In Metric (our character system) there are six skills that comprise your Intellect: Logic, Rhetoric, Drama, Encyclopedia, Conceptualization and Visual Calculus. They are represented here by their work-in-progress portraits.
is raw intellectual power. If you want to analyze the living daylights out of the case, take Logic. Formulate theories about what happened, or detect inconsistencies in the statements people make to you. It’s useful for not getting bamboozled.
Logic loves being right, however. To a fault. It’s a brilliant lie detector until faced with intellectual flattery. Then it starts tooting its own horn. Your Drama skill might interfere: people are pretending, manipulating you, while Logic – blinded by its own brilliance – yammers on about how infallible it is.
In heroic difficulty rolls, Logic can induce near-transcendence-like pleasure from performing raw operations on events and numbers. (It also does maths for you.) And it states the obvious. Logic loves an easy challenge, whatever it’s claims.
is your ability to debate. Nitpick, make intellectual discourse. It doesn’t need to be an argument, you can just shoot off your mouth and take hearty pleasure from it. But let’s be honest – mostly Rhetoric just bickers. About politics.
All political discourse falls under Rhetoric. You can mold it into a weapon of fascist sable rattling, evicting potato-loving kojkos and deformed himean pygmees left to right. Rid Revachol of aliens in transit! Or become the ultimate liberast (perpetrator of the sin of liberasty), extolling free trade and slimy personal freedoms at the expense of the downtrodden. This is achieved through researching political projects in your Thought Cabinet, then having them supercharge your Rhetoric skill.
A souped up, ideologically informed Rhetoric is an impressive beast, but it gets you into trouble. The twist here is that Rhetoric – our persuasion ability – doesn’t really persuade anyone. Most of the time it just makes you new enemies. While your beliefs calcify.
is your knack for trivia. It’s perhaps the talkiest of all the skills, pulling out drawers of fascinating if questionable tidbits of knowledge. Sometimes real nuggets of gold too. It’s up to you to discern between the two.
Encyclopedia adores brands, marks, makes of pistolette and motor-carriage, street names, addresses, species of cockatoo, Great Century military leaders, rock music icons, Messinian ceramic manufacturers … Buy it and max it out, if you want a deluge of lore.
You may even find special, reoccurring places within your Encyclopedia. Like visions: a blackboard of names with all the cops in East Revachol on it, with all their confirmed kills and cases solved. Or a mysterious index of radio frequencies…
is a god damn liar. Deliver believable deviations from reality, sometimes with the goal to deceive people, but not necessarily. You may just want to entertain as well.
We thought long and hard about how deceit is handled in RPGs and decided it needs to be more about performance in No Truce With The Furies. We want each of the skills to be a little world of it’s own, an investment worth considering. So lying became stagecraft, an amalgam of fourberie and deceit, with entertainment – and even singing. You can do karaoke with Drama, or perform spot on imitations of people.
Drama is also the counter to Drama. It informs you when Drama is being used on you. And although Intellect skills in general are more mentally oriented, Drama has its uses in combat as well. Feign death. Do drunken fighting. Maybe even quadrupedal movement…
is your capacity for original thought. Make fresh associations, really delve into the concepts of the world – from Jan Kaarp’s postmodernist karperie, to Revachol’s arabesque architectural style dideridada, or even the concept of hardcore as deployed by the burgeoning dance music scene – then add your own contribution to these works! It’s your general purpose cultural theorist, used for both criticism and creation.
Okay, I’ll level with you. Conceptualization makes you into an Art Cop. You get extra lines of description in scenes, and you get to come up with stuff like poems, one-liners and a cool nom de guerre for yourself. An artist’s name, if you will. Conceptualization is the difference between hanging yourself and jumping into a live volcano. (No literal live volcanos are present in No Truce With The Furies for the time being.)
is your forensics skill. It represents your grasp of the laws of physics, motion particularly. Create models of past events in your mind’s eye, trace dotted lines across the room, read tire tracks to recreate an automobile accident. Even notice tactical opportunities in combat situations – then take advantage of them. (Perception + Visual Calculus = the ultimate sniper)
We’re building a special, stylistic overlay that covers the world when certain Visual Calculus checks succeed. This lets us visualize shards of glass falling out of the window, a car backing into the fence, or political prisoners standing in front of a firing squad, half a century ago… all painted into the isometric world around you.
It looks great and I’m really sorry we haven’t shown it off yet. Just a few more tweaks first though…
I’m going to be candid and say Visual Calculus is a really cool skill and you should probably take it if you don’t want to miss out on all the cool. The only reason not to take it is that it’s a luxury. You need more essential stuff to stay alive and on top of things.
So to wrap it up – Intellect does not make you get on well with yourself, or with other people. It lets you peel off layer after layer from the world, getting to its inner workings, modelling its events and bending it’s structures. If that’s what you want, stick five or six points into it at character creation and later buy two or three skills to boot.
It’s been my ambition as a pen and paper DM to make heavy mental labour as engaging and wildly entertaining as combat, or even more so. Of the four main Attributes, Intellect was perhaps the hardest to nail. What it really comes down to is how the actual situations are written in the game — and most of all, how interestingly you play them out. The skills are just prompters in the play you’re starring in, whispering suggestions to you from within. It’s up to you to decide whose ideas you want more of, and what to do with them. But naming and dividing between areas of juristiction is everything in systems — and I’m certain this cast was worth getting together all these years.
(Next time we’ll introduce the Psyche skills to you. Inland Empire is my favourite.)