Wasteland: A Landmark of RPG Innovations

Behold the Power of Skills

Skills are easily the biggest innovation introduced with Wasteland, and never really caught on until years later. All characters have attributes that affect who they are and what they can do--strength, agility, speed, dexterity, charisma, luck, and intelligence--but the number of skills a player character can have and the level of the skill he can achieve are much more targeted and versatile. Skills are useful in three ways:

  1. They can apply themselves automatically
  2. They can be explicity used or called upon
  3. They can be combined

Skills usually apply themselves automatically in different situations: An Acrobat skill can enhance your agility and help you walk across a ledge or dodge a trap; Clip Pistol allows you to use your standard-issue sidearm effectively and unjam it if necessary; and so on. Skills can also be called upon explicitly to solve a certain situation: If you are presented with a lock, use your Picklock skill to pick the lock; if you find yourself suddenly in the middle of a trap, use Bomb Disarm to try to get out of it alive; etc. One of the best things about skills is that they can be combined in certain situations. For example: Having the Brawling skill means you can fight well with your fists. Having the Pugulism skill means you can attack multiple times in a melee fight. But if you have both a high Brawling and Pugulism skill, you could reduce enemies to a bloody pulp using only your fists!

Skills are the primary reason people play Wasteland. Not a gimmick, they add a subtle level of depth that seperates Wasteland from all other computer RPGs created up until that time.

Here's an excerpt from the Wasteland manual that lists the initial skills available to you, what they're good for, and what IQ you need before you can learn them.

IQ 3

Brawling (1): Any fighter who can wander through a full-fledged bar fight without getting much more than a scratch is either very lucky or highly skilled in brawling. The higher your skill in brawling, the more attacks you get per round in hand-to-hand combat.

Climb (1): Gives you the ability to climb over fences, up sheer cliff faces, and out of pits.

Clip Pistol (1): A must-have skill since your initial weapon issue will be either the M1911A1 .45 caliber or a VP91Z 9 mm automatic clip pistol. Without this skill, you won't be very accurate with the weapon or have much luck fixing it if it breaks.

Knife Fighting (1): When fighting with knives, this give an advantage to a skilled fighter over an unskilled one.

Pugilism (1): One of the oldest forms of fighting, it teaches you how to dish out punches as well as avoid them. Handy for those close-up battles where the fists start flying.

Rifle (1): A good basic skill to have since many of the weapons sold by raiders are serviceable M19 rifles. You'll rue the day you didn't pick up this skill as you look helplessly at the rifle you can't shoot accurately.

Swim (1): The desert sands don't blanket the entire earth. This will come in hand in those spots where you have to swim.

IQ 6

Knife Throwing (1): A tricky skill that comes in handy when fighting gets heavy. You use up all your ammo and resort to throwing knives.

Perception (1): Helps the character find concealed items and notice when things are out of the ordinary. No one should be without it.

IQ 9

Assault Rifle (1): If you're using an AK-97 or M1089A1 assault rifle, this skill helps you fire, load, and unjam it quickly. A skill that ranks up there in importance with walking and breathing.

AT Weapon (1): Helps you recognize and use anti-tank weapons like LAW rockets. A handy skill to have should you encounter something far tougher than your Ranger instructors ever told you about.

SMG (1): Lets a character control basic submachine guns like the Uzi or Mac 17. May make a big difference when you're outnumbered three to one by bandits who've decided that they want the gold from your teeth.

IQ 10

Acrobat (1): This skill for the agile can get you out of a tough situation -- like leaping off of bar counters while you're surrounded by a hostile crowd.

Gamble (1): The skill that built Vegas, you'll do well in all games of chance, and you'll; also be able to spot a crooked game from a mile away.

Picklock (1): This can get you into places where you want to go, but where other don't want you to go.,

Silent Movement (1): This helps you move unnoticed past a guard post; making it tough for enemies to catch up with you.

IQ 11

Confidence (1): For an already charismatic person, good confidence can enable one to talk to a miser out of his fortune. It's particularly useful for getting information from people who are suspicious of you.

IQ 12

Sleight of Hand (1): A thieving skill that lets you perform sleight-of-hand tricks -- perfect when you need to amaze those you meet.

IQ 13

Demolition (1): Teaches you how much of an explosive substance you can use without blowing yourself up.

Forgery (1): Helps you recognize or create a forged document. Someday you my just need to whip up a security pass to get by some vigilant guards.

IQ 14

Alarm Disarm (1): Trains you to recognize and disable alarms. If you want to get into a place without getting caught, this a good skill to have.

Bureaucracy (1): Even though most of civilization ended with the bomb, an inordinate number of petty bureaucrats managed to survive. This helps you deal with them so you can get when you want.

IQ 15

Bomb Disarm (2): Allows you to defuse most explosive devices.

Medic (2): A vital skill that lets a character stabilize a badly-wounded comrade so he or she has a chance to recover.

Safecrack (2): An experience practitioner of this art can open safes sealed even before the holocaust.

IQ 16

Cryptology (2): Gives you the talent to encode and decode messages. Useful in helping you determine what a password might be.

IQ 17

Metallurgy (2): Increases your ability to spot, identify, and work with some basic metals.

That list is extensive, but there are more you can learn once your IQ raises above 17. Would you ever have a need to use Electronics Repair, Helicopter Pilot, Cyborg Tech, or Toaster Repair? Play the game and find out.
Continued: NPCs, attributes, and harsh reality

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