Skills

The following descriptions are lifted from the core rulebook, with a few edits that suit the Waking the Dead universe. Emphases are credited to the writer of this guide.

The Basics

A character’s Attributes measure his innate physical, mental and social qualities – how strong he is, how quick he thinks on his feet, and how well he interacts with other people. The different ways in which a character can apply these Attributes are determined by his Skills. A character’s Skills reflect the education and training he’s acquired over the course of his life, and are a reflection of his origins and interests. Skills can be acquired in any number of ways, from institutionalized learning to hard, hands-on experience. A young recruit at the police academy is trained to use a handgun, while a gangbanger learns to shoot as a matter of survival.

Like Attributes, Skills are broken down into three general categories: Mental, Physical and Social. Skill dots can then be increased further using experience points (both at the conclusion of character creation if the Storyteller allows it, and later during play). New Skills can be purchased during a chronicle at the player’s discretion.

 

Skill Dots

Dots Proficiency Level
Novice. Basic knowledge and/or techniques.
•• Practitioner. Solid working knowledge and/or techniques.
••• Professional. Broad, detailed knowledge and/or techniques.
•••• Expert. Exceptional depth of knowledge and/or techniques.
••••• Master. Unsurpassed depth of knowledge and/or techniques within normal human capacity. A leader of the field.

The table below has been made to give a general reference for Skill ratings above 5, for exceptionally strong learned or practiced characters. Note that the implication of them being able to reach these levels is that they consciously or subconsciously have augmented the bases of their Skills with the abilities vested in them by their class.

Dots Proficiency Level
•••••• Unbelievable Mastery. A depth of knowledge and/or techniques that could lie within the realm of human capability, but only with exceptional luck or a little “push” from beyond.
••••••• Preternatural Mastery. A depth of knowledge and/or techniques that lie completely beyond the realm of human capability.
•••••••• Supernatural Mastery. A depth of knowledge and/or techniques that lie within the realm of imagination, but exceeding human ability.
••••••••• Imperial Mastery. A depth of knowledge and/or techniques that could have only been given with the grace of the gods, by merit of their nature.
•••••••••• Godly Mastery. This depth of knowledge and/or techniques is a distant dream, even for the finest and strongest supernaturals.

Note, of course, that particular restrictions apply to buying the sixth dot and above in a Skill for supernatural characters. Generally, a supernatural character must possess an effective Supernatural Advantage (i.e. Gnosis, Primal Urge, Blood Potency, and so on) rating of 6 or above. Furthermore, after the fifth dot, the dot cap for Attributes and one’s current Supernatural Rating are exactly equivalent. As such, you cannot buy a seventh dot in a Skill if your Supernatural Advantage rating is not at 7.

 

Skill Specialties

Skills represent broad bases of knowledge and physical training in a given subject. An auto mechanic doesn’t just know about fixing engines, for example, but is versed in repairing tires, replacing windows and painting the body. In addition to this broad foundation of knowledge, characters can specialize in a particular aspect of a Skill, giving them an edge in a particular application due to their increased focus. There’s no limit to the number of Specialties that your character can have in a single Skill. You choose three Specialties at character creation. Any more must be purchased during play with experience points.

Rolls involving a Skill Specialty gain a +1 modifier over and above any other situational modifiers. So, if your character has Crafts, but also has a Specialty in Automobiles, you gain a +1 bonus when he works on cars.

You are limited only by your imagination when devising your character’s Skill Specialties, although their focus should be fairly specific. A character possessing the Drive Skill might focus on sports cars, trucks, off-road or high-speed driving. Each Skill listed in this section has a number of suggested Specialties to give you an idea of the possibilities.

Skill Tasks

If a Skill represents a particular body of knowledge or training, a Skill task describes a specific application of the Skill in question. Healing Wounds, for example, is a task describing an application of the Medicine Skill. Skill tasks combine an applicable Attribute with the Skill, plus any relevant equipment modifiers to form a dice pool, minus any situational modifiers. Climbing a steep cliff, for example, is a Skill task combining Strength + Athletics + equipment such as rope, pitons and cleats. Many Skills in this chapter have one or more tasks associated with them that suggest different ways in which the traits can be applied in various situations. Use these as guidelines for determining other Skill tasks that arise in your stories.

The Right Tools for the Job

Having the proper equipment for a task can often mean the difference between success and failure. In addition to situational modifiers and Specialties, Skill rolls gain bonus dice if your character uses high-quality or specialized equipment when performing a feat. For example, a driver with a high-performance sports car has an edge in a race over someone in an old pickup. See “Equipment”, page 139 of the core rulebook, in Chapter 6 for more information on the gear available to your character. Each task presented in this chapter lists a variety of tools that could provide bonus dice to your Skill roll. These lists are by no means exhaustive. You’re encouraged to employ other types of tools or equipment to assist in performing a task, but the Storyteller is the final arbiter on what bonus, if any, gear provides. It’s possible that using poor-quality tools might even make a task more difficult to perform, so choose wisely.

 

Mental Skills

Mental Skills are applications of a character’s insight, acumen and focus, such as examining a crime scene for clues, unraveling an enigma or diagnosing an illness. These Skills are almost entirely gained from a period of formal education, and most characters with high Mental Skills can claim a degree or even a doctorate in their field of study. These traits are generally associated with your character’s Mental Attributes, but can also be paired with Physical Attributes for hands-on applications such as performing surgery (Dexterity + Medicine) or computer repair (Dexterity + Crafts).

Untrained Skill Use: If your character doesn’t have the necessary Mental Skill required for an action, she can still make the attempt. Roll her Attribute alone, but with a -3 penalty.

Academics

Academics is a broad-based Skill that represents a character’s degree of higher education and general knowledge in the Arts and Humanities – everything from English to history, economics to law. Dots in this Skill do not directly correlate to a given level of education. Your character could have entered a doctorate program but spent more time partying than studying, resulting in low dots. Conversely, a self-taught individual who read voraciously and studied intensively could have high dots without ever earning a diploma.

Possessed by: College graduates, executives, lawyers, librarians, scholars, students

Specialties: Anthropology, Art, English, History, Law, Religion, Research

Computer

Characters possessing this Skill have the necessary training or experience to operate a computer. At high levels (3 or more), a character can create his own computer programs. People with high levels in this Skill are familiar with a variety of programming languages and operating systems.

Note that dots in Computer do not apply to manually fixing or building machines, only to operating them. Construction and repair is the province of the Crafts Skill.

Possessed by: Businesspeople, professors, programmers, students, system administrators

Specialties: Artificial Intelligence, Data Retrieval, Graphics, Hacking, Internet

Crafts

Crafts represents a character’s training or experience in creating works of physical art or construction with his hands, from paintings to car engines to classical sculpture. Characters possessing this Skill typically have the knowledge, but not necessarily the tools or facilities to make use of their capabilities. A character might be an exceptional mechanic, for example, but still needs to sweet-talk his boss into opening up the garage after-hours to work on his friend’s car. Crafting a piece of art or creating an object is almost always an extended roll, with the length of time and number of successes required determined by the complexity of the piece. The Storyteller has final say on the time required and the number of successes needed for a particular item.

Possessed by: Contractors, mechanics, plumbers, sculptors, welders

Specialties: Automobiles, Aircraft, Forging, Jury-Rigging, Sculpting, Sewing

Investigation

Investigation is the art and science of solving mysteries, examining seemingly disparate evidence to find a connection, answering riddles and overcoming paradoxes. It not only allows your character to get into the head of a killer to grasp his motives or plans, it allows her to look beyond the mundane world to guess at answers to mysterious problems, or to have a “eureka” moment that offers insight into baffling circumstances. Your character might realize that all murder victims have the same digits jumbled in their phone numbers, she might interpret a dream that has striking similarities to events in the real world, or she could recognize why an intruder took the time to paint a room red. Certain individuals such as law-enforcement officers, forensic specialists, scientists and investigators are trained in the art of examination, while others simply develop the knack through years of practice.

Note that Investigation is different from the Perception Attribute task, as Perception is typically checked when a character could spot something unusual or amiss when she isn’t actually looking for it. Investigation-based rolls are typically made when a character actively studies a situation. Dots in Investigation don’t give a character sudden insight or capability in the realms of other Skills, however. She can’t miraculously identify changing brushstrokes in a painting, for example. That would be the realm of Academics or Crafts. But she might identify how the placement of paintings throughout a house creates a pattern and imparts a message.

Possessed by: Criminals, doctors, forensic examiners, police officers, scientists, scholars, soldiers

Specialties: Artifacts, Body Language, Crime Scenes, Cryptography, Dreams, Autopsy Diagnoses, Puzzles, Riddles, Scientific Experiments

Medicine

The Medicine Skill reflects a character’s training and expertise in human physiology and how to treat injuries and illness. The trait represents knowledge of human anatomy and basic medical treatments. Characters with a low level in this Skill (1 to 2) often possess only rudimentary first-aid training, while characters with high levels (3+) are the equivalent of physicians or surgeons.

Possessed by: Medical students, paramedics, physicians, psychologists, surgeons

Specialties: Emergency Care, Pathology, Pharmaceuticals, Physical Therapy, Surgery

Occult

The Occult Skill reflects a character’s knowledge and experience with the world’s various legends and lore about the supernatural. A character with this Skill not only knows the theories, myths and legends of the occult, but can generally discern “fact” from rumor. Characters may come by this Skill in a variety of ways, from oddball college courses to learning legends and myths from the lips of superstitious family members.

Possessed by: Anthropologists, authors, neo-pagans, occult scholars, parapsychologists

Specialties: Cultural Beliefs, Ghosts, Magic, Monsters, Superstitions, Witchcraft

Politics

Characters possessing this Skill are not only familiar with the way the political process works, they’re experienced with bureaucracies and know exactly who to call in a given situation to get something done. Your character keeps track of who’s in power and how she got there, along with her potential rivals. He has a grasp of the issues of the moment and how they affect the political process, and knows whose palms to grease. It’s possible that your character acquired this Skill by running for political office at some point, or by working on a campaign or as a public servant. Or he could simply be someone who follows the news and understands the money trail.

Possessed by: Bureaucrats, civil servants, journalists, lawyers, lobbyists, politicians

Specialties: Bribery, Elections, Federal, Local, State, Scandals

Science

This Skill represents your character’s understanding of the physical and natural sciences: biology, chemistry, geology, meteorology, physics. Science is useful not only for understanding how the world works, but it helps characters make the most of the resources at hand to achieve their goals. A character with a strong Science background could describe the chemical process for plating metals, for example, allowing another character with Crafts to make a silver-edged steel sword.

Possessed by: Engineers, scientists, students, teachers, technicians

Specialties: Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Metallurgy, Physics

 

Physical Skills

Physical Skills are applications of a character’s might, endurance and coordination, such as climbing a mountain, driving a car or shooting a gun. They are most often paired with a character’s Physical Attributes in various combinations, but can also be paired with Mental Attributes when the character tries to draw on his Skill to identify an object or answer a question. Intelligence + Firearms is required to identify a particular rifle, for example, or Intelligence + Survival to read a map. Physical Skill scores represent a combination of personal experience and/or formal training rather than extensive schooling. You can’t earn a degree in fist-fighting, but you can graduate at the top of your class in the school of hard knocks.

Untrained Skill Use: If your character doesn’t have the necessary Physical Skill required for a roll, he can still attempt the action. Roll his Attribute alone with a -1 penalty.

Athletics

Athletics encompasses a broad category of physical training, from rock climbing to kayaking to professional sports such as football or hockey. The Athletics Skill can be applied to any action that requires prolonged physical exertion or that demands considerable agility or hand/eye coordination. Examples include climbing a high wall, marching long distances and leaping between rooftops.

In combat, the Skill is combined with Dexterity to determine the accuracy of thrown weapons.

Possessed by: Professional athletes, police officers, soldiers, survivalists, physical trainers

Specialties: Acrobatics, Climbing, Kayaking, Long- Distance Running, Sprinting, Swimming, Throwing

Brawl

Brawl defines your character’s prowess at unarmed combat, whether he’s a black belt in karate, a hard-bitten street tough or a college student who’s taken a few self-defense courses. Characters with this Skill know how to hit an opponent, where to hit for maximum effect and how to defend themselves from attack. It can mean using fists, but also elbows, knees, shoulders, head butts wrestling, joint locks and choke holds. Characters with a several dots could be familiar with multiple techniques of unarmed combat. Expertise in such techniques is reflected in the Fighting Style Merits, which are based on Brawl.

Brawl is added to your character’s Strength to battle people in unarmed combat.

Possessed by: Bikers, boxers, gangsters, police officers, soldiers

Specialties: Blocking, Boxing, Dirty Tricks, Grappling, Kung Fu, Throws

Drive

The Drive Skill allows your character to operate a vehicle under difficult or dangerous conditions. Characters don’t need this Skill simply to drive a car. It’s safe to assume in a modern society that most individuals are familiar with automobiles and the rules of the road. Rather, this trait covers the training or experience necessary to operate at high speeds, to tackle hazardous road conditions and to push a vehicle to the limits of its performance. Drive is the difference between a typical suburban parent with a minivan and a police officer, car thief or race car driver.

The Skill also applies to piloting and controlling boats; your character’s Drive dots are applied equally to handling boats. In order for your character to be able to pilot a plane, he needs a Pilot Specialty in the Skill. With that, efforts to control a plane call for a Drive-based roll, plus one die for your character’s Pilot Specialty. A character with the Drive Skill who does not possess a Pilot Specialty cannot effectively operate a plane. His efforts to fly are based on Attribute alone, at a -1 untrained penalty.

Note that dots in Drive do not apply to manually fixing or building vehicles, only to operating them. Construction and repair is the province of the Crafts Skill.

Possessed by: Car thieves, couriers, delivery drivers, emergency responders, police officers, racecar drivers

Specialties: High-Performance Cars, Motorcycles, Off-Road, Pursuit, Shaking Tails, Stunts

Firearms

Firearms allows your character to identify, operate and maintain most types of guns, from pistols to rifles to military weapons such as submachine guns, assault rifles and machine guns. This Skill can represent the kind of formal training provided to police and the military, or the basic, hands-on experience common to hunters, criminals and gun enthusiasts. Firearms also applies to using bows. Your character can use guns and bows equally. Note that dots in Firearms do not apply to manually fixing or building guns, only to wielding them. Construction and repair is the province of the Crafts Skill.

Possessed by: Criminals, gun dealers, hunters, police officers, soldiers, survivalists

Specialties: Autofire, Bow, Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Sniping, Trick Shot

Larceny

Larceny is a broad Skill that covers everything from picking locks to concealing stolen goods and everything in between. Most characters obtain this Skill the hard way, by committing crimes and often paying the price for their mistakes. Some individuals such as government agents and members of the military receive formal training in bypassing security systems and stealing valuable assets.

Possessed by: Burglars, commandos, government agents, private eyes

Specialties: Concealing Stolen Goods, Lockpicking, Pickpocketing, Security Systems, Safecracking

Stealth

The Stealth Skill represents a character’s experience or training in avoiding notice, whether by moving silently, making use of cover or blending into a crowd. When attempting to sneak silently through an area or to use the local terrain as concealment, roll Dexterity + Stealth + equipment. When trying to remain unseen in a crowd, Wits + Stealth is appropriate. The Storyteller may make Stealth rolls secretly on your behalf, since your character usually has no way of knowing he’s been noticed until it’s too late. If your character attempts to avoid notice by a group of alert observers, a contested roll versus the observer – Wits + Composure + equipment is required.

Possessed by: Criminals, hunters, police officers, private investigators

Specialties: Camouflage, Crowds, Moving in Darkness, Moving in Woods

Survival

Survival represents your character’s experience or training in “living off the land.” He knows where to find food and shelter, and how to endure harsh environmental conditions. The more capable your character is, the fewer resources he needs in order to prevail. A master survivalist can walk into a forest, desert or mountainous region with little more than a pocketknife and the clothes on his back and survive for weeks if necessary.

Note that Survival is not synonymous with Animal Ken. The former helps your character stay alive in the wilderness, living off the land with whatever supplies he has brought with him. The latter involves understanding animal behavior and interacting directly with animals. Your character could be knowledgeable in creating shelter and gathering plants to eat (Survival), but might know nothing about anticipating the actions of a bear in his camp (Animal Ken).

Possessed by: Explorers, hunters, soldiers, survivalists

Specialties: Foraging, Navigation, Meteorology, Shelter

Weaponry

As the name implies, the Weaponry Skill represents your character’s experience or training in fighting with everything from beer bottles to pipes, knives to swords. While formal instruction in Weaponry is uncommon (restricted to military and law-enforcement training and a few martial arts), any character who has grown up on the street or spent a lot of time in seedy bars has had ample opportunity to learn this Skill.

A character’s Weaponry is added to his Strength to stage armed attacks.

Note that dots in Weaponry do not apply to manually fixing or creating weapons, only to wielding them. Construction and repair is the province of the Crafts Skill.

Possessed by: Bikers, criminals, martial artists, police officers, soldiers

Specialties: Improvised Weapons, Knives, Swords

 

Social Skills

Social Skills are applications of your character’s bearing, charm and poise, such as negotiating with a bank robber, wooing a crowd or telling a faultless lie. These Skills most commonly represent innate capabilities honed by years of experience rather than by any formal training. You can teach someone the basic principles of Persuasion, but true leaders are born rather than made. These Skills are generally paired with your character’s Social Attributes, but can also be used with Physical and Mental Attributes in cases such as bodily threats (Strength + Intimidation) or orchestrating a complex deal (Wits + Persuasion).

Untrained Skill Use: If your character doesn’t have the necessary Social Skill required for a feat, he can still make the attempt. Roll his Attribute alone at a -1 penalty.

Animal Ken

Anticipating and understanding human emotions is one thing, but being able to interpret and recognize the behavior of animals is something else entirely. Your character intuitively grasps or has been trained to read animals to know how they react to situations. The Skill also involves innately understanding how the animal mind operates, and what may appease or enrage beasts. The knack often coincides with a respect for animals, but it could derive from the analytical observation of a lab scientist or from years of abuse inflicted by a callous animal handler.

Animal Ken could be applied to grasp the thoughts or intentions of supernatural animals, if the Storyteller allows. Sometimes these beings have human or greater intelligence and cannot be read by this Skill alone.

Possessed by: Animal rescue workers, hunters, long-time pet owners, park rangers, ranchers, trainers, veterinarians

Specialties: Animal Needs, Imminent Attack, Specific Kind of Animal, Training

Empathy

This Skill represents your character’s intuition for reading people’s emotions. For some, it’s a matter of observing body language and non-verbal cues. Others employ an extraordinary sense that helps them divine a person’s true mood. As the name implies, Empathy also involves the capacity to understand other people’s views and perspectives, whether your character agrees with those positions or not. This is useful in everything from negotiations and crisis counseling to reading faces in a crowd and looking for potential trouble.

If a subject actively conceals his emotions or motives, make a contested roll versus the person’s Wits + Subterfuge + equipment.

Possessed by: Counselors, diplomats, entertainers, profilers, psychiatrists, police officers

Specialties: Emotion, Lies, Motives, Personalities

Expression

Expression reflects your character’s training or experience in the art of communication, both to entertain and inform. This Skill covers both the written and spoken word and other forms of entertainment, from journalism to poetry, creative writing to acting, music to dance. Characters can use it to compose written works or to put the right words together at the spur of the moment to deliver a rousing speech or a memorable toast. Used well, Expression can sway others’ opinions or even hold an audience captive.

When composing a poem or writing a novel, roll Wits or Intelligence (depending on whether the work is poetic or factual) + Expression. When reciting to an audience, roll Presence + Expression. Playing an instrument involves Intelligence + Expression for a known piece, and Wits + Expression for an improvised one. Dance calls for Dexterity + Expression.

Possessed by: Actors, ballet dancers, journalists, musicians, poets, rock stars, writers

Specialties: Classical Dance, Drama, Expos., Musical Instrument, Newspaper Articles, Speeches

Intimidation

Intimidation is the art and technique of persuading others through the use of fear. Your character can intimidate someone with a show of brute force (Strength + Intimidation), through more subtle means such as verbal threats (Manipulation + Intimidation), or simply through menacing body language (Presence + Intimidation). It can be used to get other people to cooperate (even against their better judgment), back down from a confrontation, or reveal information that they’d rather not share.

Possessed by: Bodyguards, bouncers, gangsters, executives, police officers, soldiers

Specialties: Bluster, Physical Threats, Stare-Downs, Torture, Veiled Threats

Persuasion

Persuasion is the art of inspiring or changing minds through logic, charm or sheer, glib fast-talking. Though it can be taught to varying degrees of success, most characters with the Skill possess a natural talent and have honed it over years through trial and error, practicing their delivery until it rolls effortlessly off the tongue. Persuasion is the Skill of convincing others by force of personality alone, making one’s point through carefully chosen words, body language and emotion.

Possessed by: Con artists, executives, generals, lawyers, politicians, salesmen, sexual predators

Specialties: Fast-Talking, Inspiring Troops, Motivational Speeches, Sales Pitches, Seduction

Socialize

Socialize reflects your character’s ability to interact with others in a variety of situations, from talking people up at bars to comporting himself with dignity at state dinners. This Skill represents equal parts gregariousness, sensitivity, etiquette and custom. Knowing how to make friends is no less important than understanding how to treat guests in formal situations. Characters with low dots might be naturally entertaining or approachable, but unschooled in the finer arts of social interaction. Or they could be punctilious with their manners but difficult to approach. Conversely, characters with high dots could have the social graces of a practiced diplomat or raconteur, knowing just what to say and when to say it in any given situation.

Possessed by: Diplomats, entertainers, executives, politicians, salesmen

Specialties: Bar Hopping, Dress Balls, Formal Events, Frat Parties, State Dinners

Streetwise

Characters possessing this Skill know how life on the streets works and are adept at surviving by its harsh rules. Streetwise characters can gather information, make contacts, buy and sell on the black market, and otherwise make use of the street’s unique resources. The Skill is also important for navigating urban dangers, avoiding the law, and staying on the right side of the wrong people.

Possessed by: Criminals, gangsters, homeless people, private investigators, police officers

Specialties: Black Market, Gangs, Rumors, Undercover Operations

Subterfuge

Subterfuge is the art of deception. Characters possessing this Skill know how to lie convincingly, and they recognize when they’re being lied to. Subterfuge is used when telling a convincing falsehood, hiding one’s emotions or reactions, or trying to pick up on the same in others. The Skill is most often used to trick other people, but characters also learn it to avoid being tricked themselves.

Possessed by: Actors, con artists, grifters, lawyers, politicians, teenagers

Specialties: Con Jobs, Hiding Emotions, Lying, Misdirection, Spotting Lies

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