The core mechanic for the new version has changed, somewhat, but I think it's a direction that gives us the best of both worlds.
Core Mechanic wrote:
- Attributes and Skills are separate categories of stats, neither of which directly interact with the other in purchase or advancement.
- Each is ranked on the same scale, ultimately between 2 and 8 for normal humans, with 9-10 being exceptional territory for someone who picked a Tier 5 in that area.
- Your rank in any given attribute or skill has a secondary value, from 0-3. 1-3 is worth 0, 4-6 is worth 1, 7-9 is worth 2, and 10 is worth 3. This roughly maps to tiers of competency per the narrative description of those values. If for whatever reason you would have more than 3 (Proficiency counts as a skill in some situations) it maxes out at 3.
- When an attribute or skill check is called for, the specific item forms the basis of the pool.
- The "associated skill" rule has been jettisoned entirely for Tapping. When you role-play or narrate your attempt at making a check in such a way that another skill or attribute would come into play, you can tap it's secondary value to add to your pool. You may have up to two things tapped in any given check.
- Likewise, if you're helping someone with something, you now use your secondary value for that thing.
- For a thing to be tapped, it has to directly apply to the task at hand, but not simply overlap the definition of the skill. Agility can't be tapped to make you run faster on a straight Athletics check, but if the task at hand was "weaving nimbly through an obstacle course" then it makes sense.
Tapping in action:
My intent in the narrative is to challenge the captain for command and inspire a mutiny aboard the ship. Depending on how I role-play my challenge, the most appropriate skill is probably Command.
- If I've done this in front of the crew, I might be tapping Oration because I'm applying social pressure by proxy. I need to role-play this as challenging him through this big speech.
- If this is about me trying to eyeball him down and challenge his nerve, Will as an attribute would apply for tapping as we size each other up.
- If I'm arguing to the crew that he is no longer fit for Command because of some dangerous tactical blunder he's made, I can tap in Warfare in my speechifying. Alternatively, I can cite some breach of naval etiquette if I have an appropriate skill -- Lore or Culture (Imperial Navy).
As a nice side-effect, your ability to Help or Tap things is now directly tied to how good you are at the thing rather than being a flat +1 bonus as it was before. It also now requires you to actually have some investment in the individual thing to be useful in that regard.
One of the things I wound up pretty heavily auditing this draft was making a bunch of different character concepts to see how they actually mapped to our mechanics. Skills underwent something of an audit in this regard. Our current skill list is as follows:
New skills are in italics.
- Lore (Specific)
Removed from list: Intrigue, Steel, Trade.
The first major change was the removal of Trade as a skill. It's a skill that kind of bugged me from the beginning as it didn't have a particularly good mechanical definition. It was a catch-all bucket for "those skills we don't want to bother making." Worse, the actual implementation was wonky, as it was more literally "the stuff you'd know from your trade that isn't covered elsewhere." This had an interesting effect of making Trade (Lawyer) a knowledge skill, mostly, but Trade (Sailor) would cover all kinds of practical things from shipboard functions to tying knots and working with rope -- conceivably even mild carpentry. Meanwhile, Trade (Thief) was literally useless, as all thief tasks were already a skill elsewhere, including "criminal contacts" -- streetwise. Trade (Noble) had a similar issue.
Instead, we added a few extra skills and removed trade entirely. From this decision Craft, Mercantile, Navigation, Seamanship, and Stewardship came. Things that are physical "making stuff" skills are now craft. Mercantile deals with economics, trading, appraisal, and so forth. Seamanship is exactly what you'd expect, as is Navigation. Stewardship is running of a property or business and managing the resources of a household. Between the above and the existing skill-set, I couldn't come up with any trade that might have applied that we couldn't replicate in some fashion.
The second big change was splitting up "Manipulation." To play a classic thief character would have required Athletics, Larceny, Legerdemain, Stealth, and Streetwise - to say nothing of any optional skills you might want. A rangery character would take at least Athletics, Stealth and Survival, as well as some kind of combat proficiency. Plus, taking the local area as a Lore skill is always helpful. Making a Face character though? All one really needed was to max out Manipulation. You could take Oration, if you wanted to broaden things a bit, but all you need is Manipulation. That seemed sort of funky to me. On the other hand, I didn't want to go the Burning Wheel route of having twenty social skills - intimidate, seduce, gossip, soothing platitudes, harsh truths, blah blah blah. Kinda fun, but also somewhat narrowing.
Ultimately, what we came up with was treating social skills a bit more like proficiencies in that they don't exactly describe what you are doing but how you're going about it. All three ultimately are attempting the same thing - persuade someone to do what you want them to do, but in different ways.
- Coercion: Do what I want or else. You're making no pretense about them being on board with this, you just want them to fear the consequences. Interrogation, intimidation, torture, blackmail.
- Manipulation: Subtle persuasion. You're convincing them that they want to do what you want them to do, either because you're trying to convince them that it's a good idea inherently, or because they will get some kind of benefit. Persuasion, seduction, gossiping, intrigue, bribery.
- Negotiation:Overt bargaining. You and I will sit down and come up with a mutually quitable solution that we both profit from. Diplomacy, arbitration, negotiation, counseling.
As a neat added bonus, this is a nice place to say something about your character. How do they relate to other people? Investing in coercion would suggest that your character is the kind that tries to force people into doing what they want, whether that makes them a corporate raider or a schoolhouse bully. Someone who is high in manipulation could be a worm-tongued vizier who is secretly the power behind the throne -- or that cute barmaid who knows how to get the most out of her tips. Negotiations could be high-powered deal-makers and business tycoons, diplomats and lawyers, or simply someone who prefers a straightforward approach to their dealings and prides themselves on their fair dealings
Intrigue disappeared as a skill during this rearrangement because it clearly just became a form of manipulation. As an aside, I'm debating on changing the name of Negotiation, because I also imagine it to be the skill that you'd use to de-escalate conflict, and because negotiation is one of the functions of it so the name is a bit literal (where coercion and manipulation describe the general relationships, rather than a specific function of the skills in question). Arbitration, maybe? Diplomacy sounds accurate, but always makes me think of 3.5e and the "diplomancer" bullshit.
The final additions to the list: Gambling was supposed to be in from the beginning, we just finally came up with an idea for gambling mechanics we actually liked.
Finally, Steel was lost as it just wasn't coming up enough and since we are no longer rolling X+Y by default, it seemed easier to make it a function of Will.
As I'm putting all this together, I'm stepping back and looking at the whole picture. Between Tapping as a thing for extra dice, SAs, the expanded range of skills and attributes, I'm starting to wonder: are expertise worth it? +1 die for your specialty is a neat way to get just a tiny amount more customization but in the scheme of things it adds one more bit of clutter. SAs are giving you extra dice because it's important to your character. Tapping is giving you extra dice because you are going out of your way to play the scene in such a way to engage other parts of your character (which itself is kind of a neat tactical/creative mini-game). Expertise are an auto-bonus because your character is slightly better at picking locks than disarming traps. From a flavor perspective, it gives you a neat place to make statements about your character, but you can do the same in other ways (Lore skills are awesome, in that way) and +1 die almost doesn't seem worth having an extra moving part in the system.
Are you particularly attached to Expertise?