How many Skills are too many?

#1
I mean individual abilities.

The main character, particularly in LitRPGs, tends to get a good number of specific abilities for them to use and deal with the events in the story.

This number differs from story to story. It can go from 1 or 2 into over a hundred after enough chapters. In fact, there are novels where the protagonist getting Skills is part of the point. Like they steal from monster they kill or have am increased learning capability.

This amount doesn't have to be separate powers, sometimes the main character can do one thing, but that one thing can do a lot of things, such as magical inscriptions with varied effects.

You can care about 1 Skill, you can predict and theorize around it. You can do the same with 2, 3, 4 and so on depending on circumstances.

But after a point you just kind of ignore them. They become almost background noise.

As such, how many are too many?

(I'll leave my opinion in another comment)

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#2
From personal experience, I think less is more, better.

A character with one distinguishable ability is memorable, they can have a few secondary powers, but even the author focuses on the main one.

I general, I'd say anything above 10 starts to be too many.

This number is a little blurry when the Skills are themed around something specific, like different types of smithing techniques in a character that focuses on blacksmithing, but as long as it is for their core ability then it is usually fine (though I would still start to ignore them at some point).

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#4
Whatever the number is, it's definitely less than 200.  I remember when I first noticed how long my spreadsheet got due to an unfortunate mechanic of the story.  I immediately created a new Skill (actually, three Skills) to combine Skills.  Unfortunately, it was a bit like bailing water out of a sinking ship. 

The real craziness is that I actually had some readers who (on the rare occasions I posted the full list of Skills in a chapter) would read through the whole thing and provide feedback/commentary.

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#5
If there's not a skill for nose picking there's mot enough skills!

Nah but i kinda get your point op. Like it's pretty clear from super hero stories that it's entirely possible to have exciting and mentally provoking fights and stuff even if all combatants only have one skill/power apiece. 

Idk if there is a real answer but Ludas definitely right that from a sheer practicle standpoint an author only has so much time lmao 

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#6
Six million.

More seriously, it really depends. In a typical wish-fulfillment isekai, for instance, not that many skills are necessary unless you want to show off the MC's ability to learn billions of skills. In litRPG, several different possibilities are open, depending on what kind of MMO is being portrayed. Some have many, some have few or even none.

There are some MMOs with few 'skills,' where you instead progress by increasing your level with various weapons, and increasing your stats. However, mages often still gain many skills, as they often perform a range of duties including healing, buffing, fighting, and possibly also utility spells like enchanting material. In games with no or few skills, often combat occurs just by the MC walking up to the enemy, and the player just has to wait while their character attacks automatically. This could be slightly difficult to portray in a novel, however, as 'the MC walked up to the enemy and attacked them automatically, swinging his sword on autopilot,' is easily out-of-place if there isn't eg. a story where the system controls the MC. An MC with more skills may have a greater sense of agency, and ability to make tactical decisions. There is a limit to this, however.

In general, a mean between 'the system fights for the MC' and 'the MC collects skills like Pokémon' would probably work best. Maybe slightly more skills if they are important to the game's strategy. Often, however, what is important is not the skills which the MC has, but the ones that they don't - that is, the sense that there are many more possible skills, but the MC selects a few and has a distinct playstyle from other players.

Skills in MMOs are often also tied to class, weapon, etc. So it can also be used to flesh out these other systems. For instance, early WoW Rogues had stealth abilities which encouraged players like the infamous Angwe. Passive skills can also be highly important, and are often more important than active skills.

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#9
Soncikuro Wrote: I mean individual abilities.

The main character, particularly in LitRPGs, tends to get a good number of specific abilities for them to use and deal with the events in the story.

This number differs from story to story. It can go from 1 or 2 into over a hundred after enough chapters. In fact, there are novels where the protagonist getting Skills is part of the point. Like they steal from monster they kill or have am increased learning capability.

This amount doesn't have to be separate powers, sometimes the main character can do one thing, but that one thing can do a lot of things, such as magical inscriptions with varied effects.

You can care about 1 Skill, you can predict and theorize around it. You can do the same with 2, 3, 4 and so on depending on circumstances.

But after a point you just kind of ignore them. They become almost background noise.

As such, how many are too many?

(I'll leave my opinion in another comment)
42.

On a more serious note, the number of skills shouldn't be capped at a number. It should, instead, be capped at how it affects the other skill used. So, say, you can freeze water. That's all well and good, but you can't do anything with it apart from trying to scrape it off the floor. So you add aquakinesis to the mix, and voila, your icicle floats and can now be sent as projectiles (with some leeway, given that accelerating water molecules to a fast enough speed without melting them is, in fact, difficult.)

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#10
I tend to be more concerned about an ever growing lists of active skills than passive ones. If an MC has a list of resistances and bonuses I can generally file that away as "sure" and move on, but active skills are like batman's utility belt. You can assume a character has a lot of items in it but it can be kind of ridiculous if he's carrying shark-repellant. 

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#11
I think the number is decided depending on how many important skills you want your character to have. Sure, some characters end up with over a hundred skills, but how many of those are actually really prominent? My guesstimate is that more often than not, that number is 10.

When a character has more than 10 skills (Sometimes even less), it's really important for the author to bring back the description of that skill so people can follow, as it's really hard to remember all the descriptions you have read and/or the name is not enough to trigger the memory. Thus, if the author is going to bring back the system message/description of what the skill does, it would look bad if the chapter is filled with skill descriptions. So, most of the time, is better for the fight to take place using a specific number of skills, which usually are not more than that, 10.

Do remember this is all personal opinion, but I also think that it depends on how much impact you want your skills to have in your story. When a character was way too many skills, I usually just skim through the list, allowing me to more or less know what the character is capable over how strong it is. If you have a smaller number of skills, than the reader is more likely to put attention to the details of the skill and see how they combine and have synergy with the rest of the skills the characters have.

Example: in 'Unbound' by Necariin, I only skim through. I care or try to remember what the character can do, so that I know there's consistency in the forecoming fights and drama. However, in Azarinth Healer I pay much closer attention to the description of skills (Yeah, she has like 30 skills now, but they are divided in groups of 10, so it's way easier to keep track and have understanding).

Anyway, that's my view on it. Does anyone else agree?

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#12
5 to 10 active skills which have creative and flexible usage. Evolution of skills to expand them is good too. 

I dislike too many skills or abilities as they serve no purpose in the story. The candy store LitRPG where every little action is documented with a blue box is both terrible and annoying.

The skills should be part of the character, they define their role, their place in their world, and most importantly their limitations. Some idiotic plot armoured fool going All Mary Sue though a garbage plot with no stakes is just pointless and most reviews agree and dislike this, yet so many authors keep doing it. The dreaded 4/5 character score on a 4.8 overall books is all I need to see as I know the MC will be rediculous, dumb, and often laden with poooooor usage of tooo many skills!

The best books focus on flexible single or limited sets of 1 to 3 affinities which are flexible and lack any proscribed skills or they have semi flexible sets of 10 or fewer active skills which define combat and let the reader into the world to guess how the character will use the skills. I want to be along for the ride.

If candy store random ass skills drop every 5 paragraphs and become meaningless and impossible to predict what or how they will be used…then there is no point in reading such a garbage story as it is just lots of random things happening in almost every case.

He who fights with monsters is pushhhing the limits with the 20 skills for the MC with evolutions and 5 teammates and such to the point of being lost in itself at times where only a few skills are routinely used. If it had been 5 active and 5 passive, it would have been better.

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#13
Morning,

You have to differentiate between Skills, Abilities, Feats and such. In my opinion, Skills are knowledge, Abilities and Feats and whatnot techniques.
For example: shooting a bow is a Skill, but Power Shot, Multiple Shot, whatever shot are spells you could use with your Skill.

As for how many Skills (as in knowledge)? A HUUUUUGE number. Every last Skill there is out there, from [Riding] to [Dancing], [Cooking], [Skinning], whatever. Think about, how many Skills do you have - why should someone in an alternate universe have fewer?

(khmm... Link in Signature... Did ramble about SAFP...)

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#15
Personally it depends on what skills are and that depends heavily on how the system itself was designed.

For example, alot of stories tend to shove everything into "skills" and in such a case you basically have to have a bunch of different skills for different "things".

But if you expand the stat system instead - ballon out defence into different resistances for example so [Fire resistance] isn't a skill but one of the defensive stats along with [Physcial resistance] and [Poison resistance]. Alot of passive skills can be shoved into the stat system which cleans up the number of skills a given character needs.

Personally, 5-10 synergizing skills seems like a good sweet spot. 

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#16
Morning,

Quote:Personally it depends on what skills are and that depends heavily on how the system itself was designed.
Yeah, that's the problem. My take is that Skills are understood in the computer-game sense of Skill, i.e. only some battlefield maneuvers, maybe Stealth and Stealings. Cooking, Talking, Riding a horse are not Skills in this line of thought, everyone can do it on a high level (oh, there are crafters and such who use Skills for non-bloodshed stuff, but hey)
The other school of thought is the table-top RPG and reality. You don't have five or six Skills for waving around a sword, but only one: [Swords]. The maneuvers are either extra spells or just a representation how good you are in waving around pointy steel.

It's somewhat sad that mostly the most smiplyfied gamer-version is used...

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#17
One.
LitRPG by it's very nature is the domain of living people in a fantastic world with a system.
Skills are not things that can be easily categorized. Is shield bashing the shield skill, or is it a combination of training in deflection, offense, defense, improvised attacks, and the tactical talent of recognizing when a good shield bashing opportunity is presenting itself?
Every skill that real people possess is a multiple layer of lesser skills combined together, and those subskills possess even more subskills, like a vast web of combined abilities.

One skill is too many when you have real life people that bring their own experience to the game. It's not needed. All you need are their special game-specific bonuses and, if necessary, magical ranks. Auto-attack in the kind of world LitRPG's are written about are silly. If you spent years training in SCA rapier fighting, guess what? Your in-game necromancer also happens to be excellent when fighting with rapiers, no in-game skills required.

This coming from someone that writes litrpg and uses skills. And hates being a sellout because she knows it's lazy writing.

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#18
Mr Wrote: The other school of thought is the table-top RPG and reality. You don't have five or six Skills for waving around a sword, but only one: [Swords]. The maneuvers are either extra spells or just a representation how good you are in waving around pointy steel.


Specifically with respect to swords, in reality there are many different sub-skills and they do not simply translate. I used to attend fencing school and Epee, foil and Sabre are very different skills (granted, Epee and foil are the most similar - they are thrusting weapons; sabre is a one handed slashing weapon) then contrast that with the Kali two sword (or for beginners two bamboo lengths) style. Then contrast that with round shield and sword (very very different - slashing and having to continually use and account for the shield) then contrast all that with Bokken (a two handed sword practice style - training to eventually use the katana - which is a two handed slashing weapon). This is just barely scratching the surface, but suffice to say, there is NOT "sword" as a legitimate skill.

RPG wise the group I game with uses Harnmaster which is ridiculously skill-rich and one handed sword is NOT the same as dagger is NOT the same as sai is NOT the same as - well you get the idea. Of all the games I have played RPG-wise it is the most complex, because it's goal is to attempt to fairly accurately reflect fighting reality. Which is messy and complex. This is because some weapons were developed for specific situations such as European two handed swords were developed for the purpose of fighting pikes.

OTOH for the "other end of the RPG continuum" you have games like FATE which has "armed combat" and doesn't even get as specific as "sword". That's the style of that game.

My point is that it all depends on how much detail you want. The more detail you have in your story about fighting as a skill or an ability, the more that readers or reviewers who are super familiar with that style of fighting could help you - and could also really groan when something is off.

One "don't go into detail" type of approach in describing a fighting style (as an example of a "skill") was sword-fighting in Wheel of Time - I can recall one of Rand's opening attacks as "Cat Crosses the Courtyard" which tells me NOTHING detailed about what he was doing, but definitely gave a "feel" for how he was doing it.

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#19
Quote:Specifically with respect to swords, in reality there are many different sub-skills and they do not simply translate.
You misunderstood me here. In most LitRPG there is not even a [Sword] Skill, but, say Slashing, Thrusting, Armor-piercing Attack, Six-Haven-Rendering-Slash, Jumping-while-thrusting, Cleave, Double-Slash, Whirwind Attack and such. 
Mostly without any pre-requisites. You got a vaguely sword-formed thingy and you can do the "Spells". You have around that piece of metal (without any Skills in Dagger, Sword, Saber, Claymore, Katana, Whatever), but push a button and the "Skill" activates with 100% effectiveness.

Re: How many Skills are too many?

#20
Mr Wrote: In most LitRPG there is not even a [Sword] Skill, but, say Slashing, Thrusting, Armor-piercing Attack, Six-Haven-Rendering-Slash, Jumping-while-thrusting, Cleave, Double-Slash, Whirwind Attack and such.
Mostly without any pre-requisites. You got a vaguely sword-formed thingy and you can do the "Spells". You have around that piece of metal (without any Skills in Dagger, Sword, Saber, Claymore, Katana, Whatever), but push a button and the "Skill" activates with 100% effectiveness.

Thank you for the clarification.

Now my brain hurts