A Path to Steam
Any skill used to operate equipment – e.g., Beam Weapons/TL11 (Pistol) or Driving/TL7 (Automobile) – takes a penalty when you are faced with an unfamiliar type of item. For instance, if you were trained on a laser pistol, a blaster pistol would be “unfamiliar.” Assume that an unfamiliar piece of equipment gives -2 to skill except where an individual skill description specifies otherwise.
In general, if you have the skill to use a piece of equipment, you are considered familiar with a new make or model after you have had eight hours of practice with it. Some skills require more or less practice than this, so be sure to read the skill description.
There is no limit to the number of types of gun, car, plane, etc. you can become familiar with. Each of these items is called a “familiarity.” If you have at least six familiarities for a given skill, the GM may roll against your skill when you pick up a new piece of equipment. On a success, you are already familiar with something similar and may use the new device at no penalty. The GM may also rule that a new item is so similar to a known one that it is familiar – for instance, two similar models of Colt
revolver should be considered identical.
Equipment from another tech level will usually be unfamiliar. This gives both TL and familiarity modifiers. Practice can eliminate unfamiliarity penalties, but to shed TL penalties, you must relearn the operation skill at the equipment’s TL. Exception: Improved or obsolete versions of items with which you are already familiar do not give unfamiliarity penalties.
Familiarity for Beginning Characters
Starting characters may specify two familiarities per point spent on a skill. For instance, if you have four points in Guns (Pistol), you can be familiar with up to eight handguns.
Both specialization and familiarity come into play with many skills, but they are not the same thing. Driving (Automobile) is a specialty of Driving: it is a separate skill from Driving (Locomotive), and to know both, you must pay points for both. “Volkswagen Bug” is a familiarity of Driving (Automobile): you can select it for free as one of your starting familiarities.