A small thing which other people may already do but I only just thought of – how to involve players in tasks they’re not skilled in – have them assist the players that are skilled by making assistant rolls which give a bonus to the main roll.
To take a Traveller example the player’s ship is damaged in the context of an adventure where time matters i.e. you set it up so every four hours it takes to repair has a consequence. In the past I’d have just got the character with Engineering skill to roll and because that would leave out the other players I’d avoid situations where a repair might take a lot of separate rolls fixing different systems.
Players taking on an assistant roll could get around that.
In the ship example if the repair is set at 12+ with a DM based on Engineering skill and one character has Engineering-2 then they make the main roll. Other players could then make 8+ assistant rolls based on their skills to give the main roll a DM+1.
– a character with Electro-Mechanical-1, Electronics-1, Gravitics-1 and Engineering-1 could assist with a DM+4 to their assistant roll so only needing a 4+ to succeed and if successful grants a DM+1 to the main roll
– a character with just Electro-Mechanical-1 could assist with a DM+1 to their assistant roll needing 7+ to succeed and grant DM+1 to the main roll
– a character with no relevant skills at all could still make an assistant roll needing 11+ to succeed (standard penalty of -3 for no skill)
The number of assistants allowed would depend on the task and the GM (and possibly the main roller’s skill i.e. it could be decided that a character with Engineering-3 might be able to manage three assistants, while a character with Engineering-1 could only effectively manage one.) Also if there were multiple tasks to perform then allocating the available crew in the optimal way would be a player task in itself.
This could potentially make a boring task e.g. the players having to build a flat-pack space station out of prefabricated parts, into a more intricate and involved puzzle.
The idea could be extended to combat to a degree:
1) In ranged combat characters with no or low weapon skills could possibly be spotters, loaders, or assist the medic.
2) In melee combat, low-skilled or low level characters could take up refused flank positions to the right-rear or left-rear of a more experienced character and on a successful assistant roll add +1 to his defense so for example the 3rd level NPC ranger faces the 3rd level wild boar while two 1st level players take up positions behind him. When the boar charges the ranger if the players make their assistant rolls then they each give +1 to the ranger NPC’s defense (or subtract two from the boar’s to hit roll in this case.) They *could* roll to attack the boar instead at any time but that might lead the boar to target them so until they’ve got more HP it might be better to refrain unless the ranger stuns it or something in which case all three could get a free hit.
The idea could also work for magic if the magic system had a strong ritual element as each assistant helping with the ritual / performing the chant etc could increase the main caster’s chance of success.
This could suit playing a wizard’s apprentice for real i.e. a 6th level NPC wizard and a 1st level player apprentice exploring a 3rd level dungeon.