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Skill Only Systems?

 
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shinimasu
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 9:14 pm    Post subject: Skill Only Systems? Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So kind of related to the d20 skill failure thread but now I'm curious. Are their any systems that emphasize what characters do rather than how they're built? I feel like literally every system has the main five or six (charisma stength dex etc) followed by like 20 different skills and how they interact with each other is the place where most systems differ.

Are their any systems that forgo attributes entirely and only have skills? I feel like at least one of the versions of FATE does this but I'm not sure. Are their any crunchier systems that try it?
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 8:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

There are lots of games like Ninja Burger or the original D&D that only have a single list of character abilities that have numbers on them. There's nothing particularly special about "Strength" or "Dexterity" that makes them fundamentally different from other abilities.

-Frank
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amethal
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 8:26 am    Post subject: Re: Skill Only Systems? Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

shinimasu wrote:
Are their any systems that forgo attributes entirely and only have skills? I feel like at least one of the versions of FATE does this but I'm not sure.
Fate Core does this.

However, in Fate Core it is perfectly possibly to only have six skills, and to call them Strength, Dexterity etc. That's what the Fate Freeport Companion does, for instance.
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rasmuswagner
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Castle Falkenstein, a fairly succesful game (by the metric of "published many splatbooks over a long period of time") did away with ability scores in favor of skills only, and that was in 1994.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The question that comes up to "skills only is" "what do you default to"
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rasmuswagner
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OgreBattle wrote:
The question that comes up to "skills only is" "what do you default to"


And that gives you either a pretty good (if complicated) answer like GURPS, hot garbage like Shadowrun, or something in between (like D&D). Providing a better answer than D&D is not hard, at all.
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shinimasu
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 1:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Skill Only Systems? Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

amethal wrote:
shinimasu wrote:
Are their any systems that forgo attributes entirely and only have skills? I feel like at least one of the versions of FATE does this but I'm not sure.
Fate Core does this.

However, in Fate Core it is perfectly possibly to only have six skills, and to call them Strength, Dexterity etc. That's what the Fate Freeport Companion does, for instance.


I probably worded my post poorly. It's less about what the skills are called and more about how they interact with each other.

So Attributes = A set of numbers that exist to add a bonus to other numbers. Dex for example provides bonuses to AC, Ranged Attack, Reflex Saves, and dex based skills in D&D. More if you have the right feats. A player will very rarely roll just an attribute by itself and if they do it's usually because the check is meant to be more difficult than normal.

Skills = A set of numbers that usually only apply to a specific attempted action. You will only use your lockpicking skill to pick locks. Unless it's after sundown in which case you will sometimes use your lockpicking skill to be magic.

I know why attributes exist, they simplify and they ensure that even if the strong man has no points in athletics they're still at least a little better at rock climbing than wimpy mcnoodle arms up until the latter gets fly.
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Hiram McDaniels
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 4:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Default Fate is skills only, using Aspects like "Herculean Might" or "Swift As The Wind" to gain temporary bonuses to rolls at the cost of a Fate point. Skill advancement is shaped like a pyramid, so you have to increase your lower tier skills before you can increase your best ones.

The Greywood publishing games like Querp and Fabled Lands use a truncated and generalized skill list in lieu of attributes.

The old Exalted Quickstart eschews attributes and just uses the skill list.

Strange Magic uses Combat, Magic and Skill as it's base stats with no discrete skill list.

I like this idea in theory, jettisoning attributes like Strength, Dexterity, et al and just using skills instead. In practice, you run into the problem of putting shit like bureaucracy on the same tier as melee.

If you want to reduce clutter in the system, you could do what Castles & Crusades does and jettison discrete skills in favor of using ability scores as a defacto skill list, though highly abstract and generalized. This of course has it's own set of problems.

Me, I'm always looking for a way to streamline and declutter systems, but I haven't yet seen an entirely workable solution for removing derived stats yet. If there's one out there I'd love to know.
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Last edited by Hiram McDaniels on Thu Apr 13, 2017 4:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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amethal
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 8:22 am    Post subject: Re: Skill Only Systems? Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

shinimasu wrote:
I know why attributes exist, they simplify and they ensure that even if the strong man has no points in athletics they're still at least a little better at rock climbing than wimpy mcnoodle arms up until the latter gets fly.
In FATE Core, you might have no idea how strong your character is, and not care either.

Aspects take on the role of attributes, but you don't have many Aspects to choose from and the list of potential Aspects is pretty much infinite. So unless Strength is a key part of your character concept, you aren't going to spend an Aspect to define it.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ultimately your system has to tell people what they get to and have to roll whatever it is they are doing whenever they are called upon to roll. This can be done by being extremely reductionist and having all actions in the game be categorized into one of the categories on the character sheet, or it can be done by having the players add and subtract things on their character sheet to find something appropriate to roll. And... that's it. Those are the only possibilities.

So you can do the thing where you roll Intelligence plus Larceny to do one thing and Agility plus Larceny to do something else. Or you can do the thing where all actions are either Cunning, Honor, Appeal, or Bravery and each character has numbers in those four things. And pretty much everything you could do is just one of those two things with possibly a few layers of obfuscation added.

-Frank
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shinimasu
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
Ultimately your system has to tell people what they get to and have to roll whatever it is they are doing whenever they are called upon to roll. This can be done by being extremely reductionist and having all actions in the game be categorized into one of the categories on the character sheet, or it can be done by having the players add and subtract things on their character sheet to find something appropriate to roll. And... that's it. Those are the only possibilities.

So you can do the thing where you roll Intelligence plus Larceny to do one thing and Agility plus Larceny to do something else. Or you can do the thing where all actions are either Cunning, Honor, Appeal, or Bravery and each character has numbers in those four things. And pretty much everything you could do is just one of those two things with possibly a few layers of obfuscation added.

-Frank


This is true, I'm just trying to get a feel for how multifaceted a skill only/skill heavy system makes a character feel vs. an attribute dependent system. Basically I've been running into a problem over and over in systems where the PC gets to be one kind of strong. You can be strong, or fast, or wise, or intelligent effectively and maybe you have a secondary stat that's kind of okay. But if my fighter needs strength/dex/con (or whatever the system is calling the physical stats) to not die then basically no fighter can be smart/charismatic/wise. And the skill points you get aren't enough to overcome attribute deficiency.

Even in cases where a character is less MAD there usually isn't a reason to bump attributes not directly tied to a power or class feature. Just bumping an attribute to be better at a skill is a waste because attribute points are rare and skill points are relatively plentiful.

I wanted to look at skill only systems to get a better understanding of how character creation and play might feel different. Things like After Sundown, Shadowrun, and other Skill+Attribute dice pool systems get really close and have their own kinds of weirdness.
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tussock
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 5:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Most systems are designed to have characters who are differently capable and do different things well, to help players take turns at being in the spotlight at the game table.

So stats have become a thing where if you're good at a basic game mechanic related to them (spells, fighting, sneaking, social, whatever), then you're also good at a set of thematically related lesser activities, or at least can be equally good at a cheaper cost than everyone else.


You might consider a design where stats go up to like a 4, but skills go arbitrarily higher, and stats are just free skill points in a set of related skills. So in 3e terms, the Barbarian is always a modestly good climber and such, and the Wizard is somewhat learned on many subjects, but specialists just find the skills they focus on to be the same cost at the same limits after that initial catch-up.

Encourages you to buy up related skills, but doesn't enforce it particularly.
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