Secondary Specialized Skills, An Alliteration Affair

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.

total Upvote. kind of reminds me of the ES: Oblivion perk system

I like the idea of capped skills.

I hate the idea of making starting survivors even weaker while rewarding the long-time ones.

Now see, I don’t really think this affects starting survivors at all. A day one survivor isn’t typically going to have rollerblades, or be running around pillaging jewelery stores. They have better things to do. Unless, of course, we had a few extra classes added that DID start out with those things. Maybe the crime-based professions could pick up rank one in lockpicking. The punk and hacker professions could start with rollerblades and the skill to use them properly. Either way, it’s not like this really influences early game ‘oh god there are zombies oh god get some nails and stick them in a log then put on some real pants oh sweet jesus the zombies are coming for me’ feeling. You’re not wrong that it’s content for the mid to late-game, but I don’t think that it makes new characters weaker in a way that is significant to the core of gameplay, just in fringe cases.

I’ll tell you a story.

When I first got a character really rolling the first time I found this game, I decided at one point that I wanted a sword. But, like, MY sword. I found a book that taught me how to smith one, I learned the recipe after days of study, and then I realized what materials I needed. The quest to find the pieces to make a forge was legendary in its own right. The metal for the crafts needed to ENABLE my crafting goal was plundered wholesale from a school; backing a car up into the main hall and ripping lockers apart for their juicy chunks of steel. The charcoal was found at backyard barbeques across the city. The welding goggles took a week to find a spray can to make. But finally, it was ready. I could make my goddamn sword.

It failed and wasted materials, of course.

The second attempt worked, though, and it was fantastic. Everything about that sword was perfect, because it took such a colossal effort to bring it to life. And then that character died, but I remember that sword. Can’t remember his name, but the sword sticks with me.

The point that I’m desperately reaching for here is that I don’t think having goals that are challenging to achieve is a bad thing. Not letting someone rollerblade doesn’t kill the game for new players, but having a note pop up when you strap on the wheel-shoes that says “with some practice, you bet you could get good at these…” motivates. It’s that drive to add an extra line to our character sheets that causes us to seek out mutagens and install CBMs. Sure, this takes away from what you can do right away, but it gives a mid-game power spike to the players that really want to pursue a specific type of play, and feel good doing it.

At least, that’s what I think it would do. Maybe I’m crazy.

again, yes. you manage to articulate the things that I think of but cant seem to send through my fingers.

Wouldn’t the charactersheet get kinda full with these new subskills?
Would these perhaps work as perks?

Yeah, the first time is cool.
But DDA already has a huge problem with “magic wearing off” pretty quickly.
As soon as you learn the game, you can easily make the optimal choices. For example, not picking the “tailor” profession when starting in the shelter, because grinding to 3 tailoring is very easy.

In this case, grinding rollerblades would be a no-brainer - just waste a lot of time when it’s not dangerous to do so, then reap the benefits.
Swimming is a similar skill in this regard, this time it is offset by swimming being relatively useless (the only interesting thing in the water is food and food stops being a problem very quickly).
Also driving (up to level 4, when it stops mattering), which is only offset by it grinding so slowly it’s a waste of time trying to level it (this is also bad design, by the way). If those skills leveled as slowly as driving, they would also be useless except for those ancient survivors who don’t actually need any extra skills because they can punch hulks to death without breaking a sweat.

It would make sense for those abilities to be perks, maybe even “scaling perks” (many perks suck because they don’t scale) that get their extra abilities when you level up their primary skills. Or maybe “book skills”, like martial arts. Martial arts aren’t a perfect system, but at least they aren’t pure grind.

Challenging goals are good. The problem is, grinding is only challenging until you learn how to do it well. Then it becomes tedious.

To be honest, I realize that the ‘typical dev/hardcore CATA playstyle’ is starting with all 0 skills or the veeeeeeeery limited skills of a profession…but I never do that.

I always bump up my points and then add whatever skills I think a reasonable person would know. Like driving. Anyone not playing a 16 year old (or younger) without points in driving is being stupid. Anyone playing anyone who ever might have SEEN a computer should have at least one point in it. Almost everyone should have speaking 1. You know how to talk. Stuff like that. The skill system is very balanced towards people who love repetitive grinding. Fortunately, everything is very customizable with very little work so its not an issue.

I think it would be better if we would seperate learnable skills and stats at chargeneration for pointpurpose. That or make stats trainable with an upper limit affected by traits/mutations so that your not bullied by mechanics into spending your points into stats.

Not touching the very secondary skills idea, but note about lockpicking is damn right. Now lockpick is way too easy to craft and to apply.

A perk system would be perfect for actions that don’t necessarily need their own skills, like airplane/boat piloting, or lockpicking/safecracking. Making them attached to underlying skills/stats that they could scale off of would be even better.

The way martial arts work right now is a good example of a skill scaling perk system, since their different techniques don’t kick in until you hit the required unarmed skill, though I might change the system if it were made into perks to include a rule that you don’t learn a new technique until you use your previous technique X times (forcing you to put yourself into a position where you practice your previous technique), also I’d probably let the player be table to combine techniques from any style they’ve learned.

In addition, there could be a perk like “master armorer” or “master weaponsmith” where items you craft automatically start reinforced or accurized without having to spend extra materials or time to upgrade. Perks like this could be acquired after crafting so many items, or perhaps after being trained by an NPC.

Hard caps on skills aren’t happening until and unless there’s some other way for a given character to gain access to those skills; NPC support is generally the way to go. I’d as soon not have content permanently inaccessible to a given character because you picked Foo over Bar at chargen.

(Nothing like having to grind up a new character just to try out one-off skill XYZ. Nope, nothing like it at all.)

The Roller Derby Player and Skate Kid professions start on wheels, and have the trait that makes combat-skating quite viable, so there’s one example of having a “secondary” from the start. Cyclist is another: unfold the bike and BAM ready to go.

Perhaphs special skills menu for the special skills that you have and acquired throughout your cataclysm life…

I always imagined converting the bionics page to a tabbed system with active/passive bionics and mutations and another tab for perks.

These all seem like perks to me and rollerblading already have a perk. Adding some in game ways to acquire those perks might be a good idea.

I’m no senior programmer, :slight_smile: but this is kinda what it looks like when it’s supposed to be about ideas and introducing 'em:

In addition, there could be a perk like "master armorer" or "master weaponsmith" where items you craft automatically start reinforced or accurized without having to spend extra materials or time to upgrade. Perks like this could be acquired after crafting so many items, or perhaps after being trained by an NPC.

So there, if you wanna “tip” the devs, or encourage one fork or another - you should scrap some sort of a map in order to hint what exactly you think the program should be doing.
You’ve got several vectors throughout the game, some of them are emphasized when the game’s over (like the distance covered, number of kills, best skills etc) so anyone looking to ‘up’ the game one way or another should look them up.

An addition to the idea that drives this forum topic, I’d like some sort of reconsideration towards the whole “stun” logic there is with CataDDA. Coup-de-grace is a concept I’m really fond of, because it revolves around movement and positioning. Now, I know that “stun” isn’t just the same as “paralyzed” but if the player character was skilled enough facing an injured (or weak imho) opponent and he had one turn to deliver a poweful blow with a weapon-in-hand, then just passing that same opponent on the adjacent square could result in an insta-kill.
To be clear, this combat feature should get embedded only when the player char’s skilled enough to pull it off. Meanwhile, martial artists should have a choice to pin the stunned opponent and deliver that fatal blow instantly throughout the next movement, or battle round.

Thats an interesting thought. And i suport preparing and follow up maneuvers as well as situational attacks.
I just want toi add that even if you have the chance to deliver a coup de grace it is not a garateed kill.
First you ll have to hit like you want and the the hit has to actually do as much dmg as you hope it will do.
Bonus dmg? Sure! Insta kill? NA.

Speaking of a point mentioned above, will PCs be able to pay (or complete quests for) NPCs for skill-ups?

actually this is already in.

actually this is already in.[/quote]

Yep. We’ve had some snags with letting it grant MA styles, but skills work reasonably well.