Wednesday, January 08, 2014

CSS, cascading skill sets?

One of the main issues I'm working on right now is character skill sets, how to enumerate them and describe them. I don't want the nitpick character skill list which is more a limitation than an asset for the player. With such specific skills that anything outside the scope is "not possible" for the character.

Other elements that make character skills complex are things such as background experience, multiple progression paths and specialization. On top of this stands the issue that the character may die quicker than it takes to fully describe the skill set fully, and even if the character don't get killed it may take longer to get down to play. These last two elements may cause a great deal of player frustration.

How do I envision this working? Well, during character generation players specify what the character has as background and experience in general terms. These "umbrella" terms encompass a set of skills that would otherwise have to be enumerated one by one. For example : backgrounds such as highschool or college, and military training such as infantry or artillery automatically include skills which will be better defined when they are actually needed, during gameplay. It isn't necessary to specify what weapons the character is good at or list one by one the skills gained in basic training.

As the character progresses certain skills will begin to stand out. The PC may gain more experience with a certain type of weapon. The skill with that weapon goes from basic to experienced to expert to master, etc. Weapon skills go from the general to the specific. For example basic rifle may move to experienced rifle, but the character may, at a lower cost, specialize to expert or master with the M-4. Doing more navigation stuff in a game may make the infantryman experienced or expert with navigation. With enough practice the infantryman may become experienced or even expert, but raising a whole branch one level is way more expensive than just some particular skills. In this way the skill description becomes cascading, if nothing specific is defined then the general value is used in its place.

The character may also add skills from other fields. For example by gaining training as parachutist, pathfinder, freefall parachutist, ranger, etc. the character may gain a whole set of skills or raise current skills to a higher level. Some will be redundant with those already gained, others will not.

To summarize:
  • Characters start with background, school, professional and military "slots"
    • The player specifies a general description for background, school, professional and military
    • The player may keep slots open to be defined later on
    • Example:
      • Character is college graduate who attended OCS (officer candidate school)
      • Player defines the character's background and sets up some hobbies and experiences.
        • Dad had a car shop
        • Did a lot of camping
        • Good with computers
        • Mom is a chemist
        • Always went hunting
      • Player defines the character's schooling and extracurricular activities.
        • Went to bilingual school
        • Joined an art group
        • Played with the band
        • Was in the football team
        • Had an advanced placement course
      • Player defines the character's college degree.
        • Specifies degree
        • What experiences
      • Player defines the character's military training (occupation)
        • Infantry ?
        • Artillery ?
        • Armor ?
        • Intelligence ?
        • Air defense ?
        • CBRN ?
        • EOD ?
        • Ordnance ?
        • Psychological ?
  • Characters progress by
    • Applying skills in field activities or combat that eventually lead to a full increase in level for the occupation. For example: experienced infantryman to expert will rise all related skills one notch.
    • Through additional training (badges). For example parachuting or weapons specialization. For example experienced with rifle (M4) to expert or master. This costs less than increasing the whole occupation and may be improved after a few adventures (maybe even one).

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