Main: GunVersusPistol

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There is a disconnect regarding Wildcard skills, one which causes many people to underestimate or misunderstand their utility. I can trace this to the somewhat awkward description in GURPS Characters, which implies that a Wildcard skill is just shorthand for other skills -- an accounting method to save space on a character sheet.

Wildcard skills are intended to be broad brushstrokes of competence, however. The intent is not, "This skill replaces these twelve other skills," but, "This skill is what you roll against when doing anything in its baliwick." Can you substitute Detective! for Politics? Not normally, no. But if you're rolling to determine which senators gain from the death of a congressman, either skill will do just fine. The relevant question isn't what skill you'd normally need to use -- it's whether what you're doing falls under the intent of your Wildcard skill.

The most common manifestation of this disconnect is the argument for taking Guns (Pistol) over Gun! skill. To wit:

"Why buy Gun! skill? It's way more efficient to just raise your favorite specialty, like Pistol, up to a ridiculously high level and default all the other guns off of that. A DX 14 character can buy Guns (Pistol)-21, which gives him the other Guns skills at 19 or 17, for the price of Gun!-14. And Gun! doesn't even let you make any shots you couldn't make with Pistol skill already!"

All 100% true, of course. If your only concern is the ability to fire a gun, then you're far, far better off taking Guns (Pistol). However, here's a partial list of the things you can do with Gun! skill, none of which would be covered in any way by Guns (Pistol):

Oh, and you can shoot people, too. That is why you pay over three times as much for a Wildcard skill. Not for impossible abilities, but for an unlimited number of appropriate possible ones.

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