Tuesday, May 28, 2013

[Q&A] Claus Bornich (Crimson Exodus 2nd edition)

[13:15] <+Claus> I'm Claus Bornich of Radical Approach, creator of Trauma, Crimson Exodus, Mahada and Fantasy Dice in that order.
[13:16] <+technoshaman> my question is what are the dice mechanic like?
[13:16] <~Dan> (Wait for a "(done)" please, tech. :) )
[13:17] <+Claus> I'm doing a kickstarter for a new 2nd edition of Crimson Exodus which aims to update the book with all the improvements to the Fantasy Dice system (yes, CE uses the FD system) as well as making the layout a bit nicer and adding some new images, etc.
[13:18] <+Claus> I'm also releasing a new adventure for Crimson Exodus called Echoes of Death (aka. Four Orcs and a Dwarf) which I've been playtesting and developing for well over a year and is a really fun dungeon crawl with... well four orcs and a map reading dwarf.
[13:18] <+Claus> Finally, I've been working on a Fantasy Grounds II ruleset for Fantasy Dice which I will also be releasing as part of the kickstarter.
[13:20] <+Claus> The CE setting is a sword and sorcery type of setting (medieval, magic is arcane and powerful, lots of danger, unexplored lands) along with some more Tolkien inspired tropes such as Orcs, Elves, Dwarves and other peoples.
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[13:24] <~Dan> (Still typing?)
[13:24] <+Claus> It is set as the Elven Empire is crumbling. The Elves are more Elric of Melniboné than shy forest dwellers and in any case there is no fey or magical origin to any of the races. Dwarves are the most scholarly - poets and sorcerers, and Orcs are brutish but not evil and yes you can play an Orc.
[13:24] <~Dan> (Oh, n/m. :) )
[13:25] <+Claus> Sorry... I on purpose didn't plan anything to make it spontaneous and fresh so sometimes I might be a bit slow. Nearly done.
[13:26] <~Dan> (No problem! Take your time! :) )
[13:26] <+Claus> The game system is skill based where skills represent a die (D4 to D12) and attributes determine how many you roll - e.g. Agility 2 means you get to roll 2 dice.
[13:27] <+Claus> It is designed to be fast, tactical and without the use of any math and easy to track (no hitpoints, minimal stuff to keep track of during combat) and kind on the GM (you can create NPCs with a single stat if you wish and that NPC is fully playable according to some simple rules.
[13:29] <+Claus> It tries to balance tactical play and roleplaying - something it does partially through advise and partially through the use of triggers that use the aspirations and characteristics of the PCs to give them an advantage when they really want to succeed.
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[13:29] <+Claus> Wealth is stat based - again to make book keeping minimal, but also to help simulate a barter system.
[13:30] <+Claus> I could go on, but perhaps we should open it up for some questions rather than me doing a monologue. So done.
[13:30] <~Dan> Thanks, Claus!
[13:31] <~Dan> Would anyone like to start us off with a question?
[13:31] <~Dan> (I'll give them a minute before offering my own.)
[13:32] <+Claus> While we wait, I'll say that I tend to like my games dark and gritty, but you could easily run a cinematic and heroic game in Crimson Exodus.
[13:33] <~Dan> Okay, I'll start us off, then!
[13:33] <~Dan> Would it be correct to say that CE is extremely morally ambiguous?
[13:33] <+Claus> YES!
[13:34] <+Claus> I love questioning what is right and what is wrong, and I never paint anything entirely black or white.
[13:34] <~Dan> That said, is it difficult to play "Big Damn Heroes"?
[13:34] <+Claus> No, but you would have to decide what is heroic to you.
[13:35] <+Claus> You could play literally, BIG Vren barbarian raiders coming from the north to sack and pillage the decadent and crumbling Elven Empire.
[13:35] <~Dan> Is there any faction that could be considered the "good guys"?
[13:35] <+Claus> Not because you're bad-ass, but because you have dreams of a better life away from the bitter cold, trolls and giant ice bears.
[13:36] * ~Dan nods
[13:36] <+Claus> In fact, many of the Vren want to integrate and be a part of the Empire - at least the version of the Empire they heard about around the camp fires when they were children.
[13:37] <+Claus> That is a hard question Dan. Let me say why...
[13:37] <+Claus> The Elves did a lot of nasty stuff - they enslaved men and did bad things, but they did it for the "greater good" and believing they are the chosen people.
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[13:38] <+Claus> The Elnar are the favoured men of the Elves and they are noble and true to their cause, but also arrogant and look down on other lesser men.
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[13:40] <+Claus> The Dwarves are scholars ("beards" in Dwarven) who love poetry, study sorcery and build impressive feats of engineering, but they also dream of taking back the lands the elves took and have strict and cruel (by our modern standards) codes of conduct.
[13:40] * ~Dan nods
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[13:41] <+Claus> The Toth from the Serpent Empire dabble in black magic and been sacrifcing the men of the neigbouring Bardur lands long before the Elves and Elnar came and are probably the closest there is to evil.
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[13:43] <+Claus> Yet, most of them are not evil, just fatalistic and believe that they must do what their gods will.
[13:44] <+Claus> It is all about perspective.
[13:44] * ~Dan nods
[13:45] <~Dan> Does that make mixed groups rather difficult to play?
[13:45] <+Claus> You have to decide where in the world you want to play and what sort of game and then decide what sort of party makes sense for that.
[13:46] <+Claus> There is a lot of possibilities though for mixing groups a bit.
[13:47] <+Claus> For example, the Dwarves and Elves are at war, but the Elves also have a lot of Dwarven "slaves" who grew up in the Empire and know no other lives.
[13:47] <+Claus> Generations of these Dwarves have become an integral part of Imperial society.
[13:48] <+Claus> Likewise, many Vren barbarians join the Empire as mercenaries or labour.
[13:48] <+Claus> So immediately you could put together a party of Elves, Elnar, Vren and Dwarves with plausible backgrounds.
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[13:49] <~Dan> Hmm... I see.
[13:49] <+Claus> Heartlanders (farmers and villagers) and Maktiti (nomads) trade and mix with the Empire and there are plenty of refugees from both so again...
[13:51] <+Claus> Placing an Orc into that party would be more of a stretch as they tend to plague the Bardur Kingdom, but of course there is no reason why a tribe of Orcs might not have moved west and the player character might for example be the last survivor looking for a new tribe or simply to survive...
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[13:52] <+Claus> I think the best start is to decide - do we want to begin exploring the issues in the west which focus on the crumbling Elven Empire, war with the Elves, Vren invaders and witchcraft...
[13:53] <+Claus> ...or do we want to set it to the east where the Elnar Kings and their Bardur subjects are engaged in open revolt and court intrigue as the defeated Serpent Empire starts to stir and Orcs flood in from the south.
[13:53] <+Claus> Does that make sense?
[13:56] <+Claus> I should really make a population map to help with showing populations and migration patterns - hmmm that sounds like fun.
[13:57] <~Dan> (Sorry about that, Claus. The A/C repairman just showed up.)
[13:57] <~Dan> (Let me scroll back a bit...)
[13:58] <~Dan> Yup, understood. It puts me in mind of Glorantha in that respect.
[13:58] <+Claus> No worries, I appreciate you making the effort to do this early your time so I don't have to stay up after my bedtime on a schoolnight. ;)
[13:59] <+Claus> I read a bit about Glorantha and it sounds interesting, but I must admit I know very little about it.
[13:59] <~Dan> Heh. As it happens, I had to stay home today anyway to meet the floor repairman, and the A/C just went out last night.
[13:59] <+Claus> So many interesting roleplaying games and so little time.
[13:59] <~Dan> Heh. Well, I see the similarity in the extreme cultural relativism at play.
[14:00] <+Claus> Well, here in London we still need the heating on at night. Coldest "summer" I can remember.
[14:00] <~Dan> So I've heard. :)
[14:00] <~Dan> So let's talk magic for a moment. Can you describe the various magic systems for us?
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[14:01] <+Claus> I actually did a lot of background work on the races and how they "evolved". I had some ideas about how the various peoples relate and where they came from and that coloured the Known World which Crimson Exodus focuses on.
[14:02] <+Claus> Ok, magic - or as I prefer to call it Arcane Arts.
[14:03] <+Claus> There are three types and each is associated with a skill where each speciality of that skill makes it possible to conjure, incant or otherwise invoke a certain type of effects.
[14:04] <+Claus> 1. Witchcraft, more commonly known as blood magic, which was introduced by the Elves and taught to men, although most cultures have shamans and witches who know a few of its secrets.
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[14:05] <+Claus> - Witchcraft requires blood, sacrifices and incantations
[14:06] <+Claus> 2. Sorcery, only truly mastetered by the Dwarves, is the manipulation of elemental forces. You can cause clouds to form, whip up a wind, slow a current or make a torch flare or flutter.
[14:08] <+Claus> - It is a hard art to master (even more difficulty in 2dn Ed. CE) and requires precise hand gesticulations and is slow and exhausting.
[14:09] <+Claus> 3. Black Arts, the forbidden art mastered by the Black Clerics of the Toth. It deals in glyphs, runes, skull charms and allows the stealing of dreams and much worse.
[14:09] <+Claus> - It is dangerous to practise as it can drive the cleric mad or infect him with the rot, and even when done right it is tiring.
[14:10] <+Claus> I should also mention that Sorcery allows creation of very primitive elementals, which when combined with witchcraft can be bestowed a spirit and take on a sort of life.
[14:11] <+Claus> Witchcraft allows the bonding to a familiar, but it is risky as you place a part of yourself in that creature and its death can be crippling for a long time.
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[14:11] <+Claus> Questions?
[14:11] <~Dan> We've discussed this before, but could you share your thoughts as to why Sorcery can't control earth as well as the other three classic elements?
[14:12] <~Dan> Because that would seem the obvious choice to me.
[14:12] <+Claus> Sure.
[14:12] <+Claus> Sorcery simply manipulates forces of nature. It doesn't create them.
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[14:12] <+Claus> You can make a flame grown or snuff it out, but you cannot conjure fire.
[14:13] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, LordEntropy!)
[14:13] <+Claus> Same as you can add or subtract energy to the wind to make it blow more or less, and same thing with a current.
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[14:13] <+Claus> You can manipulate water and air, but you cannot conjure up water or air.
[14:14] <+Claus> There is no force involved in earth - any more than there is in any other inanimate object. There has to be some sort of energy/force involved.
[14:14] <+Claus> Does that make sense?
[14:14] <~Dan> I think so, yes.
[14:15] <~Dan> Based upon my reading of CE 1e, it seems that magic is fairly weak, all things considered. Would you agree?
[14:15] <+Claus> Now lightning and even lava... there is some hints about ancient dwarven rituals that can manipulate such things.
[14:16] <+Claus> I think that depends on what you are used to, and I've had reports of at least one group who found it a bit too powerful for them.
[14:16] <~Dan> Well, let me put it this way: What is the most potent offensive use of magic?
[14:16] <+Claus> Magic is very flexible and so for the creative it can be quite powerful, but it is slow and hard to control.
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[14:19] <+Claus> Indeed, if you are rushed by an attacker sorcery is not likely to be much use.
[14:20] <+Claus> You can conjure up a wind shield to deflect arrows or even a hurricane to sweep away an enemy army, but only the most powerful sorcerors are likely to succeed at the latter and even then it will take them time and likely leave them drained.
[14:21] <+Claus> More useful might be to smother all the torches around you to leave the attackers in the dark, or make one flare up and burn your attacker (obviously this is only possible if he is standing next to or holding a torch).
[14:22] <+Claus> For witchcraft you might animate a tree or use the beast tongue to command beasts to attack someone.
[14:23] <+Claus> However, the best offense for a witch may simply be the threat of a curse which should be feard by any who know of blood magic.
[14:23] <~Dan> Makes sense.
[14:24] <+Claus> All magic is best used in preparation though, such as demonic strength for black magic or enchantments by a shaman.
[14:24] <~Dan> (A shaman being a practitioner of Witchcraft?)
[14:25] <+Claus> Yes, and again, this probably shows the sword and sorcery roots where a magician is terrifyingly powerful but when the barbarian attacks him with a mighty two handed sword it is game over unless he has prepared a trap or has henchmen.
[14:26] * ~Dan nods
[14:26] <+Claus> Elementals can be quite useful in this respect for a sorceror though, as can a familiar for a witch/shaman.
[14:27] <+Claus> In fact there is lore in Crimson Exodus about Forest Witches who use wolves and trees to kill and ensnare men for their wicked purposes...
[14:27] <+Claus> There is a lot of hints and tidbits of such lore in Crimson Exodus which the GM can decide the truth of.
[14:28] <+Claus> Any other questions?
[14:29] <~Dan> Do any of you who just showed up have any questions?
[14:29] <~Dan> (I'll wait a moment before proceeding in case they do.)
[14:30] <~Dan> Could you give us an overview of combat, highlighting anything that's changed with the new edition?
[14:30] <+Iridium> Actually, I have a question about these Forest Witches. You make them sound like they are quite evil, for a nature-based magic-using group. What's the reason behind that?
[14:33] <+Claus> The Forest Witches are from the chapter of Dark Secrets, which is basically a lot of background for the GM to use as how he sees fit. The tales that men tell are of beautiful wild women...
[14:33] <~Dan> (Question pause there.)
[14:33] <+Claus> ...who live in secret covens in the deep woords and occasionally lure men to orgies to make them with child and from which the men never return.
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[14:34] <&Moxiane> Best name for a dagger-based rogue ever - Stabbith.
[14:34] <&Moxiane> *Stabbitha
[14:34] <+Claus> The truth of this is hard to say. Are these forest witches even real? Are there many such covens? Do they really hate/kill men?
[14:35] <+Claus> There is a bit more and some stats, but it is up to the GM and players to determine the answers.
[14:36] <+Claus> I certainly have my own opinions, but I always try to leave things open to interpretation so people can play they game they want, while not being lazy and expecting the GM to come up with everything himself. Does that answer your question?
[14:36] <+Iridium> In a way, yes. Thank you.
[14:37] <+Claus> Also, don't think of witchcraft as nature magic. Think of it as spirit magic - a latent force that lives in the blood and sap of all living things. Ok... that does sound a bit like nature magic. :)
[14:37] <+Iridium> It sounds a lot like nature magic. ;)
[14:38] <+Claus> So Dan, you asked about combat.
[14:38] <~Dan> Indeed. And brb -- please continue.
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[14:39] <+Catseye> hi
[14:40] <+Claus> The basics is as before, different weapons have strengths and weaknesses based on their type, armour reduces severity of wounds and combat is often resolved very fast unless the combatants are very well armoured and evenly matched.
[14:40] <+Claus> No hitpoints, but instead a wound system where you simply track the most severe wound.
[14:41] <+Claus> Everyone has a main and secondary action in a round, and defence must be engaged in actively - dodge, parry or block - so you typically want to spend at least one action on that.
[14:42] <+Claus> With the second edition the tactics you can use have been streamlined and made more concise, although as always improvisation is encouraged.
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[14:43] <+Claus> Tactics aim to improve your chances of hitting (aim, feint, focused), give you an advantage later (harass), attack faster (snapshot) or maximum carnage (deadly or targeted attacks).
[14:46] <+Claus> There is some new handling for multiple attackers, and of course the new perfect and blunder rules which adds an edge to rolls without overly distorting the probability curve.
[14:47] <+Claus> Wrestling attacks have also been made a lot more concise and easier to get to grips with (no pun intended).
[14:47] <~Dan> Do you still have the issue of attacks doing less that the highest current wound value doing nothing?
[14:47] <+Claus> Glad you asked.
[14:47] <~Dan> (No worries. Puns are a common creature here.)
[14:48] <+Claus> The wound severities have been remodelled so that a nasty wound no longer gives you a permanent penalty, but instead the primary negative is that you are stunned.
[14:49] <+Claus> Any wound inflicted stuns.
[14:49] <+Claus> So, every time someone is hit their ability to fight is impaired - even if the wound is not made more serious.
[14:49] <+Claus> There is also the risk of being knocked out of course.
[14:50] <+Claus> Combining that with the use of tactics to inflict more harm when your opponent is at a disadvantage makes it possible to finish an enemy off.
[14:51] <~Dan> Hmm... So if the primary effect of a nasty wound is a stun, and if stuns do not give permanent penalties, how do you kill your opponent?
[14:52] <+Claus> If all else fails, a heavily armoured combatant will eventually collapse from exhaustion, but this is something left to the GM as tracking heat exhaustion is exactly the sort of tedius detail I like to avoid in the heat of combat (more puns!)
[14:52] <~Dan> (Very nice. :) )
[14:52] <+GenoFoxx> laters
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[14:53] <+Claus> If you inflict a nasty wound with a dagger that stuns your opponent, then you should follow that up with a deadly attack. You could increase the severity to grievous (-1D to attack), grim (-2D) or mortal (-3D).
[14:53] <+Claus> A grievous wound would leave your opponent both stunned AND with a permanent penalty.
[14:54] <+Claus> A grim attack would be almost game over and time to surrender/flee for all but the suicidal.
[14:54] <+Claus> Mortal is... well mortal.
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[14:55] <+egyptian> Finally! Lunchtime!
[14:55] <+Claus> I think our time is almost up. Any last comments/questions?
[14:55] * &Velociengineer_Bill sends egy lunch.
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[14:55] <~Dan> Actually, would you like to comment on anything that we haven't covered yet, Claus?
[14:55] <~Dan> And would you like to post any relevant links?
[14:56] <+Claus> Sure.
[14:56] <~Dan> Also, you are welcome to hang out as long as you like. You just have the floor to yourself during our regular Q&A time. :)
[14:56] <+Claus> Thank you.
[14:57] <+Claus> I would point out the Wealth system which I really like.
[14:57] <+Claus> It is not unique, but having a wealth stat where you can afford anything at or below your wealth is a really nice in a world with different currencies and lots of barter.
[14:58] <~Dan> Certainly.
[14:58] <+Agamemnon2> How about monsters, actually? I know a lot of fantasy games go for the full bestiary overload, what approach did you take?
[14:58] <+Claus> There are also rules for social conflict - Dominate, Smooth Talking  and such.
[14:58] <~Dan> Oh! Good question. I meant to ask that myself.
[14:59] <+Claus> There is a sizeable Bestiary at the end of the book, but it doesn't try to cover everything you might encounter, but instead tries to showcase the sort of interesting creatures you might meet and their stats.
[15:00] <+Claus> I used the same approach for NPCs.
[15:00] <~Dan> To what degree are they "traditional fantasy" creatures? I know there are dragons of a sort, and trolls...
[15:01] <+LordEntropy> Bye guys
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[15:02] <+Claus> Yep, Dragons are given stats, but not something you would expect to encounter. They are incredibly powerful, mysterious and with intellects beyond what men can comprehend.
[15:02] <+Claus> Wyrms, however, come in all sizes, shapes and forms and are the torment of the Dwarves.
[15:03] <~Dan> Wyrms being dragon-like creatures of animal intelligence?
[15:03] <+Claus> The Elves have also domesticated some Wyrms, like the ferocious Ka which they ride (there are no horses) and Wyrmlings which are pets (instead of cats).
[15:03] <+Claus> Wyrms are basically six-legged, reptile creatures.
[15:05] <+Claus> There are strange creatures that live in the trees such as the stick terrors (herbivores that grace in hundreds and spit acid as they flee when startled) and stigata (12 legged hunters that snatch the unwary into the trees).
[15:06] <+Claus> There are also a couple of non-flying giant hunting birds - ambush predators who kick their prey, flee and wait to see if it still moves and repeats until prey stays still or manages to hurt the bird.
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[15:07] <+Claus> Wildlife in CE is dangerous and plenty of things in the night never catalogued by either elf or dwarf.
[15:08] <~Dan> Anything undead or otherwise supernatural?
[15:10] <+Claus> Yes, atlthough like all things arcane such things are supposed to be rare and exceptional. There are wraiths - skeletal men of pure hatred, and walking dead. The existence of both, like the dragons, are tied into the lore and backstory of the world and have much to do with the current decline of civilization.
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[15:11] <+Claus> And of course there are the Chimera which the Elves created to guard their temples - bizarre and fiercely territorial monsters.
[15:11] <~Dan> You mentioned a dungeon crawl earlier... What does a CE dungeon crawl look like? Are there any counterparts to intelligent dungeon-dwellers like goblins?
[15:14] <+Claus> Not like goblins, but you might Spectres if you are really unlucky. A race of subterranean, humanoid dwellers who rely on smell and hearing to hunt and despite the name are not supernatural, but perhaps the unlucky descendants of a time long forgotten.
[15:14] <+Claus> This pre-history time is hinted at in the lore and has much to do with the dragons, Serpent Gods and of course the Spectres.
[15:15] <+Claus> The adventure also introduces another cool underground hunter which I have had illustrated in full colour, but I won't spoil the surprise.
[15:16] <~Dan> Cool. :)
[15:16] <+Claus> A CE dungeon crawl would likely deal with ancient abandoned Dwarven or Elven ruins and if you go deep enough you start to reveal what the Elves and Dwarves were digging for and perhaps you'll even find out why they stopped. ;)
[15:17] * ~Dan chuckles
[15:17] <~Dan> Oh, one final question from me: What are the attributes, and how broad are the skills?
[15:17] <+Claus> The kickstarter: (Link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1070382475/crimson-exodus-2nd-ed-fantasy-roleplaying-game)http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1070382475/crimson-exodus-2nd-ed-fantasy-roleplaying-game
[15:18] <+Claus> Official website where you can get character sheets, one page primers and other freebies as they are released: (Link: http://www.radicalapproach.co.uk/)http://www.radicalapproach.co.uk/
[15:18] <+Claus> There are 8 attributes: Strength, Agility, Dexterity, Sight, Cunning, Wisdom, Demon and Spirit.
[15:20] <+Claus> Most of those are pretty obvious, Demon and Spirit are arcane aspects of life heavily linked to Witchcraft and Black Arts, but also represent ego, drive and selfishness in the form of Demon, and compassion, endurance and social ability in the form of Spirit.
[15:20] <+Claus> The skills are quite broad, but then refined with specialities.
[15:20] <~Dan> Kudos for splitting Agility and Dexterity. What do those two cover, generally speaking?
[15:20] <+Claus> So there is a Melee skill which covers all close combat, but sub-specialities: axes, clubs, daggers, flails, pole arms, shields, swords, unarmed, whips
[15:21] <+Claus> Agility: Athletics, Melee, Stealth
[15:21] <+Claus> Dexterity: Construction, Crafts, Sleight of Hand, Surgery
[15:22] <+Claus> Every skill is well explained as I believe that you should be able to create a character that has skills very different from your own, but then of course you need to understand how a skill can be used.
[15:23] * ~Dan nods
[15:23] <+Claus> The skill list in second edition is also a bit shorter as Perception and Psychology were both axed.
[15:23] <~Dan> Cool. :)
[15:23] <~Dan> Well, as I said, you are welcome to hang out as long as you like; however, I really need to take a nap now. :)
[15:24] <+Claus> Thanks ever so much for having me and I really enjoyed answering your questions.
[15:24] <~Dan> My pleasure, Claus! I'll have the log of the Q&A posted on my blog momentarily and will send you the link via FB chat.

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