Abilities/Knowledges

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Description

'Knowledges' is a concept I've been mulling about, both to get rid of the oddness of Craft being an array of Abilities when every other Ability is singular, to formalize the system of Arts and Sciences into a single cohesive system, and to make Abilities like Linguistics make more sense.

Rules Changes

The various Craft Abilities now merge into a single Crafts Ability, bringing it in-line with the other 24 Abilities. Like other Abilities (Linguistics, say, or Occult, or Lore), the Crafts Ability encompases general knowledge about how "making stuff out of other stuff", and other aspects of dexterous and manual labor, function. Someone with a high Crafts rating can generally figure out how to operate just about any tools, and can quickly pick up new Crafts trades, while someone with a low Crafts rating won't go very far even when intensely trained.

Also, I'm using the term 'Brawl' instead of 'Martial Arts', to integrate with my MartialArts/KataSystem project. Obviously, call it what you'd like in your own game.

System

Knowledges operate per the rules for the Arts on pg. 137 - 138 of the Exalted, 2nd Edition main rulebook, with some modifications. There are two types of Knowledges - General Knowledges and Specific Knowledges. In the full Abilities Knowledge list below, Specific Knowledges are in italics, while General Knowledges are in plainface.

Some tasks may be attempted even if the character does not have the appropriate level of the necessary Knowledge, but should be performed at a -1 external penalty for each dot of Knowledge the character does not possess, doubled if they do not possess the required Knowledge at all. For example, a character has Dexterity 5 and Archery 4, and has the Bows Knowledge at 3 and the Firewands Knowledge at 1. This means they know the basics of operating a Firewand, and know just about everything there is to know about firing a bow - but have probably never seen a crossbow before in their life. If they picked up a firewand, they would probably be able to operate it without difficulty unless it was an unusual model (requiring Firewands 2), in which case they would be at a -1 penalty until they figured it out. Likewise, if they found a standard crossbow (normally requiring Crossbows 1), they would be at a -2 penalty disadvantage until they purchased their first dot of the Crossbow Knowledge. An Autochthonian Repeating Crossbow (requiring Crossbows 3), on the other hand, would pose -6 penalty to someone who had no familiarity with Crossbows, and a -2 penalty to someone with only a basic familiarity with the weapons.

A Specific Knowledge is always a 1-dot Knowledge. It functions effectively as all possible 3-dot General Knowledges for its specific area of expertise, or as 1-dot General Knowledges for anything very closely related. For example, an Archery Specific Knowledge (Autochthonian Repeating Crossbow) would count as a 3-dot General Knowledge for the operation of an Autochthonian Repeating Crossbow, or a 1-dot Knowledge for the operation of any similar Autochthonian crossbow technology (but would not count as sufficient Knowledge for other Crossbow technology). Likewise, an Athletics Specific Knowledge (Football) would count as a 3-dot General Knowledge for any Athletics roll related to Football (running, jumping, kicking, throwing, tackling, blocking, and so on), or a 1-dot General Knowledge for any Athletics roll that the player could convince the GM was 'similar enough' to a football maneuver to provide some level of expertise. It would not provide any Knowledge for climbing, gymnastics, running over rough terrain, or anything similar.

At character creation, a character should be granted one dot of Knowledges for each dot of Ability they possess. Additional dots of Knowledges should be purchasable for 2 bonus points, or 1 bonus point for Caste or Favored Abilities. Additionally, every character has their own, first-learned language as a Linguistics Knowledge equal to their Intelligence (maximum 3), even if their Linguistics score is 0.

Knowledges By Ability

Each ability whose Knowledges are noteworthy is listed below; the Knowledges listed should not necessarily be considered exhaustive.

Archery

  • Bows
  • Crossbows and Ballistae
  • Catapults and Trebuchets
  • Firewands and Cannon
  • Essence Weapons
  • Specific Weapon

Athletics

  • Feats of Strength
  • Feats of Dexterity
  • Swimming
  • Climbing
  • Jumping
  • Running
  • Specific Physical Action

Awareness

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Brawl

  • Punching
  • Kicking
  • Grappling
  • Parrying
  • Specific Martial Arts Style

Bureaucracy

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Crafts

  • Fire Crafts
  • Water Crafts
  • Air Crafts
  • Earth Crafts
  • Wood Crafts
  • Artifacts
  • Fate
  • Specific Type of Object

Dodge

  • Hand-to-Hand Attacks
  • Ranged Attacks
  • Large Obstacles

Resistance

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Integrity

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Investigation

  • Forensics
  • Witnesses
  • Research
  • Specific Area

Larceny

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Linguistics

  • Oration
  • Writing
  • Meaning & Semantics
  • Specific Language

Lore

  • Culture
  • History
  • The Wyld
  • Specific Area

Medicine

  • Anatomy
  • Diseases
  • Surgical Techniques
  • Specific Species or Area

Melee

  • One-Handed Thrusting Weapons
  • Two-Handed Thrusting Weapons
  • One-Handed Slashing Weapons
  • Two-Handed Slashing Weapons
  • One-Handed Bashing Weapons
  • Two-Handed Bashing Weapons
  • Specific Weapon

Occult

  • Alchemy
  • Astrology
  • Enchantment
  • Geomancy
  • Ritual
  • Summoning
  • Magical Theory
  • Warding
  • Specific Ritual, Practice or Target

Performance

  • Singing
  • Dancing
  • Musical Instruments
  • Stuntwork
  • Impersonation
  • Emotional Acting
  • Specific Instrument or Style

Presence

Ride

  • Land Animals
  • Sea Animals
  • Flying Animals
  • Landcraft
  • Aircraft
  • Seacraft
  • Specific Craft or Creature

Sail

  • Sea Ships
  • Airships
  • Land Ships
  • Navigation
  • Specific Area

Socialize

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Stealth

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Survival

  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Foraging
  • Hunting
  • Tracking
  • Specific Area

Thrown

  • Axes
  • Chakram
  • Darts
  • Knives
  • Rocks / Small Objects
  • Slings

War

  • Land Tactics
  • Sea Tactics
  • Air Tactics
  • Special Operations
  • Strategy
  • Specific Game or Sport

Comments

Well, here goes. Comments, folks? Any help, criticism, or further fleshing-out would be appreciated. -- Ialdabaoth

This is the strongest innovation I've seen to this system in the name of realism I've seen in a long time. I'm not usually quick to applaud rules for anything more than their creativity without a little playtesting, but I can say that at a glance, I'm already considering integrating your system here in games with my more devoted players who are willing to expand their characters through systems. One could say that Exalted doesn't lend itself well to such a system because it is so thoroughly constructed, but I think that you've really created a system which meshes fluidly with the rest of the giant, and does it in an interesting way.

So, for ideas, consider using cultural areas for Larceny and Socialize. Consider using different sorts of resources for Investigation, like "forensics", "witnesses", "psychology", etc. or perhaps specific areas, like "forests." I can imagine Presence knowledges looking a lot like socilize knowledges, perhaps focusing on a type of person in addition to a culture. A person who's grown up in a convent might not understand how to convince a guild trader of anything, and a person who's grown up without religion might not understand how to argue with a zealous priest. For Integrity, I can see things like specific temptations or types of mental attacks, like "women," or "drugs," or "arguments," "impressiveness," etc. I also like the idea of being able to have more specific anatomical knowledges to be able to produce a veterinarian or a monster hunter. Also, potentially, War could be further divided to represent different types of conflicts, such as naval conflics, guerrilla tactics, sieges, etc. I have absolutely no idea about Stealth. Also, I noticed that Endurance replaced Resistance. I also think that each dot of a knowledge could definitely be worth 1 bonus point. Abilities, worth 2 dots, are more broad and generally useful. Knowledges are necessary but less fun. I like to give those sorts of things to players on the very cheap.

Total praise from me. BTW, do I know you? If not, I'd like to. You seem to rock at this. - Morpheus

You honor me with your praise, sir. ;) And I don't know; I usually go by Ialdabaoth or HentaiZonga around various places. The Endurance / Resistance goof was just a miss by me; I've been working on this since before 2E. I'll take all your excellent recommendations under consideration and revise as appropriate later today. -- Ialdabaoth

<blink> Wow, this is weird ... it almost exactly echoes an idea I had a few days ago. Congratulations, I guess. (Although as one of M.'s "more devoted players", perhaps I should be cursing your name. <grin>) As for Stealth, what about specific types of clothing you're wearing while stealthing ...? No, maybe not. I suppose environments would do just as well (city streets, houses, forests, etc). For Socialize, I'd favour a particular action type (bold-faced lies, rumours, facial expressions). I don't think Presence should focus on a culture (this seems more Socialize-y to me) but types of people seem like a good idea. I don't like Performance getting "emotional acting", which sounds to me a lot like Presence or Socialize stuff, but maybe you just mean "acting". Resistance should probably be types of physical stress (bleeding, heat, cold, thirst, lack of sleep). Bureaucracy ... hmm ... I'll come back to Bureaucracy. Awareness should, I think, be certain conditions or areas ... mmm ... no, nevermind. Maybe you could divide up Awareness by sense?
~ Shataina

How do specialties fit into this system? It seems like you either have to completely abandon them or change what these "knowledges" are for some skills. For example, using the example of Occult, which is the closest to being canonical, the "knowledges" seem to provide additional knowlegde (i.e. arts) to the ability. That is, Occult continues to be used for what occult is used for (sensing magic, sensing spirits, certain rolls when spellcasting, etc) and the knowldeges add additional capabilities (alchemy, etc.). Using specialities with a setup like this makes perfect sense. For things like Archery, however, the default assumption seems to be that the lack of a knowledge provides a penalty. In other words, the knowledge system subtracts capability from the skill that must be "bought" up with knowledges (using some free dots, of course). Using specialties in a setup like this doesn't work so well. For example, suppose I have Archery with a bows +3 specialty, but no bow knowledge? If you take the tack that "well, you must have a knowldege to have a specialty", you essentially define all of the knowledges to be the same categories that specialities are, in which case, what's the point? I dunno. It seems like you're on to something here, but it's missing a consistent... philosophy to guide it. Such a philosphy would, for example, make it obvious what the knowledges for Awareness and Bureaucracy are. -- Wordman

I understand your concern completely. Let me see if I can explain the philosophy:

Basically, a 'specialization' is additional training and competence, above and beyond your level of skill. A 'knowledge', on the other hand, is simply a level of familiarization. Thus, someone with a Melee Knowledge (One-Handed Slashing Weapons) 1, has sufficient experience with weapons (such as short swords or light axes) which deal damage by being held one-handed and slashed at people, and knows how to apply his Melee knowledge to weapons which are wielded in that way. If he picks up a weapon which the ST feels can be used efficiently as a one-handed slashing weapon, he starts using it as such, and he's fine. Now, if he picks up a one-handed thrusting weapon (like a rapier, say), he's going to have trouble - he's either going to try to hurt people by slashing at them with it, or he's going to thrust ineffectively because he doesn't really know how.

Now, you could theoretically constrain it further; someone could be VERY specific and just take Melee Knowledge (Swords). At Melee Knowledge (Swords) 1, you know how to use a rapier, a short sword, or a katana, and can apply your full basic Melee Ability to wielding said weapons. At Melee Knowledge (Swords) 2, you could pick up a light-saber or a chainsaw-sword and use it effectively, without losing a limb. At Melee Knowledge (Swords) 3, you can figure out how to use Swordchucks (see 8-Bit Theatre). So Dot 1 of any Knowledge is knowing how to use all the common tools and methods (like rapiers and short swords and katanas). Dot 2 is knowing all the uncommon tools and methods, that still in principle resemble the basics, but require a bit more understanding (like light sabers or chainsaw-swords or the martial arts hook-swords - or any other odd martial arts weapon that still, in principle, works like its basic ancestor). Dot 3 is the weird stuff (like swordchucks and weightless, invisible soul-swords that only cleave flesh and whirling pinwheel sword-blades and swords made out of human spinal column that twist and snake like whips as you use them).

Now, this is totally different than the Melee Specialization (Swords). At Melee Specialization (Swords) 1, you're a Muskateer. Melee Specialization (Swords) 2, you're Erol Flynn. At Melee Specialization (Swords) 3, you're Indigo Montoya. All of these people only have Melee Knowledge (Swords) 1, because all they've really studied is the rapier. They can do AMAZING things with that rapier (with dice pools of 10 to 13), but good luck figuring out how to apply it to Cloud's Buster Sword. Someone with Melee Knowledge (Swords) 3, but no Swords specialization, could use a Buster Sword as well as a rapier, but wouldn't be particularly stunning with either, unless their base Melee itself was 5 or so.

Let's do a comparison between two Melee 5 characters: Indigo Montoya and Conan. Both are Melee 5, and both have poured equal BP/XP into their Melee. Indigo Montoya poured his into Specialization (Sword), because that's all he cares about. He is the finest swordsman the world has ever known. Conan, on the other hand, poured all his into the Knowledge (Swords) 3, the Knowledge (Axes) 3, the Knowledge (Clubs) 3, the Knowledge (Spears) 3, and so on. It doesn't matter WHAT you put in his hand, he'll kick your ass at it. Indigo Montoya would be at a total loss with a morningstar or a lance or a pike; Conan would pick it up and instantly know 30 different ways to kick ass and look good doing it. Conan and Indigo each have the same level of understanding of how a rapier works, but Indigo is just *better* at it. It's not that he knows more about rapiers, it's that he's honed his muscles and his reflexes to utilize that Knowledge more effectively, whereas Conan just acquired the Knowledge and then moved on to the next Knowledge.

So within each Ability, the base Ability is "how much you know". The Knowledges are your breadth of ability, and your Specializations are your depth. Clearer? --Ialdabaoth

It clears up how specializations work with the system, but doesn't clarify why Occult is just as useful as canon with no knowledges learned and added knowledges expand it, but Melee is now nearly useless without knowledges and added knowledges (the Conan example) bring it up to (but cannot exceed) canon Melee. Or why Languistics is sort of in between. There doesn't seem to be any rationale or pattern as to why some abilities get the "knowledges make it more useful" treatment vs. the "the ability is nerfed until you get knowledges" treatment. - Wordman

Because in the original system, it wasn't consistent which Abilities needed knowledge and which didn't. In the original system, Linguistics, Occult and Melee worked completely differently - Occult required Arts, Linguistics gave you a few free languages per dot, and Melee just started you off with everything. Bringing them all to the same level is of course going to bring down the higher ones and bring up the lower ones. And remember - since you get one free dot of Knowledges for each dot of Ability you posses, and someone can generally fill out everything they generally need to know with 4-5 Knowledge dots, it's pretty rare that you actually wind up short-changed. There are places in a few books where it says "use such-and-such skill, but at -2 until you familiarize yourself with this particular technology" - that's an example of where Knowledges come into play. Swords and Axes and such are just more 'pieces of technology' - if you spend your free Knowledge dot per Ability dot getting the first dot of a new Knowledge, you'll quickly (in the case of Melee, or most others) reach a point where you can really do just about anything "typical", wherein you only buy the second Knowledge dot in the areas you need specific focus on, like hook-swords or whips. If you feel this makes certain Abilities too powerful and other Abilities too weak, you might further 'house rule' the ratio of free Knowledges per Ability dot - perhaps skills like Melee need 2 Knowledges per dot, while skills like Occult need only 1 or even 1 per 2 dots. -- Ialdabaoth

The thing is, Occult doesn't require Arts. It already had a pretty broad reach without them. So, it seems to me a case of an already broad skill getting even broader and a less broad skill (Melee) getting narrower. I dunno. Maybe it's Occult that is the anomoly. Maybe I'm just making the wrong argument. Hmm... OK. Forget everything I said before and consider this: right now, several of the abilities have empty lists of possible knowledges and it seems somewhat difficult to see what they should be. I think the reason for this is that the handling of each skill seems inconsistant. It may be that this is unavoidable, but it seems like there should be some guideline that can be employed where, viewed in light of the guideline, the choices for each nearly write themselves. I'm not sure what this guideline is, but it has something to do with the line "A 'knowledge'... is simply a level of familiarization." Oh! One possibility might be to give an example of what the dots mean for each specialization. The example given for Archery works well, but when you look at the next ability in the list, Athletics, the current suggestions for it break down. The specific sport entry really should be "Sports", where each dot increases the number of sports you know about. For example, in modern America, American football might be a 1 dot sport, while curling or biathalon might be the "Autochthonian Repeating Crossbow" of sport (a 3). (And here is another point: for someone from a different country, football (soccer) might be a 1 and American footbal might be a 2. This implies that "familiarity" is relative, not universal.) This suggests some knowledges for Bureaucracy. You don't want something overly general, you want something that a range of familiar to unfamiliar, but within the same family. I'd make Bureaucracy's knowledges be "Creation", "Heaven", "Underworld" and "Fair Folk". One dot in "Creation" would be familiarity with local bureaucracy and things that resembled them. To a modern American, this might cover civilian government bureaus in the U.S. and much of Europe and probably universities and corporations in each. A 2 might cover bureaucracies following much different cultural or legal systems, or extremely specialized bureaucracies,. For the American example, this might be civillian courts in the Islamic world or the inner workings of a military or intelligence agency. Level 3 would be extremely odd or very rare legal systems, like the politics of a tribe in Burundi or navigating extreme minutia of IRS tax codes. - Wordman

Well, actually, your 'football' example is a good one, so I'm going to run with that. A one-dot Athletics Knowledge (Football) means you know the ins-and-outs of running, jumping, kicking, and the like, and how to make a kick that will both achieve its purpose and probably not be called out in Association Football (soccer), American or Canadian Football, or Rugby. A two-dot Athletics Knowledge (Football) means you have more specialized training, and could play odder variants of football or easily play positions that typically take more specialized training (like goalie, say). A three-dot Athletics Knowledge (Football) means you know every rule of every variant of football there is, and how to apply your body optimally to the tasks necessary to win: running, jumping, kicking, throwing, whatever actions count as an 'Athletics' roll that rely on knowledge of Football rules and techniques to know how to do right. So a base Ability could properly be called "prowess" or "aptitude"; Knowledges are "training"; Specializations are "focus". And, I would argue, there are some (perhaps many) things that are so basic that a Knowledge isn't required; it's part of the base Ability. For Linguistics, that's knowing how to emote and structure and convey meaning (the linguistic rules are the Knowledges, and linguistic Specializations just represent particular idioms or conventions of poetry or prose you're really good at). For Athletics, that's knowing how to work your muscles and joints to optimum force and speed (the specific rules of what to apply them towards and where are the Knowledges, and athletic Specializations just represent particular motions or actions that you're really good at). For Lore, it's knowing how to know things, and knowing how to organize and collate knowledge (the specific knowledges you apply them to are the Knowledges, and academic Specializations just represent particular facets of knowledge that you're really well-versed in). For Melee, it's knowing how to damage things with leverage and focused pressure. For Resistance, it's knowing how to take care of your body. So I'd almost say that Knowledges (from 1 to 3) represent the level of understanding and familiarity and "ability to figure out"-edness of an aspect of the Ability, while Specializations (also from 1 to 3) represent intense focused training on improving your skill in that area - rather than training on improving your ability to USE your skill in that area. --Ialdabaoth

OK. So say someone has Athletics 3, with 1 dot each in baseball, basketball and football. Under this system, as written, he's going to be at a -3 penalty to use Athetics for, say, climbing or swimming. That just seems wrong to me. Further, it seems like "Sport" is about as general as "Alchemy", but "Football" is not. The argument above about extra dots in football supplying more and more minutia is logical, but it's a point that could also logically be made if the knowldege was more or less general to start with. That is, if the knowledge was "Sport" or "Australian rules football", you can still come up with logical examples of what 1, 2 and 3 dots in those knowledges would mean. The trick is to get the same level of generality across the knowldeges in all the abilities. In particular, I think you need to find a level of generalty based on some sort of feel for how often someone is going to get penalties for not having knowledge. Maybe that requires spelling out the things you get "for free" with each ability, but if so, you need to do that. -- Wordman

I've come to the realization that for Athletics, the entire mentality behind a 'Sports' Knowledge is wrong. Athletics is JUST about using your body; Sports knowledge is much better suited as either a Lore specialization, or a War specialization. Athletics should really just be focused on moving quickly, moving gracefully, or performing feats of strength. It seems that, in general, 5 to 6 is the "ideal" number of distinct Knowledges for a given Ability, unless it's a hugely knowledge-focused Ability (like Linguistics, Lore, or Occult), where the total amount of information necessary to guarantee understanding of anything is practically infinite. -- Ialdabaoth

Great idea! That is exactly, what I was looking for for my games. Don't mind if I come up with a few Knowledges in Socialize: First, i think Heraldry would be a fine addition, as knowing the noble families and their seals and symbols is essential for any high-society Eclipse Caste. Second, there are Holidays and Feastings, which gives characters an idea of the celebrations, going on in their country and how to celebrate at all (yes, it could as well fit into culture, I admit, but I think it's special enough). Then we have Eating and Drinking and it should be clear what this does; your character is able to taste wine and identify vintage, winery and how the weather was, when the grapes were harvested. It also helps when feasting guests. Last but not least: Entertainment. This is the knowledge of entertaining your guests. Knowledge of courtesans, drugs, music, etc; everything that is important to be a good host. Comments? Jiba

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