Last time we looked at dice and how they're used in A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, specifically in how your "ability" determines the number of dice you roll whenever you take a test. This time, we're looking at the abilities, the "nuts and bolts" of every character.
Abilities define how the characters interact with the world of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. They describe a character's strengths and weaknesses. A character's abilities also provide a glimpse of style, possibly motivation, and strategy in surviving the game of thrones or the battlefield. Of course, to the untrained eye, abilities look very much like a collection of numbers, but these numbers have meaning and in them, your character lives.
A character's rating in an ability is measured by rank, a number listed after the ability's name, like "Athletics 2" or "Fighting 4". The greater your rank, the better you are at using that ability. Rank says a lot about your character and knowing what it means can help you translate the numbers into useful descriptions. Abilities are ranked from 1 (the lowest) to 7 (the very best), as follows:
Rank 1 — Deficient: This rank in an ability means you're deficient. Even routine tasks are a challenge for you. Generally, an ability at this rank is the result of some physical or mental deficiency.
Rank 2 — Average: Most folks in Westeros have abilities at this rank. Having rank 2 in an ability suggests you can handle routine tasks and manage challenging things, given enough time. Certain tasks, however, are beyond your ability. Abilities in SIFRP start out at rank 2 by default.
Rank 3 — Talented: A cut above the average, having rank 3 in an ability means you have a special knack or a minimum amount of training, such as a few hours put in with a practice sword or having ridden a horse a few times in your life.
Rank 4 — Trained: At this rank, you combine your natural talents with extensive training. Your skill exceeds that of the average individual. You can confidently tackle challenging tasks without trouble and, with a little luck, can pull off some pretty impressive stunts.
Rank 5 — Accomplished: Intensive training coupled with natural talent places you well above the common man. In fact, people with rank 5 are often the best at what they do in an area, having surpassed their peers in their craft.
Rank 6 — Master: By rank 6, you are considered one of the best in the world at the ability. People use you as an example, and seek you out to learn and improve their training, or simply to meet you.
Rank 7 — Paragon: Rank 7 is as high as any can hope to achieve. So rare is this rank, people with this level of ability are considered legends, once in a generation, if that.
Where abilities represents talent combined with training, specialties reflect a narrowing of an ability's focus, the result of specific development in one of the many areas an ability encompasses. Specialties, like abilities, are ranked from 1 to 7. They are designated as a number followed by a B (for "bonus"). So, if you had rank 2 in the Axes specialty, you'd note it as Axes 2B. Your specialty rank cannot exceed your ability rank. Your rank in a specialty provides a number of bonus dice toward your ability test.
The following are brief descriptions of the abilities and what they do. The SIFRP rulebook, naturally, provides much more detailed descriptions and guidelines for the various abilities.
It's worth noting that, because of the way SIFRP assigns ability ranks, characters in the game possess all of these abilities, but you generally only need to note those deviating from the "average" rank of 2, whether deficient or above average. If a character has no given rank in an ability, you can assume a rank of 2.
Agility: Agility measures dexterity, nimbleness, reflexes, and flexibility. In some ways, it describes how comfortable you are in your body, how well you master your movement, and how well you react to your surroundings.
Animal Handling: Animal Handling encompasses various skills and techniques used to train, work, and care for animals. Whenever you would regain control over a panicked mount, train a dog to serve as a guardian, or breed falcons for hunting, you test this ability.
Athletics: Athletics describes the degree of training, the application of physical fitness, coordination, training, and raw muscle. Athletics is an important ability in that it determines how far you can jump, how fast you run, how quickly you move, and how strong you are.
Awareness: Awareness measures your senses, how quickly you can respond to changes in your environment and your ability to see through double-talk and feints to arrive at the truth of the matter. Whenever you perceive your surroundings or assess another person, use Awareness.
Cunning: Cunning encapsulates intelligence, intellect, and the application of all your collected knowledge. Typically, Cunning comes into play whenever you might recall an important detail or instruction, work through a puzzle, or solve some other problem such as researching and deciphering codes.
Deception: Deception measures your gift at duplicity, your ability to lie and deceive. You use Deception to mask your intentions and hide your agenda. You also use Deception to pretend to be someone other than who you really are, to affect a different accent, and pull off a disguise.
Endurance: Endurance measures your physical well-being, your health and hardiness. Your Endurance determines how much punishment you can take as well as how quickly you recover from injury.
Fighting: Fighting describes your skill at arms, your ability to wield weapons effectively in combat. Whenever you would attack unarmed or using a hand-held weapon you test fighting.
Healing: Healing represents skill with and understanding of the accumulated medical knowledge throughout the world. Rank in this ability reflects an understanding of health and recovery, with the highest ranks representing talents held only by the greatest of maesters.
Knowledge: Knowledge describes your general understanding and awareness of the world in which you live. It represents a broad spectrum of subjects, including history, agriculture, economics, politics, and numerous other subjects.
Language: Language is the ability to communicate in a tongue, usually through speech, but among the best educated, also through the written word. The starting rank you have in this ability applies to your knowledge of the Common Tongue spoken throughout Westeros. When you improve this ability, you may improve your ability with the Common Tongue or choose to speak other languages.
Marksmanship: Marksmanship represents your skill with ranged weapons, to use them appropriately and accurately in combat. Whenever you would make an attack using a ranged weapon, you test Marksmanship.
Persuasion: Persuasion is the ability to manipulate the emotions and beliefs of others. With this ability, you can modify how others see you, shape their attitudes towards others, convince them of things they might not otherwise agree to, and more.
Status: Status describes the circumstances of your birth and the knowledge those circumstances grant you. The higher your rank, the more likely you will be able to recognize heraldry, the better your reputation, and the stronger your knowledge of managing people and lands.
Stealth: Stealth represents your ability to creep about unseen and unheard. Whenever you would move without being noticed, you test Stealth.
Survival: Survival is the ability to get by in the wild, to hunt, to forage, to avoid getting lost, and to follow tracks. The Survival skill is important for a variety of people in that hunting remains an important method of providing food for one's family, especially in the more remote corners of Westeros.
Thievery: Thievery is a catchall ability for any skill involving larcenous activities. Examples include picking locks, hand tricks, and general robbery.
Warfare: Warfare describes a character's talents at managing the battlefield, ranging from the ability to issue commands, strategic knowledge for maneuvering armies, and tactical knowledge for dealing with small engagements.
Will: Will is your mental fortitude, reflecting the state of your mind's health and endurance. It represents your ability to withstand fear in the face of appalling violence or supernatural phenomena, and also serves as the foundation for your ability to resist being manipulated by others.