With the incredible deluge of options at your disposal when creating a character in Wasteland 3, things can get overwhelming. This is especially true when it comes to the Skills, their Perks, and the manner in which they interact with each other. Thankfully, you can always create a brand new custom Ranger that's scaled to your existing squad levels via Wasteland 3's Manage Squad option from the main menu, so experimentation is never truly punished.
As their name suggests, Skills basically determine the specific things that your character is good at. This can be anything from lockpicking, using specific weapons, to simply being able to talk their way out of situations. While all Skills do come into play at some point via skill checks, some are vastly better than others. To make the situation even more complicated, named companions all have their own Skill sets, potentially helping you save on precious Skill points. Thus knowing which Skills to prioritize is always going to be helpful.
Best Wasteland 3 Skills
Sniper Rifles - As is often the case with similar games, Sniper Rifles are going to be your most consistent, easily accessible source of lethal long-range damage. Combined with the right critical chance and damage modifiers, the Mark Target perk, and Strikes, you can easily deal damage that is several times higher than your weapon's listed damage.
Small Arms - These close range weapons may not be particularly flashy, but they excel in delivering rapid, relatively precise, firepower. Both shotguns and handguns are viable options, with the only real difference being the rate at which they build the Strike meter.
Explosives - Though it's a bit of an expensive option, having at least one Explosives expert on the team is near mandatory. For starters, there's a lot of skill checks. Secondly, you literally can't miss with explosive weapons. The last two perks on the Explosives line are also game changing in that they turn rocket launchers into screen-clearing, boss-melting tubes of destruction.
Big Guns - Wasteland 3's interpretation of Big Guns is rather interesting in that it bundles general purpose machine guns with flamethrowers. This gives Big Guns users a lot of flexibility at the expense of low initial accuracy and middling active Perks.
Automatic Weapons (SMG) - Outside of their low Penetration values and somewhat high ammo consumption, SMGs are very good at being all-around weapons. All of the Perks associated with the Skill are fantastic as well, helping deal even more damage while manipulating AP costs in your favor.
Lockpicking/Nerd Stuff - Wasteland 3's top exploration Skills, bar none. Tons of skill checks, generally decent rewards, what more can you ask for?
First Aid - No matter how carefully you play, someone's always going to get shot. A very minimal Skill Point allocation into First Aid ensures that everyone's at tip-top shape.
Leadership - Arguably the most powerful passive Skill tree in Wasteland 3, Leadership makes the rest of the team more accurate, and grants massive buffs whenever the Leadership character does something impressive. Rally is also a fantastic opening move that can grant up to 10 extra AP to the rest of the team.
Mechanics - There's a fair number of Mechanics skill checks in the game, and it's hard to complain about being able to do extra damage to inorganic enemies. Deployable turrets are also surprisingly effective at drawing aggro.
Melee Weapons/Brawling - These close-range damage Skills are actually not terrible thanks to their Perks and the combo system, making dedicated melee builds somewhat viable. However, it comes with a heavy investment, not just in terms of Skill and Attribute points but also in the gear and consumables department. After all, it does no one any good if your martial arts master gets turned into swiss cheese because they used all of their AP to actually reach the enemy. If you can't or don't want to keep up with the cost, drop these Skills to F Tier.
Automatic Weapons (Assault Rifles) - For some reason, Wasteland 3's assault rifles have a particular emphasis on being the jack of few trades and masters of nothing. SMGs are better in almost every single way until you get your hands on upper-tier gear.
Weird Science - This late-game damage Skill is rather unassuming at first, but when maxed out it helps pump out all sorts of nasty DOT, armor negation, and debuff effects.
Armor/Weapon Modding - Gear mods are fairly important, though there's very few situations where you must have either of the modding Skills at extreme levels relative to your combat Skills. The Perks are a nice touch to be sure, but not entirely vital to your Rangers' performance.
Barter - Some money is good, more money is better. This helps you get more money, plain and simple.
Kiss/Hard Ass - There's not a whole lot of Skill checks associated with either Hard or Kiss Ass, at least compared to the like of Lockpicking and Nerd Stuff. Still, it's helpful to have at least one of these conversation Skills on a character.
Sneaky Shit - One of Wasteland 3's more interesting Skill redesigns, Sneaky Shit helps you disarm the occasional alarm. It also grants massive bonuses to surprise attacks, which is when you initiate combat by manually shooting an enemy. A nice bonus to have on a sniper, but very much a luxury pick.
Animal Whisperer - Animal Whisperer is in a rather peculiar place. On the one hand, animal companions are reasonably effective in combat. Plus, their bonuses are quite strong compared to the amount of Attribute points that you would need to spend to achieve a similar effect. On the other hand, it is incredibly annoying that animals have their own dedicated turn rather than acting after your Rangers finish their turns. If this interruption to the flow of combat doesn't bother you, bump Animal Whisperer up to B Tier.
Survival - Random encounters on the world map are annoying. This (kind of) prevents random encounters. Plus you can kill animals faster, in the rare instances where shooting them with rockets or high-powered sniper rifles isn't enough. Definitely a Skill to dump on a companion.
Toaster Repair - The meme-esque Skill returns, but with a hilariously powerful Perk that buffs fire damage. Pick up the Skill for fun, or if you want to max out your flamethrower damage.
Wasteland 3 Supreme Jerk Team Build Example
While there are plenty of ways to get through Wasteland 3's Supreme Jerk difficulty, this is one of the team builds that you can use to cover all the Skills while making sure that each Ranger can pull their weight in combat.
Note that this team build is intended to be used with Lucia and Jodie as the companions. Other companions can be used, though you will have to adjust your Ranger's utility Skills accordingly.
Slot 1 - Sniper
Background - Goat Killer
Starting Attributes - 2/2/10/2/1/2/2
Main Skills - Sniper Rifles
Utility Skills - Lockpicking, Sneaky Shit
Optional Skills - Melee Weapons, Brawling, Animal Whisperer, Small Guns
Quirk - Sadomasochist
A generic sniper build, focused around using Sneaky Shit to eviscerate an enemy before combat starts. Pump Attribute Points into maxing out Coordination as soon as possible, then work on Intelligence for maximum crit damage. A couple of points into Strength to equip armor is recommended as well.
Can replace either of the utility Skills with Mechanics for extra vehicular destruction. Animal Whisperer can also be added to have a cat companion (and a crit chance bonus). Sidearms or melee Skills are also options to make the build more well rounded.
Slot 2 - Leader
Background - Explodomaniac
Starting Attributes - 2/2/2/2/1/2/10
Main Skills - Leadership, Small Arms, Explosives
Utility Skills - First Aid
Quirk - Sadomasochist
While Leadership-focused Rangers can be lacking in combat due to their reliance on Charisma, an Explosives-based Leader cares not about things like cover or accuracy because Explosives literally can't miss. You want to get Rally as soon as possible, then work on Small Arms to get the Draw! Perk. This lets you fire two rockets per turn, assuming you have enough AP to reload after the first shot (though it goes completely against the spirit of the Small Arms tree).
Focus on getting to at least six Coordination, then work on Intelligence to boost the effects of the High Impact perk. Add a couple of Attribute points into Strength as needed to equip better armor.
Slot 3 - Specialist
Background - Sex Machine
Attributes (at level 5) - 4/2/8/4/2/2/2
Main Skills - Automatic Weapons, Weird Science
Utility Skills - Nerd Stuff, Kiss Ass
Optional Skills - Melee Weapons, Brawling, Animal Whisperer
Quirk - Serial Killer
Your general purpose Wasteland 3 damage dealer, this Ranger revolves around exploiting the SMG's Perks to pick off basic enemies and chain kills off Serial Killer and Trigger Happy. Eventually Weird Science can be used to tear apart armored enemies.
High Coordination is advised, as well as a mix of Luck (for Armor Penetration) and Strength to make sure that this Ranger can cover as much ground as possible without dying. Maxing out Awareness, Luck, or Intelligence are viable options too, as is throwing a couple of points into Speed.
Slot 4 - Heavy
Background - Disciple of the Metal
Attributes (at level 5) - 4/2/8/4/2/2/2
Main Skills - Big Guns
Utility Skills - Armor Modding, Toaster Repair, Hard Ass
Quirk - Serial Killer
This version of the Wasteland 3 heavy doubles down on the Big Guns category so that you can melt at both long and close range. You kind of need to prioritize Awareness and Big Guns so that you can actually hit something with machine guns, but it's something that you would probably want to do anyways. After that, go for Coordination and Intelligence. As usual, throw some points into Strength to keep up with armor drops.
Ultimately, in spite of how intimidating the character sheet can look like at first glance, Wasteland 3's character creation system is relatively forgiving. Almost every combat Skill is viable, and even mono-Attribute starts are feasible. As long as there is some kind of coherent theme that you have in mind, you're generally going to be safe running any kind of build for the lower difficulties. Supreme Jerk is undeniably harder, but it's (thankfully) quite manageable with the most basic comprehension of the combat mechanics. If nothing else, one can certainly appreciate that Wasteland 3 lets you experiment with different character builds without losing any progress (Squad Management option in the main menu), which is a merciful departure from similar, older games.
For more tips on building your Wasteland 3 squad, check out our other guide on character attributes, quirks, and backgrounds.