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Old 06-10-2016, 03:11 PM   #1
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Paleontology

Paleontology is the IQ/H TL skill of scientific knowledge about fossils. The main default is Biology-4, and Anthropology has a default to Paleontology. Specialisation is required, in (Micropaleontology), which can only be done in the laboratory, (Paleoanthropology), which defaults to Anthroplogy-2, (Paleobotany) or (Paleozoology). With a skill roll, you can identify a fossil, or make deductions about the organism's structure, habitat, etc. With laboratory facilities, you can determine the age of fossils. The skill appeared in Compendium I for GURPS 3e.

Historically, scientific Paleontology started at TL5, in the early nineteenth century, although it had been realised since classical times that fossils were the preserved remains of long-dead organisms. Paleontology developed in conjunction with geology, as a contributor to the science of dating, and is still sometimes taught within university geology departments. Forensic anthropology, the study of human remains for purposes of criminal investigation and/or individual identification, developed out of archaeology and seems to derive its name from the practice in the USA of considering archaeology a sub-field of anthropology; in Europe, they are usually separate, albeit related, fields.

Unsurprisingly, Paleontology doesn't appear on many templates or have much in the way of detail in GURPS books. It's a skill option for scientists in Horror, and has uses in Infinite Worlds, and Lands out of Time, where it provides a excellent default for Biology. The Power-Ups series has a talent and a couple of wildcard skills that include it, and The Weird has a technology secret that requires it. Space has rules for default penalties on different planets, and Tales of the Solar Patrol has such small penalties for Venusian fossils that a common ancestor must have existed.

Have you ever used this skill in a game?
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Old 06-10-2016, 09:01 PM   #2
SionEwig
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Paleontology

Yeah, I've used it. The last two characters I drew up both have it. One as a hobby and the other as part of his business skills. I can easily see this skill under Dabbler for a fair number of folks or a point or more depending on the setting (Atomic Horror, etc.).

I do have some problems with how the skill is presented in RAW. First, the specialty list is somewhat short. Most of the paleontologists I know and have worked with have tended to specialize in locations, time periods, or habitats (marine, terrestrial, etc.). Second, I think there could be an argument for Geology being a prerequisite or at the least being another default. I'll note that in general, lab equipment isn't really necessary for most identification or even that helpful.
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Old 06-13-2016, 03:19 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Paleontology

I currently play a character in my Cliffhangers campaign which has Paleozoology as - more or less - his speciality. In combination with Geography, Carthography etc. for a more widely schooled explorer.

Never, ever used the skill though.
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Old 06-13-2016, 08:04 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Paleontology

I've got a character who takes it and in fact describes herself as a Paleontologist. Its mostly window dressing for more adventure-oriented skills. She is an extremophile who loves studying extremophile fossils, and as such as a good number of outdoor skills and weird familiarities with sensors.
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Old 06-13-2016, 09:29 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Paleontology

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
I've got a character who takes it and in fact describes herself as a Paleontologist. Its mostly window dressing for more adventure-oriented skills. She is an extremophile who loves studying extremophile fossils, and as such as a good number of outdoor skills and weird familiarities with sensors.
Fossils of microorganisms, or is this a world where there are macroextremophiles?
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Old 06-13-2016, 10:36 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Paleontology

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Fossils of microorganisms, or is this a world where there are macroextremophiles?
Micro-organisms both times I built her. Both versions of her (one game fell apart so I retooled her for a new one) study fossil evidence of microorganisms in geyser vents, deep sea vents, mountain tops, volcanic craters, and so forth. One version was headed for mars (alien ruins confirmed). The one I actually got to play is time lost.
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Old 06-13-2016, 06:51 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Paleontology

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Originally Posted by SionEwig View Post
I do have some problems with how the skill is presented in RAW. First, the specialty list is somewhat short. Most of the paleontologists I know and have worked with have tended to specialize in locations, time periods, or habitats (marine, terrestrial, etc.).
Biology has specialties as "Biochemistry", "Botany", "Ecology", "Genetics", "Marine biology", "microbiology" and "Zoology".

Paleontologists are going to get the same scope of specialties. Tighter specialties might be the Hyperspecialization perk.
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Old 06-14-2016, 11:20 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Paleontology

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Biology has specialties as "Biochemistry", "Botany", "Ecology", "Genetics", "Marine biology", "microbiology" and "Zoology".

Paleontologists are going to get the same scope of specialties. Tighter specialties might be the Hyperspecialization perk.
I was just pointing out what I have seen from real life paleos and how it was different from RAW.
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Old 06-14-2016, 11:48 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Paleontology

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Originally Posted by SionEwig View Post
I was just pointing out what I have seen from real life paleos and how it was different from RAW.
Most skills are way broader than what people really do, especially ones farther away from 'adventuring' activities. And things like science skills where practitioners are deep specialists can make it especially stand out.
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Old 06-14-2016, 01:54 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Paleontology

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Originally Posted by Bruno View Post
Biology has specialties as "Biochemistry", "Botany", "Ecology", "Genetics", "Marine biology", "microbiology" and "Zoology".

Paleontologists are going to get the same scope of specialties. Tighter specialties might be the Hyperspecialization perk.
Biology is a super-skill, almost a Bang skill, with nearly every realistic person past TL 4 taking a specialization as a career.
Paleontology is also hard rather than very hard making it more like those specialties you mention. Its required specialties have a very generous -2 default amongst themselves.
It seems difficult to specialize more without getting to similar almost silly levels of game uselessness as hyperspecializations.

How on earth would one game Micropaleontolgy; arachnid fossils? Wow, after sifting that cubic foot of sediment for a week, you've found three spinnerets of a new species of lactrodectus aka Widow spiders. Ooooh. ;)
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