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Skillful Roleplaying System

Welcome to the Skillful roleplaying system. This is a new roleplaying system under development by a coalition of developers partially based in the Harvard Radcliffe Science Fiction Association (HRSFA). Its aim is to increase realism somewhat from most other roleplaying systems in order to try to reduce the cases where the irrrealism of the roleplaying system interferes with the stories you can tell in a roleplaying game. The system is skill based, with a broad list of skills intending to cover anything a character might be good at (if something is missing, talk to me and we will add it). Combat is significantly more deadly than you are probably used to from other roleplaying games (though that is still a few notches down from truely realistic). Thus combat is not the main focus of the game (though we do have a sophisticated combat mechanic of which I am rather proud that models gunfights better than anything I have seen previously), and there is a very broad skill list covering (or hopefully eventually) adjudication of all kinds of actions ranging from negotiating a peace treaty to flying a spaceship, to fixing a fusion torch drive to making a souffle.

The Skillful Roleplaying System ("SRS") was originally developed with a medium-tech sci-fi setting in mind...the galaxy has spaceships, wormholes, cryonics, and supercomputers, but not (so far as the main characters know) aliens, teleporters, cyborgs, or time travel. Ideally, we would like the SRS to be able to cover any setting that players might be interested in, including ancient, medieval, and/or renaissance fantasy, steampunk, noir, near-future, and far-future scenarios. To that end, we are currently trying to convert the medium-tech sci-fi rules into a 'core' set of basic rules that can cover the most common scenarios from any genre, and we are trying to develop a very wide variety of optional advanced rules, or "plug-ins," that can be added to the core rules so as to (a) help model an interesting feature in somewhat more depth/detail, or (b) help adapt the core rules to different settings. The theory is that, while special rules might be worthwhile for a situation that comes up especially often in your gaming group, automatically dumping all of the advanced rules into the same game would slow gameplay down to a crawl and/or make peoples' heads explode from the sheer complexity. If the rules cover most of the most common issues that crop up during gameplay, then issues that aren't covered by the rules should occur only rarely, and a good facilitator ("gamemaster" or "GM") should be able to handle occasional moments of ambiguity.

The most active plug-ins right now are (1) medium-tech sci-fi and (2) fantasy.

Please edit, add content, comment on things that you think are weird or don't understand, or just add pretty formatting if the urge strikes you. I had to make the site user account only because of a spam invasion, so please create an account, I will approve it quickly, and then you can edit away. Consult the User's Guide for information on using the wiki software.

Core Rules

Character Creation A roadmap that will help you think of a good backstory for your character and then use that narrative to define your character's Skills and Characteristics.

BadAppleCharacteristics Characteristics describe the relatively deep and unchanging features of your character's body type, mindset, personality, and underlying talents. Characteristics affect how quickly you improve at various skills.

Experience Points As characters grow up, complete their education, and go on adventures, they gain "Experience Points," which can be spent to develop a variety of skills. Some games may also allow players to spend XP on new characteristics.

BadAppleSkills Skills describe how good your character is at completing various tasks; skills can improve relatively quickly with practice, training, and experience. Skills come in four tiers, each nested within the tier above it. For example, the "Chess" skill is a subset of the "Abstract Strategy" skill, which is a subset of the "Planning" skill, which is a subset of the "Intellectual" skill. In this example, Chess is a lower, fourth-tier skill and Intellectual is a higher, first-tier skill. Higher-tier skills cost more experience points to buy, but higher-tier skill ranks are also more useful, because they can be applied to all of the skills underneath them. For example, a player with 8 ranks in Planning would be able to write business plans, manage inventory, mastermind the occupation of enemy territory, *and* win a game of chess, whereas a player with 8 ranks in Chess would only be able to win a game of chess.

Resolving Actions Whenever you want your character to do something interesting, you will have to beat a 'difficulty check' based on how challenging your chosen task is. The GM will summarize the difficulty level of your task in a single number, which may or may not be public information. The number will vary based on your environment (i.e., is there a blizzard outside?), based on your available tools, based on your level of preparation/readiness/fatigue, and based on the skill of your opponents, if any. To see if your character is up to the challenge, you will typically roll some dice and add the total shown on the dice to the total number of ranks you (and sometimes your allies) have in Skills that are directly relevant to the task. If your total is higher than the GM's number, you will succeed. If your total is lower, you may suffer various penalties or even fail to accomplish the task altogether.

Fatigue Pools The main resource that characters spend during play in this game is their physical and mental energy, or "effort." All non-trivial tasks require spending some effort, and getting hurt or failing at a task can rapidly deplete your available effort. A character who is low on available effort is said to be "fatigued," and will suffer from various "fatigue penalties." Thus, as characters get tired, they will become less effective, and may lose access to certain abilities or even fall unconscious if they become too exhausted and battered.

Combat The combat system for this game currently focuses on gunfighting. It attempts to be somewhat realistic in that getting shot is bad usually very bad. Perhaps somewhat less realistic but necessary for the game to work, it offers ways for you to minimize your chances of getting shot. However, frantically ducking and dodging takes a lot of effort and will tire you out pretty quickly and it is only a matter of time before fatigue causes you to slip up ....

Wounds And when you slip up in gunfights, often very bad things happen.

Advanced Rules

Generic Advanced Rules

Gun Combat

Negotiation A sort of parallel combat system for important discussions where you try to get other people to do something. If you just want someone to pass the ketchup, you roll against the Persuasion Skills. If you're trying to get a long-term mercenary contract hammered out, you probably need to Negotiate.

Weapons They're shiny; don't you want a few?


Setting-Specific Advanced Rules










Spaceship Combat

Sci-Fi Pricing What kinds of currencies are in use, and what you should expect to pay for common goods and services in various regions of the known Galaxy.


A good place to post ideas, theories, or rulesets still in progress. Edits are always welcome; here you should be even bolder!

Mass Combat



Player Statistics Should players have any 'stats,' as in D&D's Strength/Constitution/Dexterity/Wisdom/Intelligence/Charisma, that limit or set their baseline capacities?

Combatant Mobs

Jason's Rant on Skill Costs

Core Mechanic Version 2

Core Mechanic Version 2.5

Characteristic Theory


Archived Stuff

Difficulty Checks

Jeff's Combat system

Archived Magic



The authors and other people who created skillful

Campaign Worlds

Some of the specific instances of actual ongoing games using the Skillful Roleplaying System

Bad Apple

Dystopia 2040

Fantasy World

Game Scheduling

Use Game Scheduling to try to connect with other people near you for a game.

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