The specific branches of the Finesse line of skills will vary by setting and genre, but they will all grant approximately the same basic abilities: allowing the character to act to improve the basic protective capabilities of articles of clothing/armor being worn, and/or prevent significant damage to those same items.

The typical fantasy campaign, for example, might have 5 specific branches of the Finesse line normally available: Finesse, Light Flex (Soft Leather, Padded); Finesse, Light Rigid (Rigid Leather); Finesse, Heavy Flex (Chain Mail, Splint Mail); and Finesse, Heavy Rigid (Plate Mail), as well as a special Finesse, Cloaks and Robes skill with a somewhat different focus.  A sci-fi setting, by contrast, might have Finesse skills for Plastic, Ceramic, and Powered Armors of various types instead.

Combat Overview

For this particular skill description to make much sense, I’ll need to detail the combat process a bit.  Every attack in Voyages is described by a set of basic values, most of which are determined by the technique the attacker chose to use.  The most common and important values in this set are:

Attack Efficiency (AE): this number, which generally ranges between 1 and 200 or so, is an abstract measure of how accurate and precise the attack is.

Force Factor (FF): this number, which commonly will range into the thousands, is an abstract measure of the amount of force being applied.  The heavier the weapon, the higher the potential FF value.

Defensive Vulnerability (DV): this measure, ranging from 0 to 200 or so, is an abstract measure of how easily the defender can be impacted/touched (this value is typically defender-controlled, then modified by each attack).

The raw impact from any attack is determined by multiplying these three values: AE x FF x DV, after defensive modifications have been applied.  This sum is then divided by the defender’s corresponding “Resistance” to determine the amount of “damage” done.

From a defender’s point of view, the goal should be to find ways to reduce any 1 of the 3 measures as low as possible.  For example, consider an average attack of AE 100, FF 1000, and DV 100.  Dropping each of those values by 10% (90/900/90) yields a sum of 7290000, while dropping only AE by 30% (70/1000/100) yields a sum of 7000000.  Further, if a defender can find a way to reduce any 1 of the numbers to zero, the attack will result in no damage at all, no matter how large the other 2 values are.

Basic Armor in Voyages

Armor in the Voyages design typically performs a fairly specific task: it acts to reduce the Force Factor of incoming attacks.  There are some limitations and provisos, however, such that it is more generally accurate to say that most armor makes you easier to hit, but harder to damage.

Most directly, almost all armor pieces apply some minor adjustment to the character’s base DV, increasing that number somewhat.  The modifications from any single piece are usually pretty small, but cumulatively this easily can add up to a total of 40 or 50 points in heavy, rigid armors.

Most armors also apply some level of “Disadvantage” to the character’s actions, particularly those related to dexterity and movement, very similar to the effect of general encumbrance.

Armor also applies a modifier to the character’s basic Size attribute score.  This has the effect of making all of the character’s actions a little more expensive in terms of Stamina (Size is the basic “inertia” factor for physical activity), but is also a secondary damage mitigation effect (Size is one of the factors determining the “resistance” score for physical stresses).

Each piece of armor also has an maximum AE rating, above which the basic protection of the armor is diminished.  This represents the level of accuracy necessary to find and exploit the inevitable seams, chinks,  and weak spots in the armor.  Any attack that hits with a higher AE value than this maximum AE rating will be less deflected by the armor: the FF reduction of the armor is itself reduced by some number of points per point of excess AE achieved.  For example, a Steel Breastplate might grant 2000 protection to the Chest, with a Maximum AE of 150 and Excess AE Factor of 20.  An attack of AE 170 would reduce that protection to 1600, which is 2000 – ((AE 170- Max AE 150=) 20 x (Excess AE Factor=) 20).

Finesse Techniques

Given the above, it should be relatively easy to define a fair number of techniques for the Finesse skills.  There can be techniques to

  • increase the Maximum AE value;
  • increase the basic protective value;
  • decrease the overall DV modification;
  • somewhat mitigate the Size adjustment; and
  • reduce the encumbrance-related disadvantages to skill checks.

In addition, there can be techniques for donning and doffing armor at an accelerated rate, which might be applicable not only to oneself, but to looting a fallen foe as well.  Preventing or reducing damage to armor could also be the focus of some techniques, keeping the armor at maximum effectiveness and reducing the frequency of repair.

Getting specific

Looking at how best to define these various techniques gets a little tricky.  Most of the Finesse techniques directly related to combat effectiveness will need to work as what I loosely term “adjustments”… the player directly activates the technique, which (assuming success) applies a bonus to the character for a set period of time.  When the effect timer expires, if the technique is still activated, another skill check is made to either refresh the effect, or deactivate the technique (on failure).

Such techniques will need to reside on the character’s Concentration bar, which has a limited number of slots to be shared with attacks, reactive defenses, and so on.  That should represent plenty of opportunity some serious decision-making going on in the heat of combat.  The trick will be to make these finesse techniques roughly equivalent in value to all these other options, and thus, viable alternatives depending upon the tactics and the situation.

The only Finesse techniques I can see at present that are “activities” as opposed to “adjustments” are the donning/doffing related techniques.  Given that there seems to be more than enough other technique options, these might just go away unless something else comes out of some other skill or situation to make it interesting.  A simple interruptible timer (ala DDO) to penalize/prevent armor-swapping mid-battle might well be sufficient.  That would be in accordance with one of my “Rules” for this project with regards to skills/techniques: if it’s not worth making it a process, it’s not worth having in the game.

For everything, a cost…

Another one of my “Rules” is that everything should have a cost.  Applying that to this situation is relatively straightforward.

In general, costs for techniques will be applied to one or more of the health or status measures: Stamina, Sanity, Spirit, Readiness, Balance, or Awareness.  Given the nature of these Finesse techniques, the only one that seems truly irrelevant is Readiness. 

Given that most of these techniques are to be implemented as combat “adjustments”, it’s also probably best to go light on the Balance and Awareness scores: those are likely pretty hard-hit in other ways, and these Finesse techniques seem fairly subtle… low costs will make them more viable options.  There is already an indirect Stamina cost to wearing armor as well, via the Size adjustment.

Therefore, the most likely targets would seem to be Sanity (mental resilience, precision) and Spirit (emotional resilience, concentration), with lesser secondary costs to Balance, Awareness, and/or Stamina possible on a per technique basis.  Spirit would seem to be the most applicable in general, so that’s what we’ll lean on most heavily, at least for the moment.

Specialization parameters

As the character progresses in skill, the number of techniques available will need to expand and specialize.  3 or 4 generic techniques down in the 0-100 Mastery range works fine: in the 300-400 range, there’s going to need to be a bit more variety.

One obvious specialization parameter available to us is armor type: Chain Mail as opposed to Ring Mail, Full Plate as opposed to Banded.  A “generic” branch which works with all types at higher costs, higher minimums to use, and/or higher complexity ratings will need to be maintained as well.

Specializations which focus on protecting one specific hit location more than others are a possibility.  Focus on protecting the head more than the limbs, that kind of thing.

There are enough potential factors involved that we can probably create some specialization simply through varying the combinations of effects (increase Maximum AE with encumbrance and Size reductions, or increase Max AE with reduced DV penalty instead?)

Having some specializations which lean more heavily on Sanity as opposed to Spirit, or which impose Balance and Awareness costs in return for reduced Spirit costs, might be a viable option.

Sample Technique

Improved Protection I
Skill: Finesse, Light Flex
Related Attributes: Agility, Intuition
Complexity: 50
Base Costs: 15 units Spirit, 5 units Sanity
Minimums Required: none
Usage: fires once every 10 seconds once activated.  Cumulative “maintenance penalty” of 5 DAdv per consecutive firing applies.
Cooldown: 5 seconds

Use of this technique improves the protective value of any light flexible armor pieces the character is wearing (soft leather, hides, padded armor, etc.).  The Maximum AE of each such piece is increased, and the total DV increase related to such pieces is reduced.  This is an adjustment technique firing once every 10 seconds, and requires a Concentration slot.

(RF stands for Result Factor, which is the difference between the result of the Skill Check and the total required for success, typically 20000.)

Critical Success (RF 40000+): Maximum AE of all related pieces increases by 25+1/4000 RF>40000.  Related DV increase is reduced by 20%.  Spirit Cost is reduced to 10 units.  Cooldown is reduced to 2 seconds.  No “maintenance penalty” increase in DAdv to next firing; special 1 Adv bonus to next firing per 1000 RF>40000.

Special Success (RF 20000-39999): Maximum AE of all related pieces increases by 20+1/4000 RF>20000.  Related DV increase is reduced by 20%.  No “maintenance penalty” increase in DAdv to next firing.

Success (RF 0-19999): Maximum AE of all related pieces increases by 10+1/1000 RF.  Related DV increase is reduced by 10%. 

Failure (RF -1 to -20000): No effect.  Technique is automatically deactivated after cooldown.

Special Failure (RF -20001 to -40000): No effect.  Cooldown increases by 1 second per -4000 RF below -20000.  Technique is automatically deactivated after cooldown.

Critical Failure (RF -40001 and below): Maximum AE is reduced by 1 per -1000 RF below -40000.  Cooldown increases to 10 seconds.  Technique is automatically deactivated after cooldown.

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