On the matter of Knowledge Skills

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eaton eaton's picture
On the matter of Knowledge Skills

As different releases of the EP2 playtest have come out, the subject of knowledge skills and how they're handled (and divided into multiple skills) has come up a lot in both rule and chargen conversations. With the June 8 release, the big change is collapsing all knowledge skills into one — "Know."

I've got some thoughts I wanted to write up about that, but it feels like a dedicated thread for the discussions about knowledge skills might be good. It's not QUITE the same as some of the other complex mechanical conversations in the chargen thread.

eaton eaton's picture
Quick Summary

So, in EP1 we had a giant pile of fairly granular knowledge skills like Profession, Academics, Interest, Art, and Language. The mechanical distinctions between some of them were fuzzy, and their usefulness really depended on how good the players and GM were at integrating them into the flow, but they were great for capturing a character's flavor, background, and personality in the actual stats.

Initially, EP2's move towards skill simplification collapsed these down to just three: Profession, Academics, and Interest. Language is just a separate thing, Art is now under 'Exotic Skill' if it's important to define, and the skill list is shorter. However, questions about the distinctions between the three and how they're used still remain. In addition, since all are COG-linked field skills, they contribute to the COG-heavy skill breakdown.

In the June 8th release, there's a REALLY big change: All knowledge skills are now collapsed to one field skill: "Know." Its extended description includes discussion of the distinctions between Professions, Academic training, and Interests, but they're not mechanically enforced as they would be with distinct, separate skills.

I talked this over with my players and there was a lot of ambivalence about it. The older approaches weren't ideal, but they captured an interesting distinction between Theory and Practice that seems to be missing now (or turned into an odd third tier of distinction with Know {Profession/Academics/Interest} [Field]: Specialization. In addition, collapsing it without changing how *many* knowledge skill points players get will make the "Know" skill dominate most charsheets.

Any thoughts on going halfway — collapsing Academics and Profession into a single skill (perhaps theory/education/experience/etc) while maintaining Interest as a separate one? Something that captures the distinction between, say, knowing music theory and being a huge fan of the Rolling Stones? If the "interest" style skill could be moved to INT instead of COG, it'd be one more bonus…

Urthdigger Urthdigger's picture
The main reason I feel they

The main reason I feel they're collapsed, and the main reason I don't feel we should uncollapse them, is that mechanically they all did the exact same thing, being a skill you used to show your character's knowledge of the world. Yes there's a difference between knowing music theory and being a fan of the rolling stones, but there's also a distinction between knowing those and ancient history or how model trains function.

It's already a field skill, which I feel does a decent job of allowing people to express nuances between iterations of it .

Now, the one thing I will ask for, is to allow Art skills to use the allotment of knowledge points again.

eaton eaton's picture
Quote:The main reason I feel

Quote:
The main reason I feel they're collapsed, and the main reason I don't feel we should uncollapse them, is that mechanically they all did the exact same thing, being a skill you used to show your character's knowledge of the world. Yes there's a difference between knowing music theory and being a fan of the rolling stones, but there's also a distinction between knowing those and ancient history or how model trains function.

It's already a field skill, which I feel does a decent job of allowing people to express nuances between iterations of it .

Now, the one thing I will ask for, is to allow Art skills to use the allotment of knowledge points again.

Fair. Perhaps what weirds me out is that they're emphasized enough (via the number of skill points allocated to them) that they're skill-like, but collapsing them into a single skill makes them feel a bit more like D&D5E's proficiencies: a smorgasbord of arbitrary things you can get situational bonuses for knowing about. Unlike proficiencies, though, they carry the full point-allocation overhead of skills, are all linked to COG, and (now) have a weird subdivided explanation that treats Profession/Interest/Academics as if they were separate things without differentiating them mechanically.

I'm not sure exactly what's off, but the conversation with my players and their attempt to look over charsheets and figure out what would change seems to indicate that it's not my imagination.

UnitOmega UnitOmega's picture
This is an odd subject for me

This is an odd subject for me, I'm not sure how to handle it. Being both perfectly comfortable with the seperate skills and being one of several who do not find the collapse particularly helpful (Oh gee, look at all these "Knows" I have now) this is going to be a day one rule zero for me in that I'll probably just tell all my players (who are familiar with 1E already) for the sake of clarity and sanity to still use the Academic/Interest/Profession distinction on their sheets - the game basically still makes it anyway and I find actually calling them seperate zones of fields more helpful for the players as a roleplaying exercise in understanding what they know and where that knowledge comes from and as a GM for actually arbitrating use of the skill - which is pretty loose anyway. The current "Know" system doesn't actually seem to help address any issues. And aesthetically (or for sake of reading comprehension if you think that applies better) does not seem to flow well. If I didn't already know what the game was trying to get at I'd think I might find the current formatting for Know both as a skill and how it appears in many skill packs to be confusing.

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o11o1 o11o1's picture
Maybe we should break way

Maybe we should break way from treating knowledge as a full fledged skill entirely? Eaton mentioned d&D 5E's proficiencies system, maybe we could have Knowledge Skills turned into COG and INT aptitude tests, with additional bonuses from our proficiency in various knowledges? Sort of like the traits that give bonuses on Aptitude tests already?

Hmmm, that could have some.... interesting interactions with morphs that have the Astute trait.

A slight smell of ions....

ThatWhichNeverWas ThatWhichNeverWas's picture
Said it before, repeating it here for convenience.

I've been arguing for a while that the complementary skill bonus should be the focus of Knowledge skills, so you'd buy them as 'floating' specialisations of either +10, +20 or +30, but it hasn't caught on.
That also makes the Attribute bonus moot, because the applicable attribute would be defined by what you're actually 'doing' with the skill when you use it.

Either way, one reason I'm so behind mixing them together is that in play the difference between [Interest (Thing)], [Profession (Thing)] and [Academics (Thing)] doesn't have anything to do with (Thing), but rather elements which are only tangentially related; [Profession (Thing)] could theoretically provide details about the business side of things which the other types would not, but at that point any profession skill could perform the same function... which would arguably be the domain of a separate (Business Management) or (Finance) skill.

I'm also really pushing that the categories be used to represent different levels of expertise because the main difference between them is the extent of knowledge; a professional in a field 'should' know more about the field than someone who's just interested.

In the past we've had to compensate for weaknesses, finding quick solutions that only benefit a few.
But what if we never need to feel weak or morally conflicted again?

Dilf_Pickle Dilf_Pickle's picture
Strafing Run

(Responses to the OP, then comment responses)

As the local EP1 curmudgeon, I don't see the problem with EP1 Interests/Professions/Academics that required a collapse of the skills in question, and I very don't see the problem with Art as its own field skill. It is pointed out in several places in EP canon that artistic expression is, in a very real way, the ONLY new thing transhumanity is creating. Everything else is either iterative or skimming dangerously-close to The Singularity's still-tender underbelly.

The language changes are less of a big deal IMO, since the sharp dichotomy between "fluent" and "non-fluent" is generally the most significant factor in RP—but, given the choice, I would of course choose the curmudgeonly path.

eaton wrote:
Any thoughts on going halfway — collapsing Academics and Profession into a single skill (perhaps theory/education/experience/etc) while maintaining Interest as a separate one?

Professional fields with significant theory/practice overlap, like Engineering and Linguistics, would complicate attempts to merge Profession and Academics. Although one could argue that Theory and Practice/Application would best be represented by specialties.

eaton wrote:
If the "interest" style skill could be moved to INT instead of COG, it'd be one more bonus…

While I don't share your alarm at the number of COG-linked skills, having Interests (and especially Arts) INT-linked would make more sense IMO.

Urthdigger wrote:
The main reason I feel they're collapsed, and the main reason I don't feel we should uncollapse them, is that mechanically they all did the exact same thing, being a skill you used to show your character's knowledge of the world.

As far as I can tell, the knowledge skill collapse has only brought about two changes: word choice in describing said skills, and number of skill slots. Neither factor is mechanical, but they do both seem like they could have a heavy impact in RP terms.

Urthdigger wrote:
Now, the one thing I will ask for, is to allow Art skills to use the allotment of knowledge points again.

100% agreed.

UnitOmega wrote:
I'll probably just tell all my players (who are familiar with 1E already) for the sake of clarity and sanity to still use the Academic/Interest/Profession distinction on their sheets - the game basically still makes it anyway and I find actually calling them seperate zones of fields more helpful for the players as a roleplaying exercise in understanding what they know and where that knowledge comes from [...] And aesthetically (or for sake of reading comprehension if you think that applies better) does not seem to flow well. If I didn't already know what the game was trying to get at I'd think I might find the current formatting for Know both as a skill and how it appears in many skill packs to be confusing.

As Roger Sessions once said when paraphrasing Einstein: Everything should be as simple as it can be but not simpler!

Past a certain point, simplicity results in a loss of information; in our example, the loss of a distinction (useful to some for its RP and immersion value) between professions, academic studies and personal interests. I imagine your group will not be the only one to Rule-Zero this distinction back into effect.

o11o1 wrote:
Maybe we should break way from treating knowledge as a full fledged skill entirely? Eaton mentioned d&D 5E's proficiencies system, maybe we could have Knowledge Skills turned into COG and INT aptitude tests, with additional bonuses from our proficiency in various knowledges? Sort of like the traits that give bonuses on Aptitude tests already?

Something like the new Languages mechanic, where you either know it or you don't? An interesting idea, but it might run afoul of the "conscious compentence" nature of the Know skills. My understanding of Attribute tests has always been that they represent innate, "easily defaultable" abilities like remembering something or resisting intimidation.

ThatWhichNeverWas wrote:
I've been arguing for a while that the complementary skill bonus should be the focus of Knowledge skills, so you'd buy them as 'floating' specialisations of either +10, +20 or +30, but it hasn't caught on.

The only difference between that and EP1 would be however you propose that these floating specialisations be purchased. Any mechanics in mind?

ThatWhichNeverWas wrote:
Either way, one reason I'm so behind mixing them together is that in play the difference between [Interest (Thing)], [Profession (Thing)] and [Academics (Thing)] doesn't have anything to do with (Thing), but rather elements which are only tangentially related

Perhaps, but, as pointed out above, there is immense RP value in the distinction even if the mechanical value is negligible (which is arguable). And in some cases the distinction can make for amazing shorthand by encompassing entire semantic fields and otherwise-disparate skills.

ThatWhichNeverWas wrote:
[Profession (Thing)] could theoretically provide details about the business side of things which the other types would not, but at that point any profession skill could perform the same function... which would arguably be the domain of a separate (Business Management) or (Finance) skill.

This is entirely possible, but IMO would be more complicated. I find "Profession: Carpenter" to be a much simpler expression of "Business Management (Contracting)", "Trade (Carpentry)", "Logistics (Woodworking Tools)", "Pilot: Groundcraft (Pickup Truck)" and "Language: English (Vulgarity)", for example. "Know: Carpentry" kind-of gets at this, but seems off. Might be my EP1-glasses talking.

ThatWhichNeverWas wrote:
I'm also really pushing that the categories be used to represent different levels of expertise because the main difference between them is the extent of knowledge; a professional in a field 'should' know more about the field than someone who's just interested.

That's an arguable point, but "should" is quite the fickle maiden.

Urthdigger Urthdigger's picture
I will point out that for

I will point out that for those who are pushing for uncollapsing the skills, there really is nothing stopping you from listing it as "Know: Profession: Asteroid Mining" for example.

As for a personal reason for uncollapsing them, I'd like to point out that I find Profession a bit concerning. With the skill overlap in EP1, I've run into DMs who insisted I use one skill out of several that could fit the bill. This meant a LOT of skills purchased for certain roles, as any tangential skill or skill that may come up in the course of using your primary skill was essentially a requirement. It also meant that for any active skill that could conceivably be done as a profession, you were required to take the profession skill as well if you ever expected to use that skill in a professional setting (say, a medically trained character ops to help a disaster relief effort.)

By not having Profession be its own skill, I feel that helps keep the bloat of required skills down, which is good for character creation. You can now just assume your psychotherapist character has some skill running a clinic. Yes, the distinction is lost for the character who somehow became well trained without on the job experience, or the character who somehow got ahead in an industry with no knowledge of how to do the basics of their job, but I really think edge cases like that should be covered with background and RP, and not bloat up the skill requirements just to accommodate them.

Lurkingdaemon Lurkingdaemon's picture
Oversimplified?

I'm a proponent of decompressing the Know skills back into Academics/Interest/Profession because the distinction between each is not only made in character, it's still made in the (current) drafts of the rules.

While, yes, there are simple ways of categorizing what's what, they also lead to arguably unecessary clutter (Know [Academics]: Fine Arts, takes up a bit more space than Academics: Fine Arts).

Additionally, there are some major distinctions to be made between the three, as suggested in the rules write-up:

Academics are your near-professional level studies, or studies backing up a profession, where you most likely have to have some ability to competently recall specific, pertinent facts from the field in question, or demonstrate your knowledge - possibly on a regular basis. The information your character knows is pertinent to them in the same way modern studies are confirmed, debunked, endorsed or otherwise influenced by the community of people who study the subject.

Interests on the other hand are your wiki-walkers, avid fans and people who don't take the same, measured, studious approach - and as such might have a greater body of minute knowledge on the topic at hand that may be disregarded or dismissed by academic communities who study the same field. With this lack of a filter, an Interest might reveal things like conspiracy theories, tall tales and other 'gutter knowledge' that's similarly dismissed by academics or professionals.

And Professionals are, as the name suggests, the guys who explore and act on a given field - presumably for a living, or at least a paycheck. Pro's might not be accredited in their knowledge, or be invested in every tall tale about their field, but they have the hands-on 'real world' perspective that academics and the interested might not have, or otherwise have a skewed outlook on how the field should be pursued, and how it is pursued.

I've made the point in other threads on Art - I like where it is, and I'll sum up my thoughts on it quickly:

It should stay active and exotic because:
-you can create tangible objects/works which then have a pertinent value
-you can screw up the creation process
-you are applying more than just studied recall of facts
-artists are uncommon in lore, and this encourages the same in characters

o11o1 o11o1's picture
What does it Imply if you

What does it Imply if you have Interest Economics at a level of 60? That level of skill seems beyond the classic description of an 'Interest'. Is that CP worth less than the same number of CP put into a Profession: Economics? the differences, while interesting from a flavor standpoint, seem rife for GM abuse of not wanting to allow a character to use their Academic skill to do work in industry because it's not the Profession form.

If I have Academics: Economics 60, Interest: Economics 60, and Profession: Economics 60, with a COG of 20, what exactly am I supposed to be getting out of these 120 skill ranks that makes it worth those 120 ranks? Consider that Fray works for all "don't get hit" tests regardless of if it's a sword, a bullet, or tank shell you're trying to dodge? (Granted, with a penalty from ranged attacks)

A slight smell of ions....

ubik2 ubik2's picture
I'd be careful about

I'd be careful about presenting the Know types as different levels of expertise. The skill rating should really be the indicator for that. Einstein's early paper, published while he was a worker at the patent office, may have been based on an Interest skill (arguments could be made for both Academics and Profession as well). Similarly, I would characterize a professor as someone holding the Academics variant, and those individuals often have more knowledge than the Profession version.

I do like the way they add flavor. The Academics version of the Know: Archaeology is more likely to know the history of the artifact, while the Profession version is more likely to know who to bribe to get the artifact out of the region. I certainly don't think a GM should require you to roll one, rather than the other, but perhaps the Academic version has a +10 to know the original owner, while the Profession version has a +10 to know who to bribe (sort of like a free specialization). This should be enough that players only feel the need to focus on one.

In this model, it's really more Know: Archaeology (Profession) than Know: Profession: Archaeology.

Edit: After thinking about this some more, I think it's probably ok to get rid of the Academic/Interest/Profession distinction. That sort of thing can go in the character notes if it's important, but just as a character with Guns may have a lot more experience with a pistol than with a rifle, the skill doesn't need to reflect this.

Maudova Maudova's picture
Interest Skill = Someone that

Interest Skill = Someone that know about the trends, history, and pop culture surrounding a subject. they know the movers and shakers, big brands/companies involved, could recognize the stars that orbit around a subject?

While profession represents someone who works in said area. They know the logistics, the days to day operational needs of the subject, how do deal with paperwork surrounding their profession, politics involved, and could do the job of the subject?

While an academic would be someone that knows the history, the theory, and various branches of the subject. They understand what lead to the current day version of the subject, as well as the pioneers and different philosophies surrounding the subject?

So...
Interest: Law Professionals - A skill politicians most likely have. To know the police, lawyers, and judges of the area?
Profession: Lawyer - The skill of being a Lawyer
Academics: Law - The study of law. Something a lawyer, judge, police officer might need.

Maybe I am missing the mark here but, those are completely different skills. While interest lawyers will tell you about the happenings and culture of common day law professionals it's not going to tell you that Dr. Wilbuk of the Titianian Common Wealth wrote a treaties on law that affected everyone before the fall in the inner systems and his paper is still used today to teach modern law. Dr. Wilbuk may not have any profession Lawyer because he never became one, just studied law to the Doctorate level. At this point he's totally given up law as a study and is now the proud owner of a Micro-corp and his buddies are worth millions of Q-bits.

~Alpha Fork Initialized.
P.S. I often post from my phone as I travel extensively for work. Please forgive typos and grammar issues.

Lurkingdaemon Lurkingdaemon's picture
Splitting hairs

Maudova wrote:
~Snip~

Pretty much hits the nail on the head for how I would try to explain the distinction. Because the distinction is made in the current draft of the rules, and this is me being pedantic, then it should be clear what is useful for what situation.

I actually have no issue with boiling down the three main 'knowledge' categories into a single skill, but because of the way they're defined and described as covering different - if overlapping - fields on, potentially, the same subject the distinction and separation seems necessary.

However:

One way I can see having things work is to remove that distinction from the Know skill descriptions, and use an alternate, inclusive way of framing how characters come into such knowledge. I.e:

Hypothetical Description wrote:
Know skills represent information your character has acquired, things they know. They play a less dramatic role, but are often critical for helping your character solve mysteries, understand situations, and figure out what to do. These skills represent knowledge or training acquired from sources such as academic study, avid interests or hobbies, or professional training.

That way the distinction becomes far less important, but players can still say their character knows about things by way of being a professional in the field, or a studied academic, or an interested hobbyist.

ubik2 ubik2's picture
They are somewhat different skills.

One of the goals of EP2 is to collapse what some have called skill bloat. One of the negative effects of modeling lots of different skills is that you get to the issue Urthdigger brought up above, where a player needs all three to have the knowledge they were after. By collapsing the three skills into one, you get simpler character creation and cheaper advancement for skills that are not mechanically as strong as active skills.

There's always the danger of collapsing too much, where you've eliminated some character concepts. For Fate Accelerated Edition, they have a stat called Forceful, which represents how good you are at breaking down a door, but also how good you are at resisting something with your willpower. In that system, you're going to have problems making a Professor X. When Professor X deadlifts 100kg with his high Forceful, the players lose their sense of immersion (plenty of ways to avoid this situation, but I think it gets the idea across).

I don't think that this collapse of Know skills really runs into this. If your professional lawyer ends up knowing about Dr. Wilbuk's treatise, despite not having an academic background, that's not unreasonable.

In my examples, I viewed the Academics/Profession/Interest as the reason someone learned the knowledge, and then imagined how they would end up with different areas of expertise. Maudova's approach, which is also the EP1 approach, is that they are different sets of knowledge. I think the game developers are trying to switch to one set of knowledge. Changing the way I imagined these skills to the condensed version still gives me a believable world, and makes the game simpler, so I'm happy with it.

Having skills split up is valuable to a game when it's important to the player that their character is bad at something. I don't think it's very common for players to want their character to be bad at some aspects of the Know: Law skill.

For Maudova's examples, I think you could also still model this as:
Know: Lunar Players
Know: Law
Know: Police Procedures

With something like this, it's clear that if the character only had Know: Law or Know: Police Procedures, they would know about Miranda rights. If they only had Know: Law, they might have a penalty to their roll to know whether the police are likely to use lethal force.

The system gives players enough points for around 5 know skills. There is some danger of collapsing skills enough that players don't know what else to buy (or they buy them all to 80, even though they're not trying to be a specialist). I haven't run into that myself, but perhaps others have. If this is happening, the more direct solution is to decrease the number of knowledge character creation skills, rather than fragmenting the skills.

o11o1 o11o1's picture
The more I read through this,

The more I read through this, the more it seems like having Interest, Academic, and Professional as sub-fields inside a field is actually coming at the matter backwards.

Really, it's probably more useful to keep those distinctions...as specialities for the Know skill.

Since the Know skill already will be prone to collecting strange oddball skills like Martian Beers and Video Games, subdividing those even further into specialties somewhat becomes... silly? If, however, all Know skills get an automatic option of (Interest), (Adcademic) (Professional) as specialty options, then we have the ability to represent where your knowledge of things is coming from, and you get some mechanical benefit a decent chunk of the time, for the comparatively cheap cost of a 1 CP Specialization. Arguably still steep, but a non-crazy amount to invest in a flavorful extension of your character.

Now, this is of course rather different from how specializing works for normal Active Skills, but since Know is more than a little weird to start with, maybe we can make it work out?

In this case, someone with Know: Law (Professional) is still perfectly able to handle Academic style tasks, they simply aren't getting their specialty bonus on it. Probably competent, but not excelling, which feels like it should work out pretty well at a game table.

And if you want instead Know: Law (Extropia) that's a totally valid specialty as well.

A slight smell of ions....

Trappedinwikipedia Trappedinwikipedia's picture
That seems pretty reasonable

That seems pretty reasonable and effective. I like it.

Lurkingdaemon Lurkingdaemon's picture
Six or a half-dozen?

I like the idea of Academics/Interest/Profession being specialties.

If taken with my suggestion for explaining away how things are condensed in general (the different 'fields' being the source of the knowledge, rather than the outcome/focus), it could represent characters still actively involved in the field, versus characters who are less active, or out of the field for various reasons - but still retain pertinent info.

ThatWhichNeverWas ThatWhichNeverWas's picture
A good idea.

Another vote for specialities!
All the RP benefit, none of the mechanical dross.

Dilf_Pickle wrote:
The only difference between that and EP1 would be however you propose that these floating specialisations be purchased. Any mechanics in mind?

Nothing really novel.
Each Know skill exists at the aforementioned levels. Characters which start with a skill at 30 get +10, those at 60 get +20. Upgrading costs 2CP per level.
More granularity could be done by making them increments of 5, but I don't know if it's a good idea.
The bonus would apply to active skills the same way it does now, but when you would roll against the Knowledge skill directly, you make an aptitude check plus the bonus instead.
Another possibility would be to roll against the Skill x3, but I prefer the former for simplicity.

In the past we've had to compensate for weaknesses, finding quick solutions that only benefit a few.
But what if we never need to feel weak or morally conflicted again?

ubik2 ubik2's picture
ThatWhichNeverWas wrote

ThatWhichNeverWas wrote:
Characters which start with a skill at 30 get +10, those at 60 get +20.

I get the impression the developers are moving away from some of these skill bonuses. They eliminated the +30 from having a linked know skill when it's normal (e.g. Hardware: Electronics and Know: Engineering). They also got rid of the smartlink bonus (switching it to a penalty for not existing).

Those changes imply they want to get the skill numbers a little lower, but I could be reading too much into it.

Kojak Kojak's picture
Just wanna throw in that I

Just wanna throw in that I like the specialties approach as well. Seems like a good compromise.

"I wonder if in some weird Freudian way, Kojak was sucking on his own head."
- Steve Webster on Kojak's lollipop

ThatWhichNeverWas ThatWhichNeverWas's picture
Context is everything.

ubik2 wrote:
I get the impression the developers are moving away from some of these skill bonuses. They eliminated the +30 from having a linked know skill when it's normal (e.g. Hardware: Electronics and Know: Engineering). They also got rid of the smartlink bonus (switching it to a penalty for not existing).

As long as the bonus cap is +60, nothing will change.
And that's a good thing.

The reason I'd prefer focusing on the Bonuses than the skill value (and why I like the simpler mechanics) is I want players to be encouraged to take note of thier Knowledges and bring them into play as much as possible, because that makes them more invested in the character.

In V1 (and so many other games) the Knowledge skills say SO much about how a given character fits into the world, but often see play only when the GM really pushes the players to use them, and that always makes me sad.

In the past we've had to compensate for weaknesses, finding quick solutions that only benefit a few.
But what if we never need to feel weak or morally conflicted again?