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Thousand Suns — Designer Notes — Skills

August 23, 2007

I’ve been wrestling with skills in Thousand Suns for a while now. There are a lot of problems I’ve had to contend with and by “problems” I mean finding the right balance between a bunch of competing factors. I always wanted skills to be fairly broad and not get bogged down in minutiae, while at the same time providing mechanical space for someone who wanted to be a specialist in a narrow field. Likewise, I wanted skills to be important, but how important they were compared to natural ability I wasn’t quite sure.

In the end, I opted to go with skill ranks and abilities to use the same scale (1-12), thus being of equal importance in determining the target numbers for tests. Likewise, I went with an extensive list of skills, each of which is broadly useful while still retaining some distinctiveness. So, there’s Life Sciences rather than just Science or, more narrowly, Biology. Now, if you want to have a specialization, you can do so for free when you first gain a skill (or later too, if you so choose and can justify it). Specialization raises your rank in your chosen specialty by one and lowers the skill of which it is a specialty by one. For example, if you create a Naval Infantry trooper and he gets Shoot 3, you can choose to specialize him in Energy Weapons, in which case his skill becomes Shoot (Energy Weapons) 2/4. There are ways, both in character creation and with experience to gain additional specializations, as well as to improve both skill and specialization ranks, but the general principle is that specialization offers a tangible benefit with a cost. Being a generalist is likewise a viable alternative.

I think I’ve achieved what I wanted to, but I’ll need to do some more tinkering and, in any event, I’ll need to re-jigger some of the careers to take into account the new approach to specializations. Still, things are coming together quite nicely and the game will be ready for some blind playtesting very soon. More on that later.

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