GUIDE TO SKILLS
Skills are perhaps some of the hardest aspects of our characters to balance and theres a lot of problems that come up that can be seen as power gaming if your characters skills start to exceed what's possible or reasonable. Theres a few things that should always be kept in mind when dealing with character skills. To put it simply;
Skills are the sum of knowledge and experience.
In this RP your characters skills don’t serve to make it some sort of super badass, or demi-god. Skills are there to round the character out, to give it the ability to do it’s job. You don’t have to be the best at anything, this isn’t any sort of competition to accumulate wealth or power ICly or IG. In fact the advancement of the skills after a while tapers off or eventually halts all together; If there isn’t adequate tutelage or use, you simply can’t advance a skill any farther. Your character’s skills aren’t a measure of their worth as person, nor is it some sort of system of leveling up as they get older, they’re only there to justify the work they do in the community and avoid powergaming.
As important as skills are, and as thorough as this guide attempts to be there just isn’t any way to be definitive on all skills and how hard it is to use them. Skill level is nothing more than a somewhat simple way to measure character skill and what they should and shouldn’t be capable of, but this is far from absolute. There will always be people who, given justification in their upbringing, may not adhere well to the outline in the guide. Characters with more skills tend to sacrifice the more basic foundations to of their life, like general social skills, family or even personal well being. But generally, every character will follow the below guideline. It is possible to learn skills without being taught, teaching oneself takes several times longer than learning from a teacher, and advancement comes from hard earned experience in that case. The final thing to keep in mind is that skill far from always determines the outcome. Environment and situation, as well as the character’s current state and weaknesses, must always be taken into consideration.
Generally skills work as follows:
Novice > Apprentice > Competent > Advanced > Expert > Master
The character has only just started to learn the skill, perhaps having spent somewhere between 1-2 years learning, the character would know the bare minimum or even have some natural skill at it, but generally isn’t very good. This skill level would not have enough training or experience to be able to do this for a living. Anyone competent or better could teach to this skill level.
Apprentice (Basic, Easy)
The characters skills have furthered through either tutelage or hard earned experience over 3-4 years. This is the sort of level of skill it takes to be competent enough to complete simple tasks or even do a certain skill or job reasonably for a living. Though it can be time consuming and slow. Anyone competent or better could teach to this skill level.
Competent (Average, Moderate, Proficient)
5-9 years of practice and experience has made this skill a part of this character's life, they’ve spent a lot of time honing their skill to the point where its a viable source of income or a serious aspiration for them. At this level and beyond you could teach others this skill.
Advanced (Adept, Skilled, Journeymen)
This is as far as most skills can ever get. This would take 10-14 years of study (the more complex the skill, like swordsmanship or medicine, more.) and practice to get. This includes devoted study or consistent practice to the subject. A well rounded character generally would have one or possibly two skills to this level so long as they’re simple skills or perhaps an appropriately aged character. Its possible to have more. At say 25 you shouldn’t have more then MAYBE a single skill if it was taught exceedingly young, and said tutelage continued along with the accumulation of a great deal of experience. Characters around this age who strive for an advanced skill don't have the time or experience to have other skills. In order to qualify as advanced they'd have to have a wide and extremely varied set of experience in the specific job, which for younger characters is the hardest obligation to meet to reach this level.
Expertise comes only after a great deal of practice, tutelage, and 15 years of experience. This is 15 years outside of learning the job, meaning 15 years of doing nothing but it. Thus, younger characters aren't usually capable of this unless its an extremely simple skill. In their given field most projects don’t come down to whether or not they know how to do it, but more so, how long it takes to accomplish their goal. There is very little in their field they don’t know or can’t work out and this sort of skill is very difficult to obtain, and is more than deserving of respect.
Most people spend their WHOLE lives never getting to this level. This is the sort of skill that someone spends 20 plus years of devoted study to the point where they’re so advanced that there is nothing they’ve not already experienced. This is a level that is only awarded when their lifes work (and backstory must clearly demonstrate this) is devoted to this single field of study or trade. People who are masters at one thing, often don’t have many advanced skills in other fields, though its possible if its all related to their primary field of study.
TYPES OF SKILLSMajor Skills
A major skill is essentially just what the name implies, its a complex skill that takes years of study to grasp. These are generally the skills that fill the role of a character's primary job. These skills are complicated, and often times what makes these a major skill is a coalition of smaller skills that combine into one much larger and complex set of knowledge. An example would be Masonry would include the smaller skills; brick making, chisling, bricklaying, architecture, ect ect. So a major skill is generally a complex one, or simply one that is difficult to learn or takes a great deal of practice, such as the arts. Some skills are easier to learn than others, such as lumbering, but the challenge in these skills comes from the physical demand and muscle building that comes from years of practice.
Please note that the following are categories of separate major skills, not major skills when combined together. Many other Major skills exist; this is more of an example of the skills that qualify.
Agriculture - Farming, Animal Husbandry, Animal Training/Domestication
Athletic - Acrobatics, Swimming, Climbing, Dancing
Combat - Melee and Ranged Weapon skills, Martial Arts, Hunting
Engineering - Rune, Mechanical, Locksmithing
Fine Arts - Painting, Drawing, Writing, Sculpture
Handicrafts - Pottery, Weaving, Woodcarving, Leatherworking, Glassblowing, Papercraft
Knowledge - Science, Lore, Culture, History, Philosophy
Labor - Mining, Lumbering
Miscellaneous - Sailing, Medicine
Music - Instrument skills, Singing
Social - Leadership, Persuasion, Deception, Politics, Business
Stealth - Sneaking, Lockpicking, Pick pocketing, Disguises
Tradeskills - Blacksmithing, Carpentry, Masonry, Tailoring, Cuisine, Brewing
Wilderness - Hunting, Herbalism, Fishing, Survival
There are a number of simple skills people can and do pick up along the way that aren’t necessarily job skills, but talents or are part of the learning process or production for their given trade, backstory or part of everyday life in the middle ages. These sorts of things such as starting a fire or knowing which end of a sword to stick a person with, don’t necessitate a skill listing though its an option.
Reading and writing, though rare in the middle ages, is common for characters in our setting and in some ways necessary, so generally its not counted as a skill.
CHARACTER CREATION AND SKILL RP
I’m not going to go over the Metagaming rules, but they are important when it comes to any and every trade skill. It takes TIME to do these things and the amount of which, IC and OOC is determined by the skills. This is partially why we need levels attached to skills so we can know the characters are doing their work at a pace that is believable. Its also important to keep weather and living conditions in mind. In the middle of winter a builder won’t work as well or quickly as say the spring.
This might be the worst part of the character creation process, you must study the skill extensively to be certain you can RP it convincingly. Minecraft maybe the medium we use but the manner in which things are constructed just isn’t realistic even remotely. Doing research and keeping notes on medieval practices around the skills your character has and how they can obtain resources to do their job are important and can have huge impact on RP. For instance, what if you play a miner? Do they know how to make torches? its not as easy as putting coal on a stick, how’s it done? These things need to be learned by the player through research, this is not optional in our RP.
Physical Description Reflecting Skills
This is something that commonly breaks immersion when overlooked which it almost always is. Jobs impact the characters physical properties. Simply put, it makes little sense for a character to spend most of its life doing hard labor, building, farming, mining, but be waifish, pale with no muscle to speak of. How is it possible for them to have done their job at all? A fair skinned character who’s a farmer? A blind sailor? A one-armed blacksmith? Sure, sometimes it’s pretty obvious that physical properties would limit or affect the way a character can work. Farmers are tan because they work outside all the time, but with strong backs and legs from carrying crops and tilling soil. Miners may be pale but have broad shoulders from swinging picks. Blacksmiths are likely to have a lot of upper body strength, scars, burns, and painful mistakes from learning their craft; This goes for swordsmen and hunters as well. Carpenters are likely to also be broad, much like farmers, miners, possibly tanned from laboring outside, depending on origin. Not everyone is a Barbie or an Adonis, its important to keep in mind that your character should look like they can do their job.
As said before. Just a skill level doesn’t account for everything when it comes to certain instances, this is most striking when it comes to combat. Not only does environment, injury and status affect this but the character’s stamina, build and weight are also factors when it comes to fighting and fleeing. Stamina is the need to rest or running out of energy when running or fighting, which is exhaustive, even to the most practiced fighters. Build is an obvious factor as well, but one that’s often overlooked. Muscle is dense and heavy, extremly built characters may be strong but they lose maneuverability. The denser the muscles on a character the harder swimming is. Fat floats, if there is no fat, then treading water becomes hard. This is also what makes weight important as this would apply to small, thin or wiry characters as well. Being smaller would mean maybe they’d be swift in bursts but they’d tire easily, they wouldn’t have the weight or the muscle to put much power behind attacks, or to block and defend with. Clearly these attributes are interconnected based on the physical properties of the character. Keep it in mind when creating the character and when the character you have gets into a conflict.
If a small character such as Ezri (5’ 4”, Thin and lightweight) tried to use her sword to block a full powered blow from a large character, like Duras (6’ 6”, Extremely sturdy), She’d end up getting her sword knocked out of her hand and she’d be knocked over, if the block doesn’t fail entirely and she get cleaved instead.
It’s important that even if you the player is exceptionally good at combat RP, that doesn’t mean your character is, and being too good at avoiding blows or anticipating attacks (ESPECIALLY if the character is not particularly skilled in combat) is clear powergaming and needs to be avoided at all costs. These seem like little things, and even common sense but when you get players that ignore the fact their character has these very human limitations that you get issues with powergaming and OP.
The skill levels listed here are not obligatory but we want to encourage it’s use. If or when you get corrected on an issue with your character sheet, skill levels, or your RP, this is where a lot of that is going to be coming from. This guide is here to help you learn to accurately gauge your characters skills, job, and progression realistically. Hopefully you’ve bothered to read this and take it to heart, if you ever have questions about a character's skill or perhaps you’re not sure about progression or even converting skills into this format, ask a GM to give you a hand! It’s what we’re here for.