A Path to Steam
A “skill” is a particular kind of knowledge; for instance, judo, physics, auto mechanics, or a death spell. Every skill is separate, though some skills help you to learn others. Just as in real life, you start your career with some skills and can learn more if you spend time training.
A number called “skill level” measures your ability with each of your skills: the higher the number, the greater your skill. For instance, “Shortsword-17” means a skill level of 17 with the shortsword. When you try to do something, you (or the GM) roll 3d against the appropriate skill, modified for that particular situation. If the number you roll is less than or equal to your modified score for that skill, you succeed! But a roll of 17 or 18 is an automatic failure. For more on skill rolls, modifiers, success, and failure, see Chapter 10.
Each skill is qualified in several ways to indicate what basic attribute represents talent with that skill, how easy the skill is to learn, any special restrictions on who can learn the skill, and whether the skill is broad or narrow in focus.
Each skill is based on one of the four basic attributes or, more
rarely, on Perception or Will. Your skill level is calculated direct-
ly from this “controlling attribute”: the higher your attribute score,
the more effective you are with every skill based on it! If your char-
acter concept calls for many skills based on a given attribute, you
should consider starting with a high level in that attribute, as
this will be most cost-effective in the long run.
ST-based skills depend wholly on brawn, and are very rare. ST determines the power you can bring to bear with DX-based skills far more often than it affects skill levels directly.
DX-based skills rely on coordination, reflexes, and steady hands. This is representative of athletic and combat skills, and most vehicle-operation skills.
IQ-based skills require knowledge, creativity, and reasoning ability. This includes all artistic, scientific, and social skills, as well as magic spells.
HT-based skills are governed by physical fitness. This includes any activity influenced by hygiene, posture, or lung capacity.
Perception-based skills involve spotting subtle differences. This is typical of skills used to detect clues and hidden objects.
Will-based skills hinge on mental focus and clarity of thought. Most allow one to resist mental attacks, bring about an altered mental state, or focus “inner strength.”
Choosing Your Beginning Skills
Like attributes and advantages, skills cost points. You should spend at least a few of your starting character points on skills. It would be extraordinarily unusual for anyone – even a young child – to have no skills at all!
Your starting skills must suit your background. The greater your Wealth and Status, the more leeway the GM will allow you in skill choice – the rich and powerful can arrange to learn the most surprising things. You cannot start with inappropriate skills, however. The GM is free to forbid any skill that simply would not be available to someone of your background. For instance, a stone-age hunter could not be a jet pilot, a Victorian gentleman would need an excellent explanation (and an Unusual Background) to start out as a skilled sorcerer, and a futuristic adventurer would have difficulty finding training in “archaic” weapon skills . . . though a military background would help.
Some skills have other skills as prerequisites. This is the case when an advanced skill is based on, and in some ways an outgrowth of, a basic one. To study the advanced skill, you must have at least one point in the prerequisite skill.
Certain skills also require that you know a prerequisite skill at a minimum skill level. Where this is the case, you must spend the points required to learn the prerequisite skill at the specified level before you can learn the advanced skill.
A few skills have advantages as prerequisites. In order to learn such a skill, you must possess the required advantage. If you do not have the advantage, and cannot acquire it in play, you can never learn that skill.
An entry on the skill list may represent an entire category of closely related skills that share a single skill name. Examples include Armoury (p. 178) and Survival (p. 223). Skills like this are marked with a dagger (†) in the list on pp. 174-228. The skills within such a category are called “specialties.” When you buy a general skill of this
kind, you must specify which specialty you are learning. On your character sheet, note the name of the specialty in parentheses after the general skill name; e.g., “Armoury (Small Arms)” or “Survival (Arctic).”
You may learn skills like this any number of times, with a different specialty each time, because each specialty is a different skill. There is usually a favorable “default” between specialties (see Skill Defaults, p. 173), which may let you purchase additional specialties more cheaply.
Many IQ-based skills – notably “academic” skills such as Literature and Physics – have countless subfields but do not require you to select a specialty. As written, if you learn a skill like this, you are a generalist, knowl- edgeable about every aspect of the
skill. However, you may opt to specialize in a single, narrow area. You may only do this with an Average or harder IQ-based skill, and only if the GM agrees that the chosen subfield is logical given the skill and your TL.
When you choose an optional specialty, write down the skill and its specialty just as if you were selecting a required specialty. You learn the specialized skill as if it were one level easier. Unless otherwise noted, prerequisites are unchanged. The general skill
defaults to the specialized one at -2; roll against this whenever you must answer questions outside your field. Any skill that defaults to the general skill also defaults to all of its optional specialties, but at an additional -2.
Example: Chemistry is IQ/Hard and does not require a specialty. You could learn the optional specialty Chemistry (Analytical) as if it were one level easier, or IQ/Average.
Your general Chemistry skill would default to Chemistry (Analytical)-2. Metallurgy, which normally defaults to Chemistry-5, would default to Chemistry (Analytical)-7.
When you write down a skill with a single specialty, either required or optional, do so in the form “Skill Name (Specialty)”; e.g., Artist (Painting). If such a skill has multiple qualifiers, follow these guidelines:
Technological skills: Place the tech level after the skill name and before the specialty; e.g., Engineer/TL8 (Civil).
Skills with both required and optional specialties: If a skill that requires you to specialize also allows an optional specialty, write the required specialty before the optional specialty and separate the two with a comma; e.g., Artist (Painting, Oil).
Skills that require two specialties: In the rare case where a skill requires you to select two specialties, separate them with a slash; e.g., Geography/TL7 (Physical/Earth-like).