Thursday, July 27, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: All Hail The Line Editor


Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch is celebrating a birthday this week and seeing that he's the architect of my favorite game engine and my oft-times boss I thought I'd talk about some of the things he's done that I've enjoyed or just random anecdotes.

Anecdotes
Here comes the random

  • When I was writing GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 19: Incantation Magic with +Antoni Ten Monr√≥s one of the more amusing bits on the notes he sent back was stop the "semicolon abuse." I have a t-shirt pattern for this somewhere I really need to get printed.
  • Kromm's always been the ludicrously thoughtful guy who goes out of his way to answer questions about his writing and GURPS in general. There are too many times for me to pick just one, but I think the most useful was when I asked for an explanation of how Reprogrammable worked and he gave me a huge email back answering my questions fully. It must have taken him 20-30 minutes to write. If you're a new author to GURPS or just a constant blogger you could do worse patterning your behaviors off of his in this regard. 
  • Not GURPS-related, but Kromm is a mixology enthusiast - once upon a time I was a bar back when I wasn't working the door of the bar I was employed at as a bouncer. I picked up a lot. I enjoyed the work and if I had stayed there I might have become a bartender. Kromm is one of the only people I've met since then who share the two hobbies and while I'm not as advanced in skill as he is - it's really fun to talk drinks with him.


Favorite Books or Articles
There are way to many to name or post here, but a few of my top picks would be:

Just about any of the Power-Ups series - those books are a bit revolutionary in many regards. They turned a flexible system into something you could pretzel into any shape you like. While +Pk Levine wrote two of the more useful volumes, but Impulse Buys changed how I ran campaigns.

GURPS Powers is something I reference all the time. I've had that book over a decade and I still find new things in that book. It's amazing.

GURPS Action and GURPS Dungeon Fantasy both of these lines are pretty amazing. The first lets you recreate just about any contemporary action flick in absurd detail, while the latter does Dungeons and Dragons better than Dungeons and Dragons.

GURPS Zombies is a one-of-a-kind resource in the gaming world and something I find myself turning to in just about every game I run.


Picking Over the Bones
Overall, Kromm is the kind of person you want to be the captain of the ship of your favorite game system. You know he's going to put serious thought into any action he makes or allows others to make for the game line. He keeps stuff straight on the forums and is pretty responsive with questions on how the game should be played regardless of how you contact him. Basically, y'all - All Hail the Line Editor. +Sean Punch thanks for doing all that you do and just being an awesome guy.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Building a Mystery


Adding a mystery angle to your campaign is not something that's particularly hard - doing it well on the other hand can be tricky. GURPS Mysteries by L. J. Steele is a fantastic, must-have resource for GMs running a mystery campaign for any system, but especially useful for those running GURPS campaigns as it contains notes on just about every paranormal power that could be taken and how they might impact a campaign.

Regardless, here are a few tips:


Establish the Beginning, But Leave Ending Fuzzy
GMs for any genre can get caught up with the end result to the point that they have blinders on in any game, but it can be even worse for a detective mystery, cozy, or "who dun it?" Thus, the best thing any GM can do is firmly establish the framework of the mystery itself, the beginning contextual clues, and then the probable ending. Don't be afraid to change it depending on what the PCs do. Nothing is more satisfying to a player than to make an out of game guess and be right.
"Endings are hard. Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There's always gonna be holes. And since it's the ending, it's all supposed to add up to something. I'm telling you, they're a raging pain in the ass."
– Chuck, Supernatural #5.22 "Swan Song"


Don't Be Afraid to Leave Loose Ends
Seriously. Don't. Loose ends are ok when gaming (and when writing, really) because for the most part the end of one story arc is just the beginning of another and having loose ends helps create a feeling of continuity between one story arc and the next - assuming you use said loose ends at a later date.

Additionally, there is something to be said for never explaining a mystery. Simply present the main plot and something ancillary and then never explain the latter. Life never provides all the answers all the time and neither should a game.


Don't Be Afraid to Hit Them Where It Hurts
You want to involve a player or player characters in a mystery plot? Hit them right in the feels. Hard. Want to have them chase a serial killer? Have them murder a friend, contact, ally, (or if you're really mean) a dependent. (Note: doing the latter you should absolutely offer to either replace the dependent in some way or let them buy it off or swap disadvantages for equal points - Guilt Complex, Manic Depressive, Over the Edge, Obsession, etc.) Bring in their past somehow and let them know it. Maybe their parents didn't die in a car accident or maybe their best friend didn't run away after all. Regardless of what you do hit them where it hurts. Doing this will usually have the player invest heavily in what you are running and provide for satisfactory gaming.

Do note that you must be careful when doing this and you should definitely warn your players something might happen.


Brilliant Characters and Gaming
We all like to play characters who have traits different from our own. Gaming lets us do that. But there can be issues when running a mystery when the character is highly intelligent, perceptive, etc. and the player is not. Therefore the GM must improvise a little bit. Perhaps he gives the player advice on something his character would notice about the scene or allows him extra rolls to put two and two together. Whatever you do, be aware of the player's capabilities as well as the character's. It can be incredibly frustrating when the GM creates a challenge for the character, while ignoring the player.


Every Detail Is Important Until It Isn't
One of my players pointed out an interesting thing while I was running my game - the GM never describes an element or gives information that's not important. And that's mostly true. Gaming takes time and most of us don't have but some many hours to waste pursing the hobby - this creates a kind of "inverted" importance situation. If everything the GM describes is important than the players must pay attention to everything the GM describes. This in turn means the players can take contextual clues from the descriptions and more easily solve the problem. Veteran gamers do this without thinking most of the time. So how to fix it? Describe random things that have no importance, but won't significantly impact the storyline and distract the players.


Picking Over the Bones
In the end, adding mysteries to your campaign is going to take time and work to make them something the players want to pursue. Knowing your players is also something you just have to do as well because things can get so convoluted when running mystery games that the details have to be kept straight in both the player and character minds.

So what things do you do when running mystery games? What advice can you offer your fellow GMs? Any particular technique you use or used in the past that worked particularly well?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Designer's Notes: Chi Sorcery

Pyramid_3-105_cover11_1000
Chi Sorcery . . . Whew. Where to start?This one has some roots. First, this project started life as a "could I do cinematic skills as powers?" about 5 or 6 years ago. Then at some point +Pk Levine released Thaumatology: Sorcery and I was mentally milling about for something to write for an upcoming Pyramid. I pitched this idea among a few others and it ended up not being chosen for development. So back in the soup it went. When I started conceptualizing Aeon I decided I wanted martial arts abilities - but I didn't want them as skills. I did the obvious stuff first since that was going to be easiest and solicited some thoughts from others on the rest. So ♫♫with a little help from my my friends♫♫ I started to revise the notes and came up with a finished project. For a long time they just set in my campaign files and were occasionally used by characters in Aeon. Then one day I dusted them off and polished them up and sent them off. I thought this was going to be a slam-dunk and easy-peasy for the editor. It wasn't. I firmly admit that my article needed work - the problem was it needed work in places I either didn't think it didn't or didn't know it did. I learned a lot from this one both in matters of writing style and consistency as well as rules and mechanics. While I'm not pleased that it started out like that I did learn something and the end result is quite good in my opinion.

Anyways, this took me about 120 hours to write. It took me about 40 hours to edit, 14 hours of research (mostly double-checking other GURPS books), and about 110 hours of revision. I spent a further 63 hours look looking over the preliminary PDF for any issues and revising.

A few notes:


The Heretical Excision of "Every Second" Rolls
The first draft of Chi Sorcery had a add-on to Requires (Attribute) Roll that shifted the required roll to use the ability from one minute to one second and added an additional -10% to the modifier. This is did not work. The thinking was that Costs Fatigue requires payment every minute and doubles the cost for every second. I didn't have misgivings about it until I saw the first version in PDF. I flat out had Steven change every instance of this and used Reduced Duration instead. It radically altered the article in several ways. I'm putting this here in case other folks came to the same conclusion. Don't do it. It no worky.


New Keywords
These modifiers were tossed because honestly they weren't exactly needed to be spelled out. Some GMs may find them useful.

Self-Buffing: Like Buffing spells, but these only affects the chi sorcerer. To build such a spell, follow the guidelines for Buff Spells (Thaumatology: Sorcery, pp. 9-10), but don’t use an affliction at all. Simply use the base advantage(s) itself.

Unobvious: The power is not immediately obvious when used and others will explain away what happened unless they have reason to doubt. When creating such spells, add No Signature to those with blatant or obvious effects (e.g., Innate Attack or Obscure). Some particularly sneaky powers also add “No Signature, Supernatural” to hide themselves even against other chi users!


Revised Abilities
A few abilities were heavily revised and here are the originals:

Immovable Stance: Resistant to Knockback (+3) (Chi, -15%; Requires Will Roll, Every Second, -15%; Visible, -10%) [3] + Resistant to Knockdown (+3) (Accessibility, only while Resistant to Knockback is in effect, -10%; Chi, -15%; Visible, -10%) [4] + Skill Adaptation (Use Will when calculating Knockback rolls if better) [1]. Level 2 increases the bonus to +8 and adds Skill Adaptation (Use Will when calculating Knockdown rolls if better) [1], for 8 points, while level 3 grants immunity to both effects, for 8 points.

Phoenix Heart: Regeneration (Slow) (Chi, -15%; Costs Fatigue, 1 FP/hour, +5%; Requires Will Roll, -5%; Maximum Duration, 12 hours, -5%; Nuisance Effect, -1 per multiple of HP¥0.5, -5%; Takes Recharge, 12 hours, -35%) [7]. Higher levels increase Regeneration a step at a time (Slow to Regular, Regular to Fast, etc.).

Precognitive Parry: Danger Sense (Accessibility, Only to allow defenses against surprise attacks, -20%; Chi, -15%; Cosmic, You roll, not the GM, +50%; Reduced Fatigue Cost 1, +20%) [21] + Defense Meta-Trait (Chi, -15%; Reduced Fatigue Cost 1, +20%) [31.5/level].

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

GURPS101: Battle Fatigue


GURPS After the End 1: Wastelanders brought us the amazing rules modification "Long-Term Fatigue Points." A system which allows the GM to assess penalties for lack of food, water, sleep, or a comfortable environment without the hassle the regular rules may pose to some.

I've repurposed these rules a lot on my blog and in my official work and yet what else could they be used for? Today's post repurposes the LFP mechanic again - this time for combat.


Battle Fatigue Rules
This is a rather simple switch, but it can have far-reaching consequences - much like my friend +Douglas Cole's article "The Last Gasp." First, using Extra Effort in combat (p. B357) for things like Feverish Defense, Mighty Blows, or Flurry of Blows still cost FP to use, but they also increase your LFP. Next, you lose LFP equal to half the value assessed for Fighting a Battle (p. B426). Finally, recovering LFP lost to battle requires that you stay out of combat for an hour per point of LFP regained. Double this if you are completely away from the front lines or in a otherwise peaceful place. Triple this if you both conditions are true.


Picking Over the Bones
I know this post is short and sweet, but it's an interesting idea with a lot of implications and not a lot of mechanical "gristle" behind it. The goal of FP loss and any negative "condition" is not to penalize the player to put his character in an unplayable situation, but to showcase how badass that character is for overcoming that condition while still kicking butts and taking names. In the end all players want their characters to be John McClane - beaten, bloody, bruised, but ultimately a scrappy buttkicker that wins in the end.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Hurt Locker: Doodads and Gewgaws, Part II


The follow-up to a previous post. This post is all about the Doodad perk and a few other odds and ends for gizmos and gizmo-like traits.


Foreight, Schmoresight
+Pk Levine's "Fortunately, I Saw This Coming" from Pyramid #3/53: Action is one of my absolute favorite articles of all time. It's a bit of brilliance that if there is ever a 5th edition or 4th edition revised needs to replace Gizmo. Period. So what is it? It lets you simulate just about any cinematic retcon you can think of. "You get ambushed!" "We were prepared." [rolls Tactics]. "We did the switch already." "Ok..." Seriously. It's amazing. If you don't own that issue of Pyramid you should stop reading right now and go buy it. Got it? Back? Excellent. See how awesome it is? Good. I'm not really sure how I could expand this more. It's really good as is.


Doodads or "I Always Have a Paperclip"
Perhaps the most underrated perk in existence in my opinion, Doodad lets you have one a pencil or gum, or things like that. Now in the past, I've let it function as Gizmo for things under $10, it can fit in your pocket or container you have on you, and that could be bought over the counter anywhere. That's totally a house rule, but would fit in any cinematic campaign as an optional rule.

The excellent +Christopher D went through the GURPS Basic Set and GURPS High-Tech to bring you this spreadsheet of items that cost $10 or less if using said optional rule - some are more bewildering than others (DMSO? A coffee maker?)

So what can you do with a Doodad? Here's a short list:

  • a book of matches
  • a pen or pencil
  • a dead or dessicated common creature(s) weighing up to 8 ounces
  • a paperclip or similiar office supplies (e.g., push pins)
  • a notepad or stack of paper
  • a set of keys
  • a set of tweezers or similiar cosmetic care items
  • a washcloth or hand towel
  • a butter knife, fork, spoon, etc.
  • a bit of yarn, twine, or string
  • a penny, quarter, or other loose change
  • a dose of aspirin, antacid, tylenol, or similiar ubiquitous OTC medicine.
  • a pair or reading glasses
  • a pamphlet or business card
  • a feather, scrap of fur, or similiar item
  • a pebble, bit of sand, or similiar
  • a crayon, piece of chalk, or colored pencil
  • a packet of gum, breath mints, or similiar item
  • a pair of dice, deck of cards, or poker chips
  • a empty water bottle, disposable cup, or similiar item
  • a disposable medical item for a disease you have (e.g., a finger stick for a diabetic)
  • a disposable tube of soap, hand sanitizer, or similiar item.


Picking Over the Bones
Overall, I love Gizmos and similiar traits - they let you create a wide variety of characters from the crazy madman who just has the right doohickey because reasons to the overly brilliant detective who say the need coming and properly prepared. It also always you to emulate some types of stories where the hero has just the thing he needs at the right time.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Chronicles of Ceteri - A-Team - S00E10 - Given Up for Dead, Part II


Dramatic Personae
  • Sir Al-Shams mac Lannageal aka Al MacLannageal (played by +Christian Gelacio): Man out of time. The Last Templar Knight. Warrior. Scholar. Sorcerer. Carries the Blood of Solomon and is the benighted grandchild of Brigid.
  • Annalise "Annie" M. Murphy (played by +Ann LS): Exorcist extraordinaire, sorcerer, psychic, twice cursed and twice blessed monster hunter. Ex-Gladius Dei. The Murphy. Talks to God, sometimes He talks back.
  • Dr. Francesco "Frankie" Novella (played by +Troy Loy): Doctor and accidental hero. Surgeon with a shotgun. Unflappable. Logical. Sometimes literal. No sense of humor. Always capable.
  • Nimbus (NPC Ally): Free-willed tulpa that can assume any shape living or unliving. Prefers being an orange cat with white socks or a Model-J Duesenberg. Why? Because. That's why.
  • Ronan Sloane aka The Gunslinger (NPC Ally): Dead man. Dullahan. Master sorcerer and shootist. Monster Hunter.
  • Youko Muramasa (played by +Natiel Leealexander): Master blacksmith and enchanter. Member of one of the Five Families of Kagutsuchi (descendent of the Japanese god of forges and fire).


Previously...
It's been a week since the PCs killed a bunch of werewolves from the Haugldr Clan and Annie has put out a bounty on their head. Things have been quiet and Annie has sent Ronan to quietly discover if the Stygian Circle has been working with the grave wolves when an "old friend" of the Murphy family comes a'calling.


A Friend of the Family
Al MacLannageal, Annie Murphy, Dr. Frankie Novella, & Youko Muramasa
The Shadowed Heights
Friday, October 29th, 1999, 3:00 pm
7 Cathaoir Road, Murphy Island, Boston, MA 02171


Annie is busy in the kitchen baking (something she often does to relax) when the doorbell (an actual bell made of silver operated via a lever outside) rings. Stopping what she's doing and leaving Nimbus and Ronan (A bad idea since the two quickly conspire to eat the brownies and chocolate cake before she returns).

At the door is an older-looking gentlemen with a slight frown on his face and with him a younger Japanese woman. He asks to speak with Darius and after a few minutes of talking Annie confirms that Darius is missing. He introduces himself as William Stark and the young lady as Youko Muramasa. Annie stands aside and waits for them to enter, but does not invite them. Stark, being a seasoned hunter steps inside as he knows this is a test of sorts. Youko follows and Stark asks to speak with Annie alone. Youko wanders off into the kitchen where she is given cheesecake by Ronan (who promptly eats the rest while giving a sliver to Nimbus). Youko is then hassled by Nimbus who keeps trying to eat her food and knock over her glass of milk.

Meanwhile, in hall Stark reaches into his pocket and then withdraws a tessera1  from his pocket.
Stark: "I wish to call in this marker. I saved the life of Darius and his brother's once and they gave me this."
Annie: "And what is it that you want in return?" 
Stark: "I want you to protect the girl from her 'guardian' - Casanova the Incubus. I'm laboring under an oath to protect her but I feel I may not be able to as I'm also laboring under an oath to not harm the one person I believe will harm her - Casanova. If you agree to become her guardian then my oath is fulfilled and I can find a way to break this binding and kill the bastard."
After a few moments of thought Annie agrees and takes the tessera from him and snaps it in half. Stark thanks her and heads outside to his rental car where he retrieves the few things of Youko he could and then hands Annie several stacks of cash (which she declines) before hugging his charge (something she doesn't like or at least pretends to not like) and then leaves. Frankie had been coming up the drive himself as he watches the other man leave. The PCs talk amongst themselves some and when Youko complains that she had to leave her stuff behind Annie offers to go with her to get it. Ronan tries to bring an RPG to "kill demons," but he is vetoed and instead sneaks a few grenades instead.


Back That Thing Up
Al MacLannageal, Annie Murphy, Dr. Frankie Novella, & Youko Muramasa
The Channel Nightclub
Friday, October 29th, 1999, 7:00 pm
100 Stuart St, Boston, MA 02116


Annie has had dealings with Casanova in the past and the only reason he still lives is do to the fact that he does have access to useful information. When they arrive the club is dead, but the dancers are still shaking it like it's Friday night. Youko says hello to the dancers (whom she views as her family members) and heads upstairs to get her things along with Frankie. Al is flirted with shamelessly by the succubi - many who offer to take him to the back for a bit . . . - but is too knowledgeable to fall for their charms. He does take them however whispering to the others:
"I heard there was a contest for getting these."
One of the succubi flirts with Ronan and draws Annie's ire enough that she cuts her hand, bleeds on the creature's face, and then watches it burn due to the holiness of her blood. She flees from the front of the club and Annie calms down. Meanwhile, Ronan snickers and then whispers to her:
Ronan: "Sooooo do you want to check out that bathroom?"
Annie: *stares at Ronan, takes to the bathroom, and clicks a black light on*
Ronan: "Oh, dear God seeing that makes me feel dirty."
Al Shams: *has a magical eye that allows him to see into multiple spectrums* "I do not need a blacklight to see what is in the bathroom. I cannot unsee what is there."
Right before they leave, Casanova shows up and demands to know what is going on. He tries to sweet talk Youko, but fails and when he does tries to convince Annie and the others that this isn't the best course of action. He also fails. When Youko demands to know where her sword is he confides he bet it in a poker game. He offers to get it back for her if she stays and Youko instead counters that she'll create him two objects of power of his choice if he'll lead them to who has it. Realizing he's lost her, Casanova agrees to find it and get the information to her immediately. The PCs then leave for Murphy Island leaving Casanova to his schemes.


Aftermath
They head to the island and Youko moves into one of the many rooms of the Shadowed Heights and the PCs head to the kitchen where Annie begins to cook including some fried chicken (which her player crits as always) and discuss strategy. They want to retrieve Youko's weapon.


After Action Reports/Game Notes
This game was shorter than I would have liked because a) half the players were late getting to my place because of holiday traffic; b) we ate and chated fair longer than we normally do; and c) it was the first game in a while so where everyone was getting used to their characters.

Overall, it was great and I much enjoyed the time we spent. Next game will get better I think if only because the PCs know exactly what they wish to do (retrieve Youko's sword). A clear goal always helps to expedite things for both players and GMs.


Footnotes
1The physical component of a mystical oath or favor which resembles a large coin with a 13-pointed star in inscribed on it).


Session Soundtrack
"La Grange" by ZZ Top (opening song)
"Lone Digger" by Caravan Palace (during the entrance to the Channel)
"Baby, I Got Your Money" by ODB
"The Love of Money' by the O'Jays
"Fight the Good Fight" by Triumph (closing song)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Author, Patreon, and Blog Highlights - June 2017


I figured I should probably start doing a monthly update on Patreon as part of my "new plan" so that's what I'm going to do. But today is Independence Day in the USA and I'm going to spend it with my family.

I still want to go through the plan with my $5 and up Patrons first so this might be a while before it's updated - overall I think I'm going in the right direction. I fully intend to release (for everyone) one past Patron Special at a predetermined rate and time (and possibly voted on by the current list of patrons - we'll see). Other stuff to come.

I figured I'd go ahead and throw this up as a placeholder for now and I'll reorder my thoughts later on.


Authorial Highlights

  • I finished Pyramid articles for Monster Hunters, Thaumatology, Deep Space, and Combat. I've submitted the first two to Steven and the latter two are being tinkered with by myself at the moment. This leaves only Combat, Hot Spots and Locations, Action, Alternate GURPS, and After the End - all of which I have ideas for or partially completed items. I also started work on an article that has no current theme, but I felt I needed to write. My goal is to have at least three more articles submitted this month and I'm well on my way there. 
  • I was in the first ever Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game theme of Pyramid. I'm pretty proud of that.
  • It was announced that Jason "PK" Levine and I wrote the new Traps supplement for Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game. WOOT! So proud of this - my first kickstarter.
  • Something else happened I can't talk about yet.


Blog Highlights

  • I started work on my lengthy blog topics file. It has 54 entries and I've trimmed it down to 41. I want to write about all of those topics before soliciting for more from readers.
  • I started work on the beginnings of my plan to revamp the blog. So far what I'm hearing from people is "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MAN, MAKE IT BLACK AND GREY NOT BLACK AND WHITE."
  • I did some sketches of the new icons and such I want for the blog. I'm happy with most of the headers, but I'm liable to change the Gamemaster's Guidepost. It never did sit right with me how it looked.


Patreon Highlights

  • I began looking over my plans on what exactly I wanted to do for my Patreon revamp.
  • I got 3 new patrons in June and $18 of additional pledges for Patreon.
  • I rewrote my summary on Patreon and added a few things. I'll likely rewrite it again when I do the Patreon revamp.


Miscellaneous Related News

  • I began work on a fiction peice I'd like to self-publish later this year.
  • My mother is much better and recovering rapidly so I've got some free time back. I still need to help her with things, but she's coming right along.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

GURPS101: Simplified Skill Maintenance

Last week I talked about how to simplify the Improvement Through Study rules to streamline them in a way that allows you to track such things, without it becoming homework. This week I'm going to talk about another rule that's great to use . . . but problematic in the execution: Skill Maintenance. Maintaining skills lends an air of "use it or lose it" to a campaign and adds a realistic kick even to cinematic games.

In my current campaign - The Chronicles of Ceteri - I'm using this rules modification to keep a certain balance to the points granted via study or teaching and so far it works quite well.


Simplified Skill Maintenance
For maintaining skills, use the following, simplified method. When the GM offers downtime between game sessions, use the following. First, determine how many skills the character were not used during the previous adventure and that are not directly listed on the character’s required skills for an occupation. Once you have this number, divide the skills up into physical (DX and HT) and mental (IQ, Per, and Will) and consult the table below. To speed up time, this table assumes a single roll for all unused skills. Next, make a roll against DX for physical skills and IQ for mental skills. The GM may rule that he roll against HT for physical skills is most of them are HT-based, or Perception or Will, if most of the skills are Per- or Will-based. He may even opt to use an average base just for this rule. For example, physical skills may require a roll against DX + HT / 2 or mental skills may require a roll against IQ + Per + Will / 3! Treat all skills from a single Job Training advantage as five skills regardless of the actual number. Wildcard skills count as ten skills for this purpose.

Number of Skills        Roll Modifier
          1                       +1
          2                       +0
          3                        -1
          5                        -2
          7                        -3
          10                      -4
          15                      -5
          20                      -6
          30                      -7
          50                      -8
          70                      -9
          100                    -10
          150                    -11
          200                    -12
          300                    -13
          500                    -14
          etc.                     etc.

Modifier: +5 for Eidetic Memory, or +10 for Photographic Memory. If all unused skills come under a Talent or Talents you possess, add that as a bonus. Time is also a factor: +5 for a week, +4 for two weeks, +3 for three weeks, +2 for a month, +1 for two months, +0 for three months, add an additional -1 per month added thereafter. GMs may treat values of a year or more as -9 plus -1 per year thereafter.

Success means that none of the unused skills have degraded. Critical success allows you to immediately spend character points equal to half your margin of success on any of those skills. Failure means your highest level skill drops by one level. Every two additional points by which you fail causes the next highest level skill to drop by one; treat a leftover margin of one as two for this purpose. Critical failure means you count your full margin for this purpose! Skills with a single point in them degrade fully! Treat them as if they had zero points invested in them.



Picking Over the Bones
I think I fell in love with the maintaining skills rules after rereading the old Star Wars d20. I came across Anakin/Vader's entry and noticed with much amusement that he had the skill for Podracing as both a kid and as the Dark Lord of the Sith. Not only that, but he had a higher level later on. This meant at some point the Terror of the Galaxy went back to podracing. Which kind of made no sense to me. When I read the maintaining skills rules early in my GURPS career they just made sense. I often use them to the chagrin of my players who don't mind the rules so much as the rolls. That was a huge part of what prompted me to come up with something more playable. I hope you get some use out of them.