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I ran a session of Airship Pirates at TableCon this last weekend, and one of the things I can’t stop thinking about is how apparently effective “schtick” skills are.

When you create a party of Airship Pirates(tm), you choose a schtick for the crew — this schtick grants bonus skill points to everyone in the crew, giving players a pool of shared skills. It initially reminded me of “teamwork benefits” from 3e.

After seeing the disastrous effects of bringing followers along on my stealth-crawls in Skyrim, I’ve realized how important it is that members of an adventuring party have a group of shared skills — and that isn’t the only place I’ve seen it.

In our weekly 4e campaign, I’ve noticed that certain party members — namely our assassin, thief, and less-than-scrupulous-fighter — like to go off on raids and stealth missions to flex their “bad boy” muscles. I’m sure they’d call it differently.

What I’ve noticed is that while they do this, the rest of the party sits and waits — which can sometimes be quite a while. Now, when players are tired they might appreciate a “reprieve,” but truly engaging play creates its own energy.

Fatigued players who are engaged can be revitalized through play.

It’s less a question of whether you’re tired, and more a question of how effectively you’re engaged by the game — and what I’m going to suggest here is that when you have a game where every character is designed to be an individual, it’s best to give every PC a pool of abilities they can share with the party.

Now that I’ve gone to the effort to create a unique pool of effect-based skills, it would be a shame if it fell by the wayside like most every other d20-based skill system. I think there’s the potential to make the skill system as prominent, effective, and memorable in-play as the best 4e set-piece encounters.

Instead of making skills class-based, or background-based, or whathaveyou — skills will be issued on a party-wide basis. Sure, every character system-wide will have combat skills, but a unifying feature of an adventuring party will be its non-combat specialties. Yes. YES. Yessssss. Yes.