Soliloquy on Skills

Some notes re: spending points on skills at character generation.

Spending Points

You should never spend more than 15-20 points on skills (25 max). After you've spent that much, you might as well just raise an attribute (or two). This means that you should only spend around 80 points on attributes and advantages, so you have some points left over for skills.

Look over the skills you are picking. If the clear majority of the skills you are picking are physical, just raise your DX. Likewise, if the majority of the skills you are picking are mental, just raise your IQ. Be cognizant of advantages which modify skills (i.e. double jointed, eidedit memory, voice, etc.)

With very few exceptions, you should never spend more than 4 points on a single physical skill, because the next stage up is 8 points, at which time you may as well simply cough up 2 more points for an attribute raise. (Because mental skills have a less demanding staging, you could realistically spend 6 on a mental skill.) Ideally, you will spend only 1 or two points per skill. The only time you would break this rule is if you want to boost a critical skill that will serve as a "base" for other skills; this is most applicable to magic and psionic skills.

Why so much emphasis put on raising attributes? Keep in mind that after a few sessions of play, you'll have 5-10 points to spend which can easily convert to 5-10 skills. Attributes on the other hand, are very expensive and hard to raise after character generation. Also, keep in mind that with very few exceptions, advantages can *never* be bought after character generation so if you're going to binge somewhere, binge on advantages. Besides, (dis)advantages are what gives your character personality.

Another reason to not take a lot of skills is that they might not ever come into play. This would be especially discouraging if you've spent hours doing all the skill bookwork and you never get a chance to use them. You'll begin to ask yourself: "Why did I even design him/her?"

Before you start doing any math or even categorizing, brainstorm up what skills you want your character to have. Try to keep the list to around 10 entries (15 max). The only time the list should be longer than 10 is if you're getting magics or psionics.


After you're done brainstorming, you can begin the nitty-gritty work. Make the following columns:

  1. Skill Name, as it appears in the book.
  2. Type of skill (M or P) and difficulty (E, A, H, VH). This will make it easier to do the math for skills in groups (i. e. you can do all the M/A skills in one swoop).
  3. Points spent. The number of character points you will spend on this skill.
  4. The final skill rating. Do not write this until the very, very, very end, because it is subject to change right up until then.
  5. Notes column. This is used to describe what the skill does so you don't have to consult the book every time, special skill benefits (i.e. 2/3 parry), what attribute it is based on if not DX or IQ, advantages that modify the skill (i.e. CR confers +1 to all Fast Draw skills), and any other miscellaneous information. For example, you might want to put what the default is if you haven't spent any points in the skill.

For an example of a character sheet that uses this bookkeeping approach, look at H.C. Dennison.

The Difference a Few Points Can Make

There is a critical region of point values right in the middle of the 3d6 spectrum. Consider the following:

If your skill level is 8, you will only succeed 1/4th of the time, on average.
If your skill level is 9, you will only succeed 1/3rd of the time, on average.
If your skill level is 10, you will succeed half of the time.
If your skill level is 11, you will succeed 2/3rds of the time, on average.
If your skill level is 12, you will succeed 3/4ths of the time, on average.

Oh, the difference that a few points can make. Take this into consideration when you select skill values.