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Analysis / Skill Scores and Perks

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Classifications of skills

By field of application

Since RPGs Equal Combat, there is a pretty clear line to be drawn between combat skills and non-combat skills. Combat skills can be further divided into:

  • Weapon skills: Usually further subdivided by weapon type
  • Armor skills: Usually further subdivided by armor weight
  • (Tactical) magic skills: Usually further subdivided into magic schools

Non-combat skills can be divided into:

  • Observation skills: Passive skills, which may instead be covered by a Perception stat
    • Identification: Ability to figure out unusual items' purpose and functions without magic
    • Assessment: Ability to discern enemy threat level and abilities at a distance
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    • Search: Ability to discover hidden objects, characters, pathways when actively looking for them
    • Spotting: Ability to detect ambushes, traps, and other dangers intuitively while exploring
  • Exploration skills: Relevant during peaceful travel across the game world
    • Athletics/acrobatics: Ability to move faster and leap further and higher
    • Journeying: Ability to traverse The Overworld faster and with less Random Encounters
    • Trap disarming: Ability to remove traps and other obstacles
    • Swimming: Ability to move faster across and under the water surface
    • Riding/Driving/Sailing/Piloting: Ability to travel faster and safer on mounts and vehicles
  • Stealth skills: Relevant mostly during stealth sections
    • Sneaking: Ability to remain undetected by enemies
    • Lock-picking: Ability to open locked containers and doors without having to find a key
    • Pickpocketing: Ability to remove valuables from NPCs without killing them first
    • Hacking: Ability to extract information from digital systems
  • Diplomacy skills: Relevant during interactive dialogue
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    • Haggling: Ability to buy items from NPC vendors cheaper while selling loot at higher prices
    • Persuasion: Ability to convince NPCs to help you via friendly dialogue
    • Intimidation: Ability to convince NPCs to help you via aggressive dialogue
    • Seduction: Ability to convince NPCs to help you via amorous dialogue (and occasionally more)
  • Crafting skills: Used for Item Crafting and Design-It-Yourself Equipment
    • Procurement: Ability to obtain crafting resources from the environment, be it by harvesting, mining, looting, etc.
    • Smithing: Ability to create weapons and armor from gathered resources and to repair existing gear
    • Alchemy: Ability to create potions and poisons of any kind from collected ingredients
    • Engineering: Ability to create, repair, and upgrade machinery of any kind
    • Trap setting: Ability to create and set mechanical or magical traps

Trap disarming and lock-picking are often rolled into a single skill because both involve roughly the same fine motor skills and mechanical expertise.

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In addition, tabletop games often feature Knowledge skills. These can be further subdivided by topic (history, nature, religion, magic, etc.) and let the player characters spontaneously "recall" obscure pieces of encyclopedic information from memory—out-of-universe, the players make skill checks and the Game Master reveals pertinent information accordingly. This type of skills is rare in video games, where players can, at most, collect in-universe documents (which may be stored in an Encyclopedia Exposita) instead.

By the manner of use

The following classification mainly concerns perks, since skill scores by definition have passive effects on actively triggered basic actions.

  • Activated perks allow the character to perform a specific action at the player's command (launch an attack, cast a spell, pick a lock, etc.), either consuming a portion of their mana or stamina to do so, or inducing a Cooldown before it can be used again (or both).
  • Sustained perks, a.k.a. auras, likewise require manual activation by the player but remain in effect for a certain time (followed by a cooldown) or until they either have drained the character of mana/stamina or are deactivated. Their effects can vary from passive bonuses, through dealing continuous damage to surrounding enemies, to enabling the usage of otherwise restricted active perks (e.g. certain sword techniques only available from a certain combat stance).
  • Passive perks provide constant bonuses after they are learned. Said bonuses are usually an order of magnitude larger than the ones provided by regular stat or skill score increases. For instance, if each Wisdom stat point gives the character +2% to hostile magic resistance, the Magebane perk can give up to +50%.
  • Story perks unlock hidden sidequests and conversation options, i.e. affecting the story instead of the gameplay. They are distinct from regular Event Flags in that they can be acquired at any point in the game by spending skill points. One popular story perk is a Compelling Voice, which opens up superhuman persuasion options in dialogue.

Obviously, perks are only usable when the characters are equipped with proper gear and are in the appropriate gameplay mode (exploration, combat, dialogue, stealth).

By prerequisite

To prevent the Player Character from getting too powerful too fast, most game systems put artificial limits on skill progression.

Furthermore, some skills (usually perks) may be restricted to a certain Character Class or even a particular character (in case of Signature Moves).

By manner of acquisition

Skill scores are not so much "acquired" as "improved", since most characters start off with at least minimal scores in them and then decide which ones to improve. Skill scores can be raised by:

Perks can be acquired (and optionally upgraded) by:

  • Arbitrarily spending "skill points" on them, gained by leveling up or completing quests
  • Buying them from trainers with regular in-game currency
  • Learning them from items, such as manuals, spell scrolls, etc.
  • Combining existing effects into new moves, specifically, magic spells and combos

If the player doesn't need to visit a trainer to upgrade their skills, the game may instead require the Player Character to rest before allowing to spend skill points.


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