This section focuses on ways to make your character more effective in the game. You don't need to take any of this advice; it's not about rules, it's a series of suggestions based on how the rules work.
Character & Campaign Focus
Probably one of the most important points to remember is to make sure that your character will fit into the game that you're playing in. Remember to try to lean into the skill groups that the game will focus on, whether that's combat, espionage, or what have you. Special skills get somewhat of a pass on this because they tend to be useful in all other groups, but you still want to make sure that you're not deficient in areas that are going to make you ineffective, frustrated, or bored while actually playing the game.
Skills First, Then Stats
This keeps the focus on what you're planning to actually do, rather than what you think your character "should" be like. Too often we start with an imaginary aesthetic of what we want the character's build to be like, and start there instead of what we want them to spend their time doing in the game.
You don't need to take all of these skills, of course, but there are a lot of skills here that are pretty important. Additionally, don't worry too much about overlapping these skills with other players, a lot of them are "general adventuring" types of things.
- Combat Sense. It's the bread and butter of knowing what's going on in a fight. It's also the most obvious choice for initiative. It can also get you a lot of opportunities to Create Advantages, or just help you analyze strategies.
- Dodge. Attacked? Get out of the way. Most SGS games will incorporate your Dodge into your Physical Graze too, so high Dodge will keep scrapes, bruises, and gentle winds from giving you health penalties.
- Melee, Archery, Small Arms, etc. At some point you're going to need to fight back. If you don't have something to hit someone with, you'll be vulnerable. If you're a spellcaster, you might be able to get by without these, but you might still find yourself in need of the ability to thwack someone occasionally.
Out of Combat
- Investigation, streetwise, etiquette, rapport or other information gathering skills. These are vital to a how a lot of games function. The loop tends to go like this: Explore → Investigate → Engage → Explore, so it's frequent that you'll need to uncover information in order to proceed.
- Social Skills. Most role-players will try to solve problems with neutral and even non-hostile enemies without going directly to combat. Social skills give you a chance at that. You don't need to be "the bard" to be able to ask someone some questions effectively.
- Stealth & Notice. You might not be "the rogue" of the group, but that doesn't mean you'll never need to sneak around. Some ability in these will almost always see some use.
- A weapon. Very few games will happen where the PCs are unarmed. Even social espionage games often have a degree of danger to them where a knife in a boot or bodice won't go amiss.
- A kit. A lot of games will come with kit or equipment bags. These usually have a few very flexible aspects that let you do trades or other tasks within a field.
- Armor. Not all characters wear armor, but if you're getting into fights a lot, it's worth investing in to raise that Wound score.
Here are some of the main ways that you can get the most out of your xp. We present them here in the book so that everyone understands these strategies so that effective characters can be available to everyone, not just those with the time and inclination to tinker with their character build forever.
These strategies are mix-and-match, not mutually exclusive; you can implement one or many in your build.
Stat synergy is when you have multiple skills that use the same primary stat. This allows you to put more points into a single stat without losing much of your overall capability. It tends to keep your character tightly focused around a certain type of activity however. So as usual, you sacrifice adaptability for raw power.
Multiple specializations sounds like an oxymoron, but it's not. It means specializing in only one or two things per skill category. You might try to get by with only taking Melee and Dodge for combat skills, for example, skipping things like Block or Endurance.
This strategy allows you to have good ability in a few things without being a one-trick pony who only has something to do in combat, for example. You'll still find yourself with gaps, but you'll probably find your way around a lot of them.
Be wary that this kind of build can get pretty unrealistic if you're not careful with how you build your character's lore. Conversely, if you're playing solo or in a small group, this can really help.
Equipment over Ability
Equipment frequently comes with limitations or flaws that balance out the power of the item. This can be an effective way to raise your skills, provided the right equipment is available. This strategy is when you invest in equipment instead of stats, skills, and aspects on your own character.
This strategy can feel a bit like a Diablo-style loot game, where you're always tinkering with your items and trying to find the best ones for your build, but there's no denying that it can get you a boost to your overall ability for the xp spent. Don't forget, however, that all these items come with their own problems and limitations; some will have triggers, some will have costs to pay to use them, and a lot of them will be disarmable, leaving you without the item you need to use.
The more you lean into this, the more likely the GM is to lean back with disarms, theft, and other equipment-related problems. You should remember that this is perfectly okay because by spending all your xp on your equipment, you're saying that you want the game to be about that equipment.