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Chris Avellone on Wasteland's Old-School Skill Set Symphony

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Chris Avellone on Wasteland's Old-School Skill Set Symphony

Editorial - posted by Crooked Bee on Mon 7 May 2012, 11:03:13

Tags: Chris Avellone; Skills; Wasteland

In his latest blog post, Chris Avellone writes about his experience replaying Wasteland, the nature of the game's old-school skill set, and faulty androids. Have a snippet:

One thing I wanted to vent about concerning old-school RPGs like Eternal Dagger, Wizard’s Crown, and Wasteland, is the more you give a player the ability to customize their own skills (and stats, although in WL, it’s random), the more you can build a character you can role-play, and imo, you can do it much better than you can if you’re simply given an archetype or limited stat set.

Detour: Not to plug the Hero System (pen and paper, I was first exposed to it through Champions, then Dark Champions), but the amount of character building and customization, point-for-point, was one of the primary reasons I loved making characters for that game. Granted, the knowledge of math you need (and potentially Excel knowledge) is huge, but, to continue my tangent, the fact you could customize your flaws and disadvantages was also huge. Anyway, enough about the Hero System. If you haven’t played it, you should. Or read one of their sample characters in one of their sourcebooks to get a feel for it. I’d recommend you check out Underworld Enemies and see what got me excited about character creation mechanics. Don’t worry, I don’t get any $$$ from it, so this would solely be for demonstrable purposes.

So skills contributing to role-playing: As an example, when building my Wasteland party of four Rangers again, all I knew to start is I wanted a Brainiac, a Thief, a Jack of All Trades/Gunslinger as party leader, and a Melee Specialist because I like bashing the **** out of things with clubs, axes, and chainsaws. With those basics in mind, I went ahead and went through the Wasteland stat and skill set and built personalities formed by the random roll (although biased toward accepting characters with a high IQ, since IQ is a big “win” in Wasteland – and this should remind me to do a blog on how prevalence of usefulness of skills and abilities can ruin role-playing and a lack of balance can do the same) and also based on the skills that were provided to me and what points I put into them.

[...] Wasteland did have a flaw in that not all of the skills were equally useful, and often, the more special-case the skill was and the more limited the weapon selection was for that skill (Knife Throw, Confidence), you could waste points by dumping them in a skill. That said, it was hard to make a completely useless party, it was still possible to complete the game with a bunch of chumps (even the Bad News Bears could triumph), and that’s part of the fun.

And even realizing that some skills were useless, I put points in them because I thought it suited the character personalities more. If they're going to let me do it, I'll use it if I feel it rounds out the character.

[...] Having fun and digging about the pre-knowledge of Wasteland and memories of my crappy knowledge of coding in Basic way back in the days of the TSR-80, I thought it’d be cool if I built an android that incorporated some elements of the 80s and came up with a makeshift bio:

G.I.G.0: Stands for “Garbage In, Garbage Out,” and his name reinforces that there’s something flawed in this character’s intrinsic android programming, since the last character is a “zero” not the letter “O.” I saw him as a damaged android the Rangers deem only worthwhile for reconnaissance in hazardous areas, notably because it seems like he’s been damaged already (“past warranty” is what G.I.G.0 occasionally says, although no one’s quite sure what he means when he says this - they assume it’s a location in the game, and who knows, they may be right).

While G.I.G.0 will respond to his name when addressed, he will remind each new speaker once that “G.I.G.0.” is not his original designation, which has left some inhabitants of the Wasteland to wonder what kind of nation this “Desig” may be and if all the residents are like G.I.G.0.​

To continue reading G.I.G.0's lengthy backstory, head over to the full blog post.

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