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Old 07-20-2006, 01:29 PM   #1
Mgellis
 
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Default Skill question...Expert vs. Connoisseur

Okay, here is a question...

It sounds like Connoisseur is mostly a social/merchant skill rather than an academic skill. It allows you to assess value, impress people at parties with trivia that makes you sound educated (whether you are or not), know if a certain style is "in" or "out." It does not give you a truly genuinely detailed understanding of the disciplines connected to those objects. For that, an academic skill or an appropriate interdisciplinary expert skill is involved.

An example...

Connoisseur (Visual Arts) lets you look at a painting and say whether it is valuable, and if the "art crowd" will think it is hot, lets you recall some interesting facts about the artist, etc.

Expert (Visual Arts) gives you an academic understanding of art history, theories of art, psychological effects of art, perhaps some knowledge of related topics like great museums of the world and art restoration, etc.

Does this make sense?

I'm asking because one of my players may decide to play a Jonny Depp/Ninth Gate rare book dealer type character. I'm figuring he might have...

Literature = You have actually read lots of these books and know what they mean, how they use symbolism, how genres have developed over time, etc., but you may prefer a Penguin Classic over a signed first edition because the notes and the critical introduction will be more useful to students

Connoisseur (Literature) = You can predict which books will be "hot," which contemporary authors are darlings of the smart set, which editions of a book are valuable and how much they're worth, etc. <-- it seems to me this is almost two separate skills, though...would a book dealer know if a new book is going to be a critical hit?

Professional Skill (Bookbinder) = You can bind and repair books

Hidden Lore (Rare Books) = Unlike Connoisseur, this skill is not connected to the financial and social value of a book, but all the esoteric, perhaps quirky details about these books that have been ignored, forgotten, or maybe even suppressed. (Of course, making these things public might change the value of a book and if you have both skills you might have an idea of what that change would be...)

And I'm guessing that if you have these skills, you do not need Expert (Rare Books). In fact, I'm not sure what such a skill would cover that isn't already covered by Connoisseur, Literature, and Hidden Lore.

Am I missing anything? Any thoughts on all this?

Thanks.

Mark
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Old 07-20-2006, 02:54 PM   #2
Harald B
 
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Default Re: Skill question...Expert vs. Connoisseur

I mostly agree with your breakdown but I do think Connoiseur should also give you some understanding of whatever history is involved, if only because rarity and historical significance play a rather important role in determining the value of antique pieces of art. For instance the appropriate Connoiseur skills should let you determine the dynasty of a precious vase or the historical style of a painting, and supply enough context to determine how much of them survive to this day as well as how to distinguish the real thing from later period imitations.
The things you put as an example in Hidden Lore (Rare Books) I would just see as high skill in Literature. Few enough people have such high skill anyway. IMO to justify Hidden Lore there would have to be some important secret information hidden throughout rare books and the skill would have to help locate and/or decode such books, or at least give some impression of who hid what where.
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Old 07-20-2006, 03:54 PM   #3
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Default Re: Skill question...Expert vs. Connoisseur

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mgellis
Connoisseur (Visual Arts) lets you look at a painting and say whether it is valuable, and if the "art crowd" will think it is hot, lets you recall some interesting facts about the artist, etc.

Expert (Visual Arts) gives you an academic understanding of art history, theories of art, psychological effects of art, perhaps some knowledge of related topics like great museums of the world and art restoration, etc.

Does this make sense?
Works for me.

Quote:
I'm asking because one of my players may decide to play a Jonny Depp/Ninth Gate rare book dealer type character.
Great character, and great movie!
Quote:
And I'm guessing that if you have these skills, you do not need Expert (Rare Books). In fact, I'm not sure what such a skill would cover that isn't already covered by Connoisseur, Literature, and Hidden Lore.
The only thing that I'd allow Expert (Rare Books) to cover that wasn't on your list would be Chemistry (for types of paper, bindings, inks, etc) and Current Affairs (who sold what to whom).

Also, for his character, I'd add in Detect Lies and Merchant, for the haggling portion of his job.
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Old 07-20-2006, 03:57 PM   #4
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Default Re: Skill question...Expert vs. Connoisseur

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harald B
The things you put as an example in Hidden Lore (Rare Books) I would just see as high skill in Literature. Few enough people have such high skill anyway. IMO to justify Hidden Lore there would have to be some important secret information hidden throughout rare books and the skill would have to help locate and/or decode such books, or at least give some impression of who hid what where.
Hidden Lore is specifically for elements which are not commonly known, even to the most skilled in their professions. If the campaign contains a select portion of The Ninth Gate, Hidden Lore is definately justified.
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Old 07-21-2006, 04:35 AM   #5
Phil Masters
 
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Default Re: Skill question...Expert vs. Connoisseur

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mgellis
Connoisseur (Literature) = You can predict which books will be "hot," which contemporary authors are darlings of the smart set, which editions of a book are valuable and how much they're worth, etc. <-- it seems to me this is almost two separate skills, though...would a book dealer know if a new book is going to be a critical hit?
Depends. If you're really going to worry about these distinctions - and frankly they may be below the level of resolution that GURPS can handle comfortably - then the division is between Connoisseur (Literature), which is all about knowing what makes a good book and being able to judge what'll be a hit among readers (perish the thought that these are two completely separate judgements), including of necessity knowing what's been a hit in the past, and Connoisseur (Rare Books), which is about the physical structure of books and the sometimes bizarre cultural history of the publishing industry, including knowing what old rare volumes will sell to the sort of weird collectors who tend to judge a book by its cover and who may have a slightly shaky grasp of the whole idea of good writing.

Both could have a default from Literature, though I'd tend to give Connoisseur (Rare Books) a rather bad default because it's only tangentially related. Connoisseur (Literature) would get a default from Writing - knowing how to perform an art includes knowing what's good work, by definition; Connoisseur (Rare Books) could have a default from Pro Skill (Bookbinding) for some purposes.

Connoisseur (Literature) is handy if you're running a branch of Borders. Connoisseur (Rare Books) is required if you work in the books division of an auction house.

But frankly, this character might do better just to crank Literature skill up to a gross level, chuck a few points at Pro Skill (Bookbinding), and run everything else off the defaults if necessary. Simpler, and saves a lot of nitpicking.
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Old 07-21-2006, 09:48 AM   #6
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Default Re: Skill question...Expert vs. Connoisseur

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters
Depends. If you're really going to worry about these distinctions - and frankly they may be below the level of resolution that GURPS can handle comfortably - then the division is between Connoisseur (Literature), which is all about knowing what makes a good book and being able to judge what'll be a hit among readers (perish the thought that these are two completely separate judgements), including of necessity knowing what's been a hit in the past, and Connoisseur (Rare Books), which is about the physical structure of books and the sometimes bizarre cultural history of the publishing industry, including knowing what old rare volumes will sell to the sort of weird collectors who tend to judge a book by its cover and who may have a slightly shaky grasp of the whole idea of good writing.

Both could have a default from Literature, though I'd tend to give Connoisseur (Rare Books) a rather bad default because it's only tangentially related. Connoisseur (Literature) would get a default from Writing - knowing how to perform an art includes knowing what's good work, by definition; Connoisseur (Rare Books) could have a default from Pro Skill (Bookbinding) for some purposes.

Connoisseur (Literature) is handy if you're running a branch of Borders. Connoisseur (Rare Books) is required if you work in the books division of an auction house.
The way that Connoisseur is defined, it's primarily useful to look at things—in the case of literature, stories and poems—from the perspective of critics and the cultural elite. Its effect on buying and selling is secondary: +1 to Merchant skill. So I would say that what you use to run a bookstore, or pick potential best sellers, or be a literary agent is Merchant (Literary Works), possibly helped by Propaganda or Fast-Talk. Some people will go for Connoisseur skill and the extra +1; others will just buy up the core skill—they won't know anything about "literature" but they'll know what readers will buy. Somebody with Connoisseur (Literature) might point you at John Bellairs, or Garth Nix, or Liz Williams just as well as at Terry Pratchett or J. K. Rowling; they wouldn't be large blips on the radar of someone with Merchant (Literature).

That is, I think there is a difference between knowing what's a good book and knowing what will sell to readers.

For comparison, Merchant (Roleplaying Games) will tell you to stock up on d20 products, with a sideline in White Wolf. Connoisseur (Roleplaying Games) will make you aware of Diana: Warrior Princess or Nobilis.
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Old 07-21-2006, 12:06 PM   #7
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Default Re: Skill question...Expert vs. Connoisseur

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs
The way that Connoisseur is defined, it's primarily useful to look at things—in the case of literature, stories and poems—from the perspective of critics and the cultural elite. Its effect on buying and selling is secondary: +1 to Merchant skill.
I'd be wary of taking that wording too literally. There are connoisseurs of bubblegum pop or romance literature, and similar fields which still have image problems among the cultural elite, even in the debased postmodernist age; there needs to be a skill for them. Likewise, connoisseurship of, say, fine ales is an authentic skill, but it puts one at a tangent to most concepts of cultural elitism.

Quote:
So I would say that what you use to run a bookstore, or pick potential best sellers, or be a literary agent is Merchant (Literary Works), possibly helped by Propaganda or Fast-Talk. Some people will go for Connoisseur skill and the extra +1; others will just buy up the core skill—they won't know anything about "literature" but they'll know what readers will buy.
The trouble with handling such things entirely in terms of specialised Merchant skill is that it makes unspecialised Merchant skill insanely broad. If someone with Merchant (RPGs)-14 or Merchant (Wine)-14 has specialised knowledge of those fields, someone with plain Merchant-14 (for a whole point more) must have the same knowledge of those and every other saleable topic, by the definition of optional specialisation.

I prefer to think that Merchant is about the art of buying and selling whatever you have and knowing how to get a basic idea of its value in advance. Dealers and brokers in specialised fields (fine wines, comic books, exotic slaves, orchids) also need specialised skills to know whereof they speak. Most people at the sharp end of the business will have those skills, though the theory behind recruiting high-level management from outside an industry is that high-level management has and needs only high levels in Administration and Merchant, and doesn't really need the specialist skills. (Scott Adams has built a career out of knowing where that thinking can lead, but it may not always be BS.) But a PC being defined as a dealer in a specialised field will usually need more than Merchant to work in play.
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Old 07-21-2006, 12:10 PM   #8
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Default Re: Skill question...Expert vs. Connoisseur

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters
I'd be wary of taking that wording too literally. There are connoisseurs of bubblegum pop or romance literature, and similar fields which still have image problems among the cultural elite, even in the debased postmodernist age; there needs to be a skill for them. Likewise, connoisseurship of, say, fine ales is an authentic skill, but it puts one at a tangent to most concepts of cultural elitism.
What about connoisseur's of things that really it doesn't matter? Like alot of the junk expensive hifi equipment? YOu know the people who think they need to spend a couple of hundred dollars for a power cable. Mabey add a delusion that they can hear the difference.
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Old 07-21-2006, 01:42 PM   #9
Kromm
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Default Re: Skill question...Expert vs. Connoisseur

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters

I'd be wary of taking that wording too literally. There are connoisseurs of bubblegum pop or romance literature, and similar fields which still have image problems among the cultural elite, even in the debased postmodernist age; there needs to be a skill for them. Likewise, connoisseurship of, say, fine ales is an authentic skill, but it puts one at a tangent to most concepts of cultural elitism.
I agree. We gave only "high culture" examples in the Basic Set, but they're not the only kind. There are at least as many Connoisseur specialties that go with Current Affairs (Popular Culture) as go with Current Affairs (High Culture), so to speak. Hypothetically, one could have Connoisseur (Comics) or Connoisseur (Pornography), and get bonuses to buy/sell/trade the subject media. Connoisseur (Pornography) might even give +1 to Streetwise instead of Savoir-Faire if one deals nasty porn in the wrong end of town. "Hatchet" Harry Lonsdale likely had a good level at this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters

I prefer to think that Merchant is about the art of buying and selling whatever you have and knowing how to get a basic idea of its value in advance. Dealers and brokers in specialised fields (fine wines, comic books, exotic slaves, orchids) also need specialised skills to know whereof they speak. Most people at the sharp end of the business will have those skills
That's my thinking as well. Connoisseur might give "only" +1 to Merchant, but lots of other skills could give +1 as well. A fellow with Connoisseur (Comics), Current Affairs (Popular Culture), and Hobby Skill (Comics) might be able to get +3 to Merchant because he knows good from dreck, can exploit his awareness of current trends and market conditions, and can bond with would-be customers as a fellow geek.

I'll grant that only Connoisseur and Current Affairs come out and say "you get +1," but that ought to establish a precedent for a skilled GM. My short list of applicable skills would be Area Knowledge, Connoisseur, Current Affairs, Expert Skill, Games, Hidden Lore (definitely suits The Ninth Gate!), Hobby Skill, Market Analysis, and/or Professional Skill, depending on what you're selling. It would be fairly easy to rack up +2 or +3 to Merchant this way, and not impossible to get +4 or higher. A wine merchant selling claret might see bonuses for most or all of Area Knowledge (Bordeaux), Connoisseur (Wine), Current Affairs (Bordeaux), Expert Skill (Oenology), and Professional Skill (Vintner), if he had the skills and made the die rolls.
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Old 07-21-2006, 02:00 PM   #10
Brandy
 
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Default Re: Skill question...Expert vs. Connoisseur

I agree very strongly with Phil, above, regarding unspecialized merchant skill. In the modern context that skill ought to cover procedural things for running a business: legal issues related to taxes and employment law, salesmanship, working with lenders, marketing and merchandising, et cetera.

Specialized merchant skill, IMO, would give you special insight into those topics, for example how best to merchandise your d20 books, where your best avenues for marketing your products are (i.e. TV ads for RPGs don't deliver bang for the buck like magazine ads or flyers on campus) -- details of selling your specialty, not necessarily insight into the quality of a particular item.

Anyway, that's how I see it. I was thinking about this topic just a couple of days ago as I considered a character for Banestorm.

The character in question is an expert rider and the son of a wealthy horse merchant, and ended up with Riding 17-, Animal Handling (Horses) 12-, Connoisseur (Horses) 11-, and Merchant (Horses) 10-.

So, here are some questions about what skills we would use for various in-game actions -- perhaps a fun exercise to use to investigate this question:

1) What do horses usually sell for in Tredroy?
2) What do horses usually sell for amongst the plains riders of Al-Haz?
3) This merchant has five horses for sale, and I want the fastest. Which one is it?
4) I am selling a horse to a Pasha from al-Haz. Which might he pay extra for?
5) Has this horse been well-trained, or is it still somewhat wild?
6) This is a fast, well-trained horse. What is it worth?

My answers:
1-2) Merchant skill. I'd give a negative modifier if the character lacked Area Knowledge for the appropriate area.
3) An IQ-based Riding roll. (I suspect that's a controversial judgment.)
4) Connoisseur (horses), perhaps, and it would require Cultural Knowledge of the Muslim states. For example, perhaps the aesthetics of al-Haz mean that a Pasha would pay more for a white Arabian with an untrimmed mane.
5) Animal Handling.
6) Merchant. I don't think that the merchant skill alone covers discerning that the horse is fast or well-trained, but knowing that, it would be merchant skill to adjust the usual price in the marketplace for the added value of the horse's talent or training.
6)

My two cents. As always, reasonable people may disagree.
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