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The challenge

The challenge is:
Here's a genre.  (Cop drama, Conspiracy investigation, Fantasy hero, whatever)
What 10 skills would you use to run it?


It was started with "Many games (especially modern day settings) have huge long lists of skills.  This is annoying for me, how would you do, say, a PoliceProcedural? with only ten skills?

My personal approach to this task was "Ok, say the genre name.  Say "What do you do?".  Rattle off a bunch of things.
Then tune that list to ten by splitting up things that cover too much and merging things that cover too little.

It's a very quick way of getting a workable genre-tied system.

What was it For?

The intention, originally, was to address the complaint about 'too many skills' and cut it down to something reasonable, which still covered everything in the genre.
It became, for me, a challenge - could I stretch out to ten details what I would usually cover in three or less?
I left in the 'stream of conciousness' which was my method - the games pretty much wrote themselves at typing speed.

Then I started thinking "Hey, coming up with the tenskills is fun, maybe we can make a game out of THAT" which idea has, so far, stalled.

My answers


Let's see. There's negotiating with the bosses to stretch the rules, there's talking to witnesses and suspects, there's searching for clues, there's putting everything together back at base and there's sometimes a fight.

That's five. You could split 'witnesses' and 'suspects' apart, call it empathising and intimidating. Which you use on a given person might be an interesting clue.

'Searching for clues' can be split up almost infinitely, unfortunately - but I think it might be interesting to make the split "Have hunches of things that don't fit" and "Find ways to implicate people".

Following up on that line of thought, we can split 'putting it together' into "Prove someone innocent" and "Prove someone guilty"

Add in some kind of skill for the non-procedural parts. "Socialise" maybe.
That gives nine. I'm gonna cop out and add 'wildcard'

Leaving us with:
(To expand this into a full game I'd want some big set of suspects and to make it explicit that the players never know whether they are right or not, only whether or not charges get pressed)


We talk to the johnson. We research the mission. We go shopping. We make a plan. We hit the target. We mess it all up, or get betrayed. We have a huge fight. We extract.

I've not included Magic/Hacking?/Rigging?. There's no cyber or punk elements either.
Magic/Rig?/Hack? is special - any given character can only do at most ONE, and some kinds of magic preclude cyber. So that combination gets a slot.

I'm thinking the last one can be "Race" since having trolls and elves and such is a very shadowrun thing.

Trying to make it a game

Having done two of these, I think that the challenge itself would be a viable game.

Something like:
Start the clock.
Each player writes down ten skills.
Stop the clock.

Scattegories style - lists are hidden until this point, then public.

Overly specific skills are punished thusly:

Now, players challenge each others lists.  Everything they can think of that is done in genre that your list can't cover - you have to cross off a skill.  (Crossed off skills DO count as covering, for this purpose)
Is it your choice what skill you cross off? If so, given stage 2, you would always cross off the most general skill you have, which is probably not what you want. --CH
I had thought that was my intention, but now I'm not so sure.  Suggestions?  We could switch the order of these stages.  --Vitenka
Maybe you want to score at the end somewhat like: if a skill hasn't been specialised or generalised, it scores; if a skill has been specialised or generalised some number of times, only the second-most specific skill scores. So, if only "Interrogation" exists it scores, and if "Do Stuff", "Do Stuff (Fighting)", "Fighting (Knives)" and "Knife-fighting (in alleys)" exist, then only "Knife-fighting" scores? --CH
I'm trying to avoid "Do stuff" scoring.  --Vitenka
...Ah. Which it would if someone writes it, for every other skill not in some other hierarchy. Hmm. --CH

NOW we only care about uncrossed skills.

Overly general skills are punished thusly:
If someone else has a skill which is contained WITHIN one of your skills, their skill is promoted to:
your skill (their speciality)
In other words, you have the base skill, but they get the speciality - which your general skill no longer covers.

The total skill list is now assembled from the uncrossed skills and argued over.
Not sure quite what to do now, if not play an RPG with it.  How is it scored?

The lists I came up with:

Cop game:
Negotiating with authority
Trying to rattle a suspect
Empathising with witnesses
Socialising with colleagues
Have hunches for "this doesn't belong here"
Find evidence that points towards someone
Prove someone innocent
Prove someone guilty
Wildcard signature skill (Your hobby, perhaps)

Conspiracy (x-files style) game:

I'd suggest specialisation - whilst one player might have the same skill as another, they will always approach it a different way.

I'm also tempted to add a skill:

Pallando is not quite sure how this would work.  Do people have points to allocate between their 10 skills? (Eg 25 points, max 5 points in any one skill) Are points more effective if allocated to a more specialised skill? (eg would Boxing *** beat Martial Arts **** in a boxing match?).  How do you handle overlaps?  How does it disadvantage a player if they have a skill "Do Stuff" and thus giving all their co-players "Do Stuff (Martial Arts)" etc?  What's wrong with overly specific skills (eg "Fold origami paper cranes".  Doesn't it give flavour text, at a cost of making the character less powerful?).  How about a too general skill get swapped with the more specific skill from another player that it encompasses?  How are players allowed to define a skill (eg would "Do things Batman can do" count as a single skill?).  Would you like to do a trial of this at games evening?  Say, for the steampunk genre?
Yes, I'd love to try this at GE, but we need a scoring mechanic for the end, since they mostly aren't RPG players there.  --Vitenka

Ok - the original challenge was "Skill lists are too long, what TEN skills would you choose for this genre?"
Your questions are all about the "Ok, what do we do NOW?" part of the game.  Yes, if the answer is "Play an RPG" then you've created the skill list, players distribute points between the skills and then play, as normal.
The intended punishment for overly generic skills is that the other players steal great chunks out of them, and they leave you without a specialisation (which would be some kind of bonus - so everyone can 'do stuff' well but the other players can 'do stuff that is martial arts' REALLY well.)  --Vitenka

I'll try and explain some more.  "Fold origami" is a perfectly good skill.  But it's a very very narrow focus in a dark-city-crime-fighters game.  And so wouldn't be in the final list of ten.  Now, in a game of hobby-crafts, it would be perfect.
The idea of the punishment is not "You have too narrow skills" but, instead, "You have skills SO narrow that you can't do everything the genre is supposed to do."  For the first three steps (maybe not for the final post-game step) you are generating a game-system, not a character in that system.  --Vitenka

Mmm.  So, for example, in a fantasy genre, all the players would include "Fighting" and "Magic", even the pacifist thief who intended to do neither ?  I can see players collectively coming up with a list of 10 that is then to be used by all the players.  I can see players individually coming up with a list of 10 that includes everything THAT CHARACTER would be GOOD (or at least competent) at doing doing in the genre.  I'm not sure I see the point of each individually coming up with a different list general enough to be used by everyone but that only they get to use. --Pallando
No, that's not the point. At the end of the Challenge, you need some means of scoring the skills left for each player. You can then draw a line there and stop with a winner; or you can combine all the uncrossed skills into a single list which each player then uses in standard Role Playing fashion to create a character for a game. --CH
Yup - you're meant to be generating "Skillset for a fantasy game" - sure, you can change the focus of the game slightly by concentrating on theify skills.  The intention is that everyone has enough skills deleted in one and two that merging the lists ends up with a small enough list to be playable.  (Ideally, ten between them, but I'll not enforce that)  We still need a scoring system!  --Vitenka (Or think of it this way - the final list is the list of skills between the players - but your character only bothers buying points in the skills you listed)

I'm wondering about making the 'do you win' stage be some kind of "Ok, let's watch an episode.  Score a point every time someone uses one of your skills, score a bonus point every time the group agrees your skill is best suited amongst those that score, gain a third type of point every time you don't have an applicable skill."
The aim being to hit a precise number - neither over nor under.  So "Make a roll-light game" would want few skill rolls (so you'd have scene-length skills) where a roll-heavy game might expect a roll ever few seconds.
Probably not practicable though.  --Vitenka
Ok, I now understand what you are trying to do.  You are collaboratively coming up with a small (not necessarily 10) skill set that cover the stuff done in a genre without being too general or specific, and are making a mini-competition out of it.  How about this:
1. Explain the aim and what they are about to do
2. Each player draws up their list containing 10 skills
3. Players look at their skills and those submitted by others.  Any player may challenge a skill on any other players list
4. To challenge a skill as being too specific, you must show that everything it does is all covered by another single skill
5. You may counter-challenge that the enclosing skill is too general.
6. If your skill is challenged as being too general, you can defend by describing an in-genre situation where only your skill will suit
7. The winner of a challenge gets a point from the loser (whose skill is removed from contention)
8. At the end, everyone also gets one point for every skill surviving from their original 10.
9. The winner of the mini-game is the one with the most points.
10. These points may, at the discretion of the GM, be added to the pool available for distributing between skills, in the main game.

Works, but isn't very gamey.  It's pretty much the original challenge, and boils down to "Here's what we want, brainstorm."  Also, your step 5/6 (challenge too general) doesn't have a criteria to evaluate it by.  --Vitenka

Could go pure scattegories - the group as a whole (or a judge?) pulls the lists together to make a final 10-skill list; players score a point for each skill in the final list which they also have?  --Vitenka
That might prove most workable. The trouble with the "too generic, too specific" cutting is that there's no real objective test for how generic or specific a skill should be. --CH
Indeed, and it's going to be different for different types of game, anyway.  --Vitenka

Ok, here we go then.
  1. Select someone to be judge.
  2. Judge selects a setting / genre and explains it, using examples of shows, books, games etc. that fit it.
  3. Everyone then has two minutes to, individually (or in teams) and secretly make a list of 10 skills which they feel fit the genre well and cover every situation.
  4. The non-judge lists are then made public.  Anyone may challenge another players list for 'you cannot cover this action' - the loser of the challenge has to cross off a skill from their list, of their choice.  (Crossed off skills still count as 'things you can cover')
  5. The judge then reveals their list - the other players score a point for each skill they have that is also on the judges list (or close enough, don't sweat details of names too much)
    1. If you've got a skill that the judges list doesn't cover then you score a point for it if the group as a whole agrees it's in-genre.  You don't score "Hang-gliding" if the genre is "Animals escape their homes".  You might be able to in "Disaster movies", if the judges list doesn't have "Operate an escape vehicle" or similar.
  6. Winner is the player with most points, they go on to be judge next time.
  7. And the lists as a whole are a good brainstorm to actually run a game based on the genre - the judge needs to be willing to accept other people's ideas though.

Suggestion: Judging criteria should be situations, which you score if you can cover, and more highly if you have a single skill which covers it.  That skill then can't score for other situations.
Suggestion: Criteria be jointly generated.  Before, or at the same time as, skills.

Pallando suggests the following:

1. Genre is agreed, by everyone proposing 2 books or films or whatever to be part of the cannon.  Then everyone gets to veto one of the collective.
2. Everyone comes up with 10 skills they think cover everything interesting that happens in the genre (3 fairly general skills, 3 medium, and 3 fairly specific, and 1 ludicrously specific) with the emphasis on more detail in the bits that are unique or important to that genre
3. Everyone comes up with 2 situations.  Ideally their favourite scenes from stuff selected to be cannon, but they have to be important to the genre.
4. The players go around in turn, revealing one of their situations and describing it
5. For each situation, each other players submit one of their skills which are then simultaneously revealed
6. For 5 players, the most relevant skill gets 3, the next most relevant skill gets 2, the next 1, the last player (or any that don't have relevant skills) gets no points.

So for Star Wars, an example skill list might be:

(general) Be Heroic
(general) Escape Tricky Situation
(general) Citizen of the Galaxy
(medium) Fight
(medium) Handle Vehicle
(medium) Make Money
(specific) Jedi stuff
(specific) Techie stuff
(specific) Seduce
(ludicrous) Shoot swamp rats from speeding vehicle in a canyon

someone else might have written

(general) Default imperial storm trooper training
(general) Smuggler background
(general) Farmer background
(medium) Shoot guns
(medium) Pilot space ships
(medium) get by in other cultures
(specific) fix droids
(specific) wield a Light Saber
(specific) look Hard Ass
(ludicrous) avenge relative

If the situation was "Pilot the millenium falcon through an asteroid field" the second list would win.
If the situation was "Overtake a stormtrooper in a speeder in a jungle" then "pilot space ship" wouldn't help.


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