Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Of Skill Synergies and Pseudoskills: A Flashing Blades House Rule

Skill Synergy

It’s possible for a character to have two skills that work well together. In general, having 5 or more ranks in one skill gives the character a +2 bonus on skill checks with each of its synergistic skills, as noted in the skill description. In some cases, this bonus applies only to specific uses of the skill in question, and not to all checks. Some skills provide benefits on other checks made by a character, such as those checks required to use certain class features. "Using Skills," The Hypertext d20 SRD
I like Flashing Blades' relatively spare skill list. It reminds me of pre-Mercenary "classic" Traveller, focused rather than expansive and with a strong sense of genre. I also appreciate that the skills as presented in the published adventures are synergistic, as seen in an example from "The Royal Hunt" in The Cardinal's Peril (p. 30):
A character with courtly graces may wish to distinguish himself in the King's presence (by making witty remarks, praising the King's policies, making fun of his enemies, etc.). This requires that the character have Etiquette skill, and that he make rolls against Charm and Wit (+2 to these rolls for Oratory skill, +1 for Social Rank 13 or more, -1 for each Social Rank below 9). (emphases added - BV)
Another example is found in "Scavenger Hunt" in Parisian Adventure (p. 29):
They could try to trick her out her bonbons somehow (by telling her they are not worthy of a Duchess, and offering to bring her a box of truly royal chocolates, perhaps). This would require a good idea from the players (as judged by the Gamemaster) and a successful roll on Charm (+2 for Oratory or Etiquette skill; +4 for both). (emphasis added - BV)
If we take examples from these adventures as referee advice, we see (1) one skill providing a bonus to skill checks for a different skill and (2) two skills providing additive bonuses to a single attribute check.

We also see multiple skills used as what I call gatekeeper skills, skills a character must possess to do or be something - 'you must be this tall to ride this ride.' Frex, in the core rules under 5.103 Minor Jobs (p. 39), in order to find a paying gig as an Actor, a character must have both the Disguise and Oratory skills, as well as Charm 13+, while a Gunsmith is required to be a Master of the Firearms skill and have Fine Manipulation as well. FB doesn't have either an Acting or Gunsmithing skill, but if your put those gatekeeper skills together, you get something like this:
Disguise + Oratory = Acting
Fine Manipulation + Firearms Master = Gunsmithing
And thus is born the "pseudoskill."

A pseudoskill is two skills taken together to represent a third skill not specifically covered by the rules as written. A pseudoskill may be created during character generation at a reduced cost in skill points; the first skill costs one, two, or three points per the existing rules, but the second skill costs only one point - the skill with the highest point cost in the pair is always the first skill. When used in tandem as a pseudoskill, each skill can expect to receive a check mark for purposes of experience; frex, sneaking past a Swiss Guard in the Louvre might get you a check mark for Stealth, but Stalking a stag on a royal hunt could earn you checks for both Stealth and Tracking if taken togther as a pseudoskill.

Here are a few examples, which are in no way intended to be exhastive.

Acrobatics + Horsemanship = Trick Riding

Leaping to or from a moving horse, riding while standing on the saddle, or concealing oneself behind a horse's neck and shoulder while firing a pistol would all fall under the Trick Riding pseudoskill.

Tracking + Stealth = Stalking

Moving quietly from cover to cover while tracking a quarry is a useful pseudoskill for poachers, gamekeepers, and sharpshooters.

Bargaining + Horsemanship = Horse Trading

A character with the Horse Trading pseudoskill can be expected to get a good price for a reliable mount, or at least end up not overpaying for a nag destined for the knackers.

Forgery + Fine Manipulation = Counterfeiting

Counterfeiters in the 17th century manufactured die stamps to change one coin into another; they also produced false seal stamps and signet rings to lend authenticity to a forged letter or document.

Magistracy + Theology = Canon Law
Magistracy + Banking = Contract Law

Lawyers who wish to specialize in Church or business law can create their own pseudoskills to represent their expertise.

Again, this list is not exhaustive; players should work with their Gamemasters to create their characters' pseudoskills as appropriate.

As for resolving a task, the Gamemaster should use the most appropriate base attribute with an automatic +2 or higher synergy bonus for the paired skill. Remember, a pseudoskill is in addition to the benefits provided by the base skills; a character with Acrobatics paired with Horsemanship for Trick Riding can still make normal checks and earn experience for swinging from chandeliers or somersaulting from a table.

Finally, characters may add new pseudoskills by learning two new skills or pairing a new skill with an existing skill; the training time for these skills is as per the core rules. A character who learns a new skill to create a pseudoskill with an existing skill may not receive the benefits of the pseudoskill until a checkmark is earned in the existing skill; frex, a character with Banking who learns Magistracy to create the Contract Law pseudoskill must first earn a checkmark in Banking before the pseudoskill takes effect.

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