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.
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