Skills are primarily talents that any character can learn, given time. You don't need to be born with freakish mutations, be exposed to dangerous radiation, or have an alien heritage to master a new skill - just the dedication and opportunity to do so. Skills operate in one of two basic fashions: they either give characters an ability they would otherwise lack, or improve their ability to successfully perform some task or another.
While the former is pretty self-explanatory (the Boxing skill allows for one extra unarmed attack in an exchange, for instance), the latter can be a bit more involved. Generally, if a skill increases the likelihood of success in a given action, it will reduce the difficulty of related actions by one difficulty level, unless otherwise noted. This is the 'base' level of a skill, and covers most examples of trained individuals.
System 13 of the Saga rules technically recognizes eighty three skills, those listed below. Of course, several are presented either as 'general' skills that are made more specific during character generation (like weapon skill), or such that additional skills can be 'grown' out of the existing skills as 'specialties' - particularly where sciences are concerned.
There is certainly room for additional skills, should a Narrator decide his or her campaign needs more - or if they feel one was given the 'short end of the stick' and deserves its own entry. And that's fine! The idea here is to cover as much as is reasonably possible which might come up in the course of regular play, whether the game makes use of the entirety of System 13 or just bits and pieces of it.
Special Skill Rules
Some people focus on a given skill above and beyond the patience or prowess of others, making them capable of even more when bringing it to bear. Say someone wants to be very good at physics, for example, so they study their entire life and perform esoteric research to that effect. Such skills are designated to indicate their increased reach; our elite physicist would show that they have Physics 2, instead of 'mere' Physics.
The practical benefit of this is that characters with a level two skill can use either of two suits when trumping on actions related to that skill, instead of just the one. The additional suit allowed is usually paired with another of its type (Strength and Agility, or Intellect and Willpower), and can be changed from one action to another, greatly aiding the character's flexibility in the execution of applicable actions.
On the other hand, a rare few individuals are the 'best of the best' in their given fields. If our example physicist from before wanted to have Physics 3, they would have to offer a compelling reason for that level of talent, since so few people on the planet manage to achieve so much. On the other hand, when attempting actions related to that skill, they benefit from an autotrump.
Autotrump is an advantage which allows a character to pick any suit they choose, save for ruin, in order to trump on an action it applies to. In other words, unless the character has a hand full of cards with the ruin suit, they may attempt to trump on any action they attempt if their skill possesses the benefit of the autotrump. Which makes them very effective in the use of said skill, indeed.
Furthermore, skills may be stacked. Characters may reduce the difficulty of an action by an additional step for each additional skill they possess which might assist it, to a maximum of three. For example, a space jockey with both spatial combat and vehicular combat may reduce the difficulty of actions while fighting behind the wheel of their spacecraft in orbit by two difficulty levels.
Purchasing New Skills
Once play has begun, it may be more difficult for characters to acquire new skills, but it's not impossible - they just need the proper time to study! Assuming a character does indeed have such, he or she can master new lines of knowledge or talent at their leisure, as long as they have an achievement bonus to pay the cost. A new skill can be purchased for one such bonus, twice that for skills that count as two.
One cannot purchase a new skill at a higher level to start with - everyone begins with but level 1 mastery in any skill they have begun to study after play begins. Once a skill is mastered, however, the character can continue to work on elevating its significance and extent if he or she wishes. Raising a skill to level 2 status costs a character twice as many achievement bonuses as they would pay to acquire it at level 1.
As is the case during character generation, the player need only offer a simple explanation as to why they've 'escalated' their knowledge in an area to level 2. It's a bit more difficult to learn a level 3 skill once play begins, though. This requires extensive work on the part of the character that may well draw him or her away from adventuring for large amounts of time - as well as a rather good reason for such a boost.
Finally, there's the cost. Elevating an existing skill to level 3 requires three times the skill's base point cost in achievement bonuses. Acquiring a level 3 skill is an expensive affair, both in the time and effort involved and the bonus expended. However, it usually pays off in the long run if one really wants to express a mastery of any given subject, but it's often easier to just acquire a level 3 skill during character generation.
Skills of this stripe usually involve indirectly influencing a character - when you want something from someone or something, you know exactly what to say and how to say it. This may involve the alteration of actions, emotions, or whatever else is desired. Some talents of this type overlap with the professional skill category, but those that are listed here are not exactly a direct source of income.
Animal Handling (w): this is ability to train otherwise wild animals to do what you want. Through either positive or negative reinforcement, you can ultimately bend animals to your will, possibly even turning them into companions during adventures. Handlers are well-versed in animal behavior, and should receive a reduced difficulty when attempting card play to teach an animal a new skill.
Hypnosis (w): this is a special ability related to several different mental disciplines, and may be learned through any of them. Hypnosis can be used to place someone in a trance, a trick which is much easier when they are willing. If resisting hypnosis, a character may need... added persuasion, often in the form of torture or other manipulations.
Once a trance has been established, a character is highly suggestible, and the hypnotizer can impart commands and the like as if they possessed mesmerism at an intensity equal to their Intellect score. Hypnosis is fickle, however, and will generally wear off after one card's draw in days. Furthermore, it cannot force someone to perform an act that is diametrically opposed to their personality, such as convincing a pacifist to kill.
Leadership (w): true leaders are somewhat hard to come by. This skill allows a character to make use of their wits and other talents to lead a tight-knit group of people, in or out of battle. When heading up a group, leaders add a +1 to the actions of their subordinates while they are following directions, a bonus that transforms into a penalty if said subordinates subsequently deviate from one's plan.
Manipulation (w): on the other hand, some people get folks to do their bidding by less savory methods. Manipulation includes methods of coercion, deception, intimidation, and seduction, all of which give a manipulator a reduced difficulty on attempts to get their hooks into someone. Or, in game terms, to NPC reactions, whether working in a positive or negative direction.
Performer (w): this represents the work of an actor, rock star, dancer, mime, or whatever other form of entertainment you prefer. While related to the artist talent, the performer skill reflects immediacy; can he or she put on a good show for those before them? Performers can attempt an average difficulty Willpower (willpower) action to distract others from their intended actions on that exchange.
Service (w): the service industry always has a need for good people. Maybe you tend bar, or perhaps do technical support, but the idea is you have the ability to listen to others and help them to solve their problems. You receive a reduced difficulty on on any efforts to reassure others, even if it means 'reading between the lines' because someone doesn't know, or are incapable of articulating, what they're trying to tell you.
Sleight of Hand (a): this is the skill of misdirection, often used by stage magicians - though real sorcerers wield it now and then. With quick movements and fluid gestures, along with a little bit of showmanship, the character with sleight of hand can seemingly make objects disappear right before one's eyes, doing so at a reduced difficulty. Picking pockets, on the other hand, is an average difficulty Agility (intellect) action.
The eleven environmental skills involve specialized knowledge that assists a character in navigating or surviving the world around them. Whether it involves climbing an extreme vertical surface, following an elusive target's trail, or even thriving in the harshest of climates, this class of talent will get you there. The skills represented here are primarily non-combative in nature.
Astronaut (a): similar to pilots, astronauts can fly, but their rides glide through the inky blackness of space instead of the sky. Space flight has several challenges above and beyond standard aeronautics, including zero gravity operation, incredibly hostile environments, and navigation on a galactic scale. Astronauts receive a reduced difficulty in all of these areas, in addition to their actual flying ability.
Boating (a): piloting a water-based vehicle is typically more complicated than comparable earth-bound rides. Whether handling a water scooter, a fishing boat, a battleship, or even a submarine, a boater does so at a reduced difficulty. They also receive this bonus on efforts to spot / avoid water-based hazards (such as reefs), building rafts, attempting rescues on the sea, swimming, and even holding their breath.
Climbing (s): while most heroes climb with the assistance of super-human abilities, some individuals are just really good at doing so under their own power... or with the help of a bit of gear here and there. Climbers excel at ascending or descending vertical surfaces, from brick walls to craggy mountains, and should receive a reduced difficulty on any such attempts to do so.
Driving (a): while individuals in most modern societies can operate an automobile without too much hassle (no penalty), professional drivers excel behind the wheel. They may attempt most maneuvers while driving at a reduced difficulty, and know how to handle almost any ground-based vehicle, from cars to tractor trailers to tanks. As a bonus, drivers may maintain their vehicles with a similar bonus.
Piloting (a): more than anything else, pilots are experts in aeronautics. After all, you want to know the hunk of metal that is the only thing between you and a five mile drop very, very well. Pilots receive a reduced difficulty in the operation of any aircraft, and gain a similar easing of difficulty regarding the design and maintenance of aircraft as well.
Planargation (i): those who walk the myriad planes of existence often lack the ability to traverse the dimensions on their own, or have that but are lousy with finding their way from one reality to another. Studying planargation allows one to more readily navigate the twist, turns, ups, downs, and in-betweens of the multiverse, and offers a reduced difficulty towards finding, or at least determining the route to, another universe.
Riding (a): those increasingly rare individuals who possess this skill are adept at riding a large creature, whether into battle or just for leisure. Most often this involves a horse, but can be any number of animals both mundane and fantastic, from elephants to pegasi to dragons! Controlling a riding animal may be attempted at a reduced difficulty by those who have mastered this skill.
Stealth (w): stealth is the ability to move without being conspicuous. Perhaps the character can tread silently, or maybe they're good at looking innocuous while doing so. When in use under practical conditions, stealth applies an increased difficulty to actions required to detect the stealthy character - a perk that works well with characters who possess super human abilities of this stripe.
Survival (w): individuals who have been trained in survival techniques excel at keeping themselves alive no matter how dire an environment or situation may be. All things considered, a survivalist can usually dredge up enough food, water, and shelter to persist in any locale, from urban wastelands to the most overgrown of jungles to the coldest of tundra.
Teamster (a): an odd hybrid of driving and riding skills, the teamster skill provides the ability to effectively operate a vehicle pulled by animals. This can be anything from a chariot, intended for combat purposes, or a wagon, designed to haul cargo or passengers. Either way, a teamster can treat their animals, maintain their ride, and operate the two in tandem at a reduced difficulty on applicable card play.
Tracking (w): while there is a super tracking power, perfectly normal humans can learn to follow others as well. The tracking skill allows a body to detect the signs of a person's passing, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. They do so at a reduced difficulty, using advanced intuition and situational awareness to notice those blades of broken grass, changes in animal chatter, or whatever.
Fighting skills are capabilities that enhance a character's unarmed combat performance. In other words, they allow him, her, or it to either attack or defend themselves even if possess no personal weaponry - or were unable to carry any on some important mission or another. There are fourteen fighting skills in all, the better to turn oneself into a singular engine of destruction:
Acrobatics (a): an acrobatic character is incredibly nimble, either naturally or thanks to intensive training in this regard. The acrobatics skill offers several benefits in combat, granting characters a reduced difficulty on actions intended to dodge attacks or lower falling damage. Acrobatics also offers a similar bonus to other feats of balance, such as walking a tight rope (funambulism) or preventing falls.
Aerial Combat (a): this specialized fighting skill involves training in airborne combat. It provides a reduced difficulty on combat actions attempted while in the air, whether the character is flying under their own power or in a vehicle of some sort. This bonus can stack with other skill benefits, but is often countered by the high movement rates of other aerial combatants anyway.
Astral Combat (i): one who masters this skill excels in fighting in a disembodied state. This can be while traveling in an astral form, a cyber-spatial avatar, or anything in-between. Astral combat grants a reduced difficulty on all combat maneuvers attempted while bodiless, whether armed or unarmed, a bonus that readily stacks with other fighting and weapon skills (where applicable).
Boxing (s): this fighting style involves inflicting damage in quick, decisive strokes. A character trained in the art of boxing may divide their pre-card play action score between two unarmed combat maneuvers in an exchange, whether punching, kicking, headbutting, elbow dropping, or knee smashing, the second of which will occur as a contingent action.
Brawling (s): the art of dirty fighting, brawling allows its wielder to inflict grievous damage upon one's opponent, winning by any and all means necessary. The practical benefit of engaging in such ruthless assaults is that, if a brawler defeats their foe with such underhanded tactics, he or she will drop them into a coma as a result of such a brutal beating.
Hurling (a): this fighting style involves using a foe's energies against them, and is representative of pacifist styles like Aikido and more aggressive Judo stances. Using hurling, a character can take control of offensive energies directed at their person, preventing them from suffering harm and, ideally, from harming their attacker as well.
This works by attempting an average difficulty Agility (agility) action in melee combat. If the attacker fails to hit, his or her offensive power is redirected as the defender chooses, either into the ground or a nearby object - or just into the surrounding space (a throw). The use of hurling is technically an offensive action, even if it is used to avoid being struck in melee.
Martial Arts (a): the fine process of turning oneself into a living weapon, the martial arts skill grants its possessor a one step reduction in the difficulty of attempts to strike others while unarmed. It also allows a like benefit when attempting to dodge incoming attacks and, if foregoing an attack that exchange, to catch weaponry thrown at the martial artist.
Mounted Combat (a): this skill is the ability to effectively fight one's opponents while riding atop a creature of some sort. This most often entails horsemanship, but creatures both mundane and fantastic can be used for locomotion in the midst of battle using this talent. Those trained in mounted battle may resolve combat actions while riding at a reduced difficulty level.
Quick Strike (a): this fighting style involves striking fast and unpredictably, allowing one to act with surprise. The actions of a quick striker are difficult to predict, and their general speed grants them a +4 initiative modifier in unarmed combat. This benefit can combine most effectively with boxing to produce a combatant who attacks incredibly hard and fast.
Spatial Combat (a): characters well-versed in spatial combat are trained in the effects of alien environments on their fighting styles. They suffer no innate penalty to hit due to the effects of gravity on their body (whether it be zero Gs or multiples of earth gravity), either in melee or ranged combat, and can maneuver with (relative) ease no matter the gravitic conditions on their body.
Targeting (a): characters with this skill have been trained in the use of their ranged powers, allowing them to make actions to hit foes with such powers at a reduced difficulty. This skill works no matter the emission point of said ranged powers on their body, whether it come in the form of hand blasts or eye beams, but can be somewhat difficult to obtain in the first place, as it's an uncommon skill.
Underwater Combat (a): masters of this environmental fighting skill have the ability to effectively engage in combat underwater. They know how to compensate for underwater effects, and may attempt maneuvers beneath the waves without the normal to-hit penalty. Though water resistance and breathing may still be valid concerns, the skilled undersea combatant definitely has a leg-up on untrained foes.
Vehicular Combat (a): a specialized combat talent, this skill involves a character being trained in the use of vehicles while fighting. Whether it's an airplane, a custom-built car, or even a spacecraft, the vehicular combatant knows the ins and outs of such combat. They may attempt vehicular combat actions (either offensive or defensive) at a reduced difficulty.
Wrestling (s): a wrestler is adept in applying holds, of either the standard or Sumo variety. In unarmed melee, a wrestler has the option, as a contingent action, of attempting a hold on any exchange during which they inflict damage to an opponent. This requires an average difficulty Strength (strength) action, which in and of itself will not inflict damage.
However! Should a wrestler successfully hold their foe, they can automatically inflict the same damage they caused the previous exchange - and may continue to do so until they fail to repeat that average difficulty Strength (strength) action on subsequent exchanges - or until they decide to let go. This is a great means by which dangerous individuals can be subdued without undue harm to their person.
This bundle of skills represents abilities that usually have practical use, but don't fit neatly into other categories. Miscellaneous skills encompass a wide variety of capabilities, some offering increased ability in some fashion. There are only eight miscellaneous skills in all, though there's always room for more that may not necessarily fit into the other, more focused skill categories available.
Escape Artist (a): the art of liberating oneself from bindings and traps, escape artistry is a practice that one can use either for entertainment or to avoid the authorities. Regardless of the form of restraint, whether handcuffs, chains, nets, a straight-jacket, or even a locked room, escape artists may reduce the difficulty of attempts to free themselves, whether from ropes, chains, or wrestling holds.
First Aid (i): a limited form of the medicine skill, first aid is nonetheless a very useful skill to have in that it can be applied immediately during a fight (no ambulance ride required). When administering first aid, a character can immediately halt the loss of Health in a dying individual, going so far as to actually add one lost card of Health back as well.
Similarly, if caring for someone who has recently died, the character with first aid can bring them back from the brink if they reached that point within the last five exchanges - or at any point during the current encounter, if they also possess the medicine skill. Similarly, first aid grants a further reduction in the difficulty of emergency care actions attempted by those who practice medicine proper.
Gastronomy (i): the practice and study of the preparation and serving of food and drink, gastronomers have existed as long as people have wanted someone else to make their consumables. Those well-versed in gastronmy include individuals such as chefs and cocktologists, whether they perform all such duties or are more specialized, and may prepare items for consumption at a reduced difficulty.
Power Skill (i): this skill represents a character who has trained hard in the use of a super human ability, which may or may not have combat applications, depending on the nature of said power. When using this power, the character should receive a reduced difficulty on all actions they attempt with it. The power so trained in is noted in the skill listing, such as 'Skill / Shape Change'.
Repair / Tinkering (a): tinkerers are great at taking apart an existing item and fixing or modifying it, in either a minor or major capacity. Tinkerers should receive a reduced difficulty on such efforts, whether fixing a toaster or adding a nitrous oxide feed into the fuel supply of their automobile, a bonus which is readily aided by other skills such as engineering or electronics.
Resist Domination (w): bearers of this skill have been trained in the use of various techniques to avoid mental control in all its many forms. Whenever facing the effects of the manipulation or hypnosis skills, or even the blatant use of psionics, characters with resist domination impose an increased difficulty on those who would use such techniques against them.
Trance (w): severe meditation and intense mastery of one's body and mind can allow a person to enter a deep, restive trance. While in this state, a character's body functions slow to the point that they are undetectable, and he or she appears to be dead, if they pass an average difficulty Willpower (intellect) action. Also, individuals in a trance have a minimal need for food or water, using so little energy.
Trivia (i): experts in trivia know a whole lot about obscure categories of knowledge that are typically not covered by other skills. An expert on baseball cards may know everything there is to know about the cards, but not necessarily baseball itself (though he or she may have the sports / baseball skill as well). Those with this skill gain a reduced difficulty on knowledge actions regarding their trivial area of expertise.
The nineteen professional skills represent occupational paths. As opposed to scientific talents, these skills primarily lean upon practical experience to function. Sure, plenty of studying may be involved, but you mainly learn these crafts by doing, not reading. Furthermore, these skills lend themselves to a practical means of making money besides inheriting (or stealing) it.
Agriculture (a): the profession which gave rise to modern civilization, independently developed around the world, agriculture is the cultivation of produce and livestock. Agriculture invokes portions of animal handling and biology, whether subsistence farming or practicing agronomy, and individuals with this skill may reduce the difficulty of efforts to produce food by one level.
Artist (w): the artist is a person who creates works of, well, art. Unlike performances, these are lasting works that linger long past the actual performance proper (not counting recordings of such), such as photography, painting, sculpture, and writing. One work of art will typically take a card's draw in weeks to complete, and offers an extra accomplishment bonus on a positive aura draw.
Business / Finance (w): this is the art of running a business, or otherwise growing available resources. Financiers and business people gain the benefit of a reduction of the difficulty inherent to monetary actions (whether actually handling it or in dealings with the business world), in addition to one free contact related to their field in some fashion.
Crime (i): crime is a sort of catch-all for capabilities that aren't specifically covered by other skills, which are primarily useful for engaging in larcenous behavior. Whether keeping an eye out for the police, picking a lock, disguising oneself as another person, or even appraising the 'street value' of stolen goods, a criminal may reduce the difficulty of any such efforts.
Some enterprising criminals excel in one area of this skill, which should be so noted. A 'master of disguise' might have an additional trump suit for the purposes of posing as others, while being useless where locks are concerned (and would be noted with 'Disguise' instead of 'Crime'.) Alternately, a criminal may specialize in an area of crime as can a scientist, spending another skill slot for the bonus trump to denote expertise.
Demolitions (a): a limited and specialized form of the Engineering profession, this skill involves the knowledge to build, arm, or disarm explosive devices. It allows a character to perform these actions at a reduced difficulty, and is representative of explosive ordnance disposal professionals or, alternately, military engineers who excel at destroying enemy gear with bombs.
Detective / Espionage (i): detectives are good at connecting the dots and finding the clues necessary to solve a mystery, while spies excel in liberating information from their targets. Both should receive a reduced difficulty on actions intended to dig up or discover the information they require, and receive not one but two additional contacts to assist in their line of work.
Education (w): including aspects of behavior modification, politics, and performer, teaching involves passing knowledge on to others. Educators should receive a reduced difficulty when attempting to teach things to others, whether for keeping their attention or making things comprehensible. Educators should receive two additional contacts, usually people they've taught in the past.
Engineering (i): the craft of building, an engineer knows how to make things - from cars to skyscrapers. On the other hand, engineers also know how to take them apart, and make great demolitionists. An engineer should receive a reduced difficulty on actions related to designing or building an object or device, including card play required for scraping together any required components.
Journalism (w): journalists master the craft of conveying news to the world, whether they do so with words, pictures, or both. This character excels in generating compelling accounts of current events, receiving a reduced difficulty when doing so, and should receive three additional contacts related to their field - possibly an editor, fellow journalist, or even a trusted 'reliable source'.
Law (i): armed with an extensive knowledge of the legal system, lawyers are put into play to sway judges and juries over to their line of thinking - and that of their client's. They should receive a reduced difficulty concerning legal knowledge and procedure, and benefit from one additional contact - either in legal circles or perhaps a client they made a particularly good impression on.
Law Enforcement (w): the character with the law enforcement skill has a background in, well, law enforcement. He or she may currently be a police officer or served as one in the past, and active law enforcement officials can legally carry a gun and make arrests while in their jurisdiction. This tie to the authorities gives a character two additional contacts, the first being the agency they work (or formerly worked) for.
The second contact provided by law enforcement can be anyone the character worked with on the job, from a fellow officer to an informant on the streets, or anything else that makes sense. Trained law enforcement officials also gain the benefit of learning the guns and law skills, as both are essential requirements to their line of work. Law Enforcement costs two skill slots (or two points) during character generation.
Leathercraft (a): a material that is both flexible and durable, leather is produced by tanning animal hides. Producing leather, and then fashioning it into usable garments and accessories, is a skill that has been developed throughout recorded history. Those who have mastered the art of leathercraft may reduce the difficulty of any card play required when going about that kind of work.
Metalcraft (a): those skilled in metalcraft can fashion useful objects out of various metals. Whether smithing, smelting, or founding, those practicing this trade either have general competency working with all metals, or focus on specialized areas like a blacksmith, brownsmith, jeweler, or work with more modern materials. Smiths may create and modify items made from metal at a reduced difficulty.
Military (w): this character has served (or is currently serving) with the armed forces of some country or another, usually noted with the skill itself ('Military / United States', or 'Military / France', for instance). The military builds strong bonds amongst its personnel, and a character with this skill gains two additional contacts, the first being the military agency they serve (or formerly served) with.
The second contact will be anyone of the player's choice, from a superior officer to a platoon mate or whoever else seems to fit. Trained military operatives gain the benefit of two additional skills as well, those being guns and boxing - soldiers must be able to fight armed or unarmed against their country's enemies. Military costs two skill slots (or two points) during character generation.
Politics (w): politics is the fine art of making decisions for and influencing groups of people, and politicians excel in doing just that, whether in a diplomatic fashion (bringing people together) or in an abrasive manner (fear mongering, rabble rousing). Politicians should receive a reduced difficulty on efforts to sway a crowd to their point of view, and receive one bonus contact related to this purpose.
Salesmanship (w): some people train hard to influence other people, while others... just have an inherent knack for it. Salesmen are very, very good at convincing people that they absolutely need something - whether or not they actually do. They should receive a reduced difficulty on efforts to sell anything, whether in person or through the media (often known as marketing).
Sports (a): while just about everyone can play a game without formal training, the individuals with actual skill in their sport of choice have elevated their recreational passion into an art form - often with monetary benefits. The sports skill offers a reduced difficulty on actions related to knowledge of athletics in general (rules, statistics, etc.), as well as actions made in the course of play.
But that's not all. Athletes typically specialize in one form of sport above others. Instead of a general knowledge in sports (often possessed by sports commentators), a character may instead be really versatile in knowledge related to one sport. This sort of character should receive a bonus trump suit in their game of choice, instead of having an all-around bonus, and are noted specifically (e.g., 'Sports / Lacrosse'.)
Stonecraft (a): one of the world's oldest crafts, masonry involves working rough stone into shapes more conducive to human use, whether for structures, tools, or weapons. A talent that takes on various forms depending on the era it is practiced in, stonecraft can produce results ranging from the primitive to the artistic, and this skill reduces a mason's difficulties by one level.
Woodcraft (a): one of the earliest materials early man had to work with, wood has proven an invaluable substance for the production of tools, weapons, and other useful objects throughout the ages. Whether engaging in carpentry, carving, joinery, turning, or whittling, a trained woodworker may attempt to craft items from this material, regardless of its tree of origin, at a reduced difficulty.
Skills of the scientific variety almost exclusively involve the study of some area of knowledge or another. The skills listed below are generalized into 'major' sciences, which allow for further specialization. If a character would like to specialize in a specific area of a skill (as an example, the doctor with medicine wanting to go into neurology), they can buy that specialization as a second skill.
While this can be expensive (particularly if one wants to have more than one specialized science under their belt), the specialist benefits from an additional trump suit in their area of expertise, while keeping their basic level with a skill unchanged - which is a bit cheaper than 'doubling up' in a general science. There are fifteen scientific skills in all, each covering a vital area of knowledge:
Archaeology (i): archaeologists research the past in order to learn from it, for various reasons. The character with archaeology as a skill should receive a reduced difficulty on any card play dependent on knowledge of the past. It also lends itself to various specialty fields, such as anthropology, or even a focus on the history of specific nations (e.g., 'History / Spain').
Biology (i): students of biology become well-versed in the basic processes of life, involving both humans and other life forms. Biologists are familiar with a wide variety of organisms, and should receive a reduction in the difficulty of actions concerning knowledge of such, either for identification purposes, the production of antidotes for organic poisons, or even the researching and treatment of a disease.
Biologists can specialize in many specific forms of their science, such as botany (plants), mycology (fungi), zoology (animals), epidemiology (illness and plague), pharmacology (drugs and their effects), exobiology (alien life forms), veterinary science (the care and treatment of animals), and many, many more. Biology readily overlaps with most other scientific skills, as well.
Chemistry (i): this is the study of interactions between different chemical substances, the changes they undergo, and the resultant energies produced. Characters with the chemistry skill can reduce the difficulty of any chemical card play required, whether remembering chemical structures, mixing new compounds, identifying substances by taste or touch, or even brewing antidotes for inorganic toxins.
Computers (i): a study of computer technology allows for a significant understanding of how 'thinking machines' work. Whether operating, assembling, or programming such devices, a computer expert should receive a reduction in the difficulty of computerized actions. This bonus applies whether working on regular computers, computer-controlled or assisted equipment, or even artificial intelligences.
Criminology (i): criminologists are experts in the criminal mind, knowing how it generally operates thanks either to personal experience or extensive study. They should gain a reduced difficulty on any action related to the knowledge of criminal practices, and receive the benefit of one additional contact in either police or criminal circles (whichever is most convenient).
Electronics (i): a study of electronics allows one to bend the electron to their will! Whether building analog or digital circuits, a student of electronics can create all manner of devices to power their world, from the mundane to the fantastic. They should receive a reduction in the difficulty of actions related to this field, particularly when designing, building, or repairing electronic devices.
Genetics (i): related to both biology and chemistry to an extent, genetics is a study of the essential building blocks of life, such as deoxyribonucleic acid. While genetics has several beneficial uses, it lends itself to abuse by the more 'twitchy' members of the scientific community, particularly those who think it's time to 'improve' on a species - with or without thinking through the consequences.
Either way, a geneticist should receive a reduced difficulty on matters concerning genes in general, particularly where mutation is concerned. They share a benefit with biologists, having the skills to research and treat diseases, with the added benefit of being able to cook up their own. Finally, a geneticist has the ability (if not necessarily the resources or safeguards) to create new life forms from scratch.
Geology (i): the study of the earth, geology is a way to look at how our planet formed and functions. It provides a reduced difficulty on card play called for in regards to volcanic activity, the identification of particular rocks or stones, or even determining the characteristics of nearby strata. Common specializations of geology include ecology, paleontology, meteorology, and (in futuristic campaigns) astrogeology.
Linguistics (i): this is the study of languages. A linguistic expert may begin play with at least one additional language, which they can read, write, and speak fluently, in addition to their native tongue. Mastering additional languages after the second is much easier; each further language learned only counts as half a skill during character generation, or is purchased at half price during character advancement.
This skill can also indicate mere mastery of specific languages, instead of an actual study of such. This is functionally the same, only differentiated to distinguish true linguists from characters who may just happen to have an extra language or two in their 'pocket'. Non-linguists with multiple tongues are indicated by listing the languages they can use as skills (e.g., 'Languages / English and Farsi').
Lore (i): while most sciences focus on what others consider common knowledge, the student of lore digs deeper, into areas some consider fantasy at best. Lore is a sort of accumulated wealth of knowledge on mystic cults, relics, and forgotten (or forbidden) knowledge. The character who is a student of lore should receive a reduced difficulty in such matters, no matter how obscure.
There is room for many specialties of lore, as it is a science - if somewhat mysterious. A bibliophile may be an expert on magical books, while a scholar of antiquities may know everything there is to know about mystic artifacts, and a cryptozoologist might be the go-to person when freaky monsters from other planes of existence run amok down in the industrial district.
Mathematics (i): the 'queen of the sciences', mathematics is an advanced and rigorous discipline. Beyond the basic maths most children master in school, this skill deals in abstract concepts evolved from quantity, real or imaginary. These include geometry / trigonometry, calculus, information theory, probability / chaos theory, and more - all of which a mathematician handles at a reduced difficulty.
Medicine (i): characters with this skill have studied the human body extensively, and can treat a variety of conditions it may be suffering from. As you can guess, doctors and nurses benefit from a reduced difficulty on card play relating to medical problems or emergencies, medicines, poisons, surgery, and the treatment of most other ailments. Being a doctor has several additional benefits, however.
While anyone can stop a dying person from shuffling off this mortal coil simply by checking on them, characters with the medicine skill can actually resuscitate wounded individuals who have died within the last five exchanges. Furthermore, when treating the wounded, they may restore one lost card of health per day, as opposed to the usual length of time involved with such long-term injuries.
Physics (i): the science of physics involves a study of matter and how it moves through space-time. This is a fancy way to describe a study of how things work, from the largest to the smallest. This skill offers a reduction in the difficulty of card play related to energy, force, motion, and time. Some specialty fields of physics include astronomy, nuclear physics, and quantum physics, among others.
Psychology (i): a psychologist studies the human mind and how it works. This is different than a psychiatrist, which is actually a medical specialty, in that a psychologist has no medical background, per se. They should receive a reduced difficulty on actions to determine the behavior of others, either individually or in groups. Specialty fields include related disciplines such as sociology and political science.
But wait, there's more. An intense knowledge of how people think and behave has benefits above and beyond the treatment of mental illness. A trained psychologist knows the ins and outs of thought processes, which comes in handy when wielding psionics of any stripe. Psychologists attempt efforts to read, control, or influence thoughts or emotions with a reduced difficulty as well, greatly enhancing the effect of these powers.
Theology (i): this is the study of spirituality, or of religious faith, practice, and experience. Theologists are keenly aware just what major (and most minor) religions represent, and should receive a reduced difficulty on card play concerning such knowledge. Theological specialists are those who focus on just one faith for the most part, and are noted as such (say, with 'Theology / Pastafarianism'.)
The opposite of fighting skills, weapon skills involve armed combat to some degree or another. They primarily offer a reduced difficulty in the use of the weapon(s) in question, or provide the ability to use an entire class of weaponry without penalty. When wielding a weapon without the skill to back it up, a character does so at an increased difficulty, representing the added complexity of combat actions in such an untrained state.
Advanced Guns (a): characters with the advanced guns skill have a knack for the use of high-tech, hand-held projectile weaponry. These weapons, which include laser pistols, particle beam emitters, blasters, concussion cannons, and the ever-popular death ray, behave differently than standard firearms and require special training - training which provides a reduced difficulty in the use of such devices.
Blunt Weapons (s): this 'package' skill provides a character the ability to wield all blunt melee weapons without penalty. Whether they're brandishing a staff, a club, a Louisville slugger, or even a nunchaku, a combatant may use it at their base ability, as opposed to the usual penalty. Blunt weapons costs one additional skill slot or point (or an extra achievement bonus) to 'double up' or 'triple up'.
Bows (a): this skill allows a character to fire stringed weaponry at a reduced difficulty, whether it be a standard, compound, or crossbow. This skill assumes the ability to fire and reload the bow as a single combat action. Also, a character with the bows skill may attempt to fire several arrows at once (if not using a crossbow), though this action is of average difficulty, and splits one's pre-card play action score between the arrows.
Concussion Weapons (s): concussion weapons are melee devices which produce a focused field that, when striking another, inflicts force damage. This may come in the form of concussion gauntlets, charged melee weapons, or even solid energy constructs like a force bat. This skill allows the use of this class of weaponry without penalty, though related skills readily stack with the concussion weapons skill.
Energy Weapons (s): on the other hand, energy weapons are melee devices that generate a power field which inflicts more deadly, energy damage instead. This class of weaponry includes power gauntlets, vibro blades, or even photon swords. This skill allows the use of lethal energy weapons without penalty, though related skills readily stack with the energy weapons skill (for example, swords and energy weapons).
Entangling Weapons (a): this class of weapons is designed to inhibit the motion of others, most often without inflicting damage in the process. They include implements like bolas, lassos, nets, and whips, which can occasionally harm enemies by themselves but are primarily used for containment purposes. Those trained in the use of such non-lethal weaponry may wield them without penalty.
Guns: the character that is trained in the fine art of gunplay may use such weapons at one difficulty level lower than is usually required. This applies whether the firearm in question is a standard, semi-automatic, or fully automatic rifle or pistol, and includes all applicable modes of fire for a given weapon (semi-automatic guns can fire one round or a small burst, for example).
Marksman (a): firing large-bore weaponry requires special training, including a lot of math as well as practical skill. A trained marksman can use this education to fire weapons with a line of sight range effectively, whether they come in the form of mortar shells, fire-and-forget portable missiles, or even large-caliber tank or ship cannons. These weapons may be fired at a reduced difficulty.
Martial Arts Weapons (s): this 'package' talent covers implements typically associated with more lethal fighting styles. Whether brandishing a sai, katana, crossbow, shuriken, nunchaku, or even a wakizashi, a character can use it at their base Strength (or Agility, if thrown), as opposed to the usual penalty. This skill costs one additional skill slot or point (or an extra achievement bonus) to 'double up' or 'triple up'.
Natural Weapons (s): this class of weaponry is not the kind that can be easily removed, as it is inherent to one's own body. It includes claws, quills, razor skin, battle tails, and the like. One can use such 'additions' without penalty if they lack this skill, but training in one's natural weapons allows the character so armed a reduction in the difficulty when wielding such unique, built-in physical enhancements.
Pole Weapons (s): occasionally improvised while sometimes designed for a specific purpose, pole weapons are sharp weapons mounted upon a long shaft. They allow their wielders to assault foes while keeping their distance, and include items such as the halberd, javelin, naginata, spear, trident, and war scythe. Those trained in the use of pole weapons may wield this class of device without penalty.
Quick Draw (a): the quick draw skill represents a character that has trained to wield their weapon of choice fast - very fast. This skill can apply to any one type of weapon, but not a weapon class (it can work with a hand gun or a sword, but not all 'blunt' or 'sharp' weapons). In play, it offers the character with this skill a +4 initiative modifier when wielding their preferred weapon.
Sharp Weapons (s): the opposite coin of the blunt weapons skill, this 'package' skill allows the character to wield any edged melee weapon without penalty (as opposed to the usual handicap). This can come in the form of a sword, a dagger, an axe, a scythe, or just about anything else with a blade attached. Sharp weapons costs one additional skill slot or point (or an extra achievement bonus) to 'double up' or 'triple up'.
Shields (s): just about any slob can make effective use of a shield, assuming at least a passing familiarity with the device. The true skill comes in wielding it offensively as well as defensively, and this skill allows a body to strike another with a shield - either in melee or when thrown in the case of aerodynamic shields - at one difficulty level lower than is normally necessary.
Spontaneous Weapons (s): the character with this skill has practiced in the use of turning almost anything into a weapon. Whether it's a chair, a couch, a television, a lamp post, or even a city bus, he or she can wield it effectively; think of this as 'blunt weapons' on steroids. Whenever using an item as a makeshift weapon, the character with this skill may do so without penalty (though with no actual bonus to hit).
Thrown Objects (a): the ranged equivalent of the above talent, the thrown objects skill allows characters to wield almost any object in long distance combat. It doesn't matter if they've palmed a rock, a crate, an automobile, or even a dumpster, the character can throw it as long as he or she has the strength to lift the thing. Characters with the thrown objects skill can fling any object at a reduced difficulty.
Thrown Weapons (a): persons who are trained in the use of thrown weapons can wield them at range without penalty, receiving a reduction in the difficulty of doing so. Any weapon specifically designed to be thrown (boomerangs, shuriken, darts, and certain daggers and axes, for instance) falls under the purview of this skill. Other items (even weapons) not specifically designed to be thrown refer to thrown objects.
Two Weapons (s or a): difficult to master, the two weapons skill allows a character to effectively handle two similar (in shape, size, or weight) weapons at the same time. Two weapons provides allows a body to divide their pre-cardplay action score between two attacks in a single exchange, the second of which will occur as a contingent action - or provides for bursting effects.
The weapons a character can dual wield are generally indicated as part of the skill name (e.g., 'Two Guns'.)
Weapon Skill (s or a): while most of the weapons skills listed above showcase general types of weapons (blunt weapons, sharp weapons, energy weapons, etc.), this skill represents a character who has worked hard to master one specific type of weapon, usually indicated in the name of the skill (such as 'Skill / Swords'). When wielding weapons of this type, a character does so at a reduced difficulty.
This skill is the one amongst weapon skills that most readily stacks with others. For instance, the wielder of a force bat with a skill / clubs and concussion weapons would allow an additional reduction in difficulty (the clubs skill backed up by the concussion weapons skill). This sort of combination allows a general mastery of one class of weapons, with another the character can wield above and beyond others in that class.
Weapon Specialist (s or a): a character can train above and beyond the call of duty with a specific weapon in order to attain even greater mastery with it - say, a family heirloom, or unique artifact they discovered by chance. By becoming a weapon specialist with this item, he or she benefits from an autotrump when wielding it, making it extremely lethal in their hands.
An additional bonus a weapon specialist receives is that he or she may add a +4 initiative modifier when using their weapon of choice, which does stack with the quick draw bonus. The only danger of becoming a weapon specialist is in losing the attached weapon, either if it's stolen or destroyed. If this occurs, and the weapon cannot be replaced, the bonus (and achievement bonus or points spent to gain this skill) is lost.
Weapons Master (s): something of a misnomer, this skill represents a person who has trained hard enough to be effective with just about every weapon available to them. While it offers no bonus, weapons master allows a character to literally wield any weapon, melee or ranged, without penalty. Of course, being a weapon master can be somewhat expensive, costing two of the character's total skill slots.