Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Craftsman Skills: Mandatory, Beneficial, or Fluff?

This is a guest post by Andrew Mills.

So recently I have began discussing the use of Craftmen Other skills (or COs
as they are commonly referred to) in NERO.  The skills current use in many
chapters is not what the skill was orignally created to do.  To my understanding
the skill was orginally created for profit back when one gold was making a haul
at an event.  These craftmen skills were orginally simple jobs like baker,
mason, brewer, etc.  Over the years the skill has evolved into a knowledge skill
in many chapters.  One that is used to garner further information from plot;
examples include CO: undead lore, ancient runes, etc.  Some arguement has been
risen over the use of these skills as it seems some plot members in the past
have made them almost manditory to further a plotline.  I hope to express my
views here on the topic and hopefully come to a peaceful concensus on the use of
these skills.

The basis of the arguement against them is a sound one; that knowledge of an
in-game (IG) subject should be learned IG and no other way.  I cannot argue
against this completely.  To make the game world more immersive players need to
learn as much about it as they can.  Note that this does not mean to force feed
them information but make the information available to them with varying levels
of difficulty obtaining it according to subject.  I play with COs as a knowledge
skill and have been told before that I could not take a certain CO due to the
availablity of the information, which was the correct move on the side of plot.
Information is a powerful tool most cannot argue against, from the easiest IG
knowledge to obtain, such as major crop harvests and main travel routes, to the
more difficult to obtain, such as the lore of an ancient civilization or the
magical theories surrounding time or void magic.

The problems with this arguement is the inconsistency between chapters.  How
is one chapter suppose to know the time and investment you have put in learning
the information you know from another.  As plot is written sometimes the
interaction or manor a force is used and manipulated is varied from what it may
be somewhere else.  Having something written like a CO allows plot teams to know
your character's knowledge on a subject and can point out these differences out
to you.  Of course this is just one example.

The fear that the use of these skills in such a manner can lead to a more
tabletop oriented game, where skill checks are needed and such is a valid one.
If plot teams start relaying solely on COs for the information they give out and
making certain COs needed to further plot they only feed this fear and hinder
who and how players can interact with plot.  My feel on this point is that COs
should never be manditory to further plot they could be used to garner clues on
the subject if related.  For example, my character has studied ancient runes,
meaning I know a few runes personally (enough to encode my alchemy recipe
book).  Now in this case if plot wanted they could give me a clue in order to
make the translation easier based on my knowledge they know I have due to my
CO.  Say I have CO: ancient runes with one rank in it they could give me one
letter or one clue if I ask for it.  The plot member could have created the
runes or just wish that no clue be given which is perfectly fine and up to them,
just if the runes are based in no system of real world runes how is my study of
them to yield any worth or merit IG.

My biggest concern for not using COs is the mantainence of character
concept.  I go to event perhaps once a month if I am lucky, while my character
lives in this world 24/7 and it only seems logical that he would know more of
it.  Perhaps some would rather time invested out of game be manditory to learn
of subjects, and I'm not saying that some time between game should not be
invested in study.  Just as we invest time creating our boffers, armor, or reps
or making the money to purchase them.  Though I do not like seeing those that do
not have as much time out of game be hindered for this when they already go out
of their way to find the time and money to come to events.  We do not want our
game to become some collection of elitists that make no accomidations to the
casual gamers, just like many MMOs have done.  If we can have skills that make
me swing harder without lifting weights, or more agile without real world
training, then why not have a skill that makes me smarter or more knowledgable
about a subject.  I play NERO to be someone I'm not, to escape for one weekend a
month. I do not play the soldier, or use alot of military tactics, or always
follow the rules of the IG society.  I play someone who is fun for me, who helps
me escape the troubles of the real world and release my woes for a weekend, and
if I want to play someone smarter then who I am in real life why should I not be
able to.  Perhaps one day a skill will be created in the rules for these
knowledge skills, but until then I am please with the evolution COs have gone
under in many chapters into these knowledge skills.  They should not be needed
to further plot, but clues should be able to be given if wanted.  They should be
more then just gold, because making coin is not why I play this game.

As this is still an open debate I am having with some people I look forward to
any thoughts or feedback on this topic and hope we can keep this as civil as we
have up to this point.


  1. Mark Henry ~MariusJanuary 26, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    Great topic.

    I feel COs have an added bonus to the game, but I feel the current system is inadequate.

    COs provide background for a character and a roleplay aspect (the roleplay aspect could just as easily be simply roleplayed though). They also provide a build point dump; higher lvl chars sometimes feel like they have all the skills they need and just dump points into COs from there on out.

    Plot lines requiring a certain CO are not necessarily bad, as long as they plan for a PC not having said CO and having an alternative path. ie. the party needs a skilled tracker to find person X and don't have 1 in party, they may a.have to find the tracker and b.complete a quest for him.

    I see a lot of abuse of COs, where people try to gain endless information about creatures which breaks the atmosphere. If someone wants to be an expert on a creature and know stuff. When they ask the NPC questions all they should have to give is the monster name and leave it to the PC to know what abilities it has. If it is a new monster for them allow them to investigate the npc after it dies and share a little info off the card.

    I also feel you shouldn't be able to get a CO in everything. I would rather see a CO tree, something similar to World of War Craft talent trees. Where you know you need CO X to get Y and Z. and where you can't just get Z automatically. Also maybe weight some COs a hire build cost. C.O Planar Travel is 3BP so is CO Baker. Planar travel is going to be a hell of a lot more useful and someone would pay more for it(gold), maybe it should be 6BP a lvl.

  2. "If we can have skills that make me swing harder without lifting weights, or more agile without real world training, then why not have a skill that makes me smarter or more knowledgeable about a subject."

    I think this is your greatest point! So often I feel that I don't know a lot of things about the world of Nero--which is true, considering I've only been playing for 1.5 years now--and COs have been a major way for me to actually feel relevant. I don't know about farming, but if I am playing a character who lived on a farm all her life...wouldn't she know a thing or two?

    What's more, let's consider for a moment that when we spend BP it represents TIME (ex. I spent 3 BP/a few days in order to learn more about alchemy and be able to create more elixirs or gases because of this training). This should work the same for knowledge. It makes sense that you can spend BP on something like knowledge, because learning knowledge takes time--just like learning alchemy or how to hit harder or dodge faster.

    What's wrong with saying, "I spent 5 days reading every book in the library about Goblins"? Nothing. That 3BP then represents that amount of time within the game's structure--and presents a mechanic that can actually be used in-game.

    However, as Marius mentioned, the idea of having a CO tree or some sort of new system might be worthwhile. Just like when I want to learn alchemy, I must first learn to read and to write, as well as Herbal Lore. It should likely be the same with knowledge--although this does limit what sort of things you can study (because let's face it: no one has the time to create a tree for EVERY CO).

  3. The only problem with a tree is that CO's aren't limited. You can take a craftsmen in anything, someone would have to be locked in a cell and work on different CO trees and costs for years in order to come up with anything worthwhile. And not just anyone could make it, it would have to be something in the core rules. What I mean is that someone in NCN can take void lore no problem, but someone from WAR would have to get other planar craftsmens first. That ncn player can come down with a CO costing him 3 that cost someone in war probably 20builds worth of other things.

  4. Anything that causes you to stop acting as your character and speak to the plot staff or marshal is bad for the game. Nothing rips me out of the game world faster than someone chirping, "CO Monster lore! Was that a Jabberwocky? CO Planar metaphysical knowledge! What is the meaning of life??" If the plot team wants to give out clues to people with certain applicable Crafstman skills, that's fine, but they should do so completely at their discretion. It's quite easy to make a list of characters with CO's and note the ones who get clues, then delivering those clues at the appropriate time.

    The same thing goes for this awful "group mind" thing I've seen with increasing frequency. It immediately takes you out-of-character. Also, it does not state in the rulebook that Group Mind grants you a special form of communication that other people can't hear - it just grants you immunities.

    @Leon: Craftsman skills actually ARE limited. According to the description of the skill in the book, you are supposed to pick a real medieval trade, not any obscure RPG skill from some other game (or of your own invention.) So smuggler, carpenter, and tanner are fine, but planar lore is not. You can sort of work around this by contriving a trade skill that provides the knowledge you want - sage, archivist and scribe are the most common - but IMO, even that is outside the scope of the intention of the skill.

  5. I agree, CO questions would ideally be asked at the beginning or end of a mod and NEVER during combat or anything like that.

    I don't mind so much the obscure skills if they know it is and just want something to dump points in and make their sheet unquie. I mean I've seen things that are yellow or cunning linguist and they didnt expect anything from them, but the one time i saw the skill used it was like winning the lottery...

    But it's always plot's discretion whether to give any information at all

  6. Like I told Andrew when he asked what I thought, I run the game that people want tempered with my own understanding of the system. I do not see CO usage as knowledge skills as a serious detriment to the system but I also do not enjoy using them when I PC. Keep this debate civil guys and realize that at least half of the staff of LarpOhio has no particular buy in to this conversation.

  7. Every time someone says "keep it civil," a forum troll loses its wings. :( :(

  8. I think everyone's already pointed out the things that I think are important:
    * COs have changed over time and this is a good thing.
    * Some people cheese COs and this is annoying.
    * OOG talk breaks immersion and should be avoided.
    * No CO should make or break a mod.

    I like the idea of a talent tree, but even if it were properly built, I could see COs purchased with it as being more prone to making or breaking a mod. Then again, with a system that was built for it, I don't know if that would be an issue.

    omega, Group Mind (pg 94 of the rulebook) says that "What one of them sees or experiences, they all know; however, Holds cannot be called for the NPCs to converse." The immunities are the sentence after that.

    Also, per the National Craftsmen Skills page, COs are no longer limited to just professions. In particular, planar lore skills are listed here. "Craftsman skills are knowledge skills. A craftsman skill can represent a trade or knowledge that your character has learned, through roleplaying or at some time in your character's history. These skills do not affect combat directly, nor do they allow your character to use production skills, though they may help your character to gain in-game information or to succeed in life other than adventuring or in conjunction with adventuring."

  9. Now that is an excellent link, good find.