Monday, January 20, 2014

Stuff of Legends - Character Basics: Skills, Titles and Traits

I know I implied this post would be up a couple of day ago. So sue me for being busy.

A quick glossary for terms below:
  • Threshold - the number the player needs to roll under to succeed in a roll. Composite of attribute, confidence and skill rank.
  • Skill Opposition - every skill, when rolled, has an opposition. Sometimes it's a static number and other times it's another skill or attribute. This opposition is the minimum number of dice that may be rolled when using the skill being opposed.
    An opposition that is higher than the opposed means you must roll the opposition number. (A skill of 3 versus an opposition of 5 requires 5 dice, despite the slim chances.)
    An opposition that is lower than the opposed means that you may roll a number of dice between the opposition and your skill rank. (That same skill of 3 versus an opposition of 2 means you may roll either 2 or 3 dice.)
I've covered the attributes and confidence in the previous post. This time I would like to cover those things that accentuate characters and define them better - Skills, Titles and Traits.
  • Skills are the bread-and-butter of performing actions. Any  action that can be done in Stuff of Legends is tied to a skill. All skills are used in conjunction with one attribute, so a character with a high attribute would benefit from skills that are frequently used with that attribute.
  • Titles are a bit like classes in other fantasy games. Where they differ is that by themselves they aren't much. Just having a title doesn't make the character considerably more powerful or special in any way. Every title has Traits, below.
  • Traits are a sort of improvement for characters that titles can provide. Traits, as a whole, accentuate the use of a certain skills in a certain way. Every title has a nested list of traits that improve it.
In Stuff of Legends, skills are the majority of what defines a character - his ability to fight, to pick locks, to cast spells or to express themselves in a certain way. Skills have ranks and each rank contributes 3 points to the threshold of the skill when rolling it and raises the maximum of 6-sided dice that may be rolled with that skill.
Example: a character with a rank 3 Melee skill adds 9 to his threshold. He may also roll up to 3d6 when using the Melee skill, if the skill opposition allows.
The list of skills in Stuff of Legends is relatively sparse and separated into several categories. The category separation is meant to make the skill choice simpler and offer hints at what attribute would be more relevant for skills within. The categories are: physical, mental, professional, social, magery and combat.
A short excerpt from the skill list, sans any explanations, to offer an image:
  • The physical category includes: Acrobatics, Athletics, Reflexes, Riding, Stealth and Vigor.
  • The combat category includes: Light Melee, Melee, Ranged, Shields, Thrown and Unarmed.
Notably, the combat skills are considerably generalized. This is to offer a basic level of specialization and to better define the character's combat skills. Titles are what offer the more in depth choices and differences.
Finally, skills are the only thing that define the character's tier, their "level": the lowest skill level of among the five highest level skills is the character's tier. It serves to suggest a relative power. GMs are encouraged to provide the tier of a certain character if asked for it.

Titles are what fills the shoes of character classes. Each title implies several things and accentuates what the character is. Titles are usually relatively general and each one belongs to one of 4 groups: combat, expertise, magic and unique.
  • Combat titles are warriors, monks, archers, knights and anything that engages in regular combat. Having a combat title allows the character to learn combat stances (which will be covered in a later post).
  • Expertise titles are thiefs, assassins, merchants, rangers, priests and anything that would otherwise have a practiced trade. Having an expertise title allows the character to learn skill secrets (which will also be covered in a later post).
  • Magic titles are wizards, blood mages, healers, druids, necromancers and anything that uses magic on a regular basis. Having a magic title allows the character to learn magic more potent than cantrips and on a larger scale. Magic will have its own extensive post.
  • Unique titles are titles that don't readily fit into the other titles and serve to give characters a special definition. A paladin in other games is a type of holy warrior. The holy part isn't implied as a combat thing and so won't fit into the combat group. The warrior part, if defined as warrior, prevents it from being an expertise or magic title. To fill this niche, paladins will have a secondary, unique title which will unlock holy powers. In the same way this could turn an expertise priest into the more well-known cleric.
Most characters will gain 2 or 3 titles over the courses of their career, having started with one. Edge cases and some humans will reach as high as 4 or 5. When several titles are used in conjunction, it's usually recommended to come up with a word that would mix them. A wizard and warrior might become a warmage or a spellblade on the singular title level.
An example of several titles from the game, from all groups in no particular order: warlord, wizard, assassin, alchemist, champion, knight, arcanist and elementalist.
Every title is constructed out of 3 parts - the core feature, the core trait and traits:
  • The core feature always provides a channel to earn Legend Points by way of a certain skill, sometimes in conjunction with a combat stance, skill secret or spells.
  • The core trait always accents the core feature in a way. It may add an advantage when using a certain combat stance, skill secret or spells and in the case of unique titles might provide an new option altogether.
  • Traits will be expanded upon below.
A final important thing to note about titles, specifically unique titles: characters may only start with a non-unique title. Humans begin the game with 2 titles and may choose a unique title along their non-unique one. Unique titles also have a special caveat - they might be fickle or offer special restrictions. Become a vampire is a unique title. Gaining the favor of a god is a unique title. Anyone with the vampire title will die in sunlight. The favor of a god may be lost. In the first case, you die. In the second case the title may be lost. Every unique title, in this respect, requires a certain type of maintenance.

Traits are the thing that would make any two character with the same title different. Between 2 monks one might favor becoming an agile killing machine while the other might aim for a body that can take a beating and dish out powerful, unique attacks. This is done by choosing traits.
Each title has several traits and there are general traits which aren't under any title. I won't talk about general traits at all this time.
Title traits, as in those traits under titles, come in 3 varieties - core, unnested and nested:
  • The core trait, as mentioned above, is the single most defining trait in a title. It affects nearly every single roll performed under that trait. To continue the monk example, the core trait increases unarmed damage.
  • Unnested traits are standalone. They might or might not have traits nested below them. these traits normally accentuate a single aspect related to the title. A monk might have a natural armor trait or improved dodging trait that are unnested.
  • Nested traits can only be taken after taking their parent trait. A nested trait will always improve on the parent trait in some way. The monk with improved dodging might have a nested trait below it that allows a free retaliation to attacks if they do get hit. Nested traits might have another trait nested below them.

I feel like I haven't covered all I could, so if there are any massive holes I could patch up, please say so.
Comments and critiques welcome as always.