How many skills to describe a competent character?

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Saladman
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How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby Saladman » Tue Aug 28, 2018 12:44 pm

Saw this in another thread, but didn't want to derail it:
Epicenter wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:25 am
Traveller being on the end of "skills light RPG" (compared to something like GURPS) means players already can't get sufficient skills to describe a competent individual...
Which is I was somewhat surprised by, because that's not my impression at all. So now I'm curious: what does a competent character look like to you? What's his highest single skill rank, how many secondary skills does he have and how high are they, and how many tertiary/unrelated skills does he have? Interested in anyone's answer, not just the person quoted.
AnotherDilbert
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby AnotherDilbert » Tue Aug 28, 2018 1:05 pm

Define competent...

In current terms a quite competent doctor might have: Medic-3, Admin-1, Drive-0.

A character with a few terms of career can easily have more skill levels. Whether you go for a few high skills or many low skills are entirely up to the character.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby Rikki Tikki Traveller » Tue Aug 28, 2018 1:17 pm

I use the EDU characteristic for the "mundane" stuff of a society.

Need a roll to see how much they remember about the history of Premordiala III - EDU

Even basic computer operations is handled by EDU. Computer skill is only needed for programming, hacking, and all that fun stuff.

A decent EDU makes a competent character without any skills.
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NOLATrav
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby NOLATrav » Tue Aug 28, 2018 9:44 pm

IMTU I have three basic categories:

Inherent: Level 0
Trained: Level 1
Professional: Level 2+

So by that metric a character with a single Skill 2 is competent - in that discipline at least. So they could make a living doing that outside of the adventurous life. They’re pros - they literally make a Difficult task into an Average task or better.

But yeah, what does competent mean? Basing the idea on skills alone is quite a tight lens to look through.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby Reynard » Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:28 pm

I follow this as the guide from the Core Book but still I take the rolls with the choices I'm given and make the character competent during play.

If a Traveller has no level in a skill at all (Skill -), then
he is untrained and will suffer DM-3 when trying to use
that skill.

If a Traveller has zero level in a skill (Skill 0), then he
is competent in using that skill, but probably has had
little experience in actually using it. He does not get any
bonus from his skill ranks when using that skill from his
rank, but at least avoids the penalty for being untrained.
If a Traveller has one or more levels in a skill (Skill 1,
Skill 2, and so on etc.) then he is trained in that skill.

Each level represents several years of experience using
that skill, and grants DM+1 per level to all skill checks
using that skill. A Traveller with level 2-3 in a skill is a
skilled professional in that field. A Traveller with level 4
or 5 is probably both well-respected and well-known in
his field.


A lot of people are more in the Skill 0-1 range for most of what they know and do and a couple Skill 2 in their field and interest. Beyond that most people just admire and envy those higher.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby Galadrion » Tue Aug 28, 2018 11:01 pm

The rules as written appear to imply that skill-0 indicates a basic familiarity with that skill - more or less what you'd get from being a beginning hobbyist or a basic-level school course. After that, each skill level represents roughly four years of training or on-the-job experience. For the most part, not having any listing for a skill at all will mean either having the sort of knowledge someone completely untrained would have (for example, how much does the average person know about how to fly an airplane) or possibly that the character has absolutely no frame of reference for the skill (for example, a tribal warrior from a Tech Level 0 or 1 society faced with the same problem of how to fly an airplane). Which case applies will be a matter for the player and the referee to decide.

In general, a rating of skill-0 is going to represent basic theoretical knowledge, plus limited hands-on experience - an "overview" level of competence. Each skill level beyond that represents use of and experience with the skill, most likely in something equivalent to a professional capacity. Skill-1 is going to be professionally competent, if not particularly outstanding. Skill-2 would be a seasoned professional. Skill-3 is going to be outstandingly competent in all but the most elite fields (for example, medicine, which would probably need a level of 4 or 5 before you start being considered as something extraordinary). Levels beyond these are going to be the realms of the superstars of the field, those people who are so good at the skill that even recognizing just how skilled they are pretty much requires that the observer have some ranks in the skill as well. (As a real-world example: nearly anyone can recognize that an Olympic-level fencer is good, but without some familiarity with the sport, most observers can't even follow what the fencer is doing, much less how well it's done.)

(And I notice I managed to completely bypass actually answering the original question.) Okay, so a normally-competent character (a typical person - that is to say, not an adventurer or some kind of prodigy) is going to have around four skills at level 0 (depending on how intelligent and educated they are), one to three skills at level 1 (again, depending on intelligence and education), and one, maybe two additional skill levels for every term (four years) that they can be considered an adult - these additional skill levels can either boost the "basic" skills or be new/additional skills, depending on whether the person is going to be a specialist (relatively few skills but highly developed in some areas) or a generalist (a broader range of skills, but probably not as highly developed in general). This number of skills should probably be considered a maximum for a non-player character - some people aren't going to be as dedicated as others, so they will have missed some training opportunities or the equivalent.

As a (very) rough rule-of-thumb, if a character's total number of skill ranks (add 'em all up!) is within about three of their age divided by four, I would consider them pretty competent in general for their age. Much below that, and they've slacked a bit over the years; much above it and you've got a MacGuyver or Doc Savage on your hands.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby Saladman » Tue Aug 28, 2018 11:52 pm

That's a start, thanks.
AnotherDilbert wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 1:05 pm
Define competent...
I was implicitly thinking of player characters specifically ("...players already can't get sufficient skills to describe a competent individual...") but didn't spell it out. So I'll revise it to: how many skills for a character you would consider competent as an adventurer and want to play?

Not to be coy about it, my answer is highest/defining skill at 2 or 3, related supporting skills at 1, a smattering of unrelated skills at 0 and 1 (and I wouldn't turn down a 2 anywhere). But I surmise from Epicenter's statement quoted, and from 2e extending skills up to 6 (!), that not everyone is looking at the game the same way.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby PsiTraveller » Wed Aug 29, 2018 1:30 am

Don't forget to factor in the stats behind the skill. And look at the roll mechanic. Average roll is a 7, so you need a +1 bonus to achieve a standard Average success.
A Routine success target is a 6. So a person with skill 0 gets the routine stuff on his job done with an average roll. It's only when things get tough the average person needs luck.

A High stat modifier can have a big impact. I have a player with a 12 EDU. So his Level 0 skills get a +2 bonus to the roll. So a character with a Level 0 and a +1 stat bonus is as good as someone with a few years of experience. A +2 bonus is a skilled operative. Get 2 skill and +2 stat and you are 4 times as good as the average person.

Soldiers focusing on Gun combat may end up with Skill 2 or 3 after a few terms, meaning lifer soldiers in their 30's have a Skill 2 or 3. Add in +1 or +2 stat and you have your high end special forces guy.

Hope this gives some perspective on things.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Wed Aug 29, 2018 5:28 am

Saladman wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 12:44 pm
Saw this in another thread, but didn't want to derail it:
Epicenter wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:25 am
Traveller being on the end of "skills light RPG" (compared to something like GURPS) means players already can't get sufficient skills to describe a competent individual...
Which is I was somewhat surprised by, because that's not my impression at all. So now I'm curious: what does a competent character look like to you? What's his highest single skill rank, how many secondary skills does he have and how high are they, and how many tertiary/unrelated skills does he have? Interested in anyone's answer, not just the person quoted.
I wonder what they'd think of Classic Traveller, with its 5-skill characters.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby Pyromancer » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:59 am

ShawnDriscoll wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 5:28 am
I wonder what they'd think of Classic Traveller, with its 5-skill characters.
Five skills is a lot in CT! I once played a CT character with blade-1, pilot-1. Another player had a character with carouse-4, computer-1. Both felt quite competent and were fun to play.
Old School
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby Old School » Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:11 pm

Depends on the campaign you play. The standard Mongoose rules make for average stat, but highly skilled characters. Characters that with 5 terms can have 10-12 skill levels, with an occasional lucky traveller getting one skill to level 3.

When I want rock stars instead of skilled joe’s, I modify the creation rules 2 ways: stats are rolled with 3d6, dropping the lowest die. (we put a cap on the total stat scores, beause the system will occasionally give you someone too strong even when you’re intentionally making hthem strong). Then on the skill roles, we roll the die and then pick the table.

The combined effect of these modifications is that in 5 terms you can get 17-18 skill levels, with level 3 and 4 primary skills being common. To use this method and have fun you have to significantly up the challenge level of the campaign. These are super strong characters doing things that would likely get your average professional traveller killed.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby AnotherDilbert » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:25 pm

Saladman wrote: Not to be coy about it, my answer is highest/defining skill at 2 or 3, related supporting skills at 1, a smattering of unrelated skills at 0 and 1 (and I wouldn't turn down a 2 anywhere). But I surmise from Epicenter's statement quoted, and from 2e extending skills up to 6 (!), that not everyone is looking at the game the same way.
My desire for skills is perhaps harder to achieve: To have a skill to apply to most common situations, such as talking (interpersonal skills), personal combat, and space combat.

So my definition of a competent traveller has more to do with width of skills than depth of skills.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby Linwood » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:02 am

Old School wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:11 pm
When I want rock stars instead of skilled joe’s, I modify the creation rules 2 ways: stats are rolled with 3d6, dropping the lowest die. (we put a cap on the total stat scores, beause the system will occasionally give you someone too strong even when you’re intentionally making hthem strong). Then on the skill roles, we roll the die and then pick the table.

The combined effect of these modifications is that in 5 terms you can get 17-18 skill levels, with level 3 and 4 primary skills being common. To use this method and have fun you have to significantly up the challenge level of the campaign. These are super strong characters doing things that would likely get your average professional traveller killed.
I’m using similar character-creation rules. So far we’ve only ended up with one character with a Level 4 skill. My players have developed a preference for well-rounded characters and tend to spread the skill levels out a bit. And it’s given me some freedom to throw larger and more dangerous situations at them and tell some broader and more complex stories.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Thu Aug 30, 2018 2:51 pm

Linwood wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:02 am
And it’s given me some freedom to throw larger and more dangerous situations at them and tell some broader and more complex stories.
Stories?
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby Linwood » Fri Aug 31, 2018 1:25 am

Yes. Currently the players are under contract to an Imperial company building an orbital space facility for a low-tech non-Imperial world which just overthrew its previous government (oligarchs descended from a lost 2nd Imperium task force). Their job - on paper- is to provide security and support to the worksite which has entailed chasing orbital debris, negotiating with and befriending the local government (which tends towards xenophobic), rescuing the occasional stray spacer, and fending off two (so far) pirate attacks and two (so far) terrorist attacks meant to disrupt the project. The world in question is an ag planet which could profit from trade if they can rebuild infrastructure and restore some stability. They’re also the source of a planet that can be used to produce a powerful and highly illegal recreational drug, which was previously their most profitable export.

What only one of them (a high-ranking noble) knows is that a very high-ranking Imperial noble has arranged to put them out there to disrupt the activities of a neighboring interstellar multi-world polity who sees this system as a prime target for acquisition but isn’t quite ready to risk an overt takeover - their relations with the Imperium are a bit frosty and there’s an Imperial naval base close by. The polity is backing the remnants of the old oligarch government in their plans for a counter-revolution and is the backer behind the attacks so far. The players are just beginning to figure this out. Oh, and they’ve found evidence that the oligarchs are sheltering a refugee mad scientist who specializes in high-tech bioweapons....

So the story has ranged from space battles to an impromptu noble engagement to salvage work, some astute trading and even some exploration. But the players know events are coming to a head and I think they’re going to start working on collecting the intelligence they need to convince their patron to formally intervene. The setting has given them some control over the narrative as they go, but (so far) nothing that’s derailed the main story arc. Their actions have driven some interesting subplots as well.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby BigDogsRunning » Fri Aug 31, 2018 5:35 am

The number of skills, and highest skill levels, that players want to have, are directly related to how the GM runs his game.

If difficult rolls are called for all the time, and every roll has significant negative consequences on failure, then the players are going to want all the skill levels, stat bonuses, and circumstantial advantages, to mitigate the danger.

If the game is oriented more toward role playing, and having the skill is enough to do most things, with occasional rolls and appropriate difficulty levels, then the players will be happy with fewer skills, and overall levels. They simply aren't needed.

Very restricted skills, and levels is fine, if the pool of skills is small. But, once you start adding new skills from splat books, and expanding the game, you leave behind all of the characters who didn't have the advantage of this or that supplement, and you've diluted their existing skills, because now you've made the world larger, and the characters smaller. I guess I prefer lower levels of a smaller pool of skills, make the skills broader in scope, and fewer in number. For many jobs, there are many different skills that are necessary with the current array of skills, and until/unless you spend 4-5 terms, you don't even have all of your bases covered to be mediocre at your whole job, much less good at something. And, woe unto you if you rolled poorly for stats. :twisted:
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby Condottiere » Sun Sep 09, 2018 4:40 pm

Depends at what.

You'll want a high core attribute, like dexterity with a surgeon.

College graduation and some work experience, so skill level three.

And one or two levels in three or four associated skills.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby Nog » Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:26 pm

One thing that might be interesting is that Mongoose authors themselves (Gareth Hanrahan, in particular) seem to assume that the number of skills produced by standard character creation is vastly insufficient, particularly for relatively young characters. At a glance, I would say that at least half the NPCs of Pirates of Drinax are "impossible": they are given far more skills than a PC with the same experience could obtain under the luckiest rolls. Just one example: the 26-year-old (i.e. 2 terms) pirate Petyr Vallis has 30 (thirty!) skill points.
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Re: How many skills to describe a competent character?

Postby Saladman » Mon Sep 10, 2018 6:57 pm

Interesting to see most responses in broad agreement, high skill of 2-3 and supporting skills at 2 and 1. Which was my feeling as well. I still suspect that's not how Traveller is always perceived in the broader gaming community, both from the quote I opened with and more general impressions, but they're not speaking up here.

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