In the old tri-stat BESM game (Revised Second Edition), the only skill tables are 3 or 4 lists of costs for skills (and sometimes other things as well), depending on the "era" a game is played.

But I want some technologies, magics, etc to be readily available, so I'm going to build my own lists of skills and costs. Or would building my own lists of skill point "cost" unbalance the game?


2 Answers 2


The list of skill point costs by genre are examples. It is completely within a GM's purview to evaluate how useful each skill is going to be in the specific game that they are going to be running and set new values for that game's skill costs. I regularly do this when starting a new game, as my games are often a cross between two or more genres. Many of the attributes also have variable cost per level based on how important that attribute will be in that particular game.

Organizational Ties is a good example. It's cost is based on the power that the organization wields in the game setting. Say one of your players is making a character who is going to be student body president of his high school. In many games, that's background flavor and wouldn't cost the player any points at all. In a high school-based game, however, whether it be romance, comedy, or martial arts action--such as Ouran High Host Club, Maid-sama, or Samurai Girl Real Bout High School--this probably won't be the case. In those examples, I would say that the student council wielded moderate power, meaning that the attribute would cost 1 point per level. (The Host Club itself, on the other hand has great power in its setting, and thus would cost 3 points per level.)

Using attributes like these as examples, you should feel safe in adjusting the cost of other attributes for your particular game, but you have to take care to avoid an easy trap. In some respects, your urge to change costs and the way the system adjusts costs will be at cross purposes and seem counter-intuitive to many. The more useful the ability, the more players will want their characters to have it, and frequently the more you want to make sure it's present in your game, the more expensive it should be. A great example is combat skills. They are always expensive in every genre, even the ones where you wouldn't expect much by the way of combat, like teen romance, because they are so useful. (You never know when you'll have to defend yourself from the school bully in front of that girl you're trying to impress.)

So, while you are interested in adjusting costs to increase the commonness of certain abilities, if those abilities are the ones that are particularly useful in your game, you absolutely shouldn't make them cheaper. You should, instead, stress to the players how useful they are going to be, to encourage their acquisition. One solution I have used is to give the players their base number of starting character and skill points and then give them additional points (say 5 character points and 10 skill points) that can only be spent on abilities and skills from a specific list your provide them of campaign defining traits.

For example, if you were doing a martial arts action game, you might say those points could only be spent on Combat Mastery, Damn Healthy, Extra Attacks, Focused Damage, Kensei, Light Armor, Massive Damage, and Weapon Attack attributes and Acrobatics, Controlled Breathing, Melee Attack, Melee Defense, Unarmed Attack, and Unarmed Defense skills. That way, you ensure that the attributes and skills you want in the game are more common, but their costs are appropriate (so the players can't start with insane levels of them, and when they buy additional levels later, they cost what they should). Remember, the NPC's spend the same amount, so if you make them cheap, they're cheap for the bad guys too.


Skill costs are dependent on how useful a skill is for a setting. If the setting centers around the use of certain skills they should be costly, while off-center skills should be cheap so they can be used for flavor.

Typically, if a skill has the potential to be a characters main 'solve problem skill' such as combat skills, magic etc. then it should be costly. If is is something flavorful that has only situational value, make it cheap. This is of course dependent on the campaign you are to run.


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