Monday, August 04, 2014

Simo Häyhä - The Importance of Background Skills

Simo Häyhä was a farmer and a hunter who joined the Finnish militia like so many others. He was one of WWII's greatest snipers, scoring over 500 kills. What made him different from others who joined the Suojeluskunta (White Guard)?

I see many games initially limit the value of background skills to cap the character's strength, to leave room for improvement through experience points so something "of value" can be gained in the upcoming 40 levels. Is it worth it? Is it too much trickle and too little substance?

Simo Häyhä was good because he knew the area. I'd bet he wouldn't be such a great sniper in the African savanna. He was good because he practiced shooting after he got the training and prior to the war. He was good because he had experience tracking animals with much keener senses than humans. He was good because he had a good rifle, yet he didn't use a scope and relied on iron sights only. So he was damn good!

Question: how does background influence your character's career? I don't mean only during character generation, I mean all along. Do background skills couple with newly gained skills so together they are more than the individual parts? Can you envision skills creating synergy this way?

I'd like to see more of this in games. Not just backgrounds converting to a few pluses or bonuses during character generation, but rather something that follows the character for life and contributes to the character as it progresses.

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