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Old 10-07-2016, 01:54 PM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Scrounging

Scrounging is the Per/Easy skill of coming up with equipment and supplies by means less direct than purchase, usually in an urban environment. It involves improvisation, salvage, or just searching for things, and doesn't necessarily involve theft. The only default is Per-4, and no skills default to it. Each attempt takes an hour. Modifiers are up to the GM, depending on what you need, and what's around, and you may need to use some other skill to actually get the use of whatever you're after, since Scrounging is mainly about finding stuff, and figuring out where to look. The skill appeared at GURPS 1e.

This is one of the distinctive skills of GURPS. I recognised it immediately when I first read it: this was the skill my secondary school's woodwork teacher used to get decent timber for his classes. It's expensive in the UK if bought directly, so he needed to find surplus from businesses that used a lot, or that was going spare for other reasons. I've used something like this skill a lot while running SF and RPG conventions: there's an awful lot of stuff in a hotel or conference centre, and a great many problems can be solved using it, and possibly a little Fast-Talk or Diplomacy.

Scrounging is a common adventuring skill on published templates for any kind of character who uses equipment, although rarely a primary skill. It's part of the Born Soldier talent, and especially valuable to the kind of cinematic gadgeteer who can make devices rapidly in the field, given the right parts. Action uses it for getting equipment without spending budget, repairmen needing parts or tools, finding materials for home-made explosives, hackers searching for written-down passwords, and more general intelligence-gathering from rubbish. It's the key skill for scavenging in After the End and DF uses it for getting free equipment (better with Serendipity), finding saleable stuff in dungeon scrap, and collecting sling stones, but sages don't write manuals about it. High-Tech has lots of "dirty tech" that can be made from scrounged parts, Low-Tech uses it for finding lead for musket balls, and LTC1 for grindstones. Dungeon Magic's Iron Mage metalworkers excel at it, as do Monster Hunters' Handy Sages. The Power-Ups series has lots of Talents that include Scrounging, but only a few Wildcard skills. It's an important skill in both Seals in Vietnam and Reign of Steel: Will to Live; Social Engineering uses it for acquiring fine clothes cheaply, or materials for making them, and Back to School for improvising teaching equipment. Supers uses it for repairing and improving costumes but Thaumatology bars it from reducing materials costs for alchemical gadgeteering. Scrounging is important in surviving after an outbreak of Zombies, like other post-apocalypse genres, and can also reduce the cost of creating a plague.

High levels of Scrounging are easy to achieve in GURPS, as an Easy Per-based skill, and fairly plausible: people I've known who did this kind of thing were very effective at it. Epic Scrounging is also great fun. Our G:WWII party had gone ashore in Algiers on the evening of the first day of Operation Torch and rapidly discovered that we needed to pursue someone who had fled the city eastward by car. There were too many of us for a car, so we needed a truck. I paraphrase:

GM: Scrounging?
Player 1: Ah ... critical success, rolled 5 against 17. It's a very nice truck.
PC2: I like the leather upholstery. And the radios. And the wine rack.
PC1: If a French general just leaves his command vehicle parked and unguarded...

What problems have you solved with this skill?

Last edited by johndallman; 10-07-2016 at 02:10 PM. Reason: Better detail from DF2.
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Old 10-07-2016, 01:59 PM   #2
sir_pudding
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Scrounging

You are missing the explicit uses in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons.
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Old 10-07-2016, 02:04 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Scrounging

I'm often either frustrated or overwhelmed with the binary nature of this skill.

which, I suppose that now I've identified what I don't like about it I can go about fixing it...
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Old 10-07-2016, 02:12 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Scrounging

Quote:
Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
You are missing the explicit uses in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons.
Better now?
Quote:
Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
I'm often either frustrated or overwhelmed with the binary nature of this skill.

which, I suppose that now I've identified what I don't like about it I can go about fixing it...
The GM using margins of success or failure to help decide what you find, if anything, seems quite usual in my experience.
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Old 10-07-2016, 05:48 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Scrounging

Scrounging is one of the quintessential adventurer skills. Someone in your party should have it, in almost every genre where equipment matters at all.

In my experience, players don't use it as often as they should.
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Old 10-08-2016, 08:28 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Scrounging

I love the skill, a good number of my characters have some level of it, occasionally on the high side. I'm surprised that more players don't use it (at least not that I have seen). One use that I have made of it is finding interesting and useful things (for low bargain basement prices) in thrift stores, surplus stores, used book stores, yard sales, you get the idea.
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Old 10-08-2016, 09:10 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Scrounging

The two ghoul characters in my current fantasy campaign both have Scrounging at high levels. They've found some remarkable things in middens and dumps.
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Old 10-08-2016, 09:18 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Scrounging

I've let players use scrounging with IQ-based rolls to determine general use cases for objects. I feel there's some level of common sense and general knowledge that goes with scrounging. After all, you're looking for useful things and objects that might have value and sometimes characters are better at determining that than players.
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Old 10-09-2016, 08:52 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Scrounging

I tend to think of this as specifically a "locating stuff" skill; the more useful the stuff is, or the lower the margin of success, the more likely you'll need to do something else to get access to it, whether that's negotiating for it, stealing it, or just getting it out of a hazardous location.

As a rule this is one of the first skills I put on any NCO's character sheet, and indeed anyone who's worked in a large organisation where "I can't do that, I haven't been given the stuff I need" is a less welcome report than "the job is done, don't ask too many questions".
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Old 10-09-2016, 12:10 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Scrounging

I personally say that Scrounging also includes an element of "putting items to uses that they were never intended to, but work perfectly well for". The blacksmith on Forged in Fire who had a forge made out of a satellite dish and a leaf blower, among other bits and pieces, leaps to mind.
One of my co-workers constantly marveled at my ability to make cooking equipment out of office supplies (our office kitchen was grossly inadequate). I'm not so sure my abilities are all that exceptional, as it's basically just an urban version of what I had to do in Girl Guides. The councilors would dump us in a camp site, give us a ball of string, a box of matches, and a knife, and declare that by evening we need camp chairs, at least a small table for food prep, and a fire spit for cooking (as well as a campfire).

Compared to sticks, rocks and string, an office is a goldmine of materials.
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