As mentioned last time, there's been a couple of notable changes in the rules, the effects of which are far reaching enough that I'm still going through everything. That progress has been slowed by a family vacation and HBS's new Battletech game, which is absolutely amazing. I've spent way too much time on it. Anyhow, let's look at a couple of the changes, and then redo one of the archetypes to illustrate how they work.
The relationship between skills and abilities (once called powers) have changed radically. First, you no longer buy skills directly. Second, each power was reworked so that it is associated with only one skill (this also radically simplified requirements). Now, the first two abilities of each tier associated with a skill increase that skill by 1. That's wordy, so here's an example:
You buy armor training, lesser fitness, and lesser fortitude, all of which are lesser Athletics abilities. Armor training and lesser fitness each give you +1 to your Athletics, but lesser fortitude does not. If you had another, say weapon training, then you meet the requirement (4 lesser Athletics abilities) to buy the power lesser athletics prowess, which simply gives you +1 to your Athletics. Once you have five lesser abilities of the same element, in this case Physical, then you can get a greater Athletics ability, which would also give +1 as its a new tier.
The above caused some reshuffling. Some non-ability actions, like tracking, became abilities. The reshuffle also showed how weak some skills were in terms of their breadth of application, which resulted in their removal. Artistry was mostly split between Crafts and Stealth, which picked up a new expertise, and Ranging was split between Intuition and Science (Biology). Ranging already had a lot in common with both, so it largely evaporated meekly. Finally, one expertise got the boot (Athletic's mobility).
Expertise comes into play as two expertises = one lesser ability for the purpose of skill level and ability requirements. So in the above, rather than picking up weapon training, if you just had both expertises for Athletics, you'd meet the requirements for lesser athletics prowess.
All of the above changed character creation and advancement. You no longer buy skills with skill points. Instead you pick abilities, which define how you learned a skill. Someone with armor training and someone with weapon training will both have Athletics 1, but the story in how they got it and what it means to them is clearly different.
Advancement is also much easier. XP is gone. Instead at the end of a game session the GM offers you a number of options reflecting what you did in the game, and you choose one to represent what you learned. An option is an ability, an expertise, or half a trait. How the GM offers those options is up to her. She can ask the other players for suggestions or even just ask you directly. Entirely her call.
As you can probably guess, there's a dozen or so changes stemming from all of that and a couple of tweaks on top of it all that aren't necessary for what comes next. If your eyes haven't completely glazed over, lets demonstrate all the above. We'll skip directly to the mechanics of character creation, and we'll (re)build the Guardsman archetype from a couple of months ago.
Starting Traits: Skipping species traits, we get to choose two beneficial traits, like before. The guardsman had Agile (Limber) and Robust (Solid). These still each give an expertise. From Agile, we'll take melee expertise: balanced, and from Robust we'll take athletics expertise: endurance.
Choosing Abilities: We automatically start with our native language, this does not contribute to a skill. Next we have to choose a background and then we choose three more abilities or expertises.
Background: The guardsman ran off the soldier background. This gives us armor training (Athletics), diamond leaf (Melee), squad tactics (Academics), academics expertise: tactics, athletics expertise: any, melee expertise: shields. You may remember that when you first get a skill that you get one expertise associated with that skill. Its still true, as we see here. Its just based on abilities instead of directly on skills. We have to make a choice for the ones listed as "any", so we'll take athletics expertise: vigor since we already have endurance.
Choose three more: We'll take lesser alertness (Intuition), far shot (Projectile), and taunt (Influence). From these we'll pick up intuition expertise: urban, projectile expertise: mechanical, and influence expertise: forceful.
Academics 1 - tactics; squad tactics (1 ability)
Athletics 2 - endurance, vigor; armor training (2 expertises + 1 ability)
Influence 1 - forceful; taunt (1 ability)
Intuition 1 - urban; lesser alertness (1 ability)
Melee 2 - balanced, shields; diamond leaf (2 expertises + 1 ability)
Projectile 1 - mechanical; far shot (1 ability)
Grab your equipment and we're done.
Let's say our first game session has a lot of talking and a touch of sneaking, not much fighting. Based on the RP and actions attempted, the GM feels that this character could learn one of the following: inspire (Influence), influence expertise: manipulative, intuition expertise: reading people, or unobtrusive (Stealth). Choose one, write it down, and we're done.
This guardsman isn't 100% the same as our original. She's got more abilities (what the backgrounds gave changed from skill levels to abilities) and slightly different and lower skills (base target number is now 5+Skill to compensate), but I feel the character also has more flavor built in from the start. There's a more clear idea of who she is and how she got here because you're not just picking skills. Instead you're picking how you learned those skills.
As an added benefit, the process of character creation is quicker as there's no counting of skill points or trait points involved. Its just pick two things, then one thing, then three things, then grab your gear. Now, those choices might take you a while, but that's a different story. If you have a solid concept in mind, then its easier.
Since you don't get automatic skill levels for abilities of the same tier after the first two, you are encouraged to pick a breadth of abilities, at least at the start, to increase your stable of skills. Exceptions to this will happen, especially when non-core abilities are involved (your priest probably wants more than 2 prayers). You may also jump very quickly to the next tier and get skill levels that way, which is fine. I see most professionals in a skill as having a 3 or 4 skill level, which means having some greater powers.
As illustrated, advancement is also easier. There's no tracking of XP involved; you just pick a thing. You still have agency in that your choices of advancement are dictated by your actions. Plus you can always train using actions like teach, study manual, etc. to just outright dictate what advancement you get, but that's OK because it again reflects what you have done in character.