Active or Passive Skill Building?

Hope I didn’t miss this topic before.


When it comes to building up stats, do you prefer active or ‘passive’ skill building?

To elaborate:
Active Building would be 'your MC is thrown in a situation, and the choices are along the line of ‘I do X because Y is a strong skill of mine’
Passive would ‘your MC is asked about/remembers a situation and what they did there’

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Active is, naturally, more action driven, putting the MC/Player into the situation, while Passive let’s the Player set up more of a backstory.

Disadvantages however:
Active can feel off when a character cannot use their ‘strong’ skill again despite it supposedly being a strong skill
Passive can feel like nothing is really happening but talking without the character actually using their skills.

So, which do you prefer? either? a mix?


I prefer a mix: give the player the ability to pick their strengths and weaknesses, then give them the ability to “drift” as it were. I also like things like sprinkling in low-stakes chances to raise their stats – having all of the stat raise chances happen during a point where failure has consequences discourages experimenting with builds, in my opinion.

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I like a healthy mix, too. My reasoning is that someone on a training regimen wouldn’t stop during a 4 month time skip in the narrative. Even if the passive bonuses were smaller than what you could get for a more “risky” maneuver, they feel more organic in some ways than never gaining anything for an active effort.

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I think this is less about actual stat/skill building and more of defining the character backstory. Naturally, a certain background could benefit the character (e.g. athlete = +STR/DEX), but the way you describe both skill building relates heavily to the character’s backstroy.

I dislike character building when my PC is in the middle of action; as you described–PC is in trouble, so are you an athlete for +STR or bookworm for +INT?–reads janky to me. I would prefer to be established as either athlete/bookworm way earlier before the problem happens because when I’m facing a problem, I want to tackle it down, not building my character.


When I read the name of the topic, I thought you meant something different…

To me, active is when you get clear choices about the MC training something. Like, they select to train with a specific weapon or practice running, or getting stronger etc. Relics of the Lost Age does that, aside from the very start that serves to set the starting skills.
And passive would be simply playing the story, and having some choices made naturally in the story raise some of the skills, like deciding to negociate with an enemy or punch them into submission would raise either charisma or brawling.
With these criteria, I prefer the active one because I can select which stats I wish skills going up.

Now, with your criteria… well, I don’t care one way or another, basically, since both can be either passive or active from my point of view!


From the topic I had a similar setting in mind like @Konoi described.

But from your definition, I would also like a Mix of both, while in the first chapters preferring more passive building to get to know the character I make and in the later part more active skill building since I know more about my char then. An exception would be If the active building in the first chapters are made as a non loosing build choices. So you just gain points without skill Testing.
That is a version the relics Game @Konoi already mentions did extremely well in my opinion.

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I also like a mix of both, but I do sometimes chafe at the way passive skill building choices are presented to me. For example, it seems to be is common to ask the player to choose a background in order to establish initial skill sets. I get it–it makes sense. But sometimes I want to play a sneaky character without having to be a reformed jewel thief! It would be great if choosing passive skills didn’t lock the MC into an origin story by default. Those are my two cents!