Bulletproof Blues 2e EN:Skills

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Bulletproof Blues divides skills between background skills and areas of expertise. Background skills are quite broad, such as Culture and Survival, while a character's areas of expertise are rather specific, such as Gymnastics and Physics. Background skills have no character point cost: if it makes sense for a character to know a background skill based on their history, then they know it. Expertise in a skill costs one character point per area of expertise, however.

Background Skills

In Bulletproof Blues, characters are assumed to have the skills and knowledge appropriate to the character's background. The player should write these skills down on he character sheet, but there is no character point cost associated with a character's background skills. Simply write one or more skill groups from the list below on your character sheet.

Note that the skill groups are generally quite broad. For example, Science covers everything from Acarology to Zymology. However, just because a character could do everything encompassed by a skill group does not mean that they should. For example, a character with a background skill in the Engineering skill group could, in theory, do everything from repair televisions to design suspension bridges. That doesn't mean it makes sense for them to do so. A character who is an electronics whiz does not necessarily know how to rebuild an automobile engine, even though both tasks use the same skill group, Engineering. 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.

To attempt to accomplish a task pertaining to a character's skills, the player makes a task roll using the appropriate character attribute (Brawn, Agility, etc.). 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 task roll to flip over a villain, swing from a flagpole, 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. If the player's roll equals or exceeds the task difficulty 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.

A character may attempt a task in which they have no background skill, if the GM says it is possible, but the difficulty would be considerably higher (+6 difficulty modifier).

Areas Of Expertise

Expertise describes a character's field (or fields) of extraordinary competence, above and beyond the background skills the character may reasonably be assumed to possess. Unlike background skills, expertise is specific. For example, a character with the Science background skill might have expertise in Robotics, and a character with the Culture background skill might have expertise in Fashion. Expertise in a skill costs one character point per area of expertise.

Expertise does not alter the difficulty of a task, nor the dice rolled to attempt it. Having expertise in a skill permits the character to achieve extreme success. If the player rolls three or more over the task difficulty set by the GM, and they have expertise in the skill, this is an extreme success. Perhaps the character has a "eureka!" moment, or perhaps they have found answers to questions they didn't even know they should ask.

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 background skill in Science, but without expertise in Biology, would still be able to make a Reason task roll to identify a life form, or a Perception task roll to understand the life form's behaviour.

Villainous Expertise

Only very unusual villains have expertise. 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 villainous expertise to only those villains that truly do have an exceptional amount of control over their powers and abilities. If the Game Moderator is concerned about a villain's ability to pose a challenge to the heroes, remember that the GM can give villains any attribute or power at any rank. If the villain isn't putting up enough of a fight and the game feels like the characters are going through the motions, then the GM should boost the villain's abilities or give them some henchmen to help out. Be creative.

Typical Skills

Bulletproof Blues divides skills into broad groups called, appropriately, skill groups. This list of skill groups is not exhaustive, nor is it objective: skill groups are divided by their usefulness in a superhero game, not by any objective taxonomy. This is why "Science" is a very broad skill group, 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 skill group 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 which attribute is relevant when using a skill 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 Accuracy or Prowess Archery, Sharpshooting, Underwater combat
Computing Reason Forensics, Hacking, Programming
Culture Perception Fashion, Local history, Popular media
Deception Willpower Bluffing, Feinting, Lying, Sales
Engineering Reason Architecture, Electronics, Mechanics
Investigation Reason Analyzing evidence, Collecting evidence, Searching
Legerdemain Agility Lockpicking, Pickpocketing, Sleight of hand
Manipulation Willpower Conversation, Interrogation, Seduction
Medicine Reason Diagnosis, Pharmacology, Surgery
Science Reason Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Robotics
Social Willpower Bribery, Etiquette, Streetwise
Stealth Agility Hiding, Shadowing, Sneaking
Survival Perception Foraging, Hunting, Tracking


The Athletics skill group 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 task roll, or perhaps a series of task 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 task roll.

Expertise examples: Climbing, Gymnastics, Riding, Throwing


The Combat skill group 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 ground, whether armed or unarmed, underwater, and even in zero G. Having expertise in a specific form of combat, such as archery, underwater combat, or kung fu, permits the character to achieve extreme success when making those kids of attacks. 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 Combat for more information.

Ranged combat requires an Accuracy task roll, while hand-to-hand combat requires a Prowess task roll.

Expertise examples: Archery, Sharpshooting, Underwater combat


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 reduce the task difficulty to 9. If the character is attempting to break into a computer system, the GM may assign a task difficulty of 15, or perhaps even higher, since these programs are designed to prevent interference.

Failing a Computing task 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 task roll.

Expertise examples: Forensics, Hacking, Programming


The Culture skill group covers the wide range of largely useless information that fills magazines, the World Wide Web, 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 task roll.

Expertise examples: Fashion, Local history, Popular media


The Deception skill group 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 are more convincing (attribute bonus +3). If the person being deceived is predisposed to believe the deceiver, the GM could grant an even greater attribute bonus, or just ally 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 difficulty modifier of +3 or even +6.

A failed Deception task 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 Willpower task roll.

Expertise examples: Bluffing, Feinting, Lying, Sales


Engineering is the relevant skill group whenever a character attempts to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, or materials. An Engineering task 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 task roll might indicate that the device simply does not work, or that it will fail catastrophically during use.

Engineering typically requires a Reason task roll.

Expertise examples: Architecture, Electronics, Mechanics


The Investigation skill group covers most of the tasks involved in solving crimes. 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 task roll, or perhaps a series of task rolls.

Expertise examples: Analyzing evidence, Collecting evidence, Searching


Legerdemain (literally, "light of hand") covers the skills which require a delicate touch and fine control of the hands and fingers. A Legerdemain task roll might be required to slip a dagger to an ally, to pick someone's pocket, or to pick the lock on a pair of handcuffs.

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

Legerdemain typically requires an Agility task roll.

Expertise examples: Lockpicking, Pickpocketing, Sleight of hand


The Manipulation skill group 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 task 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 series of Willpower task rolls.

Expertise examples: Conversation, Interrogation, Seduction


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 surgery and administering nanotherapy, is covered by the Medicine skill group. 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 group. 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 task roll.

Expertise examples: Diagnosis, Pharmacology, Surgery


The Science skill group can cover a variety of fields, depending on the character's interests. A character with a background in Science may be conversant with any discipline that's reasonable for their background. A character with the Science background 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 task roll.

Expertise examples: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Robotics


The Social skill group 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 task 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 task rolls typically require a Willpower task roll, and are sometimes opposed.

Expertise examples: Bribery, Etiquette, Streetwise


Stealth is the art of sneaking around. A Stealth task 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 task roll.

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

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

Expertise examples: Hiding, Shadowing, Sneaking


The Survival skill groups pertains to living off the land and coping with adverse environments. The task difficulty is dependent upon the terrain, temperature, and availability of food and shelter, and how well equipped the character is for the particular area. Harsh, hostile environments (the Gobi Desert, the Antarctic) would have a very high task difficulty (15 to 18) depending on how prepared the character is. Surviving in very mild environments (Central Park, or the woods just outside town) would have a low task difficulty (9 to 12), or would not require a task roll at all.

Failing a Survival task 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 task rolls could be lethal.

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

Expertise examples: Foraging, Hunting, Tracking