Skill as Right Tool for the Job

For a while I fiddled with a house rule I called “chained actions”. My thought was to use one roll to affect the next roll in certain situations. Imagine a leader of a ship’s crew needing to direct the bridge pilots? Both Piloting and Leadership makes sense, so perhaps make him roll Piloting with success and advantages affecting the follow on Leadership roll. I liked it at first but too clunky and slowed play with extra rolls. But, I still wanted the leader with pilot experience in that situation to have some sort of an advantage over the leader who had never seen the bridge of a starship before.

Then I thought of a much simpler method. Using the “Right tool for the job” concept, I thought what about making certain related skills a “tool”? So that Leadership roll would require the character to have Piloting as a “tool”, if not apply setback to this Leadership roll when he directs the bridge? Fixing a droid’s brain using Mechanic? Perhaps consider Computers skill as a “tool”. The character rolling the action could use the game rule of “skilled assistance” to meet the requirement of the “skill tool” as long as the other character helped him or her.


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Could easily be handled with Setback. New officer gets setbacks until he/she starts to learn the ropes, or takes the in-character time to be properly briefed. Or maybe if they get a Triumph on their Leadership check.

Second idea is what Aid is for. I am not trying to rain on your parade, it’s just that I wanted to try and understand your differences from the normal rules.

To explain further, I’ve had several situations where I thought another skill would be relevant to the primary skill and thus was trying to integrate a simpler, codified way to add that relevance without using the more complicated mess I first came up with that slowed play with extra rolls.

More explanation perhaps. I don’t wish to have my players or myself try to keep track over months of play regarding what everyone is already familiar with. I went down that road once and didn’t like it. In some situations multiple rolls make sense. For example, the players are rebuilding an old landspeeder, one PC gets to roll Computers, another Mechanics, etc. Multiple rolls makes sense and gets everyone involved.

But, consider my bridge commander example. During battle, a Captain is to be assigned to lead a bridge crew of 5 that includes pilots, navigator, computer tech, etc. With the other crew rolling the obvious Piloting, Astrogation, Computer actions, that leaves the obvious Leadership actions for the Captain. So, one PC is a Soldier and has Leadership 2. Another PC is an Ace with Pilot 4, Leadership 1. The second one seems the obvious choice for Captain for the upcoming battle, but if the position is primarily going to be rolling Leadership, the Soldier who might know next to nothing about ships is the better choice. Yes you could throw some setback at the Soldier and keep track of her time on the bridge until she gets to remove it. But, that’s one more thing to keep track of. With the skill version of “Right tool for the job” I could throw a setback at the Soldier until she gets some Pilot or Astrogation skill while the Ace gets to roll his Leadership without the penalty or perhaps even a boost since he’s such an experienced pilot.

Yes it’s something most of us do on the fly anyhow, but I like to be consistent and thought this simple expanding of “Right tool for the Job” would do it. I don’t want the hassle of keeping logs for such things like what PC is familiar with what yet, since I have a poor memory and the player might too.

That isn’t something you should try to fix, that’s how it works in real life quite often. A lot of people in charge are woefully not prepared or competent enough to be in the role. Happens quite often in the military.

If only we could see our own character sheets IRL

I think you’re getting hung up on the example. I was trying to explain why I might want this in my game (the naval veteran should have a bonus of some sort over the ground pounder when leading a starship crew). Perhaps I should have given them equal Leadership levels in my example.

Do you foresee any problem with the actual mechanics of what I’m doing?

Well, you could defenitely argue that knowledge could give you an advantage to lead but I would not make a rule out of it because in my experience there are a lot of people in leading positions, sometimes for several years, with tons of experience in the specific area but are unable to lead other people properly.

Then they perhaps don’t have Leadership skill? What if two people both have the exact same leadership ability. They have equal charisma. They are both asked to be the CEO of a business. One has been a CEO of a corporation for years. One is a combat veteran with no business experience. Who would probably be the better leader in those two situations? With the rules as written, they both have the same Leadership skill, both have equal Presence, so they both make the same roll.

I’m not specifically making this rule about Leadership at all. That was just the example I chose. I also would prefer not making several new talents to grant an advantage in all of the situations I could imagine. So, I was hoping for one simple rule to cover it all. Skills as Tools was my latest go at it. I was hoping for comment on the possible issues of that rule itself, regardless of what skill situations were used. Not just about Leadership.

Another example that doesn’t use Leadership.

The party’s astromech took a header. Its computer brain is damaged. It needs repaired. That’s a Mechanics roll. But, the actual processor that is damaged. The Mechanic has a skill of 1. There is a computer expert in the party with Computers 4 that thinks she should be able to help, which makes sense, but not in RAW since it’s a repair roll covered by Mechanics. I don’t want to expand the rules to allow Computers to repair computer hardware, changing the original intent, and overlapping skills. So, using Skills as Tools I allow her to assist with her Computer skill which is so significant I add a Boost to the Mechanic’s repair check. Again that is something many GM’s could have done on the spot without a rule, but I prefer to have something codified and simple to be consistent during play.

The houserule idea looks like it’d work okay. However, instead of just adding a Setback (which is more than offset by a single Ability, about offset by a single Upgrade, and can be removed by Commanding Presence or whatever talent for the particular skill), I’d actually increase the difficulty once. Otherwise, it’s too easy to negate/ignore.

Remember that “the right tool for the job” doesn’t have prescribed penalties, but instead either simply allows you to attempt a check you could not otherwise, or grants a Boost.

However, I’d generally prefer to take a different tack. What I have often done when this sort of situation has come up is require a “combined check.” In the example of Leadership requiring Piloting, I make it a Piloting check using Presence, combining the two skills. This means that the character’s actual skill matters much more than in your example, where all it does is add a Setback or Boost (sometimes nothing).

I think that where your idea falls through is that it’s almost never going to actually encourage someone other than the “main” character to attempt to do his job, just give that character a slight penalty (if any). It won’t really be felt.

With the combined checks (something I’ve done for years), it still benefits from Assistance, but makes the “main” character’s abilities actually impactful.

There’s a great example of this from the Vietnam war, where two officers—one from cavalry, one from infantry—cooperated to form a new tactic. The cavalry officer said “I don’t know anything about infantry tactics” and the infantry officer said “I don’t know anything about armor tactics,” so they sat down and pooled their knowledge.

In my example, this would be the Piloting (Planetary) 3, Agility 4, Cunning 2 tank commander sitting down with the Cunning 4 infantry commander and making a Piloting (Planetary) (Cun) check. There are other ways to represent that scenario ([Planetary]+Int, etc.), but that’s just an example. Sometimes, you will have situations where one character might still just have a better pool, in which case they’ve probably earned it.

Also, a note on “combined checks,” sometimes I use this sort of thing just change what the characteristic is. An example would be Stealth to conceal an item, it makes more sense to use Cunning than Agility.

What about using one of the skills as the characteristic, and the other as the actual skill instead? Would be a bit wonky, but it would make both the skills relevant to the check. Where the Characteristic swap like with the Vietnam example still leaves one of the skills unaccounted for.

In this case, the Characteristic would serve as the representation of the other skill.

The problem with combining skills is that often, especially in early games, most of the dice come from the Characteristic. This could end up with a situation where you have one person with 4 in the Characteristic and one rank, and the other with 4 in another Characteristic and one rank in another skill. Now both have very good pools, but when you combine them you get just 1 Proficiency die.

It’s an interesting idea, just not practical in most situations.

@Sturn It seems like you would be interested in my homebrew system “3D”. The core mechanic is that you always roll 3 dice. You have a die (d4 to d12) for each attribute, skill equipment bonus. For each check the GM sets 1 required skill and the player can add any other 2 skill dice that they can narratively justify. I once had a player use the wealth skill on a stealth check, the PC was a half elf with the fantastically wealthy theme (themes grants a bonus when narratively applicable, you upgrade 1 die to the next larger size) and he was trying to ditch a female npc who he had a roll in the hay with and was now clinging to him like glue talking about getting married etc, so the PC bought her a pretty bauble to distract her and then ran for his sailing ship. It was a fantasy campaign but it’s a more universal system than genesys. My primarily goal when designing the system was well balanced fast seamlessly’smooth gameplay. FFG’s narratively dice are slow and clunky in compariso but FFG STAR WARS/GENESYS supports character optimization/power gaming and pvp much better than 3D does (that was an intentional design decision on my part, it is a “feature” not a “bug”). I did not design my ideal system (i like the extra game mechanical crunch that permits character optimization) but rather the game play experience that i thought a majors of gamers would prefer (fast smooth gameplay where casual gamers are on the same playing field as power gamers). Notice the the narrative play is more intentional than accidental (the description is frontloaded when you justify the 2 dice in the pool that you choose) and the small pools (3dice total) make resolution very fast. You can actually completely resolve up to 2 actions with a single dice pool roll, and cooperative actions means multiple characters contribute dice to the pool. It’s very slick/natural play and the dice rolling statistics just work really really well (i used math to make to design statistics that just feel right, just the right amount of randomness).