My Notes on Background Skills for Champions, Fantasy HERO, Star HERO, and Other Games Using the HERO System (4th Edition)
Copyright © by Franklin W. Cain. All rights reserved.
RETIRED DOCUMENT !!!
Now that I've received my copy of the new rules (HERO System 5th Edition), I've "retired" this version of the document. In its place, I've posted an entirely revised version elsewhere, specifically designed to work with HSR5.

Introduction

One of the great strengths about the HERO System is its ability to cover virtually any type of genre. But that can also be one of its weaknesses, in that it places a large burden on the GM to decide what (Background) Skills are available, useful, and/or necessary for the success of the player characters. This article shall serve as a centralized repository of all Background Skills that I can think of that are necessary and/or useful, how they are defined in game terms (i.e.: is it a Knowledge Skill, Science, or Profession; can it be based on a Characteristic other than Intelligence), and how they interact (i.e., prerequisites).

This list is by no means exhaustive! In fact, I'm not even going to try to list every possible Knowedge, Science, and Profession. (It's impossible.) Instead, I will be documenting those Background Skills for which questions arose or were anticipated. I'll also include those skills I liked from other games not already included.

And finally, this list may just inspire someone to come up with a cool Background Skill (or Skills) that's just perfect for his new character.

Standard/Preferred Abbreviations

These are the abbreviations I prefer using when recording Background Skills on a character sheet.

Knowledge vs. Profession vs. Science: Just what type of Skill is it?

For some of the skills not yet listed, it won't be obvious what type of skill it should be. In these cases, a good rule of thumb is to just ask yourself which Skill Enhancer would work best with this particular new Skill:

"Free" Familiarities

If a Skill is a specialization of another Skill, and if the first Skill has a skill roll of at least "11-", then the first Skill automatically includes a Familiarity with the Skill of which the first Skill is a specialization.

If a Skill has a restriction on its skill roll based on the skill roll of another Skill (or Skills), and if the first Skill has a skill roll of at least "11-", then the first Skill automatically includes a Familiarity with the Skill (or Skills) restricting the first Skill.

If a Skill is obviously closely related to another Skill, and if the first Skill has a skill roll of at least "11-", then the first Skill automatically includes a Familiarity with the other Skill.

These "free" Familiarities are just like an Everyman Skill, in that if the character wants to improve one of these Familiarities, he must still pay the full price for the Skill.

"Useless" Skills

You might be wondering, "Why have this Profession?" or, "Why have that Knowledge?" And you may have a valid concern. Why would a superhero have the Janitor Profession, or the Barber Profession? What possible benefit would any of these be to an intrepid adventurer?

The obvious answer is, of course, "This is a role-playing game, and characters should have a well-rounded background." That's true, but we all know that there are some of us out there who will insist on a game-mechanic advantage to having these "useless" Skills.

Therefore, these supposedly "useless" Skills will actually be used as complementary Skills for other "normal" Skills (e.g., Acting, Conversation, etc.), as applicable for the circumstances. Also, they will prevent the usual penalties for "lack of familiarity" with the task(s) associated with that Profession.

Is your super-spy character disguising himself as a janitor, in order to infiltrate the enemy's headquarters? If he assumes this role more than occasionally, spending a point or two on the relevant Profession could mean the difference between getting the goods on the bad guys ... or getting caught.

The Ever-Expanding List of Skills      (  A  |  B  |  C  |  D  |  E  |  F  |  G  |  H  |  I  |  J  |  K  |  L  |  M  |  N  |  O  |  P  |  Q  |  R  |  S  |  T  |  U  |  V  |  W  |  X  |  Y  |  Z  )

---(A)---

Accounting (Profession)

Aerospace Engineering (Science; see Vehicular Engineering)

Agriculture (see below)

If you're looking for the Profession of agriculture, see Farmer. If you're looking for the Science involved in agriculture, see Agronomy.

Agronomy (Science)

This is the Science of agriculture. If you're looking for the Profession of agriculture, see Farmer.

AI Systems (Science; see Artificial Intelligence)

Alchemy (Knowledge or Science; see below)

In a mundane, realistic setting, this is a Knowledge Skill (of dubious or trivial value). On the other hand, in a fantasy setting, this is a Science (that works...).

Anatomy/Physiology (Science)

Anthropology (Science; see Archeology/Anthropology)

Apothecary (Knowledge)

This is a fantasy/historical version of Pharmacology.

Appraisal (Professional Skill)

For some inexplicable reason, this Professional Skill is frequently bought as "Appraisal/Fencing".   ;-)

Archeology/Anthropology (Science)

To make things easier for the players, I permit these two related sciences to be combined into one Science. However, if the player insists on specializing on just one of these sciences, he may have his character get just that one Science. Specializing on the archeology or anthropology of a particular historical culture (e.g., Classical Egyptian Archeology [aka "Egyptology"], Aztec Archeology, Polynesian Aborigine Anthropology, Pre-Stellar Lunar Archeology, Belter Anthropology) is a Knowledge (instead of a Science), and can be used as a complementary Skill to this Science.

Architect (Profession)

Architecture (Science; see Civil Engineering)

Armorer, aka Armory (see below)

If you want the Skill for the historical Profession of armor-making, use Armourer. If you want the Skill for the modern Profession of gunsmithing, see Gunsmith.

Armourer (Profession)

This specialization of Blacksmith is the historical Profession of making armor and shields. This is not to be confused with "Armoury" (Gunsmith).

Artificial Intelligence, aka AI Systems (Science)

This specialization of Computer Science deals with expert systems/applications that simulate or replicate intelligence and/or personality (or, ultimately, sentience).

Artist (General Skill)

This is a new General Skill that covers artistic creativity. The specific arena(s) in which the character can best express his artistic creativity depends upon whatever relevant Background Skills the character has, e.g., Painting, Composer, Writing.

Astrogation (Profession)

This Profession covers the calculation of one's position and movement in three-dimensional space. This Profession is different from the General Skill Navigation in that this Profession deals with outer space (and not with a planetary surface or atmosphere). This Profession is different from the Profession Hyperspace Navigation in that this Profession deals with "normal" space (and not with hyperspace).

In order to have a skill roll with this Profession better than "11-", the character is required to have at least one of these prerequisite Sciences: Astronomy/Astrophysics; Mathematics; or, Physics. Furthermore, the skill roll with this Profession cannot exceed, by more than six points, whichever of these prerequisite skill rolls is the highest.

[Astrography] (Area Knowledge)

This type of Area Knowledge is generally available only in a futuristic sci-fi setting. This skill represents a general knowledge of the stars and star systems in a particular region of space. It includes knowledge of the constellations as seen from these systems (very useful if lost while planet-bound and trying to find you way back to the starport). Examples include Near-Sol (i.e., Terran) Astrography, Astrography of the Trans-Coal Sack Sector, Babylon-5 Astrography, and so on. (This skill can be thought of as geography for outer space.)

Astrology (Knowledge or Science; see below)

In a mundane, realistic setting, this is a Knowledge Skill (of dubious or trivial value). On the other hand, in a fantasy setting, this is a Science (that works...).

Astronautical Engineering (Science; see Vehicular Engineering)

Astronomy, aka Astronomy/Astrophysics (Science)

For a campaign setting that is too primitive to cover nuclear physics, this Science is just Astronomy. For a futuristic or (post)-modern setting campaign, this Science is Astronomy/Astrophysics.

Astrophysics (see below)

This Background Skill is available only as Astronomy/Astrophysics. (In my opinion, this field of study, by its very nature, must include the knowledge covered by the Science Astronomy. As such, Astrophysics is not available just by itself.)

Audio/Video Editing (Professional Skill)

---(B)---

Bacteriology (Science)

This covers the scientific study of bacteria. It can be combined with Virology to become Immunology.

Barber (Profession)

Hey, don't laugh! This is an excellent source of off-the-record information....   ;-)

This is similar, but not identical, to Hairdresser.

Bartender (Profession)

Bestiary (Knowledge)

This Knowledge is the fantasy/historical version of Zoology.

Biochemistry (Science)

Biology (Science)

This Science grants general knowledge about most of the various life sciences (botany, zoology, microbiology, biochemistry, genetics, marine biology, etc.). For a more in-depth coverage of a specific area of knowledge, the character must acquire the relevant Science.

[Alien] Biology (Science)

This Science grants an overall general understanding and familiarity with the processes, forms, and inter-relationships of the lifeforms native to a particular world, e.g., Terran Biology, Europan Biology, Klingon Biology, Vorlon Biology, etc. (as opposed to the truly general overview granted by Xenobiology). This Science may be used as a Complementary Skill in the appropriate circumstances.

Biophysics (Science)

This Science covers that specialized intersection of Biology and Physics covering the energies created and manipulated by living organisms. In order to have a skill roll with this Science better than "11-", it is required that the character must have either the Science Biology or the Science Physics. Furthermore, the skill roll with Biophysics cannot exceed, by more than six points, whichever of these two skill rolls (Biology or Physics) is the greater. (For example, if a character has a mere Familiarity with either Biology or Physics, than his skill roll in Biophysics cannot exceed "14-".)

Blacksmith (Profession) [STR]

This Profession can be based on Strength (not Intelligence).

Blademaster (Profession; see Sensei)

Bodyguard (Profession)

This is similar to, but not identical to, Soldier and Warrior.

Bookbinding (Professional Skill)

This is of great potential use to a wizard in a fantasy setting, and is also available to other characters in other settings.

Botany (Science)

This Science covers the study of plants. (A fantasy/historical version of this would be Herbalism.)

Bowyer/Fletcher (Profession)

Brewing/Winemaking (Profession)

Butler, aka Valet (Profession)

(For women, see Maid.) This is not necessarily the same as Housekeeper.

---(C)---

Calligraphy (Professional Skill) [DEX]

This Professional Skill is all-but-required for a wizard in a fantasy setting, and is also available to other characters in other settings. This Professional Skill can be based on Dexterity (not Intellligence).

Card Games (Knowledge)

This is a popular complementary Skill to Gambling.

Cardiology (Science; see Specialized Field of Medicine)

Carpenter, aka Woodworking (Profession)

Cartography (Knowledge)

This is the professional science of map-making. It does not necessarily include any knowledge of any particular geography.

Cartoonist (Profession)

Most successful cartoonists have a good grasp of comedy.

Chemical Engineering (Science)

Chemistry (Science)

Chess (Knowledge)

Civil Engineering, aka Architecture (Science)

Cobbler (Profession)

This is the historical profession for the making and repair of shoes and boots.

Comedy (Knowledge)

This is more than just a collection of memorized jokes. It also includes an understanding of how and why the jokes are funny, meaning that the character can presumably create original jokes that are funny.

Comm Protocols (Knowledge; see Flight/Comm Protocols)

Composer (Profession)

This Profession grants the character some ability with musical composition. (For ability with lyrics, use the Poet Profession.) This Profession requires that the character have first acquired proficiency with at least one musical instrument, and the skill roll with this Profession cannot exceed the best skill roll among these musical instruments by more than six points (e.g., a character with no more than a mere Familiarity with a musical instrument cannot have a skill roll in Composer better than "14-").

Computer Science (Science)

Conspiracy Theory (Knowledge)

This is the secret information that "THEY" don't want you to have!

Cooking (Profession)

This can be a very useful hobby to have.

Cooper (Profession)

This is the historical profession of barrel-making.

Criminal Psychology, aka Criminal Profiling (Science or Knowledge)

A character may buy this specialization of Psychology as a Knowledge (instead of as a Science).

Cryonics (Science)

Cryptozoology (Science)

This is the formal study of hypothetical creatures (i.e., creatures that may or may not exist), such as Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, the Loch Ness Monster, and so on, usually with an emphasis on gathering proof that a particular creature actually exists.

[Culture Knowledge]

This is a specialized type of Knowledge. This type of skill benefits from the Traveler Skill Enhancer (not from Scholar).

[Sub-Culture] (Culture Knowledge)

This Culture Knowledge covers a specific sub-culture or mini-society, such as martial artists, academia (scholars, professors, and scientists), music (musicians and bands), "Hollywood" (stars, producers, and agents), professional athletes, the Mafia, and so on. (This replaces the skills "Martial Arts World" and "Mercenary World" from Ninja HERO and Dark Champions.)

Cybernetics (Science)

This Science is a specialization of both Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and requires at least one of these Sciences as a prerequisite. Furthermore, the skill level in this Science cannot exceed the greater skill level of these two prerequisite Sciences by more than six points.

(A Note to Would-Be Cyberpunks: This is not the same thing as neuroelectronics!)

---(D)---

Dancing (Professional Skill) [DEX]

This Professional Skill can be based on Dexterity (not Intellligence). If the player wants, he may have his character base this on Constitution instead.

Dentist (Profession)

This Profession requires the Science Dentistry as a prerequisite, and the skill level in this Profession cannot exceed the skill level in that Science by more than six points.

Dentistry (Science)

Technically, this Science is a "specialized form of medicine." However, this Science does not require Medicine as a prerequisite.

Doctor (Profession)

This Profession requires that the character have first acquired the Science Medicine, and the skill roll with this Profession cannot exceed the skill roll in Medicine by more than six points (e.g., a character with a mere Familiarity with Medicine cannot have a skill roll in Doctor better than "14-").

---(E)---

Ecology (see below)

If this is to be the study of habitable worlds, then use the Science Planetology. If this is to be the study of the lifeforms in general, then use the Science Biology. (On the other hand, if this is to be the pseudo-science supported by the "Earth First" nut-cases, then use KS: Ecology Pseudo-Science/Propaganda. ;-)

Economics (Knowledge)

Egyptology (Knowledge)

This specialization of Archeology/Anthropology was considered almost fashionable in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Electrical Engineering (Science)

Endocrinology (Science; see Specialized Field of Medicine)

Engineering (Science)

This Science covers the practical application of the principles of physical laws (mass, momentum, inertia, friction, thermodynamics, and so on). This Science grants the character a general understanding in these areas. If the character wishes to specialize in a particular area of engineering (e.g., civil engineering, mechanical engineering, etc.), then the character must acquire the appropriate other Science.

In order to have a skill roll with this Science better than "11-", it is required that the character must have either the Science Mathematics or the Science Physics. Furthermore, the skill roll with Engineering cannot exceed, by more than six points, whichever of these two skill rolls (Mathematics or Physics) is the greater. (For example, if a character has a mere Familiarity with either Mathematics or Physics, than his skill roll in Engineering cannot exceed "14-".)

Environmental Systems (Science; see Life Support Systems)

Epidemiology (Science)

This covers the scientific study of infectious diseases. It is very similar to Immunology.

Ergonomics, aka Human Engineering (Science)

This is the science of designing or engineering things (that are to be used by people) in such a way as to make them more efficient, comfortable, or safe for the people using the things. As such, this Science is a Complementary Skill for whatever other skill is used for the designing and building of the things in question.

Excavation (Knowledge; see Mining)

Exobiology (Science; see Xenobiology)

---(F)---

Farmer (Profession)

If you're looking for the Science involved in agriculture, see Agronomy.

Fighting Styles (Knowledge)

This gives a general overview of all of the more common styles of melee combat and martial arts (not just one such style).

Fletcher (Profession; see Bowyer/Fletcher)

Flight/Comm Protocols (Knowledge)

This Knowledge covers the routine procedures to be used by the command crew of an airplane or spacecraft, and by the (usually ground-based) traffic control officers (TCOs). Examples of such procedures include: how, when, and why to contact Traffic Control; how, when, and why to contact another vessel; what to do when another vessel is in the vicinity (and what constitutes "the vicinity"); and so on.

For larger spacecraft, the responsibilities for these duties are usually split between the pilot/navigator and the communications officer. In such cases, a pilot/navigator could be allowed to specialize in just Flight Protocols, and a communications officer could be allowed to specialize in just Comm Protocols, but such specialization should not be required.

Force Field Physics (Science)

(This is usually restricted to a Champions setting, or possibly a very-high-tech or far-future setting.) This Science covers that specialization of Physics covering the creation and manipulation of force fields and force beams. In order to have a skill roll with this Science better than "11-", it is required that the character must have the Science Physics. Furthermore, the skill roll in this Science cannot exceed the skill roll in Physics by more than six points (e.g., a character with a mere Familiarity with Physics cannot have a skill roll in Force Field Physics better than "14-").

Free Fall (Professional Skill; see Zero-G Operations)

---(G)---

Gardening (Profession)

Genetic Engineering (Profession)

This Profession covers the practical application of the principles of genetics, usually for the design and creation of an altered lifeform. As such, it requires that the character have first acquired the Science Genetics, and the skill roll with this Profession cannot exceed the skill roll in Genetics by more than six points (e.g., a character with a mere Familiarity with Genetics cannot have a skill roll in Genetic Engineering better than "14-").

Genetics (Science)

Geochemistry (Science)

This Science covers a specialized intersection of Geology and Chemistry. In order to have a skill roll with this Science better than "11-", it is required that the character must have either the Science Geology or the Science Chemistry. Furthermore, the skill roll with Geochemistry cannot exceed, by more than six points, whichever of these two skill rolls (Geology or Chemistry) is the greater. (For example, if a character has a mere Familiarity with either Geology or Chemistry, than his skill roll in Geochemistry cannot exceed "14-".)

Geography (Area Knowledge)

This is usually assumed to mean "World Geography" (i.e., the geography of the Earth).

In a futuristic setting, this must be specified for each separate world, e.g., Terran (i.e., Earth) Geography, Lunar Geography, Geography/Mars, Geography/Europa, Geography/Ganymede, (etc.). Note that, in this case, it will be sufficient to list the world's name for the Area Knowledge; the term "Geography" is assumed.

If you are looking for "generic" (non-specific) geography, try cartography.

Geology (Science)

Geophysics (Science; see Seismology)

Glassblowing (Professional Skill) [DEX]

This is usually encountered only in a historical or fantasy setting, but it is not prohibited in other settings. This Professional Skill can be based on Dexterity (not Intellligence).

Glazier (Profession)

This is the historical profession for glass-making, with a specific emphasis on window-making.

Gravitics (Science)

This Science covers that specialization of Physics dealing with the (artificial) creation and manipulation of gravity.

In order to have a skill roll with this Science better than "11-", it is required that the character must have the Science Physics. However, the skill roll in this Science is limited by the highest skill roll among these three Skills: Physics; Quantum Mechanics; and, Theoretical Physics. The skill roll in Gravitics cannot exceed the highest skill roll among these three Skills by more than six points (e.g., a character with a mere Familiarity with Physics, and not having either of the other two Sciences listed above, cannot have a skill roll in Gravitics better than "14-").

Gunsmith, aka Armoury

This is a combination of the General Skill Weaponsmith and the appropriate Weapons Familiarities (e.g., Small Arms, Grenade Launcher, Mecha Weaponry, etc.). This is not to be confused with Armourer.

---(H)---

Hairdresser (Profession)

Hey, don't laugh! This is an excellent source of off-the-record information....   ;-)

This is similar, but not identical, to Barber.

Hand Gestures/Signals (Language)

This is a signalling language used by (para)military units when trying to engage in silent communications (e.g., when implementing an ambush). Usually, any such "language" is only so complex, and a character should not be allowed to spend more than two points on any one such "language." (If the character wants to learn additional such "languages," however....)

Help Desk (Profession)

You poor, miserable bastard....

Heraldry (Knowledge)

Herbalism (Knowledge)

This Knowledge is the fantasy/historical version of Botany.

History (Knowledge)

High-Energy Optics (Science; see Optical Physics)

Home Improvement/Repair (Profession)

Housekeeper (Profession)

This is not necessarily the same as Butler and/or Maid.

Human Engineering (Science; see Ergonomics)

Hydroponics (Science)

This is a specialization of agronomy.

Hyperspace Engineering (Profession)

This Profession covers the practical application of the principles of the physics of hyperspatial realms, specifically with regards to the engineering of the electrical (or electromagnetic) systems needed to transition to and from hyperspace (and to survive while in hyperspace). As such, it requires that the character have first acquired the Science Hyperspace Physics, and the skill roll with this Profession cannot exceed the skill roll in Hyperspace Physics by more than six points (e.g., a character with a mere Familiarity with Hyperspace Physics cannot have a skill roll in Hyperspace Engineering better than "14-").

Hyperspace Navigation (Profession)

This Profession covers the practical application of the principles of the physics of hyperspatial realms, specifically with regards to the determination of one's location while in hyperspace, and reaching one's desired destination.

In order to have a skill roll with this Profession better than "11-", it is required that the character have first acquired the Science Hyperspace Physics, and the skill roll with this Profession cannot exceed the skill roll in Hyperspace Physics by more than six points (e.g., a character with a mere Familiarity with Hyperspace Physics cannot have a skill roll in Hyperspace Navigation better than "14-").

Hyperspace Physics (Science)

This Science covers that specialization of Physics dealing with hyperspatial realms. In order to have a skill roll with this Science better than "11-", it is required that the character must have the Science Physics. Furthermore, the skill roll in this Science cannot exceed the skill roll in Physics by more than six points (e.g., a character with a mere Familiarity with Physics cannot have a skill roll in this Science better than "14-").

This skill has several alternate names, such as Hyper-Dimensional Physics, Trans-Dimensional Physics, Teleportation Physics, and so on.

---(I)---

Immunology, aka Bacteriology/Virology (Science)

This specialized field of medicine is a combination of Bacteriology and Virology. It is very similar to Epidemiology.

Industrial Engineering (Science)

Inorganic Chemistry (Science)

Instructor, aka Teacher (Profession) [PRE]

This Profession allows one character to teach a skill to another character (or group of characters). This Profession can be based on Presence (not Intellligence).

Internet Research (Knowledge; see Library/Internet Research)

Interplanetary Navigation (Profession; see Astrogation)

Interstellar Navigation (see below)

For navigating in "normal" space across interstellar distances, use Astrogation. On the other hand, for navigating in hyperspace across interstellar distances, use Hyperspace Navigation.

---(J)---

Janitor (Profession)

(With all those lab accidents in Champions, it's a wonder that we don't have more superheroes/villains with this Profession from their origin....)

Journalism (Profession) [PRE]

This Profession can be based on Presence (not Intellligence).

---(K)---

Known Superbeings and Their Powers (Knowledge)

This Knowledge covers the basic information on both superheroes and supervillians that are known to the general public, and what powers these superbeings have demonstrated (or can be presumed to have).

---(L)---

Lab Procedures (Profession)

This can be thought of as the research scientists' version of medical technician. (With all those lab accidents in Champions, it's a wonder that we don't have more superheroes/villains with this Profession from their origin....)

Lady-in-Waiting (Profession; see Maid)

Languages (Language Skills)

Here is an option I have designed, that assigns skill rolls to a Language Skills (to make Languages more consistent with the HERO System game mechanics). A Language Skill has a base cost of two points for a skill roll of 11 or less. This skill roll is improved by +3 for every additional point spent thereafter. A character is assumed to have four points invested in his native language, for a skill roll of "17-" ("20-" if the character has the Linguist Skill Enhancer). This pricing structure is available for additional languages that have some degree of relationship to the character's native language (i.e., one or more points of similarity, as per the Language Chart in the HERO System Rulebook).

A skill roll of "8-" (see below) will be considered "basic" (capable of understanding and using common words and simple sentences; the equivalent of the usual one-point Language). A skill roll of "11-" will be considered "conversational" (capable of understanding and participating in a conversation; the equivalent of the usual two-point Language). A skill roll of at least "14-" will be considered "fluent" (a competent user of the Language, albeit, with an accent of some sort; the equivalent of the usual three-point Language). A skill roll of at least "17-" will be considered "idiomatic" (a native speaker of the Language; the equivalent of the usual four-point Language). A skill roll of at least "20-" will be considered capable of understanding multiple dialects of the Language (the equivalent of the usual five-point Language).

If a particular language is totally unrelated to the character's native language (yet still evolved for the same sentient species on the same world), such as Arabic vs. Russian, Japanese vs. English, Spanish vs. any of the Meso-American (American Indian) languages, then the new language is considered an "exotic" language, and will be more expensive to master. The base cost is still two points for a skill roll of "11-". However, each additional point spent thereafter will improve the skill roll by only +2.

If a particular language is absolutely alien to the character's native language (usually because it evolved on another world or for a different sentient species), such as Narn vs. Drazi, Klingon vs. Vulcan, Solomani (Terran) vs. Vilani vs. Zhodani (for you Traveller fans), Dwarven vs. Elven, Orcish vs. Troll, and so on, then the new language is considered an "alien" language, and will be even more expensive to master. Its cost is calculated just like a regular Background Skill (two points for a base skill roll of "11-", with +1 to the skill roll for every point spent thereafter).

All of these Language skills share certain rules. They all benefit from the Linguist Skill Enhancer. A character may buy a Familiarity with a Language for only one point, giving a skill roll of 8 or less. And, unlike most other Background Skills, a Language Skill can not be based on a Characteristic (such as Intelligence).

Law (Knowledge)

Two of the more common specializations are Criminal Law and Business Law.

Leadership (Professional Skill) [PRE]

You might ask why this skill is needed, why not just use Oratory? Well, here's an example of leadership that doesn't involve public speaking. (Here's the story, as I recall hearing it, from someone whom I don't recall.)

During the Vietnam War, this unit was encamped in a flat area with no drainage, and it was the monsoon season. It had been raining heavily for several days (or was it weeks?), and the troops were huddled in their tents, trying to stay dry, and complaining about the mud that was everywhere. Conversations started dying down as, one by one, they noticed their captain out in the rain, wearing his underwear, his dogtags, and his boots, digging a drainage ditch with his collapsable shovel. Slowly, a few at a time, the soldiers joined their captain out there in the rain, with their shovels, and they digged ditches, which eventually solved the problem of the mud by letting the rain go away from their camp.

This Professional Skill can be based on Presence (not Intellligence).

Librarian (Profession)

A good librarian is a boon to scholasticism, for his efforts make that library much easier to search. (A poor librarian, on the other hand....) This Profession is similar, but not identical, to Library Research.

Library Research, aka Library/Internet Research (Knowledge)

This Knowledge covers the ability to sift through a (usually large) collection of written material, such as books, magazines, notes, newspaper clippings, etc., with some reasonable expectation of gleaning any useful data therein. Obviously, this is of tremendous value to any scholar, scientist, graduate student, researcher, reporter, detective, or sorceror.

If the campaign's setting is sufficiently technologically advanced, this Knowledge covers online research (i.e., Internet) as well. This Knowledge is similar, but not identical, to Librarian.

Life Support Systems, aka Environmental Systems (Science)

This is a synthesis of biochemistry, mechanical engineering, and plumbing that is absolutely critical to the survival of an artificial habitat, such as a starship or a space colony.

Linguistics, aka Philology (Science)

Literature (Knowledge)

---(M)---

Machinist (Profession) [DEX]

This Profession can be based on Dexterity (not Intellligence).

Magical Theory (Science)

(This is usually restricted to a Fantasy HERO setting.) This Science covers the basic principles of magic. Specializing in a specific college or school of magical theory (e.g., Illusions and Phantasms, Elemental Magics, Divinations, Battle Magics, and so on) is a Knowledge (instead of a Science), and can be used as a complementary Skill to this Science.

Maid, aka Lady-in-Waiting (Profession)

This is the female equivalent of Butler. This is not the same as Housekeeper.

Manager (see below)

Use the PRE-based Skill Bureaucratics. If the character is to be a good manager, you'll also want to get the Professional Skill Leadership.

Marine Biology (Science)

[Martial Art Style] (Knowledge)

This Knowledge covers one particular martial art or style of fighting, such as Tae Kwon Do, Wrestling, Fencing, or Kickboxing (as opposed to covering all such styles and arts).

Mathematics (Science)

Mechanical Engineering (Science)

Medical Technician (Profession)

Medicine (Science)

Doctors who are general practicioners will want a high skill roll with this Science.

[Specialized Field of Medicine] (Science)

This is for any of the numerous specializations in the field of medicine, such as Immunology, Cardiology, Neurology, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Pathology, Endocrinology, (etc.). As such, this Science requires that the character have first acquired the Science Medicine, and the skill roll with this Science cannot exceed the skill roll in Medicine by more than six points (e.g., a character with a mere Familiarity with Medicine cannot have a skill roll in Cardiology better than "14-").

[Alien] Medicine (Science)

This specialized field of medicine focuses on the life sciences for the lifeforms native to a particular world (other than one's own; that other is always considered "generic" Medicine), e.g., Vulcan Medicine, Klingon Medicine, Narn Medicine, etc. (as opposed to the truly general overview granted by Xenomedicine). This Science may be used as a Complementary Skill in the appropriate circumstances.

Meditation (see below)

If acquired as a vocation or hobby, this is a Professional Skill that is based on Ego (instead of Intelligence). However, in a Fantasy HERO setting, this can be defined as a Magic Skill that is based on Constitution (instead of Intelligence).

Mercenary (see below)

If the character is from a modern-era setting, use Soldier/Mercenary. If the character is from a fantasy/historical setting, use Warrior/Mercenary.

Metallurgy (Science)

Meteorology (Science)

Microbiology (Science)

This is the study of microscopic lifeforms.

Military History (Knowledge)

This is obviously a specialization of history.

Mining/Excavation (Knowledge)

Molecular Biology (Science)

Molecular Engineering (Science; see Nanotechnology)

Morse Code (Language; 1 pt. max.)

A character may not spend more than one point on this signalling language.

[Musical Instrument] (Professional Skill) [DEX]

This is the generic format for a Professional Skill which conveys proficiency with a musical instrument, such as Flute/Recorder, Harmonica, [Electric] Guitar, Lute/Mandolin, Piano/Organ, (etc.). This Professional Skill can be based on Dexterity (not Intellligence).

Mythology (Knowledge)

---(N)---

Nanotechnology, aka Molecular Engineering (Science)

Naval Architecture/Engineering (Science; see Vehicular Engineering)

Navigation

The General Skill Navigation deals with determining one's position and course with respect to a planet (i.e., on a planet's surface, either land or sea, or in a planet's atmosphere or oceans, or in low orbit about a planet), usually by means of a map and compass (or other instrumentation), not necessarily by terrain features.

For navigating from one planet to another (or from one star system to another, for those civilizations without FTL travel), use Astrogation. For navigating within hyperspace, use Hyperspace Navigation.

Neuroelectronics (Science)

This Science is the specialized intersection of cybernetics and neurology (i.e., this is the skill that covers cyberpunk genre's computer-brain-interfacing technology). As such, this skill belongs very much in a sci-fi campaign.

Neurology (Science; see Specialized Field of Medicine)

Nuclear Engineering (Profession)

This Profession covers the practical application of the principles of nuclear physics. As such, it requires that the character have first acquired the Science Nuclear Physics, and the skill roll with this Profession cannot exceed the skill roll in Nuclear Physics by more than six points (e.g., a character with a mere Familiarity with Nuclear Physics cannot have a skill roll in Nuclear Engineering better than "14-").

Nuclear Physics (Science)

This Science covers that specialization of Physics dealing with subatomic particles and their interactions. In order to have a skill roll with this Science better than "11-", it is required that the character must have the Science Physics. Furthermore, the skill roll in this Science cannot exceed the skill roll in Physics by more than six points (e.g., a character with a mere Familiarity with Physics cannot have a skill roll in Nuclear Physics better than "14-").

---(O)---

Obstetrics/Gynecology (Science; see Specialized Field of Medicine)

Occultism (Knowledge)

Oceanography (Science)

Optical Physics, aka High Energy Optics (Science)

This Science deals primarily with lasers, and can be thought of as a predecessor of photonics (i.e., it deals with the theories behind photonics, while photonics would be the applied engineering of optical physics).

Organic Chemistry (Science)

---(P)---

Painting (Profession)

This covers the creative and artistic type of painting (when used with Artist). In other words, this Profession is not the Skill to be used for (re)painting someone's house.

Paleontology (Science)

This Science deals with the fossilized remains of all kinds of lifeforms, and not just dinosaur fossils. ;-)

Parachute (Professional Skill) [DEX]

This Skill can be based on Dexterity (not Intelligence).

Pathology (Science; see Specialized Field of Medicine)

Performance (PRE-based Skill; see Showmanship)

Pharmacology (Science)

This Science can be thought of as either a special field of medicine or a specialization of biochemistry (or both). As such, this Science requires that the character have first acquired either the Science Medicine or the Science Biochemistry. Furthermore, the skill roll with Pharmacology cannot exceed, by more than six points, whichever of these two skill rolls (Medicine or Biochemistry) is the greater. (For example, if a character has a mere Familiarity with either Medicine or Biochemistry, than his skill roll in Pharmacology cannot exceed "14-".)

(A fantasy/historical version of this would be Apothecary.)

Philology (Science; see Linguistics)

Philosophy/Theology (Knowledge)

This confers a general overview of popular, prevalent philosophies and theologies, and an understanding of the principles behind them. It does not necessarily mandate an active belief in any of those teachings. A character could specialize in a particular philosophy or theology, such as Zen Bhuddism, Confucianism, Medieval Christianity, Church of the Subgenius, and so on.

Photography (Profession)

Photonics (Science)

This Science covers the engineering of optical circuitry (i.e., photonic circuitry). Just as electrical circuitry utilizes electrons, photonic circuitry utilizes photons. Photonics is the applied engineering of optical physics.

Photonics is required as a complementary Skill for Electronics when trying to work on optical circuits (such as the fiber-optical back-ups for starship computers in Traveller, first used over twenty years ago, in Book 5: High Guard from Classic Traveller).

Physics (Science)

This Science covers the basic principles of the forces of mass and energy.

In order to have a skill roll with this Science better than "11-", it is required that the character must have the Science Mathematics. Furthermore, the skill roll in this Science cannot exceed the skill roll in Mathematics by more than six points (e.g., a character with a mere Familiarity with Mathematics cannot have a skill roll in Physics better than "14-").

Planetology, aka Ecology (Science)

Plumbing (Profession)

Poet (Profession)

Psychiatry (Science)

This is a variation of psychology that is a specialized field of medicine.

Psychology (Science or Knowledge)

A character may buy this Skill as a Knowledge (instead of as a Science). On the other hand, a character who is a doctor should probably get this skill as Psychiatry.

A common specialization of this Skill is Criminal Psychology (aka Criminal Profiling).

---(Q)---

Quantum Mechanics (Science)

This Science is a specialization of Physics, and requires that Science as a prerequisite. Furthermore, ths skill level in this Science cannot exceed the skill level in Physics by more than six points.

---(R)---

Riddles (Knowledge)

Robotics (Science)

This Science covers the design of self-guided, autonomous (to varying degrees) mechanisms; i.e., robots and robotic systems.

---(S)---

Sailor, aka Seamanship, aka Shiphandling (Profession)

This maritime Profession covers a general, all-purpose proficiency in seamanship, with an emphasis on sailcraft.

Scuba Diving (Professional Skill)

Seamanship (Profession; see Sailor)

Seamstress (Profession; see Tailor)

Seismology, aka Geophysics (Science)

This Science covers a specialized intersection of Geology and Physics. In order to have a skill roll with this Science better than "11-", it is required that the character must have either the Science Geology or the Science Physics. Furthermore, the skill roll with this Science cannot exceed, by more than six points, whichever of these two skill rolls (Geology or Physics) is the greater. (For example, if a character has a mere Familiarity with either Geology or Physics, than his skill roll in this Science cannot exceed "14-".)

Semaphore (Language; 1 pt. max.)

A character may not spend more than one point on this signalling language.

Sensei (Profession)

This is a variation of Instructor specifically for teaching the arts and techniques of combat. This profession has several alternate names, such as Blademaster, Swordmaster, Warmaster, and so on.

Shiphandling (Profession; see Sailor)

Shipwright (Profession)

This is the historical profession for the making and repair of boats and ships (usually, wooden boats and ships).

Showmanship (PRE-based Skill)

This is a new PRE-based Skill that covers the ability to entertain a crowd. The specific artform(s) that the character can best use to entertain an audience depends upon whatever relevant Background Skills the character has, e.g., Dancing, Singing, Musical Instrument(s). For comedians, use Comedy and either Acting (for skits) or Oratory (for stand-up).

(In other games systems, this skill may be called "Performance".)

Signalling (see below)

Characters may learn Morse Code and/or Semaphore, spending just one point on each. Characters with the appropriate background (military, paramilitary, or espionage) may learn Hand Gestures/Signals, usually spending no more than two points on this.

Singing (Profession) [PRE]

This Profession can be based on Presence (not Intellligence). If the player wants, he may have his character base this on Constitution instead.

Skating (Professional Skill) [DEX]

This recreational sport includes both roller skating (including inline skating) and ice skating. This Professional Skill can be based on Dexterity (not Intellligence).

Skiing (Professional Skill) [DEX]

This recreational sport includes both water skiing and snow skiing. This Professional Skill can be based on Dexterity (not Intellligence).

Sociology (Science or Knowledge)

A character may buy this Skill as a Knowledge (instead of as a Science).

Soldier, aka Soldier/Mercenary (Profession)

This is a modern-era version of Warrior. This is similar to, but not identical to, Bodyguard.

Spacer (Profession)

This is a high-tech (interplanetary/interstellar) version of Sailor.

[Sport] (Profession) [varies]

This covers any specific sport, whether amateur or professional, such as Baseball, Football (i.e., American Football), Soccer/Rugby, Basketball, Hockey, Tennis, Skiing, Skating, and so on.

Starship Architecture/Engineering

This is a combination of Astronautical Engineering and Hyperspace Engineering.

Storytelling (Professional Skill) [PRE]

This Professional Skill can be based on Presence (not Intellligence).

Subatomic Physics (see below)

If you want your character to have scientific knowledge about nuclear particles (protons, neutrons, electrons) and their interactions, then get Nuclear Physics. If you want your character to have scientific knowledge about the really bizarre happenings at the quantum level (which is one or more steps smaller than that of the previously mentioned nuclear particles), then get Quantum Mechanics.

Surgeon (Profession)

This Profession requires that the character have first acquired the Profession Doctor, and the skill roll with this Profession cannot exceed the skill roll in Doctor by more than six points (e.g., a character with a mere Familiarity with Doctor cannot have a skill roll in Surgeon better than "14-").

Swordmaster (Profession; see Sensei)

---(T)---

Tailor/Seamstress (Profession) [DEX]

This Profession can be based on Dexterity (not Intellligence).

Teacher (Profession; see Instructor.)

Teleportation Physics (Science; see Hyperspace Physics.)

[Terrain Knowledge]

This is a specialized type of Area Knowledge. This type of skill benefits from the Traveler Skill Enhancer.

Theology (Knowledge; see Philosophy/Theology.)

Theoretical Physics (Science)

This is obviously a specialization of Physics.

Trans-Dimensional Physics (Science; see Hyperspace Physics.)

[Trivia] (Knowledge)

This is an all-encompassing category of Knowledges. Calling a Skill a "Trivia" is an effective way of documenting that the character in question has an extensive body of knowledge on the subject without necessarily having any practical, real-world experience or any underlying understanding of the scientific principles involved (if any). (In other words, it's a means of making it unambiguous that the character has a Knowledge Skill, and not a Profession or a Science.)

Examples include Baseball Trivia, "Star Trek" Trivia, Espionage Trivia, and so on.

Typing (Professional Skill) [DEX]

This Professional Skill can be based on Dexterity (not Intellligence).

---(U)---

Underwater Demolitions

This is a combination of the General Skill Demolitions and the Professional Skill Scuba Diving.

---(V)---

Valet (Profession; see Butler)

Vac Suit (Professional Skill) [DEX]

This Profession Skill covers the use of a full-body protective suit designed to shield one from various hostile environments, usually, to protect one from the rigors of outer space while performing an extra-vehicular activity (EVA). This Professional Skill can be based on Dexterity (not Intellligence).

This skill has several alternate names, such as Vacuum Suit, Environment Suit (or Hostile Environment Suit), Pressure Suit (or P-Suit), EVA Suit, and so on.

[Vehicular Engineering] (Science)

There are several distinct sciences of vehicular engineering.

  • For most ground vehicles, whether wheeled or tracked, simply use Mechanical Engineering.
  • For (industrial-era) oceanic vessels, use Naval Architecture/Engineering. (For pre-industrial oceanic vessels, use Shipwright instead.)
  • For most types of aircraft, use Aerospace Engineering.
  • For spacecraft and space stations, use Astronautical Engineering (which, when used in conjunction with Hyperspace Engineering, effectively covers starship architecture/engineering).

Veterinary Medicine (Science)

Vintner (Profession; see Brewing/Winemaking)

Virology (Science)

This covers the scientific study of viruses (virii). It can be combined with Bacteriology to become Immunology.

---(W)---

Warmaster (Profession; see Sensei)

Warrior, aka Warrior/Mercenary (Profession)

This is a fantasy/historical version of Soldier. This is similar to, but not identical to, Bodyguard.

Weaving (Profession)

Winemaking (Profession; see Brewing/Winemaking)

Writing (Profession)

---(X)---

"Xeno-" vs. "Exo-"

I am using the prefix "xeno-" (Gk. "foreign") instead of "exo-" (Gk. "outside of"), to distinguish those Background Skills dealing with alien species, because I consider "xeno-" to be the more accurate prefix (i.e., it has the more accurate meaning).

Xenoarcheology (Science)

Just as archeology is the science dealing with artifacts from the history of one's own species, this Science deals with the artifacts (and history) of alien species. Specializing in the archeology of one particular species (e.g., Klingon Archeology, Mimbari Archeology, Wookie Archeology) is a Knowledge (instead of a Science), and can be used as a complementary Skill to this Science.

Xenobiology (Science)

This Science grants an overall general understanding of the many ways in which lifeforms could be different from one's own native biology (whereas the Science [Alien] Biology deals with the lifeforms of a specific alien world).

Xenomedicine (Science)

This specialized field of medicine grants an overall general understanding of the medical sciences for all lifeforms, ranging from the ones very similar to ones own species, to the extremely bizarre. (As opposed to the Science [Alien] Medicine, which deals with the medical sciences for the lifeforms of a specific alien world.)

This Science is based on both Medicine and Xenobiology. (The character cannot have just one of these prerequisite Skills.) Furthermore, the skill roll with Xenomedicine cannot exceed the lower skill roll of these two prerequisites by more than six points.

Alternately, this Science can be based on three or more [Alien] Medicines. In this case, the skill roll with Xenomedicine cannot exceed the lowest skill roll of these three prerequisites by more than six points. (If the character has more than three [Alien] Medicines, the skill roll with Xenomedicine cannot exceed the lowest skill roll of the three highest prerequisites by more than six points.)

Xenopsychology (Science)

This specialization of Psychology deals with the general knowledge of the (possible) psychologies of the (theorized) sentient alien species.

Specializing in the psychology of a specific alien species (e.g., Vulcan Psychology, Klingon Psychology, Narn Psychology, Mimbari Psychology, etc.) will be a specialized field of medicine.

---(Y)---

---(Z)---

Zero-G Operations, aka Free Fall (Professional Skill) [DEX]

This Professional Skill can be based on Dexterity (not Intellligence).

Zoology (Science)

This Science covers the study of animals. (A fantasy/historical version of this would be Bestiary.)


http://fcain.tripod.com/hero_system/background_skills.html
Copyright © by Franklin W. Cain. All rights reserved.