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Lionheart SPECIAL System, Installment 2: Skills


Lionheart is a computer role playing game that is being developed by Reflexive Entertainment in conjunction with Black Isle Studios. The game is an original title which uses an updated version of the SPECIAL character development system (from Fallouts 1 and 2) in a quasi-historical medieval Europe. Lionheart diverges from traditional high fantasy by placing the player on Earth in the 16th century in which history has taken a different path and magic has been released upon the world. Using a mix of historical and fictional locations and characters, the player progresses through a deep story while advancing through the classless character system.

In this series of articles, designers of the game will discuss various changes that have been made to the SPECIAL rules system from how it appeared in the Fallout series.

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Skills in the SPECIAL system and Lionheart

From the Author: This article was originally going to discuss Skills and Perks, the two main things that a character gains as he/she goes up levels in SPECIAL. But it got pretty long by the time I had finished covering the basics of Skills, so the next installment will cover Perks.

While the Attributes and Race are the backbone of your character, they don't improve as your character goes up levels during the course of the game. Your character's advancement is controlled primarily by increasing Skills and acquiring Perks. Perks are like special abilities that your character gains every several levels, and they'll be covered in the next installment. Similarly, Magic Skills will be covered in an upcoming SPECIAL installment concerning the entire magic system.


There are several non-magic Skills in Lionheart. We are still debating on the inclusion of a few other skills that show merit for inclusion, but the ones that are currently in the game functioning are:

  • Unarmed Combat If you want your hands to be classified as deadly weapons you'll need the Unarmed Combat skill. Skill points spent in this skill make you attack more quickly, more accurately, and with more deadly force. Training in Unarmed Combat can make you just as lethal as training with any of the weapons in the game, not to mention your fists don't weigh anything and (bonus) martial artists are cool.
  • One-Hand Melee Combat This combat skill covers the majority of weapons in the game including the Long Sword, Short Sword, Scimitar, Battle Axe, Mace, Morning Star, and Club. A higher skill makes you attack more often and with greater accuracy. The advantages of a one-handed weapon are that it is faster than a two handed weapon and allows you the added protection of a shield if you so choose.
  • Two-Hand Melee Combat These weapons are slower but more powerful, in general, than a one-handed weapon. Both Warhammers and Two-Handed Swords are examples of two handed weapons. A higher skill makes you attack more often and with greater accuracy. The advantage of a two-handed weapon is that it does more damage per blow than a one-handed weapon and (bonus) big weapons look tough.
  • Ranged Combat This combat skill determines a character's ability with either a Long Bow or a Crossbow. The higher this skill gets, the faster and more accurate you become with your ranged weapon. Ranged weapons offer the protection of distance, but they are clunky to use in close quarters and generally aren't as lethal as melee weapons.
  • Evasion Evasion is a combat skill that determines how well your character can dodge or at least reduce the damage of an incoming attack. The better your Evasion skill, the less damage you'll take.
  • Search Noticing the small details of the world comes in very handy. This skill measures the characters ability to discern small things that are out of place such as tiny trip wires or incorrectly set stonework - the signs of mechanical traps and secret doors.
  • Pick Lock This skill determines your ability to open any locked container.
  • Sneak When fighting doesn't seem like the best option and you need to get by somebody (or something), sneaking past them might be a solution. When you Sneak in Lionheart, your ability is checked whenever you approach an enemy and if you are successful they are blissfully unaware of your presence. Sneaking earns you experience points and is usually far less dangerous than charging into battle. High Sneak skill also gives you access to some Perks like Backstab.
  • Barter Once you have freed all that loot from the clutches of your defeated opponents, you are going to want to do something with it. Quite often you'll find something you want to use, but more often it's easier to sell that loot and buy exactly the item you are looking for. Barter measures a characters ability to negotiate with merchants. The higher your Barter skill, the more favorable a merchant's buy and sell prices will be. (For all you Fallout fans who are asking 'Where are the dialogue skills?' we removed them in favor of using just attributes like Charisma and Intelligence combined with certain Perks like Outwit. Because of the fantasy setting and the action emphasis of Lionheart, the knowledge type skills were removed and replaced with the wide range of magic spells.)

    The Numbers

    Every Skill in Lionheart is measured by a number and can range from a base value of 3 to a maximum value of over 200. The starting values of each skill are determined by a character's starting Attributes.

    SkillStarting ValueRangeAverage
    Unarmed CombatAG+2*PE3-3015
    One Handed Combat2*AG+ST3-3015
    Two Handed CombatAG+2*ST3-3015
    Ranged Combat2*AG+PE3-3015
    Pick Lock2*AG+LU3-3015

    Every time you go up a level, you gain a set number of Skill Points to spend on your skills, thus increasing the ability of your character. How many Skill Points you get is based on the Intelligence of your character, making Intelligence a very valuable Attribute to have.

    When you start the game, each Skill Point will increase the skill by 1. As you get better in a skill, it becomes harder to actually get better. After you have attained a Skill of 50 in anything the cost to progress doubles, costing you two Skill Points per point of Skill. At a Skill of 100, it begins to cost 5 Skill Points to increase a skill by just 1 point.

    Neat numbers, what do they do?

    Just to give you an idea of what goes on behind the scenes with Skills, here is a look at the equation used when you try to perform a simple melee attack. If the following statement is true, the attacker scores a hit:

    d100+ Attacker's One Handed Combat Skill* >= Defender's Armor Class + Defender's Evasion

    *Author's Note: The combat skill is actually modified by something called Attack Frequency. Attack Frequency is modal and is set by the user to one of five values: Hectic, Quick, Normal, Planned, and Calculated. These basically break down into a scale from very fast and inaccurate to very slow and very accurate. Also, the character's Luck plays a part in every equation. Similarly, a player can choose to target a specific body part in order to increase the chance for a Critical hit at the cost of a decreased chance to hit. For the purposes of this article, however, just note that this is a simplified version of the equation.

    So if you are using a one handed weapon and you stink at One Hand Combat, you stink with the weapon. Simple, eh? There's a couple of other interesting points about the equation, a character with a high Evasion skill can be just as difficult, if not more difficult, to hit than a character with a big old suit of armor on. Most of the equations used in the game work by opposing skills of characters (or things) in the world. This makes Skills critical in the development of the character. And while you can easily become good at many skills, to be really successful in the game, you'll want to become a master in at least a few skills.

    Lastly, we are really just beginning to balance out how the system works so that it will be fun and makes sense. This means that its extremely unlikely that all of the stuff in this article will remain exactly as written. The implementation of the system is a constant topic of discussion and changes occur. Especially as we enter playtest we expect to find problems that we'll have to address and fix. If you have any questions or think something we're doing is lame, log onto the Black Isle Studios message boards at www.BlackIsle.com and we'll try to address them.


    When you gain a level in Lionheart, the one thing you'll always be doing is spending your Skill Points to improve your character. How and where you spend them is going to determine a lot of the direction and paths that are available to you and how successful you are in pursuing them.

    The next installment will cover Perks.

    Previous Installments:

  • 2002-07-29: Installment 1: Races & Attributes

  • Average Reader Ratings: 6.15 (59 votes)
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