Building Characters: Skills


Any skills appropriate to a TL 9 Space campaign are allowed, though the GM has the last word on what is appropriate. The following skills are just suggestions; there are many other skills that might be worthwhile. All of the skills below are in common use in the Commonwealth, but not all of them would be the kinds of skills the typical Ranger would have. Then again, Rangers tend to be atypical people.

Pay attention to those skills that require specialization. These are followed by the designation “(type).” For example, the skill of Engineer requires specialization. Engineer (Jump Drives) and Engineer (Maneuver Drives) are really two separate skills and should be treated as such.

Below you will find a listing of the different skills that fit in this campaign, but remember that it is not a complete list. There are other possibilities, and if something you want is not listed, just ask. You won’t find Mechanic (Diesels) listed, but there is no reason you can’t have it if you really think you need it. Few skills will be barred outright, but some might be a total waste of points. Most of the skills listed below will be useful in the Space Rangers campaign. The only limitation will be the Tech Level 9 limitation, and even that will change a little during the long-term run of the campaign.

Area Knowledge (type) (Mental/Easy) Defaults to IQ-4

To know an area in detail, choose this skill. It is possible to know a small area in more detail than a larger area. Area knowledge of a planet, say, will give a broad knowledge of the world and its provinces, cities, and cultures. This will not tell you where to get the best bagels on the planet. Area Knowledge of a city or town will tell you things like that. The smaller the area, the deeper the knowledge.

Armoury/TL 9 (type) (Mental/Average)      Defaults to IQ-5, (weapon skill)-6

The skill of building and repairing weapons and armor. You have to choose a specialty. Appropriate choices might be:

Rifles and Handguns

Body armor

Beam weapons

Gauss weapons

Vehicular weapons

Spaceship weapons

Spaceship armor


There are other versions of the skill available.

Astrogation/TL 9 (Mental/Average)   Defaults to Navigation-5, Astronomy-4

The art and science of navigating a spaceship, including starship jumps.

Battlesuit/TL 9 (Mental/Average)    Defaults to IQ-5, DX-5, Vacc Suit-3

As a rule, Rangers don’t use battlesuits in ordinary service. Battlesuits are widely used by Commonwealth Marines and Navy Special Forces, and some of them join the Rangers after they leave the service. This skill allows you to use a battlesuit (powered armor) and its weapons.

Beam Weapons/TL 9 (type) (Physical/Easy)     Defaults to DX-4, (other beam weapon)-4

A gun skill for lasers, blasters, stunners, or any weapon that throws a bolt of energy rather than a physical projectile. If your IQ is 10 or 11, you can add a free +1 to the skill. Add +2 if your IQ is 12 or higher.

Boxing (Physical/Average)                                                                                         No default

A scientific unarmed combat technique, Boxing falls between Brawling and Karate when it comes to precision and finesse. Boxing punches add 1/5 of the character’s Boxing skill to damage. There is no bonus for kicks. Boxers parry at 2/3 their Boxing skill, but at -3 against weapons other than thrusting attacks and at -2 against kicks. Boxers are also good at dodging. They can add a bonus of 1/8 their Boxing skill (round down) to their Dodge skill against unarmed or thrusting attacks.

Brawling (Physical/Easy)                                                                                 No default

Brawling is unscientific close combat. When attacking with bare hands or feet, roll vs. Brawling skill to hit. you can add 1/10 of your Brawling skill (round down) to the damage you do. When defending with bare hands, you may parry twice a turn at 2/3 your Brawling skill, but only against hand and foot attacks or close -combat weapons (e.g. knives, brass knuckles); you cannot parry other weapons this way.

Carousing (Physical/Average)(HT)    Defaults to HT-4

Purchase this skill using HT rather than DX. This is the skill of being a party guy, having drinks and being fun. A successful carousing roll gives you a +2 on reaction rolls for getting information, asking or help, or general reactions. A failed roll mans you make an ass of yourself; most folks will react at -2 after that. If you’re buying, you get bonuses.

Computer Hacking/TL 9 (Mental/Very Hard)  Defaults to Computer Operation-8 or        Computer Programming-4

The black art of hacking into computer systems that you do not have legal access to. You must make a successful role each time you want to access a new account or system, or to find or change a given piece of information in a computer system. On a critical failure, you not only don’t succeed, you leave some sort of evidence of your tampering.

Computer Operation/TL 9 (Mental/Easy)     Defaults to IQ-4

The ability to operate a computer, call up files, run existing programs, and so on. Not to be confused with Computer Programming; that is a much harder skill. Modifier: -3 for an unfamiliar computer or unfamiliar software.

Computer Programming/TL 9 (Mental/Hard)   No default

The ability to write and debug computer software. Successful rolls will let you find bugs, determine a program’s purpose, answer questions about computers and programs, or even write a program (given time). Modifiers: -5 if rushed; +5 with ample time; -5 (or worse) if you are using an unfamiliar language.

Contacts    Variable

Every good law enforcement officer has contacts. They can be within the Rangers, in other Commonwealth agencies, in business, or in the underworld. See p. B234 for details.

Criminology/TL 9 (Mental/Average)   Defaults to IQ-4

The study of crime and the criminal mind. Can be used to find and interpret clues, guess at a criminal’s pattern or behavior, or attempt to predict his actions.

Disguise (Mental/Average)     Defaults to IQ-5

The ability to make yourself look like someone else. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour to disguise oneself. Roll a quick contest of Skills (Disguise v. IQ) for each person (or group) you have to fool. Professionals in law enforcement or intelligence may roll vs. Those skills instead. Modifiers: +2 if you have professional materials available (except on default); -1 to -5 to disguise yourself as someone very different from yourself. Similar modifiers if you are distinctive-looking.

When combining Disguise with Acting, you need only make one roll for each person or group, but it must be the harder of the two.

Electronics/TL 9 (type) (Mental/Hard)     Defaults to (other Electronics)-4

This is electronics engineering—designing and building electronic gear. Successful rolls allow you to figure out a strange device, diagnose a malfunction, design a new system, or improvise a gadget to solve a problem.

Modifiers:+5 to build a device if the player can describe accurately what he wants to do; -5 without proper tools; -5 outside your own specialty.

You must choose an area of specialization. Here are a few (there are others):



Shields & Deflectors


Security Systems



Note that this skill does not automatically make you an expert at using the devices you work on; Electronics Operation defaults to Electronics-3.

Electronics Operation/TL 9 (type) (Mental/Average)         Defaults to IQ-4, Electronics-3

The operation of electronics gear within a given specialization. For ordinary use no roll is required. Rolls are needed for emergencies, abnormal use, or use of complex gear by the untrained. A successful roll also allows repairs. The GM decides how much time I required. Modifiers: -2 without plans or diagrams; -5 without proper tools,; -4 outside your own specialty. Note: electrical motors come under the Mechanic skill.

You must choose an area of specialization. Here are a few:



Shields & Deflectors


Security Systems



Engineer/TL 9 (type) (Mental/Hard)  Defaults to Mechanic-6

Prerequisites vary; see below

The ability to design and build complex machines. Engineers must specialize, and there is usually a prerequisite. Here are a few specializations and their prerequisites:

Spaceship Maneuver Drives (Mechanic)

Jump Drives (Mechanic)

Life Support Systems (Chemistry)

Vehicles (Mechanic)

There are others that may be appropriate; consult the GM

Escape (Physical/Hard)  Defaults to DX-6

This is the skill of releasing oneself from physical bonds like ropes, handcuffs, and other restraints. The first attempt requires one minute; each attempt thereafter takes 10 minutes. Modifiers: the better or more thorough the restraints, the greater the penalty the GM will apply to the roll. Modern handcuffs, for example, would reduce your roll by 5. Characters with the Double-Jointed advantage get +3 on this skill.

Fast-Draw (type) (Physical/Easy)    No default

The skill of quickly bringing a weapon into play. There is a separate Fast-Draw skill for each type of weapon: Knife, Blackjack, Sword, Two-Handed Sword, Arrow (including crossbow bolts) Pistol, Rifle (including submachine guns, shotguns, and the like), Magazine (quickly drawing and loading a clip into an automatic weapon), and Speedloader. A version of Fast-Draw can be invented for any other weapon that is different but can reasonably be drawn quickly. The skill is used whenever the character needs to quickly ready a weapon from a holster or scabbard.

A successful roll means that the weapon is instantly ready; this does not count as a maneuver. You may attack with the weapon (or load it in the case of arrows) in the same turn. A failure means that you ready the item normally, but you can do nothing else that turn. A critical miss means you drop the weapon.

Characters with Combat Reflexes get a +1 on fast-Draw skill.

Fast-Talk (Mental/Average)    Defaults to IQ-5, Acting-5

The fine art of talking others into doing something against their better judgment. Fast-Talk skill at 20 or better gives +2 on Reaction rolls any time you are allowed to talk. The GM will require you to give the details of the story used in the Fast-Talk.

First Aid/TL 9 (Mental/Easy)

Defaults to Physician, IQ-5, Veterinary-5 or Physiology-5

The ability to patch someone up in the field. it is not intended to replace proper medical care, just to help the person survive to receive such care. See p. B56 & p. B127

Forgery/TL 9 (Mental/Hard)    Defaults to IQ-6, DX-8, Artist-5

The ability to make up fake documents, including identity papers and negotiable certificates, including bank notes.  You must make a successful Forgery roll each  time a forged document is examined, unless the first such roll results in a critical success. For details on time needed to forge a document, and modifiers to the roll, see p. B65.

Free Fall/TL 9 (Physical/Average)   Defaults to DX-5, HT-5

This is the skill to handle yourself in free fall (a.k.a. zero gravity). One roll is required when first going into free fall; a failure means you become spacesick and must roll vs. HT to avoid choking. Further rolls are required whenever attempting a complex maneuver, but failure does not mean spacesickness; the maneuver just fails. Contrast this information with the Spacesickness disadvantage.

Gambling (Mental/Average)                          Defaults to IQ-5, Mathematics-5

You are skilled at games of chance. this includes knowing the game or games, being able to know the odds, spotting cheaters, and being able to spot other gamblers in the crowd. See p. B63 for more detail.

Gunner/TL 9 (type) (Physical/Average)             Defaults to DX-5, (other Gunner)-4

The ability to fire a heavy weapon, including vehicle-mounted weapons. make this roll every time you attempt to fire the weapon. If your IQ is 10 or 11, you can add a free +1 to the skill. Add +2 if your IQ is 12 or higher.

You must choose the type of weapon for each version of this skill you take. See p. B50 for the full story.

Guns/TL 9 (type) (Physical/Easy)    Defaults to DX-4, (other Guns)-4

The skill of using handheld weapons that throw a solid projectile instead of a beam or bolt of energy. This includes normal pistols, rifles, and shotguns. If your IQ is 10 or 11, you can add a free +1 to the skill. Add +2 if your IQ is 12 or higher.

Holdout (Mental/Average)      Defaults to IQ-5, Sleight of Hand-3

The art and skill of hiding things on one’s person, including weapons, valuables, and contraband. There are many details affecting use of this skill, so read the complete details on p. B66.

Intelligence Analysis/TL 9 (Mental/Hard)  Defaults to IQ-6

The skill of analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating intelligence information, especially in terms of determining enemy plans and capability.

Interrogation (Mental/Average)      Defaults to IQ-5

The skill of questioning a prisoner and obtaining useful, reliable information from him or her. It need not (and among professionals, usually does not) involve torture. It involves a complex of Quick Contest rolls; see p. B66 for the whole scoop.

Intimidation (Mental/Average) Defaults to ST-5, Acting-3

This is the skill of hostile persuasion. The essence of intimidation is to convince the subject that you are able and willing, and perhaps eager, to do something awful to him.

Intimidation may be substituted for a reaction roll in any situation, though it is at a -3 penalty when used in a request for aid. A successful Intimidation roll gives a Good (though usually not friendly) reaction. A failed roll gives a Bad reaction. On a critical success, the subject must make a Fright Check at -10!

The exact result of a successful roll depends on the target. An honest citizen will probably cooperate, sullenly or with false cheer. A low-life may lick your boots (even becoming genuinely loyal). A really tough sort may not be frightened, but may react well anyway: “You’re my kind of scum!” The GM decides, and roleplays it.

When Intimidation is used against a PC (or, at the GM’s option, against a NPC), this can also be rolled as a contest of Intimidation vs. Will. See Influence Rolls, sidebar, p. 93.

Modifiers: Up to +2 for displays of strength or bloodthirstiness, or +3 for superhuman strength or inhuman bloodthirstiness. The GM may give a further +1 bonus for witty or frightening dialogue, but should apply a penalty if the attempt is clumsy or inappropriate. The GM may apply any level of penalty if the PCs are attempting to intimidate somebody who, in his opinion, just can’t be intimidated. This includes anyone with the Unfazeable advantage (p. 237).

Specious intimidation: If the PC can make both a Fast-Talk and an Intimidation roll, and roleplays it well, he can appear to be intimidating even when he can’t back it up. This is the only way to intimidate some people (martial arts masters, world leaders, bellicose drunks). Success on both rolls gives a Very Good reaction. Success on one and failure on the other gives a Poor reaction. Failure on both gives a Very Bad reaction.

Note that Interrogation skill can default to Intimidation-3. It will not help you tell a good answer from a bad one, but it can get people to talk.

Judo (Physical/Hard)    No default

Dodging, grappling, holding and throwing.

Karate (Physical/Hard)  No default

Scientific unarmed combat. Includes both punching and kicking.

Language (type) (Mental/Varies)     Defaults to IQ (native)

Most human languages are average; some alien languages are hard or very hard.

Law (Mental/Hard) Defaults to IQ-6

People in law enforcement should know at least some law, right?

Leadership (Mental/Average)   Defaults to ST-5

The ability to coordinate a group in a dangerous or stressful situation. See p. B63.

Lockpicking/TL 9 (Mental/Average)   Defaults to IQ-5

Sometimes the good guys use it too, although it isn’t quite legal even then.

Mechanic/TL 9 (type) (Mental/Average)     Defaults to IQ-5, Engineer-4

Basically what it sounds like—maintaining and repairing mechanical equipment. You must specialize. Here are some appropriate areas of specialization; there are others.

Fuel cells & electric motors

Spaceship systems (non-drive)

Spaceship drives  Starship drives


Navigation/TL 9 (Mental/Hard) Defaults to Astronomy-5, Seamanship-5

This is limited to navigation on a planet’s surface. For navigation in space, see “Astrogation.”

Photography/TL 9 (Mental/Average)   Defaults to IQ-5

Always useful in investigations.

Piloting/TL 9 (type) (Physical/Average)   Defaults to IQ-6

Piloting flying craft. You must specialize by picking a particular type of flying craft. Choices include (but are not limited to):

Space shuttle

Contragravity craft

Fighter spacecraft

Large spacecraft

Free Fall and Vacc Suit skills are prerequisites for any kind of spacecraft skills. You may also choose Piloting skills in almost any kind of flying vehicle—see a more complete list on p. B69.

Planetology (Mental/Average)  Defaults to IQ-5, Geology-4, Meteorology-4, other Planetology-3

This Scientific skill is the overall study of planetary makeup and conditions—geological, meteorological, climatic, atmospheric, hydrographic and ecological—of one general planetary type. Pick one skill:

Rock/Ice Worlds: Mercury, Pluto types (also most moons, asteroids and other small, airless planets).

Earthlike: Essentially, all habitable worlds.

Hostile Terrestrial: Titan types.

Gas Giants: Jupiter, Uranus types.

Planetology can be used in place of several other skills. Geology and Meteorology default to it at -3; Botany, Ecology, and Zoology at -4; Survival in that world’s major terrain(s) at -5. For detailed information about a world, consult an expert in the pertinent scientific skill—Geology, Meteorology and so on. GM may assess penalties for worlds that differ greatly from the norm for their type.

Psionics (Mental/Very Hard)   No default

No Psionic character will be allowed at first; it might be possible to learn Psionics later on.

Research (Mental/Average)     Defaults to IQ-5, Writing-3

Any good investigator needs this.

Scrounging (Mental/Easy)      Defaults to IQ-4

This is the ability to find, salvage, or improvise items and materials. Each attempt requires an hour. This skill just goes as far as locating the item; being able to obtain it might be another thing entirely. If it’s an old iron rod it might very well be lying in an abandoned lot, but an engine block might be on the other side of a barbed-wire fence and guarded by a pair of Dobermans.

Shadowing (Mental/Average)    Defaults to IQ-6, Stealth-4

The skill of following somebody through a crowd without being spotted. It can also be used to learn if somebody is following you, and to lose them if they are.

Shipbuilding TL9 (Starship) (Mental/Average)    Defaults to IQ-5, Shipbuilding-5

The ability to design and build starships. Mental/average because starship building is made easier through the use of computers and other automation.

Speed-Load (type) (Physical/Easy)   No default

The skill of quickly reloading a gun. It is not the same as Fast-Draw. One can Fast-Draw a magazine or speed loader and then use Speed-Load to load the weapon. You need a different Speed-Load skill for each weapon type, and each will affect loading time differently. See p. B52 for all the details.

Stealth (Physical/Average)    Defaults to IQ-5, DX-5

The ability to move silently or hide. It will allow you to follow somebody without being noticed. Shadowing skill is for crowds—it’s about not being noticed. Stealth is about not being seen or heard at all. See the rules on p. B67.

Streetwise (Mental/Average)   Defaults to IQ-5

the fine art of getting along in rough company. Successful rolls can let you find out where any illegal activity is going on, which cops or officials can be bought, how to contact the underworld. This does not include having regular contacts; see the Contacts advantage for that.

Survival (type) (Mental/Average)    Defaults to IQ-5, Naturalist-3

The ability to provide yourself with food, water, and shelter in wilderness environments. A different Survival skill is needed for each type of environment. These might include:

Desert            Woodlands

Plains              Jungle

Arctic               Island/Beach

Mountains      Swamp

Radioactive (no default)

Survival (Urban) (Mental/Average)   Defaults to IQ-5

This skill covers the physical part of staying alive in a city. It is a specialization of the general Survival skill.

Tangler (Physical/Average)    Defaults to DX-4, Pistol (any)-4

Tanglers are bulky, so Fast-Draw is impossible when using them. Otherwise, treat this skill as any of the handgun versions of the Guns skill. +1 to skill if IQ is 10 or 11; +2 if IQ is 12+.

Thrown Weapon (type) (Physical/Easy)      Defaults to DX-4

This skill specifically relates to throwing hand weapons like knives and daggers. weapons like spears, boomerangs, and shurikens that are specifically designed only for throwing usually have a separate skill.

Vacuum Suit/TL 9 (Mental/Average)   Defaults to IQ-6

This is the ability to use a “spacesuit” in environments where there is no breathable air. It also includes basic maintenance like recharging power and air supplies.

Wrestling (Physical/Average)  No default

This is a Western sport that can also be useful in combat. Wrestling teaches how to take down opponents, pin them and to apply some holds and locks. While not as effective as Judo, this skill gives its user an edge in Close Combat.

You can use your Wrestling skill to replace DX in Close Combat, just as for Judo. You also add 1/8 of your skill to your effective ST to attempt a Takedown or a Pin, to Grapple, to use an Arm Lock (see GURPS Martial Arts) or to Break Free (see p. B112). This bonus does not apply to defaults.

Xenobiology (Mental/Average)  No default

This is the overall study of life of all kinds, native to any one general planetary type. Pick one skill:

Terrestrial: Earthlike planets.

Hostile Terrestrial: Titan types.

Gas Giants: Jupiter, Uranus types.

Xenobiology can be used in place of several other skills. Zoology, Ecology and Botany default to it at -3; Genetics, Biochemistry and Physiology at -4. For detailed information about a life form, consult an expert in the pertinent biological skill. GM may assess penalties for worlds that differ greatly from the norm for their type.

Xenology (Mental/Hard)  Defaults to IQ-6

This is an overall knowledge of the major alien races in the known universe, their cultures, lifestyles, mores, societies and psychology. It identifies an alien’s race, and gives information about its culture, physical makeup, attributes and possible behavior patterns once identified; it provides very basic information about aliens of new races. It would also be useful in a fantasy campaign in which the world is largely unknown and contains dozens of different races.

A successful Xenology roll is required before use of Diplomacy with aliens; for very alien races, even Merchant, Tactics, etc., will be different and will require a Xenology roll first. If the Xenology roll fails, the actual skill being attempted is at a -4.

Modifiers: +1 or more for familiar races; -1 to -6 for “very alien” races. Difficult questions should carry an appropriate penalty. Prolonged observation should give a bonus, especially for new races. A xenologist may specialize in a particular alien race, getting a +5 on rolls for that race and a -1 on all others.

“Depth” of a xenologist’s knowledge will also depend on the number of races known to science: -1 for 5-10 races, -2 for 11-50, -3 for 51-100, -4 for more than 100. This applies only to remembering facts about an already-known race. When contacting new races, experience with a wide variety of aliens is an advantage: +1 if 11-50 races are already known, +2 if more than 50 are known.