Strength affects how much punishment a character can take before falling unconscious. It also affects hand-to-hand combat.
Dexterity primarily affects a character's accuracy with weapons.
Speed affects how fast a character can run and the order in which weapons calculations are applied (i.e. the fastest guy shoots first each turn).
Some skills are separated into groups. A character with a certain skill can perform activities that use a related skill (from the same group) at a reduced level (typically, 50%).
The weapon skills group consists of: gunnery (for normal-sized vehicle-mounted weapons); hand guns (for all sorts of weapons carried by characters); large guns (for outsized vehicle weapons such as tank cannons); and ballistics (for all weapons with ballistic firing trajectories).
The driving skills group consists of: driving (for regular-sized vehicles with a capacity of 500 or less); cyclist (for 2 and 3 wheeled vehicles); and trucker (for larger vehicles with capacities of more than 500).
The mechanic skill lets characters patch up broken components while on the road, so that for example a car with a broken engine can make it back to a town. This skill is also highly prized by player-run camps, since mechanics are required to carry out all repairs, manufacturing and upgrades in your camp's workshop. Finally, you need to pay for the use of town mechanics and their facilities when carrying out upgrades in town (e.g. changing a car's engine) - this cost is reduced if you have a good mechanic in town.
First aid allows a character to reduce or stop the immediate effects of an injury, such as bleeding. It can also sometimes be used to wake up an unconscious character.
Psionics is a very rare skill, but has been on the increase as the longer-term impacts of solar radiation are being seen. Psionics allows a variety of 'mind-force' effects (Jedi-like powers) to be carried out.
Scouting is a very important skill when travelling on the road: it reduces the likelihood of being attacked, as well as the severity of the attacks that do happen.
Skills can be trained (abilities cannot). The rate at which a character trains in a skill is affected by: their natural ability; whether they are using a personal trainer; how good their current form is; and, how much practice they are having in the skill in live events.
Each character has a natural ability level which is effectively their capacity for excellence: it is impossible to guess but it becomes apparent as the character's skills rise. Natural ability sets a 'cap' on the level that a characters skills can reach: some gifted characters have a much higher natural ability than normal. As a character goes beyond 50% of their natural ability in a skill, its training will slow down and eventually stop. The 'average' natural ability level is 150. Gifted characters can have a natural ability level of 300 or more.
The bulk of training happens every Friday morning, though small amounts also happen after each event that you compete in.
Health and Injuries
At the start of an event, characters have a full compliment of energy. Minor 'concussion hits' damage affects this; when it reaches zero the character falls unconscious, but is not dead unless their energy drops to about -200% of its starting point. As a rule of thumb, an average strength, healthy character has concussion hits equivalent to 3 units of armour.
More serious injuries cause 'critical hits', whose effects vary greatly. A critical hit usually affects a character's activity level, which is measured as a percentage. These effects often have both a short term as well as a longer-term component (e.g. if a character is stunned it will have a large effect but only for a few seconds, whereas if they break their arm it will have a smaller effect but for much longer). Some critical hits also cause bleeding, which means a continual loss of energy until the character is dead or someone successfully administers first aid. Some critical hits take weeks or even months to heal, and may degrade to a lesser injury at some stage (e.g. a broken arm becomes a bruised arm). Very serious critical hits may cause permanent injury, or kill a character outright or over the course of a few painful seconds.
Activity Level is important: it affects everything a character does. If your character is at 50% activity level, they will run at half speed, shoot with half normal accuracy, drive with half their usual skill, etc.
Characters have leadership and courage abilities. These are important in combat situations, especially when the combat is happening in the wilderness.
Characters may develop various drug habits. Typically this has some long-term effects, and when they arrive at an event 'under the influence', this may have some effect too.
Every 12 weeks of real-world time, the characters of Darkwind will gain 1 year of age. As characters reach about 30 years of age, their abilities start to drop. Beyond about 40, their skills start to drop too. Life is short in Darkwind, but "perma-death" is a key aspect to the gritty play-style. Without risk, you cannot have courage and heroism.
When characters become experts in a skill, they can choose specialisms which provide unique bonuses to them during combat.
A small proportion of characters in Darkwind carry obvious mutations due to the radioactive environment. They may be stronger and quicker than normal characters, and are more likely to have psionic powers. However they will also age faster. Certain 'norm' factions consider themselves enemies of 'muties'.
Mutants are generally classified according to these groupings:
Animaniacs: These poor souls are some of the most pitiful, and dangerous, mutants around. Their name comes from both their physical and mental conditions. Physically, they look much like a mad science project gone horribly awry. Once normal human body parts have mutated into what can only be called animal features. Pig snouts, rabbit ears, tails, fur, scales, and claws are but a few examples their wild genes have manifested. Mentally, they are every bit of the maniacs their name claims.
Jigsaw Puzzles: As their name indicates, these mutants appear to have been put together from many different pieces. Multiple body parts are the hallmark of this type of mutations, ranging from an extra finger or toe to multiple arms, hands, and eyes. These mutations are not always in working order either.
Mummies: The harsh solar radiation has mutated these individuals into walking, talking Mummies. Their skin has drawn taut around their skeletons, revealing every bone in great detail. The dark baked skin color only adds to their resemblance to their ancient namesakes.
Pussbags: Oozing sores cover the bodies of these mutants. The constant pain, not to mention the smell, these creatures endure has affected the mental state of most of them.
Psicotics: While outwardly appearing to be normal humans, these mutants possess psionic powers. Most also suffer from many mental instabilities, and often outright madness.