A link to the complete Skill List

Skills are abilities characters have learned or were trained to perform; in some cases, they may represent a character’s innate “knack” or talent for something, or an ability he’s born with. Examples of Skills include lockpicking, spaceship piloting, knowing all about politics, and fencing.

All characters have a basic knowledge of the world around them: they can speak their native language, do simple arithmetic, and so forth. These standard abilities vary according to the campaign — in a medieval setting most people are illiterate, while in a high-tech environment, everyone might be proficient in several languages and know how to operate a simple computer. See Everyman Skills, for more information.

Not all characters possess Skills like the ability to pick a lock or fire a gun. They must purchase them with Character Points — the same Character Points used to buy Characteristics, Talents, Perks and Powers. A character may obtain a Skill by paying the Character Point cost listed (usually 3 points, but it varies). Once a character has bought a Skill, he may use that Skill over and over without paying any more Character Points. However, improving the character’s ability with the Skill costs more points.

The HERO System groups Skills into five categories for ease of reference: Agility Skills; Background Skills; Combat Skills; Intellect Skills; and Interaction Skills. Characters may have Skills from any or all categories. Skill Enhancers lower the cost of certain Skills.

Most Skills are rated with a number that indicates how well the character knows them — the higher the number, the better he is at the Skill. In general, a character with an 11- is fairly good at a Skill, while any Skill over 14- is remarkable. See the Skill Roll Table for more information.

To use a Skill successfully, a character must roll less than or equal to his Skill Roll (with applicable Skill Modifiers) on 3 six-sided dice (3d6). If the roll exceeds his (Modified) Skill Roll, he has failed.

The base Skill Roll for most Intellect, Agility, or Interaction Skills (also called Characteristic-Based Skills), and some Background Skills, is calculated by the following formula:

Base Skill Roll = 9 + (Characteristic/5) or less

Thus, the base Skill Roll for an Intellect Skill is 9 + (INT/5) or less (standard rounding rules apply). Most Background Skills have a base 11- roll, and some skills do not have a Roll value at all (Languages, Transport Familiaritys and Weapon Familiaritys to name three).

Skill Familiarity
A character may buy Familiarity with any Characteristic-Based, Knowledge, Science, or Professional Skill. Familiarity with a Skill costs 1 Character Point and gives the character a basic knowledge of the ability described. The Skill Roll is an 8- for any Skill with which the character has a Familiarity, whether or not the Skill is Characteristic-Based.

The 1 point spent for the Familiarity counts toward the cost of the Skill if the character later buys the full 3 point Skill. Thus, if Andarra buys Familiarity with Contortionist for 1 point and later decides to buy Contortionist, which costs 3 points, she need only spend 2 additional Character Points.

No Skill Levels (not even Overall Skill Levels) add to the 8- chance to perform a Skill with which a character is Familiar, since the character doesn’t understand the Skill well enough to use his expertise. However, the GM may (and will) assign Skill Modifiers to make performing a Familiar Skill easier (or harder) — for example, taking several Turns should make many tasks easier.

If the character rolls less than or equal to his Skill Roll, taking all modifers into account, he has succeeded. The more he makes the roll by, the greater his degree of success.

If the character rolls greater than his Skill Roll, taking all Skill Modifiers into account, he has failed. A failed Skill Roll means the character can’t perform the chosen action (such as picking a particular lock) or receives no benefit from the Skill until the situation changes in the character’s favor — in other words, until he somehow gets at least a + 1 modifier to the Skill Roll. Obtaining a + 1 to a Skill Roll can be as simple as taking more time (see Skill Modifiers).

A character who fails his Skill Roll is still more proficient at a given Skill than a character without the Skill — Players shouldn’t assume that failing a Skill Roll is worse than not having the Skill at all. (However, with certain Skills, such as Demolitions, characters are better off not trying to use the Skill unless they’re reasonably proficient.)

Secret Skill Results
The GM may want to make some Skill Rolls himself, just to keep the characters guessing. In this case, he can tell them “You think the bomb is rigged properly” or “You’re not sure they believed your disguise,” according to the roll. If the roll fails by a significant amount, the GM can tell the player it seemed successful even though it wasn’t (leading to complications).

Skill Vs Skill Contests
Sometimes characters use their Skills in opposition, such as when one character tries to conceal something while another character tries to find it. In such cases, use the following rules. In any Skill Versus Skill situation, the character taking action makes his roll first. If he succeeds, the character who reacts takes a negative modifier based on the first character’s degree of success (see below). For example, the character setting a bomb makes a Demolitions roll. The character trying to defuse the bomb suffers a modifier based on how well the first character made his Demolitions roll.

If the first character fails his Skill Roll, the opposing character doesn’t have to make a Skill Roll to undo the first character’s efforts — he can undo them automatically. If the first character succeeds with his Skill Roll, the opposing character must (a) have the appropriate Skill and (b) succeed with a Skill Roll at -1 for every 1 point by which the first character makes his Skill Roll. In other words, the second character must succeed by the same or a greater margin as the first.

Most Skills work directly against the same Skill. However, some Skills, such as Stealth, work against a Perception (PER) Roll: the first character makes a Stealth Roll, and characters attempting to spot him make PER Rolls.

Complementary Skills
Sometimes a character has two (or more) Skills that apply to the problem at hand. In such situations, the GM determines which Skill is the primary Skill, and then decides what other Skill(s) are Complementary to the problem at hand. The character then attempts a Skill Roll for the Complementary Skill(s). For every 2 points by which the character makes his Complementary Skill Roll(s), he adds + 1 to his chance to perform the primary Skill. For example, if a character makes a Complementary Skill Roll by 0, 1, or 2, he gets a + 1 to the primary Skill Roll; if he makes the roll by 3 or 4, he gets + 2 to the primary Skill Roll; and so forth.

The Complementary Skill rule also applies if another character helps the character perform the Skill. For example, two characters with Electronics could team up to build a gadget. The one with the lower roll makes his Skill Roll as Complementary to the other character, thus increasing their overall chance of success.

Gamemasters who want to improve characters’ chances of success should allow many Complementary Skills; GMs who want to make things difficult should permit only one. In appropriate circumstances, Characteristic Rolls or PER Rolls can act as Complementary Skill Rolls.

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