Fading Suns and Flaming Heresies
Natural skills are the basic talents inherent to almost everyone. The holiest Ur-Obun has some idea of how to whack somebody, while the lowliest serf knows the basics of trying to impress those around her. Every character starts with three levels in each of these and can buy them up to eight at the beginning of play. Only experience, exceptional training or lost technology can raise them to 10.
This section describes each of the skills as well as a few examples of how to use them in play. Gamemasters should feel free to use or ignore these examples as they so desire. They should also expect players to come up with their own variations on these, and accept or reject them based on how fun they make the game.
This is the ability to get people to like you. It can be used to ingratiate yourself to someone, reduce their hostility to you, enable you to con them or even make them fall in love with you. Characters should use this skill whenever they hope to leave someone else with a better view of them than they started with. This skill usually only works on individuals and small groups; swaying larger groups requires Oratory or Leadership.
Dupe: While conning, swindling or lying generally requires a Knavery roll (see Learned Skills), Charm can be used to complement the roll. After all, someone who likes you is far more willing to overlook inconsistencies in your story. This Extrovert + Charm roll works as any other complementary roll.
Haggling: If a character wants to negotiate a lower priceon an object or more pay for a service, gamemasters have the option to either roleplay the bargaining out or save time with a roll. Roll Wits + Charm. The level of successes will generally represent a percentage change in the price (from 5 to 10 percent per level). Thus if Julia Abrams was trying to reduce the cost for renting a starship from 1000 Firebirds to 500, she would have to get 15 successes — assuming the gamemaster allowed each success to equal a 10 percent price cut.
Seduction: One of the more popular uses of Charm, the seduction rules can come into play whether the character is sincere or not. This is almost always a series of Passion + Charm rolls carried out whenever the character and his target are together. Gamemasters might want to set a number of victory points the character must achieve before his feelings are reciprocated. This number is often based on the target’s Introvert score or some multiplier thereof.
This encompasses all kinds of different ways of avoiding an attack — bobbing and weaving, ducking, leaping over a kick or diving for cover. A successful dodge usually leaves a character about where he was when he made the roll, but players can also specify that their characters end up as far from the attack as possible.
Close Combat: Dodging in hand-to-hand or melee combat is primarily a matter of seeing an attack and getting out of its way. This is almost always a Dexterity + Dodge roll contested against an attacker’s roll (the number of successes reduces the number the attacker rolls). Gamemasters may require Perception + Dodge rolls to avoid sneak attacks or Endurance + Dodge during a long fight.
Ranged Combat: Dodging in ranged combat is primarily a matter of seeing an attacker and getting to cover before the bullet, laser or whatever can strike. Throwing oneself flat on the ground can help, but gamemasters should penalize those trying to dodge missile attacks if there is no cover around. This is almost always a Dexterity + Dodge roll contested against an attacker’s roll.
Fight represents a character’s ability in unarmed hand-to-hand combat. Low levels generally mean a character rarely gets into fights and, when he does, is little more than a brawler. Higher levels imply that a character has fought a lot, had advanced training in the subject, or both. Extensive training in hand-to-hand combat can also mean having the character learn some martial arts (see Combat Actions, under Learned Skills). More detailed rules on Fight are in Combat.
While Charm helps a character make other people like her, Impress can have any number of effects on its target. A character might want to scare someone, gain her respect, browbeat her into submission or just make sure she remembers something. This can be a useful skill for getting information out of people, though that sometimes requires torture.
Dominate: If you want someone to respect you, or just want them to feel inferior to you, roll Extrovert + Impress. These successes generally compare to the target’s Ego to see how inferior he feels. Of course, if you are trying to dominate someone in a more romantic manner, roll Passion + Impress and compare the successes to the target’s Calm.
Intimidate: This is generally a physical action as the character puffs out her chest, flexes her muscles and glares at her adversary. She rolls Strength + Impress and hopes that the target doesn’t have a lot of Ego. This is a good way to get someone she has been beating on to surrender.
Show-Off: Characters will often want to let everyone know how great they are in certain areas. The best way to do this is with the relevant characteristic + Impress. This demonstrates not only the character’s talent but also the fact that he can carry it out in an awe-inspiring way. For instance, if Julia Abrams wanted to show an Engineer that she was an authority on cybernetics, she would roll Tech + Impress to dazzle him with her brilliance. If Brother Alustro needs to convince an Inquisitor of his dedication to the Church, he should roll Faith + Impress — or else run really fast (see Vigor, below).
While Fight deals with unarmed combat, Melee takes into account all the hand-to-hand weapons, be they clubs, energy swords, rapiers or poisoned daggers. The most talented characters generally also learn various fencing actions (see Combat Actions, under Learned Skills). The uses of Melee are more fully explored in Combat.
Some people stay constantly aware of the world around them, and others have to work at it — and still remain oblivious to everything else. The Observe skill generally reflects a person’s innate sensitivity to the world around him. When she actually tries to see what’s going on she should use Inquiry or Search. Thus a sentry would generally need Observe while someone frisking an infiltrator would need Search.
Detection: This is a catch-all category for noticing things that aren’t as they should be. For instance, if Cardanzo needs to notice that a cane actually doubles as a laser, he would need to roll Tech + Observe. If Erian Li Halan is around a strange-acting Vorox, she would need to roll Wits + Observe to notice that his low rumblings and stillness mean that something is wrong.
Notice: Things are constantly happening, but that doesn’t mean the character is necessarily aware of them. To hear that assassin sneaking up or to see the scorpion in the weapons locker requires a Perception + Observe roll. The observer needs to roll more successes than the sneaker made on her Dexterity + Sneak roll.
Shoot covers any portable missile weapon that doesn’t rely on muscle power. This means muskets, lasers, blasters, assault rifles, flamers, stunners and all sorts of weird alien guns. It does not cover such areas as artillery and most ship or vehicle-mounted guns. For more information on using Shoot, see Combat.
Characters do a lot of things that they don’t want other people to notice. Sneak takes that into account, and applies to actions like moving quietly, hiding, using camouflage or slipping past sentries. It almost always applies to physical actions, and attempts to sneak into a computer database require science skills, not Sneak.
Camouflage: Concealing oneself is mostly a matter of using the right concealment. Thus characters need to roll Wits + Sneak in order use the materials at hand to best effect.
Hide: Staying still and not being seen is a combination of a number of factors. First it requires that a character fit his body into a suitable hiding place. After that he must stay as still as possible to keep from attracting attention. The first roll is a Dexterity + Sneak roll, but latter rolls require Calm + Sneak.
Move Quietly: Many characters like to skulk around without being noticed. This is an attempt to move without making noise, and generally requires a Dexterity + Sneak roll. The sneaker needs to roll more successes than a listener makes on a Perception + Observe roll.
This skill takes into account many of the physical activities in which people engage. Running, jumping, swimming, climbing, and more all fall into this category. Almost everyone has at least some familiarity with these activities, but most people have not had any real training in them.
Characters with more extensive training, and who want to make neat rolls and flips, should buy the Acrobatics learned skill.
Some of the rolls listed here give specific details on how far a character can run, jump or swim, but gamemasters should not feel tied to these. For the most part, Vigor rolls are all or nothing affairs. Either the character leapt from the grav car to the galloping horse or else he fell on his face.
The distance guidelines are only there for special circumstances.
Climbing: For slow, determined climbing, players should roll Dexterity + Vigor to determine how quickly their characters do it. Getting no successes does not necessarily mean the character falls. Instead she moves neither up nor down, and needs to succeed on a second roll. Characters who are climbing as fast as they can, however, should make a Strength + Vigor roll, illustrating the fact that they are sacrificing safety for speed. Failing this roll could very well cause them to lose their grip. Gamemasters should also feel free to penalize mountain climbers who don’t have the appropriate equipment. Gamemasters might also want to penalize characters climbing especially tough mountains but ignore rolls for going up trees.
Holding Your Breath: Endurance + Vigor — and a little luck — determines how long a character can hold his breath before suffocating, or more likely, giving up and gulping for air even when underwater. A character can hold his breath for a number of turns equal to 10 plus his Endurance without having to make a roll. Each turn thereafter, roll Endurance + Vigor. Only one success is necessary, but it gets harder and harder as time passes: the character suffers a -1 penalty each turn after the first in which a roll was made (a character with Endurance 5 does not have to roll until the seventeenth turn; on the eighteenth turn, he suffers -1 to his roll, -2 on the nineteenth, etc.). A critical success will allow the character an extra turn in which he does not have to roll, and Steady Hand (see Calm, below) can be used to offset these penalties. If he rolls a critical failure, he falls unconscious. When a character fails his roll, he can no longer hold his breath.
Jumping: Jumping horizontally or vertically requires a Strength + Vigor roll. A character goes up two feet + one per victory point. With a running start he can leap forward 8 feet + one for every success. From a standing start he can jump forward 4 feet + one for every victory point.
Running: Racing on foot requires a number of different rolls depending on far the character wants to go. Getting a good jump and running fastest over short distances requires a Dexterity + Vigor roll. Longer distances require Endurance + Vigor rolls — often more than one. For gamemasters who need to figure out just how much distance a character has covered in one turn, the average person sprints 10 meters + number of successes on a Dexterity + Vigor roll.
During combat, if a character wants to use one of his multiple actions to run, he may move one meter per point of Vigor. Otherwise, he may move only one meter any direction per action.
Swimming: Swimming is much like running in that short distances require a Dexterity + Vigor roll while longer distances use one or more Endurance + Vigor rolls. Each turn characters can swim one meter per victory point. A character must have at least five levels of Vigor in order to even know how to swim. Four levels is enough to tread water, however.