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The Tricks of the Trade: A Few Words on the Subject of SkillsEdit

By pressing the Skill button, the player may view a full display of his or her Character's Skill Window. This display will list each Skill the Character may enjoy, its rank, and its training (if any). All Basic Skills fall into one of four general areas of expertise, and are accessed by the four buttons at the top of the Skill Window: these being marked "Combat", "Thieving", "Social", or "Technological". Each Skill is based upon a particular underlying Statistic, its "BS" (Base Statistic). Skills begin at a rank of 0, and can never be raised higher than the Base Statistic upon which they depend.


Combat Thieving Social Technological
Bow DX Backstab DX Gambling IN Repair IN
Dodge DX Pick Pocket DX Haggle WP Firearms PE
Melee DX Prowling PE Heal IN Pick Lock DX
Throwing DX Spot Trap PE Persuasion CH Arm Trap PE


A person having a Dexterity of 10 begins with a Bow Skill rank of 0. He can never raise the Skill's level higher than a rank of 2 without first raising his Dexterity.

The chance of succeeding in the use of any Skill is given as a mathematical percentage, and this number will increase several percent for each new rank attained. Ranks are purchased with the plus or minus buttons to the right of the Skill in question. The increase in one's rate of success naturally varies for each Skill, but for any Skill a higher rank will automatically translate to a higher rate of success. So, while a ranking of 0 may mean that the Character is appallingly maladroit and absolutely abysmal in the use of a Skill, a rank of 5 will very likely make one's Character the most accomplished specialist in all of Arcanum.

In the course of using an Skill, a Character may enjoy a critical success or suffer a critical failure. A critical success causes the Skill to perform extremely well, while a critical failure will often cause the Character to injure himself in some way. The frequency of any critical situation is proportional to the rank of the Skill, with more critical successes and fewer critical failures as rank increases.

All Characters begin the Game without training in any Skill whatsoever, and this training cannot be purchased with Character Points. Instead, the Character must travel throughout Arcanum, seeking out persons who are accomplished in the use of each Skill, and either pay them gold or perform a quest (and occasionally both!) to receive the valuable training they can provide. For more information on this subject, please see the section entitled "Skills and Training" below.

Combat SkillsEdit

Pray press the button marked "Combat", Gentle Player, and you can display the Combat skills of your Character in a convenient sub-window. These are the Skills which are useful in causing others intentional injury, and also in avoiding such injury yourself. Some Skills which might be useful in Combat are also useful in other situations, however, most especially Throwing and Dodging! All Combat Skills with the exception of Dodge are defined as "active Skills", by which we mean to say that the player initiates their use in the Game. By contrast, Dodge is a passive Skill, as a Character will Dodge instinctively: the ranking of this Skill is useful to your Electro Dynamo machine, when the contrivance is calculating the chances of your Character being struck by an enemy or a trap's effect. In the case of all "active Skills", please make reference to the Critical Hit and Critical Failure charts to learn the possible effects of these happenstances.

Bow — The knack of using a classic bow weapon, be the bow short or long.

Dodge — The tendency to leap aside and avoid injury when one is attacked, or surprised by a trap.

Melee — The ability to land a damaging blow, when boxing or striking with a weapon in hand.

Throwing — The capacity to hurl knives, rocks, grenades or any other potentially dangerous object with accuracy.

Thieving SkillsEdit

Press now the button marked "Thieving", and one can see a display of the Character's Thieving Skills in a second convenient sub-window. Just as one might guess, these are the Skills most prized by thieves, although there are many perfectly moral and wholly non-criminal applications of the very same abilities (with a possible exception of Picking Pockets, a Skill for which there may be no wholesome use). Backstab, Picking Pockets and Prowling are defined as active Skills, while Spotting Traps is passive.

Backstab — This Skill allows one's Character to score extra damage when using a rear attack with a dagger. An unaware opponent receives considerably more damage than an aware one. The amount of damage increases with Skill's improvement, as well.

Pick Pocket — Picking pockets is the fine art of stealing from others, and this Skill allows the Character to add and remove items from the inventory of another person. A failure in the use of this Skill may garner unwelcome attention from his or her intended victim, if said victim makes a successful Perception check. On a critical failure the Character is always caught, however— even by the blindest numbskull imaginable.

Prowling — It takes both delicacy and grace to move so quietly that one is able to avoid detection. Naturally the Character's measure of success is determined to some degree by the surroundings and the available light; it is more difficult to hide oneself in a brightly-lit, empty room than in a dark, crate-filled warehouse. Armor will affect a would-be prowler's chance of success; it is rather easier to sneak about in normal clothes than in a clanking suit of plate mail.

Spot trap — Even the most skillfully laid trap cannot be completely hidden from a person with properly trained eyes. The ability to locate mechanical traps in one's immediate vicinity before they are tripped is called "Spot Trap", and the chance of success may be reduced by improper light.

Social SkillsEdit

If we press the button marked "Social", we come to a display the Social Skills sub-window. One's Character makes use of these Skills in business dealings, on social occasions, and in any situation which requires interaction with the people of Arcanum. The Skills of Healing, Gambling and Haggling are active in nature, while Persuasion is passive.

Gambling — A wise man makes his own luck, and with a bit of Skill one can win consistently at cards, dice and other games of chance. This Skill may come in handy when a Character wishes to gamble for certain items held by a Non-Playing Character. The rank of the Gambling Skill determines the maximum worth of any single item for which one may gamble.

Haggle — The gentle art the deal comes into play when one wishes to buy goods at less than their full price. The higher the rank of one's Haggle Skill, the less a Character will pay for items during bartering and the more one will receive when selling items. A person of quick wit and sharp tongue need never pay standard retail prices!

Heal — The Skill of Healing gives a Character the ability to cure wounds and reduce crippling injury. One must make use of bandages or medical kits in order to Heal someone, and each use of the Skill will deplete some of your supplies. A critical success can do a great deal of good to an injured person, but a critical failure will Heal nothing and use up more the usual measure of one's Healing supplies.

Persuasion — It requires a certain degree of charm to Persuade others to take action, or to convince them that we are speaking the truth. Within the confines of our Game, this particular Skill operates passively in dialog situations.

Technological SkillsEdit

Finally we come to the button marked "Technological", and upon pressing it find ourselves treated to a display of the Technological Skills sub-window. These are the Skills necessary for successful interaction with all manner of Technological Contrivances. A word to the wise: any Character Points spent in improving these Skills will alter a Character's Magical/Technological Aptitude Statistic, just as improvements in one's Technological Disciplines do. The Character's interaction with all Magical and Technological items will be affected.

All Technological Skills are active in nature.

Repair — This is the Skill that makes a man handy; possession of Repair Skill gives one the chance to repair a plethora of Technological and smithied items, from swords to steam engines to Tesla guns.

Firearms — This Skill governs the use of all Technological projectile weapons.

Pick Locks — This Skill allows one to open locks without the use of the appropriate key. A critical failure in the use of this Skill will jam the lock, rendering it impossible to open without the proper key or a Spell of some kind. Note that the Character must have lockpicks in his or her possession, in order to use this skill.

Disarm Traps — An aptitude in the area allows the Character to disable traps. One must be aware of the trap's existence (via the Spot Trap Skill, or the like) before one can attempt to disarm it.

Please see Chapter 3 and the section entitled "Playing the Game" for a more detailed discussion of how these Skills are used during the course of our Game.

A Few Words on the Positive Effects of TrainingEdit

Training is the best means of improving one's performance in any Skill, and training is a separate matter from one's rank; all Skills begin as Untrained and remain Untrained no matter how high the Skill's rank becomes. When a Skill is Untrained, nothing appears in the Skill Window next to the Skill's Name. The Character must seek and pay for training in order to learn the subtle tricks of the trade, and acquire the training bonuses that are unique to each Skill.

There are three levels of training in every Skill, these being that of the Apprentice, the Expert and the Master. Beginning at rank 1, a Character may seek out a trainer and pay a small sum for a few valuable hints on improving his or her Skill. After this transaction, the completely Untrained Character goes from being Untrained to an Apprentice, and gains a small bonus for use of the Skill. For example, an Apprentice Bowman can shoot arrows at a higher rate of speed than an Untrained Bowman.

Upon achieving a rank of 3, the Character must find an Expert trainer to further hone his Skill. The ranking of 3 alone is not sufficient to earn the training an Expert can give, however; a goodly sum of money will also be required. Upon completing this transaction, however, the Character gains another bonus for the use of his Skill, while retaining the tricks he learned as an Apprentice. To continue with our previous example, an Expert Bowman can fire two arrows at once, in addition to the higher rate of fire he gained as an Apprentice Bowman.

Finally, at the rank of 5, a Character may seek out a Master of his Skill. A true Master of any Skill is a mercurial creature, reluctant to place his or her knowledge in the hands of a Character who may use it for foolish or selfish ends. The Master will require a Character to prove his worth, often demanding quest items which are difficult to obtain or even Expert status in other related Skills, in addition to the usual large sum of money. Masters are very rare and seldom make themselves readily available to the public-at-large, often sequestering themselves in out-of-the-way places to avoid the burdens of their fame. The bonus for a Master level of Skill is once again cumulative to bonuses enjoyed by an Expert and an Apprentice. A Master Bowman can shoot arrows at any target without range penalties, and he also can fire two arrows at once as all Experts can, at the same high rate of speed that he learned as an Apprentice.

Common sense dictates that such training is necessarily sequential. A person Untrained in the use of the Bow cannot become an Expert until he has first trained as an Apprentice. However, although training is restricted by rank, the reverse is not true. One can possess a rank of 5 and still be Untrained.

The specific effects of training one's Skill are as follows:

  Apprentice Expert Master
Bow The Speed of the Character with a bow is increased by 5 The Character may fire two arrows at once The Character's chance of success is unaffected by range penalties
Dodge On a critical success, there is a 10% chance the opponent will critically fail On a critical success, there is a 50% chance the opponent will critically fail On a critical success, the opponent will always critically fail (overrides the benefits of Melee Mastery)
Melee The Speed of the Character with a melee weapon is increased by 5 The Character is unaffected by lighting penalties The Character cannot critically fail with a melee weapon
Throwing The Speed of the Character's throw is increased by 5 The Throwing Range of the Character is 50% farther The Character's chance of success is unaffected by range penalties
Backstab A successful rear attack upon an unaware opponent will bypass his armor The Character may backstab with swords and axes as well as daggers The Character gains an enormous increase to his chance of scoring a critical success
Pick Pocket The Character is only caught on a critical failure The item size penalty is halved The Character cannot be caught when planting an item
Prowling The Character's chance of success is unaffected by lighting, and armor penalties are halved The Character's chance of success is unaffected by surrounding objects, and he can walk while Prowling The Character can conceal himself during combat and cause his opponent to lose track of him, and he may also run while Prowling
Spot Trap The Character's chance of success is unaffected by lighting The Character is able to sense magical traps as well as mechanical ones If the Character fails (but does not critically fail), he gets a second chance to spot the trap
Gambling A "mark" will gamble for more expensive items A "mark" will gamble away wielded items A "mark" will gamble away things that he or she would not normally sell
Haggle The merchant's mark-up is reported to the character Merchants will buy anything, even things they normally would not Merchants will sell items marked "Not for Sale"
Heal A Character may heal an extra 50% Critical failures are merely failures (and thus do not use extra bandages) All successes are critical successes (and will Heal side effects of a crippling injury)
Persuasion Followers will wait for one's Character longer than normal Gain a bonus of 2 extra followers in addition to Charisma Bonus Anyone will join with the Character, regardless of reaction to one's alignment
Repair Reduction of max HP's is only 5% Reduction of max HP's is only 1% There is no reduction of max HP's except on a critical failure. A Repair Master can fix broken items (items reduced to 0 hit points) but always at a cost of 5% of max HP's
Firearms The Speed of the Character with a gun is increased by 5 Called shots are made with 2/3 the penalty The Character's chance of success is unaffected by range penalties
Pick Lock Pick Lock action takes half as much time The Character is unaffected by light penalties The penalty based on the lock's difficulty is halved
Disarm Traps The Character is unaffected by light penalties If the Character critically succeeds at disarming, he gets an item that is part of the trap (such as arrows or dynamite) If the Character fails (but does not critically fail) at disarming a trap, he gets a second chance

Embracing the Technological DisciplinesEdit

Pressing on, we find the Technological Disciplines button, and display the Disciplines window for a nearly completed Character. The Technological Disciplines of Arcanum fall into eight categories, listed and explained below:

Smithy — A Discipline concerned with the construction of armors

Mechanical — A Discipline concerned with the production of gadgets through mechanical means

Gun Smithy — A Discipline which covers all aspects of the design and creation of new firearms

Electrical — A Discipline which explores the mysteries of charged particles and magnetism

Herbology — A Discipline concerned with the living body and how natural substances effect it

Therapeutics — A Discipline which explores the beneficial effects of man-made materials on the body

Chemistry — A Discipline which considers man-made substances and their deleterious effects

Explosives — A Discipline concerned with the research and development of unstable substances

To acquire one of the above Technological Disciplines, the player must press one of the category buttons at the top of the Discipline window. Each Discipline contains seven degrees, the lowest being that of the Novice and the highest that of the Doctor. If one does not possess any degree in a Discipline, one is referred to as a Layman. Each degree can only be acquired by attaining the degrees previous to it, and any Character Points spent in Technological Disciplines will alter the Magical/Technological Aptitude Statistic of the Character. This alteration in Aptitude, in turn, will affect the interaction of one's Character with all Magical and Technological items.

To purchase a degree, press the plus button which is adjacent to it. One can negate a degree purchase by pressing the minus button adjacent to it. Please be aware that within any given Discipline, each degree must be obtained in the correct order; in this, our humble Game is no different than life. Every degree is, in sequence, a prerequisite for obtaining the next, and every degree has an additional prerequisite as well, this being the possession of the minimum Intelligence value necessary to command such extensive knowledge. The higher the degree, the higher the Intelligence Statistic of a Character must be to attain it.

For each degree attained by one's Character, a Discipline-specific aptitude called Expertise will be gained. Expertise is a numerical value, which indicates one's understanding of the Discipline in question; Expertise in any Discipline is directly related to the technical complexity of the items one is able to comprehend. In consequence, Expertise directly affects the Character's ability to combine items in a useful and productive fashion. The combining of items is further explained in the Schematics section of Chapter 3, but for now, suffice it to say that comprehension and use of a new Schematic is possible with each new degree obtained by one's Character— and that the complexity of this new Schematic is congruent with its associated degree.

For a complete list of learned Schematics, please make reference to Appendix Four.

An Introduction to SpellsEdit

Conversely, by pressing the Spell button, we can display the Spell window for our Character. There are sixteen colleges of Magick in Arcanum, and all Spells are associated with one of these sixteen:

Conveyance — Concerning Spells which supply one with motion and transportation

Divination — Concerning Spells which supply one with information or knowledge

Air — Concerning Spells which manipulate the first elemental material, that of air and wind

Earth — Concerning Spells which manipulate the second elemental material, that of earth and stone

Fire — Concerning Spells which manipulate the third elemental material, that of fire and heat

Water — Concerning Spells which manipulate the fourth elemental material, that of water and ice

Force — Concerning Spells which manipulate and direct pure cosmic energies

Mental — Concerning Spells which influence and control the mind of a sentient target

Metaphysical — Concerning Spells which have their chief affect on other Spells

Morphological — Concerning Spells which alter the material substance of a target in some fashion

Natural — Concerning Spells which manipulate and control plants, animals, and natural forces

Black Necromantic — Concerning Spells that negatively affect the life force of a creature

White Necromantic — Concerning Spells that positively affect the life force of a creature

Phantasmagorical — Concerning Spells which control light and illusory images

Summoning — Concerning Spells that summon creatures of progressively greater power

Temporal — Concerning Spells which control the flow of time

Each college of Magick contains 5 Spells, and within any one College these Spells must be learned in the correct order; each Spell is a prerequisite for the next. Additionally, there is the prerequisite of possessing the minimal Willpower necessary to learn and cast this Spell, with higher level Spells demanding more Willpower from the would-be mage than lower level Spells. No spell may be learned if the Character has an Intelligence with a value lesser than 5.

To purchase a desired Spell, press the plus button next to its name; the player can undo a Spell purchase by pressing the minus button. Please do keep firmly in mind that any Character Points spent on Spells will alter the Magical/Technological Aptitude of the Character, and this, in turn, will have significant effect of the Character's interaction with all Magical and Technological items.

Remember also that when any Spell is cast, it costs the mage a certain amount of Fatigue. Additionally, some Spells will cause continuous Fatigue for as long as the mage maintains the desired effect. If Fatigue ever drops to 0 or below, all maintained Spells are discontinued, and the caster will faint dead away and remain unconscious until enough Fatigue is regained to reach 1. No caster can maintain more Spells than his Intelligence divided by 4. Yes, Gentle Reader— a person with an Intelligence of 3 or lower cannot maintain any Spells at all! But a person of such low Intelligence will probably have more than sufficient challenge in life just controlling his or her bodily functions; marshalling mystical energies would only be a burden.

No Spell is guaranteed to achieve its intended effect. While some Spells are impossible for the target to resist, others can be resisted by the target's Constitution or Willpower. Also, any Spell or Magical item may fail when used by or directed upon a target who possesses even the smallest measure of Technological Aptitude (see Chapter 3 for more information on this subject). Regardless for the reason of a Spell's failure, the caster will pay the full price in Fatigue for the attempt.

Note: Innate Technological Aptitude can cause Spell failure. The chance of failure is proportional to the Technological Aptitude of the caster and to the Spell's level. Someone with a high Technological Aptitude casting a level 5 Spell stands a very good chance that the Spell will fail to cast.

For a complete list of Spells in each College of Magic, please see Appendix Three.

Earnest Lazyman's Amazing Auto-Leveling Schemes: Never Edit Another Character by Hand!Edit

By pressing the Scheme button, we can display an Auto-Level Scheme window for our Character. This window displays the currently active Auto-Level Scheme, as well as a list of other Schemes which are available for our use. If the Character in question is using "No Scheme", the player must distribute Character Points manually whenever the Character gains enough experience to raise a new Level. However, if the player chooses any other Scheme on the list, the Character will spend its own Character Points without demanding the player's time and energy. Each time this Character rises in Level, the Character will attempt to buy Statistics, Skills, Spells and Disciplines in an order based upon his or her active Scheme. These purchases will be reported to the player along with the message that the Character has leveled.

The player can change his or her chosen Auto-Level Scheme or switch to the "No Scheme" setting at any time during the course of our Game. The player can also invent unique Auto-Level Schemes! See the documentation on "Arcanum User Editing" for more details on this subject.

Magical/Technological AptitudeEdit

This Statistic's value is based upon the number of Character Points the player has spent on either Magical Spells or Technological Skills and Disciplines. A Character with more points in Spells is said to have Magical Aptitude, whereas a Character with more points in Technological Skills and Disciplines is said to have Technological Aptitude. This Statistic can range from 100% Magical Aptitude to 100% Technological Aptitude. Human Characters begin with a neutral value of 0, having no innate leanings towards either Magic or Technology. The meter on the right-hand side of the Character Editor Interface will display the Magical/Technological Aptitude of one's Character.

As the Magical Aptitude of a Character increases, his or her use of Magical Spells and items will be more proficient and effective. By the same token, Technological items will work less well for this Character, and will be less efficacious when used by him and on him. Similarly, as Technological Aptitude increases, Technological items will be used more proficiently by a Character... but Spells and Magical items will work less well in his vicinity.

As a general rule, a Magical item will work adequately for someone with no Magical Aptitude, but optimally for someone with a 100% Magical Aptitude and not at all for someone with a 100% Technological Aptitude. The reverse is true for a Technological item; it works adequately for a person of no aptitude, best for someone with a 100% Technological Aptitude, and not at all for someone with a 100% Magical Aptitude.

Final Preparations for the Voyage of a Lifetime!: Or, Buying EquipmentEdit

Once all Character Points have been spent in the Character Editor Interface, the player may press the lower right arrow button and move on to very last preliminary stop before we begin our adventures in Arcanum: Buying Equipment. This Interface is an exact duplicate of the Barter Interface which one will use in the Game itself (please see Chapter 3 for information on how to use the Barter Interface in the course of play). Here, Gentle Player, you may spend your precious starting cash on equipment which may be useful to you, as you take your first tentative steps in a brave new world!

Bearing in mind that certain Backgrounds may have reduced or even eliminated one's inheritance, while others may have provided one with a surplus of cash or a valuable item, the player should now spend a few moments in thought. What things might prove useful, in a land where adventure lurks around every corner? Buy or sell as the mood strikes: if prices seem too high, it might be wise to retrace your steps and improve this Character's Haggle Skill!

When this last-minute shopping is finished, press the green arrow at the bottom right of the screen to begin play.


« Chapter 2: Getting Started Arcanum Manual Chapter 3: Playing the Game »

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