In playtesting Lowell Was Right!, one of the first things my players noticed about the new skill system was that, though it worked great for everything it covered - and it covered a hell of a lot of territory in 30 skills - there were areas where things just weren't right. In the first session, within an hour of play starting, a player asked me "What about cooking? I want to cook this stuff. How good is my cooking?" I opened my mouth, and realized nothing in the skill system would work!
cooking is an Art, right? Except as a specialization of the broad Art
skill, the cook could paint at an almost expert level. Besides, only
artists could cook well. That didn't make sense! Maybe cooking is a
specialization of Survival? You need to eat to survive, right? Then the
thought of Emeril dumped in the desert without pans, onions, or essence
stifled that notion.
Maybe I can make it a new skill! Take one of
the existing skills out and replace it with Cooking? No! Cooking was
far less broad than anything it might replace, leading to many more gaps
It just didn't fit! I made a quick house-rule to get out of that situation, but damn!
play went on, these little cracks kept appearing. Places where broad
skills were too wide and specializations too powerful. I realized I had
to come up with a parallel system that wouldn't replace Skills, but
complement them. So I came up with this...
Spheres of Interest
has different interests competing for scarce time and attention. The
more time you give these interests, the better you understand it, yet
that means taking time away from other interests. In Lowell Was Right!, each character has five points of interest to distribute among five Spheres of Interest. These Spheres are:
Domestic, Intellectual, Political, Cultural, and Religious
interests are measures of time spent engaging in these general areas.
If a Skill applies to a situation, use the Skill check. Skills always
trump Spheres of Interest. The GM determined the most applicable Sphere
of Interest, and whether a Skill or Sphere applies to the situation.
use Spheres of Interest, in a situation where an interest might apply,
use a Skill+0 check with an Attribute of 9. Each point in the applicable
Interest adds a large Bonus.
Example using StarPool: Jordan is
attempting to impress visiting Mars Human House members with a tasty
Earth meal. He has 3 points in his Domestic Sphere of Influence, so he
rolls a Skill+0 check - 1d20 roll at or under TN 9 - plus three Large
Bonuses - 3d20 roll at or under TN 9 - and counts successes. He rolls 7,
12, 9, and 18, for two successes. A good meal, but not as impressive as
Example using StarPerc: Jordan is attempting to
impress visiting Mars Human House members with a tasty Earth meal. He
has 3 points in his Domestic Sphere of Influence, so he rolls a Skill+0
check - 1d100 roll at or under TN 9 - plus three Large Bonuses - +60
points to TN, making the TN 69. He rolls 58, for a success. A separate
Quality check is made, with a result of 71. A good meal, but not as
impressive as he hoped