2.6.1 Defining Skills
To define a new skill (or redefine an existing one), use the
(Creating a skill with coded effects would require supplementing the skill definition with a program to handle the skill's effects. See the relavent sections of the Programmer Guide for more information.)
==================================== >> What is the category for this definition? >> [Enter category, or .l to list choices, or .q to quit] ====================================
As indicated, your response for this, the first prompt, should be the category of the database entry you are defining... in this case, `skill'. You can type `.l' or `.list' to list valid choices: a numbered list of all valid categories (that is, all categories that your installation of Argo knows how to handle), will be displayed. You can select a category by entering either its name or its number in the displayed list. When specifying a category by name, it is not necessary to type the complete category name: you simply need to enter enough characters for Argo to distinguish your entry from other categories. There are a couple categories that begin with `s', so for `skills' we would need to enter at least the first two characters.
Once a category is selected, remaining prompts will ask for information relevent to the current category.
==================================== >> What is the name of this Skill? >> [Enter name, or .q to quit] ====================================
Enter the skill name here, `Cryptology'. The only restriction on skill names is that they cannot include / slashes or & ampersands (these cause problems in the propdir structure). The program will automatically convert each word in the entry and any low roman numerals (up to `X' or 10) to uppercase. For example, if we were defining a second, higher level of the Cryptology skill, Cryptology II, we could simply enter it as `cryptology ii'; the program would format this to `Cryptology II'. Special capitalization within a word, however, needs to be entered here, at the name prompt. For example, to create a `NetWare' skill for a world where characters pretend to live the exciting life of a LAN network administrator, we would need to explicitly capitalize the 'W': `NetWare' or 'netWare'.
If you enter the name of an existing skill, the program will give you a yes/no prompt, asking for confirmation: do you want to redefine the skill? Different categories can have entries with the same names. For example, you could have a `Wisdom' skill and a `Wisdom' spell: the two would be treated as distinct, independent abilities by Argo.
These same conventions and restrictions apply to names for all categories.
==================================== >> What Stat is this Skill based on? >> [Enter stat, or .q to quit] ====================================
As discussed in the Player Guide, the success of a player's use of a
skill, with either the
==================================== >> What is the minimum Intelligence to learn this Skill? >> [Enter Intelligence Rating, or .q to quit] ====================================
All skills have an intelligence rating: a prerequisite minimum intelligence the character must have in order to learn the skill. (The fact that this skill is already based on Intelligence is just a coincidence: we would need to enter an intelligence rating regardless of the base stat.) Study the intelligence ratings of other skills that were defined when you loaded ascr-base to get a sense of the norms for skill intelligence ratings, and assign newly defined skills intelligence ratings that are in balance with these. (Or, if you feel the default intelligence ratings are somehow out of balance or inappropriate for your world, delete the standard skills or redefine them with new intelligence ratings.) A skill like Cryptology would clearly require some intelligence, but we don't want to raise the bar too high, especially for an uncoded skill that doesn't give the player dramatic advantages, and instead simply allows players to create more detailed, interesting characters. So, a value that implies `smarter than average', but is not prohibitive should be our goal for a skill like Cryptology. A stat value of 8 is considered normal or average in Argo, so an intelligence rating of 9 would probably be reasonable for Cryptology.
==================================== >> Does this Skill have prerequisites? (y/n) ====================================
Skills may be assigned prerequisites: other skills or abilities the player must have in order to learn this skill. Your goal in defining the set of skills available within a realm should be to provide a set of `basic skills' that anyone can learn (provided their Intelligence is high enough), supplemented by more advanced skills that build on these. We said at the outset that Cryptology would be a skill that allowed characters with mathematical training to encode and decrypt information, so it makes sense to specify Mathematics (defined as a standard skill when ascr-base is uploaded) as a prerequisite for Cryptology. So, we would enter `yes' or `y' here, which would bring up the following prompt:
==================================== >> What is the category of this prerequisite? >> [Enter stat, skill, spell, psiab, advantage, disadvantage, or .q to quit] ====================================
The prequisite for a skill does not have to be another skill: it can be an ability from any of the categories stat, skill, spell, psiab, advantage, or disadvantage. In this case, we are specifying a prequisite from the same category; in the following discussion of defining spells, we'll see an example of specifing a prerequisite from a different category. So, we would enter `skill' here.
==================================== >> Which Skill is a prerequisite? >> [Enter Skill, or .q to quit] ====================================
The relevent skill here is `mathematics', so we enter that at this prompt. The prerequisite ability must already be defined in the database: if we realized at this point that the skill currently being defined should have other, as-yet-undefined abilities as prerequisites, we would have to type `.q' to abandon the definition of Cryptology, define the other ability, and then come back and redefine Cryptology.
==================================== >> What level of this prequisite is required? >> [Enter number, or .q to quit] ====================================
Cryptology requires some fairly sophisticated mathematics. It should probably only be available to characters with more than `a little' mathematical training. A value of 2 or 3 would be reasonable here. Let's put `2'.
==================================== >> Prerequisite added. >> Do you want to specify another prerequisite? (y/n) ====================================
At this point the mathematics prerequisite is entered, and Argo is asking if the skill being defined requires additional prerequisites. Cryptology won't, but a truly advanced skill like `Starship Design' would. We'll enter `no' or `n' here.
==================================== >> Is there a monetary cost to learning this Skill? (y/n) ====================================
For some skills, it would be reasonable to say that they just can't be learned by self-study, that an outlay of resources for training and materials is required. (The aforementioned Starship Design skill would be a good example.) We could put this requirement into play by specifying a cost to learn the skill, which we would input as a number representing the cost in small coins. But an intelligent person with the proper grounding in mathematics could learn cryptology through self-study, so let's say `no' here.
==================================== >> Can this Skill be rolled at default values if a player does not know it? ====================================
You have the option of specifying skills as `no default': Argo will not make rolls for the skill, either directly or indirectly, if the player does not know the skill at a level of at least 1. For many skills, though, it would be possible, though perhaps unlikely, for an untrained individual to successfully perform the skill. Argo's way of handling this is to allow rolls for untrained skills, but to roll four dice rather than three against the base stat, applying any shortfall between the character's Intelligence and the intelligence rating of the skill as a negative modifier (for example, a player with an Intelligence of 8 would be a a -2 disadvantage in addition to the four-dice disadvantage when attempting to roll for a skill he does not know that has an intelligence rating of 10). Give some thought to how the skill works in real life, and to the consequence for RP of allowing default rolls, and respond to this prompt accordingly. To specify that the skill can only be attempted by characters who have the skill, enter `no' at this prompt. For Cryptology, it is reasonable to believe that an untrained but intelligent person could possibly encode a message, or decypher a secret code. We should probably enter `yes' at this prompt.
==================================== >> Are any tools required to use this Skill? (y/n) ====================================
You may want to require that characters have appropriate tools in
order to use a skill, either for realism, or to stimulate the
While cryptology probably does require at least paper and pencil as `tools' for anyone but the rarest mathematical prodigies, we (and the players) would get totally bogged down in minutia if we went into that level of detail for tool requirements. We should probably say `no' here, Cryptology does not require tools.
==================================== >> Are any materials required to use this Skill? (y/n) ====================================
You can also specify that a skill require materials as well as or in lieu of tools: objects belonging to specified classes, that the player must have, either in his inventory or in the room, which are consummed when used (the object is recycled).
For both tools and materials, you can enter object classes that have not yet been defined: the system will warn you that there are currently no such objects, and that you will need to define them before the skill can be used.
==================================== >> Skill defined. Please edit the online manual as appropriate. >> Do you wish to enter another definition? (y/n) >> Done. ====================================
Yay! We're done! Crypotology is now a defined skill that players
with an Intelligence of at least 9 and a Mathematics skill of at least 2
can learn with the
==================================== >> SKILL INFORMATION FOR 'CRYPTOLOGY': Base: Intelligence INT Rating: 9 Prequisites: Skills: Mathematics (2) Tools: <none> Materials: <none> ====================================
Except... we're not really done; one last thing: we really should now
go edit the online manual, adding an entry
for the new Cryptology skill, so that players can learn more about it
than the barebones description provided by
One last note about defining skills: the Influence skills used by the
rumor and influence commands such as