Skills allow a character to apply their attributes to solve a specific problem or accomplish a specific task. Skills cost one character point each. When a character attempts a skill roll, the character rolls 2d6 and adds their action value (AV). If the character possesses the skill, the action value is equal to the character's relevant attribute, which is often placed in parentheses after the skill name, such as Athletics (Brawn). If the character does not have the skill, the character's attribute is not added to their action value: their action value is equal to the rating of the equipment they are using, if any.
Expertise in a skill costs one additional character point. If the character has Expertise in the skill for which they are rolling dice, they may re-roll any dice which result in a 1, including any bonus dice.
We suggest spending about 10 character points on skills.
Note that skills are quite broad. For example, Science covers everything from Acarology to Zymology. However, just because a character could do everything encompassed by a skill does not mean that they should. For example, a character with the Tradesman skill could, in theory, do everything from repairing a television camera to designing 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 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.
A character's action value (AV) is usually equal to the attribute they are using to accomplish the task at hand, plus the rating of any equipment being used. For example, if a character is attempting to climb a sheer cliff (attempted with an Athletics roll), the character's action value is usually equal to their Brawn plus the rating of their climbing equipment.
Most skills are associated with a specific attribute (Brawn, Agility, etc.). However, the relevant attribute might change depending on the circumstances.
Better equipment makes success more likely. For example, a character attempting to break into a locked chest would make a Lockpicking (Agility) roll. If they had a set of lockpicking tools with a rating of 2, their action value would be equal to their Agility + 2. Simple or multipurpose equipment, such a basic lockpick, generally has a rating of 1. Ordinary equipment, such as a reasonably complete set of lockpicking tools, would have a rating of 2. Special-purpose or very high quality equipment, such as a set of picks designed specifically to bypass a particular model of lock, would have a rating of 3.
A character may attempt a task in which they have no skill, if the GM says it is possible. For example, anyone can tell a lie (attempted with a Deception roll), but not everyone can recite an epic poem and keep the audience's attention (attempted with a Performance roll). 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 rating of the equipment they are using, if any.
This is also true in combat. In combat, the defense value (DV) of the target is normally equal to their relevant defense attribute (Brawn for Close Combat attacks and Agility for Ranged Combat attacks) plus the rating of their defensive equipment. However, if the target does not have the relevant combat skill (Close Combat or Ranged Combat), the defender's attribute is not added to their defense value: their defense value is equal to the rating of the equipment they are using, if any.
Rough Magic divides skills into broad disciplines. This list of skills is not exhaustive, nor is it objective: skills are divided by their usefulness in a game, not by any objective taxonomy. This is why "Culture" is a very broad skill, while "Deception" 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, having a new 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. Also note that the same task might be accomplished in more than one way. Climbing a tree might be an exercise in Athletics (Brawn), but it might also be accomplished with the proper application of Survival (Brawn).
|Athletics||Agility or Brawn||Climbing, gymnastics, riding, running, scuba, swimming, throwing objects|
|Close Combat||Brawn||Axes, clubs, knives, spears, swords, unarmed strikes, whips|
|Culture||Reason||Art, fashion, history, music, philosophy, politics, popular media, theology|
|Deception||Presence||Bluffing, disguise, lying, sales|
|Diplomacy||Presence||Carousing, conversation, etiquette, negotiation, streetwise|
|Investigation||Reason||Analyzing evidence, collecting evidence, identifying clues|
|Lockpicking||Agility||Disabling a trap, picking a lock, repairing a tiny clockwork|
|Manipulation||Presence||Bribery, interrogation, leadership, seduction|
|Medicine||Reason||Diagnosis, field medicine, pharmacology, surgery|
|Perception||Reason||Eavesdropping, identifying an odor or taste, noticing a tail|
|Performance||Presence||Comedy, dancing, music, singing, theatre|
|Piloting||Agility or Reason||Aircraft, automobiles, heavy machinery, motorcycles, submersibles, watercraft|
|Ranged Combat||Agility||Bows, crossbows, pistols, rifles, shotguns, thrown weapons|
|Science||Reason||Archeology, biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics, parapsychology, physics, psychology|
|Sleight Of Hand||Agility||Cheating at cards, pickpocketing, shoplifting, stage magic|
|Stealth||Agility||Hiding, shadowing, sneaking|
|Survival||Reason||Foraging, hunting, orienteering, tactics, tracking|
|Thaumaturgy||Reason||Analyzing a spell, deciphering a magician's notes, designing a new spell, casting a spell|
|Tradesman||Agility or Reason||Appraisal, carpentry, cartography, cooking, forgery, masonry, electrical wiring|
The Athletics 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 relevant attribute. In the case where two competitors in a sport have the same attributes, 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 an Agility or Brawn roll.
Examples: Climbing, gymnastics, riding, running, scuba, swimming, throwing objects
The Close Combat skill covers the myriad ways that humans have found to hurt, maim, and kill one another in hand-to-hand combat. Any form of hand-to-hand combat is covered by the Close Combat skill.
Close Combat typically requires a Brawn roll.
Examples: Axes, clubs, knives, spears, swords, unarmed strikes, whips
The Culture skill covers the wide range of largely useless information that fills magazines, radio shows, and dinner conversations. It also includes more serious literary, artistic, or political tidbits of information, such as the name of the second cousin to the Emperor, or the author and publication date of The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Culture typically requires a Reason roll.
Examples: Art, fashion, history, music, philosophy, politics, popular media, theology
The Deception 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 bonus die -- 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 Presence roll.
Examples: Bluffing, disguise, lying, sales
The Diplomacy skill is used to adapt to one's social environment. It enables a character navigate through red tape, know the proper manners for a given environment, or survive an excursion to the dark side of civilization. A Diplomacy roll might be required to circumvent a bureaucratic obstacle, to socialize with a group without offending them, or to get the word to the Milieu that the shipment of amulets at midnight is a set-up.
A failed Diplomacy roll could result in the character being snubbed by polite society, or possibly in being maimed by a coarser crowd.
Diplomacy typically requires a Presence roll, and is sometimes opposed.
Examples: Carousing, conversation, etiquette, negotiation, streetwise
The Investigation 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 microfiche and police reports, 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.
Examples: Analyzing evidence, collecting evidence, identifying clues
Lockpicking covers the skills which use a delicate touch and fine control of the hands to manipulate small mechanical devices. A Lockpicking roll might be required to pick the lock on a cell door, disable the trap on a chest, or repair a tiny clockwork device.
Lockpicking typically requires an Agility roll.
Examples: Disabling a trap, picking a lock, repairing a tiny clockwork
The Manipulation skill pertains to eliciting cooperation or information from others by using flirtation, threats of violence, or just verbal trickery. 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 that they are being seduced.
Failure of a Manipulation roll could result in the subject of interrogation convincingly giving false information, or in the target of a seduction finding the would-be seducer pathetic.
Manipulation typically requires a Presence roll, or perhaps a series of rolls.
Examples: Bribery, interrogation, intimidation, leadership, seduction
A knowledge of Medicine can be very useful in the violent world of Rough Magic. Any medical procedure, from taking a person's temperature to performing open-heart surgery, is covered by the Medicine 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 skill. Extensive and difficult medical procedures, such as performing surgery, are generally better left to characters with experience in those areas.
Medicine typically requires a Reason roll.
Examples: Diagnosis, field medicine, pharmacology, surgery
The Perception skill pertains to noticing subtle things, identifying sensory input, and generally being aware of one's surroundings. Perception can reflect the keenness of one's senses, one's powers of observation, or both.
Perception typically requires a Reason roll.
Examples: Eavesdropping, identifying an odor or taste, noticing a tail
The Performance skill is used to entertain an audience, making them forget their worries for a brief while.
Performance typically requires a Presence roll.
Examples: Comedy, dancing, music, singing, theatre
The Piloting skill covers the navigation and control of a mechanical contrivance, be it a sports car, a jet boat, a forklift, or a dirigible.
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 a Reason roll to chart a course for a craft, and an Agility roll to control it.
Examples: Aircraft, automobiles, heavy machinery, motorcycles, submersibles, watercraft
The Ranged Combat skill covers the myriad ways that humans have found to hurt, maim, and kill one another from a distance. Any form of ranged combat is covered by the Ranged Combat skill.
Ranged Combat typically requires an Agility roll.
Examples: Bows, crossbows, pistols, rifles, shotguns, thrown weapons
The Science skill can cover a variety of fields, depending on the character's interests. A character with the Science skill may be conversant with any discipline that's reasonable for their background.
Science typically requires a Reason roll.
Examples: Archeology, biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics, parapsychology, physics, psychology
Sleight Of Hand
Sleight Of Hand covers the skills which use fine control of the hands and fingers to mislead observers. A Sleight Of Hand roll might be required to slip a note to an ally, to pick someone's pocket, or to slip an ace into a hand of cards.
Sleight Of Hand typically requires an Agility roll.
Examples: Cheating at cards, pickpocketing, shoplifting, stage magic
Stealth is the art of sneaking around. A Stealth roll might be required to hide from a monster in an old house, 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 (Reason) roll by the person the character is hiding from.
Examples: Hiding, shadowing, sneaking
The Survival skill pertains to living off the land, coping with adverse environments, and finding one's way based on landmarks, the stars, and dead reckoning. 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 moderately difficult (DV 3) Survival (Reason) roll. Harsh, hostile environments, such as the Gobi Desert or the Antarctic, would have a higher difficulty, depending on how prepared the character is. Surviving in very mild environments, such as 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 Reason roll, or perhaps a series of rolls.
Examples: Foraging, hunting, orienteering, tactics, tracking
Thaumaturgy allows the character to design new rituals, understand old ones, and decipher ancient arcane manuscripts. If the character has a Power attribute greater than zero, Thaumaturgy also allows a character to invoke magic -- to cast spells. Some magicians choose to specialize in a particular avenue of magic, which grants a bonus die when working within that avenue, but which imposes a penalty die when working with any other avenue of magic. When dealing with magic of a general nature, the specialized magician receives neither a bonus nor a penalty.
Failing a Thaumaturgy roll might indicate that the spell simply does not work, or that it will fail catastrophically.
Using Thaumaturgy to examine a ritual or attempt to understand how best to counter a spell typically requires a Reason roll. Using Thaumaturgy to cast a spell is covered in detail in the Magic chapter.
Examples: Analyzing a spell, deciphering a magician's notes, designing a new spell, casting a spell
Tradesman is the relevant skill whenever a character attempts to design and build structures, machines, devices, or materials. A Tradesman roll might be required to cut and plane lumber, repair a damaged suspension bridge, or construct a hazardous materials suit out of oilskin and cheesecloth.
Failing the Tradesman roll might indicate that the device or structure simply does not work, or that it will fail catastrophically during use.
Tradesman typically requires an Agility or Reason roll.
Examples: Appraisal, carpentry, cartography, cooking, forgery, masonry, electrical wiring