A Path to Steam
Some fields demand more study and practice than others. GURPS uses four “difficulty levels” to rate the effort required to learn and improve a skill. The more difficult the skill, the more points you must spend to buy it at a given skill level.
Easy skills are things that anyone could do reasonably well after a short learning period – whether because they are second nature to most people or because there isn’t a whole lot to learn.
Average skills include most combat skills, mundane job skills, and the practical social and survival skills that ordinary people use daily. This is the most common difficulty level.
Hard skills require intensive formal study. This is typical of most “academic” skills, complex athletic and combat skills that require years of training, and all but the most powerful of magic spells.
Very Hard skills have prodigious scope, or are alien, counterintuitive, or deliberately shrouded in secrecy. The most fundamental of sciences, and many potent magic spells and secret martial-arts techniques, are Very Hard.
Certain skills are different at each tech level (see Technology Level, p. 22). These “technological skills” are designated by “/TL.” This means that when you learn the skill, you must learn it at a specific tech level (TL). Always note the TL when you write down such a skill; e.g., “Surgery/TL4” for the TL4 version of Surgery skill. Surgery/TL4 (cut his arm off with an axe) is nothing like Surgery/TL9 (graft on a replacement arm from his clone)!
You learn technological skills at your personal TL. You may also choose skills from a lower TL. You can only learn skills from a higher TL in play – and only if you have a teacher and the skill is not based on IQ. To learn IQ-based technological skills
from a higher TL, you must first raise your personal TL.
Technological skills rely on language, tool use, or both. This means that only sapient characters – those with IQ 6 or higher – may learn them. Exception: Robots and the like can have IQ 5 or less and perform such skills by running programs . . . but of course programming isn’t learning.