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Old 11-04-2016, 04:00 PM   #1
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Soldier

Soldier is the IQ/A TL skill for basic military activities that aren't weapons skills or Savoir-Faire (Military). It's learned in military basic training, and from actual combat experience in an organised force, so it's quite unusual to have it without having served, at least in a militia or reserve force. The only default is IQ-5, and no skills default to it. The skill first appeared in GURPS Special Operations for 3e, to the best of my knowledge.

There are several ways to use the skill: to follow correct battlefield discipline, for practical survival, as a daily roll in active service to avoid problems (on a failure) or disasters (critical failure), and for basic tasks that would be covered by other skills. Tasks which would be routine (and thus +4 to skill) for skills like Armoury, Electronics Operation (Communications), Housekeeping, or NBC Suit, at appropriate TLs, would be rolled against Soldier, without any bonus for routine, but with any situational penalties. This doesn't cover significant repairs, research, or new or secret technologies. It's the assorted things, using standard equipment and methods, that any trained soldier should be able to try. Recognising vehicles and aircraft seems to come under Soldier, unless you have a more applicable skill.

Soldiers who specialise in something will learn the proper skill in addition to Soldier: Signallers will have Electronics Operation (Communications) and usually the Electronics Repair, too. Mountain troops will have Survival (Mountains) and Climbing, and so on. Military personnel who aren't in an army make this more interesting: deckhands in a navy certainly learn a lot of things in addition to Seamanship, and Air Force enlisted ranks learn some basic ground soldiering. If the GM wanted to go into details, you could have Soldier specialisations by type of service, so (Land), (Sea) and (Air), and probably familiarity by nation: there are always differences in equipment and procedures. Marines might learn both (Land) and (Sea), or a combined version; paratroopers probably just (Land).

Soldier, naturally, is universal on templates for trained soldiers, although aristocratic officers often lacked it until their training was professionalised in the modern era. Action makes Soldier an example for the "group roll" rule, a possible retroactive planning skill, a skill for carrying out a patrol successfully, a substitute for Traps or EOD (at -5), and a valid skill for dealing with very simple traps, where a proper skill would be at +4, and for keeping watch. AtE allows it for gathering fired cartridge cases, handling chemical weapons (at -4), diagnosing chemical weapon effects, knowing about explosives, spotting minefields, and managing your backpack. High-Tech allows troops trained with rescue equipment to include it in Soldier, rather than needing another professional skill. It can also be used to set up and maintain packs, load-bearing equipment, and footwear as well as weapons, to find well-made magazines for dubiously reliable guns, to place land mines and simple traps, and to find land mines on a Soldier-5 roll.

Infinite Worlds makes the skill subject to cross-world familiarity penalties, since there is an element of knowing how things are usually done. Low-Tech suggests it for siege-engine crews, if a roll is required at all, and LTC2 makes it an option for maintaining armour. Martial Arts points out that Soldier includes the manual labour for building fortifications quickly, and Monster Hunters that you can use it to communicate with gestures -- but only for combat signals. The Power-Ups series has a Talent that include Soldier, but no Wildcard skills, because the Ten-Hut! wildcard covers just about every skill that Soldier stands in for. Social Engineering lets an organised force resist mob feelings with Will-based Soldier, and Back to School touches on basic training. Tactical Shooting has too many applications for this skill to list, while Thaumatology has items that will provide it for you. GURPS: WWII uses it as the primary measure of troop quality, and Zombies has the Soldier X treatment, which has a quality all of its own.

The most important Soldier roll of my GURPS career was in a Madness Dossier playtest game. There was nerve gas around, and nasty stuff at that (Novichok-7). We'd found the enemy's stash of NBC suits, but nobody had the specific skill, and only one PC had Soldier. That roll, to figure out those suits, really mattered.

What have you accomplished with this skill?
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Old 11-04-2016, 04:05 PM   #2
Erling
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Soldier

This one is as close to a wildcard skill as a "regular" skill can be.
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Old 11-04-2016, 07:25 PM   #3
CoyoteGestalt
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Soldier

I used it once for cops as a generic "knowing how to operate and stow your basic gear" skill, as I needed something they could roll against to represent that knowledge, and to differentiate the street-level uniformed cops who had it from both senior desk-bound folks and investigators from other agencies, who didn't.

(Obviously, this came with the assumption that it only applied to police gear, and would take heavy familiarity penalties or be entirely non-applicable to actual soldiers' equipment and functions, if that had ever come up.)
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Old 11-04-2016, 09:16 PM   #4
SionEwig
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Soldier

I've had it on sheets, but I don't think I've ever rolled against it. I've started putting it under Dabbler as a background skill for characters who were in the military a number of years ago.
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Old 11-05-2016, 04:17 AM   #5
Polydamas
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Soldier

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Soldier, naturally, is universal on templates for trained soldiers, although aristocratic officers often lacked it until their training was professionalised in the modern era.
Aristocratic societies often handle that (and what GURPS calls Housekeeping) by making the aristoi spent their teens as body servants to someone higher-ranking (grooming their horses, bringing their wine, running their messages, cleaning their armour, fetching their breastplate-stretcher) and sending them hunting without a gaggle of servants. I use Soldier for characters who have a lot of experience camping in rough conditions as part of a group.
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Old 11-05-2016, 04:17 AM   #6
RogerBW
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Soldier

For the "routine tasks" it works a bit like Dabbler, and if GURPS were being rebuilt from scratch that might be a way to approach it.

In my space-navy game I use Professional Skill (Sailor) for this purpose, which I should possibly have called something else; it fits alongside Spacer (living aboard ship, basic shipboard tasks) and Savoir-Faire (Military). Ground troops do have normal Soldier, and there's obviously some overlap.
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Old 11-05-2016, 06:35 AM   #7
johndallman
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Soldier

Quote:
Originally Posted by Polydamas View Post
... I use Soldier for characters who have a lot of experience camping in rough conditions as part of a group.
That's entirely reasonable.
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Old 11-05-2016, 09:07 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Soldier

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman
Soldier is the IQ/A TL skill for basic military activities that aren't weapons skills or Savoir-Faire (Military). It's learned in military basic training, and from actual combat experience in an organised force, so it's quite unusual to have it without having served, at least in a militia or reserve force. The only default is IQ-5, and no skills default to it. The skill first appeared in GURPS Special Operations for 3e, to the best of my knowledge.

There are several ways to use the skill: to follow correct battlefield discipline, for practical survival, as a daily roll in active service to avoid problems (on a failure) or disasters (critical failure), and for basic tasks that would be covered by other skills. Tasks which would be routine (and thus +4 to skill) for skills like Armoury, Electronics Operation (Communications), Housekeeping, or NBC Suit, at appropriate TLs, would be rolled against Soldier, without any bonus for routine, but with any situational penalties. This doesn't cover significant repairs, research, or new or secret technologies. It's the assorted things, using standard equipment and methods, that any trained soldier should be able to try. Recognising vehicles and aircraft seems to come under Soldier, unless you have a more applicable skill.

<snip>

What have you accomplished with this skill?
A GM with a military background might allow a few additional usages for Soldier skill:

Soldier is obviously the go to skill for performing drill and ceremonial, whether normally or as part of a demonstration team.

A graduate of a wartime “two-week wonder” officer course would arguably have had a ½ point (100 hours) of Leadership in GURPS, 3rd Ed. but that’s below the resolution of GURPS, 4th Ed. A “two-week wonder” could be represented by giving a default from Soldier to Leadership to give a default that’s better than the normal default [no training] but doesn’t amount to having a full point in Leadership. This would also apply to skills like Orienteering [Navigation (Land)] and First Aid.

Soldier can replace some full-blown military skills for limited purposes. Most soldiers don’t have Tactics skill, in that they don’t necessarily know when a tactic or tactical formation should be used but, for the limited purpose of adopting a given formation or executing a given tactic, Soldier, without a penalty, should work just fine. Substituting for Law (Military), for the limited purpose of knowing what the offences are, and possibly what is needed to constitute a particular offence, is another example.

Depending on the era, tactical movement and use of personal camouflage may be represented by Stealth, but it might also allow the substitution of Soldier (possibly at a penalty.)

Heraldry (Military Insignia) allows more than simply recognizing the various rank insignias in use by your nation. Depending on your nation’s insignia you might also be able to “read”: length of service, unit and formation, trade (and level of proficiency in that trade), hazardous duty assignments, wounds (and severity), proficiency with personal weapon, as well as being able to “read” decorations and honors (ribbons and medals) for whether the wearer is a volunteer; what theatres (and possibly particular battles) the person has served in; and, for some people, whether this is a suitable person to share a foxhole with [referencing the maxim "Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than yourself."] Obviously, not all soldiers have this skill, but all soldiers, by default, can recognize the various rank insignia in use by their nation, at least for their service, just by having Soldier. If the time and place are correct, you can also, by default, tell at a glance whether you are looking at an enlisted man (excluding the RSM) [soft headdress and black boots] or, an officer or the RSM [forage cap and brown boots] without necessarily needing to invoke Heraldry (Military Insignia) to do so.

Soldier can justify having a default that might otherwise not be applicable. You might never have seen or thrown a baseball but you can throw a grenade at default. You can climb a cargo net or a Jacob’s ladder even if you never climbed a tree as a kid. In the U.S., you can probably swim 25 or 50 yards in your uniform, even if you grew up in the desert.

Finally, Soldier may allow you to recognize that someone is “a furriner/not one of us” by the choices his Soldier skill imposes. For example, Canada and the U.S. are close allies these days but even if you were to put them in the same uniform, the differences would soon out them, e.g. saying “face” for “turn”, “foxhole” for “trench”, “dogtags” for “ID disc”, saluting without a headdress, cupping the hand when saluting, etc.
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Old 11-05-2016, 10:34 AM   #9
sir_pudding
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Soldier

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
“foxhole” for “trench”... saluting without a headdress.
The US Army isn't the only service branch that instills Soldier (unless you propose that Marines use Marine and so on, which seems like skill bloat). Marines say "fighting hole" and do not salute uncovered. I believe the Navy is the same. Also "head", "deck", "passageway", "hatch" for "latrine", "floor", "hallway", "door" and so on.

Also a fighting hole is distinct from a trench. I learned to construct both (although the latter only in snow).
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Old 11-05-2016, 10:40 AM   #10
Anders
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Soldier

I would consider this an example of a Professional skill, even if it isn't listed as such. Captain America uses it in "The Winter Soldier" to deduce that a military building isn't what it's supposed to be - it is built in a way that is counter to regulations.
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