Skills

Skills in Use

Below are some quick summaries and uses of the skills for this campaign.

Athletics

The Athletics skill represents your character’s general level of physical fitness, whether through training, or natural gifts. It’s how good you are at moving your body.

Overcome:

Athletics allows you to overcome any obstacle that requires physical movement—jumping, running, climbing, swimming, etc. If it resembles something you’d do in the decathlon, you roll Athletics. You use overcome actions with Athletics to move between zones in a conflict if there’s a situation aspect or other obstacle in your way. You also roll Athletics to chase or race in any contests or challenges that rely on these types of activities.

Create an Advantage:

When you’re creating an advantage with Athletics, you’re jumping to high ground, running faster than the opponent can keep up with, or performing dazzling acrobatic maneuvers in order to confound your foes.

Attack:

Athletics is not meant as an attack skill.

Defend:

Athletics is not used for defense against physical, spiritual, or mental attacks. You can use it to defend against characters trying to move past you, if you’re in a position to physically interfere with whoever’s making the attempt; or to avoid disadvantages.

Burglary

The Burglary skill covers your character’s aptitude for stealing things and getting into places that are off-limits.

Overcome:

As stated above, Burglary allows you to overcome any obstacle related to theft or infiltration. Bypassing locks and traps, pickpocketing and filching, covering your tracks, and other such activities all fall under the purview of this skill.

Create an Advantage:

You can case a location with Burglary, to determine how hard it will be to break into and what kind of security you’re dealing with, as well as discover any vulnerabilities you might exploit. You can also examine the work of other burglars to determine how a particular heist was done, and create or discover aspects related to whatever evidence they may have left behind.

Attack:

Burglary isn’t used for attacks.

Defend:

Same here. It’s not really a conflict skill, so there’s not a lot of opportunity to use it to defend. If you want to prevent an intrusion, create an advantage.

Craft

Crafts is the skill of creating physical objects with tools (or in some cases your hands); whether it’s arms and armor or art and architecture.

Overcome:

Crafts allows you to build, break, or fix, presuming you have the time and tools you need. Often, actions with Crafts happen as one component of a more complex situation, making it a popular skill for challenges. For example, if you’re just fixing a broken door, neither success nor failure is interesting; you should just succeed and move on. Now, if you’re trying to barricade a door while a pack of werewolves is hunting you…

Create an Advantage:

You can use Crafts to create aspects representing features of a piece of work, pointing out useful features or strengths you can use to your advantage (Reinforced, Rugged Construction, Well Balanced) or a vulnerability for you to exploit (Flaw in the Cross-Beam, Hasty Work).

Creating Crafts advantages can also take the form of quick and dirty sabotage or jury-rigging on objects in the scene. For example, you might create a Makeshift Pulley to help you get to the platform above you, or throw something into the ballista that’s firing on you to give it a Jammed Pivoting Joint and make it harder to hit you.

Attack:

You probably won’t use Crafts to attack in a conflict, unless the conflict is specifically about using machinery, like with siege weaponry. GMs and players, talk over the likelihood of this happening in your game if you have someone who is really interested in taking this skill. Usually, weapons you craft are likely to be used with other skills to attack—a guy who makes a sword still needs Melee to wield it well!

Defend:

As with attacking, Crafts doesn’t defend, unless you’re somehow using it as the skill to control a piece of machinery that you block with.

Deceive

Deceive is the skill of lying to and misdirecting people.

Overcome:

Use Deceive to bluff your way past someone, or to get someone to believe a lie, or to get something out of someone because they believe in one of your lies. For nameless NPCs, this is just an overcome roll, but for PCs or named NPCs, it requires a contest, and the target opposes with Empathy. Winning this contest could justify placing a situation aspect on your target, if buying into your lie could help you in a future scene.

Deceive is the skill you use for determining if a disguise works, whether on yourself or others. You’ll need to have the time and supplies to create the desired effect.

You can also use Deceive to do small tricks of sleight-of-hand and misdirection.

Create an Advantage:

Use Deceive to create momentary distractions, cover stories, or false impressions. You could feint in a swordfight, putting an opponent Off-Balance and setting you up for an attack. You could do the whole, “What’s that over there!” trick to give you a Head Start when you run away. You could establish a Wealthy Noble Cover Story for when you attend a royal ball. You could trick someone into revealing one of their aspects or other information.

Attack:

Deceive is an indirect skill that creates a lot of opportunities you can capitalize on, but it doesn’t do direct harm to an individual. Even in social conflict, Rapport would be used to “attack” directly.

Defend:

You can use Deceive to throw off Investigation attempts with false information and to defend against efforts made to discern your true motives with the Empathy skill; and in a social conflict it can also be used to deflect your opponents jabs.

Defense

Defense is the skill of blocking, dodging, and avoiding physical and spiritual harm that you see coming.

Overcome:

You might overcome a barrier between zones created by Bodyguards or a Wall of Pikes by dodging around them. Any obstacle representing the danger of being attacked (or representing a series of abstracted attacks) could be overcome with defense.

Create an Advantage:

One rarely creates an advantage with Defense, but stepping in front of an ally with your shield raised might give them Cover.

Attack:

Defense is not used to Attack.

Defense:

Any physical or spiritual attack that can be blocked, dodge, leaned into, etc is defended against with Defense, from putting a shield in the way of a sweeping axe to rolling under cover to avoid a wall of magical flame.

Empathy

Empathy involves knowing and being able to spot changes in a person’s mood or bearing. It’s basically the emotional Notice skill.

Overcome:

You don’t really use Empathy to overcome obstacles directly—normally, you find out some information with it, and then use another skill to act. In some cases, though, you might use Empathy like you would Notice, to see if you catch a change in someone’s attitude or intent.

Create an Advantage:

You can use Empathy to read a person’s emotional state and get a general sense of who they are, presuming you have some kind of interpersonal contact with them. Most often, you’ll use this to assess the aspects on another character’s sheet, but sometimes you’ll also be able to create new aspects, especially on NPCs. If the target has some reason to be aware that you’re trying to read them, they can defend with Deceive or Rapport.

You can also use Empathy to discover what circumstances will allow you to make mental attacks on someone, figuring out their breaking points.

Attack:

Empathy can’t really be used in this capacity, even in social conflict.

Defend:

This is the skill to go to in order to defend against Deceive actions, allowing you to pierce through lies and see through to someone’s true intent. You can also use it to defend against those creating social advantages against you in general.

Special:

Empathy is the main skill you use to help others recover from consequences that are mental in nature.

The Empathy skill also gives you additional social stress or consequence slots, during social conflicts. Average (1) or Fair (2) gives you a 3-point stress box. Good (3) or Great (4) gives you a 3-point and a 4-point stress box. Superb (+5)and each rank thereafter gives you an additional mild consequence slot along with the additional stress boxes. This slot can only be used for social consequences (Lost Face, Joke Candidate).

Investigate

Investigate is the skill you use to find things out. It’s a counterpart to Notice—whereas Notice revolves around situational alertness and surface observation, Investigate revolves around concentrated effort and in-depth scrutiny.

Overcome:

Investigate obstacles are all about information that’s hard to uncover for some reason. Analyzing a crime scene for clues, searching a cluttered room for the item you need, even poring over a musty old tome to try and find the passage that makes everything make sense.

Racing against the clock to collect evidence before the guards show up or disaster occurs is a classic way to use Investigate in a challenge.

Create an Advantage:

Investigate is probably one of the most versatile skills you can use to create an advantage. As long as you’re willing to take the time, you can find out just about anything about anyone, discover nearly any detail about a place or object, or otherwise make up aspects about nearly anything in the game world that your character could reasonably unearth.

If that sounds broad, consider the following as just a few of the possibilities for using Investigate: eavesdropping on a conversation, looking for clues at a crime scene, examining records, verifying the truth of a piece of information, conducting surveillance, and researching a cover story.

Attack:

Investigate isn’t used to make attacks.

Defend:

Same here.

Lore

The Lore skill is about knowledge and education, including the arcane and other esoteric pursuits.

Overcome:

You can use Lore to overcome any obstacle that requires applying your character’s knowledge to achieve a goal. For example, you might roll Lore to decipher some ancient language on a tomb wall, under the presumption that your character might have researched it at some point.

Frankly, you can use Lore as a go-to skill any time you need to know if your character can answer a difficult question, where some tension exists in not knowing the answer.

Create an Advantage:

Like Investigate, Lore provides a lot of very flexible opportunities to create advantages, provided you can research the subject in question. More often than not, you’ll be using Lore to get a story detail, some obscure bit of information that you uncover or know already, but if that information gives you an edge in a future scene, it might take the form of an aspect. Likewise, you can use Lore to create advantages based on any subject matter your character might have studied, which gives you a fun way to add details to the setting.

Attack:

Lore isn’t used in conflicts, even in a social conflict your knowledge is only effective as your argument.

Defend:

Lore isn’t used to defend. Though in a rare case Deceive might be opposed by Lore (if there’s a specific possibility you would know they were lying from your studies), in most cases you’ll know something or not know it (or be uncertain if what you learned is accurate).

Special:

For a mage, each rank of Lore provides two free ranks in Specializations (though no Specialization can exceed your rank in Control).

Melee

The Melee skill covers all forms of close-quarters combat, both unarmed and using weapons.

Overcome:

Since you don’t really use Melee outside of a conflict, it’s not often used to overcome obstacles. You might use it to display your fighting prowess in a demonstration, or to participate in some kind of regulated bout or sport fighting, which would allow you to use this skill in a contest.

Create an Advantage:

You’ll probably use Melee for most of the advantages you create in a physical conflict. Any number of special moves can be covered with advantages: a targeted strike to stun, a “dirty move,” disarming, and so on. You could even use Melee to assess another fighter’s style, spotting weaknesses in his or her form that you can exploit.

Attack:

This is self-explanatory. You make physical attacks with Melee. Remember, this is for close-in work, so you have to be in the same zone as your opponent.

Defend:

You can use Melee to defend against any other attack or create an advantage attempt made with Melee instead of Defense, but armor and shields don’t help and most weapons only improve attacks. You can also resist pretty much any action where violently interposing yourself could prevent it from happening. You can’t use this skill to defend against Shoot attacks.

Notice

The Notice skill involves just that—noticing things. It’s a counterpart to Investigate, representing a character’s overall perception, ability to pick out details at a glance, and other powers of observation. Usually, when you use Notice, it’s very quick compared to Investigate, so the kinds of details you get from it are more superficial, but you also don’t have to expend as much effort to find them.

Overcome:

You don’t really use Notice to overcome obstacles too often but when you do it’s used in a reactive way: noticing something in a scene, hearing a faint sound, spotting the concealed gun in that guy’s waistband.

Note that this isn’t license for GMs to call for Notice rolls left and right to see how generally observant the players’ characters are; that’s boring. Notice rolls are for when succeeding would result in something interesting happening and failing would result in something just as interesting.

Create an Advantage:

You use Notice to create aspects based on direct observation—looking over a room for details that stand out, finding an escape route in a debris-filled building, noticing someone sticking out in a crowd, etc. When you’re watching people, Notice can tell you what’s going on with them externally; for internal changes, see Empathy. You might also use Notice to declare that your character spots something you can use to your advantage in a situation, such as a convenient Escape Route when you’re trying to get out of a building, or a Subtle Weakness in the enemy’s line of defense. For example, if you’re in a barroom brawl you could make a Notice roll to say that you spot a puddle on the floor, right next to your opponent’s feet that could cause him to slip.

Attack:

Notice isn’t really used for attacks.

Defend:

You can use Notice to defend against any uses of Stealth to get the drop on you or ambush you, or to discover that you’re being observed.

Physique

The Physique skill is a counterpart to Athletics, representing the character’s natural physical aptitudes, such as raw strength and endurance. The nimble guy has a high Athletics and the strongman has lots of ranks in Physique, though it’s quite possible to have both. Physique also grants extra Physical Stress boxes and consequence slots.

Overcome:

You can use Physique to overcome any obstacles that require the application of brute force—most often to overcome a situation aspect on a zone—or any other physical impedance, like prison bars or locked gates. Of course, Physique is the classic skill for arm-wrestling matches and other contests of applied strength, as well as marathons or other endurance-based challenges.

Create an Advantage:

Physique has a lot of potential for advantages in physical conflict, usually related to grappling and holding someone in place, making them Pinned or Locked Down. You might also use it as a way of discovering physical impairments possessed by the target—grappling the old mercenary tells you that he has a Bum Leg or some such.

Attack:

Physique is not used to harm people directly—see the Melee skill for that.

Defend:

Though you don’t generally use Physique to defend against attacks, it is used to resist physical effects (from being Knocked Down to Frozen). You can also use it to provide active opposition to someone else’s movement, provided you’re in a small enough space that you can effectively use your body to block access. You might also interpose something heavy and brace it to stop someone from getting through.

Special:

The Physique skill gives you additional physical stress or consequence slots. Average (1) or Fair (2) gives you a 3-point stress box. Good (3) or Great (4) gives you a 3-point and a 4-point stress box. Superb (+5)and each rank thereafter gives you an additional mild consequence slot along with the additional stress boxes. This slot can only be used for physical harm.

Rapport

The Rapport skill is all about making positive connections to people, eliciting positive emotion, and convincing them. It’s the skill of being liked and trusted.

Overcome:

Use Rapport to charm or inspire people to do what you want, or to establish a good connection with them. Charm your way past the guard, convince someone to take you into their confidence, or become the man of the hour at the local tavern. For nameless NPCs, this is just an overcome action, but you may have to enter a contest to sufficiently ingratiate yourself to a named NPC or PC.

Create an Advantage:

Use Rapport to establish a positive mood on a target or in a scene or to get someone to confide in you out of a genuine sense of trust. You could pep talk someone into having Elevated Confidence, or stir a crowd into a Joyful Fervor, or simply make someone Talkative or Helpful.

Attack:

Rapport doesn’t cause harm, but it is used to attack an opponent’s social positions (in a social conflict). Whether your winning the crowd, swaying the council, or just shaming someone into shutting up and sitting down. You don’t change your opponent’s mind with social Rapport attacks, but you can change people’s minds about your opponent.

Defend:

Rapport defends against any skill used to damage your reputation, sour a mood you’ve created, or make you look bad in front of other people. It does not, however, defend against mental attacks. That requires Will.

Shoot

The counterpart to Fight, Shoot is the skill of using ranged weaponry, either in a conflict or on targets that don’t actively resist your attempts to shoot them (like a bull’s-eye or the broad side of a barn).

Overcome:

Unless, for some reason, you need to demonstrate your Shoot ability in a non-conflict situation, you probably won’t be using this skill for normal obstacles much. Obviously, contests involving Shoot are a popular staple of adventure fiction, and we recommend you look for the opportunity to have them if you have a character who specializes in this (not that it worked out well for Robin Hood).

Create an Advantage:

In physical conflicts, Shoot can be used to perform a wide variety of moves, like trick shots, keeping someone under heavy fire, and the like. You could also make the argument for creating aspects based on your knowledge of archery (and ballistic and artillery trajectories).

Attack:

This skill makes physical attacks. You can make them from up to two zones away, unlike with Melee. (Sometimes the range will change with the weapon.)

Defend:

Shoot isn’t really used for defense. You could use it to lay down some covering fire, which might act as a defense for your allies or provide opposition to someone else’s movement, but this is better represented by creating an advantage.

Stealth

The Stealth skill allows you to avoid detection, both when hiding in place and trying to move about unseen. It pairs well with the Burglary skill.

Overcome:

You can use Stealth to get past any situation that primarily depends on you not being seen. Sneaking past sentries and security, hiding from a pursuer, avoiding leaving evidence as you pass through a place, and any other such uses all fall under the purview of Stealth.

Create an Advantage:

You’ll mainly use Stealth to create aspects on yourself, setting yourself in an ideal position for an attack or ambush in a conflict. That way, you can be Well-Hidden when the guards pass by and take advantage of that, or Hard to Pin Down if you’re fighting in the dark.

Attack:

Stealth isn’t used to make attacks, though it does wonders to set up for an attack.

Defend:

You can use this to foil Notice attempts to pinpoint you or seek you out, as well as to try to throw off the scent of an Investigate attempt from someone trying to track you (though it won’t make you aware of either).

Survival

Survival is the skill of surviving in the wild without the aid of civilization, above or underground, from feeding yourself to finding shelter to avoiding the hazards of nature.

Overcome:

The most obvious use of Survival is to overcome the hostility of the wild, and to feed oneself. It could also be used to circumvent defenses that presume you’ll stick to the beaten path, or to track a target (even in a city). Most any natural obstacle could be overcome with Survival.

Create an Advantage:

Mainly, Survival creates advantage relating to you better relating to the natural environment. You could lose pursuit in the brush, find the Perfect Spot for an ambush. You could also find a Peaceful Gully to sleep in without being hassled, find some plants to Poison your arrows, or even make sure your Well-Fed when you catch up to a forced marching unit. You could also notice things out of the ordinary, from unusual tracks (Monster Tracks) or strange sounds (Too Quiet) to an animal not acting how it should (whether Tainted or walking on a Broken Leg).

Attack:

Survival isn’t used to attack.

Defend:

Survival could be used to resist someone’s Stealth attempt to lose you in the wild; or the opposite, someones Investigation or Survival attempt to track you. It’s not generally used a a direct defense, as the knowledge and skills are about avoiding a bad situation before it happens.

Will

The Will skill represents your character’s general level of mental fortitude, the same way that Physique represents your physical fortitude.

Overcome:

You can use Will to pit yourself against obstacles that require mental effort. Puzzles and riddles can fall under this category, as well as any mentally absorbing task, like deciphering a code. Use Will when it’s only a matter of time before you overcome the mental challenge, and Lore if it takes something more than brute mental force to get past it. Many of the obstacles that you go up against with Will might be made part of challenges, to reflect the effort involved.

Contests of Will might reflect particularly challenging games, like chess, or competing in a hard set of exams. Will also determines how stressful it is for a mage to draw a given amount of power from the Fade.

Create an Advantage:

You can use Will to place aspects on yourself, representing a state of deep concentration or focus.

Attack:

Will isn’t really used for attacks.

Defend:

Will is the main skill you use to defend against mental attacks, representing your control over your reactions; and intrusions, representing your mastery of your own mind. It might also be used to resist attempts to run you ragged or break your resolve.

Special:

The Will skill gives you additional mental stress boxes or consequence slots. Average (1) or Fair (2) gives you a 3-point stress box. Good (3) or Great (4) gives you a 3-point and a 4-point stress box. Superb (+5) and rank thereafter gives you an additional mild consequence slot along with the additional stress boxes. This slot can only be used for mental harm.

Special Skill (Control)

The Control skill is both broader, and more complex than most skills. The user (a mage) must first Draw Power from the Fade (possibly over multiple turns), and then cast their spell to create the desired effect. Other than time travel (relative time dilation is possible) or teleportation, almost anything can be done with magic (including just about anything that can be done with any other skill). Mages who know rote spells can add their specialization rank to their roll to cast these spells, but not to drawing power.

Thresholds

All but the simplest magical effects must overcome a special Block called Threshold (noted as Threshold: #) that varies with the complexity and depth of the spell’s desired change, reality’s resistance to the effect. The Fade from which magical power is drawn is mutable, but physical reality resists the injection of this mutability. Power drawn for a spell and the roll to cast it are both reduced by the Threshold (i.e. drawing 4 power and rolling a 4 to cast a spell with a Threshold: 3, results in a 1 Power spell with a 1 rolled to cast) before any other resistance to the spell.

Drawing Power

To cast a spell, the mage must first Draw Power from the Fade to shape. Drawing power less than the mage’s Will causes no stress. Power equal to the mage’s Will or one greater causes one Mana Stress. Above that, the difference in the power drawn as a single action and the mage’s Will determines the stress (i.e. Draw Power 5 from Will 2 would cause 3 Mana Stress).

The mage can declare a maximum power to be drawn as a single action (likely to avoid stress or a greater than intended effect) before rolling. Then the mage rolls Control to determine how much power is drawn, suffering stress based on how much power is drawn. If the total power for the spell is drawn in one roll (or the mage accepts the amount) Draw Power can be a supplemental action to the Control action to cast a spell (but not other actions). A mage can Draw Power for a spell over as many turns as the mage desires (though held power can be disrupted, which the mage would resist with Will), and the power can be release back into the Fade at will instead of shaping it into a spell (but it’s all or nothing, part of the power can’t be put back).

Casting a Spell

Once power is drawn from the Fade, a mage shapes it into an effect. The caster rolls Control to determine the effectiveness of the spell. In most cases, a spell’s effect is limited by it’s Power. If the the mage scores less than the drawn power on their Control roll to cast the spell, the remainder is uncontrolled.

An uncontrolled spell can be forced to work as intended by sheer expenditure of will, causing the mage Mental Stress (and/or Consequences) equal to the shifts failed by (rolled 5 to cast power 7 spell, take 2 Mental Stress or a Mild Mental Consequence to control it). Otherwise the uncontrolled power grounds out as other effects (a targeted flame strike against an enemy might also set the Room on Fire, some lightning might arc back onto the caster [doing uncontrolled shifts of Physical Stress], or other unpredictable results). If the caster cannot control enough power to overcome the Threshold the spell fails, and only power drawn in excess of the Threshold is considered uncontrolled (i.e. Threshold: 3, Power 3, cast roll of 2: no effect; Threshold: 5, Power 7, rolled 4: 2 uncontrolled power); as the rest is held at bay by reality itself.

Particularly complex or subtle spells may require and accomplish more shifts than the spell’s Power (like trying to pick a lock, rather than blowing it open), these spells will reduce shifts by a set amount before determining if the spell was successfully cast (acting as an additional Block against the cast but not the Draw Power).

Specializations

To cast powerful and complex spells, a mage often relies on painstakingly practiced and memorized spell forms that have been proven to work; these are rotes (learned with ability points). A mages study in a given field of magical theory (Primal, Creation, Spirit, Entropy, or more esoteric schools) is represented as Specialties, which add their ranks to rolls to cast a known rote spell with Control (but not to Draw Power). A Mage with Control: 3 and Primal: 3 can roll with a base of 6 to create an earthquake (or other known primal rote). Specialty ranks are limited by the mages Control rank, but are not limited (like skills) to require a lower ranked specialty (e.g. can have all specialties are rank 2 and none at rank 1). Each rank a mage gains in Control (including the first) provides one rank in a Specialty. Without training in arcane Lore, a mage can generally only be a true specialist (without much ability to cast other types of spells).

Ritual Magic

To perform a ritual, a Lore roll to design or understand (with a bonus for how well documented it is) the ritual must occur; this decides the maximum power of the ritual (with too low a roll meaning the Threshold cannot be met and the ritual is simply to complex for the caster). Next the caster must Draw Power and immediately Shape the power with Control. Unlike Spells, drawn power must be controlled immediately; but the process of drawing and shaping can be repeated until the maximum (or desired) power of the ritual is reached. Any failure to shape drawn power will result in the currently uncontrolled and all previously shaped power to be considered uncontrolled as the ritual unravels and fails, the Threshold does not influence how much power is considered uncontrolled. A wise mage takes precautions before beginning a ritual and is careful not to let it fall apart once it begins to take shape.

For the purpose of targeting, a separate Control roll is made; though many rituals incorporate some (or great deal) of self-targeting incorporated into them (and their Threshold) if they must be targeted (in the traditional sense) at all. A meteor drawn down on an army might be (to a degree) dodged, but a physical portal to the Fade or a binding on a demon (or other being) cannot be and the whole power of the spell must be resisted.

The process of drawing and shaping power in a ritual would (unless explicitly noted) take too many turns to be performed in combat.

Skills

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