Continuum II: Vocational Characters

   Here we have another module for Continuum II – in this case the rules for Vocational characters. Vocational characters were best suited for fairly realistic games which didn’t feature massive character advancement. They were heroes, not super-heroes.

   Under stress, some people accomplish the impossible. Others do the best they can without unconsciously bending the laws of nature. Those are Vocational Characters – normal people (that is, unable to sustain the percipient feedback loop that enhances a “Professional” characters personal power) with intensive training or great natural potentials.

   While such characters are more limited then “Professionals”, they can still have formidable talents, and are as powerful as normal people, animals, and things, ever get. They may be self-trained (a formidable task – requiring great dedication and self-discipline), tutored (by experts, usually over a period of years), or trained in small groups (intensively, and usually over a period of at least two years). The results are similar in any case. Military vocations are fairly common as elite mercenaries or troops, and many religious organizations train clerical ones. More arcane vocations are rarer, but do occur.

   Vocations cost some of a characters usual allotment of general skills, simply because such intensive study leaves little time for other things. Self-training costs 3, training 2 – and tutoring costs only 1. If this leaves a dense character with no general skills at all, it indicates that his studies had to begin so young that he or she had no time for anything else. A negative total indicates that the character is simply too stupid to acquire a vocation in that fashion.

   PC’s are normally exceptional people, even if only slightly, and so are exempt from the general skill penalty.

   Vocation-based player characters can be used in any campaign, but are generally best suited for campaigns built around relatively “normal” characters – people who may possess special talents, but are of heroic rather than mythic stature. Such characters also advance slowly, if at all, rely extensively on equipment, and never reach the point where they’re “invulnerable” to the efforts of ordinary people. Plausible backgrounds for such campaigns include investigative and horror settings, espionage and special-operative teams, groups of relatively normal people swept up in events, more-or-less historical situations, exploration missions, disaster survivors (the disaster can range from a simple shipwreck to a planetary holocaust), most “rational” science fiction settings, and (with powerful talents) lower-end “comic book” campaigns. Exotic possibilities could even include something like an all-werecreature campaign. Depending on the desires of the GM, vocation-based characters may be the only option, they may coexist with “professionals” (which status would then cost several talent points), or appear only as NPC’s.

   Vocations are defined by their name, general nature, and seven “picks” from the list given below. Sample vocations are supplied, but others are obviously possible. Players may design vocations, but such attempts should be approved by the game master. They’re normally associated with vocation-based PC’s and desired hirelings.

   Basics (Free): Vocational characters begin with the skills needed to use some 1D3 light weapons selected from among those weapons common to the characters original culture and social status and (2D6+Base) vitality – unless they’ve invested one or more selections in the Militance option.

   The vocational “pick” options include:

  • Militance (I-III): This option determines how combat-oriented a vocation is – ranging from I (Vitality 3D6 + Base, AR +2, RR +2. Allows effective use of 1D4 additional selected weapons), through II (Vitality 4D8 + Base, AR +3, RR +3. Allows effective use of one weapons “group”), to III (Vitality 5D8 + Base, AR +5, RR +5. Grants +1 attack, +2 DR, and use of one weapons group)
  • Expertise (I-III): Lets the character select a limited number of major and minor professional skills. The user may select one major and one minor skill for one pick, two major and two minor with the second, and a third major skill with the third. Such skills are normally selected from among those available to a single profession, but exceptions do occur.
  • Martial Arts (I-III): Permits the user to design and employ a 8/10/12 point martial art (Q.V.). One restriction per pick may be added if the user so desires, raising the point totals to 9/12/15. Later improvements are possible, to a maximum of (picks taken + 2) skill points. Hence any vocation could, eventually, learn a 2-point martial art.
  • Mastery (I-III): Enhances the users effective “level of use” of some specific skill or talent from the default level of 2 by +2 per “pick” expended on it – resulting in an effective “level of use” of 4, 6, or 8. Alternatively, the character may enhance his / her use of a small set of related, skills or talents by 0/2/4 levels each.
  • Professional Bonus: Lets the vocation take attribute bonuses from one of the tables belonging to a profession, rather then settling for the basic charts. The attribute must be chosen when this “pick” is selected. This can be taken on up to three attributes. Strength and Endurance are probably the most common.
  • Vocational Speciality: Gives the vocation some minor special power or suite of skills. Obviously this is a bit open-ended, thus the GM’s discretion is recommended. This normally covers lore, some active talents, and credentials. Examples include; “Military Engineering”, “Exorcism”, and “Alchemy”. In practice, this is equal to investing 6 skill points in a field. It can only be taken once.

   Advancement is pretty limited for Vocational characters. They can acquire wealth, power, influence, special equipment, blessings, enhancements, and similar external rewards – but their personal power is pretty much already at it’s peak. They can, however, gain a few skill points through special training (although most have already had a hearty dose of special training) and pick up a few through experience, for a total of up to seven (for a character with extensive training and a great deal of experience under their belts).

   Sample Vocations:

   Acolyte: Whether cultist, village priest, or hermit, the Acolyte possesses a great religious faith and extensive knowledge of his or her religion. Powerful religions may train acolytes – especially in settings where a priest is actually expected to have access to some real powers. In more “ordinary” settings, many “priests” simply rely on a few general skills (Theology, counseling and oratory) – and belief. Militance I, Expertise II (two major and two minor Professional skills), Mastery II, and Vocational Speciality (Cult Rituals, Cult Lore, and Village Magic). Common skill selections include Minor Magic , First Aid, Counselor, and Ceremonial Magic.

   Budoka: Master of a particular weapon or some unarmed combat system, a Budoka is a deadly opponent in a fight – but possesses few other abilities. Even in settings where minor magical or psychic powers are appropriate, they are usually only practiced in combat-oriented ones. Militance III (5D8 Vitality, +5 AR, +5 RR, +2 DR. Skilled with one weapons group), Martial Arts III (Or higher, as available skill points may also be used), and Vocational Speciality (Usually a six point skill – Minor C’hi or C’hi Focusing, possibly a combative Minor Magic or Minor Psionics skill, or a set of military speciality skills for settings where arcane abilities are inappropriate).

   Initiate: Initiate’s are relatively normal people who possess, and have mastered, a notable talent (in Continuum II, Talents are magical, psychic, or other abilities which you’re born with, and that anyone can have, although perhaps not master, regardless of “Level”). While their exact abilities depend on the nature of that talent, they can be most formidable. Commonly; Militance II, Expertise II – and Mastery III. This grants them 4D8 vitality, two major and two minor skills, AR +3, RR +3 – and an effective level of eight with respect to their talent, possibly ten or more if they also possess an appropriate “knack”. This vocation is less detailed then the others, simply because there are such a wide variety of talents.

   This is the most common “superhero” vocation. With a powerful psionic talent, or innate magical talent, or some similar specific gift, an Initiate can be far more effective than a Professional character until the Professional reaches a fairly impressive level. An equally-talented Professional will still outshine a Vocational character, but if they’re mixing in a setting, having Professional potential is usually a major talent in itself.

   Patrician: The Patrician is a warrior-mage, commonly a tutored aristocrat from a magic-dominated society. They tend to be dangerous, effective, and quite overconfident. Militance II (4D8 Vitality, +3 AR and RR, uses one “weapons group”), Expertise II (2 majors, commonly; Circle, Minor, or Ceremonial Magics, Runemaster, Mind Shield, Magesight, Lesser Path, Scrying, or Mystic Shields. Skills from the Greater Entities list are uncommon. Two Minors, commonly; Mystic Tongues (For those with minor powershaping), Magic Sense, Warding Rituals, Horseman, or Masking) – and Mastery III (Mystic Skills, at L6). General skills often include some combination of Noble, Intrigue, Heraldry, Divination (via tarot or some such), Hunting, Politics, Administrator, Law, Courtier, and the “Mystic Dabbler” knack.

   The Vocation list was fairly lengthy – but those should suffice for examples. It’s worth noting that Vocational characters are often more powerful than Professional characters to start off with – but will rapidly fall behind as the Professional characters build up their powers.

Continuum II: General Skills

   Here’s another segment of the Continuum II rules. In this case, it’s the module on basic skills. As a side benefit, the skill list is set up as a table – which I most often used for deciding just what business random shopkeepers and passers-by happened to be in and players most often used when they had no ideas at the moment.

   Continuum II has three basic tiers of characters:

  • Normal people are by far the most common. They don’t have special bonuses and they get along on the basic allotment of general skills that everyone gets.
  • “Vocational” characters are normal people with intensive training to go with whatever natural talent they possess.
  • “Professional” characters possess enough Will to bend reality around them a bit – and the more they do it, the more their skill at it and confidence in their power increases in a positive feedback loop. They have varying upper limits depending on their Will score, but even low-powered professional characters can survive attacks that would kill any normal creature and accomplish remarkable feats. High-powered ones may be able to endure supernovas and do almost anything.

   Everyone, however, gets their Intellect-based allotment of General Skills – so here they are.

   General Skills cover a character’s background knowledge and skills – the abilities they acquired growing up on the farm, helping out with the fishing, while apprenticed, or in school – as well as more adult studies before they went on to train in their vocation or profession. In general, they’re acquired long before the character enters play, and the skills selected should reflect the characters upbringing, personal experiences, and early inclinations rather than any great talents or the training that led to his or her current career.

   General skills are not equivalent to specific “major” or “minor” professional skills, even if the name is the same. Unlike major and minor professional skills, there are never any special abilities associated with general skills. Similarly, the chances of success when using them under stress are not too good – although the game master may opt to allow a modifier of up to +3 if a character possesses a general skill or skills related to a professional-level skill. For example, the general skill “Mechanic” might be worth a small bonus on a roll to tinker with some complex mechanical trap via the Sabotage professional skill.

   Linking your skills together via some sensible history, explanation, course of instruction, or simply choosing related skills, is worth a bonus skill if the GM finds the explanation and character history satisfactory. Numbers are provided for GM’s in need of a “random” bystander, occupation, or business – and for players who need ideas (or whose minds are absolutely blank).

   Most characters get a few automatic skills – Cultural Familiarity (for where they grew up), and a Native Language, both rated at level (Int/6). A rating of at least Cultural Familiarity-1 is necessary to operate in any milieu without continuous difficulties. Characters from alien backgrounds, such as exotic-species offworlders, energy beings translated into material form, and other oddities must normally take at least one level of a local cultural familiarity before starting play. Fortunately for busy world-travelers, the cultures of any one species always have some basic similarities; a level of 3+ in any one of them translates into a level-1 rating in any other after a character spends a few months getting acquainted with it. Sadly, those first few months can be quite a problem.

   Characters receive additional general skill points depending on their Intellect and various modifying factors, as shown below.

Intellect

3-5

6-7

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

16

17

18

19

20

+1

Skill Points

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

10

12

+2

   Modifiers to the number of skills include:

  • Age: Very young characters suffer a -3, youngsters a -2, adolescents a -1, middle-aged characters gain a general skill point, and elderly characters gain another, for a total of two due to age.
  • Longevity: This affects things quite a bit. Extremely short-lived races lose a point. Long-lived races gain +3 and extremely long-lived/functionally immortal races gain +5.
  • Upbringing: Feral or raised by non-sapient creatures -3 (you should generally buy some related talents as well as the appropriate general skills), raised by sapient but truly alien creatures -2 (why were they doing this?), raised by related race -1. An intensive (or modern-style) education is, however, worth +1, being raised by an antisocial species or under similar restricted circumstances inflicts a -1 penalty, an an extremely restricted childhood (being raised in a prison or any similar situation) inflicts a -2 penalty. Things like being raised on a primitive farm, on a space station, on the streets, or in an alien dimension tend to modify what a child learns – not how much.

Player characters often seem to have very, very, weird backgrounds. This can usually be covered by buying special talents or a by a few unusual skill choices.

   A character’s level of competence depends on the number of times a skill was taken, as shown on the chart below:

  • 1 “Apprentice”; A decent mastery of the basics. Enough to make a living, although you’ll usually be working for someone else.
  • 2 “Journeyman”; The common independent-operator level for normals. Enough to successfully run a business and satisfy normal customers.
  • 3 “Master”; A notable expert.
  • 4-6 “Grandmaster”; On the “cutting edge” of the field.
  • 7 “Paramount”; Maximum for near-humans, transcendent skill.

   Vocational and Professional characters may spend acquired skill points to learn additional general skills, or to upgrade existing ones, as can ordinary people who get special training (usually heading towards a Vocation). The maximum initial level of skill is “3” – Mastery.

Common General Skills:

   d8, d12 for random selection

   1) Performing Skills:

  1. Juggling / Legerdemain
  2. Acting / Mime / “Noh” / Ritual
  3. Oratory / Debate / Mediation
  4. Diplomacy / Liaison / Fixer
  5. Tumbling / Sideshow Talent
  6. Dancing / Calling / Director
  7. Etiquette / Courtier / Madam
  8. Beggar / Activist / Celebrity
  9. Politics / Official / Priest
  10. Courtesan / Model / Seduction
  11. Playing / Singing / Comedian
  12. Storytelling / Journalism

   2) Fine Arts Skills:

  1. Etching / Engraving / Inlay
  2. Painting / Beautician
  3. Drawing / Animation / Limner
  4. Calligraphy / Drafting
  5. Sculptor / Bonsai / Origami
  6. Writer / Poet / Critic
  7. Jewelsmith / Gemcutter
  8. Composer / Conductor
  9. Tattooist or Perfumer
  10. Carving / Toymaker / Kitemaker
  11. Meditation / Tea Ceremony
  12. Forger / Coiner / Accountant

   3) Craft Skills:

  1. Cooking / Baking / Curing
  2. Printer / Binder / Mapmaker
  3. Bowyer / Fletcher||Heavy Eq
  4. Brewer / Vintner / Distiller
  5. Builder / Architect / Mason
  6. Weaver / Dyer / Spinner / Roper
  7. Leather worker / Furrier / Tanner
  8. Glass maker / Blower / Candler
  9. Midwife / Healer / Doctor / Veterinarian
  10. Tailor / Hatter / Cobbler
  11. Potter / Caster / Plumber
  12. Researcher / System Operator / Technician

   4) Professional Skills:

  1. Animal Handler / Slaver
  2. Trader / Merchant / Peddler
  3. Farmer / Herder / Gatherer
  4. Butcher / Miller / Resource Processor
  5. Fisher / Trapper / Huntsman
  6. Smith (Various) / Armorer
  7. Mechanic / Tinker / Technician
  8. Seaman / Navigator / Astronomer
  9. Packer / Preserver / Cooper
  10. Carpenter / Lumberer / Coaler
  11. Gamekeeper / Poacher / Traps
  12. Shipwright / Naval Engineer

   5) “Hobby” Skills:

  1. Intrigue / Gossip / Thievery
  2. Falconry / Sportsman (Pick)
  3. Mountaineering / Skiing
  4. Boating / Piloting / Balloons
  5. Divination / Charmsmith
  6. Gardener / Landscaper / Dowser
  7. Embroidery / Trivia / Fan
  8. Gaming / Detective / Crime
  9. Horsemanship / (X)-rider
  10. Survival (Select) / Explorer
  11. Scrounging / Scavenging
  12. Masseur / Therapist / Barber

   6) Occupational Skills:

  1. Mercenary / Guardsman / Spy
  2. Innkeeper / Storekeeper
  3. Pawnbroker / Usurer / Financier
  4. Extortionist / Tax Collector
  5. Smuggler / Stower / Loader
  6. Teacher / Tutor / Guru / Mystic
  7. Captain / Noble / Recruiter
  8. Steward / Administrator
  9. Acolyte / Psychic / Counselor
  10. Urchin / Streetwise / Guide
  11. Butler / Nanny / Manservant
  12. Entertainer / Producer

   7) Lore Skills:

  1. Language (Select) / Sign Language
  2. Geology / Mining / Hydraulics
  3. Strategy / Tactics / Espionage
  4. History / Maps / Demographics
  5. Religion / Philosophy / Magic
  6. Naturalist / Biology / Anatomy
  7. Chemist / Herbalist / Alchemist
  8. Heraldry / Symbols / Art / Fashion
  9. Legends / Literature / Epics
  10. Mathematics / Science (Pick)
  11. Engineering / Military Engineering
  12. Law / Customs / Cultures / Civics

   8) Player Requests:

  1. Metallurgist / Refiner / Prospector
  2. Taxidermist / Pelter / Embalmer
  3. Papermaker / Scribe / Librarian
  4. Linguist / Cryptology / Hacker
  5. Teamster / Driver / Charioteer
  6. Swimming / Diving / Alien Environment
  7. Interrogator / Torturer / Jailer
  8. Logistics / Quartermaster
  9. Psychology / Advertising / Propaganda
  10. Area / Milieu / Culture Lore
  11. Weather / Ocean / Forester Lore
  12. Charlatan / Fraud / Trickster

   Obviously enough, most of the “general skills” listed are actually broad categories, covering many subskills and variations. Sadly, taking one does not provide omni-competence; the skills selected interact with each other and the characters background to produce a reasonable character description. For a simple example, a player creating a wandering rogue of Intellect 12 selects; Carpenter/Lumberer-1, Playing/Singing/Comedian-1, and Entertainer/Producer-2. There are many ways to translate this – but in this case; Instrument Maker-1, Playing/Singing-1, and Minstrel-2, with a game-master selected bonus skill of Epics and Ballads-1, seems to fit the characters background description and history. While this character isn’t the best or most knowledgeable of musicians, he can handle an audience well. He could certainly do quite well as a simple wandering minstrel but, being a PC, he doubtless has greater ambitions.

   Similarly, technical skills usually require more subdivision then nontechnical skills do. Skills that fall in this category include System Operator/Technician, Scientist, Heavy Equipment, and Engineering. System Operators and Technicians normally must select the type of system (computers, spacedrives, communications, etc) and specialize in its operation or in its construction and maintenance. Either can be linked with Hacking to cover the abuse and misuse of the system. A Scientist must either select a specific science or remain a general dabbler. Heavy Equipment requires that the character choose a general field, such as construction, foundry work, or assembly systems. Engineering can be taken as a broad knowledge of basic principles, or as a specific field. The “broad knowledge” variant can be combined with almost any specific scientific field.

  • Sample Sciences include Aerodynamics, Archeology, Anthropology, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Atmospherics, Biochemistry, Biology (various), Organic and Inorganic Chemistry, weird science, Cryogenics, Ecology, Electronics, Fusion, Fluid Systems, Genetics, Geography, Geology, Lasers, Linguistics, Metallurgy, microwave technology, Nucleonics, Oceanography, Optics, Physics, Robotics, Sociology, Botany, Bionics, Forensics, Dermatology, Epidemiology, Pharmacology, Immunology, Neurology, Pathology, Toxicology,
  • “Thievery” variations include auto theft, cut pursing, picking pockets, safe cracking, kidnaping, and breaking and entering.
  • Variations on “Doctor” include dentist, surgeon, plastic surgeon, and a wide variety of other specialists.