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Old 05-13-2016, 02:49 PM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Naturalist

Naturalist is the IQ/H skill of practical knowledge about the natural environment. It includes some practical Biology, Geology and Meteorology, and defaults to IQ-6 or Biology-3. It provides defaults for Biology, Mimicry (Animal Sounds) or (Bird Calls), Pharmacy (Herbal), Survival and Tracking, assists with Disguise (Animals), and is a prerequisite for Herb Lore and Pharmacy (Herbal). The Green Thumb and Outdoorsman talents boost it, and it is included in the Science! wildcard skill. If itís relevant, specialisation by an individual planet is required, with a default at -4 to other planets of the same type. Naturalist is usable in place of Survival for foraging, and is useful in dealing with injuries from animals, such as knowing if the snake that bit you is venomous.

The skill dates from GURPS 1e, which describes it as "the sort of knowledge you would expect from a good 20th-century biology teacher" which seems to make more sense if you qualify it with "on a nature walk." Its role in GURPS seems to be as "the core skill for characters who have a lot of insight into nature, without being scientists." The skill being Hard, and covering all environments of a planet, seem to be linked: an optional specialisation in a type of environment, using the list from Survival, seems like a skill that a lot of ordinary people might have.

Naturalist is commonplace on templates for outdoors types, and as an option for medics. Itís important in After the End, especially in combination with Plant Empathy. Dungeon Fantasy lacks science skills, which makes Naturalist the key to exploiting the natural world, and DF16 is full of applications for it. Infinite Worlds allows for the skill to be used in spotting natural gates. Low-Tech has several specific uses for Naturalist, and LTC3 has more, as does Magic. Death Spells has an application not convenient to describe (Eeww...) and the skill is on a surprising number of Martial Arts: Yrth Fighting Styles templates. It can be used against Monster Hunters skin-changers, and appears in six Talents and six Wildcard skills in the relevant Power-Ups books. Powers and Enhanced Senses have abilities to boost it, and Thaumatology has lots of magical applications. Alchemical Baroque, Chinese Elemental Powers and Magical Styles have uses for the skill, as does Underground Adventures.

I've seen this on fantasy characters, but never in any other kind of setting. What have you done with it in a game?
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Old 05-13-2016, 02:57 PM   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Eindhoven, the Netherlands
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Naturalist

Naturalist is in GURPS Action. Page 12 of GURPS Action 4: Specialists

To give Naturalist more oomph in Action, let it act as a
complementary skill when using Camouflage, Stealth, Tactics,
Tracking, or Traps in genuine wilderness (not campgrounds
or city parks!).
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Old 05-13-2016, 03:10 PM   #3
Join Date: Feb 2009
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Naturalist

I'd always considered it the skill for telling the difference between a normal tree and a whomping willow etc
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Old 05-13-2016, 03:49 PM   #4
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: New Zealand.
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Naturalist

Originally Posted by Kalzazz View Post
I'd always considered it the skill for telling the difference between a normal tree and a whomping willow etc
Building off that idea, naturalist could be used for identifying what undergrowth you are going through with involved in a chase. Poison ivy, blackberry, bush lawyer etc.
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Old 05-13-2016, 04:14 PM   #5
Join Date: Sep 2007
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Naturalist

Originally Posted by (E) View Post
Poison ivy, blackberry, bush lawyer
The plant, or a relative of the Whomping Willow that has an inflated sense of its ability at law?

(John will need a whole sub-category for additional uses of Naturalist in a campaign set in Xanth.)
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Old 05-14-2016, 05:47 AM   #6
Join Date: Jul 2012
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Naturalist

Fantasy character. Sorry for not being terribly original.

Naturalist served as a tertiary skill for ritual magic: Pyramid 28 has Ceremonial Magic Made Easy, which gives bonuses for Magical Materials (listed on the table on GURPS Magic p. 222). On the table most of the list has many herbs or types of wood there; these would be common or simple materials (for only a +1 bonus for reusable and another +1 bonus for consumable materials), although relatively easy to gather; if you have the Naturalist skill to know what you are looking for. That makes a cheap and easy +2 bonus to Ceremonial Magic, which can instead be traded for 2 energy towards the cost of the spell.

Not terribly exciting, alas, but it is an easy way to reduce the energy cost of ritual magic, and make spells like Skull-Spirit or Final Rest (both with energy costs of 20) more accessible to relatively low-powered characters.

One thing I would be interested in is seeing how far Naturalist could go towards reducing the cost of Herb Lore.
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Old 05-14-2016, 07:24 AM   #7
Join Date: May 2016
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Naturalist

In my game it appears mostly as the practical knowledge of people living in the agricultural or wilder areas of the world.

As such, what i allow usage of it for, is finding places to forage/hunt and general knowledge about your area. However, when it comes to knowledge, it's tied against area knowledge.

For example, a character identifies some tracks of some beast, he wants to know what type of beast it is.
He has Naturalist 13, Area Knowledge (The Country) 12.
He is allowed to roll for it against 12 as his effective skill.

Then again, that is a bit of a bad example, i try to use some common sense in general here, i mean. If it's animal tracks from his local village, he knows what's made them. Unless it's something that's recently wandered into his part of the woods.

If the character is a wanderer, it's becomes more reliant on area knowledge and such, but some herbs and nuts and berries are of course common to many regions and areas, and if it's similar to something he knows, he knows what it is, and what happens if you eat it.

That's my take on it.
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Old 05-14-2016, 07:33 AM   #8
simply Nathan
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Wyoming, Michigan
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Naturalist

I put this skill on characters and templates all the time, but never rolled against it. It's usually a better idea to just buy Naturalist at a decent level and default all the Survival specialties to it than to buy several individual Survival specialties unless you have high Per and low IQ.
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Old 05-14-2016, 11:46 AM   #9
Join Date: Jan 2009
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Naturalist

I'll often throw a point into it for characters who are meant to have military backgrounds, to represent a breadth of odd bits of knowledge picked up when serving in odd corners of the world not covered by any Survival specialty they might have. They often wind up with fairly low scores, but just a success every once in a while seems to reasonably represent someone who occasionally encounters something they encountered on patrol, or remembers hearing something about in the mess one time... a nice way to let a mostly-physical character occasionally have a chance of knowing something the group's main knowledge-type characters might have missed.
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Old 05-14-2016, 12:13 PM   #10
Join Date: Jun 2006
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Naturalist

Naturalist is one of those skills that seems to come up most often as a saving throw vs. player stupidity. Roll against it to know those vines won't support a fully armored warrior, the dry riverbed is a poor choice of easy path, there's probably something already living in that cave, and setting the dry chaparral on fire to drive off the wildcat is not a good plan.
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