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Old 06-29-2014, 02:56 AM   #1
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Area Knowledge

A skill almost everyone should have for their home locality, and it's present on a large fraction of published character templates. The rules work fine for ordinary geographic areas, but get more interesting for other cases.

For example, Area Knowledge (Internet) is probably a valid specialisation in the contemporary world, but it goes out of date much faster than normal Area Knowledge. We have rules we can use for this: the "Time" section of the "Geographical and Temporal Scope" box on B176 works, if you use time periods shorter than years in place of miles on the Long-Distance Modifiers table. Months might be a bit cruel, though.

For my Infinite Cabal campaign, Area Knowledge (Infinite Worlds) for the universe as a whole uses the scope rules for an interplanetary state. Acquiring this skill is hard work by yourself; the PCs have acquired a gazetteer from Infinity, oddly similar to the world list in Infinite Worlds. This makes life easier for the players, who no longer have to firewall their reading from their characters' knowledge. Infinite Worlds also has rules for applying more normal Area Knowledge across parallels and echoes.

Area Knowledge can be a useful complimentary skill for many History or Expert Skill rolls, and many other "knowledge" skills. It has a more formal counterpart in Geography (Regional), which may tell you why the area has particular traits. In many ways, this is the "Find ways to take advantage of the environment" skill, useful for finding merchant and goods (High-Tech and Mysteries), people (Social Engineering), knowing details of social behaviour (SE again), and searching for targets and travelling quickly (Action 2: Exploits).

Horror points out that Area Knowledge for exotic planes of existence has a default to Occultism; it also looks good for escaping into the sheer complexity of a city - unless your opponent has more Area Knowledge than you; Monster Hunters uses the skill in its chase rules. Low-Tech Companion 3 covers the importance of Area Knowledge for Survival and effective hunter-gathering and low-tech Navigation. Martial Arts makes it a primary skill for spies and crime-fighters, official or otherwise.

The main Dungeon Fantasy templates don't include Area Knowledge: I guess by the time you've learned enough about a dungeon, it's been cleaned out. Mass Combat doesn't mention it either, although it's a classic skill for irregular troops defending their homes.

What have you done with Area Knowledge in a game - or wished you could?
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Old 06-29-2014, 03:07 AM   #2
Mailanka
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Area Knowledge

Some Area Knowledge specializations are just fascinating. There are planar Area Knowledges, of course, like Area Knowledge (Hell). But one of the more fascinating ones I found was "Area Knowledge (Cyberscape)" Knowing know where to go buy illicit programs, or where to search for particular files, or where you might best hide files that the government would never find. An ideal skill for a cyberpunk game.
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Old 06-29-2014, 04:26 AM   #3
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Area Knowledge

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
For example, Area Knowledge (Internet) is probably a valid specialisation in the contemporary world, but it goes out of date much faster than normal Area Knowledge. We have rules we can use for this: the "Time" section of the "Geographical and Temporal Scope" box on B176 works, if you use time periods shorter than years in place of miles on the Long-Distance Modifiers table. Months might be a bit cruel, though.
You could use seasons. 4 of those in a year.

Someone once said that Internet years are like dog years, seven Internet years in a regular year. So that's another option, about half a s cruel as using months, but I don't think it's worth the arithmetical burden, compared to just using seasons.
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Old 06-29-2014, 10:56 AM   #4
simply Nathan
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Area Knowledge

Area Knowledge (My Parents' House) is probably a wasted point.

I am a firm believer that if an area isn't going to come up in the campaign characters shouldn't pay points for an Area Knowledge specialty for it. This is why I don't require characters to have Area Knowledge (Hometown XYZ) in a dungeon-delving campaign, though Area Knowledge (Underdeep) or Area Knowledge (Continent) could be pertinent.

If I were to run a game that took place within a megacity, I'd ask any players of characters without Area Knowledge thereof to give a good reason, but not ask where the Area Knowledge is for characters who are newcomers; obviously they come from someplace, but that doesn't mean I have to charge them points for knowing about the layouts of places outside the campaign's scope.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:33 AM   #5
RogerBW
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Area Knowledge

This is one that I often forget for "real world" characters. I would definitely allow it to work as a complementary skill to Urban Survival, and possibly even to other sorts of Survival.

Looking through the archive of characters I've played and run, one PC had AK (River Thames) (mostly as colour; she was a keen amateur sailor and I never got round to making the tide and water flow patterns relevant to an investigation). AK (LEO) (and HEO, L4, L5) were relevant in a Transhuman Space campaign.
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Old 06-29-2014, 05:21 PM   #6
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Area Knowledge

Area Knowledge is supposed to represent special or in-depth knowledge of a place. I'm not inclined to explore much, so I don't have any Area Knowledge skills at all, whether for the area I grew up in (lived there from age 10 to 12, then again from age 18 to 27) nor Copenhagen where I've lived for the last 10.5 years (not the rural area where I lived in my teens).

I have little knowledge of the physical layout of the streets, except the main ones (and some but routes, and of course ths buway routes), nor do I know anything about the gangs that control or believe themselves to control various parts of the city. I simply cannot justify 1 CP in Area Knowledge for either of those areas as being simulatively sound, in my case. I don't know what it would represent to be worth the cost.

I haven't done 800 hours of exploration of Copenhagen to warrant 1 CP in the skill. I haven't even done 40 hours!
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Old 06-29-2014, 05:25 PM   #7
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Area Knowledge

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenneth Latrans View Post
Area Knowledge (My Parents' House) is probably a wasted point.
The way I see it, the smaller an area Area Knowledge covers, the more you know about it. AK (Paren't House) would mean you know it in ludicrus(sp?) detail. You know about every creaky floorboard, every secret passageway and tunnel. You intuitively know all corridor distances and spacings, so that even with Eidetic Memory you can move around blind. You know everything!

It's still probably a bad idea to spend 1 CP on that, especially given that most private houses don't have any secret passageways, tunnels or doors.
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Old 06-29-2014, 05:58 PM   #8
namada
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Area Knowledge

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Old 06-29-2014, 06:24 PM   #9
Not
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Area Knowledge

I put it on character sheets for gangster or Shadowrun-style games, but I'm never clear how it differs from Streetwise or Urban Survival. It even overlaps a little with scrounging. So I tend to buy up all four. Is that dumb?
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Old 06-29-2014, 06:38 PM   #10
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Area Knowledge

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Originally Posted by Not View Post
I put it on character sheets for gangster or Shadowrun-style games, but I'm never clear how it differs from Streetwise or Urban Survival. It even overlaps a little with scrounging. So I tend to buy up all four. Is that dumb?
Complementary Skill Rolls aren't in the GURPS core rules, sadly, only in GURPS Action and perhaps GURPS Monster Hunters.

So yes, it is a bit dumb, actually, unless your GM uses those very optional rules. Then it's quite smart.
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