This is from my ever-changing Voyages design document.  I figured a little more detail on exactly how Lessons are supposed to work might be interesting to anyone looking at the design, so…

Lessons are a special category of Knowledge elements that can be used by players to develop the more generally useful elements named Concepts.  In short, a character develops Concepts by “contemplating” Lessons, i.e. spending time with the Lesson in the Concentration bar.

Related Concept
Minimum Score
Maximum Score
Base Progress per Attempt
Usage Limit (base/adjusted)
Root Skill
Difficulty Modifier (base/adjusted)
Lesson Complexity

Each lesson represents some measure of potential advancement toward mastery of a specific Concept. The properties associated with each Lesson define how difficult the Lesson is to transfer between characters, and how useful the Lesson will be to the student.

The Related Concept property identifies which Concept contemplation of the Lesson will provide advancement for.

The Minimum and Maximum Scores determine the range of Concept Mastery scores the character must be within to use the Lesson. If the character’s Mastery in the Concept is beneath the Minimum, the Lesson describes ideas that the character lacks the fundamentals to understand. Conversely, if the character’s Mastery in the Concept is above the Maximum, he already understands everything the Lesson has to teach, and it offers no further opportunities for advancement.

Base Progress per Attempt defines the base amount of advancement that will be achieved with each successful contemplation attempt. The actual amount of advancement is dependent upon the level of success achieved. The length of contemplation time between Attempts is determined primarily by the character’s Reasoning (REA) and Wit/mental quickness (WIT) attributes.

The Usage Limit determines how many times the Lesson can be contemplated before it becomes “routine”, and loses full effectiveness. (This is a factor that is heavily impacted by the skill of the instructor.) The Usage Limit is typically reduced with each contemplation attempt, as well as each time the Lesson is recovered from Long Term Memory (as opposed to Short Term Memory). The effectiveness of contemplation attempts is effectively halved once the Usage Limit has been exceeded.

The Root Skill is the skill that is tested in each contemplation attempt. A typical Skill Check is resolved, and the result is determined based on the Result Category achieved.

Critical Success*

Advance Concept Mastery by 3x(Base+mods), reduce Usage Limit by 2, +1 tally to Instruction skill

Special Success*

Advance Concept Mastery by 2x(Base+mods), reduce Usage Limit by 2


Advance Concept Mastery by (Base+mods), reduce Usage Limit by 1


No effect

Special Failure

Reduce Usage Limit by 1

Critical Failure

Reduce Concept Mastery by (Base-mods), reduce Usage Limit by 1

* normal advancement tallies in the root skill are also accrued with each successful contemplation attempt.

The Difficulty Modifier is applied to each contemplation skill check. Lessons associated with more advanced Concepts will likely have high Difficulty Modifiers, although this can be impacted somewhat by the skill of the instructor.

The Lesson Complexity is a rating that is used to determine what level of Instruction skill is generally necessary to effectively transfer this Lesson to other characters.

Transferring a Lesson from one character to another is a quick process if both characters have sufficient language skills. Instruction skill checks on the teaching character’s behalf can further speed and enhance the student’s ability to utilize the Lesson, as well as somewhat reduce the amount of language skill the teacher and student must share.

Once a character has a Lesson in memory, utilizing it is a simple matter of transferring it to the Concentration bar and activating it. The lesson, if active, will automatically fire every so often (the period between “firings” being based on the character’s REA and WIT scores, primarily), and each firing will grant some amount of advancement toward the character’s mastery of the related Concept.

There are two limitations on the usefulness of any specific Lesson. First, a Lesson can only be fired a limited number of times before it has been substantially understood. The character can continue to contemplate it beyond that point, but the advancement achieved is substantially less than before that point is reached.

The minimum and maximum scores associated with the lesson define the second limiting factor. If the character has achieved a number of Tallies less than the Minimum or greater than the Maximum values defined, the Lesson is unusable.

Lessons can be obtained from 4 basic sources: NPCs, books and other materials in the game world, other player characters, and via Research. The primary method of access for most player characters at the earlier stages of play will be to obtain Lessons from NPCs, either as the reward for successful quest completion or via other interactions, such as joining a Profession or purchasing instruction.

Various sources of lessons in the form of equipment such as books, diagrams, and the like will also be commonplace in most settings.  Utilization of such sources will usually require the use of various secondary skills and techniques: magical “knowledge crystals” might require exercise of the Attunement skill; books and tomes will require access to various linguistic and literacy techniques; training videos require access to and proper use of compatible playback equipment; and so on.

At some point, likely based on the formation of relationships with other players during play, players will begin to obtain a significant percentage of Lessons from other players such as friends and teammates. Whether the transfer is in trade or as a gift, such interactions are meant to potentially be a significant part of the overall game play. Initially, such transfers will probably be of Lessons originally obtained from NPCs: however, one of the options available via the Instruction skill will be the ability to create new Lessons with a variety of different bonuses and limitations.

Finally, there will probably come a point where players will wish to create their own unique individual riffs on existing concepts. Players who have achieved advanced skill ratings and amassed significant numbers of techniques will be given opportunities to define and build their own techniques.

Lessons should tie heavily into the proposed Instruction skill, obviously. Techniques under the Instruction skill should be tied into allowing the transfer of more complex techniques, doing so more quickly (though it should never be a very long process, say a 30 second time limit), applying to multiple targets at once, adjusting Usage Limit and Difficulty Ratings, and creating new Lessons with different parameters.

Language skills and techniques should also play a role in the Lesson transfer process. Specific language techniques should grant bonuses or apply penalties to the process under various conditions (for example, imagine attempting to teach about computer technology without any resort to common acronyms like CPU, RAM.) Conversely, perhaps there should be some language skill conferred as a result of mastering certain Concepts: various approaches need to be evaluated and fine tuned during testing.

Lessons could also be disseminated via written materials (i.e. books). Language skills could come into play even more directly in that case.

A subset of Fortunes should exist which apply bonuses to the contemplation process: “Inspirations” might be the term to describe that subset. Effects might include granting additional Usage Limit units (or simply negating consumption for a time), increased modifiers, etc.

Conditions and Influences should exist which grant bonuses to the contemplation process as well, perhaps within certain categories of skills. “Interests” and “Insights” might be descriptive terms for such elements.

The interface for tracking and handling Lessons will need to be relatively verbose. In some measure, Lessons are not meant to be “fire and forget”: it is intended that players will be able to trade and share them within various limits. A window with significant sorting, filtering, and information display capacity will be required to give players the necessary level of access. Also, the number of Lessons that a character is likely to collect over time will be quite large: this should be considered when designing the interface.

Reminder: Lessons are meant to be one of the primary rewards for quest completion.