Skills describe what you (or in some cases your retainers) can do. These may vary from holding yourself in personal combat to delivering a stirring speech in front of a crowd of thousands.
Your characters are competent in most everything you do, but you need to assign ranks to a number of skills for the cases when you are more or less than competent. You must select:
All the other skills will be Competent.
Once you have done this, you may improve your skills further. If you reduce a skill to Ineffectual from Competent, you may raise any other skill one rank. This may be from Competent to Accomplished, or Accomplished to Outstanding. Outstanding skills cannot be raised any further. You may do this twice: at this point you should have three Ineffectual rank skills.
Finally, any skills which are Outstanding must have a specialisation. This is a sub-field of a skill where your character is even better than normal.
For example, a character with Outstanding Strategy might have the specialisation of Fighting Larger Armies, whereas a character with Outstanding Performance might have the specialisation of Poetry. Specialisations should avoid being too broad (e.g. Staying Hidden for the Stealth skill) or too narrow (e.g. Underwater Basket Weaving for the Craft skill).
|Ineffectual||Ultimately unskilled, and unable to understand the nuances of what might make you better. If you end up using this skill, prepare for consequences.|
|Competent||Competent enough to get by on a day to day basis|
|Accomplished||Above average, and something you have a genuine talent for|
|Outstanding||There are few who rival you, especially in your area of expertise|
One person can never be skilled at everything they might need to do. This is why you have staff. You have two retainers whose loyalty you can depend on1) and whose skills you can utilise as well as your own.
Each retainer is employed to work in one area and thus, so long as your retainer is available, they may be used in one skill each. This includes both skills which you already have at a higher level (giving you more breadth and flexibility), and skills at Ineffectual rank (to try to cover your weak spots). At the start of the game, all retainers have an Accomplished rank in the skill they're employed in. When generating your character, please name and describe your retainers.
You can assume that your retainers are loyal to you, and that they will in accordance with the spirit as well as the letter of your direction. This does not mean, however, that they are always going to be 100% reliable. Retainers can be bribed, misdirected, or even killed by those who may wish to interfere with you.
This always takes quite dramatic intervention. If this happens, you will not be able to rely on their skill while they are not working for you. This may be inconvenient, but an assassin taking out your steward is infinitely preferable to having that knife in your back.
Even in intense situations, it takes time for new skills to be truly internalised. Skills will not advance during the course of the game. However, you will be able to improve your available skill-set by hiring new retainers.
This will likely be necessary if you lose one of your retainers due to unforeseen circumstances, but sometimes you may simply want to change the dynamic of your staff. You may never have more retainers than you started the game with (usually, but not always, two), but they may be dismissed and replaced with newer, and hopefully better, retainers. Dismissing a retainer is unlikely to provoke revenge from them, unless you are particularly rude, or they were predisposed to dislike you.
To hire a retainer you must convince them to join your staff, which will involve at least one action in helping them out before they will help you. You should talk to this potential retainer during session, or over emails, to see what they might want you to do before putting in an action to convince them.
If you are struggling to find NPCs who may wish to be a retainer, talk to the GMs: they may be able to give you some pointers.
Those who are so fortunate as to be able to attend the Queen's Gatherings are usually not isolated individuals. They are people with staffs to command, cities and armies to organise, or fortunes to grow. Those who have no ability to administrate will not hold their blessed position for very long; those who do may find that their greatest strength are those they have around them.
Example Specialisations: Military Supply Chains, Creative Accounting, Chief of Staff
While certain simple things can be created by anyone with a mote of time, or a gram of skill, most things of value have been created by highly skilled artisans. The craft skill allows you to be one of these artisans, and create or design things of grandeur. This may be great works of art, vast fortifications, or elaborate personal devices.
The craft skill behaves slightly differently to other skills. When you take the skill at the Accomplished or higher rank, you choose a broad area of craft which you practise (e.g. Painting, Architecture). This means that, if you wish, the skill may be taken multiple times at Accomplished or higher rank, in different areas. This includes your retainers, who may be retained for a craft skill which you do not possess.
Example Specialisations: Military Fortifications, Portraiture, Novel Weapons
It is a very lucky person indeed who can get through their entire life without ever having to be personally exposed to physical violence. For the rest of the world, being able to keep themselves out of danger, and put enough hurt on others to keep them out of their hair is a must. From duelists, to fighters in the front lines of wars, combat is nothing new.
Example Specialisations: Dueling, Dirty Tricks, Grappling
Over time, people begin to develop their own expectations of how social interaction should happen; with powerful people acting under the weight of tradition, this is even more so. No matter what you have to say, or how well you can say it, if you insult and turn people off at first impression, they are much less likely to listen to what you have to say. Those with passing familiarity with this skill know how to behave at home and in similar places: those who have practiced can make themselves at home anywhere.
OC Note: Other player characters are not expected to treat you as being polite and erudite if you are rude to them face to face, or in emails, no matter how skilled you are in etiquette. This is down to you.
Example Specialisations: Palace Tradition, Criminal Slang, Addressing Your Superiors
While everyone can make observations and come up with plausible conclusions from those observations, there are people who have sharper eyes and quicker minds than most. From the steward who can spot a misfiled inventory at a glance, to the scout who can read tracks like they were written on parchment, having a skill in this can help many different people.
Example Specialisations: Deduction, Library Researcher, Interrogation
Though most of magical dogma has been written down centuries ago, and there is very little recent development in that field, understanding those classic texts is still very useful. While all people have some natural magical talent, it takes proper study and understanding of the traditional forms to be truly useful, and those who are useful generally tend to be very useful.
Example Specialisations: Alchemy, Disagreements of the original authors, Self-Directed Magic
While many people are capable of doing many things, not everyone is capable of performing them. In the right hands, the simple act of delivering a pre-written message can be turned into a display that sets the soul alight. In two such pairs of hands, the message can be written prepared to do exactly that. Beware the silver tongued, however, as their sparkle and flare may be nothing more than distraction.
OC Note: Other player characters are not expected to treat you as having performed well if you do this face to face, or in emails, no matter how skilled you are in performance. This is down to you.
Example Specialisations: Acting, Con-artistry, Performative Displays of Magic
There are thousands of gods within the Royalty of Esharia, and many more beyond. While the average person will know, and perhaps even Understand, their local god, those who aspire to the highest reaches of the Council of Priests must know many Gods indeed: how they interact, and who wants what. With rumours of heresy abound, knowledge of the intricacies of the current state of the gods should prove to be even more vital to those who think to take advantage of this situation.
Example Specialisations: Gods of The Heights, Schisms Within Gods, The Oldest Gods
Sometimes what you need is to just not be seen, whether what you hope to avoid is deadly assassins, or the disapproving glare of your patriarch. The average person will know not to leave that incriminating letter in plain sight, but once you start to study people a little you'll learn that everyone often ends up putting that hidden letter in the same sort of places. You can be better than that. Under cover of night, who knows what could be happening?
Those who seek to protect themselves from the stealthy attempts of others should first and foremost seek to sharpen their eyes (Investigation); beyond that, those who know how to avoid detection are better at second guessing the attempts of others (Stealth). Finally, if you have no other recourse, if someone tries to interfere with you in an area where you are talented and they are not, you are more likely to spot tell-tale signs of whatever they have done.
Example Specialisations: Master of Disguise, Hiding in Cities, Trailing People
In the raging sea that is warfare, even the smallest of advantages can make the biggest of difference, and even the largest of leads can be poured away. That is, as long as you can leverage that opportunity. The history of the world remembers lucky and talented tacticians, and the others fall by the wayside, so make sure to be both.
Example Specialisations: Ambushes, Naval Warfare, Leading From the Front