Mechanics Spotlight: Expertise
What did your character do before they started (or were dragged into) the life of adventure? What do they do for fun, engagement or to simply make a living during their downtime? These are common questions players might ask themselves in order to flesh out their character.
WoE’s Expertise system seeks to encourage this by providing a mechanical incentive that is reasonable in that it can meaningfully inform a character, but not so optimal to use that players don’t feel obligated to buy in too deeply.
The full system can be viewed here, but here’s a rundown: Every character get a number of Expertise points at character creation with more provided as they level. These points are used to buy or improve different Expertise. These come in the form of professions, crafting skills, and hobbies ranging from smithing or storytelling, to being a sailor or a cook.
Expertises start at a novice level and can be brought up to grandmaster, with each level granting a bonus to a check to perform that specific expertise and a smaller circumstance bonus to any non-attack roll or check that they can relate to that expertise (at DM discretion of course).
For example, a cook could get a bonus to Survival skills to make the most out of the party’s food supplies, or an armorsmith can use their specific knowledge of armor styles in conjunction with Knowledge: Local to identify an organization based on the armor they’re wearing. All this while also being able to cook a meal to impress a local lord, or forge a coat of plate.
One important feature to the Expertise mechanic is that it draws on a separate resource rather than demanding the player use resources that could otherwise be used ti improve the character’s competence and survivability when it comes to adventuring. This avoids punishing players who want to dig into the non-adventuring side of their character while also encouraging players who would otherwise eschew such things in favor of optimization.
While the system was originally implemented to address complaints about the lack of Profession, Crafting or Performance skills, our playtests have show just how much this approach has added to play.
Our observations have show players taking three different approaches to their Expertises:
First, we have those who buy in totally and use the Expertise as a defining facet of their character. The in-person home game has a character who took Cooking as his expertise and travels with the party chiefly to find exotic ingredients and recipes as well as prove to the world that he is the greatest chef who ever lived. His goals have led the party onto more than one unique an interesting side quest over the past year.
Next, we have seen a lot of players making routine and casual use of their Expertise. This in the home game, we have a player who took Expertises and Carving and Alchemy. She has routinely taken rocks, bones or wood from the current adventuring location and turned them into tiny sculptures she gives as gifts to NPCs she likes. In the original online playtest game, we have another character whose mother was a bard and so used his Expertise to represent recalling and telling stories she told him. He often used this as a pseudo knowledge skill to recall tales and legends about certain subjects—sometimes recalling total fabrications in the process.
Finally, we’ve had players who treat Expertises in a fully utilitarian manner; taking things like Crafting to reduce the cost of mundane equipment. While not something that drives the plot or adds much flavor, it does was interesting at least to use that every playtester, from both in-house games and the four alpha test groups found a use for their Expertises and in fact enough were invested enough to request a means of getting more expertise points beyond simply leveling up.
For them, we’ve added the Feat Extra Expertise, which grants a new Expertise at Apprentice level.
Expertise, we feel, is iconic to World of Ere: a mechanic designed not only to serve a need but to be fun to use and stylish-in game as well. And we hope you do have fun with it when World of Ere releases in 2020. The Kickstarter is coming soon and you can keep an eye on it right here to see when you can get your hands on it.
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