In the Epic system, Skills are how things get done most of the time. Skills are rooted in, and modify, Attributes. Untrained, a character trying to do something by default, without the appropriate Skill, rolls against their Attribute -3. This means that some simple and mundane things will be possible without Skills, but nothing at all advanced will be possible except in the case of truly exceptional Attributes of 8 or higher. The maximum, generally speaking, that a character can have in a skill is +3, and Skills at this level will be much more specific.
There are three basic levels of Skills that make up three tiers arranged in increasing specificity. The first tier is Basic, and it includes Skills with a -2 (minimal) and -1 modifier. Skills at this tier are very broad – to advance further you must be more specific. This is to represent the fact that, for example, studying to become a sword-master involves learning about other melee weapons, as well as other kinds of weaponry, and all things related to combat at some level, including tactics, use of a shield, etc. As the Skills rules function, a sword-master would have Skills arranged this way:
Combat – Melee – (Swords) +3
What this means is that this character has a -1 to any Skill in the Combat category, a +1 with any Melee weapon, and a +3 with Swords because of his specialization. A more detailed treatment would look like this:
Combat – Melee – (Long Blade) +3, (Axes) +2, (Polearms) +2
-Missile – (Crossbow) +2
-Defense – (Dodge) +3
This means that the character in question has a -1 with any Combat skill, a +1 with any Melee or Missile or Defense skill, and then the specific bonuses apply to the specializations in parentheses.
In order to get to this point, this character needs to have bought up Combat to -2 and then to -1, then bought up Melee, Missile, and Defense to +0 and then to +1, and finally bought up Axes, Polearms and Crossbow to +2 and Long Blade and Dodge to +3.
This will be handled later, but all of these moves cost the same amount of Experiences (yes, the plural is intentional – more in the Advancement section), which means that as you advance Skills will become more specific and will also develop a bit more slowly, which is just for the sake of realism. Its a lot easier to learn the basics of a given category than to begin to specialize, and it is harder still to continue to develop. For example, a geneticist might have Skills that look like this:
Physical Sciences – Biology – (Genetics) +3
In high school she took college-level science classes, getting a grounding especially in Chemistry and Biology (Physical Sciences). In college she majored in Biology, taking classes in Organic Chemistry and Ecology as well. Then she did her doctoral work at a Genetics lab, etc. So to answer a question about Physics, she has a -1 as she triest to think back to her last physics class or what phycisist colleagues talk about. To answer a question about shark behavior, she has a +1, since she covered that in her general study of Biology. To answer a question about tetromere function, she has a +3, because that’s in her speciality.
Following are just lists of Skills organized under each of the categories that I use for my Bronze Age Fantasy setting. For games that prefer simplicity, you can slow down advancement a bit and just let characters buy up the general skill categories – warriors have lots of Combat, scholars have lots of Lore or Natural Science, etc. The Skill system is very scalable depending on how much detail and realism (and bookkeeping) you want. These lists assume the maximum amount, so you have an idea of what I’m talking about.
For these lists, general categories are in bold, with particular skills in italics, and then (“-“) specializations are listed after dashes beneath the italic skill they are based on. So, each bold term includes everything under it, and each italicized term includes everything beneath it. Some will be followed by descriptions if the skill isn’t necessarily clear. Specific rules for each Skill get a little more complex (obviously), so they’re relegated to another post later on.
-Boating, Sailing, Geography, Orienteering
-Foraging, Fire-building, Specific Terrain, Weather Sense
-Tracking, Trapping, Fishing
-Riding, Training, Husbandry, Teamster
-Poetry, Fiction, Exposition
-Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Calligraphy
-Specific Instrument, Composition, Singing
-Dance, Pantomime, Weapon Art
-Stones, Balanced Weapons, Improvised Weapons
-Specific Game, Running, Jumping, Swimming
-Balance, Contortion, Tumbling
-Grappling, Striking, Redirection
-Short Blade, Long Blade, Axe, Polearm, Bludgeon, Flail, Net, Whip
-Blowgun, Sling, Crossbow, Bow
-Dodge, Shield, Evasion
-Grand Strategy, Siegecraft, Skirmishing
-Blacksmith, Jeweler, Weaponsmith, Armorsmith
-Carpentry, Shipbuilding, Bowyer, Cartwright
-Military Engineering, Machinery, Architecture, Irrigation, Masonry
-Baking, Brewing, Poisons, Specific Style
-Reed Weaving, Cotton Weaving, Silk Weaving
-Specific Style,Military, Noble
-Language Group, Region, Runes, Secret Languages
-Herbalism, Poisons, Alchemy
-Surgery, Rehabilitation, Physiology, Diagnosis
-Animal Type, Vet Diagnosis, Vet Surgery
-Modern, Oral Tradition, Ancient
-Ancient, Regional, National, Common
-Ritual, Specific Culture, Sacred Texts, Mythology, Secret Lore, Symbology
-National, Sacred, Treaties, Common Law, Bureaucracy
-Geography, Heraldry, Noble Houses, Trade
-Husbandry, Specific Climate, Management
-Specific Climate, Birds, Fish, Beasts, Reptiles
-Chronology, Navigation, Foretelling
-Geology, Gemology, Delving
-Herb Lore, Agriculture, Toxins, By Climate
-Seduction, Deception, Persuasion, Intimidation
-Carousing, High Court, Religious, Military, Streetwise
-Sense Motivation, Sense Emotion, Lie Detection
-Hiding, Shadowing, Camoflage, Silent Movement
-Holdout, Conjuring, Pickpocket
-Observation, Investigation, Sight, Hearing, Smell/Taste, Touch
-Breath Control, Clarity, Transcendence
-By Spirit Type (this is covered in the Magic section)
-Same as Warding
-Spirit Worlds, Subtle Magic, By Pantheon
-Invocation, Discernment, Insight
Calling on Skills in game is a simple or complex as you want it to be. The GM will usually call for a roll – and its only ‘official’ if the GM does so, though players can always suggest rolls for things they want their characters to attempt. The GM will call for a Skill roll that comes from the second tier – so, for example, not Nature Attunement but rather Travel. If the PC in question as a specialization that applies, then the higher number is rolled. Otherwise, just use the Skill.
If you don’t like this system, go ahead and just use the categories: Nature Attunement for surviving and getting around in the wild, Metaphysics for almost everything magical, Natural Philosophy for things you know about the physical world, etc. Mix and serve.