2400 is not a terminology-heavy game. It has very few rules, as contemporary RPGs go, and every game in the series was designed to be internally consistent. I found I had trouble explaining how to combine 2400 modules, however, because I used the same terms to refer to different things. I can only write “traits — but not, like, Xot traits, like Xenolith traits” so many times. So, for all the 2400 GMs hackers, homebrewers, and module-mixers out there, this post explains what I changed, and what I mean by different terms.
(This blog post reproduces information explained on Itch.io about a month ago. I’m just blogging it here for improved visibility, since I got asked about it recently, but I am also adding a tiny bit more context about why I decided to make each change.)
Summary of changes
This breakdown is for people who are already familiar with 2400, and just want to get a quick sense of what I changed and why. You don’t have to adopt these changes in your own 24XX hacks — none of these terms are actually in the 24XX SRD, anyway. But if you want to phrase things to be in line with 2400, here’s what you should know.
“Species traits” in Xenolith and Legends are now “species characteristics.” The term “trait” is reserved for how it was used in Battle Moon and Xot. Historically, “traits” in RPGs are usually self-explanatory, entirely qualitative character features, and the way I used “trait” in these games was only one or the other (self-explanatory in Battle Moon and Xot, entirely qualitative in Xenolith and Legends). I decided the “self-explanatory” part was more important to me, but I still wanted to use a term from biology to explain “things innate to your species,” hence “characteristic.”
“Characteristics” in Habs & Gardens are now “qualities.” I felt like I needed that term for innate species abilities, and I wasn’t married to the idea of using it in Habs, so I picked a synonym.
“Specialties” in Xot and Battle Moon are now “vocations.“ I use the term “specialties” in multiple other 2400 games to refer to entire packages of starting skills and items. To avoid confusion, I came up with a new name for “a career that is its own self-explanatory skill die.”
Very broad “skills” are now “skillsets.” Characters in Orbital Decay, Data Loss, Resistors, and Habs & Gardens bundle lots of skills into only four categories. Differentiating these slightly makes it a lot easier for GMs and hackers to discuss the pace and scope of character advancement.
How I use each term
My hope is that you won’t actually need a glossary to understand all this stuff — it’ll just be self-evident why things are named slightly differently when you look at them — but here’s some more detail about how I use each term, in case it’s helpful.
SKILL now refers only to granular things that give you a larger skill die when relevant, like Electronics, Hacking, and Engines (as in Inner System Blues, Cosmic Highway, and others).
SKILLSET now refers to broader abilities that give you a larger skill die with a range of related tasks, like rolling Tech to work with electronics, hacking, and engines alike (as in Orbital Decay, Data Loss, and others). These are so broad that anything characters would do in a game is likely covered by one of only three or four skillsets. The exact arrangement varies from game to game, but the most “traditional” breakdown, shared with many other RPGs, is some variation on Strength, Speed, Social Savvy, and Technical Savvy.
TRAIT now refers to an adjective that gives you a larger skill die when it’s relevant, like Strong or Winged (as in Xot and Battle Moon).
VOCATION now refers to a career that gives you a larger skill die when it’s relevant, like Thief or Mycologist (as in Xot and Battle Moon).
SPECIALTY now refers to a career that gives a character a package of character options (skills, talents, items, etc.), like “Grifter: Skilled in Reading People (d8), Deception (d8). Take an extensive disguise kit,” (as in Inner System Blues, Cosmic Highway, and others).
CHARACTERISTIC now refers to an adjective describing a special ability shared by a species, which may need more explanation than self-explanatory traits, like “Suited: Custom vac-suit hides expression,” or “Collectivist: Grant 2 dice when helping” (as in Xenolith and Legends).
QUALITY now refers to a personal detail that grants an extra skill die when it’s relevant, like Honest Face or Gravcar Nut (as in Habs & Gardens).
I suspect the list above makes 2400 look a lot more complicated than it actually is, but I hope this actually simplifies things for those interested in making hacks and mashing up modules. Please feel free to comment though, if you have feedback for better ways to address complexity.
Featured image CC BY Beeple (Mike Winkelmann)