Cliches Become Skills

August 13, 2010    

Once I figured out how many dice to allocate to skills, I had to decide what those skills would be. I’ve played a number of games set in modern times but their skill systems seemed to suffer from being overly specific. There was one skill for each type of gun, explosive, bit of technology and then a single one for archaic weapons. You know, those weapons that make up the twelve different skills in a game like Dungeons & Dragons.

In the TV shows that inspired Geeks & Elites, there’s always a few iconic or cliche characters. The weapon nut who was or is in the military. Then there’s the computer nerd, the sweet talker and the guy who thinks he’s funny. To avoid ending up with eleventy-billion skills, I tried to make a small list to cover the vital moving parts. The problem with this approach reared it’s ugly head whenever I saw a new show or a new movie. One of the characters would do something awesome that wasn’t covered by my small skill list.

My breakthrough came as I thought more about the cliche characters I was trying to model. Instead of trying to enumerate the skills they possess, I decided to just name them and write those names on the character sheet. I’ve been struggling to name three geek cliches, but at the moment, the “skill” list is:

  • The Beauty
  • The Muscle
  • The Sneak
  • The Brains
  • The Comedian
  • The Sidekick

When a player builds their character, they’ll allocate their dice among the six cliches. The character’s driving theme will be represented by the biggest dice pool with their other talents represented by smaller numbers. For example, Chuck from Chuck would probably have the bulk of his dice in The Brains with The Comedian filling in the rest. JJ from Criminal Minds would focus mostly on The Beauty while splitting some dice across The Muscle and The Sneak.