I DON'T KNOW
The Role-Playing Game
Copyright 1996, Frank T. "Kiz" Sronce Jr.
This Role-Playing Game (RPG) is designed to be a very simple system ideally suited to a single-evening adventure. It was written to provide an RPG where an adventure can be designed and run with little preparation from the Game Master (GM), and where character creation can be finished within a few minutes by experienced players. New characters can be introduced and removed with ease, so a steady gaming group is not necessary. Indeed, GMs are encouraged to take turns running the game so that no one GM burns out on it.
Why the I DON'T KNOW system? I wrote this game hoping to eliminate some of the evenings where no one could settle on a game to play.
"What do you want to play tonight?" "I don't know."
The unifying element behind each adventure is Infinity, the apparently all-powerful deity of Choice and Opportunity. Infinity works hard to provide everyone with options and variety in their lives, and the one thing that Infinity really can't stand is anyone who looks at the great cosmic selection that he has prepared for them and says, "I can't find anything I like."
Each player character represents someone from the ordinary would who became so offensively indecisive at one point that Infinity decided to punish them. Characters are plucked from their lives and cast into a strange, alien world, where Infinity pronounces sentence upon them.
But since Infinity contains all things, including mercy, Infinity is willing to give them a chance. He sets a task for them, and if they complete it successfully, he will consider returning them to their world. Of course, he may decide to set them another task, first.
Each session begins with the players either choosing old characters to reuse or designing new ones. Play begins with Infinity towering over the group and announcing what their test shall consist of. Then Infinity fades away, and the characters are left in a strange, alien landscape. The challenge set by Infinity is usually poorly described. The characters can find themselves on any world, anywhere, anytime. Infinity contains all things.
"I AM INFINITY, LORD OF OPPORTUNITY. YOU HAVE OFFENDED ME WITH YOUR INDECISION AND NOW YOU MUST PAY THE PRICE."
HOW TO CREATE A CHARACTER
Characters in this game represent ordinary people who are suddenly yanked out of their ordinary, dull little lives and thrown into an extraordinary adventure in an alien world. Each character is represented by 12 skills which are designed to cover a wide range of possibilities. To allow for additional detail, a character may choose to take a specialty in a particular skill, which grants a bonus to all actions inside the specialty but a penalty to all actions clearly outside its range.
A rating of 25% represents normal human competency in that skill. Ratings below that imply that the person's skills are lacking in that area. A rating of 50% implies a great deal of training and usually indicates a skill which is used professionally. A rating of 75% implies great expertise and training. In education, a rating of 75% would generally imply at least a P.H.D. in that field. Since starting characters are built on 400 percentage points, dividing up the points evenly results in a character with every skill at 33%-34%.
THE TWELVE SKILLS
Combat: The character's experience in fighting.
Remain Calm: The character's self control and ability to remain calm in stressful situations. Used to avoid panicking.
Persuasion: The character's charisma and force of personality. The ability to make a persuasive speech or act out a role convincingly. Most arts depend upon the character's Persuasion skill to produce artwork which will impress people. To produce art of real value (not wide appeal) roll Enigma instead.
Notice: The character's alertness. The ability to spot small details or find hidden objects.
React Fast: The character's ability to think fast when surprised. His initiative in combat situations. Represents hand/eye coordination as well.
Skulk: The character's skill at sneaking around and spying on people.
Transport: The character's ability to ride an animal, drive a vehicle, or pilot a ship.
Cogitate: The character's ability to think his way through problems. A successful roll can be used to elicit a hint from the GM when trying to solve puzzles or unravel a mystery. It may also be necessary to perform a complicated task without any errors or to remember a long and complicated code over a long period of time.
Education: The amount of education that the character has achieved in his life.
Endure Suffering: The ability of the character to go on despite injury or pain. His toughness and constitution.
Athletics: The character's agility and athleticism. Used for such actions as swimming, climbing and running.
Enigma: The mystery skill. Enigma is a catch-all for luck, psychic aptitude, and other things not clearly covered by any other skill.
A character may choose to take a specialty in some of his skills. Taking a specialty gives the character a bonus in all rolls involving that specialty, but a penalty in all actions clearly outside of its range. The value of these modifiers depends upon the skill in question.
An Active Skill is one where the character can usually choose whether he will stay in his specialty or not. A Passive Skill is one where this is usually determined by someone else. A specialty in an Active Skill grants a 10% bonus in that specialty and a 20% penalty outside of it. A specialty in a Passive Skill is less useful, since the player cannot usually default to his specialty, so it grants a 20% bonus and a 10% penalty. A specialty CANNOT be taken in a skill if its penalty would reduce the skill below zero. Remember that if the penalty reduces your skill below 25%, then you are notably lacking in ability outside of your specialty.
As an example, a character with a specialty in Combat: Knife-Fighting (an Active Skill) can usually choose to fight with his knife. He will rarely be forced to fight with a club and probably won't even carry one. A character with Resist Suffering: Poisons (a Passive Skill) won't be able to choose to always be poisoned rather than shot.
Specialties have an additional benefit, in that what is a little known fact for most people may be quite commonly known in the appropriate specialty. For example, while many people may know how to perform First Aid (which causes it to be based upon their Education skill), anyone with a specialty in Medicine will almost certainly know it (use Education: Medicine with a +25% bonus).
Combat: Active Skill (+10/-20)
Example specialties are Combat: Shoot Gun, Combat: Knife-Fighting, or Combat: Wrestling.
Remain Calm: Passive Skill (+20/-10)
Example specialties are Remain Calm: Under Fire, Remain Calm: At Sight of Alien Being, or Remain Calm: In Burning Building.
Persuasion: Active Skill (+10/-20)
Example specialties are Persuasion: Moral Arguments, Persuasion: Good Looks, or Persuasion: Fast Talk.
Notice: Passive Skill (+20/-10)
Example specialties are Notice: Hidden Objects, Notice: Night Vision, or Notice: Hearing Noises.
React Fast: Passive Skill (+20/-10)
Example specialties are React Fast: Draw Gun, React Fast: Duck, or React Fast: Sword-fighting.
Skulk: Active Skill (+10/-20)
Example specialties are Skulk: Eavesdrop, Skulk: Hunt Animals, or Skulk: Hide From View.
Transport: Passive Skill (+20/-10)
Example specialties are Transport: Drive Car, Transport: Ride Horse, or Transport: Pilot Airplane.
While Transport is effectively an Active Skill in situations where a wide variety of transport is available, most of the time the character will simply have to try and use whatever happens to be available, so this skill is considered a Passive Skill. If your GM's adventures will be set in the modern world, then he may decide to make Transport an Active Skill.
Cogitate: Passive Skill (+20/-10)
Example specialties are Cogitate: Retrace Route, Cogitate: Math, or Cogitate: Riddles.
Education: Passive Skill (+20/-10)
Example specialties are Education: Medicine, Education: Computers, or Education: Zoology.
Endure Suffering: Passive Skill (+20/-10)
Example specialties are Endure Suffering: Resist Poisons, Endure Suffering: Ignore Pain, or Endure Suffering: Take a Beating.
Athletics: Active Skill (+10/-20)
Example specialties are Athletics: Football, Athletics: Climbing, or Athletics: Jumping.
Enigma: Special Skill (+0/-0)
Specialties cannot normally be taken in the Enigma skill. It is a catch-all for tasks not falling under any of the other skills.
Some specialties are so broad that the GM should only allow them if he feels confident that the player in question will not abuse them. A good example is Athletics: Decathlon. Beware of anyone who tries to slip through ten specialties disguised as one. Similarly, someone who takes Persuasion: Psychology may try to justify any kind of interaction as a form of Psychology. Try to get the player to commit to a more specific area, or tell them that taking a specialty would be inappropriate.
Other specialties attempt to link one skill to the use of another. It is always preferable to leave the skills as separate as possible, so that it is clear which skill is to be used. Other specialties may be inappropriate for the skill which they are being placed on. Someone who wants to take Education: Swimming should be made aware that this in NO WAY allows them to actually swim. This would provide knowledge about swimming techniques and the history of swimming, but the Athletics skill covers actual swimming.
Another problem specialty is the "illogical" specialty. This is when a player comes up with a specialty that really makes no sense or isn't suited for the GM's game. For example, one player might come up with the specialty Combat: Paper Clips and try to claim that his character should be able to injure or kill people with paper clips.
The GM should also beware of "power" specialties. These are specialties which a player has carefully chosen in order to enable his character to do something which he could not otherwise justify. An example might be Combat: Break Necks, or Athletics: Climb Sheer Surface. While a martial artist might be able to break someone's neck with a phenomenally good roll, a player should NEVER be allowed to state that the normal result of a successful use of his martial arts skill is to break his opponent's neck. All specialties should have realistic descriptions.
Finally, some people may come up with a specialty so vague that they could justify applying it in almost any situation. Examples might be Combat: Military, or Endure Suffering: Robust. With any specialty, the GM must be able to clearly define when the specialty will apply and when it won't. If the specialty will apply in the majority of circumstances, then it isn't restrictive enough to be a specialty.
To keep the game simple, the GM should allow only one specialty per skill. If you are already experienced with the system, you may want to allow some "variant" specialties.
The most common case is a player who wants to have two or more specialties in the same skill. If these individual specialties are extremely narrow (ie- Education: Stamp Collecting), then you can say that they combine together to make the equivalent of one normal specialty. But if the player wants two or more valuable specialties in the same skill, just tell him to divide the 10% or 20% bonus up among the multiple specialties, rather than applying the full value to each.
EXAMPLES OF CHARACTER CREATION
Each starting character receives 400% to divide among his twelve skills. The maximum starting points in each skill is 65%, and values below 25% should only be taken with caution, as these represent areas where the character is notably lacking in ability. Specialties can be assigned at any point during this process as they change the effective value of a skill, but not the number of points allocated to it.
Robert Post, Traffic Cop
Robert's player has decided to create a Traffic Cop who could never decide whether to actually ticket a speeder or let them off with a warning. He thinks that Robert should have a high Shoot Gun skill and a high Drive Car. He assigns the following skills.
Combat: Shoot Gun 50% (60/30)
Remain Calm 40%
React Fast 25%
Transport: Drive Car 40% (60/30)
Endure Suffering 35%
But adding it all up, he finds that this comes to 395%, so he has 5% left to spend. He decides to add +5% to Endure Suffering, and the character's stats are finished.
Dr. Henry Gallard, M.D.
Dr. Gallard's player wants to create a high-powered surgeon. Obviously a specialty in Medicine would be appropriate, and he also wants a very high Remain Calm. He asks the GM if Combat: Shoot Gun would be appropriate, and the GM suggests Combat: Golf Club instead. The player likes this suggestion, especially since it would imply that the Doctor was snatched by Infinity while playing golf and he'll be wearing a horribly tacky golfing outfit throughout the adventure. He assigns the following skills, justifying the Athletics: Running specialty by saying that the Doctor jogs on a regular basis, but isn't otherwise athletic.
Combat: Golf Club 60% (70/40)
Remain Calm 60%
React Fast 20%
Transport: Drive Car 30% (50/20)
Education: Medicine 65% (85/55)
Endure Suffering 35%
Athletics: Running 25% (35/5)
Adding these up, he finds that they total to 430%. Having to cut back somewhere, he consults with the GM. The GM suggests cutting the Golf Club back to 30% (50/10), which will bring him back down to 400%. The player decides to reduce Golf Club a little, bringing it to 50% (60/30), cut Remain Calm down to 50%, and reduce Enigma to 15%. This brings his total back down to 400%.
The Doctor is below average in React Fast, Skulk, Cogitate, Athletics (outside his Specialty) and Enigma now, so the GM warns the player of these facts, but the player decides that he likes the character the way it is. When he asks for more details about Combat: Golf Club, the GM explains that a golf club does less damage than a normal club attack but that it can also be used to hurl small rocks or grenades towards a particular spot.
When the GM asks what Dr. Gallard has done to earn Infinity's wrath, the player decides that Dr. Gallard held up his golf-foursome for hours trying to decide which club to use in a borderline situation.
AN EXAMPLE OF POOR CHARACTER CREATION (THE EXCESSIVE SPECIALIST)
This player likes to test the limits of any game system and seeks out their weaknesses. As an experiment, he tries to get the GM to allow the following character.
"Speedy" Bob, the Marathon Runner
Combat: Ramming into People at a Run 50% (60/30)
Remain Calm: While Running 40% (60/30)
Persuasion: Look Good While Running 30% (40/10)
Notice: Spot Things While Running 30% (50/10)
React Fast: Avoid Sudden Obstructions While Running 50% (50/40)
Skulk: Run Quietly 30% (40/10)
Cogitate: Think While Running 25% (45/15)
Endure Suffering: Run Without Tiring 35% (55/25)
Athletics: Running 50% (60/30)
Now, this is a good example of abusing the system. No GM should let a character this poorly designed into his game. First of all, many of his specialties are designed to tie one skill to the use of another skill, which should not be allowed. This is a particularly nasty example because the player is attempting to link a bunch of Passive Skills to the use of an Active skill. Simply put, when this character chooses to run he suddenly becomes smarter, more persuasive, stealthier, etc. The list goes on. The Skulk: Run Quietly is one of the worst offenders, because at first glance it appears reasonable. But the character is more stealthy at a full run than he would be when moving slowly? The idea makes no sense under closer examination.
Secondarily, he's put his Transport skill at zero, which is so low that it's almost impossible to justify. The character couldn't ride a bicycle to save his life. Finally, and in some ways most importantly, it's a pretty stupid character concept. The player is trying to make someone who is so obsessed with running that his entire life revolves around it. There's hardly anything that he does that he doesn't do better while running. Not only is this unrealistic, it makes for a very dull character if played accurately. No one should bring in a character which will only be fun if they violate its character concept.
Here is that same character again, rewritten in a more reasonable manner.
"Speedy" Bob, the Marathon Runner
Combat: Bodyslam 40% (50/20)
Remain Calm 40%
Persuasion: Good Looks 30% (40/10)
React Fast 40%
Skulk: Move Quietly 30% (40/10)
Endure Suffering: Long-Winded 35% (55/25)
Athletics: Running 50% (60/30)
This is still much the same character. The specialties have been re-written so that they no longer link one skill to another. The Transport skill, while below average, has been raised to a reasonable level. Perhaps "Speedy" prefers to walk or run whenever possible in order to stay in shape. The character may actually be a little more useful than the previous version, because the remaining specialties are actually more general than the running-linked specialties that were originally taken.
Characters are generally snatched right off the street by Infinity. They should start with any equipment that they might reasonably have. In particular, if they possess a Specialty which is useless without a particular item, the GM should consider having Infinity transport that item along with them. Of course, if that item is going to be available as part of the night's adventure, then there is no need for them to start with it.
Some examples are: a marksman might need his particular weapon, a doctor might need a medical bag, a computer-hacker might need a laptop, or a cabbie might need his yellow cab to be able to use his Transport: Drive skill. Unless the GM feels that a particular item would render his adventure trivial to complete, there is no real reason to be particularly generous or stingy with equipment. Just be fair- don't favor one player's requests over another.
There are several Wound States that a character can be in.
Nicks and Scratches: The character is effectively fine. He has suffered no wounds large enough to be worth mentioning. An uninjured character starts in this state.
Minor Wound: The character has suffered a small wound to a non-vital area. If the GM judges that the wound would bleed, then the character's Wound State will slowly worsen unless First Aid is successfully used on him. A Minor Wound applies a -5% penalty to the character's skills.
Major Wound: The character has suffered a single small wound to a vital area or a number of minor wounds. First Aid is still sufficient to stop the bleeding, but if it is not performed within an hour, the character may die from blood loss. A Major Wound applies a -10% skill penalty.
Crippling Wound: The character has had bones broken or muscles damaged so badly that certain parts of his body no longer function well. Until a successful Bone-Setting roll is made, the character cannot move without making a successful Endure Suffering roll each round. Other skills that require motion are reduced by -50% until that Bone-Setting roll is made, after which the penalty drops to a "mere" -25%. For skills that do not require moving the injured location, the penalties should be -25% and -15% instead.
Mortal Wound: The character is so badly broken that death is imminent. A successful Surgery roll is necessary to prevent death. Unless Surgery begins immediately, a successful Endure Suffering roll is necessary to avoid dying in the meantime. The character's skill penalty is -50% and each action requires a successful Endure Suffering roll to be attempted at all.
Fatal Wound: The character has been killed outright by this blow. At the GM's option, the doomed character may be allowed an Enigma roll to get in some last words or a final action. He must make a successful Enigma roll each round to act. If he succeeds, there is no penalty to his actions, but he must continue to roll Enigma each round. A failure on the Enigma roll means that Death has finally caught up to him. Without access to a modern hospital emergency room (or something better), medicine cannot save him.
A NOTE ABOUT SKILL PENALTIES
The skill penalties for being injured generally apply to the character's Active Skills, not to their Passive Skills, unless the GM rules otherwise. For example, an injured character who must make an Endure Suffering roll to act does not apply his skill penalty to that roll, unless the GM says so. Basically, if the skill is something completely reactive, such as having Good Looks, or being resistant to poisons, then the skill penalties will not apply. If the skill requires the character to take action, such as riding a horse, or climbing a rope, then the skill penalties should still apply.
Knowledge of modern medical techniques falls under the Education skill. A common specialty is Education: Medicine, which implies training as a physician and makes these rolls much easier. These basic levels indicated jury-rigged aid. Someone with access to a full medical lab or even a first aid kit should get a substantial bonus to their skill when its use is appropriate.
First Aid: Bandaging simple wounds and cuts. Requires clean bandages of some sort and preferably some sort of antiseptic to prevent infection. Performing First Aid successfully requires an unmodified Education roll or an Education: Medicine roll at +25%.
Bone-Setting: Putting broken bones back in place and making splints and crutches so that the victim can still move without being in agony. Performing Bone-Setting requires an Education roll at -25% or an unmodified Education: Medicine roll.
Surgery: Surgery implies actually stitching damaged organs back together. In its most primitive form it can be done with needle and thread, but the risk of infection is overwhelming. Performing Surgery requires an Education roll at -50% or an Education: Medicine roll at -25%.
Advanced Surgery: This implies using electric shocks to reawaken a stopped heart, using powerful drugs to prevent shock and otherwise using very advanced surgical techniques. It really can't be done at all unless a well-equipped surgical lab is available, and only a Medicine specialist is likely to have any chance of performing it correctly.
Adventures are meant to be exciting, so "fight scenes" are quite common. The basic procedure for running a combat is as follows. Combat is divided into rounds. During a combat round, each character will normally get a chance to perform at least one action.
Was One Group Surprised?
If one group (the attackers) have managed to surprise their enemies (the defenders), then the defenders must make a successful React Fast roll to take any action this round at all. Even if they do get to act, a penalty should be applied to their effective React Fast score when determining their initiative. A penalty of -25% to -50% would not be unreasonable.
Since most player characters will not be hardened fighters, a Remain Calm roll may be needed to take sensible action. People who fail to remain calm will often take the first action that comes to mind, or may become too confused to figure out who their opponent is. These rolls are mostly required in large, confusing battles and in surprise situations where the character was not expecting combat. Some attackers may be so frightening and monstrous that a Remain Calm roll may be needed just to avoid turning and running.
If the order of actions is all-important, the GM should give React Fast rolls to all characters and allow the person who succeeded by the most to act first. This is appropriate for all-or-nothing situations such as a character trying to shoot an assassin before he can get his shot off.
When order is less critical, the GM may simply go in order of React Fast skills, with the characters who have the highest rating acting first. Characters who have a specialty in React Fast should be treated (initially) as though their specialty applied. When you get to them (going down the list of initiative ratings in order), they have the option of either performing an action that falls within their specialty, or waiting until their lower rating comes up and then performing any action they desire.
As an example, "Swifty" has the skill React Fast: Dive for Cover 50 (70/40). The GM writes him down as a 70 on his initiative list, then starts counting down. Not surprisingly, "Swifty" is the first character to act. The GM says that he can take an action at initiative 70, but only if he chooses to dive for cover, or do something similar. "Swifty" decides to wait and see what the enemy does, before deciding whether to dodge or open fire, so he declines to act. The GM moves his entry in the list down to 40. "Swifty" will take his action then. If he had chosen to take cover at initiative 70, then he would have already taken his action for the turn and would not get another at 40.
To attack someone, just roll your Combat skill. Penalties (or bonuses) may be applied for how far away your target is or their size. If you succeed, you will hit them unless something else prevents it.
Someone who spends their turn just trying to get away can roll Athletics in an attempt to dodge attacks. A successful roll will reduce the damage done by a hit and may change it into a miss if the dodger succeeded by more than the attacker.
Weapons are defined by the amount of damage that they do on an average hit. A gun is a "lethal weapon" and thus inflicts a Crippling Wound normally. A knife inflicts a Major Wound normally. A nightstick is a "nonlethal weapon" and thus inflicts a Minor Wound on a normal blow. A particularly well-aimed hit can do more damage, of course.
There are an astounding array of weapons available, however, and many of them will require GM arbitration. For example, some characters (particularly modern women) might be carrying a cannister of pepper spray when snatched away by Infinity. Pepper spray can incapacitate an opponent, but does no real injury at all.
When a character is struck by a blow, the GM should decide upon the kind of injury being inflicted. A blow which hit by a great deal might inflict a worse injury than the weapon normally would, while a blow which barely landed might do less. If you want a rule to use, a natural roll of 01 increases the damage by 2 levels. A roll of 1/5 of the character's skill or less increases the damage by 1 level. A blow which landed by 1/5 of the character's skill or less does 1 less level of damage.
A character who made a successful dodge roll but did not dodge well enough to be missed entirely should reduce the damage 1 level, perhaps 2 if he almost succeeded in escaping injury.
Then the victim of the blow should roll Endure Suffering to try and resist it. A success reduces the damage done by 1 level. A roll of 1/5 of his Endure Suffering or less might reduce it 2 levels.
A character who fails the Endure Suffering roll will be stunned by the blow for 1 combat round, losing his next action. Under special circumstances (or a particularly bad Endure Suffering roll) the GM might insist that the character be stunned for more than one round.
If a character who is stunned again before he gets a normal action, then the effect is cumulative. Multiple "stunning" results can knock a character unconscious.
On the rare occasion when a character actually has armor of some type, the GM should assign it an Endure Suffering rating of its own. When the character is struck, he can roll Endure Suffering for both the armor and himself. Each has a chance of reducing the damage done. The GM may wish to vary the value of the armor's protection depending upon the situation. A bullet-proof vest should provide more defense against bullets than swords.
Particularly good armor might have an Endure Suffering roll over 100%. In that case, it succeeds once automatically. A second roll is then made for the remainder (the amount over 100%); reduce the damage again if that roll succeeds too.
You don't want every player to start designing off-duty police officers, hunters, and retired war veterans just so that they can justify carrying high-powered handguns and rifles. There are situations where other weapons are actually superior.
Handguns and rifles do the most damage out of the weapons a starting character is likely to possess. They can kill at great range and they can often fire several shots before the character has to reload. The GM should make sure that their downside comes into play as well. Two major flaws exist: limited ammunition (characters are not likely to be snatched while carrying boxes of ammo) and the fact that it kills very easily. If the characters are going to encounter people who may attack them but whom the PCs should not kill, then firearms can become a liability. "Dave's been possessed by the demon! Quick, stop him!" "I can't shoot him, he doesn't know what he's doing!"
Some alien creatures encountered may also prove more resistant to firearms than to other weapons. A creature with only one weakpoint may be vulnerable to any weapon wielded by someone skilled enough to hit that particular spot, while being almost invulnerable elsewhere.
Swords and axes are potentially lethal melee weapons. They the advantage of unlimited ammo (swing as much as you like) but cannot do much at range. Again, it's hard to subdue someone with a sword, although you can always try using it as a club.
A chainsaw is even more powerful, and can be used to cut through trees and thin walls with comparative ease. Of course, it has a limited amount of fuel, so like a handgun it cannot be used indiscriminately.
Knives are easily concealed, do enough damage to stop most human opponents, and rarely kill unless the wielder deliberately chooses to finish off a wounded enemy. As such they are an extremely useful weapon, particularly when you consider the many household uses that a good knife may be put to when not being used in combat.
Non-lethal weapons like golf clubs and nightsticks almost never kill but can still be used to pummel opponents into submission. They have the advantage that anyone defeated with one can go back into action soon, so they are ideal for stopping a temporarily crazed ally. If the players have to shoot a frightened native in order to get him to stop attacking them, then he will likely be in no shape to lead them around once he figures out that they are friendly.
It is up to the GM to ensure that players cannot solve every conflict by slaughtering their opponents. If every enemy encountered is a fanatical killer who would rather die than be captured, then don't be surprised when your players insist on loading up on deadly weapons. On the other hand, if every opponent is bullet-proof, people may start to consider their Combat skills useless. The GM should try to draw a balance between situations where firepower is the best solution and situations where it is not.
LIST OF EXAMPLE WEAPONS
Military Guns (AK-47, M-16, etc): Inflict a Mortal Wound if used on one target, Crippling Wounds if used on 2-3 people, and Major Wounds if sprayed over a wide area. Such weapons often have as many as a hundred shots when fully loaded, but using them on automatic fire can use up this ammo in just a few rounds. If only a single shot is fired, the weapon damage is a Crippling Wound, as for lesser guns.
Grenades and Grenade Launchers: A grenade, naturally, can only be used once, but anyone who would carry one grenade might well have two or three. Grenades inflict Mortal Wounds over a small area and Crippling Wounds outside of that. Anyone who throws themselves on a grenade will take a Fatal Wound, but everyone else nearby will be spared.
Military Flamethrower: Has a limited range, but inflicts Crippling Wounds to everyone in the affected area (hitting with a flamethrower is done at +25% skill, but you cannot hit an enemy without also hitting any friendly people near him). A fully-loaded flamethrower could easily have 30 combat-rounds worth of fuel, making it a devestating weapon at close (but not point blank) range. Using it closer than that can cause the flames to strike the holder as well as the chosen target.
Modern Rifles: Have a very long range, and can be used for sniping at opponents from a great distance. Inflicts Cripping Wounds normally. Rifles can generally only hold a few shots before they need to be reloaded. Many (non-military) rifles can only hold a single round.
Modern Handguns: A comparatively short-range firearm, a modern handgun inflicts a Crippling Wound. Most can fire six to eight rounds before being emptied.
Bow and Arrow: A fairly primitive weapon, bows are still used for hunting in modern times. A bow is a difficult weapon to handle unless the archer has experience with them, so large penalties should be applied for a lack of familiarity. Normally a bow is fired every other combat round to allow sufficient time for reloading and aiming. Most arrows will inflict a Crippling Wound. While slower than a firearm, bows make much less noise and can be used for indirect fire (arcing an arrow over a wall) by a skilled user.
Crossbow: Designed as an improvement on the bow, a crossbow is much simpler for the untrained user to use. It also inflicts a Crippling Wound. The crossbow is slower to load, and normally can only be fired every third round. Like a bow and arrow, the crossbow is a very quiet weapon and can be used for indirect fire.
Old-Style Swords and Axes: Medieval weapons, these are still very lethal in close combat. Any well-made killing weapon will inflict a Crippling Wound.
Modern Swords and Axes: Most of these made in modern times are made for novelty, or other uses besides war and inflict only a Major Wound. Some traditional designs (a well-made Japanese katana, for example) are really just remakes of the old-style weapons above, and can be treated as such.
Modern Knives: A modern knife is very easy to conceal (moreso even than a small handgun) and inflicts a Major Wound. They are also more useful outside of combat than other weapons, as a good knife can be used for many things besides combat. A handgun may bring a deer down, but it can't help you skin it.
Martial Arts: Modern martial art techniques concentrate on blocks, holds and throws and are primarily intended to allow an unarmed combatant to defeat any less-skilled unarmed combatant. If an aggressive martial arts style is used, it inflicts a Minor Wound on a normal blow. If the martial artist chooses, he can spend one round "setting up" his opponent for a more potent blow. If this succeeds, a blow delivered in the following round will inflict a Major Wound instead.
The GM may, at his option, choose to allow movie-style martial arts maneuvers which inflict Crippling Wounds, but these special maneuvers should always require a one-round setup beforehand and should be executed at a substantial penalty to the character's Combat skill.
Clubs, fists, nightsticks and other minor weapons: Many "weapons" were never designed to be used in combat, or else have been deliberately designed so that they are unlikely to kill or seriously injure anyone. These weapons inflict Minor Wounds. However, because even a Minor Wound can stun an opponent, a skilled user can still beat an enemy into submission without necessarily crippling or killing them.
After an adventure session, characters should be allowed the opportunity to improve the skills which they used in a meaningful way. Of course, if the characters are not going to be used again, then this step is pointless and can be skipped at will.
First, each player should list off the skills which they believe their character should have a chance to increase. The GM has the final say as to whether or not the use of the skill was meaningful enough to rate a skill increase check.
THE SKILL INCREASE CHECK
The system is simple. For each skill to be increased, roll percentile dice. If the roll exceeds your current skill (your real skill, not counting the effects of any specialties), then you get to increase it. If not, then the skill remains unchanged.
If you do succeed in increasing a skill, add 1d3% to it.
DEALING WITH SPECIAL CASES
If a character spent a good amount of time being trained by someone much more skilled than they are, then a 1d3% increase can be allowed automatically (no roll required).
If a character used a skill only very briefly (but still in an important fashion) the GM may choose to allow them to roll an increase, but if they succeed then the 1d3% roll is replaced by a flat increase of 1%.
SPEEDING UP THE INCREASE OF VERY LOW SKILLS
There is an optional rule which can be used to speed up the rate at which skills rise at very low levels. If the increase roll exceeds your current skill by more than 50%, add 2d3% to it instead of 1d3%. This allows characters will skills in the 5-25% range to improve them more rapidly, making it easy to learn "the basics." Once your skill gets near 50%, you will receive this benefit less and less, and at 50% and above it disappears entirely.
Since Infinity possesses the power to send players to any world, it is possible that they will need new skills which it would be impossible for them to start with. If these skills are going to be used in only a single adventure, the GM should decide ahead of time what skill most closely approximates it and use that value plus any appropriate modifiers. For example, an adventure in a weightless environment might use Athletics at a small penalty to represent the characters' ability to control their movement. To communicate with a telepathic alien might require a Cogitate or an Enigma roll.
If these events will be rarities in the campaign, then there is no point in declaring them to be skills of their own. If you want to represent experience, change the penalty (or bonus) according to how much experience they have with the situation. For example, a former astronaut might roll Athletics+25% to move in weightlessness, whereas a normal person would start at Athletics minus a 15% penalty. As the normal person spent more and more time in weightlessness, you should slowly reduce that penalty until it finally reached the +25% level as well.
ACQUIRING NEW SKILLS
One of the more interesting ideas for a long-term campaign is to make it possible for the characters to acquire new, alien skills. These would generally start out at 0% or perhaps some fraction of a normal skill (often Enigma). After that the character would have a 13th or 14th skill and would begin to advance it normally.
Because these newly acquired skills will be almost useless in the beginning, they should only be introduced into the campaign if they will be useful in many adventures. This is so that the characters will be able to slowly increase them over the space of many adventures. Just be aware that allowing the characters to gain these strange, magical abilities will gradually transform the nature of your campaign. Some obstacles that were once dangerous can be easily defeated with these new powers.
If this happens, do not remove those obstacles! If the characters can now fly over any annoying walls, you should not change your adventures so that walls are no longer encountered. This will be obvious to your players and will annoy them. Instead, allow them the satisfaction of the occasional easy victory over a problem that would once have been insurmountable. Just remember that those obstacles should no longer be the principle challenge of an adventure.
Introducing new skills allows characters a chance to gain abilities which make them different from ordinary people. This makes the characters more memorable for the players. Just remember that acquiring these new powers should not be the principle focus of your game. Acquiring a new skill should be a rare and memorable process, not an event that occurs once per game session.
SOME EXAMPLE ALIEN SKILLS
Telepathy: Perhaps the characters had to learn how to communicate with a race of mute telepathic creatures. This skill allows the character to send and recieve thought messages with anyone who makes eye contact with him. Substantial penalties are accrued if the target of your message is not actually making eye contact or if they do not possess this skill. In general, the higher the character's skill, the more complex the messages that can be sent.
Flight: Perhaps they encountered a world of flying people and saved them from some menace and were taught the basics of flight as well. This skill allows the character to float in the air or even fly at high speeds by mind power alone. Getting airborn and making aerial maneuvers both require successful skill checks.
Fire-Starting: The character has learned how to start small fires with his mind. The flame does a Minor Wound but continued exposure can increase this if the character directs the fire against an object and concentrates on building up the heat. It has little range however- the flame appears only a few inches away from the character's outstretched fingers.
Danger Sense: The character has developed an innate sixth sense that warns him of immediate danger. When the character approaches a source of unnoticed danger, the GM should make a secret roll to see if he feels its presence. Of course, the GM should also make some occasional rolls for no reason, just so the players cannot be sure that he is making Danger Sense rolls for them. If everyone in the group possesses this skill, the GM should probably make a single roll for everyone unless circumstances make individual rolls more appropriate.
Calming: Perhaps learned from a race of empathic creatures, the character can try to calm down an angry or frightened person by touch. Penalties may be applied for affected someone who is in the grip of extremely strong emotion. This process requires several combat rounds of concentration, so it is of little use against someone trying to attack you unless they can be pinned down. Note that calming an enemy down will not necessarily make him your friend; he may just calmly shoot you instead of shooting you in a fit of rage.
WAYS TO ACQUIRE ALIEN SKILLS
There are several ways in which these powers might be acquired during a campaign. You should note that the player might not necessarily realize that his character has acquired a new skill. If you decide to keep the new skill a secret, you should make rolls for it at appropriate times to see if the character subconsciously uses it. Once he becomes aware of it, record it on his character sheet and allow him to use it normally.
An adventure might be set in a location where learning this skill is innately easy, allowing all of the PCs to end the adventure with a few percentage points in the skill. For example, the PCs might get stuck on a fiery, volcanic plane where all of the flames can be controlled by force of will. One of the central puzzles of the adventure will doubtless be realizing that fire can be influenced in this fashion here. Once they leave, the GM may decide that everyone who learned how to control those psychic flames now possesses Fire-Starting at 1d3%.
The skill might be taught by some alien being(s) who happen to be grateful to the PCs and possess the skill themselves. This is a good reward for heroic actions. The aliens may teach all of the characters, or perhaps only the ones that they consider responsible for their salvation.
The skill might be granted by Infinity as a reward for some particularly original idea or unlikely (but successful) plan. Alternately, Infinity could grant the skill to one or more PCs at the very beginning of an adventure during which its successful use will be essential. If a skill is poured into a character's brain in this fashion, it is unlikely that he will be able to teach it to anyone else, no matter how skilled at it he becomes. If you have a player whose character is constantly being overshadowed by other, more skilled characters, you might want to consider giving him a unique ability which will bring him into the limelight. If a being like Infinity grants a skill, set its level according to their desires- depending on the situation, Infinity might grant a new skill at 1d3%, or as much as 25%.
The character might acquire a skill as a result of an encounter with some strange force or energy during an adventure. Perhaps one adventure is set in a land dominated by enormous pillars of flame. A character who falls into one must make a successful Enigma roll to avoid being consumed by the fire; if he succeeds he will stumble back out with a Crippling Wound and 1d3% Fire-Starting. Again, a skill acquired in this fashion probably cannot be taught to anyone else.
THE EPILOGUE ADVENTURE
If you are winding the campaign down and intend to retire the current group of characters, a good final adventure involves Infinity sending them back home. Once back on earth, however, they find themselves in the midst of one more crisis, this time a real-world emergency of the kind that would once have paralyzed them.
Hopefully they will put their hard-won skills and abilities to use and save the day, rather than just running for the hills. This is particularly appealing if any of them possessed any Alien Skills. Afterwards, Infinity will usually disperse the group, sending them home with only vague memories of their adventures. How the campaign ends depends heavily upon the style of the GM, but it should be a final capstone to a long campaign.
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