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Old 03-18-2016, 03:49 PM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Mechanic

Mechanic is the IQ/Average TL skill of finding and fixing problems with most kinds of machine. Specialisation is required, but the existing list of specialisations is a bit odd, because it avoids overlaps with fixing weapons (which is Armoury), some things that come under Professional skills and some uses of Machinist. The defaults are IQ-5, other Mechanic specialisations at -4 (subject to GM adjustment), Engineer for the same specialisation at -4, or Machinist-5; many Engineer specialisations have defaults to the corresponding Mechanic. Familiarity with the type of machine being dealt with and equipment modifiers can be very important. It looks as if there's a minor error in Basic: (Clockwork) is listed as a Mechanic specialisation under Engineer, but not under Mechanic.

Artificer talent boosts Mechanic; Flexibility helps with rolls in confined spaces, and High Manual Dexterity and Ham-Fisted affect DX-based rolls. Mechanic is often needed for characters with the Maintenance disadvantage and is, naturally, a repair skill in design/repair/use triads. The skill dates from GURPS 1e, where it was specifically a Vehicle skill and had the first beginnings of the concept of required specialisation built in; the current structure of specialisations dates from 4e.

Mechanic is common on skill templates for characters who deal with machines, often as an adjunct to vehicle-operation skills. Action also uses it for planting bombs in vehicles and otherwise making them into traps, and reviving shot-up vehicles. Fantasy adds (Muscle Engines), and Fantasy-Tech has too many new specialisations to list. High-Tech adds detail on tool kits, and Low-Tech adds (Optical Instruments), plus (Mill Equipment) in LTC3. Magic has a spell that's useful for Mechanic as well as Lockpicking. PU2, PU3 and PU7 all have examples for this skill and Powers, Enhanced Senses and Psionic Powers have abilities that can boost it. Powers: The Weird adds (Millwork), which is the same thing as (Mill Equipment) and (Musical Instruments). Reign of Steel: Will to Live is full of Mechanics, since it's the basic "medical" skill for robots. SEALs in Vietnam adds (Life-Support Equipment) and (Propellers), Space has (Battlesuit), which presumably ought to be Armoury (Battlesuit), and Spaceships (Life Support), (Mecha), (Mining) and (Refineries). Ultra-Tech has rules for toolkits for large vehicles, also known as shipyards. Underground Adventures adds (Conveyors), (Power Tools) and (Pumping Equipment).

Overall, GURPS supplements have expanded the Machine Type category of specialisation greatly, but the other three types of specialisation hardly at all. There are some definite oddities in the specialisation rules for vehicles. I've mostly been thinking about this for a TL6-7 WWII campaign, where, for example, (Heavy Wheeled) for trucks gives a default to (Automobile) at -4 by RAW, although the Driving specialisations mutually default at -2, and the underlying technologies are very similar. For aircraft, if we stick to TL6 piston-engine planes, (Light Aircraft) covers everything from a WWI wooden biplane to a Spitfire, P-51 or FW 190, and is -4 away from (Heavy Aircraft), although the smaller of those are far more like the P-51 than the P-51 is like a Sopwith Camel. You could bodge that by using Mechanic (Wooden Aircraft) and (Metal Aircraft) instead of (Light) and (Heavy) at TL6, or you could say that the Mechanic default penalty is the smaller of -4 and the operating skill default penalty. And you still have a problem if the light aircraft has the same engine as a multi-engine heavy aircraft.

Improving this seems like a good idea. Something that might make it fit together a bit better would be to have Vehicle Type specialisations exclude the power plant. That would mean a TL6-8 car mechanic would need at least two specialisations, (Automobile) and (Gasoline Engine), and would benefit from adding (Heavy Wheeled) and (Diesel Engine). It looks neater, but skill bloat usually does: has anyone got a better idea?
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Old 03-18-2016, 05:50 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Mechanic

Mechanic is one skill that I usually just say, "pick a specialty or two, or raise it to an IQ/H skill that covers all specialties except microtechnology and nanotechnology"; those two specializations, for various reasons, are I find a bit too specialized to be rolled into a more generic "one grade higher" skill.

(The basis for this is actually a reverse engineering of the optional specialization rules taken in the opposite direction.)

There's a lot of potential overlap with Mechanic specialties. Sometimes the trick is finding the right combination; other times you want to house-rule something slightly broader.

Just my G$0.02 ($0.10USD) worth.
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Old 03-19-2016, 03:42 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Mechanic

Overlaps are hard work here. The solution I've generally seen is that a character whose role is as a general mechanic, as opposed to someone who knows the basics of looking after his own vehicle, has several different specialisations from one of the four categories (usually Vehicle Type) and doesn't venture into the other categories at all.

I'm distinctly unconvinced that Gasoline and Diesel engines are separate skills with -4 between them. Having done a bit of work on both, I think they're at least 80% common. Sure, treating one sort of plant exactly like the other will get you into trouble, but I think this is more like a familiarity penalty. (In Europe diesel cars are far more common than in North America, and that's what I'm thinking of - I'd be ready to believe that a 2,300-ton marine diesel is an entirely different sort of beast!) Anyone have more experience of shifting between gasoline/diesel?

The Heavy/Light vehicle distinctions seem more arbitrary than many. I would assume that changing a tyre on an eighteen-wheeler is rather more complex than jacking up one corner, but Heavy Wheeled goes all the way down to five tons, which really isn't all that different. See previous discussion on Driving and Piloting. I note that the boundary for a standard American driving licence is 13 short tons, which might well make more sense. (In the UK it's a mere 3.85 tons!)

Mechanic takes standard equipment modifiers. One could argue for tougher ones; you can stop bleeding with shirts and sticks, but if you don't have some sort of spanner that greasy tight nut isn't going to move. At TL8, you may end up using Computer Programming to persuade the vehicle's management computer that yes, things aren't normal, but you really need it to work anyway.
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Old 03-19-2016, 08:02 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Mechanic

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Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
I'm distinctly unconvinced that Gasoline and Diesel engines are separate skills with -4 between them. Having done a bit of work on both, I think they're at least 80% common.
Are you confident you actually have skill in one of them? Default + familiarity in one, and default without familiarity in the other could plausibly look like this.
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Old 03-19-2016, 08:07 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Mechanic

I know I've generally not paid a terrible amount of attention to official specialties here. I just put down what the specialty is and called it a day.

In the Invent/Build/Use Triad, Mechanic is odd because the skill says nothing about Building, only repairing, but I'm fairly sure it gets used that way anyways.
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Old 03-19-2016, 08:14 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Mechanic

The triads are actually design/repair/use, per B192. Building machines that aren't Armoury is a little vague, but Mechanic seems to be one of the skills required.
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Old 03-19-2016, 08:36 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Mechanic

It makes sense for there not to be much innovation of vehicle type specialties. The vehicle types are already more or less defined by the specialties of Boating, Driving, Pilot, Shiphandling, Submarine, and Teamster.
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Old 03-19-2016, 11:15 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Mechanic

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Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
I'm distinctly unconvinced that Gasoline and Diesel engines are separate skills with -4 between them. Having done a bit of work on both, I think they're at least 80% common. Sure, treating one sort of plant exactly like the other will get you into trouble, but I think this is more like a familiarity penalty. (In Europe diesel cars are far more common than in North America, and that's what I'm thinking of - I'd be ready to believe that a 2,300-ton marine diesel is an entirely different sort of beast!) Anyone have more experience of shifting between gasoline/diesel?
My stepfather was a Diesel and Gasoline engine mechanic (and hydraulics mechanic, and body repair, and vehicular structure repair, etc) and I learned to shadetree our cars and trucks growing up (and went to work him a few times on weekends and helped on the big rigs and construction equipment).

My answer: It's complicated.

'Civilian' passenger vehicles are close enough that I'd only assess a Familiarity penalty going from Diesel to Gasoline or vice versa as long as you were familiar with that model vehicle (IE you have Mechanic (Gasoline) and are used to working on 1/2-ton trucks, you can work on diesel 1/2-ton trucks with a only a small familiarity penalty, -2).

Moving up to larger vehicles...

With construction equipment it's the differences in the power conversion systems from drive train to hydraulics that will be the big difference (and different ways the drive trains convert power), so going from Diesel to Gasoline (or vice versa) I'd assess a full default penalty (unless I were using my standard "Just use Familiarity Penalties" House Rule below.


Honestly with skills like this I prefer to operate within the Familiarity penalty system rather than Default penalty. So if my Player's PC had Mechanic (Gasoline) and was familiar with Commercial Passenger Cars and was faced with repairing a Diesel Ten-Wheeler I'd slap a -6 on him and call it a day (-2 for drive train differences (four wheeler to ten wheeler), -2 gasoline to diesel, -2 different hydraulic subsystems). But I don't mind the extra 'paper work' that comes with the Familiarity system.

I also think there is that big a difference between the two vehicles and with most things, it's never just the engine you have to repair (there's always wiring problems, hydraulics that need looking at, struts that need tightening, etc). If it's literally just the engine, then you assess a smaller penalty.
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Last edited by evileeyore; 03-19-2016 at 11:21 AM.
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Old 03-19-2016, 12:15 PM   #9
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Mechanic

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Improving this seems like a good idea. Something that might make it fit together a bit better would be to have Vehicle Type specialisations exclude the power plant. That would mean a TL6-8 car mechanic would need at least two specialisations, (Automobile) and (Gasoline Engine), and would benefit from adding (Heavy Wheeled) and (Diesel Engine). It looks neater, but skill bloat usually does: has anyone got a better idea?
Given how few power plant types there are (only gasoline and diesel in most settings, adding gas turbine(?) in campaigns with a military focus, perhaps adding alcohol-only and multi-fuel in a post-apoc. setting, and only rarely adding fission and fusion engines in a retro/ah setting like Fallout) I'm not sure that the skill bloat problem is a genuine problem.

I might well do that it like that in my homebrew RPG, when it becomes to make those design decisions, to have separate skills for vehicle type and engine type - it makes sense.

I'd also add at least one broad "All Engines" type skill, oie not really recommended to buy in most worlds (it'd be too expensive) but useful in worlds where one is likely to encounter lots of engine types and thus may want to have all bases covered. For GURPS, a wildcard skill would be too broad for that (that'd be Mechanic!, and would cover far more than just all engine types), and wildcard skills also aren't appropriate for more realistic worlds, but the best approximation would be a VH skill that you can't learn unless you buy a small UB (maybe 5 points).

One thing that greatly interestes me is sabotage. Just damaging a vehicle or engine so it can't function is almost silly easy (you should be able to do that as a Dabbler, or even at default from IQ 10), but subtler forms of sabotage include a timed breakdown where the item is fiddled with such that it'll break down after 1d3+1 km of driving or after 1d6 hours of operation or whatever, and/or sabotage that is likely (or certain, for a very skilled saboteur mechanic) to be overlooked even if the vehicle or other item is examined or inspected before it's used. It's the kind a MacGyver type character would need to be able to do.
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Old 03-19-2016, 12:25 PM   #10
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Mechanic

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Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
The Heavy/Light vehicle distinctions seem more arbitrary than many. I would assume that changing a tyre on an eighteen-wheeler is rather more complex than jacking up one corner, but Heavy Wheeled goes all the way down to five tons, which really isn't all that different. See previous discussion on Driving and Piloting. I note that the boundary for a standard American driving licence is 13 short tons, which might well make more sense. (In the UK it's a mere 3.85 tons!)
I imagine the distinction might be about what kind of strain the moving parts of the vehicle is put under, when the vehicle is used.

A bicycle or a car causes only light strain. Maintenance is fairly easy, you don't have to look in a lot of places to find sudden faults, rather faults happen fairly predictably (cars have the "mileage" as a measurement).

A normal cargo truck, able to move maybe 6 or 10 or 15 tonnes of cargo, has its moving parts under heavy strain, so there's more that needs checking and more frequently, and failures are more likely to be catastrophic. Civilian airplanes and military cargo planes are in this category too, and trains.

One could posit a "very heavy" category, for vehicles that are under extreme strain when operating, covering mining equipment (excavators moving many tonnes of rock or sand/soil per hour, and operating 6 or 10 hours per day or even more), and also for combat aircraft, and perhaps futuristic giga-trucks for moving large amounts of cargo on roads, or gigantic three-storey trains depicted both in the AH novel "Fatherland" (used by the Third Reich to move families to Eastern Europe to colonzie it) and in Iain M. Banks "Consider Phlebas". Those could be under severe strain too when operating, or maybe not, maybe those should just count as "heavy".
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