GURPS Skill Primer

Skills in GURPS are how you do most things and work in a rather simple manner.
First this free item called Skill Categories from Steve Jackson Games lists most skills.
In order to succeed at a skill you roll under modified skill level.
In a non stress and routine situation where nothing important is  on the line you usually get a +4 effective  skill.
You can spend more or less time to improve your odds or get it done in a hurry with a greater risk of failure.
Environmental conditions such as darkness, getting wounded in combat or unusually difficult tasks can give you penalties.  Likewise equipment can help you or if poor or no equipment hurt your chances.

Meaning of Skill levels

  • Ordinary skill 12 (74.1% success) to 13 (90.7% success)
  • Expert skill of 14+ (90.7%+) is good enough for most purposes but you my want higher to absorb penalties.
  • Master skill of 20+ does not increase your odds much for ordinary uses but is better at handling very difficult tasks in tough conditions.  Usually your better off buying related skills to round your abilities out.
Skills are Easy, Average, Hard or Very Hard and though they are written up under one Attribute they can float to another in certain circumstances. A weapon skill would use DX to hit but float to IQ or PER to notice certain things or maybe remember some special bit of information.

Most skills in GURPS have a default and can be used with no training or training in another related skill.  You wont be as good using a Default as if you had spent time training in the skill but it might be just good enough. So it can be ok to not get all skills., the average American operates off default for Driving (Automobile) for example.  However a professional driver or police officer would have spent considerably more time training and actually have points in the skill.


Too Many Skills?

One thing people can find daunting about GURPS is the sheer number of skills available. 
Some game systems have Feats, with most skills rolled up into a character class.  If your a Thief you can do certain kinds of things and use certain kinds of weapons or armor and that is it.
Most GURPS fans love the extra detail and it is a built in feature of the system.  The idea that you can build any kind of character and give the any ability you want (subject to GM oversight and the setting) has a lot of appeal to certain people.
I found character classes extremely stifling for example and bolt on's to add variety left a lot to be desired. However looking at that huge list of skills can certainly be intimidating.
The trick is that many skills wont be used in a certain campaign.
A Space Opera game would likely skip the magic skills and a lot of the low tech skills as well.
A typical fantasy game would likely skip the high science skills and high tech weapons.
However if you wanted to mix them both (like that old Barrier Peaks adventure) you can and it all fits in well because it was designed as a possibility from the beginning.

However if you are just starting a new campaign its probably a good idea to use the skill list (in the index or the free PDF) and say to your players just ignore certain sections.  Skill names are mostly common sense so that helps a lot a well.
It should be obvious you wont need Piloting in your dungeon crawl for example.
So you do not need all those skills in almost any campaign.
Organizing skills by category can also make things easier when picking them, though the alphabetical list in GURPS Basic is easier for reference.




But I Want it Simpler

Sounds good to me.  GURPS was designed to allow any kind of game or play style.
Skills are based on an attribute, mostly DX and IQ (which is why they cost 20 points a level instead of 10 points like the other. After that you can have talents to give a bonus to certain skills based on a style or even template, like a character class.  Skills themselves typically default to other skills and the attribute so anyone with the right background can at least try to do them but wont be as good as someone with training.
Skills can be narrowly defined for when and where you want a lot of detail.
Skills can be widely defined (The best example is Wildcard skills) for a more cinematic game where you want skills broadly defined and the entire skill list becomes very short.




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