With all the combat that goes around in Pirates vs. Ninjas, it can be easy to forget that solutions to problems don’t always need to come to violence. Because of this, some people can frequently forget that there are abilities specifically for skill training. While it’s certainly fun to bash a villain’s head in and crash the gates, sometimes subtlety, diplomacy, and knowledge are more powerful tools than a sword. After all, attacks can wear you out, thinking can not.
For today’s Super Build Saturday, we’re going to discuss building characters that provide valuable functions outside of combat and help the party solve problems as easily as possible. Skills aren’t just for Craftsmen, after all.
Before we start, it’s important to note one thing. No matter how skilled you are, you will inevitably end up in combat. Sometimes violence is just unavoidable. Because of this, no matter how high your attribute scores and skill checks, it’s still incredibly useful to have a few attack abilities on your character. You certainly don’t need as many as other characters (1 or 2 and a couple of damage buffs can go a long way), but mostly characters will at least want some.
Skill abilities are abilities that give a bonus that give some kind of bonus to a non-combat action. Every faction has at least one, and they’re often level 1 or 2. After all, Equinja need to know how to ride better to do awesome stunts, Craftsmen need to know how to craft, and Charreographers just gotta dance. These are the most commonly taken skill abilities. After all, what good is a Craftsmen unless he or she can craft (unless he or she is also a member of the Collectors)? Still, a player with a good attribute score or two can use skill abilities to take them to another level entirely. When you have a high Will, taking the Charrismatic Lord’s +2 to charm and intimidation can turn a forceful personality into an unstoppable one. Characters with high agility can take skills from arrcrobats and evadinja to help them perform death-defying stunts and run over difficult terrain without spending a single life point. These can be good sources of quick solutions and awesome points in a pinch.
Let’s take it to another level though. Skills like the Gunnar’s Mistarr Good Wrench and the Alchemist’s Me Make You Boom! can give a character some fun new options. After all, fixing up busted machines and planting explosives can be a fun way to approach difficult situations. Since these skills are a lot more active in their nature, they allow a character to have access to new actions available to them. Having a high will or precision is good for gambling, but a Gambler that is trained in cheating is almost guaranteed to win a bet and can use this to his or her advantage.
So, you’ve got all your new skill abilities. You may be asking, “how does spending 10 character points on some skill abilities make my life easier than just buying a new Level 5 attack ability that can mow people down?”
Well, let’s take an example of two characters that need to bust into a set of ancient ruins, guarded by evil demons. Smashy McHitter is built to destroy opponents. The Skillmaster is built primarily for skilled non-combat actions.
Smashy McHitter charges into the ancient temple and immediately has to fight some demon guards. He succeeds, but he’s chased by more immediately after only to find the entrance sealed off. He has no choice but to charge further in. He trips trap after trap on his way in and sustains more damage. Ultimately, he finds a place to rest and slowly combats his way out with the riches of the temple, but he’s battered, beaten, bruised, and humiliated.
The Skillmaster takes a different approach. He first researches the local ruins with Well-Traveled Man and discovers there’s a secret entrance. He uses this along with Like the Wind to stealth past the guards at the front. His Keenest Eye ability and his high precision allows him to spot the traps that he uses Daredevil Spirit and his agility to dodge around. He gets to the treasure, takes it back into town and uses his Appraiser’s Eye to give him an idea of its worth and sell it for a massive profit.
Essentially, we have the same scenario with two characters handling it differently. The skilled character in this specific case comes out on top though. Nothing’s keeping Smashy McHitter from trying these checks, but without the skill bonuses some of these checks are just out of his range to pull consistently and some actions (such as appraising the exact worth and nature of the artifact and lore about the temple) just might be outside of his ability even with a 10 in the attribute.
Skills can be quite handy in building a character for specialized and finesse-based scenarios. If a skill bonus does not exist as an ability, you should ask a GM about allowing you to make one as a custom ability or ask if another faction might have said ability. Skill abilities are among the easiest to balance anyway. Most skill abilities are Level 1 abilities and cover some niche of skill for the player. The one’s that are level 2 are generally powerful or cover a very broad area of action (like detecting lies and deceit).
Now go, grab some skill abilities for your character and reap the rewards of your finesse and thinking. You can sneak in and steal the documents from the Magistrate’s desk while your allies are busy taking down all the guards. Of course, don’t assume your skilled character is invincible. After all, there’s very few skills that can help with a T-Rex or the Kraken.