Nothing Wasted 3: Skills, Background and Perception

Nothing Wasted explores ideas to help utilize different aspects of gaming to their fullest or promote new ways to use existing tools.

Before we start this weeks Nothing Wasted I should say that when I say perception that we’re not talking about the Perception Skill but how our Characters perceive the world around them. More on that later. First up Skills.

Skills represent the bulk of what a Character has learned to do in their life. As such each Skill isn’t just a numeric value but part of how they grew up and who they are. To use a simple example all police officers go through a training period where they learn the fundamentals of their work and the skills they will need to do their jobs. All police officers know how to use pistols. You simply can’t get out of Cop School without knowing how to shoot a gun. A different example would be the street kid who was never formally taught how to shoot a gun but learned what they needed to survive. Both of these characters may have the same numeric values for the Firearms Skill but how that looks and feels is very different when viewed though a cinematic lens.

These types of stylistic differences have been used in many countless stories to bring characters together. While one shouldn’t feel forced to decide where each and every skill they have came from when developing a background. These types of details add depth and flavor not just to a single character but all the story as a whole.

For GMs Character’s Skills are equally important. This is where we come to perception. As people grow and learn it shapes how they perceive the world. In this regard all skills are important, and skills that don’t directly related to combat are perhaps evermore important. Two give a difference example, imagine a small park, with a little hill. There is a short fat tree that sits on top of the tree and a walkway that leads down into the park lined with different plants. This description makes no judgement it simply states facts. As you read the description though your mind began filling in blanks to create an image. You may have even began adding details, who’s at the park or what’s going on there. These details are going to vary wildly depending on the person. If you were in the medical field you may have thought of things like jogging and the health benefits, or possibly the dangers of jogging down a hill where there could be twigs and other other things to slip on from the rows of plants. Now what if you were a gardener, would they also be thinking about health, possibly, but, ideas of what the path is lined with, how everything is laid out aesthetically may also come to mind. One of the Fractured Kingdom play testers and here’s what she came up with:

A calm relaxing place, the tree is a perfectly symmetrical oak, like from a child’s drawing. It’s a place to sit and think or meditate.

Why is this important? Both Players and GMs should know where their Characters come from. For the Player this helps to define who they are and make decisions. As the GM it allows you to frame scenes in a way the Character might see them. This cooperative play allows the Players to immerse themselves more fully into the character and as a GM craft a more vivid experience for everyone.