't like splitting the party.

This really seems at odds with the skill rating descriptions, sample characters, lifepaths... all of these seem to suggest a wide variety of skills being the norm (which was indeed what I used to do). However, I can't help but look at those and think "what use is a skill with a rank of 30"? Assuming that ever gets rolled, one would better hope the result is inconsequential!

jackgraham jackgraham's picture
1. Yeah, unless it's a long

1. Yeah, unless it's a long campaign, you don't usually want to plan on learning new skills. EP is built on a "you're a badass from the start at what you do" model rather than a gradual advancement model for characters. EP has no equivalent to being a hapless first level character, unless you intentionally build a generalist who's bad at everything.

2. & 3. This hasn't really been my experience either running or as a player. Between gear, teamwork, taking time, and complimentary skills, it's usually possible to eke out enough bonuses to have a reasonable chance of success with skills in the 40-70 range. If the GM is being absolutely brutal with penalties, it can offset this, but that's where planning by the players comes in. The game favors teamwork, casing your target in advance, and making plans. Smart teams come up with plans that give them situational bonuses at whatever they're trying to do; dumb ones run in guns blazing. This style of play owes a lot to classics in the cyberpunk genre like Cyberpunk 2013 and Shadowrun, where high-tech dungeon crawls are a major focus. Not everybody is into this style of play, of course.

4. Many PCs can live without Infosec, Investigation, and Scrounging. This is a thing where having someone on the team covering the skill for the group works well.

5. & 6. Well, we have too many skills. There, said it. If we were making EP today, maybe it would have fewer. That said, EP is designed to do a ton of different things in a big setting. You can make an Animal Handling-oriented character, either who uses a ton of space hab service animals as spies, or who tames bigger animals like Martian police baboons or who-knows-what in an exoplanet-based game. So some of these skills are here so that you can make literally any type of character, but yeah, for the average sentinel, some are useless.

I do recommend leaving skills you'll never use out of your game. I'm also a big fan of letting players use field skills that are close enough when they don't have a specific one (e.g., Hardware: Electronics as a substitute for Hardware: Robotics, or Hardware: Robotics in place of Hardware: Industrial).

Hope that helps!

J A C K   G R A H A M :: Hooray for Earth!
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DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
jackgraham wrote:5. & 6. Well

jackgraham wrote:
5. & 6. Well, we have too many skills. There, said it. If we were making EP today, maybe it would have fewer. That said, EP is designed to do a ton of different things in a big setting. You can make an Animal Handling-oriented character, either who uses a ton of space hab service animals as spies, or who tames bigger animals like Martian police baboons or who-knows-what in an exoplanet-based game. So some of these skills are here so that you can make literally any type of character, but yeah, for the average sentinel, some are useless.

I do recommend leaving skills you'll never use out of your game. I'm also a big fan of letting players use field skills that are close enough when they don't have a specific one (e.g., Hardware: Electronics as a substitute for Hardware: Robotics, or Hardware: Robotics in place of Hardware: Industrial).

Interesting to hear that. I like reading about behind the scenes stuff for RPGs. Always great to hear from the devs themselves.

I suppose you could fix it in Eclipse Phase 2nd edition, but thats probably more than a few years away.

DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
1. It is a lot of rez to get

1. It is a lot of rez to get a new skill to 80, or to improve an existing skill to that level. A new skill to 80 will cost roughly 80 rez, which is no small fraction of the cp you start with. A starting character gets about 1000 cp, so 80 rez is nearly 10% of your character build. Even improving an existing skill from 60 to 80 (40 rez) will require that about half of the rez required is spent before you start the game.

Because of the big expense, it is a good idea to check with your GM to see if you will be getting plenty of CP throughout the campaign. If not, prepare for a one shot game. Maybe spend any cp that you do get on credits and rep.

2. A drawback of playing a game where the very pinnacle of character ability is almost in reach of starting characters. The max you can raise a skill to is 99, but characters can start with 80 (or even 90 with the right traits) in any skill. It is real easy to forget that there are many things you can do to get bonuses or penalties, and its easy for GMs to forget that they can enforce that kind of stuff. Another reason to build characters as though it was a one shot game I suppose.

3. Its probably worth checking to see if there is any gear that can help your skills before dropping 40 cp to raise a skill from 60 to 80. Enhanced vision and enhanced hearing augments both offer a +30 bonus to tests and cost 250 cr each (1/4 of a cp). Utilitools offer a +10 bonus to a number of skills and costs 250 cr, while wrist mounted tools offers a +20 bonus for a cost of 1000 cr. Some skills only require the right data, such as manuals or blueprints for hardware tests. Bonuses to aptitudes from morphs will give those bonuses for the fraction of the cost. Instead of paying 10 cp per aptitude, you can pay 1.5 to 2.125 cp per aptitude. On top of that, aptitude bonuses can boost skills beyond 60 at no extra cost, and can push skills beyond 80 without needing traits.

Its really worth checking to see what you can do.

jackgraham wrote:
4. Many PCs can live without Infosec, Investigation, and Scrounging. This is a thing where having someone on the team covering the skill for the group works well.

Its even more effective if that one character can fork to get the job done faster. If you need physical bodies for the job, you could always keep some cheap bots that you can jam or remote control. The other characters can put their time to better use by doing something else. If not, they can always help to get teamwork bonuses.

Urthdigger Urthdigger's picture
As far as bonuses go, I know

As far as bonuses go, I know they exist but there's 2 reasons I tend to view 60 as low rather than ok. The first is my experience that you'll never see situational bonuses unless you practically beg the DM for them or the rules specifically add them. Situational penalties are a lot more common. Secondly, it's often not enough to make your check. Sure, I can take 60 kinetics, specialize in my weapon type, use a tacnet, and take a quick action to aim and hit my target if they fail their fray. Meanwhile the other party members are focusing their build to have an effective score more around 150 so they can make called shots on targets behind cover and expect an excellent success. I've kinda gotten the impression that bonuses are more to eat penalties.

As far as the other required skills go, I figured infosec to defend against personal hack attempts, and I've been burned in the past for only having perception trained instead of all three detection skills. Nobody wants to be the guy who misses the vital clue the campaign needs because they defaulted and wound up with a score of 30.

MrWigggles MrWigggles's picture
Well, if the clue is vital,

Well, if the clue is vital, then the GM is running the game wrong. Though that might not be their fault. I mean, it seems so painfully obvious now but with the new version of Delta Green, and with Gumshoe, you should give all vital clues regardless. Higher skill levels give more details. Skill checks for optional details or for interesting failures.

As for bonuses, meant to be eating penalties. Yea. With how the game is written, you can have bonuses in excess of +60. If you have somehow gotten +80 to some action, only +60 can apply. But you can eat -20 of penalties and still be at the highest bonus possible. Its why I suggest for combat characters, that they get two weapon skills as high as they can afford, so when they get injured, and start to incur penalties, they can remain combat effective longer.

I also dont think the game has to many skills. You could condense the skills, sure. The only skill in my experience that is really flat, is swimming. There just so few places where that is ever an appreciable skill. And in places where it is, you're more then likely better off sleeving into a marine morph. In where you're not using swimming, you're using free running anyway. Its your bodies natural locomotion. Animal handling is such a weird duck. There are smart animals, that you can use to your advantage. I listen to one game where an AGI, was residing inside a ghost rider of their pet smart baboon, and was using animal handling to move about the physical world. Yea... it was mostly a gimmick, but this is a universe where there rage goblin cock as a respected news anchor, and a biological habitat made out of meat.

I also dont think knowledge skills are worthless. Its an aspect of the game that required requires the Gm and players to work together. The games I run they can come in handy. And we see in RPPR games where knowledge skills do get used.

jackgraham jackgraham's picture
MrWigggles wrote:Well, if the

MrWigggles wrote:
Well, if the clue is vital, then the GM is running the game wrong. Though that might not be their fault. I mean, it seems so painfully obvious now but with the new version of Delta Green, and with Gumshoe, you should give all vital clues regardless. Higher skill levels give more details. Skill checks for optional details or for interesting failures.

Yeah, your GM might want to check out the optional rules on using Moxie for investigation in Transhuman. Gumshoe is a direct inspiration for them.

J A C K   G R A H A M :: Hooray for Earth!
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Laskeutua Laskeutua's picture
jackgraham wrote:MrWigggles

jackgraham wrote:
MrWigggles wrote:
Well, if the clue is vital, then the GM is running the game wrong. Though that might not be their fault. I mean, it seems so painfully obvious now but with the new version of Delta Green, and with Gumshoe, you should give all vital clues regardless. Higher skill levels give more details. Skill checks for optional details or for interesting failures.

Yeah, your GM might want to check out the optional rules on using Moxie for investigation in Transhuman. Gumshoe is a direct inspiration for them.

I was wondering about that. Saw the parallels when playing Trail of Chthulu.

DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
Urthdigger wrote:As far as

Urthdigger wrote:
As far as bonuses go, I know they exist but there's 2 reasons I tend to view 60 as low rather than ok. The first is my experience that you'll never see situational bonuses unless you practically beg the DM for them or the rules specifically add them. Situational penalties are a lot more common. Secondly, it's often not enough to make your check. Sure, I can take 60 kinetics, specialize in my weapon type, use a tacnet, and take a quick action to aim and hit my target if they fail their fray. Meanwhile the other party members are focusing their build to have an effective score more around 150 so they can make called shots on targets behind cover and expect an excellent success. I've kinda gotten the impression that bonuses are more to eat penalties.

You have a point. Players certainly can perform stunts in combat and still get 99% chance of success. I must have forgot about them.

I must have been thinking of other games where you didn't often have such options.

Urthdigger wrote:
As far as the other required skills go, I figured infosec to defend against personal hack attempts, and I've been burned in the past for only having perception trained instead of all three detection skills. Nobody wants to be the guy who misses the vital clue the campaign needs because they defaulted and wound up with a score of 30.

So you consider Perception, Investigation, and Scrounging the 3 important perception skills?

MrWigggles MrWigggles's picture
Scrounging isnt really a

Scrounging isnt really a perception skill. Its a 'poof', give me what i want skill.

Urthdigger Urthdigger's picture
The one time I did have

The one time I did have scrounging called, it was as a detection skill (I believe I was attempting to find evidence of some sort in a bombed out house or something like that. Been years), and I do consider those three the important perception skills, again based on my own experiences playing (I'm starting to get the impression the game my DMs run and the games most people run are wildly different, which may explain some of my issues). I know there are other skills that can be used to find information such as research, diplomacy, and networking, but those can more easily be done by a single party member, while the three I mentioned are useful even if it's not your role IME if the other party members are elsewhere (In the aforementioned scenario it was a big area so we split up to search.)

Speaking of whether scrounging is a detection skill or not, I'd like to talk a bit about the latter point I made, namely the skills that I never really saw used and appeared more or less useless. Outside of the core ranged combat, fray, social, interfacing/infosec, and infiltration skills that are relatively well documented with a plethora of uses mentioned in the books, there are a lot of skills that are either vague on their uses, or their uses seem to be of little help. As a few examples, I've always taken an art skill or two but have struggled to find a use for them (It's rare to have enough free time sitting around to make art, nor have I ever really had an opportunity to trade art for services... I find this especially humorous as the core book labels the art fields as extremely valuable to have in the new economy), and I've oft played a medic (While some uses are listed, they are absolutely replaced by cheap medichines for the party and nanobandages for wounded NPCs. And anywhere you have the tools to augment likely has someone who can run them for you). Also, when is melee ever a decent option, with the possible exception of unarmed if you must surrender your weapons or are otherwise disarmed?

ThatWhichNeverWas ThatWhichNeverWas's picture
Finding the clue can be a bad thing...

jackgraham wrote:
1. Yeah, unless it's a long campaign, you don't usually want to plan on learning new skills. EP is built on a "you're a badass from the start at what you do" model rather than a gradual advancement model for characters. EP has no equivalent to being a hapless first level character, unless you intentionally build a generalist who's bad at everything.

2. & 3. This hasn't really been my experience either running or as a player. Between gear, teamwork, taking time, and complimentary skills, it's usually possible to eke out enough bonuses to have a reasonable chance of success with skills in the 40-70 range. If the GM is being absolutely brutal with penalties, it can offset this, but that's where planning by the players comes in. The game favors teamwork, casing your target in advance, and making plans. Smart teams come up with plans that give them situational bonuses at whatever they're trying to do; dumb ones run in guns blazing. This style of play owes a lot to classics in the cyberpunk genre like Cyberpunk 2013 and Shadowrun, where high-tech dungeon crawls are a major focus. Not everybody is into this style of play, of course.

I tend to be really generous with CP and bonuses, and weirdly they kind of balance each other out.
Because I'm assuming that the player will be rolling against 100 anyway, them having high skills doesn't give them a significant advantage, it just makes it simpler for them to get and gives them more room for stunts/cool stuff.
Even better, it helps them get immersed with their character and the setting, which IMO should be rewarded, and makes the game feel very "transhumany" because of their extreme competence.

Of course, NPCs can get bonuses too, so the possibility of failure remains – but the failure is because of how insanely dangerous the enemy is, rather than personal failure. Again, it drives home the transhuman aesthetic. Who wins and loses is more of a question of stunts and cleverness than die rolls.

For roles that need a possibility of failure which are unopposed, I turn to MoS – low rolls may succeed but in a suboptimal manner.

Regarding Core Clues, I'll often require a roll to avoid a negative effect from finding the clue - the medic is definately going to identify the wierd organic pod, but will thier quarantine setup keep it constrained?

In the past we've had to compensate for weaknesses, finding quick solutions that only benefit a few.
But what if we never need to feel weak or morally conflicted again?

MrWigggles MrWigggles's picture
Urthdigger wrote:The one time

Urthdigger wrote:
The one time I did have scrounging called, it was as a detection skill (I believe I was attempting to find evidence of some sort in a bombed out house or something like that. Been years)...

This should have been the investigation skill, not the scounge skill. Scourging, is looking for the untainted half sandwhich is a dumpster, or a particular fuse in a rubble pile, or very recently, looking for valuables while you're looting. Investigation, is searching a given area, for clues for a puzzle you're trying to solve. Its what you see cops do on tv shows when they get to a crime scene. Trying to piece together what happen, looking for frosentic evidence. Scounging, is looking for a good place to sleep in an alley way when you're a hobo.

Quote:
As a few examples, I've always taken an art skill or two but have struggled to find a use for them (It's rare to have enough free time sitting around to make art, nor have I ever really had an opportunity to trade art for services. I find this especially humorous as the core book labels the art fields as extremely valuable to have in the new economy)...

Thats not really a fault of the book, but game style. In my current EP game I am running, I am going to try and explore a game that isn't at such a rushing pace. Most EP games, I've played or listen to, is at this sprinting pace. One of the few game groups where they take time for the slice of life, has been Rag Nerd Rok APs. And everyone is immortal... so things should take longer. Your GM should let you have slice of life moments, instead of always running all the time. As for not having time to trade it for services. Of course you've done it ICly. Whenever you've burned rep, for something thats you giving your arts or other services you've done previously. Its not money.

Quote:
...and I've oft played a medic (While some uses are listed, they are absolutely replaced by cheap medichines for the party and nanobandages for wounded NPCs. And anywhere you have the tools to augment likely has someone who can run them for you).

Thats GM Style choice. You can play nano bandages, as simply slap and forget, fallout style stim packs. A lot of the medical skills come into play off camera. When healing the party between scenes. There arent a lot of active, on camera use medical skills. Paramedics, battle medic stuff, could be used during a fire fight. Though the GM are more then capable of creating a scene where it becomes important, and active, and the spot light. Like in Farscape, when John and Aeryn kid was born during a fire fight. Or you can do a medical based mystery or give you Scully from X-file like moments, where you do medical examinations.

If you really need to play a medic that shines, then you may need a different group, as the group isnt playing a game where they want to simulate having to deal with medical stuff.

Quote:
Also, when is melee ever a decent option, with the possible exception of unarmed if you must surrender your weapons or are otherwise disarmed?
In my games, it depends where they are. Not every habitat is gonna let you bring on your smg rail rifles, or shotguns or heap grenades. But a couple flex knives? Sure. Swords arent as likely to fuck up a space habitat from collateral damage either. In my games, in my head cannon, the rail gun variant of the guns, are consider military grade arms and nearly universally barred. Its one thing to have a hold out pistol. Its nother thing to have a heavy machine pistol, or m249 light machine gun.

I also made Lost character, that hunts and kills other losts, in a Highlander kinda of way. But it really plays out more like a serial killer. And he uses double space katanana or pychic stabs to do his killing. We also cant forget RPPR Know Evil campaign. Tom's character, the social octopi had like 7 god damn swords?

Urthdigger Urthdigger's picture
MrWigggles wrote:As for not

MrWigggles wrote:
As for not having time to trade it for services. Of course you've done it ICly. Whenever you've burned rep, for something thats you giving your arts or other services you've done previously. Its not money.

This implies that you're using your art skill to increase your rep. If not, then all it's doing is being a justification for your starting rep which... well, feels like a major waste of points :/

MrWigggles wrote:

Thats GM Style choice. You can play nano bandages, as simply slap and forget, fallout style stim packs. A lot of the medical skills come into play off camera. When healing the party between scenes. There arent a lot of active, on camera use medical skills. Paramedics, battle medic stuff, could be used during a fire fight.

Actually, nanobandages quite explicitly don't work instantly (They take two hours to do 1d10, while medichines do the same in 1 hour). I list them for aiding injurered NPCs mostly because they'll keep the victim in stasis when they get near death, allowing an untrained individual to transport them to a healing vat and thus making patching them up yourself rather unnecessary. Medichines do seem to explicitly rule out using medicine skill to heal party members ("Medical care of this sort is not effective against injuries that have been treated with medichines, nanobandages, or healing vats"), unless the rule means after an hour since the injury, when it heals 1d10, and not immediately, when I presume the medichines start working on the wound. It also only works once per injury... do we consider each separate attack an injury, or would players be limited to 1d10 between fights period?

MrWigggles MrWigggles's picture
You can use your art skill to

You can use your art skill to increase your rep. It takes on different context for different factions. The only two I cant readily picture what painting would to increase rep, is I and R rep. Though I suppose academics can still like some arts. And its only meaningless if you're making a character to min max for the upcoming game, and not carrying they were a person before the game started.
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And yea, nanobandages are meant to take longer but lots of games treat them as pretty instant slap patch. The real advantage of medimachines in combat, is ignoring one wound penalty. By the rules, its like 1d10 per hour of rest. If they're on the move between combat, then the only thing medimachines are doing, is a patch job to keep them going. And while the damage can be healed via medimachines quickly the wounds take longer.

If the GM wanted to give a medical character a place to shine, they can throw something exotic at the PCs. Something that can actively resist the medimachines or requires creativity to cure.

Urthdigger Urthdigger's picture
Well, see my earlier point

Well, see my earlier point about not usually having time to make art and thus not a way to get rep from it. If players do have time to make art, that's great and I think I'd really like such a campaign, but as was mentioned earlier most games tend to play at a dead sprint.

As far as the medichines go, I do know they take a while and don't really heal in combat. I kinda like it that way. My point about medichines is more that the medicine skill explicitly states it can't be used on wounds treated with medichines, and the text is vague enough that it may mean "As soon as they start working on the wound AKA immediately." Though, in reading up on the skill again I did realize it may be interpreted as injuries that have had their damage healed, in which case one could use medicine within an hour to do an initial patch job before the augment takes care of the rest, or even duck behind a wall and stitch up a wound midfight (so long as it's a basic wound and doesn't need surgery).

And while I don't think I necessarily want to min/max, part of my problem is that earlier characters of mine had a lot of points spent in useless skills due to either flavor or because it made sense for their personality, and as a result I always wound up feeling that I offered little to the party other than moral support.

I suppose the main point of this thread really was to try and reconcile whether I really need to focus so hard in one particular area to be considered not a burden on my group, and alternatively ways to use my varied "useless" skills so I can have a character who's an actual person AND be useful.

ShadowDragon8685 ShadowDragon8685's picture
I do apologize for any

I do apologize for any situations I put you in where you felt like your character was useless. I rather liked him, and I thought he was pretty useful - though, yeah, the "two foot tall infiltrator" thing was probably his number one schtick.

Though there was also the time he prescribed cocaine medically...

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Urthdigger Urthdigger's picture
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:I do

ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
I do apologize for any situations I put you in where you felt like your character was useless. I rather liked him, and I thought he was pretty useful - though, yeah, the "two foot tall infiltrator" thing was probably his number one schtick.

Though there was also the time he prescribed cocaine medically...

I liked him as well, and I will confess that Rocky was made more to have fun living as him than to be effective, so in a sense he's a huge success.

A lot of the parts where I felt useless were the unavoidable parts of the game really. Combat was the only skill I had that came up regularly, and I didn't feel quite effective there (Barring one fight near the start), especially compared to what others were capable of. The other common elements, hacking and diplomacy, I didn't have enough points to want to risk being the one to do it, not when another party member could do it better.

The things I could do well just seemed rare to come up, the kind of stuff only likely to come up if the DM specifically wishes to make a character useful. And while that isn't a bad thing for a DM to do, at the same time I think a character should be useful in general, not just when the spotlight is specifically cast on them.

One thing I have been brainstorming since I created this thread is just how one could use the various skills to solve general problems, instead of them being "key skills". A key skill being one that is only used when the DM creates a problem that specifically requires a certain skill, which is used to get through that problem and then not called for until the next lock. For example, if medicine skills only get used if there's a vital NPC that just hates medichines for whatever reason, or an immediate autopsy must be done to investigate a murder. Figuring that the rule about medichines and first aid doesn't kick in until the former heals damage and thus medicine speeds up healing even beyond cheap augments makes into a general skill that can aid a party in most situations. I'd like to figure out similar uses for other skills.