The NC Role-playing and Skill System

Copyright © 1996 Andrew C. Myers, all rights reserved

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Revision of October, 1989. Minor revisions for HTML distribution, November 1996

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The NC Role-playing and Skill System

Skills are one of the most critical aspects of any role-playing system. More than almost any other aspect of a character, they shape the actions the character takes. The "standard" role-playing system has a rigid, limited system for acquiring skills. The total selection of acquirable skills is very limited. Further, there are strict limits on the acquirable skills, dependant on the class of the character.

The NC skill system allows characters to develop skills in a variety of areas; far more skills than a character from the "standard" system can acquire: anything from Weaponless Combat to Cook. At the same time, the skills are linked in such a way that the set of skills a character knows will usually be related to each other, or fall into a few basic groups. You can be a jack-of-all-trades, but will indeed be a master of none.

By spending experience, a character can either gain new skills or improve existing ones. Some new skills will require an initial "entry" roll to determine whether the character is able to gain the skill. The chance of success will depend on some attribute of the character.

Most skills will require practice in the skill to improve, and certain skills will require that particular actions be performed for advancement to be possible.

Skills may be improved faster by finding a mentor proficient in the skill, who can instruct the character. This applies only up to a certain level of ability.

The system is designed so that the referee can design new skills, and easily plug them into the existing framework.

While it is not necessary to use the NC skill system when using other NC rules, it may make the game more enjoyable.

What is a skill?

Almost any ability one can think of can be expressed as a skill. Any character has a list of skills which s/he knows. For each of these skills, the character has a known level of expertise. The level of expertise is a number which ranges from 0 to 20.

This level of expertise is converted in NC to a chance level. If you're not familiar with chance levels, it may be worthwhile to read the section on chance levels in The NC Role-Playing and Combat System. When attempting to use a skill, the character rolls on the chance level table, with the hope that the roll will be less than the percentile roll associated with that chance level.

When a character starts out with a zero expertise at a skill, the chance level for that skill is at some base value (dependent on the skill). Each time the character increases by a level of expertise, the chance level also increases by one.

For some skills, the chance level expresses the chance of success for the character. For example, the Climb Walls skill has a certain chance level associated with it. If the character misses his roll on that chance level, the Fall skill is badly needed.

Under unusual conditions, the skill roll is made on a reduced chance level. For example, a particularly smooth wall may have a -4 modifier to any attempt to climb the wall. If the climber's skill chance level is 4, ordinarily a 69% chance of success, the chance level for this wall is reduced to 0, or a 50% chance of success.

For other skills, the point is not to succeed or to fail, but to do something well. If the character has the skill Painting, success at producing a painting is not in any real doubt, barring total catastrophe. Whether the painting will be worth anything, however, is open to question. In this case, the skill roll will determine how good the produced painting is. As the character improves at the skill, the chance of producing a good painting will increase, and the average quality of the paintings will also.

Determining how well the action was executed is done by finding the lowest chance level such that the percentage chance is still greater than the roll. This number is then subtracted from the character's skill chance level to determine the quality of the result. For example, a character with a Painting skill chance level of 5 rolls 62. The lowest chance level corresponding to this roll is 3, so the difference is 2. This represents a fairly successful result. Differences less than 0 represent unsuccessful results; above 0 are successful.

A third type of skill is a skill which never requires a skill roll. Instead, gaining additional levels in this skill gives the character the ability to perform increasingly complex or powerful actions in a particular area of competence. For example, magical ability falls into this category.

NC allows characters to be classless. A classless character starts out with a certain number of experience, and is able to apply these to acquire a set of initial skills. This option will be discussed later at greater length.

Skill Types

Skills are classified into five different levels of difficulty. The level of difficulty determines a number of different characteristics of the skill: how much experience must be expended to initially gain the skill, what the initial chance level associated with the skill is, and how much experience must be expended to gain each additional chance level. Many skills will have special attributes in addition to these generic characteristics inherited from the level of difficulty. These modified attributes will be listed in the skill description.

Type A Skills are fairly easy to learn. A teacher is required for the initial step to level 0, but no instruction is necessary beyond that point. A week must be spent to initially learn the skill. After that, two days will be sufficient to advance a skill level. Having a teacher will reduce this to one day.

The base chance level for type A skills is 5. A person who is completely untrained in the skill may attempt it at a -5 chance level (modified by attributes).

Type B Skills are more complex. A mentor is required until the character reaches 2nd level in the skill. The base chance level is 0, and untrained characters may attempt it at a -10 chance level. Learning a type B skill takes two weeks, and advancing a level takes 4 days.

Type C Skills are difficult to learn. A mentor is required until 5th level. The base chance level is -5, and -15 for untrained characters. Often, a skill roll will be required to learn a type C skill. This will require rolling a d10, and getting a result less than a particular attribute of the character. If a skill roll is not made, the character spends all of the time and experience, but does not gain level 0 of that skill. Learning a type C skill takes 2 months, and advancing an additional level takes a week.

Type D Skills are very difficult to learn, usually extremely arcane and deadly. A mentor is required until level 10. The base chance level is only -10. Untrained individuals have no chance to use these skills. Initial training in a type D skill will take a full year, with 2 months being required to advance additional levels.

Type E Skills are "special" skills. They do not have any skill levels: you either have them or you don't. Typical cost is 1000 experience. Training time ranges from 6 months to 10 years.


Many skills have other skills as prerequisites. If a skill has a prerequisite, this generally means that the skill level in the dependent skill cannot increase beyond the skill level in the prerequisite skill. There are exceptions to this; some skills only require that another skill be gained to a certain level of ability. In the skill catalog, this is indicated with a number in parentheses.


By using their skills and progressing through an adventure, characters gain experience. They can then use this experience to gain more skills. A typical "adventure" should give characters about 1000 experience, regardless of level. A particularly hard adventure (e.g. one in which party members die permanently) could be worth up to 2000 experience. Also, if the party succeeds brilliantly, an experience bonus may be appropriate. Similarly, a bungled adventure should result in some experience docked.

How much play constitutes an adventure? This is to some degree a function of the gaming group. An adventure should be a sequence of play which results in some feeling of completion, perhaps 4-8 hours of actual play.

Experience gained for completing an adventure goes in the "general pool" of experience. Experience in the general pool can be applied to any skill, so long as the character has time to train in the skill.

Additionally, characters should be awarded experience for using skills they have. This experience, by contrast, goes directly to the skill being used. It should only be awarded in situations where there is tension: the group is depending on the skill being used, in some way. The amount of experience given should range from perhaps 10 up to 100 for truly critical situations (character saves group using skill).

Non-NC characters, with specific classes, generally gain skills automatically as they gain levels. For this reason, the amount of experience they receive for obtaining skills is reduced to 250 points per adventure.

Creating a New Character

When creating a new character, the character should be given some initial amount of time and experience to spend on skills. My recommendation for a new, fresh character is that the character receive 1000 experience. To generate more advanced new characters, 2000 or 3000 experience may be given out.

Damage Reduction

A character's DR value is simply determined by the character's total experience. For each 1000 experience, the character gains an additional point of damage reduction. New characters start with DR 1.

Skill cost, by type and skill level
1962008200 1000014000