Saturday, February 23, 2013

Skills in Lowell Was Right

In Volant, I went with a reduced skill set - 30 skills, five tied to each Attribute. This worked very well for Volant, and I decided to use this setup for Lowell Was Right. Unfortunately, it gave the opposite feel of what I wanted - the reduced skill set made it feel pulpy. The Science skill felt too much like Science! to feel right, if you know what I mean. I love pulp, but I was not writing a pulp game, and Lowell has too much in common with pulp to go in that direction.

On the other hand, going with a reduced skill set has a lot of advantages. It's simpler to learn, it's easier to keep in your head, it's more balanced,  and it fits on the Character Sheet. So I've decided to use the reduced skill set, but allow it to branch out into *Areas of Expertise*.

Areas of Expertise

Skills in this game are broad, defined from center, and overlapping. They are also limited in their broadest sense to a rank of +2. If the character gains skill ranks above +2, the character must declare an Expertise.
The Expertise describes the area where the character, through specialization of knowledge, is able to transcend the normal limitation of rank +2, and effectively utilize ranks of +3 or higher - if the skill check lies within the area of expertise.

Example: Kelsey has four ranks of Science. She must declare an Area of Expertise. She declares it will be Biology. If a problem comes up where she must apply her Science skill, she is limited to using a rank of Science+2, unless the problem lies within her Area of Expertise of Biology, where she is ranked at Science+4.

Open Declaration

Declarations of Areas of Expertise are open - that is anything within the greater field of the skill may be declared as an Area of Expertise, so long as it is significantly more limited than the broad skill. Each skill in the table is given three example Areas of Expertise. These may be used as is, or as examples to compare player chosen areas against.

Multiple Areas of Expertise

A character may declare multiple Areas of Expertise within the broader skill, so long as there are enough ranks of skill to support them.

Example: Kelsey has four ranks of Science skill. She may declare two Areas of Expertise within the Science skill, such as Biology+3 and Chemistry+3, or alternately declare one Area of Expertise, such as Chemistry+4. When gaining new ranks of skill, the character may always choose between adding those ranks to an existing Area of Expertise, or adding a new Area of Expertise.


Masteries are gained when a character’s Area of Expertise reaches a rank of Skill+5. At this point, the character gains a re-roll on any Skill Check involving the Area of Expertise, or alternately, with combat skills, a second attack.


  1. I like it! I'm no pulp fan for a start but the open choice for expertise sounds really great, flexible as it is. To stick with the science skill, I can see how one could choose another term than a typical filed of science (geology, physics etc..) but something more abstract like "dynamics". It might mean that as long as it deals with analyzing or designing something in movement, a chemical reaction, a self propelled device, a creature undergoing change, it would apply. Thus no match to build an armor, analyzing non evolving compounds etc.. Sounds really neat if I got it right.

    1. Yep! You have it right, Franck! You can create anything as an Area of Expertise, so long as it fits inside the broad skill. You don't have to stick to traditional concepts. Again, since these things are defined from center, the edges are fuzzy, and group defined.