I wanted to take a moment to discuss how you can change the way skills work in Krendel, which also means talking about how they work. Essentially there are four degrees of complication in Krendel, and, as written, it assumes that you will use two of them, but it also tells you how to easily change things around to use any of them you want.
These four degrees of complication are all based on whether or not you use two optional rules: Backgrounds as Skills (Krendel Core, page 33) and No Expertise (Krendel Core, page 48). Between these two rules you get the following options from most simple to most complicated:
- Backgrounds as skills and no expertise (default for NPCs)
- Normal skills and no expertise
- Backgrounds as skills and expertise
- Normal skills and expertise (default)
What do those mean? Well, let's take a look at each of the options and their components.
Backgrounds as Skills
In Krendel there are 16 skills. When you make a character you choose a background. Backgrounds are used to describe your character's training up to character creation. They are one or two word descriptors like soldier, scholar, assassin, etc. Each background is associated with 4 skills (e.g. Assassin is associated with Athletics, Intuition, Melee, and Stealth). During character creation, you are awarded free starting levels in your four background skills. Also, if you don't see a background on the list that you like, make one up! You can also change them to better suit your needs (e.g. swap the assassin's Melee for Projectile or Medical).
The Backgrounds as Skills optional rule changes things so you get levels in backgrounds in place of skills. This means that instead of being an Assassin with Athletics 1, Intuition 2, Melee 2, and Stealth 3, you would just be Assassin 2. Then when you are called upon to make a test with any of your four assassin skills, you'd just use your assassin level. This sort of turns Krendel into a class based system. Kind of. Not truly, but sort of.
Where I don't like to use Backgrounds as Skills for player characters, I highly recommend it for most NPCs (see Krendel Core, page 141). Do you really want to worry about the individual stats of five goons or would you rather just say they are all Soldier 2? In this way, the fully fleshed out PCs can still have a crazy amount of individuality and the faceless minions that all look alike really do all look alike. Plus, you can always give named and other important NPCs the full treatment.
Expertise is perhaps the trickiest part of the Krendel system. Where its not actually complicated, it is the entire opposite of how most other systems handle specificity within skills, and that trips people up.
Let's say you have a character with Academics 5. That is a really broad skill. It encompasses finances, history, literature, law, politics, puzzles, religions, and tactics. So does it make sense that a character with skill level 5 has a PHD in all of those subjects and is equally conversant in all of them? That's kind of insane, but that's what a raw skill level says. So we could accept this fiction because its simple, go the route of having a bazillion skills, or we could come up with something else. This is where expertise comes it.
A skill level of 2 is "competent". At this level we're saying that there's a lot of cross pollination between subjects, and up through level 2 your skill works just fine for everything. Beyond this point, you need to specialize your studies, focus on only one or two things. So if you have a skill level greater than 2, then you only use your full skill level if you have the appropriate expertise. Otherwise, your effective skill level is 2.
Say what? OK, example time.
Ginger graduated West Point top of her class. She has Academics 4 and expertise in tactics. Whenever her Academics is used (i.e. as a requirement or for a test), if it is tactics related, she is level 4. If it is related to finances, history, literature, law, politics, puzzles, or religions, then it is level 2.
This approach helps us keep the number of skills to 16 and still maintain some fairly realistic looking characters. However, lets face it, that can be a little complicated, especially since, in practice, it is the opposite of what many people expect in games. So, if you don't like expertise, don't use it! Its that simple.
Again, I recommend this approach for most NPCs, since you shouldn't have to worry about super detailed stats. Those goons really just look like this: Human (Health 8), Soldier 2, Light Pistol, Kevlar Vest. Super simple, but, as you can see from everything above, you can make them more complex if you like.
Oh, I should mention that when you hit level 2, you automatically get one expertise and you can buy more with XP.
As mentioned above, the default assumption for all the rules is that you will use expertise. It is much easier to look at "Acrobatics (Tumbling)" and know to drop the "Tumbling" part if you aren't using expertise than it is to look at "Acrobatics" and then remember some generally worded rule about what expertise to apply.
So yeah, there you have it. Use Backgrounds as Skills or don't and use expertise or don't to give your game the level of complication, realism, and simplicity that you want. After all, its your game, play it the way you want!