Skills

Now we’re going to port the Core Mechanic over to Skills.

The “roll-under percentile” approach is out the window. Instead, skills are expressed as a bonus to a d20 roll. Rather than rolling under a fixed skill rating, we will roll against either a set difficulty number, or against an opponent’s skill roll, trying to beat that number, much as with combat.

To convert skill percentages, simply divide by 5 and round to the nearest whole number (if necessary). This number is now expressed as a bonus added to d20 rolls against the target number.

Target numbers can be set a couple different ways. Trying to use a skill against an opponent’s resistance might use their attribute as the target. For example, trying to interrogate someone would require a roll against the prisoner’s M.E. as the target to beat. Two characters trying to outrun the other might roll against each others’ Spd attribute, with the winner being the runner who beats the target’s Spd by the greatest margin.

More often, though, the GM will set the difficulty number on the same 5/10/15/20/25 scale that we introduced for combat. As with combat, target difficulty defaults to 5 for a routine task.

Target numbers should be increased as follows:

  • Routine task, no rush, simple complexity: 5 or better.
  • Being rushed, but no immediate threat, or somewhat complex task: 10 or better.
  • Under gunfire, immediate threat, or highly complex task: 15 or better.
  • Wounded (damage taken to Hit Points), under fire, or extremely complex task: 20 or better.
  • Missing necessary tools or limbs, alien technology, or strange environmental conditions: 25 or better.

When setting target numbers, choose the worst contributing condition; for example, an engine tune-up would normally be a somewhat complex task, which would call for a target number of 10, but if the would-be mechanic was trying to do the tune-up without a tool box, using only the contents of the kitchen junk drawer, the target number would get bumped up to 25 for lacking necessary tools.

Occasionally, there will be call for a head-to-head opposed skill roll, in the manner reminiscent of combat. For these rolls, the GM will need to designate the “attacker” and the “defender,” if it’s not otherwise obvious. A classic example would be haggling; the “attacker” would be the customer attempting to haggle a better price. He would make a skill roll, usually against a TN of 5—if he failed that roll, then that’s the end of the transaction. His attempt at haggling was so poor, it may not have even been noticed by the merchant! If the roll succeeds, however, the “defender” (the merchant) gets to make a roll and try to beat the attacker’s roll. The GM might rule that, if the roll fails to beat the attacker’s, the customer haggles the price down by the difference between the two rolls multiplied by, say, five or ten percent.

Skill Categories & Specializations

So what skill, exactly, would one use for haggling? One of the other main objectives of these house rules is to pare down the laundry list of Palladium skills and make skill advancement at every level less of a headache.

As such, we’re turning the skill categories into actual skills. The exact list of categories varies from game to game, but a basic list might look something like this:

Communications
Domestic
Electrical
Espionage
Mechanical
Medical
Military
Physical
Pilot
Pilot Related
Rogue
Science
Technical
Weapon proficiencies
Wilderness

Weapon proficiencies remain as-is, with specific W.P.s chosen according to the rules. Skill categories start at a value of 0. However, “default” rolls can always be made against any skill (subject to GM approval, of course)—modifiers simply increase your odds of success, much as how in the combat system someone can attempt to punch or kick an opponent even if they have a +0 to Strike.

And much as how specific maneuvers (Roundhouse Kick, Power Punch) can be looked at as specialties of basic combat skills (Striking), the existing skill list can be looked at as a list of potential “skill specialties” (Prowl) of the overarching skill (Rogue). Which specialities you start with is determined by your OCC and OCC-related skills (or skill program, for games that use that system). Simply take the skill plus the bonus given in the OCC or program, divide the bonus by 5, and list that as the specialty and bonus. So an OCC that granted “Streetwise (+20%)” as an OCC skill would give you a specialty of “Streetwise +4” under the Rogue skill. If you had, say, a +2 in Rogue, you’d roll anything pertaining to Streetwise checks at a +6.

Allocating Skill Points

Take a look at your character’s class or education level. See where it tells you how many Secondary Skills you start with? Turn that number into points. If you have an IQ bonus or penalty (see “Attribute Modifiers” below), you add that number as well. Distribute those points among your skills (but not specialties) as desired. Each point is equal to a +1 in the assigned skill. Every time you level up, you get to distribute a number of points equal to twice your new level (plus your IQ modifier, if any).

Points earned from leveling up can be allocated to skills or specialties, including ones you had no points in previously. After character creation, it costs two points to buy or raise a skill by one, but specialties are still bought at a 1:1 basis. When leveling up, no more than half your pool of points may be spent on a single skill or specialty.

Example: So if I had a character hit 2nd level, I’d have 4 points to distribute. I might use one point to pick up the Boxing specialty (and the buffing that comes with it), one point to boost my Pilot: Auto specialty from +2 to +3, and two points to boost my Rogue skill from +4 to +5.

OCC-related skills (or skill programs that don’t specify specific skills) sometimes provide a bonus to the overall skill category. So an OCC-related skill that said “Domestic: any (+ 5%)” would simply convert to an extra + 1 in your Domestic skill. If the skill/program instead lists a choice of multiple skills, such as “Domestic: any three (+ 5%)”, then you would multiply the bonus by the number of choices listed; in this example, you’d get a +3 to your Domestic skill.

Sometimes, a specific skill will be granted at a set percentage bonus. Simply divide the bonus by 5 and express that as a skill speciality. Also, sometimes you’ll get the same skill twice via skill programs or other sources. In that case, add +1 to your cumulative bonus per duplicated instance of the skill. Finally, occasionally you’ll be given a skill at a set percentage (oftentimes languages, for example); in these cases, divide the total percentage by 10 and round to the nearest whole number to derive a bonus. And one last note: Physical skills that boost attributes and stats, such as Boxing or Running, will only do so if they are specifically listed as a choice for your OCC or skill program! They cannot be selected as specialties otherwise. When leveling-up, you may buy a Physical specialty, but only one per level.

As stated before, weapon proficiencies work the same as always (although see the section on Combat, below, for how WPs interact with attacks-per-round). If you have an OCC or skill package that does not list a HTH style, you still get the basic two Actions per round everyone else does, but you do not automatically start with skill in a HTH style. Often you’ll be given a choice between a baseline HTH style (which you get automatically) versus being able to take a better style in exchange for X number of OCC skills. If you want to take a more advanced HTH form, simply reduce your pool of skill allocations by the number of skills you would have had to drop.

Let’s go through a couple worked examples to see what this looks like on paper.

A Heroes Unlimited character with the “Street Schooled” education level would start with Rogue +3 (“three Rogue skills”), Domestic +2 (“two domestic skills”), Technical +2 (“two Technical skills”), and the Streetwise and Prowl specialties, which would be rated at +3 and +1, respectively (“Streetwise +14%”; “Prowl +5%”), listed as specialties of the Rogue skill (since that’s the category they fall under in the original rules), along with a WP in Knife or Automatic Pistol and 8 points to distribute to skills as desired (“eight Secondary Skills”).

That selection of skills is a pretty straightforward example, though. Let’s look at a character with a “Four-Year College” education level. The rules say he gets to select three Skill Programs (+10%) and 10 Secondary Skills. Let’s also say he’s got an IQ of 16, which gives him a skill bonus of +2 (see “Attribute Modifiers” below). So that means he’s starting out with a pool of 12 points to spend among his non-WP skills. Let’s divvy those up first:

Communications +3
Domestic +1
Electrical +2
Espionage
Mechanical
Medical
Military
Physical
Pilot +1
Pilot Related
Rogue
Science +1
Technical +4
Wilderness

Now let’s say he chose the Business, Communications, and Computer skill programs for his three selections. These programs will give him specialties, each at a +2 since the education level said he gets a +10% per skill in the original system. So the skill spread would end up looking something like this:

Communications +4 (The skill got a +1 bump because the Communications Program granted “One Communications skill of choice.”)
- Radio: Basic +2
- Radio: Scrambler +2
- T.V. & Video +2
Domestic +1
Electrical +2
- Basic Electronics +3 (Bumped up a point because the skill came with two of the selected packages.)
Espionage +0
Mechanical +0
Medical +0
Military +0
Physical +0
Pilot +1
Pilot Related +0
Rogue +0
Science +1
- Mathematics: Basic +2
Technical +4
- Business & Finance +2
- Computer Operation +3 (Bumped up a point because the skill came with two of the selected packages.)
- Computer Programming +2
- Computer Repair +2
- Law (General) +2
- Research +2
Wilderness +0

Now let’s look at an example using a system like Rifts that doesn’t utilize skill packages. Let’s take the City Rat OCC from the Ultimate Edition.

First off, we get 8 points to distribute due to Secondary Skills. I’ll distribute them like so:

Communications +2
Domestic
Electrical
Espionage +2
Mechanical
Medical
Military
Physical
Pilot
Pilot Related
Rogue +4
Science
Technical
Wilderness

Now I’ll divvy up the OCC skills, making them specialties and converting percentages to bonuses as I go:

Communications +2
- Barter +3
Domestic
Electrical
Espionage +2
Mechanical
Medical
Military
Physical
- Running +0
Pilot
- Pilot: Automobile +2
- Pilot: Bicycle +4
- Pilot: Motorcycle +3
Pilot Related
Rogue +4
- Streetwise +4
- Tailing +4
Science
- Math: Basic +2
Technical
- Computer Operation +3
- Literate (native tongue) +3
- Language (native) +9 (The skill percentage was set at 92% – dividing by 10 and rounding to the nearest whole number yielded a +9.)
- Language (other) +2
Wilderness
One WP of choice
HTH Basic (free) upgraded to HTH Martial Arts at the cost of two “other” skills.

Finally, OCC-related skills. The OCC says to select 10 skills, with a minimum of three coming from Rogue or Physical. We upgraded to Martial Arts, which reduces the total to 8. Each of these choices can be used to put points into a skill or skill specialty: if a specific skill is mentioned, the points go into that specialty; otherwise, if the category says “Any”, the points go into the main skill. The exact number of points each choice earned depends on the bonus listed next to the category or skill. A skill (but not a specialty) can be chosen multiple times. Each choice after the first adds +1 to the total. If a category says “None”, you may not choose that category. Thus, after our 8 selections, we might have a final skill list that looks a little something like this (with notations in parentheses to show how our 8 selections were spent):

Communications +4 (one selection of “Communications: Any +10%”)
- Barter +3
Domestic +0
Electrical +0
Espionage +2
Mechanical +0
Medical +0
Military +0
Physical +1 (one selection of “Physical: Any +5%”)
- Running +0
Pilot +2 (one selection of “Pilot: Any +10%”)
- Pilot: Automobile +2
- Pilot: Bicycle +4
- Pilot: Jet Pack +2 (one selection of Pilot: Jet Pack +10%)
- Pilot: Motorcycle +3
Pilot Related +0
Rogue +8 (two selections of “Rogue: Any +15%”; the first selection is good for +3, the second for +1)
- Streetwise +4
- Tailing +4
Science +0
- Math: Basic +2
Technical +2 (one selection of “Technical: Any +10%”)
- Computer Operation +3
- Literate (native tongue) +3
- Language (native) +9
- Language (other) +2
Wilderness +0
One more W.P. selection (for a total of two WPs).
- Plus the Running skill grants +1 PE, +4d4 SPD, and +1d6 SDC.

The System in Action

To get back to the question at the top of this section – which skill to use for haggling – our City Rat would obviously use Communications with his Barter specialty, good for a +7. Our 4-year Business/Communications character, on the other hand, would be better served with his Technical +4 augmented by his Business & Finance +2 for a total of +6.

(Note that certain circumstances would dictate higher or lower TNs for a particular skill usage. For example, the City Rat would only have a TN of 5 if using his Barter in an open marketplace, whereas the Business Major might have to deal with a 15 or higher if the GM decided he was particularly out of his element; conversely, the Business Major would be at an advantage if using his skill to negotiate the best price on a major purchase, like a vehicle or property, and the City Rat would be the one dealing with higher TNs. GMs should feel free to adjust target numbers, even as they allow tangentially-related skills to be applied.)

Another classic example of opposed skill use would be trying to sneak through an area unseen. In these rules, the Rogue skill (with a bonus if you had the Prowl specialty) is the obvious choice for the “attacker”—you’d be rolling against a set target number determined by the GM based on lighting and noise levels, plus trying to beat an opposed roll from any guards or observers in the area (using their choice of the Espionage or Rogue skills plus any applicable specialties such as Detect Concealment, Tracking, or even Prowl).

As you can see, there’s a fair amount of leeway involved in choosing suitable skills and setting target numbers. This makes the game more fun for all, while both paring down the skill list and making it more versatile.

Skills

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