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Skill use: often vs rarely used skills

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I sort of went the other way when setting up a FFG-fied version of "Dawn of Defiance". One of the episodes leans heavily on a gambling tournament on Bespin, and I've never been overly-happy with FFG's take on gambling in Star Wars, so we went ahead and created a new skill, called (imaginatively) "Gambling". :) 

We wanted the ability for characters to increase their skill at the sabacc table, and not just rely on attributes. We haven't actually played that one, yet, but they've actually used the skill in our other games, and it seems to work pretty well. 

My ultimate plan is to actually create a "Gambler" specialty, including a custom talent tree, so that a player could specifically mimic gambling characters of past stories (a "Maverick" type, for example). 

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1 minute ago, HappyDaze said:

There's also the issue of how many of the PCs use a particular skill. In combat, almost everyone benefits from having ranks in one or more combat skills, but rarely does more than one character really need skill in Astrogation or most of the Knowledge skills. Oddly enough, the "passive" skills like Resilience and Discipline are the ones where it is most necessary for everyone to have ranks of their own since these tests usually hit everyone individually. 

Super overlooked and often dump-statted. My slicer uses dual Prax Arms Stealth 2-VX Palm Shooters w/ one dumping Raquor Venom and the other a standard neuroparalytic; strictly a defensive mechanism as referenced by the lack of lethal injectables. 

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3 minutes ago, Daronil said:

I sort of went the other way when setting up a FFG-fied version of "Dawn of Defiance". One of the episodes leans heavily on a gambling tournament on Bespin, and I've never been overly-happy with FFG's take on gambling in Star Wars, so we went ahead and created a new skill, called (imaginatively) "Gambling". :) 

We wanted the ability for characters to increase their skill at the sabacc table, and not just rely on attributes. We haven't actually played that one, yet, but they've actually used the skill in our other games, and it seems to work pretty well. 

My ultimate plan is to actually create a "Gambler" specialty, including a custom talent tree, so that a player could specifically mimic gambling characters of past stories (a "Maverick" type, for example). 

There is a Gambler specialization already for Smuggler career.

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5 minutes ago, Geodes said:

There is a Gambler specialization already for Smuggler career.

Sorry...I wasn't particularly clear. My version is going to have a new talent tree, created from scratch, that will make use of the "Gambling" skill. 

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1 minute ago, Daronil said:

Sorry...I wasn't particularly clear. My version is going to have a new talent tree, created from scratch, that will make use of the "Gambling" skill. 

Gotcha. What aspects, pray tell, do you not like about the current tree? Are you going to port over any of the current talents? Is it going to rely on deception as well (maybe even give a talent that boosts deception)?

I am intrigued at the idea as it would cut out the double or nothing talent line, and that makes me happy. I mean, if they would have specified that the talent can only be used in gambling, then that would be fine, but when someone with four proficiency dice for combat or crafting uses Unmatched fortune to conjure up four triumphs that are then doubled through double or nothing, I get uppity.

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1 hour ago, Geodes said:

Gotcha. What aspects, pray tell, do you not like about the current tree? Are you going to port over any of the current talents? Is it going to rely on deception as well (maybe even give a talent that boosts deception)?

I am intrigued at the idea as it would cut out the double or nothing talent line, and that makes me happy. I mean, if they would have specified that the talent can only be used in gambling, then that would be fine, but when someone with four proficiency dice for combat or crafting uses Unmatched fortune to conjure up four triumphs that are then doubled through double or nothing, I get uppity.

To be honest, I haven't thought that far into it! :) At least in terms of what I would put into a new tree - just that I'm not overly-impressed with the current one. Like you, I'm not a fan of "Double or Nothing", as I think it's overly complicated; not to mention that the tree itself is kind of weird in the way it loops back onto itself. 

My "ideal" - and bear in mind this is pretty much off the top of my head - would be one that focused on improving the Gambling skill. A few talents that upgrade the skill for a specific time, perhaps for a Strain cost. Maybe a couple that allow you to throw Setbacks at an opponent, and I was toying with a couple of branches that allow you the specialise in one or more specific games; a Pazaak hustler isn't necessarily going to be a brilliant Sabacc player, and neither of them are as good as someone "working" the underworld swoop-racing field, for example. I'm not thinking of actually naming the games in the tree - that would be "fluffised" - but a specialisation in one area might dominate over another. 

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7 hours ago, Daronil said:

I sort of went the other way when setting up a FFG-fied version of "Dawn of Defiance". One of the episodes leans heavily on a gambling tournament on Bespin, and I've never been overly-happy with FFG's take on gambling in Star Wars, so we went ahead and created a new skill, called (imaginatively) "Gambling". :) 

We wanted the ability for characters to increase their skill at the sabacc table, and not just rely on attributes. We haven't actually played that one, yet, but they've actually used the skill in our other games, and it seems to work pretty well. 

My ultimate plan is to actually create a "Gambler" specialty, including a custom talent tree, so that a player could specifically mimic gambling characters of past stories (a "Maverick" type, for example). 

I am not against coming up with new skills or even specializations, but the question really needs to be: is there a need or want from your players that is not currently feasible with RAW.  What I mean to say is that you could create a new skill called "accounting", and a specialization called accountant. That way you could gain ranks and training to become highly effective and proficient in accounting. (No books would be left unbalanced!) Are there accountants in the world? Sure.  Are they highly specialized? You bet.  Would they be likely to go on adventures? Probably not.  Does anyone want to play that? Doubtful.  

 My caution here is to avoid characters that are too specialized and keep to the broad archetypes.  In the case above the Scholar specialization could probably fill that role.

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8 hours ago, ThreeAM said:

I am not against coming up with new skills or even specializations, but the question really needs to be: is there a need or want from your players that is not currently feasible with RAW.  What I mean to say is that you could create a new skill called "accounting", and a specialization called accountant. That way you could gain ranks and training to become highly effective and proficient in accounting. (No books would be left unbalanced!) Are there accountants in the world? Sure.  Are they highly specialized? You bet.  Would they be likely to go on adventures? Probably not.  Does anyone want to play that? Doubtful.  

 My caution here is to avoid characters that are too specialized and keep to the broad archetypes.  In the case above the Scholar specialization could probably fill that role.

It's primarily been the Gambling skill. I haven't implemented my own Gambler specialty - I may never do it. It's just something that's been in the back of my mind. But the Gambling skill was brought it for two main reasons:

1) My players definitely wanted it. Gambling, by RAW, was just too...I don't even know the right word. It relies too much on attributes, not skills. A highly charismatic or smart person is not necessarily a good gambler. A good gambler is definitely skilled. Whether they're counting cards, reading others' poker faces, working the odds, etc. - it's not something a smart-but-inexperienced person can just walk into a casino and do. 

2) In light of that, and with Episode III of "Dawn of Defiance" in mind*, we decided we needed an actual Gambling skill that a player could put XP into to improve. So far we haven't played Ep III of DoD, but the Gambling skill has come up - favourably - in several other adventures since. 

* Episode III of "Dawn of Defiance" is called "Queen of Air and Darkness",

and focuses heavily on a sabacc tournament on Bespin. It has hints of the classic "heist" movie, as well as requiring the PCs to be heavily involved in the sabacc tournament in order to pull off a successful conclusion to the story. Think "Casino Royale" (the Daniel Craig version) with the high-stakes poker tournament featuring heavily in the plot.

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1 hour ago, Daronil said:

A highly charismatic or smart person is not necessarily a good gambler.

That's true of any of the attribute/skill combos.  Someone who's never piloted before will probably crash and burn a TIE in the first 10 seconds of flight, but in this game anybody with 4 or 5 Agility is going to be really good right out of the gate.  Somebody with 5 Agility is going to crush TIE veterans, even if they never get a Triumph.  An Intellect 5 person from a primitive planet that has never seen a computer isn't going to be able to hack it, but in this game they'll be able to hack it after they first turn it on.*  Pick any skill and it's the same story, it's just the way this game works.

That said, if you really wanted to get strict, this might be a way:

  • Gambling is a "sub skill", and is considered a career skill for everybody.
  • The Gambling skill is never used directly, it's simply a throttle on the other skills (Cool, Deception, Discipline, Coercion, etc).  The dice pool applied is the lowest of Gambling skill, or the Attribute.  So somebody with Gambling 2 will never be able to apply more than 2 dice.  If they have no skills in gambling, they can still roll one green die.

In the beginning, a PC with Presence 4, Cool 2, and Gambling 1, who wants to use the Cool skill, will only be able to apply a single yellow die.  Later on, the PC with Presence 4 will have a terrific poker-face, and eventually their gambling skill will allow them to use Cool at all four dice.  So if they had Presence 4, Cool 2, and Gambling 4, their dice pool would be YYGG.

--------------

* a little GM intervention in such cases might be called for, such as automatic difficulty upgrades, but generally anybody can attempt anything

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1 hour ago, Daronil said:

It's primarily been the Gambling skill. I haven't implemented my own Gambler specialty - I may never do it. It's just something that's been in the back of my mind. But the Gambling skill was brought it for two main reasons:

1) My players definitely wanted it. Gambling, by RAW, was just too...I don't even know the right word. It relies too much on attributes, not skills. A highly charismatic or smart person is not necessarily a good gambler. A good gambler is definitely skilled. Whether they're counting cards, reading others' poker faces, working the odds, etc. - it's not something a smart-but-inexperienced person can just walk into a casino and do. 

2) In light of that, and with Episode III of "Dawn of Defiance" in mind*, we decided we needed an actual Gambling skill that a player could put XP into to improve. So far we haven't played Ep III of DoD, but the Gambling skill has come up - favourably - in several other adventures since. 

* Episode III of "Dawn of Defiance" is called "Queen of Air and Darkness",

  Reveal hidden contents

and focuses heavily on a sabacc tournament on Bespin. It has hints of the classic "heist" movie, as well as requiring the PCs to be heavily involved in the sabacc tournament in order to pull off a successful conclusion to the story. Think "Casino Royale" (the Daniel Craig version) with the high-stakes poker tournament featuring heavily in the plot.

 

Just curious but which gambling RAW are you using? There are at least 2 different ones that I know of.  General gambling using opposed deception/cool/skulduggery, and then one for sabbacc that adds in the force die for extra randomness. I have used both and they both seemed to work out decently.

 

Just to play devil's advocate a little here. I ran Dawn of Defiance back in Saga and got though the whole tournament without any significant issues.  

That said, Saga edition handling of gambling was even worse since there was no relevant skill at all, just a straight wisdom check (There was a talent only for scoundrrels that added +2 when gambling but that's all it did, not a worthwhile investment imo).

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1 hour ago, whafrog said:

That's true of any of the attribute/skill combos.  Someone who's never piloted before will probably crash and burn a TIE in the first 10 seconds of flight, but in this game anybody with 4 or 5 Agility is going to be really good right out of the gate.  Somebody with 5 Agility is going to crush TIE veterans, even if they never get a Triumph.  An Intellect 5 person from a primitive planet that has never seen a computer isn't going to be able to hack it, but in this game they'll be able to hack it after they first turn it on.*  Pick any skill and it's the same story, it's just the way this game works.

Well, that's true, but there is still a piloting skill, so the guy with 3 Agility, who can get a TIE off the ground and land without crashing it, can actually get better at it. He may even end up a fighter ace. My problem with a lack of Gambling skill is that you can never have a "Gambling Ace" - a "Maverick" type character who walks into a sabacc game and scares the pants off his opponents who know him by his incredible reputation. 

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55 minutes ago, ThreeAM said:

Just curious but which gambling RAW are you using? There are at least 2 different ones that I know of.  General gambling using opposed deception/cool/skulduggery, and then one for sabbacc that adds in the force die for extra randomness. I have used both and they both seemed to work out decently.

 

Just to play devil's advocate a little here. I ran Dawn of Defiance back in Saga and got though the whole tournament without any significant issues.  

That said, Saga edition handling of gambling was even worse since there was no relevant skill at all, just a straight wisdom check (There was a talent only for scoundrrels that added +2 when gambling but that's all it did, not a worthwhile investment imo).

I've looked at the first one - haven't seen the sabacc rules. Where are they?

I never ran DoD3 in Saga - but we'd added a "Gambling" skill to Saga already. :)

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Disused skills at my table are from a combination of style and experience. The group is clever and travels light, so they'll talk their way out of a fight if they can't outsmart a challenge.

I consolidated Knowledge into one skill; players can permanently assign a pair of Boost dice across categories. As a result, it's a staple. I have house rules more strongly positioning Brawl as a low-damage, high-control choice for CQC. It might get some use with a new player picking Hired Gun. We'll see.

Survival, Leadership and Coercion are the three I've never used. The latter is simply thanks to low Willpower. Survival will be the least likely to come up in a session, but I know how I can utilize it. And Leadership is just waiting for a need to persuade a group.

Edited by wilsch

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I certainly agree that some skills are used more than others, but that depends on the characters and the table. What sort of bothers me is that some skills (computer, mechanics) have a very wide range of applications, whereas others (skulduggery, astrogation) have a relatively narrow focus that doesn't really come up all that much. And I know some games call for multiple astrogation checks per session, but many (mine included) mostly call for a roll when trying to jump to hyperspace under pressure.

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On 9/18/2017 at 4:26 PM, Aramur said:

To go back on topic, I'm interested in what other groups have as popular/often used skills, and which are rarely (if ever) used?

Or, even more importantly, which skills tend to be narratively interesting when used and which narratively trivial?

To date our most interestingly used skill is coercion.  Multiple NPC's have been threatened in order to have them reveal information.  This is largely due to Our Bounty Hunter being really good at it. Normally i'd be a little wary of them just strong arming every NPC to get what they want (discount on goods, getting out of docking fees) but that has not happened. They have largely used it for intelligence gathering (tell me what you know or else), which typically leads them to use this info intelligently or creatively, so I am on board with it. I have made sure to curb its overuse now by making sure there are no enemies left alive or sticking around after a battle (unless i want to give the PCs some info), and to make sure that there are consequences (those people don't like you after being threatened and may seek retribution)

Also of high use:  

  • Mechanics to constantly manipulate items to create distractions.
  • Knowledge education, underworld, xeno, and outer rim (each party member is proficient in one so everyone gets a moment to shine)
  • Negotiation: none of them have any ranks and yet it comes up constantly, and then they all groan when they do poorly. (seriously guys its like 5-10xp! stop saving to put your 5th rank in ranged heavy! ugh.) Narratively I would say it has led to some interesting scenarios since they are so hilariously bad at negotiating (failure w/despair trying to sell that Stormtrooper E-11 blaster? yeah that merchant ins't interested in buying that...oh and because he is an upstanding merchant is now suspicious of you and your party and ins't interested in doing any business with you and tells you to get out.  [he would have alerted imperial authorities but none are present on that planet])

The least used skills are the ones they aren't proficient based upon character concept so they are not using them proactively. I still try to throw some of these checks their way, but they still are rarely used.

  • leadership, brawl, melee, gunnery, charm. 
  • Knowledge core and lore have not come up much yet, but that is largely based upon the fact they are in the outer rim and not investigating any mysteries (yet)

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On 9/18/2017 at 10:26 PM, Aramur said:

To go back on topic, I'm interested in what other groups have as popular/often used skills, and which are rarely (if ever) used?

Or, even more importantly, which skills tend to be narratively interesting when used and which narratively trivial?

We use Astrogation often multiple times a session, but since there is often no time pressure the use is narratively trivial. A GM might ask you to make a Charm roll each time you approach a bartender with a friendly smile, but if you are not actually trying to get anything special done, the skill check also seems narratively trivial.

I'm going to echo what a lot of other people have said - it depends entirely on the table you're at.  The game I'm running is set in the lower levels of Coruscant, and before the campaign started and warned all my players that Survival, Astrogation and Piloting (Space) were unlikely to get major play, while certain rulesets (e.g. Mass Combat) were also unlikely to feature much.  (Some of my players ignored this in favour of more flavourful characters or to get certain talents - one, for example, went with Commander/Strategist, despite several of those talents relating to Mass Combat.  But I digress)

Of course, other skills have come up A LOT in this campaign.  Ranged (Light), Charm, Deception, Streetwise, Negotiation, Skulduggery, Brawl, Mechanics and Knowledge (Underworld) have all featured heavily: more than they would in a campaign exploring the Jundland Wastes (where I'd expect Survival, Resilience and Ranged (Heavy) to take a front foot), or hunting TIE fighters in the Mid Rim (Piloting, Astrogation and Gunnery are obviously going to be your big winners here).

What's my point?  Well, I guess it's this: it doesn't matter that some skills are used less in your campaign than others, provided the players know which skills these are.  They can then choose to invest their XP as they want.  And while there's nothing wrong with occasionally hitting a PC in the dump stat (because, let's face it, it's just funny), if the GM repeatedly targets a skill they have no ranks in because this campaign wasn't supposed to feature that skill, players have every right to be brassed off.

 

 

On 9/19/2017 at 1:07 AM, Desslok said:

Or lets say that you're just charming the bartender for no good reason other than perhaps making her forget your bar tab and slip you her com number. A roll against her discipline - oh, lets call it two reds and a purple, since she has to deal with a TON of drunk idiots on a nightly basis - comes up double despair. Oh, did I say she was a bartender? No, she was really a undercover cop on a sting and you just happened to hit on the codephrase that the contact looking to buy 500 kilos of Death Sticks was suppose to use. She gives the surveillance van outside the high sign, the vice squad busts in on a raid, and after you and your friends blaze your way out the front door with blasterfire, you're now the target of a city wide manhunt.

Not such a trivial roll now, huh?

8

This is perhaps the best example of Despair (admittedly double despair) I've seen on these forums.

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Re: Social checks. The thing I would always do when asking for a roll is to ask the player directly "What is your character's game entering this situation." or, if they had time to talk about it before (which they should do) "what is your groups plan going into this.". At the very least, while the player might have a detailed plan, they should at least know whether they intend to honour the contract or not and thus should roll the respective check for that.

Of course, plans change, but the characters intention at the time is important. Are they actually going to at least try and for-fill their end of the bargain or not with the information they have at this present moment? This is an exceedingly elementary question that the player should give before you pick up the dice and roll.

Now, I guess not every conversation needs a roll, sometimes it can be much more interesting to hear characters talk especially if they are good friends/have no reason to be at each other's throats. Sometimes the group will make a deal with Lando that requires no roll, because he has a task and provided the service he would provide the party is within reason. Likewise, if the Orideran crest was to be presented to a Hutt, unless the party make a huge request or one that offends them (or alternatively the Hutt doesn't just plan on killing them to keep the knowledge of said crest exclusive to him/her) then a checkless social check would be acceptable if a compelling and interesting conversation can be made. Otherwise a check would take place if the situation has the potential to be outside the comfort zone/ if they are feeling impersonal towards the PCs.

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Unfrotuantely, skill use is all up to the GM and PC's play. The GM institutes times and envoronments where skills can be used and it's up to te PC's natural play style and how creative they are to use those times to their advantage. 

As others have said, the best thing for a GM to do (and exactly what our GM did) is exploit the skills your PC's lack, give them a little rough up due to not hitting skill spots. Don't use Leadership checks... have a scenario where it would make life a 100000 times easier if you had someone who had Leadership. 

It's all about not letting the PC's feel comfortable in not having skills. 

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Re Social Checks:

Pretty much every social interaction that has an intention othan than small talk, should use charm, deception, coercion, negotiation, leadership.

However, this check should be woven into the 'in game' player talk

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It's interesting to see how varied skill use is in everyone's games.  Our own games tend to focus more on espionage and warfare.  As such, Skulduggery is one of the most commonly used skills.  In conjunction with Knowledge: Warfare, Skulduggery is used for reconnaisance against military targets as well as breaking and entering.  And for sabotage.

 

One of the characters has the Commodore among his specializations and often makes Astrogation checks to determine which hyperspace lanes are most likely to be used for a wide variety of purposes, such as supply routes or transporting Rebel prisoners.

 

We also have a Gadgeteer and an Agitator, so Coercion sees a fair amount of use.  And Discipline is also used quite often as it is the defense against Deception.

 

Knowledge: Outer Rim and Underworld are used at least once a session to identify potential contacts, resource acquisition, or where to lay low.  I don't know how everyone uses the Talents Know Somebody and Black Market Contacts, but we use those to buy information as well as gear.  It makes the Commodore/Trader a very useful person to have around.

 

Every single one of the players has Cunning at 3.  The rest of the ability stats are pretty equally spread around.

 

No one has Knowledge: Lore and it has yet to come up.  Our campaign is set in the Outer Rim, so Knowledge: Core Worlds is rately used.  Same with Survival, as our sessions tend to be played in urban areas.  And even though we have two Commanders, Leadership is often neglected, unless we get an NPC squad of commandos to boss around for a session.

 

Quite a few of the characters have low-level Piloting: Space, but our campaign is pretty planetary-based; there aren't a lot of space battles.  Gunnery is also seldom used (maybe once).  All the other combat skills see a fai bit of use.  The Assassin is good with blades, the Gadgeteer with fists.  Those are good for when stealth is required, which is often.

 

So there it is.  Like I said, kind of a fun topic here.

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I have to admit, we've kind of ditched "Astrogation", for the most part, unless the PCs are attempting a quick jump under attack, or something similar. For routine hyperspace travel, it just kind of bogs down, and really, in eight movies we've seen exactly once where someone has been concerned with calculating hyperspace coordinates, so it's not like it comes up that often. 

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4 minutes ago, Daronil said:

I have to admit, we've kind of ditched "Astrogation", for the most part, unless the PCs are attempting a quick jump under attack, or something similar. For routine hyperspace travel, it just kind of bogs down, and really, in eight movies we've seen exactly once where someone has been concerned with calculating hyperspace coordinates, so it's not like it comes up that often. 

Yeah. Why even roll for routine stuff? It's routine.

Unless there is the possibility of interesting success or failure, just narrate it or skip it.

 

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