Dust to Dust (with extensive background)
The lore skills used in Dust to Dust are an iterative development on the rules of King's Gate, which were themselves based on the rules of Shattered Isles. This is one of the areas of a game's system in which marshals, rather than players or Plot-behind-the-scenes, are the primary users, and that dictates some aspects of implementation that are difficult to account for properly. The changes to these rules, campaign by campaign, have come out of the most practical of sources: user experience.
In Shattered Isles, Lore skills originally:
- had ten levels, with mostly-very-small character point costs for each level, but scaling up with each level purchased.
- required teaching, from a PC or NPC.
- did not carry practical applications. (Obviously a character can learn something and then use that information - that's not what I mean by practical application.)
- could be used between events to get answers to questions relevant to the Lore's topic.
- were open to player definition: that is, the rulebook had a sample list of Lores, but not an exhaustive one. (There was a note, observed partly in the breach, that silly Lores would be rejected.) They could be broad or narrow, and breadth carried a non-specific cost in depth of knowledge.
Over the course of the first campaign, I think it's fair to say that few characters purchased lore skills, and among those that did, there was at least a minor meta-game of who could pick up the most obscure and rarely-applicable one.
There's a rules "situation" here that highlights one of the major issues in all lore systems: how do you know how much to give the player? During an event at a LARP, it's impractical for a marshal to look up a pre-defined distinction between the information granted from four levels of a Lore skill, as opposed to three or five. This problem is going to show up again later in this post, in a modified form. The solution that SI used in its second campaign, and KG used for its entire run (since those were roughly simultaneous), was to cut the granularity in half: instead of ten levels, there were five, and CP costs were preserved by combining the costs of each replaced level (4, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 became 6, 10, 18, 26, 34).
This helped, but the user experience of SI 2 and the KG campaign (this is based on volunteered anecdotes rather than statistical surveying, but we're talking about a small user base in any case) indicated that it didn't go far enough. I will say that I may not have won the Most Obscure Lore game, but I certainly achieved honorable mention with "Baranoran Royal Rites" at level 3. The primary contenders, to my knowledge, were "Music in Minor Keys," and "Caves." I am curious to know if any player in SI 2 or KG ever picked up the fifth level of a Lore skill.
The teaching requirement was a significant hurdle to player acquisition of Lore skills. For a Lore to enter circulation, the same player needed to meet with an NPC and receive approval to learn a Lore skill while also possessing the necessary unspent CP five times. There certainly are NPCs that appear on-camera this often, but at that time I think relatively few players (hi, +T Maurer!) would have thought to ask an NPC if they could further the player's knowledge of a particular Lore. (If I'm wrong about this and the rest of y'all were totally doing this, then... my bad I guess.) I think it's fair to say that most characters of those campaigns that picked up any Lore skills did so once they had more or less satisfied their goals for character power, and could now step back and round out their character cards a bit more.
Which brings me, at last, to Dust to Dust, where Lore skills:
- have three levels at most, but some skills instead have only one or two levels. That is, if we think something will offer less-than-normal utility in our campaign, you can still buy it, but you pay fewer CP for it.
- require teaching, from a PC or NPC; it is possible to be self-taught through the game's Research system. This often means you learned the lore from a library.
- sometimes carry situational practical applications. For example, we have run skill challenges in which characters with a relevant Lore get a hint on a puzzle. Lore skills also carry significant practical applications to the Research system (thus Lores substitute for the R&D skill found in the Eclipse campaign).
- can be used between events to get answers relevant to the Lore's topic.
- remain open to player definition. They can be broad or narrow, and breadth carries a non-specific cost in depth of knowledge.
- are part of receiving a culture packet. The culture packet is the first level of the Lore skill for a particular culture. Characters receive Lore 1 in their native culture for free. The point of this is to establish everyone's baseline of knowledge in the world.
It's been interesting to watch some percentage of the playerbase, who came to DtD after as many as 15 years of playing SI and KG, reassess the value of Lore skills. As I've said, there were players in those campaigns that bought up Lore skills - but now it's something even the brute fighters do. Given that Fantasy Academia is one of the games inside DtD...