At the Heart of the Abyss
Skills cover situations outside of combat, where the characters need to get something done but aren’t under the second to second pressure of battle. Skills are much more broad in their application than powers, but more time consuming to use.
Skills provide the characters with something they can always do. Each skill represents tasks that can be completed without the character having to worry that they might fail. Each level of a skill increases the number of things a character can do as a matter of course, and often provides other abilities as well.
When a character does have to roll for a skill, either because they are unskilled or because the task is unusual and time-sensitive enough, Skills change the conditions of the roll. More skilled characters are more likely to have an exceptional success, and beyond a certain skill level, it is impossible to critically fail.
Skills are rated by various levels that indicate how much time and effort has gone in to them. Typically characters will improve to the higher levels more slowly, as it takes a lot of time and effort to reach the ability of a true expert.
- Unskilled: The character has no training in this skill, and the activity is one for which people normally train. Unskilled rolls should not be called for in situations that most people do not train for. Even though an Athletics skill exists, all rolls to lift, tumble, and swim are considered natural rolls. The average sentient performs similar actions all the time without worrying about specially training. Skills that don’t impose any special penalty when used unskilled will be noted in their description.
- Critical failures occur on a natural roll of 1, 2, or 3 on the die. Even if the roll result meets or exceeds the TN, the 1, 2, or 3 indicates an especially painful failure.
- Critical Successes are not possible on Unskilled rolls.
- Novice: The Novice rank represents only minimal formal training. A few days or weeks of instruction result in a Novice skill rank. Similarly, months of informal solo practice could train a character up to Novice skill. This is also the skill level that is used for an Unskilled roll that doesn’t impose a special penalty, like Athletics.
- Critical failures occur on a natural 1 on the die. Critical Failures because of a 1 being rolled, when the result matches or exceeds the Target Number are treated as mere failures, without any extra detriment.
- Critical successes occur on a natural 20, but a 20 roll that does not meet the target number does not result in a success, or critical success.
- Practiced: This rank represents real work and dedication. It takes months of instruction or a year or more of informal practice to achieve this rank. Anyone at this skill level or higher is shielded from Critical Failures. Even a regular failure is something of an event for someone who’s practiced. This is the level at which many people stop improving. The average equipment operator, pilot, or skilled laborer is at the Practiced rank in his chosen skill.
- Critical failures are not possible on Practiced Rolls.
- Critical successes occur on a natural 20. Natural 20s on a roll that does not meet the target number succeed without a critical success, rather than failing.
- Expert: Anyone who has reached this level of skill probably won’t stop here, unless they reached Expert simply after decades of using the skill. It takes real time and dedication to training to become an expert, or a long, long time of use. Experts achieve critical successes far more often than Practiced users, and almost always are granted some special benefit by the skill.
- Critical Failures are not possible on Expert rolls.
- Critical Successes occur twice as often as with Practiced rolls, on a natural 19 or 20 on the die. Any 19 or 20 roll that fails to meet the target number succeeds non-critically.
- Master: No one achieves this rank through sheer repetition. Anyone who has attained Mastery does so because they are dedicated to learning all they can about the skill. Masters of a skill rarely fail, and they often succeed in ways that regular practitioners cannot match.
- Critical failures are not possible at Master Rank.
- Critical Successes occur on 18s, 19s, and 20s on the die. Rolls that fail but get a 18-20 on the die succeed non-critically.
- Grandmaster: The average person cannot separate the Grandmaster from the Master, knowing only that both are incredibly skilled. Those who have some knowledge of the skill will be able to spot the difference right away, however. Grandmasters are virtuosos of their chosen skill, even those who can climb to the coveted Master rank often cannot take it further to become Grandmasters. It takes a heroic effort or special genius to rise this high. Grandmasters can achieve a special kind of success that is barred to all other users of the skill. The triumph of a Grand Master is something unmistakable in its glory.
- Critical failures are not possible for Grand Masters.
- A Critical Success is achieved on a 17-19 on the die. Even if the target number is not met, a 17-19 shields the Grandmaster from failure.
- On a natural 20, the Grandmaster scores a Triumphant Success, his effort standing out as a true ideal of the use of that skill. If the roll fails to meet the target number, but a 20 is rolled, the Grandmaster scores a Critical Success instead.