ZeroSpace 4e EN:Skills
Skills allow a character to apply their attributes to solve a specific problem or accomplish a specific task. A character's skills in ZeroSpace are ranked on a scale from 1 to 10. Most people have skills of 1 or 2. Few people reach 3 in any skill, and 4 reflects an expert in their field. Curiously enough, most nonhuman sentients fall within this range, as well.
Each skill costs one character point to have a 1 in that skill. Increasing a skill by one costs a number of character points equal to the next skill level. For example, increasing a skill from 3 to 4 costs 4 points.
When a character attempts a task, and the outcome is either contested or there is some random element involved, the player must roll dice to see if the character succeeds. The player rolls two six-sided dice and counts the dots. The player adds the result to the character's relevant skill and attribute, denoted in the game text as "Skill (Attribute)". They then add their power or equipment modifier, if any. If this action value (AV) meets or beats the difficulty value (DV) assigned by the GM, the character's attempt succeeds. There is no need to roll for routine tasks: characters automatically succeed at routine tasks.
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, but it takes a skilled woodworker to make a mortise and tenon joint. If a character attempts a task in which they have no skill, the player rolls 1d6 rather than 2d6.
Skill rolls are covered in more detail in the Actions chapter.
SIDEBAR: What, no perception?
When a character wants to notice something, they use a skill appropriate for what is being examined. The relevant attribute is usually Reason, for analytical searches, or Presence, for more intuitive observations.
- Find someone's trail = Survival (Reason)
- Look for clues = Investigation (Reason)
- Sense that someone is worried = Diplomacy (Presence)
If more than one skill might be suitable, as is often the case, the character should use whichever skill they are best at. Rolls to notice something are usually moderately difficult (DV 12). If a routine search would reveal the item or information, then no roll is needed: if a character with a suitable skill makes a routine search, they find it.
ZeroSpace 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 "Deception" is relatively specific, while "Culture" is a very broad skill. However, just because a character could do everything encompassed by a skill does not mean that they should. For example, a character with the Engineering 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. 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.
The attribute typically associated with a skill is listed here, but keep in mind that the relevant skill, the relevant attribute, or both might change depending on the circumstances. Also note that the same task might be accomplished in more than one way. Winning a game of billiards might be an exercise in Gambling (Reason), but it might also be accomplished with the proper application of Finesse (Agility). Seeing through an illusion typically requires a Survival (Reason) roll, but it might also be accomplished with a Science (Reason) roll. Realizing that someone is lying might require a Deception (Presence) roll or an Investigation (Reason) roll. And so on. In each case, the player should roll the skill and attribute combination which offers the best chance of success. The GM should not alter the difficulty of the task based on the skill the player is using.
|Athletics||Agility or Brawn||Climbing, gymnastics, riding, running, swimming, throwing objects|
|Computing||Reason||Artificial intelligence, forensics, programming, security systems, sensor operation|
|Culture||Reason||Art, fashion, history, music, philosophy, politics, popular media, religion|
|Deception||Presence||Bluffing, disguise, lying, sales|
|Diplomacy||Presence||Carousing, conversation, etiquette, negotiation, streetwise|
|Engineering||Reason||Architecture, carpentry, cartography, cooking, demolitions, electronics|
|Finesse||Agility||Disabling a trap, forgery, lockpicking, pickpocketing, sleight of hand|
|Gambling||Reason||Card games, dice games, dominoes, formal combat, races, sporting events|
|Hand-to-hand Combat||Brawn||Axes, clubs, hand-to-hand powers, spears, swords, unarmed strikes|
|Investigation||Reason||Analyzing evidence, collecting evidence, identifying clues|
|Manipulation||Presence||Bribery, interrogation, intimidation, leadership, persuasion, seduction|
|Medicine||Reason||Diagnosis, field medicine, pharmacology, surgery|
|Mental Combat||Presence||Defending against mental attacks, phantasms, mind control, telepathy|
|Occult||Reason||Analyzing artifacts, remembering obscure lore, deciphering ancient texts|
|Performance||Presence||Comedy, dancing, music, singing, theatre, writing novels, writing poetry|
|Piloting||Agility or Reason||Aircraft, drones, ground vehicles, heavy machinery, spacecraft, watercraft; navigation|
|Ranged Combat||Agility||Bows, crossbows, pistols, ranged powers, rifles, shotguns, thrown weapons|
|Science||Reason||Anthropology, biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics, physics, psychology|
|Stealth||Agility||Hiding, shadowing, sneaking, stalking|
|Survival||Reason||Foraging, hunting, orienteering, scavenging, tracking|
|Warfare||Reason||Command and control, guerrilla warfare, logistics, military doctrine, strategy, tactics|
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 millisecond.
Athletics typically requires an Agility or Brawn roll.
Examples: Climbing, gymnastics, riding, running, swimming, throwing objects
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. Attempting to break into a computer system is a remarkably difficult (DV 15) task, 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.
Examples: Artificial intelligence, forensics, programming, security systems, sensor operation
The Culture skill covers the wide range of largely useless information that fills news feeds, YouTube, and dinner conversations. It also includes more serious literary, artistic, or political tidbits of information, such as the name of the directors of the ten richest corporations, or the origin of the three laws of robotics.
Culture typically requires a Reason roll.
Examples: Art, fashion, history, music, philosophy, politics, popular media, religion
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 +3 skill roll bonus -- nothing is as convincing as 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 -3 skill roll bonus, 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 out that the shipment 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
Engineering is the relevant skill whenever a character attempts to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, or materials. An Engineering roll might be required to design a bridge, to hot-wire a car, or to construct a bomb from household chemicals.
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.
Examples: Architecture, carpentry, cartography, cooking, demolitions, electronics
Finesse covers the skills which require a delicate touch and fine control of the hands and fingers. A Finesse roll might be required to pick someone's pocket, to disable a trap, 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.
Examples: Disabling a trap, forgery, lockpicking, pickpocketing, sleight of hand
Gambling is the wagering of something of value (or "the stakes") on an event with an uncertain outcome, with the intent of winning more than you risked. Gambling thus requires three elements: the stakes, a risk, and a prize. A character with Gambling knows where to play, when to play, and with whom to play, in order to win more often than they lose.
Gambling typically requires a Reason roll.
Examples: Card games, dice games, dominoes, formal combat, races, sporting events
The Hand-to-hand Combat skill covers the myriad ways that humans have found to maim and kill one another up close. Any form of hand-to-hand combat is covered by the Hand-to-hand Combat skill.
Hand-to-hand Combat typically requires a Brawn roll. Normally, an unarmed hand-to-hand normal attack inflicts Endurance damage.
Examples: Axes, clubs, hand-to-hand powers, spears, swords, unarmed strikes
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 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.
Examples: Analyzing evidence, collecting evidence, identifying clues
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 repugnant.
Manipulation typically requires a Presence roll, or perhaps a series of rolls.
Examples: Bribery, interrogation, intimidation, leadership, persuasion, seduction
A knowledge of Medicine can be very useful in the violent world of ZeroSpace. 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 Mental Combat skill covers mental and psychic combat. Any form of mental combat is covered by the Mental Combat skill. The Mental Combat skill is also used to defend against mental attacks.
Mental Combat typically requires a Presence roll.
Examples: Defending against mental attacks, phantasms, mind control, telepathy
The Occult skill allows the character to identify occult objects, recall obscure magical lore, and decipher ancient arcane manuscripts.
Occult typically requires a Reason roll for academic use.
Examples: Analyzing artifacts, remembering obscure lore, deciphering ancient texts
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, writing novels, writing poetry
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. Piloting also covers the control of 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 a Reason roll to chart a course for a craft, and an Agility roll to control it.
Examples: Aircraft, drones, ground vehicles, heavy machinery, spacecraft, watercraft; navigation
The Ranged Combat skill covers the myriad ways that humans have found to 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, ranged powers, 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: Anthropology, biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics, physics, psychology
Stealth is the art of sneaking around. A Stealth roll might be required to hide from a monster, to sneak up on a sentry, or to shadow a suspect back to their hideout. Terrain, available cover, camouflage, and background noise will all affect the difficulty of the Stealth roll.
Failing the Stealth roll usually indicates that the furtive prowler is spotted by an observer.
Stealth typically requires an Agility roll, and is usually opposed by an Investigation or Survival roll.
Examples: Hiding, shadowing, sneaking, stalking
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 on 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 12) Survival (Reason) roll. Harsh, hostile environments, such as a desolate wasteland or an icy tundra, would have a higher difficulty, depending on how prepared the character is.
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, scavenging, tracking
Warfare covers every aspect of large numbers of combatants to attain your goals. A common focus of warfare is the defense and capture of defined strategic points, but it also includes the overall plan beyond the current battlefield, as well as the supply chains and communications required to support your forces.
Warfare typically requires a Reason roll.
Examples: Command and control, guerrilla warfare, logistics, military doctrine, strategy, tactics