Bulletproof Blues 3e EN:Skills

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(NOTE: This is a work in progress.)

Skills allow a character to apply their attributes to solve a specific problem or accomplish a specific task. Bulletproof Blues divides skills between general skills and areas of expertise. General skills are quite broad, such as Culture and Survival, while a character's areas of expertise are rather specific, such as Gymnastics and Physics. General skills cost one character point each, and expertise in a skill costs one character point per area of expertise.

General Skills

Note that general skills are quite broad. For example, Science covers everything from Acarology to Zymology. However, just because a character could do everything encompassed by a general skill does not mean that they should. For example, a character with the Tradesman general skill could, in theory, do everything from repair a television camera to design a bridge. That doesn't mean it makes sense for them to do so. A character who is a whiz with masonry does not necessarily know how to rebuild a truck engine, even though both tasks use the same general skill, Tradesman. It's up to you as the player to know what makes sense for your character and what doesn't, and to communicate that information to the GM.

Action Value

The action value of a character attempting a skill is equal to one of the character's attributes (Brawn, Agility, etc.) plus the rank of any equipment or tools being used, if any. For example, attempting to break into a safe would require a Finesse roll, and the character's action value would be equal to their Agility. If they had a rank 2 set of safecracking tools, their action value would be equal to their Agility + 2. Simple or multipurpose equipment, such a Swiss army knife, is generally rank 1. Ordinary equipment, such as a reasonably complete box of tools, would be rank 2. Special-purpose or very high quality equipment, such as a device designed specifically to bypass a particular model of lock, would be rank 3.

The player rolls 2d6 and adds their action value. If the player's roll equals or exceeds the target number set by the GM, the character succeeds at the task in a completely satisfactory manner: the clue is found, the language is translated, or the engine starts.

Most skills are associated with a specific attribute (Brawn, Agility, etc.). However, which attribute is relevant when using a skill might change depending on the circumstances. For example, a character with rank 4 in Agility whose combat style involves flips and somersaults would roll 2d6 + 4 when making a Gymnastics roll to flip over a villain, swing from a railing, and land behind them ready to fight. If the same character has rank 3 in Reason and is judging a gymnastics competition, they would roll 2d6 + 3 when scoring the performance of the gymnasts.

Being Unskilled

A character may attempt a task in which they have no skill, if the GM says it is possible. For example, anyone can attempt to fire a pistol, but not everyone can make sense of the inside of a television set. If a character attempts a task in which they have no skill, the character's attribute is not added to their action value: their action value is equal to the rank of the equipment they are using, if any.

Areas Of Expertise

Expertise describes a character's field (or fields) of extraordinary competence, above and beyond the character's general skills. Unlike general skills, expertise is specific. For example, a character with the Science general skill might have expertise in Robotics, and a character with the Culture general skill might have expertise in Fashion. Expertise in a specific skill costs one character point, and it grants the character a roll bonus (+3) to rolls pertaining to that area of expertise.

Expertise does not give a character a skill they would not normally possess, nor does lack of expertise mean that a character lacks the skill. A character with a general skill in Science, but without expertise in Biology, would still be able to make a Reason roll to identify a life form or a Perception roll to understand the life form's behaviour, if it makes sense for the character to have some background in Biology.

As always, only one roll bonus applies to a single roll: any bonuses after the first are disregarded. If the action value has both a bonus and a penalty, they cancel each other out and are disregarded.

Villainous Expertise

Only very unusual NPCs have expertise with Combat skills. Expertise can have a powerful effect in combat, and it tends to be more powerful in the hands of the GM than in the hands of the players because the GM rolls more dice over the course of the game than any of the players do. For this reason, it is best to restrict Combat expertise to only those NPCs that truly do have an extraordinary amount of skill.

Typical Skills

Bulletproof Blues divides skills into broad disciplines called general skills. This list of general skills is not exhaustive, nor is it objective: general skills are divided by their usefulness in a game, not by any objective taxonomy. This is why "Science" is a very broad general skill, while "Computing" is relatively specific. A character may have a skill not listed here, subject to GM approval. However, any new skills should be approximately as useful as these skills in order to maintain a sense of fairness with other characters. For example, expertise in "Business" or "Occultism" would be acceptable, but having a new general skill called "Commando" which does everything that "Athletics", "Stealth", and "Survival" do would not be fair.

The attribute typically associated with a skill is listed here, but keep in mind that the relevant attribute might change depending on the circumstances. For example, using Stealth to follow someone through a crowded marketplace might depend on a character's Agility, while moving silently through a darkened building might call for extraordinary Perception. Similarly, finding a clothing fiber at a crime scene might call for a Perception-based Investigation roll, while analyzing that fiber back at the lab would call for a Reason-based Investigation roll. Also note that the same task might be accomplished in more than one way. Climbing a tree might be an exercise in Athletics, but it might also be accomplished with the proper application of Survival.


Table: Typical skill groups
Skill Group Attribute Typical Areas Of Expertise
Athletics Brawn Climbing, Gymnastics, Riding, Throwing
Combat Varies Aerial Combat, Archery, Blocking, Distracting, Dodging, Grappling, Ramming, Slamming, Surprise Attacks, Sweep Attacks, Taunting, Throwing, Underwater Combat, Zero-G Combat, [Specific Power]
Computing Reason Forensics, Forgery, Hacking, Programming
Culture Perception Acting, Comedy, Dancing, Drawing, Fashion, Local History, Music, Painting, Popular Media, Sculpture, Singing
Deception Will Bluffing, Distracting, Lying, Sales
Engineering Reason Aerospace, Architectural, Ceramic, Chemical, Civil, Demolition, Electrical, Mechanical, Nuclear
Finesse Agility Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Lockpicking, Pickpocketing, Sleight Of Hand
Investigation Reason Analyzing Evidence, Collecting Evidence, Searching
Manipulation Will Conversation, Interrogation, Leadership, Seduction, Taunting
Medicine Reason Diagnosis, Pharmacology, Surgery
Piloting Agility Aircraft, Automobiles, Giant Robots, Heavy Machinery, Motorcycles, Spacecraft, Submersibles, Unmanned Vehicles, Watercraft
Science Reason Anthropology, Archeology, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Cryogenics, Ecology, Genetics, Geology, Metallurgy, Meteorology, Nanotechnology, Oceanology, Parapsychology, Physics, Psychology, Radiology, Robotics, Sociology
Social Will Bribery, Etiquette, Streetwise
Stealth Agility Hiding, Shadowing, Sneaking
Survival Perception Foraging, Hunting, Tactics, Tracking


Athletics

The Athletics general skill covers the entire spectrum of non-combat sports, as well general feats of athleticism such as running, jumping, climbing, swimming, and throwing.

Generally, an athletic competition is simply a matter of who has the highest rank in the relevant attributes, or, if they have the same attributes, who has expertise in the relevant sport. In the case where two competitors in a sport have the same attributes and the same expertise, the winner would be decided with a roll, or perhaps a series of rolls. In some sports, the difference between the winner and second place may be as little as one one-hundredth of a second.

Athletics typically requires a Brawn roll.

Expertise examples: Climbing, Gymnastics, Riding, Throwing

Combat

The Combat general skill covers the myriad ways that humans have found to hurt, maim, and kill one another. Any form of combat is covered by the Combat skill group, whether armed, unarmed, or even using weapons mounted on vehicles.

Combat expertise must be narrowly defined, such as expertise with a specific weapon type, expertise with a specific combat action, or expertise with a specific power. Combat is a major focus of the game, so there are more detailed rules for it than there are for most other tasks, including special benefits for extreme success. See the Actions chapter for more information.

Ranged combat requires an Agility roll, while close combat requires a Brawn roll.

Expertise examples:

Distraction, Ramming, Sweep Attack; Grappling, Slamming, Taunting; [Specific Esoteric Power]

Computing

Computing allows the character to write new programs, take apart old ones, and follow data trails across networks. It also allows a character to create or circumvent computer security programs and protocols. If a character is extremely familiar with the program in question, the GM might decide that the attempt is automatically successful. If the character is attempting to break into a computer system, the GM may assign a difficulty of 6, or perhaps even higher, since these programs are designed to prevent interference.

Failing a Computing roll might mean that an attempt to circumvent a computer security system is simply unsuccessful, or it may mean that the character has set off an alarm or left a "trail" which may be followed back to their location.

Computing typically requires a Reason roll.

Expertise examples: Artificial Intelligence, Forensics, Forgery, Hacking, Programming, Security Systems

Culture

The Culture general skill covers the wide range of largely useless information that fills magazines, the World Wide Web, Twitter, and most television networks. It also includes more serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific tidbits of information, such as the name of the fifth President of the United States or the origin of Play-Doh.

Culture typically requires a Perception roll.

Expertise examples: Acting, Comedy, Dancing, Drawing, Fashion, Local History, Music, Painting, Popular Media, Sculpture, Singing

Deception

The Deception general skill is used to convince someone of the truth of a given statement or situation, usually with the aim of getting them to act on it. Deception could be used to convert someone to a religion, sell someone a car, or simply win an argument. It is not necessary for the deceiver to actually believe their own statements, but if they do they gain a roll bonus (+3) -- nothing is as convincing as genuine sincerity. If the person being deceived is predisposed to believe the deceiver, the GM may allow the task to succeed without rolling. If the character is trying to persuade someone to believe a patent absurdity (from the target's point of view), the GM might impose a roll penalty (-3), or even declare the attempt an automatic failure for truly outrageous lies.

A failed Deception roll usually means that the subject simply does not believe the lie, but it could mean that the attempt has backfired, firmly convincing the subject of the opposite of what the character was trying to convince them of.

Deception typically requires a Will roll.

Expertise examples: Bluffing, Distracting, Lying, Sales

Engineering

Engineering is the relevant general skill whenever a character attempts to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, or materials. An Engineering roll might be required to repair a damaged suspension bridge, modify a hadron collider to be a singularity cannon, or construct a containment suit for a being made of electromagnetic radiation.

Failing the Engineering roll might indicate that the device simply does not work, or that it will fail catastrophically during use.

Engineering typically requires a Reason roll.

Expertise examples: Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Demolitions, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Nuclear Engineering

Finesse

Finesse covers the skills which require a delicate touch and fine control of the hands and fingers. A Finesse roll might be required to slip a note to an ally, to pick someone's pocket, or to pick the lock on a pair of handcuffs.

Failing a Finesse roll indicates that the deception is easily spotted by the casual observer, or that the lock resists the attempt to pick it.

Finesse typically requires an Agility roll.

Expertise examples: Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Lockpicking, Pickpocketing, Sleight Of Hand

Investigation

The Investigation general skill covers most of the tasks involved in solving mysteries and researching obscure topics. This includes searching for clues, collecting and analyzing evidence, sifting through police reports and bank records, and so on.

A failed Investigation roll might mean that the character hits a dead end in the investigation, or it might mean that they seize on a red herring and draw the wrong conclusion from the evidence.

Investigation typically requires a Reason roll, or perhaps a series of rolls.

Expertise examples: Analyzing Evidence, Collecting Evidence, Searching

Manipulation

The Manipulation general skill pertains to eliciting cooperation or information from others by using flirtation, threats of violence, or just casual conversation. Interrogation usually hinges on convincing the subject that hope is futile and that resistance will only make things worse, while seduction can sometimes be successful even if the target is aware they are being seduced.

Failure of a Manipulation roll may result in the subject of interrogation convincingly giving false information or possibly in the subject's accidental death, or that the target finds the would-be seducer offensive or pathetic.

Manipulation typically requires a Will roll, or perhaps a series of rolls.

Expertise examples: Conversation, Interrogation, Leadership, Seduction, Taunting

Medicine

A knowledge of Medicine can be very useful in the violent world of Bulletproof Blues. Any medical procedure, from taking a person's temperature and splinting broken limbs, to performing open-heart telesurgery and administering nanotherapy, is covered by the Medicine general skill. Knowledge of Medicine also gives the character familiarity with common drugs and toxins, and a competent knowledge of their effects on human physiology. Simple procedures, such as diagnosing and treating mild infections, are usually within the ability of a character with the Medicine general skill. Extensive and difficult medical procedures, such as re-attaching a severed limb or performing brain surgery, are generally better left to characters with expertise in those areas.

Medicine typically requires a Reason roll.

Expertise examples: Cybernetics, Diagnosis, Pharmacology, Surgery

Piloting

The Piloting general skill covers the direct control a large mechanical contrivance, be it a sports car, a jet fighter, a walking forklift, or a skyscraper-sized kaiju-fighting robot. Piloting also covers controlling tiny mechanisms, like radio-controlled helicopters and missile-launching drones.

A failed Piloting roll could result in being unable to attack because the vehicle is in the wrong position, a temporary loss of control, or even a collision.

Piloting typically requires an Agility roll.

Expertise examples: Aircraft, Automobiles, Giant Robots, Heavy Machinery, Motorcycles, Spacecraft, Submersibles, Unmanned Vehicles, Watercraft

Science

The Science general skill can cover a variety of fields, depending on the character's interests. A character with the Science general skill may be conversant with any discipline that's reasonable for their background. A character with the Science general skill, but without expertise in any specific field, might be a skilled dilettante or simply an experienced but mediocre researcher. Dedicated scientists specialize.

Science typically requires a Reason roll.

Expertise examples: Anthropology, Archeology, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Cryogenics, Ecology, Genetics, Geology, Metallurgy, Meteorology, Nanotechnology, Oceanology, Parapsychology, Physics, Psychology, Radiology, Robotics, Sociology, Xenobiology

Social

The Social general skill is used to cut through red tape, the proper manners for a given environment, and navigate the dark side of civilization. This includes the appropriate grammar (or lack of it), suitable attire, and how to blend in with any cultural group. A Social roll might be required to circumvent a bureaucratic obstacle, to socialize with a group without offending them, or to get the word to the Mafia that the shipment of guns at midnight is a set-up.

A failed Social roll would result in the character being snubbed by polite society, or possibly in their being maimed by a coarser crowd.

Social rolls typically require a Will roll, and are sometimes opposed.

Expertise examples: Bribery, Diplomacy, Etiquette, Negotiation, Semiotics, Streetwise, Xenolinguistics

Stealth

Stealth is the art of sneaking around. A Stealth roll might be required to hide from a monster in an alien spaceship, to sneak up on a sentry, or to shadow a suspect back to the criminal's hideout. Terrain, available cover, camouflage, and background noise will all affect the difficulty of the Stealth roll.

Failing the Stealth roll indicates that the furtive prowler is easily spotted by a casual observer.

Stealth typically requires an Agility roll, and is usually opposed by a Perception roll by the person the character is hiding from.

Expertise examples: Hiding, Shadowing, Sneaking

Survival

The Survival general skill pertains to living off the land and coping with adverse environments. The difficulty is dependent upon the terrain, temperature, and availability of food and shelter, and how well equipped the character is for the particular area. Survival in a temperate environment with available sources of food and water would require a challenging roll (difficulty 3). Harsh, hostile environments, such as the Gobi Desert or the Antarctic, would have a higher difficulty (demanding 6, or frustrating 9) depending on how prepared the character is. Surviving in very mild environments, such as Central Park or the woods just outside of town, would not require a roll at all.

Failing a Survival roll once might mean that the character has caught a cold, lost the trail of their prey, or eaten a plant that has made them sick. Failing numerous Survival rolls could be lethal.

Survival typically requires a Perception roll, or perhaps a series of rolls.

Expertise examples: Foraging, Hunting, Tactics, Tracking