I spent much of last weekend thinking about how the GearHead: Caramel skill system is going to work. This is likely to get a bit long-winded, so please bear with me.
These define the untrained abilities of your character. They will not change by much over the course of the game.
Health, Stamina, and Mental
Health measures the distance your character is from death. When health drops to zero, or a character is otherwise incapacitated, they are removed from combat. The party gets to make a Medicine roll to see if the character survives. Permanent injuries (which can be fixed by cybernetics) may result. It is based on Body and the Vitality skill.
Stamina is a measure of physical exhaustion; in game terms it is used to power passive abilities. Passive abilities include secondary defense rolls such as parry, block, and use of anti-missile and ECM systems. So, once your stamina runs out, you become far more vulnerable to attack. It is based on Body, Ego, and the Athletics skill.
Mental is a measure of mental exhaustion. Maybe it needs a better name. It is used to power active abilities, such as repair attempts and certain talents. It is based on Ego, Knowledge, and the Concentration skill.
Skills are trained abilities. These will change quite a bit as you spend experience on them. A skill should be something that your character does. Skills have a rank; if something doesn’t really need a rank, it should be a talent instead of a skill.
A character can have a limited number of key skills. These are skills which the character is particularly good at, and may be improved relatively cheaply. You can learn skills beyond your key skills, but will have to find a skill trainer to teach you at first. Improving non-key skills is more expensive than improving key skills.
There are nine basic skills in the Cavalier Package; every player character starts out with all of these as key skills, and may take a few other key skills in addition. I’ve been referring to the skills outside of the Cavalier Package as Specialist Skills.
Skill usage should be communicated to the player. In previous games, the exact function of many skills was a mystery. This communication can be accomplished in a number of ways: 1) Show when an option is made available because of a skill (maybe even showing options that would be available if the PC had the correct skill), 2) change passive skills to active skills, 3) clearly tell the player when a passive skill accomplishes something.
In general, specialist skills may provide the player with different ways of dealing with a problem. They might get used to short circuit a puzzle or obstacle that can be solved another way. They should not, however, be used to block the player from significant content/rewards.
Also in general, not everyone should need every skill. If your party has one member with a given specialist skill, that should be enough.
The Cavalier Package
These are key skills for all player characters. No matter what other skills you acquire, these can always be improved at the low rate.
Mecha Gunnery, Mecha Fighting, Mecha Piloting
Ranged Combat, Close Combat, Dodge
Vitality, Athletics, Concentration
The player will get some of these as key skills- two or three, maybe- and the rest can be acquired as non-key skills (if you can find a trainer). The non-key skills are more expensive to advance than the key skills are.
Repair: The ability to fix mecha and equipment. May allow destroyed mecha to be recovered after battle.
Medicine: The ability to heal people and animals. May allow downed fighters to be recovered after battle.
Biotech: The ability to repair biotechnological constructs and revive downed synths/biomecha. It can be used on dead synths to collect repair parts and other useful items.
Stealth: The ability to hide. This skill will now have to be actively invoked, and will function similar to its use in Dungeon Monkey Eternal.
Science: Used for crafting. You can make robots, improve gear, and so on. It can be used on dead robots to collect repair parts and other useful items.
Computers: This skill takes over Code Breaking and Electronic Warfare. At personal scale it allows doors to be unlocked and computers to be hacked. At mecha scale, it allows the use of active electronic warfare systems. With the right equipment, it may be used to hack certain hostile robots, turning them to the player’s side.
Performance: The ability to play music and get paid for it. This skill may allow Taunt as a talent.
Negotiation: Combines Conversation, Intimidation, and Shopping. Used to activate certain dialogue options. May cause enemy pilots to eject earlier. Improves NPC reaction score. Affects shop prices.
Scouting: Combines Survival and Awareness. This skill passively counteracts Stealth and makes encounters visible on the world map. It helps reveal hidden doors and other concealed things. It may be used on dead animals to collect meat and other useful items.
Dominate Animal: Use it to tame wild animals.
Mecha Engineering: Is spending points on Mecha Engineering fun? No, it is not. This skill is nothing but tears and frustration. Instead, I propose that from GHC onward all player characters can modify mecha to their heart’s content without having to learn a new skill.
Cybertech: There were a lot of problems with this skill as well. If a late game character suddenly needed to fix a permanent injury, they were often forced to decide between the injury’s stat penalty and one more skill’s xp penalty.
Weight Lifting, Initiative, Resistance, Spot Weakness: All boost abilities without offering a new play style. This means they are boring.
Investigation: It had no use except in Investigation missions; the thing is, we can still have investigation missions without a dedicated skill, and they’ll be more fun if the player isn’t forced to waste a skill slot.
Pick Pockets: Not nearly as useful as it is in Fallout. I don’t want to write the full burglary simulation that this skill deserves.
Taunt: Was less amusing than I had hoped.
Meditation: Replaces Mysticism. Using Meditation allows a character to instantly regenerate stamina at the cost of mental. Unlocks martial arts/shaolin monk type talents.
Leadership: In GearHead2, lancemates automatically level up their skills after battle to match the PC’s renown. In future GearHead games, lancemates could automatically level up to match the rank of this skill.
Sniper: I got rid of most of the combat-related skills since they are boring choices. Unfortunately, that means there are few skills for a combat-focused character like a soldier or arena pilot. If I could figure out a way to make an interesting combat skill that is not an automatic must-have, I’d add it.
Areas of Expertise: Many pen and paper RPGs have a ton of knowledge skills. That wouldn’t really work in GearHead, but I thought it might be fun to allow the player to choose several areas of expertise for the PC. In some situations these AOEs would provide additional background information or dialogue options; this wouldn’t normally be useful, but it might be fun. The list of AOEs might include pop music, history, mecha designs, mathematics, recipes, arena champions, architecture, fashion, etc.