That title kinda got away from me.
So! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, and I figure that with my newest actual survivor well on their way to becoming god-king of the forest people, now is as good a time as any to toss in my two cents again. This time, it involves skills.
We’ve got a whole crapton of skills, and that’s a good thing. Mobility skills like driving and swimming, crafting skills like tailoring and fabrication, social skills like barter and speaking, and weapon skills like literally everything else. The list of skills reasonably covers just about every action you can take in the game, with a few exceptions, and it is those exceptions I want to talk about today.
Now, I’m not proposing that we add a whole new list of skills to the primary skill list. I feel like that would clutter things up, especially for new players. My idea is a little bit sideways from that; a secondary skill that you either have, or don’t. Like the skill version of a style, really. It levels up incredibly slowly, and caps out at rank 3, with each rank giving an abstract bonus rather than a simple number upgrade. This secondary skill is your mastery of a very specific element of the game, and it’s not something you can just randomly pick up. You have to practice for days, or find a training book or program, or install a skillwire CBM. It represents a focus of your character into a playstyle that you have chosen and put time into. Each secondary skill is tied to a primary skill, and requires a certain level (which I can’t balance for) to master.
I shall list a few examples that I’ve stumbled across now. I’m sure you all have others, and I’d love to see them, but these are just the ones I’ve noticed.
Rollerblading: Fuck yeah. Rollerblading. Rollerblades are a thing in the Cataclysm universe, as they should be in every universe. And yet, the game apparently operates in the same world that the 1995 classic film Hackers does, where literally everyone knows how to rollerblade like a pro and that fact is never questioned. The rollerblading secondary skill is tied to dodge, and at the first rank, you can now actually use the blades without splatting yourself at a zombie’s feet. This one is fairly easy to get, requiring just an amount of practice time. At rank two, you get to navigate over one-tile obstacles without stumbling (a skater version of Parkour Expert) and at rank three, you can keep your balance well enough to revert to only slightly damaged speed on rough ground.
Lockpicking: Did you know there are safes in Cataclysm? They hang out in offices, jewelry stores, and banks, and are sometimes full of power armor and other times full of nothing. But don’t worry, because if you’re a survivor, all you need is a stethoscope, and you can crack every safe you run across, first try! This is silly. Tied to your mechanics skill, the lockpicking skill is one that you need specialized gear to learn. At the very least, a practice lock, or a training book. At rank one, you can now crack safes. At rank two, you can spot and disarm alarms or traps on any lock you pick, be it on a safe, door, or box. At rank three, you have become such a master that you can MacGuyver your way into anything securely locked without needing your tools (thought you take a penalty for that, so don’t try it in a hurry).
Biking : Biking is tied to your driving skill, and is your ability to pull off complex maneuvers on a bicycle without killing yourself. Whether it’s a motorcycle or just a mountain bike, at rank one, you can stay on more reliably when attacked from the sides. Rank two, and you can start taking 180 degree turns without losing control. At rank three, you can automatically make attacks to any enemies within range as you pass as you master the art of combat biking. Another skill that requires just decent amounts of practice to learn.
Chemistry: This one has been debated here before, but I feel this is a slightly different take on it. Cooking is all about mixing and portions and producing a final result, just like chemistry itself, so it makes sense that a good cooking background prepares you for more complex recipes. But chemistry is its own science and art, and knowledge of it through a book or training module gives certain benefits. Tied to your cooking skill, rank one prevents any unfortunate mishaps in the kitchen when working on chemicals or drugs. At rank two, you can stretch your supplies to the limit and know exactly how little of something you need to make an effective product, sometimes giving you an extra use of what you’re making. At rank three, you have mastered time management, and can process batches at double speed.
So that’s my idea. Maybe there’s some balance issues, maybe I missed something, maybe it’s just dumb. But there it is. I also think that, long term, I’d like to see secondary skills for farming (tied to survival, helps with… farming), surgery (tied to first aid, lets you install CBMs or operate on NPCs), and even SCUBA (tied to swimming, lets you use the specialized gear to dive deep [authors warning; do not dive too deep]). But for now, these are the ones that jump out at me when I play and wonder “why can I just DO this with no training?”
Questions, comments, and hate mail are all appreciated.