1879: Skill Knacks

Here’s a preview from the forthcoming 1879 Player’s Companion!

Skill knacks are specializations that expand or extend the character’s Skills. By widening the scope of what Skills normally allow characters to accomplish, knacks enhance the types of actions that can be performed, and create greater opportunity to make each character unique. This chapter provides guidelines for learning, creating, and using Skill knacks, including full descriptions for some of the many knacks available.

Using Skill Knacks

Once a character has learned a Skill knack, they may use the knack whenever appropriate. Unless the knack’s description states otherwise, the player simply declares that their character is using it. For example, a Mage who has learned the Astral Targeting knack may use it whenever they cast a spell in conditions that preclude normal vision being used to target the spell.

Note that, as with Skills, all costs of using the knack must be paid beforehand and use must be announced. For example, if a Skill knack requires a two successes instead of the usual one, the use of the knack has to be announced before the Test is made. Achieving two successes and then declaring the knack after the fact is not allowed.

Using a Skill knack is treated as a use of the Skill unless otherwise noted. This means that any conditions to use the Skill must be met. For example, if the Skill requires a Standard Action to use, so does using the knack. Additionally, Skill knacks may have their own conditions and prerequisites to be used; for example, knacks almost always have a higher Strain cost. These replace the conditions of the Skill where appropriate. In effect, using a Skill knack incurs the stricter costs and requirements of Skill and Skill knack. If the Skill knack has been used successfully, it has its own effect that usually replaces the Skill effect, though sometimes its effect is an addition to or a variation of the Skill effect. Some Skill knacks may change the requirements of a Skill by simply increasing its cost.

The Arcane Curses Skill knack is based on the Arcane Mutterings Skill. When using it, the character must spend a Standard Action (from the Skill), take 1 Strain (from the knack), spend Karma (from the Skill), and make three or more successes on the Test (from the knack). If successful, the targets suffer the Skill’s effect even if the character stops muttering, as the knack circumvents this requirement for the Skill’s effect. Note the Skill knack does not automatically apply when Arcane Mutterings achieves three or more successes. Use of Arcane Curses has to be announced before the Test, and does not affect the target in any way on one or two successes, including the normal Arcane Mutterings effect.

Sample Knacks

Aligning Our Interests

Skill: Diplomacy
Rank: 10
Strain: 1 + number of targets
When moderating negotiations between two or more parties, the character can improve the Attitude of the parties toward each other. Make a Diplomacy Test against the highest Social Defense in the group, +1 for every target after the first. On two or more successes, the character improves the Attitude of all of the targets by one degree toward all of the other targets. This lasts for the character’s Diplomacy Rank in hours.

Handy Blunt Object

Skill: Melee Weapons
Rank: 7
Strain: 1
The character wields an object not intended as a weapon in melee combat, with no penalty to the Attack Test (1879 Player’s Guide, p. 250). Make a Melee Weapons Test as normal. If successful, the Gamemaster determines the Damage Step of the improvised weapon, based on the item’s size and materials, to a maximum of Damage Step 7. Examples of suitable items include pens, pieces of wood, airship guide cables, uprooted cobblestones, loaves of stale bread, spanners, or even other people. The character must be able to carry the item (by weight) to wield it as a melee weapon.


Skill: Wilderness Survival
Rank: 6
Strain: 2
The character can find natural materials suitable for making low-tech repairs or modifications to their equipment. Make a Wilderness Survival Test as normal. For each success, the character finds enough materials to repair 1 Barrier Rating point of damage. For modifications, the character must accumulate enough successes on repeated Wilderness Survival Tests to equal the new value of the Effect Step, Barrier Rating, or other item attribute being modified. The Strain for the knack must be spent each time the knack is used. The character must still make the appropriate Skill Test to make the repair or modification, such as Clockwork or Craft Armor.