I’ll continue in my quest for eternal nerdity today, so those who are bored by these posts, please forgive my little indulgences.
The way physical skills were once handled in the original Game was fairly straightforward. You gained a ‘level’ of weapons training and such simply by learning it from someone new. You could only learn one level from one person, which encouraged players to travel or meet new people in order to learn more levels. Each level granted another bit of speed, skill and strength to the player in combat. Once enough levels had been gained, the player could start to specialize in various skills or techniques. There were no limits on how fast or how strong a player could get. As long as they dedicated themselves to learning the steps, they would continue to increase until the day they died.
In actual fighting, a player would merely describe the technique they were going to use, and I would match it up to what their opponent was going to use. If a player came up with a way to outmatch their opponent, they would win. If their opponent tricked them, they didn’t.
Unfortunately, while it was a good system to start out with, the physical skills system has so many holes in it that it needs a pretty hefty refit. First off, the players quickly figured out that if they could learn a level of warrior from anyone, they could just wander around learning weapons techniques all day long until they had about a hundred levels. I had to keep bringing up reasons out of nowhere to prevent them from taking that route. Also, long range skills such as marksmanship always seemed fairly awkward by comparison.
Another large problem is that it depended heavily on my imagination to direct how a hand to hand fight I imagine that most GMs are not interested in choreographing every fight on the fly, and that they would like a little more structure to combat. Further problems were found in the fact that everything was very generalized. Other than chosing a particular weapon, there was little specialization or customization involved in the process. It got very boring, until there was little difference in the skills of any particular physical fighter. Uninterested players who started off focused on physical skills soon moved to other techniques like Enchanter or Psychic once they were bored with getting level after level of bland warrior.
However, the physical skills also embodied a very important part of the Game, a part I don’t want to lose while I am remaking it: the cinematic feel of the combat. Many of my players enjoyed feeling like they were in an actual fight with an actual opponent, rather than continuing to roll dice to determine the outcome. They seemed to enjoy having to come up with their own moves and skills as well, rather than relying on a predetermined set of feats or techniques, especially since they could come up with a spur of the moment move to bring their enemy down. I have to come up with a balance that serves all these needs, so I will get to that in the next part.