Professions and Skills for the Navigator RPG

In my advancing years, I have ceased being a fan of Skills-based RPGs, and Rolemaster, I am told, quite ironically is Skills. I much prefer the idea of working out resolutions at the table as situations arise, and this lends itself well to the style of play in “first generation” games. Here is an example: in a Swords & Wizardry game I had all PCs make Save rolls vs inclement weather, but the Druid (and this would have applied to a Ranger, too) got to Save for “free,” without a roll. The game was text-based, online, and the Druid gamer sent me one of these: 😍. In contrast, recently in an Against the Darkmaster game, two PCs rolled to detect something in a forest. One succeeded at hearing an unusual sound, the other didn’t. The one who didn’t was an Elf. “That’s odd,” said that player, and, for awhile (being a 1e gamer), that player truly believed that something mysterious was going on. He was an Elf, and Elves simply hear things in a forest. He was a bit surprised when I explained to him that, no, his ignorant Elf simply had spectacularly failed his Perception roll.

I recognize now that I should have dealt with the situation by letting the Elf hear the sound “for free” and requiring the humans in the group to make Skill rolls. I suspect that this is how Peter R runs his games, but Rolemaster, for me, is so “roll-heavy” that I routinely forget to stop and think like this. There’s a Skill for nearly everything, and characters have been built to be “good” at these things because of reliance on their Skill rolls. Perhaps I should have stopped and given the Elf a bonus on the roll, but that’s figured already—that’s Elven racial modifiers. The truth is that, with Skill-heavy games, too often I am lulled into ignoring simple common sense in terms of the fiction.

But what happens when I outright remove Skills? It never occurs to some players that, say, their Fighter character might diversify into some Thief-based qualities. Original iterations of the game provide the highly clunky “dual classing” to accommodate this, though this still tends to keep caster types sacrosanct and unattainable. I think we RM games appreciate a little magical possibility in all our classes. I also know that some gamers heavily rely on a list of Skills to visualize their characters and conceive of which their adventurers are capable.

For Navigator RPG, therefore, my wish is for a sweet spot of basic Class abilities, allowance of common sense, and serviceable, core Skill systems. In the following sections I make some comments on the existing Professions that Peter has adopted from White Star as well as his inclusion of the Mystic. I also propose two of my own, and draft what seem to me a serviceable set of Skills.

Aristocrat

It seems sort of odd for this to be a “Profession,” but I very much like it as an archetype. I see a bit of both Leia and (weirdly) Lando in this one. I wonder how Peter is going to use the “Charm Person” quality here. Perhaps it makes more sense to simply give the Aristocrat a special “Convince” or “Befriend” Skill based on Level (I have nothing like this in my lists below). Perhaps something based on a Resistance Roll (using the Aristocrat’s Level) also is a good idea.

Mercenary 

I wonder what, if anything, Peter will do with the attacks per Level against creatures of 1 HD or fewer. In my reduced Combat Skills list, I would allow Mercenaries to specialize in one or two Combat skills, giving them a one-time bonus at character creation in these.

Pilot

I really like the OSR construction of this character class, but this archetype’s ability to take rounds of combat to manipulate the qualities of a starship might better be modeled with Skills in the Navigator RPG. I wonder what changes we will see and if, consequently, the Pilot’s White Star adequacy will be diminished.

Star Knight 

Mystic 

This is Peter’s Spacemaster telepath or mentat. It’s often amused me that science fiction has regarded mind powers as much more “believable” than magic. Anyway, I think it’s an element highly required in Navigator, and I’m quite eager to write about mentalism and its powers with great detail in the future.

Technician and Scientist

At this point, I don’t have much to say about my two additions, but I felt that they should be represented. As with the Mercenary, though I expect these classes to be generally capable, I would have them pick one or two specializations in which to gain some one-time bonuses.

And here follow my lists of proposed skills.

Combat 

Melee. This would include all melee weapons as well as unarmed combat.

Primitive projectiles

Modern projectiles. “Modern” here would include everything that is modern within the game setting: energy and laser weapons would be included.

Heavy weapons

Vehicle weapons 

General

Adventuring. This is a catch-all, including Survival and First Aid (also, possibly, Perception).

Athletics 

Stealth

Fine tasks

Piloting

Specific 

Cultures

Systems 

Machines 

Sciences

Navigation 

Finally, Peter has plans for armor proficiencies, which I think is a great idea, and Body Development and “Spellcasting” abilities should be handled separately.

5 Replies to “Professions and Skills for the Navigator RPG”

  1. Maybe I’m just a skill guy, but I have no problems with an Elf failing a perception check in the woods, and I do not give automatic successes at things like this. Maybe the Elf was skittering down some scree, or relieving himself in the bushes, while the sound was made. There are many ways to explain it from a lore perspective, and from a balance perspective, automatic successes have never sat well with me.

    1. I am a little inconsistent when it comes to perception rolls. For the PCs and key NPCs I treat perception as a percentage action. A poor roll may mean the character spots something too late or certainly with less warning. If they are actively searching then poor rolls mean the search took longer. Good rolls mean more warning or a lucky find when looking for clues.

      I avoid situations where the characters cannot move forward because of a failed roll. Of course a bad roll make introduce such complications that it effectively scuppers their plan a.

      Regarding Navigator RPG and skills you will not be surprised to hear I have slimmed down the skill list.

      What I have introduced is the RMu style ‘expertise’ skills used to reduce penalties.

      Moving in armor is a single expertise rather than having to learn each armor type.

      These will handle multi attacks and two weapon combo.

      I expect as new professions are added to Navigator RPG then new skills will also come with them.

      This is a bit sneaky on my part. It makes the game less work to produce but it also means the amount of material that I can be accused of borrowing from Spacemaster is also reduced. People can fill in the blanks at a later date.

  2. Just parking the Year Zero engine skills for Alien
    Heavy Machinery (STRENGTH)
    Stamina (STRENGTH)
    Close Combat (STRENGTH)
    Mobility (AGILITY)
    Ranged Combat (AGILITY)
    Piloting (AGILITY)
    Observation (WITS)
    Comtech (WITS)
    Survival (WITS)
    Command (EMPATHY)
    Manipulation (EMPATHY)
    Medical Aid (EMPATHY)
    Simple enough Peter?

    Hurin I agree with you, any reasons for an elf not hearing the sound but overall an elf will notice more than a human. Then again there are some things that everyone will hear/see just because its needed for the plot.

    1. Yes, that is a nice simple list.

      Regarding elves, this presumption that they would hear stuff just because they are in the woods is part of why so many people hate elves.

  3. With skill rolls it’s easy enough to adjust the difficulty level that I don’t have much of an issue with using them. I’ve never been a fan of the “elves hear everything in the woods” idea, in no small part because it’s rarely balanced with anything like “elves do poorly in towns and cities because of their affinity with the woods.” Balance is everything.

    As far as skills go, I’m taking kind of a tiered direction and finding ways to tie some abilities (basic running and so on) directly to stats as opposed to skills. My modern stuff will be simpler than RMU in some skill areas and more detailed in others…mainly because I feel it’s preferable to show specialization through skills instead of having wide-ranging one size fits all skills.

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