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Old 10-21-2016, 05:00 AM   #1
McAllister
 
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Default Book Idea: GURPS Skills

GURPS has a lot of skills. Different amounts of text are dedicated to each, which is fair: the Exorcism skill is the best place to describe an exorcism, probably, and Crossbow is pretty self-explanatory. But some of them would justify their own supplements: Boardrooms and Curia isn't precisely GURPS Politics, but it's close. What strikes me as more feasible than a supplement for every skill, though, is a book dedicated entirely to skills. For each skill, I'd love to see some combination of the following:
  • At-length description of the skill
  • Explanation of why other skills allow defaults to this one
  • Distinctions between the skill and related ones (what's the difference between Economics and Finance? Body Language and Detect Lies? Electronics Operation: Media and Photography?)
  • Common and uncommon uses for the skill
  • Common and uncommon modifiers that may apply to the skill
  • Techniques that are specific to the skill
EDIT: Now with contributions from other brains!
  • Applications of superhuman skill levels, if any
  • Familiarity and optional specialization examples
  • "If I wanted to cut down the skill list, what skill could do this skill's job?"
  • Skills through the ages; does use change much over TL?
  • What tools are required to avoid a penalty? Do any provide a bonus? Does this change over TL?
  • What genre(s) is this skill appropriate or inappropriate for?
SAME EDIT: That's a long list! I'm sure there are some skills that deserve to have every one of those points lavished with attention over the course of a full page or more, but I'm envisioning a book where, if there's nothing interesting to say for a given point, it's omitted. I don't think anyone needs to be told whether Sewing is appropriate for an Action game. If you take it, you know full well it's so you can say "before we turn in for the night, I'll stitch all the bullet holes in Burt's jacket shut so he doesn't draw attention at the office tomorrow."

There should also, like Talents and Wildcard Skills, be a second section that discusses skills in a general sense. Talk about solo complementary skills. Talk about helping other peoples' skill use. Talk about techniques that might be applicable to a variety of skills. Talk about learning skills in play, and give some realistic/cinematic levers to adjust that. Maybe there can be a list of Cinematic Defaults, defaults that wouldn't be allowed in a gritty campaign but might be reasonable for a campaign where breadth in competence is appropriate even without wildcard skills. Maybe there's a discussion of when and how it's appropriate to cap skills: when it's best to cap them at Attribute+5, when it's best to cap them at 20, when it's best to soft-cap them, when it's best not to cap them at all.

Would there be a market for a supplement like that among forumgoers? What length would be thinking about? I'm thinking it wouldn't be ~250 pages like Powers or Martial Arts. Could 150 get the job done? What do you think?

Last edited by McAllister; 10-21-2016 at 10:31 AM. Reason: Excellent feedback
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Old 10-21-2016, 08:57 AM   #2
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Default Re: Book Idea: GURPS Skills

Sounds like a winner to me. Can also throw in more Familiarity examples for skills it could apply to.

I know some people have advocated for a more streamlined skill list somewhere between default and the cinematic feel of Wildcard skills, so there's that as well. But then maybe someone already did it...
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Old 10-21-2016, 09:11 AM   #3
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Default Re: Book Idea: GURPS Skills

It would be useful if this book, for each skill, includes the genres where it is useful/advised. Such as Action, Soap opera, DF, Horror, ATE ...

In some genres also some different skills can be simplified in one. Or just the opposite
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Old 10-21-2016, 09:27 AM   #4
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Default Re: Book Idea: GURPS Skills

That would be a huge book!
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Old 10-21-2016, 09:28 AM   #5
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Default Re: Book Idea: GURPS Skills

I second the notion of suggestions for simplifying the skills list by genre and time period. Including combining skills based on the time period and suggestions of how to combine (should the type Easy, Average, Hard, Very Hard stay the same. Should specializations disappear in certain time periods, genres)

The skill list is a little overwhelming having a way to simply for individual games would be a nobrainer purchase for me almost without the other things.
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Old 10-21-2016, 10:23 AM   #6
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Default Re: Book Idea: GURPS Skills

I'll edit the main post to incorporate the suggestions! They all look good to me.

It COULD be a huge book, but how many skills justify a full-page write-up, anyway? Many, I'm sure, but maybe not 100. It should include the combat skills, but Martial Arts goes into them in detail, so no need to reprint everything in there; the category skills like Electronics Operation might spill over a page to get into all the subcategories, but for every skill like that, I'm sure there are several that don't need a full page. With no experience in the matter whatsoever, I feel it could be 3/5 the size of Powers or Martial Arts and get its job done.
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Old 10-21-2016, 10:31 AM   #7
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Default Re: Book Idea: GURPS Skills

Quote:
Originally Posted by McAllister View Post
I'll edit the main post to incorporate the suggestions! They all look good to me.

It COULD be a huge book, but how many skills justify a full-page write-up, anyway? Many, I'm sure, but maybe not 100. It should include the combat skills, but Martial Arts goes into them in detail, so no need to reprint everything in there; the category skills like Electronics Operation might spill over a page to get into all the subcategories, but for every skill like that, I'm sure there are several that don't need a full page. With no experience in the matter whatsoever, I feel it could be 3/5 the size of Powers or Martial Arts and get its job done.
The thing is, Martial Arts already IS a book about skills. And it's huge! Social Engineering includes a lot of material on skills, and it's not small. So covering all the skills in one book would mean simply duplicating a lot of material from those two books, which would lessen the appeal.

If you didn't duplicate, but did a book on "all the other skills," its appeal would be a lot less focused. "This is the book to go to for information on how to do scientific research/create works of art/repair machinery/build things/survive in the wilderness/run a business."

Skills as a concept are really simple, much simpler than powers or magic. You can sum up all the general principles in a few pages. And then all you have left is details on how particular skills work.
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Old 10-21-2016, 10:42 AM   #8
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Default Re: Book Idea: GURPS Skills

I think as an SJG product it's a non-starter. The concept goes against the line's current aversion to omnibus books - especially if they're highly duplicative.

What's needed isn't so much a write-up on every single skill but clarification on the mechanics in all the weird edge cases we see in the forums. But that's not going to happen either, because they're weird edge cases and the only people who run into those problems and care enough about absolute precision are already here, on the forums, asking the questions.

Also, the state of the industry has moved back away from skill-based systems and toward more ephemeral, abstracted mechanics (and not only the ones that are "storytelling" based, the mere thought of which makes my skin crawl). If SJG wants GURPS to claw back some market share (as evidenced by DFRPG and the new hardcovers), a skill book is the absolute best way to do precisely not that.

TL;DR:
Quote:
Would there be a market for a supplement like that among forumgoers?
Yes, but like a broken record I repeat, we are not the target audience.
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Last edited by kmunoz; 10-21-2016 at 10:46 AM.
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Old 10-21-2016, 11:18 AM   #9
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Default Re: Book Idea: GURPS Skills

I disagree with the assertion that Martial Arts is a book about skills. It includes skills, sure, but it expands on maneuvers, it has templates, it has weapons, it has the most codified system for perks I'm aware of; it goes far beyond skills. Perhaps later I'll give an example of what the write-up for Boxing might look like in GURPS: Skills.

When you say omnibus books, you're thinking of universal things like Powers and Martial Arts, rather than specific settings/systems like Mars Attacks and Dungeon Fantasy? I have observed that trend, but perhaps that's because an edition of GURPS is always going to have a wealth of focused supplements and fewer omnibuses. And it's my humble opinion that GURPS is always going to struggle to beat abstracted-mechanics systems at their own game, so it might as well embrace being skill-based.

For the record, I asked if there would be a market for a supplement like that among forumgoers, not because I expect that we're SJG's target audience, but because we're the audience I personally have access to. I'd love to know whether there'd a market among non-forumgoing GURPS players, but I haven't got them on my mailing list to ask, have I? But I'm not sure weird edge cases would be the ideal target for GURPS: Skills, not that "weird edge cases" is even something I can define. Is "what does Sewing look like at TL11" an edge case? "What can I do with Acrobatics 30"? I'm confident "what can I do with Finance, period" is worth answering, but taking any given skill to TL11 or skill level 20 seems like something that could reasonably happen.

Frex, I remembered I'd been thinking about this idea and posted it because I ended up with Acrobatics 20 on a character without trying too hard, and I thought, none of the uses of the skill that I can find are penalized.* I thought, what do those last four levels do for me, aside from making my acrobatic dodges and controlled falls more consistent if I'm drunk or in the dark or something? Now, is that a weird edge case? I contend that humans can have DX and/or IQ 20, so getting any skill up to that level should be expected, and the benefits of doing so are worth considering.

Exception: "a difficult jump (into a pit, for instance)" on p. 352, which doesn't exactly explain to me which jumps are hard enough to merit a penalty or why - but which GURPS Skills would!
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Old 10-21-2016, 11:39 AM   #10
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Default Re: Book Idea: GURPS Skills

I was thinking more of things like GURPS Compendium from 3E, but MA and Powers are close to the same idea.

Quote:
"a difficult jump (into a pit, for instance)" on p. 352, which doesn't exactly explain to me which jumps are hard enough to merit a penalty or why
There is already a formulation, in Basic, for how to determine difficulty, on pp. 345-346. That's for the GM to decide. I suppose you could draw up lists, but that would be drier than Arrakis and has more in common with Rolemaster than with GURPS, I think.

And that's basically the problem: the extent to which a skill's scope is left to GM interpretation is rather well defined in Basic. The Social Engineering book is great but it's thematically tailored, which makes it valuable. Squishing that together with combat skills (Martial Arts) and then all the rest - i.e., an omnibus - gets you something that isn't thematically tailored and therefore loses most of the value of those other two books. And then what you're left with is... a list. And while I may be very far on the crunchy end of the handwave-to-crunchy scale, even I would find that unappealing and not worth my money. A book like that would be a very hard sell indeed, if even I wouldn't buy it.
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