Stats, Skills and Rust

If I’m to admit to something it’s that I never under any circumstances invest in skills at creation–as it’s not mechanically advantageous to do so. This problem stems from two factors:

  1. Skills can be acquired through play (And easily at that) whereas stats may not.
  2. Skills degrade over time (With rust enabled) whereas stats do not.

I have a possible remedy for this: Affinity and Aptitude, which works thusly.

  1. At character creation the point buy system no longer extends itself to skills and can only be spent on stats, traits, professions and good/bad starts

  2. Your aptitude for certain tasks is a measure of how well you preform without any training at all, such as being strong, clever or fast. It’s no substitute for training but does provide an edge. This is your base level, you can never rust below your natural aptitude for a task but one’s natural prowess is rarely very high–each stat point only worth fractions of a skill level. This way as one mutates or gains access to CBMs their aptitudes can rise, where as injury, pain or drugs may temporarily lower them.

  3. Your affinity represents how inclined towards a particular pursuit you find yourself–it’s the difference between being learned on a matter and being passionate about it. (All the cook books in the world aren’t going to make you like cooking if it just isn’t your thing.) Players receive a base number of affinity points to distribute among their skills, modified by how far above or below average intelligence they are at creation.

Each affinity point spent raises a skill’s base level and acts as counter-rust, meaning that should you have a high enough affinity towards a particular skill it raises itself naturally over time. (Perhaps during sleep?)

  • Perhaps to go hand-in-hand with this some recipes could–rather than autolearned at a particular skill level–come to players as a sudden epiphany. The chance of which could be increased should they be invested enough in its associated skill not to be suffering from rust.


Currently rust is more: ‘Forgetting how to do something’ than being out of practice. So I’ve a suggestion for how to refine it.

  1. Rust builds up over time on skills your character doesn’t use often and/or has a low affinity towards. High skill levels rust faster than lower levels and rust never goes below the base level of a skill (Your aptitude+affinity)

  2. Rust exists as negative skill levels rather than lost skill progression. You’ll never forget a recipe or be ineligible for a task because of rust but it will make crafting/construction take longer and increase the chance of failing skill checks.

  3. Rust does not prevent skill progress but does impede it. Whenever you gain experience in a skill it’s divided between raising the skill and lowering rust.

  4. Rust is relatively easy to get rid of through using skills or briefly re-reading appropriate books but will be your constant companion through the cataclysm.

Seems like a nice thought out system but a couple points.

1-I disagree with disabling using points to raise skill, some players use it to be able to craft something right from the get-go.

2-How would the affinity point be distributed? At the character creation?

  1. This would still be possible, by spending affinity at creation – it’s merely a separate resource.

  2. Affinity would be spent after the standard point buy in character creation

So replace the skill point buy for affinity point distribution then. I still disagree but it would not be a game breaker for me. Would affinity raise as well? Interests change over time. Lets say you read a damn lot on cooking so you develop liking.

The problem with how skill rust works now is that it plays out one of two ways:

  1. You play with it on, greatly diminishing the value of skill levels as you experience ‘skill bleed out’ and forget things you’ve learned
  2. You play with it off. The preference for which (And option to do so) a sign of a mechanic that needs reworking

This system makes starting skill affinities as valuable as stats–without needing players to choose between either–and has the two interact during and after creation.

*Natural stat levels contribute to skill base levels

*Temporary stat changes modify skill base levels

*Professions are a vastly more important choice now. Would you rather the extra stats/traits from being a tweaker or a higher base skill level from a better profession?

I like the synergy and depth your suggestion adds to existing systems like CBMs and mutations.

I agree that starting skills are mostly worthless compared to stats or traits. I would like to try out an implementation of your affinity idea.

Does rust affect memories of recipes?

Currently rust works as straight up unlearning skills, which can make you incapable of crafting something you used to know.

This proposed system:

2) Rust exists as negative skill levels rather than lost skill progression. You'll never forget a recipe or be ineligible for a task because of rust but it will make crafting/construction take longer and increase the chance of failing skill checks.

I think rust should just be a penalty on experience gained in that skill, that way, once you reach max level (or max useful level), you don’t really need to worry about rust at all.

Hey just today I’ve been thinking of a similar thing. I wanted to have affinity be represented by number of skill points spent on creation (with a cap of 4), so that professions actually have some meaning, but your idea is better. It even allows for “forced professions” ie someone who learned to do something without actually liking that. The way professions are set up now there is virtually no difference between how a lumberjack and a computer hacker handle things, and very soon they both meld into the same mess of various skills whose books the character found.

Anyway, the main reason I’m posting is to mention some of my proposed tweaks - in my opinion raising skills through books at the moment is too easy, and to remedy that, we could have technical/boring books have higher morale penalties, as well as low focus factoring more into reducing skill gain from reading. (simulating being worn out after studying stuff that doesn’t particularly interest you). This morale penalty would be of course reduced (even to the point of becoming a bonus) for skills with high affinity. We could even have low affinity skills that would be trained slower and have higher morale penalties with reading.

There is also a power-playing idea: if you set the skill gain factor option to make skills X times slower to raise, the aptitudes could be exempt from this to some degree, to make characters be really differentiated in the late game. This factor of exemption could also be in the options (although this could possibly be overkill).

I like your take on skill rust, I hadn’t even thought of that.

The only issues I can see at the moment (which wouldn’t bother me personally) is whether and how to make affinity flexible, like Noctifer mentioned, and the question of whether most people would even like a different skill system, let alone one this elaborate.