If you didn't realize, the four skills loosely relate to the four elements:
- Mechanical Arts = Earth
- Martial Arts = Air
- Liberal Arts = Water
- Sense = Fire (may rename this one "passion" or "faith" or "zeal")
As written, having Sense/Zeal/Passion/Faith above two is fairly pointless. Mathematically, a rank of 2 Common Sense is better than zero ranks in another skill (obviously), and equivalent to one rank with a lower chance of a critical fail to boot. After that, more ranks in Common Sense just reduce your critical failure chance until you get to Rank 5.
I was toying with letting the character gain one rank in a skill bundle for each rank in Common Sense/Zeal -- with the caveat that they must all be the same bundle. This requires characters to commit to a patron/planet to get the benefit, of course. I have to think on it though and see what it does to game balance/power though. It also increases complexity at character creation, as players would have to commit to a relatively important choice (patron) fairly early on.
Abilities are intended to create a semi-flexible "class" straightjacket of role differentiation. I have a few concerns.
1) What if you get cruddy rolls after investing a ton of points in "potential" that doesn't pan out?
2) Did I pick an appropriate trinity?
The first one is easier to mitigate. I think some sort of rule that allows increasing ability scores could help. Alternatively, using the "potential" as a Dice Pool ("rank") for certain rolls could also work. For example, you could have people roll the Potential as a dice pool if no skill is relevant, perhaps for saving throws.
The second is harder. I wanted to go with a "holy trinity" model. Three broad classes allows a party of two characters to cover everything if they "major" and "minor" (hybridize) in two different things each. With my gaming trends today I'll rarely if ever have a large group, so three core roles instead of four or more to cover helps.
- The "heal/tank/DPS" model is well established and easy for players to grok. It also has the advantage of not needing a battle map. I haven't entirely thrown that out yet. I could sub out the three ability scores I have now for something like "Spirit (Heal)," "Stamina (Tank)," "Strength (DPS)" without a problem. Stamina needs to be linked to an aggro/mark mechanic. Still, this is overdone and I rather dislike aggro mechanics.
- "Armor/Firepower/Mobility" would be entirely appropriate for a tank/armored vehicle game. I don't know if it fits for other genres.
- "Speed/Stamina/Strength" is roughly drawn from physical conditioning, with stamina being aerobic and strength being anaerobic endurance.
- "Mobility/Endurance/Firepower" matches with 19th century Napoleonic warfare. Think "cavalry, infantry, artillery" or "light infantry skirmishers, line infantry, and grenadiers." It also kind of lines up with the Speed/Stamina/Strength.
- "Cardinal/Fixed/Mutable" fits my astrology theme better and links to ancient archetypes. The trick is defining what those abilities actually do. I tried to do this with the above Speed/Stamina/Strength model but am not convinced I got it right. There is some trickiness here, especially with the treatment of mutables. Mutables are flexible, perceptive, and adaptable. They also can bring death (as at the end of a season; fall dies and the cycle begins anew in winter). So, do they do the "utility"/"support" role or are they the strong DPS types?
The easy solution is just to go with Heal/Tank/DPS. I don't particularly care for "heal" as nobody likes to be the healbot so that could be eliminated, give everyone some healing, and broaden the role to "support." Alternatively, you could axe DPS, give everyone credible offense, and make the third role something like "mobility."
I definitely think this is homing in, though...