Sunday, May 23, 2021

Abolishing the perception skill

 Oh hello, gamebookers! Didn't see this title coming, did you. Maybe you need to work on your...noticing things ability.

Looks like Luke needs a lift.

Abolish perception? It's the most useful noncombat skill isn't it? That's what I observed when I played an RPG for the first time in my current home town. 

The RPG was the real world, but angels and demons were real. They were disguised in the real world. Angels were kind of despotic and we were demons trying to get a powerful artefact. We used the In Nomine system and the main skill that we used was perception.

So that's great. Let's all be super perceptive. Well, that's how a game winning Spike would discern things. However, what if the player wanted to really be a wizard who launches fireballs? Not much room for perception there. Or even for a warrior or a cleric or whatever. 

Perception is really sucking all of the oxygen out of the room and punishing people for playing characters who don't have that skill.

I thought of one way of abolishing the perception skill and making it work and I thought of something that might work in the game and in real life. Most people can't just perceive everything equally well.

This guy comes close

 People register things based on what they are skilled at and what they pay attention to. A builder can spot structural weaknesses in structures but not necessarily rainclouds on the horizon. A gardener could perceive diseases in their plants but they might not be able to tell what type of plane if flying overhead.

I came up with a system ages ago that I want to use some day. It had 7 stats.

Aggression: A character high in Aggression will be better in both physical and verbal sparring matches.

Glamour: A character high in Glamour is able to wow people with their charm and good presentation.

Cunning: A character high in Cunning is able to think quickly and use reasoning skills and strategy. This is not book learning.

Pragmatism: A character high in Pragmatism is good at crafting, building and mending things.

Harmony: A character high in Harmony is able to find common ground with others and also bring people together.

Wisdom: A character high in Wisdom knows a lot of book learning such as literacy, maths, astronomy, history and philosophy.

Strangeness: A character high in strangeness has knowledge and experiences of those things forbidden by most of society. They may be considered mad, but, in the right circumstances, they will be sought out to deal with problems that conventional methods have failed to solve.

Testing against an ability involved rolling 6 sided dice and trying to get equal to or higher than a difficulty. Some of these characteristics would make the test easier. Some would make it harder. If the sum of the characteristics that made the task easier was higher than the sum of the characteristics that made it harder, then the player could roll 2d6 and take the best result. If the sum of the negative characteristics where higher than the sum of the positive characteristics, then the player would roll 2d6 and take the worst result. If the sums were the same or the character had no characteristics either way, they just rolled 1d6 and took that result.

This meant that each characteristic was sometimes a book and sometimes a bane. Aggression would be good for fighting a wolf, but bad for trying to get two villagers to work out a compromise. Strangeness was probably the most profound one - in my system, it would be a negative ability in any social interaction with anyone who didn't have a strangeness score, but it would also lead to great discoveries and power (if magic was in the world, which I'm not sure if it is yet).

There is also no perception skill. Why not? Each characteristic is good at perceiving things that are relevant to that characteristic. A character high in pragmatism can spot a cracked pot. A character high in glamour can spot the best jewellery in a store. Perception has been split up by ability.

That's one way of doing things. Any others?


  1. I would go even further. If the player can explain how their character can detect something based on there skills, items or the like then I would hand waive it and not even make the roll/test.

  2. I love hiding perception within other skill checks, great idea. This is the key issue with perception in gamebooks vs tabletop RPGs. In an RPG, you can describe the contents of a room, and a player can ask for more detail on a particular object (whatever the PCs perception score). Good roleplaying empowers the player to focus more on the stuff their PC has expertise in, and the DM has tools to weight skill checks in that direction if required, as Anon suggests. With gamebooks, everything of note must usually be signposted "To look at the lamp, turn to x". Two ways I think work to obfuscate this are to describe a thing, then test the reader's recall a few sections later, or (and this is more extreme) have different descriptions of a key location, based on the reader's class or skill check. That's a lot of work, though.

  3. I agree with the general outlines of your post, Stuart, but a couple of quibbles...

    "Wisdom: A character high in Wisdom knows a lot of book learning such as literacy, maths, astronomy, history and philosophy". What you are describing is intelligence or knowledge. Wisdom, according to Oxford, is "The quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise". In other words, drawing conclusions or making decisions as a result of knowledge, rather than just possessing it.

    "Pragmatism: A character high in Pragmatism is good at crafting, building and mending things." This one really made me scratch my head. Pragmatism describes an attitude or approach to either a specific situation, or to life. What you're describing under "pragmatism" would probably be better conveyed under a number of other terms: Engineering, Mechanics, or Manual Dexterity, to name a few.