Restructuring Skills & Powers

Working on Krendel's revision has mostly been a matter of polishing what was already there and introducing a setting. There wasn't much innovation between the published version and the revision, but now there may be. Its a big change, so I'm still looking at how everything will shake out, but, on the  whole, it looks good. What's the change? I killed skills. Well, not exactly.

I typically refer to Krendel as a classless system, not a skill based one. In a pure skill based system you buy your skill levels and that's it. I want both horizontal and vertical growth for Krendel. Skills give vertical growth as you chase the next level for a +1, but, frankly, there's only so much flavor there. Horizontal growth is where the flavor is. Wizards traditionally get this in spades as they get new spells. In AD&D 2nd ed Skills & Powers, everyone got this. A more modern example is Guild Wars (mainly the first, but also the second). Krendel has a lot of powers for cool stuff that allow for horizontal growth. As published, you need skills to meet requirements. This led to something of a war of requirements. How do I make sure people buy powers and skills together? 

While noodling this issue (again) I hit upon the solution, or at least I think I have. That solution was to throw out skills. OK, not really. Well, two of them were thrown out. Let me back up. If I go forward with this change, you won't be able to buy skills directly anymore. You can only buy powers (renamed to abilities), expertise, and maybe remove traits. As you buy abilities, your skills naturally increase. As you can imagine, this stirs things up quite a bit.

On the mechanics front, some powers were associated with more than one skill. For example, efficient fabrication needed Crafting or Science. For this to work, each power could only be associated with one skill. So some abilities lost attachment to some skills. Efficient fabrication is now clearly a Crafting ability, even though it can affect Science. Other abilities have had to split, like several of the strikes, so there's now separate ones for Melee and Projectile, which amusingly is how it was during early playtests way back when. 

There's also the issue of some skills having more abilities than others, after all, sorcery has a bunch of spells and rituals and they all run off Science. Well, diminishing returns on your skill improvement handles that, but it is an issue that has highlighted how some skills definitely need more abilities and how others have perhaps too may. Fun fact, the three skills with the most abilities, looking only at core, are Influence, Intuition, and Melee. 

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This has also forced a simplification on ability requirements, which makes thing much easier for the end user, and not just the math guy making this stuff up. This has cascaded into faster character creation as you don't have to look at the powers you want and make sure you select the right skills for them. You skip skills and just pick powers,... er, abilities. Also, character advancement; XP has simply disappeared (that blew my mind a little). 

There's a host of other mechanical changes that cascade from this as well. It'll be a while before its all typed up and formalized, but preliminary results are far better than anticipated. The notes alone for mechanical evaluation came out at 15 pages, but there's also setting effects that aren't yet documented. 

One thing I've wondered allowed to myself on multiple occasions: If a world has magic, what's to stop anyone from learning spells? This was particularly important for Ravishan, the empire of sorcery. Requiring class, or in Krendel's case, skill levels before you could buy magic was always the barrier. Shadowrun had this cool thing going with essence as well, forcing you to choose between cybernetics and magic. Without skills (and cybernetics running differently), what's the barrier? Mechanically? None. You just need to find a teacher. That means that the barriers to magic or special abilities are primarily social and/or financial ones. This was already the case, but its now more pronounced since you don't need that 3xp investment in Science or Academics before you had to convince a teacher or sell your soul. It makes it starkly clear that the reason Joe carpenter doesn't use earth magic in his everyday life is because he couldn't get someone to teach him or didn't want to spend the money: Those with power want to keep it and will only teach it if they get something more out of the deal. Meanwhile, Jane carpenter has joined up with the medieval sorcerous conglomerate and her household looks a bit more like a magicked up version of Flintstone's place.